Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Talus Collection Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

I will nearly always part with a few dollars for the opportunity to try a Lodi wine.  I found the Talus Collection Lodi Cab at BevMo's five cent sale.  Two bottles of this nice juice for less than $10 is a pretty good deal, since I like the wine.

The nose consists of dark fruit - blackberries and plums - with licorice and some pencil shavings meeting a trace of barnyard notes.

Very soft tannins are a surprise at the price point. It's really smooth, even just after opening and pouring. A little more grip might be nice for heavy beef, but I think Talus would do nicely paired with pasta or pork.  The mild approach certainly served well for sipping.  Graphite rides herd over the juicy fruit.  Blackberrries and plums are the palate, too, with herbal notes throughout the four-day span of the bottle.

Appellation:  California > San Joaquin Valley > Lodi
Vintage:  2008
Alcohol Level:  13% abv
Price:  $9
Acquisition disclaimer:   Purchased by the author at a store sale

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Summerland Syrah Paso Robles

Just a quickie here about the Summerland Syrah I had at Baby Blues BBQ
in West Hollywood.

It's a jammy, blueberry-laden wine with notes of black pepper. Very
smooth, and it went just fine with pulled pork and a smoked link.

Summerland is a Central Coast winery just east of Santa Barbara, but
these grapes were sourced further north in Paso Robles.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Oreana Malbec Rose 2007

I've been trying to prepare myself for warmer weather in Los Angeles, even as it has already begun.  I have been flipping through some of my tasting notes on rosé wines I have had in the past which impressed me.

I ran across my thoughts on the Oreana Winery Malbec Rosé I tasted a few years ago at their garage-cum-winery.  I like an institution to pay tribute to its heritage.  From their website:  "The name Oreana comes from the grand ranching days of California's Central Coast.  Oreana is a term used by cattle ranchers for an unbranded calf that strays onto your property and is therefore yours to keep.  Think of it as a found treasure or the renegade spirit of this beautiful region and the wines we produce here."  What a nice tip of the hat!

Here are my thoughts on a wine I do not believe is available anymore, but one I liked quite a bit on my visit.

"13%...Central Coast, Santa Barbara. Pig on label?

"'Take care while pouring not to disturb the flavor buddies' - that advice jumps out from the label with a picture of a pig on it.  Flavor buddies are the tartaric sediment in the bottle which they say is an antioxidant, so bring 'em on.

"A pig?  Maybe that's there because Malbec was once considered the bastard cousin of the more noble Bordeaux varietals.  Maybe they just like a touch of barnyard on their wine.

"The wine is a beautiful color - not pale at all, but see-through cherry red.  The nose reminds me of a childhood memory, perhaps mayhaw berries we would collect roadside for a wonderful jelly.  The flavor is quite full and fruity - you might call it juicy.  There was a bit too much heat on the tongue - I found that to be odd - and it tingled a bit too much for my taste.  It would probably be food friendly, I'd say with a chopped New York salad or antipasti.  Maybe I'd try it with with salmon, chicken or pork.

"Quoting again: 'Limited batch made each year in the traditional French method of "bleeding-off" the early juice and fermenting in stainless steel tanks. The result is a lucious, dry fruit-packed explosion.'"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ecker Gruner Veltliner 2007

Hailed as "the next great white wine" for several years now, with the drumbeats really rolling lately, Gruner Veltliner certainly brings a lot to the table.

Some are getting so chummy with the variety they have taken to referring to it as "Gru-Vee."  I tried that at the Veranda Room at Casa del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica  recently and felt rather foolish when the waitress registered a complete blank.  I quickly recovered, ordered "the Ecker Gruner" and got the evening back on track.

The wine is widely regarded as one of the better "cheap wines."  $10 per glass is pretty cheap at the Veranda Room, and I would imagine a bottle of the stuff goes for less than that.

I liked the stoney minerality right away, but also enjoyed a floral quality on the nose and palate that complemented rather than competed with the tartness.  A nice acidity told me this Gruner won't be satisfied relegated to the porch or patio all summer.  It will want to be up on the table, if not for dinner, at least for lunch.

Variety:  Gruner Veltliner
Appellation:  Austria > Donauland 
Vintage:  2007
Alcohol Level:  12% abv
Price:  $10/glass
Acquisition disclaimer: Purchased by the author, by the glass

Friday, March 26, 2010

Kalyra Black Muscat 2005

There are certain places in the wine world to which I seem drawn back over and over.  The Santa Ynez Valley is one of those places.  Its rolling terrain, sprawling vineyards and bounteous farm land beckon me each time good fortune takes me there.  Denise and I have stopped so many times at fruit stands there for unbelievably delicious strawberries and blueberries.  We've even stopped at a winery or two.  Insert smiling emoticon here.

Kalyra Winery is one of those places in the Santa Ynez Valley from which I can't seem to stay away.  They offer a full line of wines, but I am very partial to their dessert wines. Kalyra's 375ml bottle is adorned by label art which I think of as Australian Surfer Hieroglyphics. The surf motif is in full effect at their winery tasting room in the Santa Ynez Valley as well as at their more recently opened tasting room on Santa Barbara's Urban Wine Trail.

The Kalyra Black Muscat looks rather like a rosé when in the glass. The nose is aromatic and rich. There are notes of licorice candy and candied fruit flavors in there too. The wine tastes somewhat like a port, maybe a young one. It's a very nice and sweet berry flavor that makes a fine dessert on its own, or drizzled over ice cream. It could accompany an aged cheese fairly well, too. It's not as strong as a "real" port, but at 15% abv, it's not weak, either.

Winemaker:  Mike Brown
Variety:  Muscat
Appellation:  California > Central Coast > Santa Ynez Valley
Vintage:  2005 
Alcohol Level:  15%
Price: $15
Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author at the winery

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Vallons des Glauges Rosé 2008

Salads can be one of the most boring food items on a restaurant menu.  But sometimes you find a place that makes them right.  Denise and I favor salads, but even as a fan of the leafy dish, sometimes they can be too, well, leafy.

We have found a place that does salads right.  Salades de Provence  makes salads that have eggplant and zucchini in them.  Their salads have haricots verts in them.  I know that's only French for green beans, but don't they taste better when they call them that?  Bacon's in there, Saint Marcelin cheese, smoked salmon and fresh fried potatoes!  Fresh fried potatoes!  How can you go wrong with a salad which has fresh fried potatoes in it?

They also do quiche, but there's no need to make a list of what's in them.  It's hard to screw up a quiche.  They even have a "quiche of the day."

They also have plenty of French wine which all seems to go great with their food.  Most of the offerings are not special, high-dollar wines, but everyday offerings of, mainly, Provence.

I had a quiche, with a side salad, and a wine that seemed to have been made for the occasion.  Vallons des Glauges rosé went hand in hand with my dinner, as all the other wines I've had here have gone with those light dinners.

The rosé had a tight nose - it was quite chilled - but a light fruitiness came through, peaches, or some such sweetness.  The taste, though, was dry and flavorful.  It was great with my quiche.    

Variety: Grenache, Syrah, Counoise 
Appellation: France > Provence > Coteaux d’Aix en Provence
Vintage: 2008 
Acquisition disclaimer: Bought, by the glass, by the author

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Night in The Veranda Room, Casa del Mar Hotel

What a great way to take the edge off the workweek. Denise and I met Mark and his friend Marina at the Casa del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica.  It was in the Veranda Room, my new favorite bar.  The beautiful ocean views faded to black with nightfall, but sax player Plas Johnson and band kept it ively.

I enjoyed the William Fevre Chablis along with a killer cheese plate.  the Chablis was loaded with minerals and a great lemon zest flavor.  Lovely acidity made the match with the cheese just about perfect.  A great start to a great evening.

Later Mark joined me in a Boxcar Syrah, from the Red Car Wine Company.  What doesn't go into their high-end Syrah, goes here.  It has a great sense of earth about it, and a good nose full of blueberry jam.  Peppery notes highlight the satisfying finish.  I met Carroll Kemp, the owner of  Red Car Wine Company, at a tasting in West Los Angeles a while back.  He's a great guy who makes some great wine. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chateau Saint-Cyrgues Cuvée Anna Costières de Nimes 2006

I asked Denise to smell this wine for me.  I do that when I can't quite pinpoint what I'm smelling, or if I need help identifying a particular aroma.  She has great olfactory senses, while mine leave a bit to be desired.  In this case she sniffed it and said, "ugnhngh."  I don't know if I spelled it right, but the unmistakable impression was not good.

I, however, found the aroma a bit more favorable.  I rather liked it, even though my initial reaction was very much like Denise's.  The nose is a bit funky - you might call it barnyard - but there is also a strawberry note that comes across rather forcefully and some raspberry a little further back.  The palate was quite funky also, with the same fruit in Sweet Tart fashion - not sweet at all, but quite tart.  The wine was open and refrigerated a couple of days when it took on a sort of tobacco leaf taste.  This description may not fully convey that I actually liked this wine, and for that I am sorry.  It is a dry rosé that I feel would not suit everyone's palate.  It certainly suits mine, though.

I first sampled this wine unchilled - as is my custom - and found it a lot more agreeable chilled on its third day after opening.  The color, by the way, is a little darker than I like my rosé, but it is a pretty shade of red.

Costières de Nimes  is located between the Rhone and Languedoc regions.  It seems to owe a lot more to the Languedoc than the Rhone.

Variety:  Syrah, Grenache 
Appellation: France > Rhone Valley > Costières de Nimes 
Vintage: 2006 
Alcohol Level: 13.5% 
Price: $7 
Acquisition disclaimer: Purchased by the author

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Summerland Winery Orange Muscat 2008

Summerland Winery, just east of Santa Barbara, is better known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay than Orange Muscat, but after tasting this one in their tasting room I had to bring a bottle home.  The tasting room is "seaside cute" on the outside, and "Santa Barbara rustic" on the inside.  Summerland Winery is the easternmost point on Santa Barbara's Urban Wine Trail, and is well worth a stop when you're passing by on your way to some other place.

The Orange Muscat's clear bottle has a label full of sunflowers, giving the look of a perfect invitation to summer.  The nose features apricots, or maybe a basket of overripe peaches.  It's lush, but not overly sweet.  Floral notes abound on the nose and the palate, with some honeysuckle and oleander. 

I know I'll be back in Summerland sometime during its namesake season, and I'll be looking for this great summer wine when I'm there.

Variety:  100% Orange Muscat
Appelation:  California > Central Coast > Santa Barbara County
Vintage: 2008
Alcohol Content:  12.5% abv
Price:  $17
Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"They Got This Recession On" Wines, Part 13

Viñas Chilenas Reserva Merlot 2009 

Viñas Chilenas is a Trader Joe brand produced and bottled by Videma S.A.  From Chile's Valle Central area.   It rings up at the register at a paltry $2.99.  Will this wine beat the recession for us?  Let's sip it and see.

First, a look-see shows a dark purple hue I can see through, with some red at the edges.  The nose is a bit tight, but I smell berry and currant, along with a very slight smokiness.  The first sip is a bit tannic, but things smoothed out nicely after just a few minutes.  There's blackberry, cherry and raspberry on the palate.  It's a nice taste, a medium mouthfeel, maybe a little thin for me, and a bit uninspired.

Anything more than a cursory description, I feel, will be damning the wine with faint praise.  It's a decent enough drink, just not very interesting.  For three dollars, I expected less than that.  I generally spend well over that amount on a bottle of wine, so I don't have to settle for a "decent enough drink."  And in the future, I won't.  But if you're trying to stretch your wine dollar as far as possible, you could do worse.

Variety:  Merlot
Appellation:  Chile > Central Valley > Maipo Valley
Vintage:  2009
Alcohol Level:  13.5%
Price:  $3
Acquisition disclaimer:   Purchased by the author

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Frei Brothers Chardonnay 2007

Denise and I were out running errands on a particularly busy Friday.  I had the day off from my normal routine, which is not all good news.  I remember there was a lot of driving and a lot of spending on things we really didn't want to be buying.  All that aside, we broke for lunch at Luna Park, on La Brea just north of Wilshire.  We have always enjoyed their food.  Lately the music had gotten rather loud for our dinnertime tastes, so we haven't been back in the evening for quite a while.  Unfortunately, on this lunch visit, it's a virtually empty disco with Huey Lewis blaring at dance floor volume.

I've gotten off the track before I even started, it seems.  This is supposed to be about tasting wine.  So let's get to the good stuff.

I had Frei Brothers Chardonnay.  The nose was like Champagne, with a bit of a toasty twist on the fruit.  On the palate, it has a very well-rounded mouthfeel and the flavor of pears.  It's full of minerality, crisp as a green apple.  There's just enough oak to lend a hint of wood, coming nowhere near "overoaked" status.

Variety:  Chardonnay
Appelation:  California > Sonoma County > Russian River Valley
Vintage:  2007
Alcohol level: 13.8% 
Price:  $8/glass
Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ridge Lytton Springs 2006

It was the first nice looking Saturday we'd had in a while, so Denise and I did something that had been on the back burner for several weeks - lunch at The Lobster in Santa Monica.  You really want lunch at The Lobster on a gorgeous day.  The view can't be beaten.  Up and down the beach between Malibu and Marina del Rey, this is the view we want on a bright sunny day.  So, even though it was a bit chilly, and even though a friend of ours emailed of snow on the Grapevine, we hit the road for the Pacific Ocean.

The Lobster has been at the foot of the Santa Monica Pier since 1923.  Wait, maybe they've been there longer than the Pier.  I don't know and I'm not looking it up.  At any rate, they've been there since the days when the entire restaurant was contained in the four walls of what is now the entryway!  Walk up a few steps and you have a magnificent view of the Pacific, the Pier and all its modern playday glory.  Love that ferris wheel - from a distance.

To cut to the chase, she had lobster, I broke "scallops tradition" and had the BBQ salmon.  She opened with a crab salad, I started with a plate of hummus and olives.  And I had some wine.

The Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs Zinfandel was billed in the wine menu as a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Grenache.  Looking around since then, I suspect the restaurant may have left out a mention of Carignane in their "page talker."

The smell of this wine is absolutely stunning.  Huge grape jam dominates the nostrils, reminding Denise at first of Jello, before it has set in the fridge.  I picked up some meaty notes, too.

The taste is quite forceful.  It doesn't just roll over your palate, it marches across it.  It's a dark, strong tasting wine.  The jammy "Welches" streak runs through it as it did on the nose, with spiciness and licorice to boot.  A pretty hefty touch of leather comes over, too.  It is quite dry - muscular, you might say.  The wine is well structured, but not a lightweight at all.  Not even a middleweight.

Panky Rose 2008

With the weather hopefully turning a little warmer, I'd like to revisit a very nice rose I discovered last spring.  It's another winner from the Santa Ynez Valley.  This pink wine really impressed me.  If you're looking for a great find for summer, Panky certainly qualifies.  It was a little difficult to find last year, but it's worth the trouble.  Panky is produced by Fontes & Phillips Wines in the Happy Canyon region of the Santa Ynez Valley  Their website said "coming soon" when I last checked it, but the email address worked when I wanted to find some Panky for myself.   There's also a Facebook page.  I also understand Panky can be found at several retail outlets in the Santa Barbara area. 

A clear Rhone-style bottle reveals the salmon color that seems tinged with gold in the light. It's quite impressive visually. The Happy Canyon pink consists of 38% Syrah, 36% Cinsaut and 26% Grenache. I could not find an alcohol content number on the label, but I would not guess it was much over 13.5%. The label is rather plain, save for the name. "Panky" is printed in mixed-font "ransom note" style. I was told this was produced by Fontes and Phillips, but the label shows that it is bottled by the "Kerr E. Nation Wine Company - Buellton, CA." To find it, you may have to "axe" around.

A very fruity sniff awaits you, especially if the wine is not overly chilled. Grapefruit and apricot lead the way, but there seems to be a lot at work in the aroma department. Very interesting.

Panky is not extremely dry, but it's certainly not on the sweet end of the spectrum. There is a buttery texture on the tongue, but it's not overplayed. I find a creaminess that's almost trying to hide. Vanilla notes play against an orange peel tartness. I thought it was a complicated wine the first time I tried it, and I still think so. There is a very good acidity level and Panky goes well with salads, fish...probably an omelet, too.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tangent Ecclestone 2007

Spring starts on March 20th this year.  That knowledge plus the weather turning a shade warmer in Southern California today put me in mind of some of the wines I thoroughly enjoyed last spring and summer.  And autumn, for that matter.

Ecclestone, from the Tangent Winery in California's Edna Valley region, is one of my favorites for when the last vestiges of winter have gone away for a while.  Tangent is an offshoot of Baileyana Winery.  You might expect a winery which specializes in white wines - and which has "tangent" as its name - to vary from the mainstream occasionally.  They do.  This "alternative white wine" utilizes so many varieties, it could be named "Pinot Kitchen Sink."  Pinot Gris, Viognier, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Albarino all combine to produce this unique and fascinating wine.

There is a very modern flair to the label with clean lines a crisp design. Remember those descriptive words.  They'll come in handy later when describing the wine.

Ecclestone's nose is gorgeous.  It's full of flowers.  It has one of the most intensely floral bouquets I can remember.  Orange blossom is billed, but to my nose it's more like honeysuckle with a splash of orange.  If you recall the intensity of the smell when walking near a honeysuckle, the first sniff of this wine is much like that.  Try to serve it only moderately chilled, as those floral notes really explode when not fully refrigerated.

The flowers don't quit after you smell them.  There is a floral carpet laid upon the palate as well, one which I welcome each time I experience it.  Citrus notes are here, along with a clean and crisp minerality that braces and refreshes.  There's a stony quality to the minerals that comes through, as opposed to chalky.  I love this wine on the deck on a nice warm afternoon.  It refreshes in much the same way a cold, hoppy ale does.  It just seems made for the sunshine. The acidity is certainly there, too, so don't think this is just a sipper.  Serve it with salads, Kalamata olives, mild cheddar or a nice plate of scallops.

Variety:   Pinot Gris, Viognier, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Albarino
Appellation: California > Central Coast > San Luis Obispo > Edna Valley
Vintage: 2007
Alcohol Level: 13.5% abv
Price: $20
Acquisition disclaimer: Purchased by the author

Monday, March 8, 2010

La Fenêtre À Côté Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

One of the treasures I picked up at a recent Wally's tent sale is a Santa Barbara County Cabernet from La Fenêtre.  À Côté is a delicious wine, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Santa Barbara Highlands.  The grapes grow above the fog line, where the Cab gets ridiculous in Santa Barbara County.

Sommelier-turned-winemaker Joshua Klapper did some fine work getting this in a bottle.  The fruit is wonderful, nicely abetted by its time in french oak. 

The nose is all about smokey, leathery, dark fruit up front.  A bit of barnyard appeared to my senses on the second night it was open, but it smoothed out before I had a chance to second-sniff it.  A leathery quality shrouds the fruit on the palate, to my delight.  I taste blackberry and currant strongly.  On the third night, graphite really made its presence known.  Over the span of three nights during which I enjoyed À Côté, I'd say it drank good, then better, then wow.

Winemaker:  Joshua Klapper
Variety:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation:  California > Central Coast > Santa Barbara County
Vineyard:  Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard
Vintage:  2008
Alcohol Level:  14.1% abv
Price:  $24
Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hospice du Rhone Celebration 2010

There are too few places like Paso Robles. The residents throw everything they have behind their wine industry and support it with gusto. One happy result of that attitude is, they can't seem to stop having celebrations! On the horizon at the end of April comes one of the biggest of them, the Hospice du Rhône Celebration 2010.

This annual event - in its 18th year - celebrates the varieties of the Rhône Valley and those who make wines with these wonderful grapes. It begins with bowling and ends with a barbecue, and in between is the entire world of Rhône-style wine.

The festivities begin on Thursday April 29th and continue with barely a moment to catch your breath through Saturday May 1st. Paso Robles gears up for this event in a major way. There are many highlights on the event schedule, but the two major tasting events - Friday's Rhône Rendezvous and Saturday's Grand Tasting - are events they say you'd need a passport and a long vacation to duplicate on your own.

You can attend seminars, lunches and tastings with winemakers from all over the world who share a passion for the 22 Rhône grapes, from Bourboulenc to Viognier and Ugni Blanc to Mourvedre.

A weekend pass runs nearly $800, and you can select ala carte from the list of separate events, most for $100 per ticket. If you’re a fan of those Rhône grape varieties, it will be worth every penny.

Hospice du Rhône Celebration, 18th Annual
April 29, 2010 - May 1, 2010
Paso Robles, California

"They Got This Recession On" Wines, Part 12

Clay Station Viognier 2007

I discovered this wine at an Indian restaurant Denise and I frequent.  It was a restaurant that had traditionally offered only beer as an alcoholic beverage.  The proprietor - a young Indian man who is hip to the fact that wine has become seriously mainstream popular - decided to branch out.  I saw the wine list and expected, hoped, to find some treasures of the burgeoning Indian wine industry.  They were there, indeed.  But also calling my name was Lodi, California.

Anytime I see a wine from Lodi on a wine list, I am compelled to try it.  I love the mineral-laced wines made from grapes grown in that clay earth.  The whites from Lodi have a mineral profile that is hard to match.  The old stagecoach stop - Clay Station - is memorialized in the name on the bottle.  That dirt itself is even in the name.  It makes me think of that John Fogerty lyric, "stuck in Lodi again," and imagine that it may not be such an awful place to find oneself anymore.  At least if you've got four dollars for a bottle of Viognier.

Clay Station Viognier is one of those not-so-rare finds at the Trader Joe's grocery chain.  If you can only buy really inexpensive wine, buy it at Trader Joe's.  They have a store full of genuinely good wine at prices that are sometimes jaw-dropping.  And if you're trying to bust a recession, what better way to do it than with a $4 wine that's actually pretty good?

The nose is floral and aromatic, with a good sense of the minerals coming forth right away, too.  On the palate, the wine is viscous and fruity, but again the minerals act as a traveling companion.  Peaches is what the taste reminds me of, but not sweet, drippy peaches served in the summertime with homemade vanilla ice cream.  These peaches are a bit short of fully ripe, with just a hint of crunch to them.  The acidity is quite nice and the finish long.  It was great with Indian food, by the way.  At home, we paired it with cabbage and red onions sauteed in olive oil, and it made us glad we didn't go out to dinner. 

Variety:  100% Viognier
Vineyard:  Clay Station Vineyard
Appellation:  California > San Joaquin County > Lodi
Vintage:  2007
Alcohol Level:  13.5% abv
Price:  $4
Acquisition disclaimer: Purchased by the author

Friday, March 5, 2010

Las Colinas del Ebro 2008

Las Colinas del Ebro is a Grenache Blanc made in the Spanish highlands of Terra Alta in southern Catalunya.  It is said to be made from grapes that are hand-harvested from 100 year-old vines, some of the oldest vines in the nation.  Stainless steel fermentation promises a crisp and clean taste.

The nose certainly smells fresh.  There's a good, clean whiff of minerals, but along with that comes a fruity and flowery aroma profile.  It's actually sweet smelling - not sugary sweet, but rather like honeyed fruit.

The palate shows that fruit well.  I imagine honeydew melon mixed with nectarines.  A good sense of minerality comes along about halfway through and delivers a very nice tang.  I initially felt the acidity could be a bit higher for me, that despite all the good things happening aroma- and taste-wise, the wine fell just a tad flat for lack of a backbone.  However, remembering the Argentine chicken and zucchini in the refrigerator, I decided to give it a shot.  Rather surprisingly, the wine paired quite well with the dish - as well as with a few stray sauteed mushrooms.

It's quite possible that Las Colinas del Ebro could very well have a spot on my deck all summer long - and at my table year-round.

Winemaker:  Luis Marin
Variety:  100% Garnacha Blanca (Grenache Blanc)
Appellation:  Spain > Catalunya > Tarragona > Terra Alta
Vintage:  2008
Alcohol Level:  13% abv
Price:  $12, but it appears it can be had for $9 in a lot of places
Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fess Parker Syrah 2006

Santa Barbara winemekers seem to have a way with Syrah.  And Santa Barbara wine lovers are proud of that.  I attended a wine tasting event in Santa Barbara last year and had a conversation with a lovely grandmother out for a little vino in the sunshine.  I told her about my website, and she seemed genuinely offended at the name, Now and Zin.  "Why not Syrah?" she asked with a fair amount of incredulity showing.  So, just for her, we'll call this site "Yes, Syrah, That's My Bottle" today.  Just this once.

One of the many fine wineries in Santa Barbara County is Fess Parker.  The actor who played Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone made quite a name for himself in other fields, too.  Real estate, for one - check out how much of the coastline has his name on it in Santa Barbara.  Wine for another.  His winery has not only some of the most beautiful grounds on the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, but some of best wines, too.

In a brownish Syrah bottle, Fess Parker's 2006 vintage is a stout drink at 15.5% abv.  There is little else on the labels except for a small blurb thanking me for buying the wine and a brief description of the flavors I'm likely to encounter while drinking it.  Oh yes, and a tiny little coonskin cap.

There is a strong nose of currant, some black cherry (or maybe even wild cherry cough drops) and a good deal of spiciness.  Lots of alcohol is apparent, too.  The wine really should be decanted for an hour or so.  I waited thirty minutes after nearly getting a buzz on the first sip.  It wasn't long enough.  Although the wine had tamed a bit by the third night it was open, I still caught a significant alcohol aroma.   Despite the strength of the wine, the flavor really delivered.  The peppery spices are abundant and the fruit was not a bit bashful.  Blackberry and currant are what stand out for me.  It tasted very nice when just a bit of it was taken with a bite of baked ziti.  A mouthful might have overwhelmed the delicate marinara sauce and mozzarella.  I would think a steak charbroiled over a rosemary grill would be more in line with what this wine wants as a partner.

Variety:  100% Syrah
Appellation:  California > Central Coast > Santa Barbara County
Vineyard:  84% Camp Four, 16% Rodney's Vineyard
Vintage:  2006
Alcohol level:  15.5% abv
Price:  $25
Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Reserve Carmenere

Chile has been in my thoughts.  First, there is the massive earthquake on February 26, 2010.  Here's wishing the best for those affected by the disaster.  Second, a dear friend of ours, David Stanley, has been traveling in South America.  As soon as we heard about the quake, Denise and I thought of him.  We had just read his journal accounts of the great time he has been having  while living in Santiago for a couple of months, and of an ice-walking trip to Patagonia.  His travel blog makes for a wonderful read, by the way.

Anyway, a quick call to his mother confirmed that he was already safely in Buenos Aires.  Whew.  Relief turned to more consternation, though, as we thought about all the wonderful friends he had made in Chile.  We hope they are alright.  Also, as I tried to link up the Concha y Toro website, I was informed that the link appeared to be broken, or that the server was down.  I understand from a post on the Dr. Vino blog that a lot of damage has been incurred in the Rapel area.  Our thoughts are with the people of Chile.

Inspired, I dug around a bit and found some notes I had made about a bottle of Chilean Carmenere by Concha y Toro.  This is probably from about a year or so ago.

"From the "Cellar of the Devil", eh?  Well, the Casillero del Diablo is supposedly where Don Melchor de Concha y Toro kept his best wines stashed 100 years ago.  This wine is from the Rapel Valley, south of Santiago, and on the label the winemaker promises "chocolate, coffee and spice combined with raspberries and blackberries."  It sports a 13.5% abv number and it pours up dark and inky in the glass.

"The nose features Very dark fruit, and a promise of some intense minerals.  It's a powerful aroma of blackberries and maybe some licorice. Very nice.

"Let it sit about 10 minutes after pouring.  This is a very intense wine, full of spices - clove, a little cinnamon, pepper - and a strong sense of the earth.  Not a meek or mild wine, this Carmenere is brash and sinister.  Good tannins and ripe fruit are prominent with the cholcolately flavors underneath.  I don't really get the coffee that was promised, but that's okay.  There's enough here to prevent me from complaining.  It does go great with a piece of chocolate and it complemented a dish of blackened bar-b-q beans very nicely.  I would imagine it goes well with any sort of meat, particularly game."