Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sierra Cantabria 2002 (PB)

This Rioja red is pretty with chocolate reminders right our of the gate. It hints at spice on first impression with a chocolate covered cherries nose. For the price--$12—I really like it though it is very short lived. Rioja wines are really starting to grow on me. Spain is starting to really come around with some great values and classy creations especially when you get to the $20 range. (See my past entry on Coto De Imaz)and raise a glass!

Tenuta Dell’ Ornellaia Toscana Le Volte 2002 (PB)

If you read my entry about a special dinner in Boston for Mother’s Day, this is the wine I bought a glass of that rocked my enophilic socks off with one little exception—the vintage. My “Wine Guy” ordered it for me but when it arrived it was the 2002 and not the 2001. With apology, he told me I could bring them both back if I didn’t like it, even the opened bottle.

Well, with NW in town—yes he’s been found although he has not been blogging due to issues of relocation and a newborn—it was the perfect opportunity to crack this bottle open and see the difference one year makes.

Here is what I wrote about he 2001—“…immediate burst of fresh cherries, very well balanced with several layers of olives, and an utterly fantastic layer of a fresh bouquet of flowers with definite cedar or menthol notes with another layer of anise or licorice and currants.”

Here is the review for the same wine in everyway but the vintage—2002: On opening there’s a little bottle stink and very vegetal nose which is not enticing. In the mouth it is a tad bitter and there is very little flavor but the potential for a decent balance all things considered. The finish is tight.

Note- the restaurant wine I had by the glass could have been opened for hours so I want as much as possible to compare apples, uh, I mean, grapes to grapes. So in fairness, I will breathe this wine for several hours and check it along the way.

After 5 ½ hours of breathing there is a very faint hint of chocolate and a very faint berry scent but it is all overpowered by alcohol. The tannins are still rock hard and try as I may to like this wine, it is “hot” and rather lifeless. I will decant it to try and open it up some.

Finally after 7 hours of air time with decanting, it relaxes some and the balance is considerably better but still too austere all the way around. I believe that more bottle age would help this wine out but even with that, it just isn’t the same wine as the 2001; not by a wide a margin. At $25 for the bottle, it is not a good value.

Moral of the story, vintage obviously can make a HUGE difference and coincidentally, the 01 vintage in Tuscany was superior and the 02 was marginal. So if you’re shopping for a particular wine and you find it but it isn’t the same vintage, you’d probably better pass it up. Different vintage means different wine! Raise a glass!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Memorial Day Grilling and Wine (PB)

As I write it is only two hours away from Memorial Day. Tomorrow I will go to our local parade and pay tribute to the many who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country in the interest of gaining and maintaining freedom; freedom which we take so for granted. I hope you’ll do likewise and then go home and crank up the grill. Next to the Fourth of July, Memorial Day is the biggest BBQ weekend of the year.

Real charcoal grills have given way in large part to the more convenient gas grills and where pocket books run deep and weather more moderate than Northern New England, grills have taken on the stature and cost of a major household appliance. Gloss Black Weber kettle grills have given way in large part to gargantuan stainless steel behemoths with rotisseries, side burners, warmer and racks. Somehow, as much I love cooking and would love to try my hand at grillingus maximus, I have a hard time justifying the cost of an outdoor cooker that costs far more tan my first several cars!

For my part, I am a bit of a purest who still uses a Weber Kettle (and used one at that) with honest to goodness real charcoal. Say what you want, but I’ve never had anything grilled on a gas grill that delivers that real BBQ taste like charcoal and while that is wonderful it also presents a challenge to pairing wine.

Basic rule of thumb is you need a bold wine to hold up to the bold flavors of charcoal and smoke. Zinfandel is a nice choice for many grilled meats but even sturdy whites would do well with lighter grilled meats and veggies. So, enjoy a parade, give thanks for all the luxuries of freedom we have that cost so many so much, and pop a cork with whatever you might throw on that grill. Experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. And then raise a glass to our men and women are so valiantly fighting for safety, our freedom and our faith.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Feudo Arancio 2002 (PB)

This Sicilian Nero D’Avola is a nice bright wine with a yeasty bouquet and a decent though somewhat non-descript nose. In the mouth immediately after pouring, it gives an initial impression of being “sweet” but it is NOT sweet and has a base of solid tannins. Again, flavors are closed and hard to define yet this is a tantalizing wine.

After twenty minutes or so of breathing it opens a bit though not tremendously but with nice fruit; clearly this is a wine made in the old world style where everything is just more subtle. It paired well with Italian sausage and tortellini. This wine was $8 on sale from $10 and as I wrote, it is rather simple but well made and a good value at this price--another bottle of wine which passed the all-important “empty bottle” test by the end of dinner. Now raise a glass!

Friday, May 27, 2005

French wine sales are still in the dumper.

According to a report in the Wine Spectator the “first quarter of 2005 results show that exports fell 13.2% by volume compared to the fourth quarter of 2004. Regions with the worst showings were Cotes du Rhone, down by 34.7%, and Bordeaux, down 17.7%.”

What this means in practical terms is that if you were boycotting French wine due to their anti-American politics as many Americans have done, but have thought about relaxing your boycott as France, in some ways, tries to make up to the U.S. (sort of) then there ought to be values galore coming from the Cotes du Rhone and Bordeaux regions. Search accordingly! FYI

First Time Here?

If you are new to this blog or have never read the "Wine Cask Introduction" at the right, please do so. It will put this blog in perspective! Thanks for visiting--PB

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Cartlidge and Browne Pinot Noir 2003 (PB)

This light red beauty comes out of the bottle with seductive aromas of fresh fruit and pipe tobacco aromas. In the mouth it has a lively tartness with a pleasant underlying tease of something elusive but wonderful. It finishes dry with some sexy undertones of that mysterious “something.” With a little air, this wine opens into a lovely and elegant wine with a subtle raisiny overtone that is just simply fresh and tantalizing. At $10.50 this is certainly a recommended wine and Gaiter and Brecher of the Wall Street Journal prove once again to be dead on with their recommendation as an inexpensive Pinot Noir "best value." Raise a glass tonight!

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Effects of "Breathing" cont’d (PB)

Make sure you read the post BEFORE this one!
The Seghesio Zinfandel referred to in my previous entry was breathed for two hours and re-tasted. Essentially NO change! But I cam confident that it will. Be patient!

At three hours of air this Zin is starting to relax–finally. The tannins are beginning to lighten up their grip though they are still plenty chewy yet plums are in the background with flavors still trying to battle their way out. I will decant this wine to push it out of it’s austere posture. Finally, eureka! With decanting blackberries emerge and vanilla makes its presence known with currants in the finish.

As stated in my previous entry, if I had ordered this with dinner at a restaurant, I would have missed all of this and it would have seemed to be a very marginal wine. As it is, the $19 I paid for it was too much (should cost more like $11.00) but it is a good wine none-the-less. (By the way, my BBQ’d brisket was a lost cause...that’s what I get for watching BBQ week on the food channel! We had chicken on the grill in stead.)

The Effects of “Breathing” a Wine (PB)

I am a big fan of breathing my red wines; all red wines, inexpensive ones, moderate ones, everything except “jug” wines...I have posted in the past re: the benefits and cautions re: breathing your wine. So for this little demonstration, I just opened a bottle of Seghesio Zinfandel 2003 (Sonoma) which cost me $19. Out of the gate is a gorgeous garnet color and the first thing to hit my nose is an absolutely wonderful aroma of candied cherries; something like a little kid might pop in his mouth and suck on it with glee. On the swirl, ripe plums are down deep but there is an overpowering mask of alcohol and what I call “stuff.” First taste reveals a wine of some intensity but a tannic foundation and acid accomplice overwhelm much of any tastes that I believe are waiting to be released. The finish is tannic and fairly nondescript.

NOW–if I were ready to sit down to dinner, or just had this opened for me at a restaurant and downed it with my meal, I might call it a wine with potential but all in all is disappointing and austere. If I didn’t know any better I would assess this as a very mediocre wine. BUT...I DO know better and I am guessing that this wine is going to burst wide open with some complexity and flavors galore with the tannins melting away into a gentlemanly doorman just waiting to grace my palate with a welcoming ingress. (Okay, getting carried away with the metaphor but I hope you get my point.) It is 2:30 EST in the afternoon May 23, when I opened this and I just put a beef brisket on the grill to slow cook/smoke for dinner with this wine. Be sure to read my subsequent post when I re-taste this wine with a couple hours of air on it! And while you’re waiting, raise a glass!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer 2003 (PB)

This Washington State varietal has a slight golden hue on the pour with a big green apple bouquet with a touch of peach and a very light citrus background. In the mouth it is richer than many Gewurtz’s I am used to with a creamy texture and a rigid acid base which will make it easier to pair with food. (I tend to like Gewurztraminer all by itself with a good chill on it) but this one will be paired with the all American dish called “macaroni and cheese.”

The finish on this wine is creamy and lasting leaving the mouth a bit tingly. I paid $10 for this wine on sale from $12. For the record, this was a better made wine than most Gewurtz’s we’ve had but my wife liked it the least. I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, the bottom line is what YOU like! I’ll be raising a glass of this again, later on.

(It was so-so with macaroni and cheese...”)

Friday, May 20, 2005

More Health Benefits From Wine (PB)

From the Wine Spectator Internet site May 20, 2005
"Conventional wisdom has held that alcohol was a sworn enemy of the kidneys, the twin organs responsible for filtering impurities in the blood and passing them from the body. However, this belief is being challenged by a new study that has found that a drink or two a day may lower the risk of kidney failure.
The study, published in the May 9 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that men who consumed at least seven drinks in a week showed a 29 percent lower risk of renal dysfunction than nondrinkers and infrequent drinkers. Men who had five to six drinks a week had an 8 percent lower risk. The study did not distinguish among different types of alcohol."

Cousino Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 (PB)

This Chilean is one of my reliable favorites though it has tended to have some off years lately. This reserve Cabernet is medium cherry in color on the pour with prominent blackberry aromas. The tannins are august on opening and need some time to chill out so to speak, and smoke finishes this quickly reviewed pour.

With a few minutes of breathing (20 minutes) the tannins have settled back in a lounge chair allowing more of the parietal flavors to come forth. It is a sturdy wine with some time to mature yet though good and ready right now. At $14, you can find better wines, but this is worth the price. Raise a glass!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Revised--Supreme Court rules in favor of wine enthusiasts--well, sort of! (PB)

On May 16, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that it is unconstitutional for a state to prohibit the shipment of wine out of state to consumers IF that particular state allows wineries in state to ship to consumers within that state.

Traveling to Napa a couple years ago I wanted to join a wine club at one of the wineries but was informed that it was illegal for them to ship wine to my house in the state of Maine. As Michigan and New York's laws were challenged and overturned at the federal level, I was optimistic that the Supreme Court would trash this law making it legal for any consumer to buy wine at an out of state winery having it shipped to their home or over the internet taking advantage of boutique wineries that do not distribute out of their state of production.

So my wife and I raised a glass to the U.S. Supreme Court but alas it was for naught!

So, it only means that if your state allows wineries in your state to ship to consumers in that state, it cannot prohibit the shipment of wine to your house from an out of state winery.

The state now has the obligation to change their state law so that it is consistent. In other words, they must change their current laws prohibiting shipment of wine from out of state OR they may prohibit all shipment of wine, both in-state and out of state, to consumers.

Back to the drawing board!

Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2003 (PB)

This South African from the Stellenbosch region is golden pale on the pour with fruit galore in the bouquet has a nose of pears, Apple, peaches and apricots with even a hint of nectarines and a definite texture and flavor of rich cream. It looks viscous in the glass and in the mouth has a nice texture with tart and slightly sour flavors with good acid. The flavors are a bit thinner than I would have expected but all in all they are sturdy and fairly wonderful. The finish is solid and rich. I served it a bit warm. Cooled down it is really nice. The Wine Enthusiast called this wine the best white wine value in the world. I’m not sure I would go that far but it is really nice. I recommend it. Now raise a glass!

Val Serena Vin Santo (PB)

On the pour there is too much alcohol in the nose with port-like nose. It is amber with a tinge of pink. It is very sweet like a port with hints of raisin and guava. This is the traditional Italian desert wine but this is one is a really inexpensive variety costing just $6 for a Half bottle. Yes it is shallow, yes it is out of balance and yes it doesn’t have much of a finish but for Pete’s sake, it’s $6. And frankly, for that, I’ll raise a glass!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Establish yourself with your local wine shop (PB)

I’ve written in the past about what makes a good wine shop. One of the attributes is an attentive and responsive store staff. When it's the owner, it's that much better. So when I had a glass of wine in a Boston restaurant over Mother’s Day (see previous blog entry) I called my “wine guy” and asked him to see if he could find it by the bottle. He notified me that he was able to procure the Tenuta dell' Ornellaia Toscana Le Volte 2001 that I fell in love with at that special dinner.

I was ecstatic and asked him to order two bottles for me. Though this wine is only $25 per bottle (x 2), that’s still a bit more than I generally pay for wine. Never-the-less, for this wine, I’m not sure it would have mattered no matter what the price! So you can imagine the disappointment when my “wine guy” notified me that the wine was in but it wasn’t the 2001 but the 2002 apparently his supplier misinformed him. So he wanted to know if I still wanted the wine.

There’s a couple of points to be made here. First, a wine by the exact same name, etc. but a different vintage is a totally different wine. I’m not ready to say vintage is everything because a great wine maker can work magic with a less than stellar vintage, but even a master can only do so much. In the case of this wine, the 2001 was a great vintage for Tuscany but the 2002 was a marginal one. Normally I wouldn’t even consider the exhange except that this wine has me so enamored that I am willing to give a different vintage a try knowing how much artful production contributes to the overall quality. The second point, is that I know I can return the unopened bottle if I don’t like the first. Now this is where it pays to establish consistency and credibility with your wine shop. My wine guy e-mailed me to say that even I didn’t like the first bottle when I opened it, to bring it back as well. Now that's a place you're going to frequent.

Well, all this writing about wine, makes me want to open a bottle in preparation for tonight’s dinner. I am preparing homemade carbonara pasta for some friends and we will be trying 2-3 different wines. So, pardon me while I raise a glass...and write some more reviews!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Cockburn’s Fine Ruby Porto (PB)

This sale wine for $7 is a pretty ruby color with a strong bouquet of strawberries and blueberries with the typical undercurrent of portish raisins. It is rather “hot” though in the mouth with good port sweetness and more raisin flavors. For the price, it is a good enough value.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Rosemount Estates Traminer-Riesling 2004 (PB)

This South Eastern Australian blend is a pale golden with a very light bouquet of apricots and peaches. In the mouth it is sweeter than I would have expected but is quite refreshing. It could benefit from a little more acid to counter the intense sweetness but it works never-the-less. The texture is rich and there is a subtle hint of bananas which is quite nice. The finish is long and satisfying. This was a Wine Spectator top 100 under $15. I paid $6 on sale from $9. I was a little reticent to pair it with food due its rich sweetness but we had breaded pollock on a bed of steamed spinach with fiddle heads. It worked very well. Which is why we cannot raise a glass; there’s nothing left-- always a good sign. Really nice all by itself with a little chill on it yet works with light delicate flavor foods. I recommend it!

What to do with unused wine? (PB)

Billy raised an issue or at least alluded to an issue that deserves comment. What to do with leftover wine or wine that is “bad.” I have heard numerous people say something like, “Well, I’ll use it in cooking.” Okay let’s get a grip here and be rational. The quality of your cooking is dependent to a large degree on two things; the quality of the ingredients and the ability of the one preparing them. So here is a culinary axiom for you. No matter who you are—even Charlie Trotter—if you have garbage for ingredients, your talent will only take you so far, and that won’t be too far. Which means ingredients and their quality are important. So if a wine is BAD to drink, it is not going to undergo some mystical transformation when you use it in a recipe or a sauce. So if your wine is truly bad, it is NOT suitable for cooking either! Dump it, give it to your cat, or see if it will remove stains but don’t use it in cooking.

Rule of thumb—I find most red wines will last a good week in the fridge may be even two as far as using it for cooking goes. A wine may not be very palatable to the discriminating palate but is still not “gone.” Go ahead and use it for cooking. White wines may last 2-3 weeks with the same caveats.

Monday, May 09, 2005

What to do with that bottle of wine (billy)

I have a bottle of wine in my cellar (Viu Manent 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon) that was a gift. Now, I reviewed that wine HERE and, as you can tell from that review, my opinion was pretty darn low (if buried under the feet of Lucifer in the fourth ring of the ninth circle of Dante's Hell can be considered low).

So here is my quandry. The wine is sitting in my cellar. I'm definitely not going to drink it. Yet I am loathe to simply pour it out. I don't know, maybe it's because my father was always expounding on the merits of frugality and stewardship.

Anyway, my question is this:
Do I keep it here and save it for an event with the less enologically inclined? Or do I give it away as a kind gift to a poor bloke who will probably not know the difference yet will appreciate the thoughtfulness of the gift?
I would wrap it up nicely.

What do you think? Leave a comment with your advice.

Rosso Del Salento 2003 (PB)

This Italian red is a light cherry color on the pour with nice fruit in the nose and a grapey bouquet with a slight touch of wood. In the mouth there is a flavor of raw fish (not bad, that’s just what it reminds me of) and steel with a solid tannin base but very short lived on the finish with an after hint of caramel.

I purposely gave this a couple hours to breath and it didn’t change as far as any new aromas but the flavors which were present at the open were just intensified greatly. This is a NICE wine with good structure and balance with nice raisin notes but not like the new world wines that taste like raisin bran. At $9 the only regret I have is having bought only one bottle. The two hour drive to the New Hampshire store where I bought it is just too far away. We paired this with a marvelous Carbonara with an added New England touch of fiddle heads. If you’re not from New England, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Trust me, it was wonderful with the homemade linguine. I’d love to raise a glass, but it’s gone!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

By the glass review (PB)

For Mother’s Day I took my wife to Boston (3 hours one way) to delight ourselves in the city’s famous “North End”Italian fare. I selected the restaurant due to its wine list. We ordered 2 glasses of Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Toscana Le Volte 2001. They were $13 a glass and an absolutely marvelous wine. I couldn’t swirl due to the lack of volume of the glass and even though it was served to warm it had an immediate burst of fresh cherries, very well balanced with several layers of olives, and an utterly fantastic layer of a fresh bouquet of flowers with definite cedar or menthol notes with another layer of anise or licorice and currants. I am going to have to find this wine now by the bottle which should run around $30...
I only wish I could raise another glass of this blue ribbon Super Tuscan creation.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

An APB for (NW)

Have you noticed that posts by (NW)have been sparse and even absent for sometime now? This is an All Points Bulletin to be on the lookout for the where-abouts of NW! Yes we know he's in the process of relocating but C'mon, you still have to drink wine. NW where are you???

Another restaraunt by-the-glass bomb (PB)

I went to one of those nationally known chain restraints that seem to be typically popular and wildly successful that specializes in a western motif with an abundance of beef on the menu. For me, prime rib is hard to beat if it is even moderately well prepared. And of course, if you’re going to have a slab of medium-rare steer, you’ve got to have a solid red wine equal to the task of standing up to it.

I had eyed a bottle of Kendal-Jackson Collage in a couple stores, but never broke down and purchased one for some reason. So what better way to find out if you like a wine enough to buy a whole bottle than to have a glass in a restaurant? So I ordered a glass of the KJ Cabernet-Shiraz Collage (they also make a Cabernet-Merlot Collage as well) and paid $6.50 for it. Of course I had no idea what year I was ordering as it wasn’t listed.

The wine came in a typically undersized glass such that if you attempted to swirl it, you’d end up with a mouthful in your lap. And of course it was not merely at *room temp (which is way to warm anyway) but was actually warm as if it had been sitting near a heat lamp or something. I asked our waitress how long the wine had been opened and of course she was clueless.

Attempting to sniff without swirling there was, I think, a hint of a bouquet though I’m not sure…In the mouth it was lifeless, dull and again, way too warm. That on top of a piece of meat that was so tough my steak knife was having difficulty getting through it, made it a less than memorable experience except for the fact that my girlfriend was across the table for me. She makes everything memorable.

The bottom line is, this was certainly not a fair evaluation of the wine and I’ll just have to buy a fresh bottle which I could for only a few bucks more than the small glass cost me at the restaurant. Let’s face it, in this kind of restaurant you have to expect such service and quality when it comes to wine. Caveat emptor!

*The "room temp" rule of thumb re: the proper serving temperature of red wine is misleading. The rule goes back to the days of old when room temp was typically around 55 degrees. So if get a red wine that is truly "room temp" (around 70 degrees) it is much too warm.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Quick Swirl: Cline Zinfandel 2001 (PB)

Re-review of a tested wine: A lighter red Zin than most
nice berry nose;
hefty tannins and solid acid backbone that overpower the spice and berries in the mouth on opening.
One of my favorite inexpensive go to Zins.
We will pair it tonight with tacos in honor of Cinco De Mayo; a challenging pairing. For under $8, it’s a decent value and it will mellow out with some breathing. Raise a glass!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

How NOT to dry your wine glasses (PB)

I like my glasses spotlessly clear so I usually avoid soap and just rinse the glass under very hot water. Then with a firm but delicate grip, I grab the stem of the glass and in an underhand motion fling it vigorously several times so the water flies out of it lest a towel leave streaks. Then, the remaining little bit of water that is left quickly evaporates to a nice shine.

Last night I had my favorite tasting glass—a Riedel “Bordeaux” glass I received this Christmas from my daughter and NW. It is (was) a beautiful, lead crystal stem with a large bowl allowing aggressive swirling which I loved. So I was in the process of going through my ritual cleaning and with my second vigorous fling of the glass I snapped the glass right off at the delicate stem sending the bowl across the kitchen at the speed of a major league fast-ball straight into our canaries’ bird cage wherein it disintegrated into nothing but minute crystalline shards. I am bummed, I have learned, and it shall never happen again. And the canaries are fine…or at least will be after some avian therapy.

Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Vintner’s Collection (PB)

This is a much lighter in hue wine than I would have expected yet there is a rich berry nose with a hint of smoke or “charcoal” as my wife said. In the mouth it is intense with big flavors and a fresh balance even without breathing. Tannins are subtle or mature(?) and there is a very nice undercurrent of something really unique and really nice that reminds me of “candy.” Candy what? I don’t know…
With a little air I smell a layer of chocolate which I always enjoy in my wine though this is more like chocolate covered cherries!

Oddly enough, the tannins actually are more pronounced with breathing, a new experience for me. This California reminds me of one of my favorite value wine from Chile called Cousino Macul Antiguas Reservas. It was a gift so I don’t how much it cost but Wine Spectator posts it as a $16 wine. A very nice new world wine. Raise a gladss!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Chateau Clos des Menuts, St. Emilion Grand Cru 2000 (billy)

I paid $26 a bottle for this wine and it is tasty.
There is a rich vanilla on the nose that is complimented by black berries and a fresh "green" smell.

The palate is still quite tanic but I suspect that will mellow with some time still in the bottle (which is why I bought another to lay down). There are green earthy flavors with hints of anise and berries which give a touch of sweetness. I do not detect much oak, though others have.

The finish is grassy and long - not a bad thing in a Saint-Emilion.

Overall this is a bold wine. It is not subtle though there are pleasingly subtle layers to it. This is a wine for drinking from a flagon, a burly wine, a manly wine. Though, a manly wine with a refined air and the ability to be almost (but not quite) dainty.

raise a flagon or a chalice.