Friday, February 27, 2009

2000 Michele and Patrice Rion Chambolle-Musigny Les Cras

Type: Red
Producer: Michele & Patrice Rion
Variety: Pinot Noir
Vineyard: Les Cras
Country: France
Region: Burgundy
SubRegion: Côte de Nuits
Appellation: Chambolle-Musigny
Price: $35.99
From: Chambers Street Wines

The Little Wooden Guy appreciates it when patience rewards him with wine that improves as much as this one did from one night to the next.

Night One

The color was a translucent slightly bricked red with a tint of orange just beginning at the edges.

The nose was nice, soft red fruit and some cocoa lie strewn on a barn floor. There is also a bit of fennel lingering, with an even smaller bit of sage.

Red fruit on the palate is far sharper, more acidic, than the nose lets on. It opens with tart wild strawberries, cranberries, and pomegranate. Fennel and sage are a much larger part of the palate than the nose.

This wine is rather one-dimensional, with little change other than increased tannins on the mid-palate, and a finish that collapses quickly.

Night Two

The nose on Night Two is a little darker, a little more ripe, but still deep and musty. Sage and marjoram are there, too, along with a pinch each of fennel and cardamom. the nose is far more integrated and rich than on Night One.

Again on Night Two, the palate is sharper and more acidic than on Night One. Fruits are newer, fresher, perhaps even not-quite-ripe, tart with acids. Sour cherries, tiny wild strawberries, cranberries, and the very dark red fruit of pomegranate all contribute to the fruit flavor profile. Now the wine has a real mid-palate, with smoke and crisp pork fat rubbed with leafy spices. The finish also last longer, a lot longer, than on Night One. Satiny tannins give a sense of suede, not leather, red fruits come back to the fore as the flavor first glows, then slowly fades.

Huge changes from Night One to Night Two, particularly on the mid-palate and the finish, hint of more life in the cellar, even for an off-year. The color, on the other hand, says it is nearing the end of its life. The best bet to balance the two is probably to give it another year, two at the most, then leave plenty of time for decanting before drinking.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2001 Deerfield Ranch Syrah Ladi's Vineyard

Type: Red
Producer: Deerfield Ranch
Variety: Syrah
Vineyard: Ladi's Vineyard
Country: USA
Region: California
SubRegion: Sonoma County
Appellation: Sonoma County
Price: $39.99 from WineQ (full disclosure- this was a free sample from WineQ)

The Little Wooden Guy does a happy dance. This is good stuff.

Night One

Terrific funk. The nose opens with terrific funk, rich, dirty, earthy, barnyard funk. The deeper you dive into the glass, the more it rewards with layers of aromas. Black fruit and black pepper lie just under the funk, but that is not all. Deeper, below the fruit, are coffee, very dark chocolate, and tobacco. This is one of those wines you can sit and smell so long you forget to drink it. I won't let that happen. So go on to the next paragraph and drink along with me. Hang on a second, one more whiff.

Blackcurrant and blackberry, sprinkled with black pepper, open the palate. Smoky meat, a tiny drop of real licorice, and a wafting tendril of hickory smoke join the fruit on the mid-palate. Tannins are absolutely silky, mouth-feel is smooth and soft. The finish is long, not just lingering, but adding spice and fruit a full twenty to thirty seconds after the wine is gone.

Wow! Three hours later, and the nose is EXACTLY like oak burned by a very high rpm table saw.

Come back tomorrow for Night Two and the reaction from The Wooden Guys.

Night Two

On Night Two, the nose is far more mild. The funk is gone. The black fruits are far more sedate, spiced with an equally reduced pinch of black pepper.

Blackberry is more dominant that blackcurrant on Night Two, on the palate. Acids are bright and it sparkles with prickly pepper. the mid-palate is far smokier on Night Two, the licorice just barely an echo. The finish is even longer, and once again seems to grow and glow after the sip is gone.

Monday, February 23, 2009

2001 Château Bessan Bordeaux Contrôlée

Type: Red
Producer: Château Bessan
Variety: Red Bordeaux Blend
Country: France
Region: Bordeaux
Appellation: Bordeaux Contrôlée

The Little Wooden Guy reminds you, "Bordeaux" does not necessarily mean "good wine."

Night One

The nose on this is a dead ringer for a mediocre cabernet from Chile. It is all green pepper and coffee. There is no fruit to be found.

On the palate, too, this seems more like Chile than Bordeaux. Blackcurrants are there, but they are cooked up with green peppers and some coffee grounds. Tannins are very firm, even hard. There is not much of a mid-palate and the finish dies off quickly.

Night Two

The nose did not get any better over night. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound.

Hang on a second.

Oh heck, it got worse.

I'm going to go open something good. Or at least drinkable.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

2003 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva

Type: Red
Producer: Castello di Monsanto
Variety: Sangiovese Blend
Designation: Riserva
Country: Italy
Region: Tuscany
SubRegion: Chianti
Appellation: Chianti Classico
Price: $23.99

The Little Wooden Guy offers the Sun Salutation to this quite reasonably priced product of earth and sunshine.

Night One

The color is very dark in the center, almost black, with a bright ruby edge about three-quarters of an inch deep.

The nose is interesting, offering more than most chiantis in this price range. It has cherries and some pomegranate, but also adds earth, chestnuts, and some spices, as well as a bit of tar.

The palate is filled with red fruit, opening with cherries, their sweetness mitigated by dry cranberry and perhaps some pomegranate. There is more than just fruit here, though. This is a very floral wine, with violets ripping across the palate. The mid-palate is pucker-dry, cranberries and violets, plus a touch of tar on the finish. Acidity is good, quite bright, and the tannins are a touch rough, not much, and very drying This could improve significantly from Night One to Night Two.

Night Two

The nose is floral, more so than on Night One, rich with violets and roses. The fruit has changed some, too. Before, it was cherries and cranberries. Now, it is dried cherries and dried cranberries.

The palate has not changed a lot. Acid is still bright, tannins perhaps slightly smoother. I saw this wine for $17.99 today at Costco. For that price, this is surprisingly cellar-worthy. Based upon a two-day tasting, I expect it has a couple more years of not just life, but perhaps improvement as well.

2007 Humanitas Chardonnay Oak Free

Type: White
Producer: Humanitas
Variety: Chardonnay
Designation: Oak Free
Country: USA
Region: California
SubRegion: Central Coast
Appellation: Monterey County

The Little Wooden Guy really appreciates good wine without the gratuitous use of wood, so give this one a try.

Night One

The nose has more pears than apples, plus a bit of soft banana. There is also a slight underlying background tropical smell of pineapple.

The palate has a thick glycerin mouth-feel. The flavors open with apple, turning to pineapple and starfruit toward the mid-palate. This is creamy smooth, and a welcome oak- and vanilla-free.

Night Two

The nose is more tropical on Night Two than Night One. The lead fruit is pineapple, some butterscotch, and bruised red apples.

The palate, too, is more tropical on the attack, leading with sweet-tart fresh pineapple plus the soft flavor of banana. Apples appear on the mid-palate, along with some butterscotch, before tartness returns on the mid-palate. The tartness is not the sour tart you would find in lemon or lime, but the sweet tropical bite of a starfruit.

This is good wine. If you have run away from Chardonnay, afraid of juice flavored with wood, vanilla, and butter, come back and try it again.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2005 Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Cuvée Gérard Potel

Type: Red
Producer: Nicolas Potel
Variety: Pinot Noir
Designation: Cuvée Gérard Potel
Country: France
Region: Burgundy
Appellation: Bourgogne
Price: $20
From: Bin Ends Wine, as part of Twitter Taste Live

The Little Wooden Guy is pleased to present a good $20 pinot, and from Burgendy, no less.

Night One

The nose opens with some funk, not 'huge barnyard' funk, but certainly 'more serious pinot than you'd expect at this price point' funk. Red fruits follow closely behind the funk, cherries and cherry pits, plus deeply bruised strawberries.

The palate opens with the same red fruit, cherries and bruised strawberries, plus some added rhubarb tartness. The fruit all floats above an earthy base of truffles and loam. The mid-palate is coppery, with the fruit morphing to drier cranberry. The finish is moderately long, the tannins firm but silky.

Night Two

This wine underwent huge changes on the nose from Night One to Night Two. On Night Two, the opening aromas include brambles, marjoram and fennel, along with ripe bruised strawberries. It is definitely more complex than on Night One.

It has a lot more to offer the palate on Night Two as well. First, the classic pinot arc, the tendency of pinot to grow, expand, even explode with new layers of flavor after the initial attack (compared to, for example, Malbec, that opens big then fades to the finish). The initial attack is mild, red fruit far softer than on Night One, tart cherries and pomegranate. On the mid-palate, though, it rips through several layers of additional flavors. First is fennel, then sweeter cherries, then even more tart cranberry, all with just a little sprinkling of sage and marjoram. Toward the finish a real meaty flavor, not smoked meat or bacon, but red bloody beef, joins the fruit. The finish is meaty, fruity, and long.

This is good wine and a great QPR (bang for the buck).

Friday, February 13, 2009

2004 Nicolas Potel Savigny-lès-Beaune Vieilles Vignes

Type: Red
Producer: Nicolas Potel
Variety: Pinot Noir
Designation: Vieilles Vignes
Country: France
Region: Burgundy
SubRegion: Côte de Beaune
Appellation: Savigny-lès-Beaune
From Bin Ends Wine as part of Twitter Taste Live

The Little Wooden Guy finds this wine a bit confusing. It underwent huge changes from Night One to Night Two, and seemed incredibly tight. It was good on Night One, but a little tight. It was nowhere near as good on Night Two, and a lot tighter, actually offering promise of being better than it showed on Night One. At a $28 price point, it is probably best to treat this as a "drink now," but if you buy half a case or more, hide one away at the back of the cellar or closet, and maybe you will have a pleasant surprise in a few years.

Night One

The nose open with the light barnyard funk that often promises something good to come. It is not overwhelming fresh barnyard, more like one you walk into and just know, "animals used to live here." Red fruit comes to the nose behind the funk, cherries and strawberries, and a touch of cranberry. It also has a touch of smoky meatiness, a little bit like the crisp end of a prime rib. The nose also offers up clear minerality, a sense of crushed limestone, like walking through a quarry.

Red fruit dominates the palate, tart, not sweet, like tiny wild cherries and strawberries. The flavors get deeper and broader as it goes through the classic pinot arc. The mid-palate adds some sage and a rich smoked meat flavor, more like rich fatty dark smoked duck than like bacon. Tannins hit home on the finish, tight and dry. The finish is rather long, but drops just short of a sense of "this goes on forever."

The wine still seems tight, all bound up in tartness and tannins, offering a glimpse of what it might be with more time in the cellar. It should be interesting to see if Night Two verifies the future promise, or if it falls short.

Night Two

The fruit on the nose is red, but very light. Crushed rock minerality is quite strong. Fruit is strawberry and cranberry. It also has just a touch of sweet pickle and sage.

The fruit on the palate is definitely red, but it's hard to put my finger on it. Cherries are there for sure, but the strawberries are gone. There is something there a bit tart and sour, ... RHUBARB! Yup, rhubarb. It also has that tiny touch of sweet pickle from the nose. Crushed limestone shows up on the mid-palate. The rich smoked meatiness from Night One is gone. Florals, lavender I think, show up late, on the finish and a good ten to twenty seconds after you drink it.

This wine is simply tight, very tight. I think it might benefit from some more time in the cellar.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2004 La Rochelle Pinot Noir

Type- Red
Producer- La Rochelle
Variety- Pinot Noir
Country- USA
Region- California
SubRegion- Central Coast
Appellation- Monterey
From WineQ
Approx. $20

This Big Wooden Guy would not leave me alone until I promised to add more of this to my queue at WineQ.

Before I even put my nose near the glass, let me thank the wonderful people at WineQ. I tried this once before, as you may recall. It gave the Webkinz a chance to make an appearance, but the bottle was flawed. The next thing I knew, I was getting email assurances another bottle was on its way. If you have not checked out WineQ yet, do yourself a favor and head over there soon.

The nose is nice. It opens with a little earthiness, truffles and black dirt. It is very light, but definitely there. Red fruit comes next, light fresh strawberries, wild cherries and pomegranate. There is also a hint, a tiny hint, of red licorice at the very edges of the glass.

The palate is rich, filed with soft full-bodied red fruit, black cherries, very ripe strawberries, followed by raspberry. The 100% new French oak starts to show on the mid-palate as vanilla first makes a gentle appearance then grows, eventually taking the lead, going from red fruit with a little vanilla to a little red fruit on vanilla ice cream.

Mouth feel is silky smooth. The finish is long.

This is good, but just on the edge of over-oaked. Too much wood is the trend in Cali pinots lately, and in my personal opinion does injustice to the fruit. This one is not quite there, not quite too much, on Night One. Sometimes, though, they can really fall apart, devolve into over-sweetened oak juice on Night Two. Will this one? Or will it dance delicately along the edge, balancing fruit and wood, while adding depth overnight? Stay tuned, and we will find out together.

Night Two

The nose is far more subtle on Night Two, less fruity, far more floral. Truffles are still there, but very light, very light indeed. Birch beer and cream, strawberries, and then violets all make up the nose.

The palate is absolutely silky smooth, even creamy. Fruits are red and soft, pomegranate, very ripe strawberries, cherries bought at a roadside fruit stand in Michigan in the summer time. More impressive, though, are the florals that appear on the mid-palate and grow, first joining the fruit then eclipsing it, in the classic Pinot Arc. They are violets and roses, and definitely worth the second night wait.

Give this wine some time in your cellar. If you can't wait, and I can't blame you, decant it for several hours, then treat yourself to a Burgundy doppleganger from the Central Coast of California.

2003 Bacalhôa Vinhos de Portugal Touriga Nacional Só

Type: Red
Producer: Bacalhôa Vinhos de Portugal
Variety Touriga Nacional
Vineyard: Só
Country: Portugal
Region: Terras do Sado
Appellation: Vinho Regional Terras do Sado
Price: $27.98

The Big Wooden Guy is doing a little dance. He's just excited to find something this interesting.

Night One

A very light sniff near the rim brings the smell of cherries to the nose. If you put your nose in the glass and inhale deeply, though, coffee and the clear scent of hazelnut liquor fill the back of your sinuses.

The palate opens with tart red fruit, sour cherries and cranberries. On the mid-palate it changes, the tartness remaining as background but the fruit disappearing replaced by coffee and chocolate, coarsely ground medium roast coffee and very high cocoa content barely sweetened chocolate. The finish is very long. Chocolate an coffee linger, joined by the hazelnuts from the nose. Tannins are very firm, leaving the mouth with a sense of chewed leather.

This is a startling wine with amazing clarity in the coffee and chocolate flavors. I am actually excited to see how it will change from Night One to Night Two.

Night Two

What a difference a day makes. The nose is entirely different from the nose on Night One. Now it opens with a blend of dark cherries and cherry candy, with hazelnuts, and enough tobacco you might easily mistake it for cabernet franc.

The palate is not as radically different from Night One as the nose. It still opens with sour cherries and cranberries. This time, on the mid-palate, as the fruit fades tobacco starts to come forward, followed by much lighter coffee and cocoa. The finish remains long, and the tannins firm, though not overpowering, leaving a mouth feeling of leather.

On Night Two the wine seems to have settled down a bit, moving smoothly from attack to mid-palate, and then finish. Flavors don't change quite as rapidly or radically as on Night One. Even with that, the tannic structure still hints at some more cellar time and improvement. This is good, and perhaps even more important, interesting, wine and one worth spending some time exploring.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An editorial on wine blogging (WITH CORRECTIONS)

(please go to the bottom for Paul Mabray's response, for some of what I assumed here is not correct. They will not be charging for this service)

Tom Wark, of Fermentation, reports enthusiastically that Paul Mabray, of Inertia Beverage Group, and Joel Vincent, the founder of Open Wine Consortium, have started a new company called VinTank. What is VinTank? I will let them tell you:

The Internet has collided with the Wine Industry and the future is still being written how it will transform the industry. At VinTank we understand the key questions and help industry leaders formulate winning strategies. Whether you are a Web 2.0 company trying to validate your model, a large enterprise trying to interact with the wine industry, or a wine company trying to leverage the Internet for increased exposure and sales, VinTank will bring you the solution.

What does that really mean? Let me explain. You see, VinTank's goal is to take individual wine bloggers content and reputation, judge it, and then sell it. VinTank is going to decide which bloggers are worthy, and which are not. Do you want to be worthy? Do you want to be a REAL wine blogger, an official member of VinTank's "micro-publishing" empire? You have to fill out a survey. Then they will judge you.

Why is this necessary? Well, according to Tom:

Today, wineries and wine companies are struggling with whether or not wine blogs are worth addressing in their PR efforts, whether they should actually maintain a blog,... Where blogs are concerned, I think they must be incorporated into communications campaigns. But which blogs? Which are worth engaging.

Sounds great, right? Well, not really. You see, once the list gets written down, everybody on the list has a motive to shut down any new entries. Do cross-links start to disappear? If I'm in, are you out? You see, I really like your site, I think you have great photography and a unique and wonderful insight into wine and the wine industry. Unfortunately for you, I'm already on the list and I fear that if you get on, I might get kicked off. So, no cross-links, even though keep a complete list of Wine Twitters, with a continuously updated list of new blog postings, even though I run The 89 Project, a group effort with almost 50 bloggers.

Do you want to know which blogs are worthy, which ones are "influential"? Why? Do you want to know who to send samples to? Do you want to know where to buy advertising? What is the goal? You see, the blog depends upon the wine. Do you make a terrific wine that comes in under $20? Find Dr. Debs and her wonderful Good Wine Under $20. Are you a New York winery looking for exposure? Do I even need to tell you that Lenn Thompson at Lenndevours is your guy? Do you make wine meant for the cellar, not the table, and fear nobody will give your wine the decanting and time it needs to give hints of its potential? Come right here to 2 Days per Bottle. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of great wine blogs out there, many serving different readers and different palates.

Also, this effort threatens the honesty of wine blogs. If you're reading this here, you probably already saw what I said about tasting and samples, but let me repeat it:

Do you want me to review your wine? I would love to do so. But first, know what you are asking. Take a trip around the blog. See what The Little Wooden Guy, The Big Wooden Guy, and I have to say. We are not always generous or kind. And we WILL review your wine. Honestly. Every time.

Hmmmm. Do you think I just got a lot less "influential" for the PR types? Maybe I should only review wines I like. That might get me more samples, don't you think? Funny thing though. I still get samples, and they all tend to be darned good. Nobody sends me mediocre wine, probably because they know I will say it is mediocre wine. I don't know of any winery that wants The Wooden Guys posing like this next to one of their bottles:

You know what Tom, Paul, Joel, go ahead. Do it. Become the self-appointed arbiters of wine blogging, and in the process try to make a buck off what I do out of love of wine. I can't stop you. In the back of my ego-driven little brain I hope you pick me (PICK ME!!!!), because that is the nature of the beast. I want to be loved just as much as the next guy. But if you don't, I'm going to keep blogging. I am going to keep writing about the wines I like and the wines I don't like. And once in a while, even if I'm not "influential," somebody is going to come along and take my advice. Maybe they will save $20 they would have wasted buying something they would not like. Maybe they will fall in love with a bottle just like I did. It really doesn't matter. For most of us, it really doesn't matter at all. And for the ones for whom it does, for whom it matters a lot, perhaps even matters enough to effect their behavior, well, let me give you a little advice. Don't trust them.

Paul Mabray responded in the comments. In fairness to him, and to correct my own assumptions, I post his response in its entirety (I did not correct what I wrote above, as doing so would not allow this comment to be accurately reflected):

Thanks for your perspective and allowing us more transparent.

Once again, we are not taking a subjective approach to individual bloggers but to the channel as a whole. Our intent is not to say "so and so" is better. Our intent is to demonstrate the value of this channel for wine companies. Judging bloggers is not in the scope of our project. Analyzing the channel is.

In regards to wine social media companies, they will analyzed mathematically through a series of questions (other industries do this - Gartner, Forrester, etc). This also is healthy as wine companies try to make sense of the myriad of choices being presented. This is also healthy for the industry.

We are also not selling the information (THE REPORT IS FREE TO ALL). This have been made very clear on our site and in all our communications.

Again, we appreciate your feedback and we know that you'll actually be pleased with our hard work and analysis. If you have actual more questions I'd be more than happy to field them.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

2002 Mas Igneus Priorat Barranc dels Closos

Type: Red
Producer: Mas Igneus
Variety: Red Blend
Designation: Barranc dels Closos
Country: Spain
Region: Catalunya
Appellation: Priorat

I have no idea who the guy behind the wine is, but he and the Big Wooden Guy both think you should give this a try, but be sure to decant it for a long time or cellar it for another year or two, at least.

Night One

The nose is very light, some strawberry and a little rhubarb. If you sniff deeply enough a tiny hint of nutmeg makes an appearance.

The palate opens with strawberries and sour cherries. Some leather shows up on the mid-palate. Finish is mid-length.

Night Two

The nose on Night Two had more to offer. Fruits were more full, spices more clearly identifiable. Strawberries were riper and the rhubarb deeper, joined by a bit of cranberry. Cinammon and nutmeg were more than just a hint now, they were clear and bright.

The initial attack opens with a melange of red fruit- tiny tart wild strawberries, clear little cherries, and cranberries. The fruit sweetens on the mid-palate, changing from tart wild fruit to bigger sweeter fruit stand cherries and strawberries, while keeping the underlying tartness of cranberries. Some vanilla also makes an appearance on the mid-palate. The finish is long and adds a curious after-taste, a fresh sea-side sense of oysters. Tannins are very fine grained and add leather to the finish.

This wine improved significantly from Night One to Night Two. It went from something simple and one-dimensional to something far more complex. I still would not call this great, on night Two. However, I might say the change hints of some real potential after some more time in the cellar. If you have some of this put it away for another year or two, perhaps even three. Then after you open it, come back and tell me if I was right.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

2005 Dutton-Goldfield Syrah Dutton Ranch Cherry Ridge

Type: Red
Producer: Dutton-Goldfield
Variety: Syrah
Designation: Dutton Ranch
Vineyard: Cherry Ridge
Country: USA
Region: California
SubRegion: Sonoma County
Appellation: Russian River Valley
Price: $35.99

The Big Wooden Guy loved this stuff. You might too.

Night One

The nose has ground espresso and cocoa powder, blackberries, and some leather.

The palate comes at you with waves of flavors. Blackberries and coffee, plums, all make up the attack. Fruits sweeten on the mid-palate, adding some blueberry to the blackberry. The espresso changes to unsweetened cocoa. There is interesting minerality the expands from the attack through the finish. Leather shows up at the end of the mid-palate and lingers with black fruit on the finish.

Night Two

The elements of the nose have not changed much from Night One, but the order definitely has. Now blackberries are most prominent, with an added darker current of, well, blackcurrant. Espresso and unsweetened cocoa powder remain, but now they are both behind the blackberries, and the cocoa is more prominent. A little leather remains at the end of the sniff.

One the palate, curiously, the reverse happened. Now, coffee and unsweetened chocolate lead on the attack, while fruit follows. The fruit is deeper, just like on the nose. Now, though, some blackcurrant and sour cherries join the blackberries. This wine also has plenty of minerality, as if you had a few clean river rocks down at the bottom of your glass. Tannins are smooth and add a taste of leather at the end. The finish is long.

This is really good wine. It is not Aussie Shiraz, all jammy fruit. It is also not Northern Rhone Syrah, all earth and olives. This has good fruit, earthy coffee and chocolate, and great terroir minerality.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

2004 Elyse Nero Misto

Type: Red
Producer: Elyse
Variety: Red Blend
Designation: Nero Misto
Country: USA
Region: California
SubRegion: Napa Valley
Appellation: Napa Valley

The Little Wooden Guy did not get to try this one. We had it at the office, for the monthly Wine at Work Wednesday tasting.

This one is a true "kitchen sink" blend, with:

Zinfandel 28%
Petite Sirah 26%
Carignan 14%
Primitivo 13%
Syrah 10%
Gamay Noir 4%
Barbera 2%
Alicante Bouschet
Grand Noir
Petite Verdot

Yes, Zinfandel and Primitivo are the same thing. I guess they did not want to say it was mostly Zinfandel. Or perhaps they were using two different clones, one coming from Italy where it has been known for years as "Primitivo."

The wine is dark, very dark. Indeed, it is black but for the very edges, which are a deep purple trending toward the red.

The nose is just loaded with black licorice. The fruit is secondary to the nose, and it is primarily red- raspberries, very dark cherries, perhaps a touch of redcurrant. The heavy Zinfandel/Primitivo portion of the blend is clear with the black pepper coming through after the fruit.

Interesting. The palate is darker than the nose. The attack opens with black fruit, not red fruit. Blackberries, elderberries, with perhaps a blueberry or two, but not many, thrown in. That changes quickly, though, at the mid-palate, where the black licorice announces its presence. As it moves from mid-palate toward the finish, red fruit appears and gets progressively sweeter. First raspberries, then black cherries, and finally ripe strawberries at the very end. The finish is of moderate length and leaves a residual sense of black pepper and red fruit. Tannins are very smooth. Mouthfeel is full but not quite oily.

I need to think on this one a little bit. As an exercise in wine tasting, it is fascinating. As a wine, is it too much of everything and not enough of anything? Does it flash through too many things?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

2005 Rolf Binder/Veritas Heinrich

Type: Red
Producer: Rolf Binder/Veritas
Variety: Red Rhone Blend (Shiraz 55%, Mataro 30%, Grenache 15%)
Designation: Heinrich
Country: Australia
Region: South Australia
SubRegion: Barossa
Appellation: Barossa Valley

The Little Wooden Guy is disappointed, particularly after how well other Rolf Binder wines have performed here at 2 Days per Bottle.

Night One

The nose is earthy and fruity. The very first impression is loam, but it last only a fraction of a second before it is replaced by fruit. The fruit then shows some changes of its own, starting dark and thick, mulberry, elderberry, then thins to simpler cherry and blueberry.

On the palate, some black cherry, but the vanilla is overwhelming. I fear somebody took a small bottle of wine and tried to shove an entire oak tree into it.

Night Two

The earthiness is gone on Night Two. What is left on the nose is simple dark fruit and alcohol. Mixed dark and red fruits, elderberry, cranberry, and some black cherry make up the palate, unsweetened slightly bitter cranberry radiating out above the rest toward the finish. There is also a hint of orange peel, but not much. Vanilla and cedar are too prominent, but not as much as on Night One. There is also a bit of black pepper.

This is more of a mish-mash than a success. Other Rolf Binder wines have been terrific successes with good QPRs. Stick with them, and skip this one.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

2003 Escafeld Merlot

Type: Red
Producer: Escafeld
Variety: Merlot
Country: USA
Region: California
SubRegion: Central Coast
Appellation: Monterey County
Price: $19.99 from WineQ[disclosure- I am not sure, but believe this was a sample from WineQ]

The Little Wooden Guy is impressed, really impressed, at a $20 wine that screams "cellar me" as loudly and clearly as this does.

Night One

Don't put your nose too far into a glass of this. It will reach up and punch you right in that nose. Black cherries and mulberry, green grassy spices like sage, rosemary along with some cardamom. There is a smoky smell, too. The easy thing would be to say "bacon" and keep moving, but that would not be accurate. No, think instead the blackened grill drippings below a rotisserie leg of lamb.

Black cherries, blackened edges of grilled meat, a single fennel seed, all make up the initial attack. Chocolate shows up on the mid-palate, as the cherries take the lead over everything else on the attack, leaving not so much chocolate covered cherries, as cherries repeatedly dredged in barely sweetened cocoa powder until it is thick with the stuff. The finish is long. The tannins are strong, finely powdered but leathery-drying. This is still very tightly wound. I suspect this might be one of the real Night Two successes.

One more word for Night One, and it's just a hint now. I suspect it might really show up on Night Two. The word? Umami. That's Japanese for "savory." In Chinese, the word is "xiānwèi," or "fresh flavor." If you like Asian food think soy sauce. If you go with more of a European bent, think anchovy paste. It is a certain richness, fullness of flavor, a "certain something" that makes the four senses you are more familiar with, salty, sweet, bitter and sour, just work better.

Night Two

The nose has not changed a lot since Night One. It is still big and aggressive, fruity, earthy and complex. The cherries are a little more obvious. The spice bite is a little sharper.

On Night Two the fruit seems a little darker. Some blackberry joins the black cherries. There is still some smokey grilled meat and the fennel stands out a little more. Soy sauce makes a real appearance on the mid-palate, right before the infusion of unsweetened cocoa. Finish is long and savory. Tannins remain very strong, even twenty-four hours after it was opened. Put this one away for five years then open it. In fact, buy half a case or more, then open the first one in five years. I expect you will decide to wait another two or three years before opening the next one. This is a very moderately priced Central Coast Merlot, not the sort of wine you would usually buy to cellar over a long period of time, but this might be a real jewel. Only time will tell, but it it tremendously promising.