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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2005 Les Heretiques Vin de Pays

This goes for roughly eight bucks but was knocked down to four.

A fairly tight nose - I suppose it's a bit of cherry in there, almost in a cough medicine sorta way.

Well, I've long felt that when you buy a cheap French wine you can be confident you're going to get something decent, balanced, and basically one-dimensional. If you don't want to spend a lot of money and don't want something to "study" - there's my blanket recommendation. Cherry, oak, and a good punch of cigar.

A cigar quality lingers on the finish.

That was after the bottle was first opened. Around three hours later this bottle pulled a major u-turn. A strange funkiness dominates the nose - almost a mushroomy quality. The palate too has taken on an unpleasant mushroom like quality, rotten cherry, all soaked in chewing tobacco spit. Down the drain with the rest of the bottle.

For four bucks you can probably grab it, but drink it quickly after opening my friends.

Wine: 6 at first, down to 2.
Value: Nah.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

1997 Iron Horse Russian Cuvee

A local shop sold this at $30 - a more recent vintage is going for $33 from the winery itself. Iron Horse is one of the more famous domestic sparkling wine providers and their products are respected, so let's take a look.

This has a crazy big nose - two feet away from the glass and I'm getting some citrus qualities. Inching ever closer some very nice yeast and toast notes come through

This Russian Cuvee is as subtle as Tchaikovsky. Big. Real big. Furtwangler's Pathetique big (no one does it like that anymore, man). Full bodied with punch of acid, enough to knock your teeth out, and all sorts of citrus fruit - from citron to tangerine to tangelo to pomelo to boring old orange. A touch of sugar, well more than a touch, which is interesting since I don't tolerate such things often. Personally, I'd serve this with dessert.

The finish lingers and lingers - obscure citrus fruit and loads of acid.

It ain't subtle and it ain't even my "style" necessarily but it's absurdly well made and has great depth and complexity plus the flavor profile fits my palate perfectly. I don't give 10s easily, but I calls'em as I sees'em.

Wine: 10
Value: Yep

Sunday, September 20, 2009

2007 Coppola Magenta Label Alicante Bouschet

This is a strange varietal that is apparently a cousin to Grenache. Cheers to Coppola for making an oddball wine that goes for right around $11.

The nose has a distinct rotten strawberry quality.

More rotten - or at least ultra ripe right on the cusp of turning - strawberry on the palate plus some super ripe, slightly too ripe black raspberry, plus a kinda weird rehydrated prune thing seems to be happening.. Not much tannin, but plenty of acid - almost like a heavier tasting Beaujolais. There's a good amount of acid and spice - black pepper, anise, basil, even a strange roasted red pepper thing. When I use "rotten" fruit to describe wine it's not necessarily a bad thing, but here it is unpleasant.

Overripe strawberry and some blueberry notes linger on the finish.

I can't say this is a poorly made wine, but it's certainly one that I don't enjoy the taste of.

Wine: 5
Value: No

2008 Little Penguin Cabernet Sauvignon

We actually have been pretty forgiving to the Little Penguin - when we tried it several years back I recall liking it and feeling that it may not be great but it's also not total crap. I thought it was time for a revisit.

Plum and red licorice on the nose.

Heavy on plum, blueberry, ripe strawberry - somewhat jammy with no hint of tannin or structure to speak ok. A tad of vanilla is present as well, but overall we're talking about a very sweet wine here - so sweet it has destroyed any good will I may have had for it.

The finish almost brings out a tomato soup like quality, plus more strawberry, but in a clearly artificial sorta way. Imagine a piece of strawberry candy in a bowl of soup - not good.

Though the prices on this vary, $5 - $8 is about right. I'm curious if this vintage/bottle variation or if my palate has just changed so much. Either way, look elsewhere for value.

Wine: 3.5
Value: No

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2006 Massarosa Frascati Superiore

She said, hey, Massarosa, baby
Keep on a workin child
This aint no time to quit
She said, go, Massarosa, baby
Keep on dancin
I'm about to have myself a fit
Massarosa, Massarosa

Thank you very much.

It's hard to pass up the ol' stab and grab when a $12 bottle is marked down to $3. I'll fly my private plane to Colorado for a Fool's Gold Loaf but I like deals on wine. There's not a whole lot of info out there about this wine other than it's a blend of two minor varietals Malvasia and Trebbiano.

A light nose that seems to mostly have a Golden Delicious apple thing going on.

This has some grassy qualities - not quite unlike a Sauvignon Blanc - as well as a bunch of minerality and some limey qualities. It's a bit bigger in body and lighter in acid than a Sauv Blanc, but it's still a rather pleasant wine. As it opens a bit, some pineapple and various tropical fruit qualities come through.

Some pear notes linger on the finish as well as a lingering buttery feel.

Respectable and for three bucks I am happy with it - perhaps a good wine to drink when you're having a little Fun in Acapulco? Perhaps working as a lifeguard? Jumping off cliffs? Pissing off a rival gangster or some sort of nonsense? You know what's a great movie? Charro.

Wine: 6
Value: Sure

Monday, September 14, 2009

N/V Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Brut

In the wine world it's important to try new things - take a risk or gamble even though it may not pan out. I present you with a sparkling wine from Virginia. The winery charges $18, but I paid a little bit more at a local shop.

No nose.

A slightly, ever so slightly, oily mouthfeel here and sadly the wine goes flat fairly quickly. That being said, we're also getting slightly unripe apple dominating plus a bit of apricot as the bottle opens a bit. There's nothing unpleasant here - no weird metallic qualities or any other major flaws that show up in cheaper sparklers.

More of that apricot quality lingers on the finish.

For $18 if you want a wine as a souvenir or gift from your trip to Virginia, I can't say it's a bad deal. That being said, at this pricepoint you're looking at very basic entry level Champagne which is a far better deal. Apologies around - I respect this wine and it's certainly better than the Korbels of the world, but it's just, to me, not worth the asking price.

Wine: 6
Value: Nah

Sunday, September 13, 2009

N/V Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvee

Alright, in my post on bargain I mentioned snagging a $65 bottle of Champagne for $35 at an "end of bin" sale. Here we are.

Like a piece of toast slathered with some sort of pear preserves.

Big toast - loads of pear, tart green apple - plus a ton of acid, almost in a lactic acid sorta way. There's a distinct lemon thing and even, dare I say, a tad of sugar. It all leaves the mouth watering big time - alone I'm not convinced but give me a dozen oysters and I'd probably be in heaven.

Almost a dash of cinnamon seems to come through on the finish with pear notes lingering for a while.

There's nothing to complain about here - as a sparkling wine it's excellent, but there's plenty of entry level Champagnes for less than even the discounted price that are worth your while. This is very good to be sure, but I'm not punched in the face and at $35 (and especially at $65) I want my nose to be bleeding.

Wine: 7.5
Value: Nah

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Picking a wine shop

Interested in wine? Looking for a regular shop? Here's a few tests.

First, observe the following:
1) Enter the shop dressed in your most casual clothes.
2) Walk around and don't speak unless spoken to.

Shop elsewhere if:
a) No one says anything for more than sixty seconds.
b) You get looked at with anything other than a welcoming smile or nod.
c) Everything in the shop is dusty and many many bottles and shelved standing up.

You may have a winner if:
a) Someone comes over, introduces him/herself and shakes your hand.
b) Someone says "how may I help you?" within sixty seconds.
c) Someone says "welcome, have you shopped here before?" within sixty seconds.

They do okay? Alright


Second, observe the following:
1) Enter the shop dressed in your most casual clothes.
2) Ask for a good red wine for $15 or less.
3) Await response.

Shop elsewhere if the person says:
a) "I can give you a great wine if you're willing to spend just a tad more."
b) "How about this wine?"
c) "I don't know."

You have a winner if the person says:
a) "Is this wine for you or is it a gift?"
b) "What will you be eating with this wine?"
c) "What wines have you had that liked?"
d) "If you're going to be having fish, you may want to try...."
e) "A food friendly wine that goes with anything is...."

Did they pass? Here's hoping they're swell.


Wait a couple days, return at a different time of day and observe the following:
1) Enter the shop in your most casual clothes.
2) Ask for something light but with a bit of sugar.
3) Await response.

Run away if you hear:
a) How much do you want to spend?
b) White Zinfandel is in aisle three.
c) (deep sigh) I guess you may like....

You have a winner if you hear:
a) Late harvest or German Riesling may be your thing, let me walk you over and give you some info because the labeling is tricky.
b) What are you going to be eating with this?

If they passed, you're doing alright.

Here's what you need to take away:
One cannot give an accurate wine recommendation (at a store) if they don't know in what context the wine will be consumed and/or the general tastes of who is drinking it. If a vague question is asked and a wine is recommended, why in the world should you trust them?

White Zinfandel should never be recommended. I'm not saying White Zin is bad, I am saying that if someone at a wine shop recommends it to you, they are mocking you. Sad but true.

If a budget is stated, ANY suggestion or push to get you to go over it should not be tolerated. If a recommendation for more the five dollars under what you stated is offered, that's a good sign.

Bottles of wine should be stored on their side. Inventory should be dusted frequently. Dust doesn't hurt a wine, of course, but if the shop doesn't care about that, what makes you think they care about things like storage temperature?

Wine is a luxury item that you can easily live without or buy elsewhere - if anyone at a shop gives you shit, shop elsewhere.

Since wine is a luxury item, one should not be put off (but shouldn't necessarily expect) a little bit of over the top courtesy or explanation.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Bayless empire

The new restaurant by the man referred to as the hottest (as in most popular, not sexiest, though maybe he is that too) chef, Rick Bayless, opened yesterday.

Xoco - located right next door to Frontera and Topolobampo is a counter service restaurant with food inspired by street carts in Mexico. You basically got sandwiches, salads, and after 3 pm, soups.

Apologies are in order for the crappy photo, but this is the Pepito.

The menu says: Braised Tallgrass shortribs, caramelized onion, artisan Jack cheese, black beans, pickled jalapenos.

I went in expecting it to be okay, but nothing revelatory - and I'd say it was somewhere in the middle of the two. The point of the restaurant is simpler faire with high quality ingredients and for that it succeeds.

Also consumed were guacamole (excellent but without some of the pizzazz you see in Frontera itself), a Milanesa sandwich (fried chicken with a crazy amount of delicious jack cheese), and hot chocolate - there is a whole menu of chocolates which are made in house. Dinner was $32 - not cheap, but also not as expensive as the sit down places. If you're drinking alcohol one can easily hit $50 on dinner for two.

We arrived on a whim at 4 pm and had no wait. Chef Bayless was present overseeing the kitchen and even working on plating some food. The waits are going to be crazy in the coming weeks - it's worth a visit I think, but I would say you should stay away in the typical busy hours.

Monday, September 07, 2009

2007 Fayette Estates (Mackinaw Trail) Pinot Noir

I grabbed this bottle from the wine rack and had no idea what it was until the fine print said "Produced and bottled by Mackinaw Trail Winery." An attempt to get more info didn't pan out and sadly I don't recall what I paid for this - it must've been less than $20.

Quite interesting notes on the nose - funk, earth, barnyard, maybe some strawberry.

Truly dumbfounding. Serve this to me blind and I'd tell you it's from Burgundy. Hell, I'm still not convinced I'm not hallucinating. Very light in body, with a funky, barnyard, spicy quality up front - basil, thyme, oregano show themselves. This is a predominantly earthy wine with only light fruit, strawberry for the most part.

A basil thing comes through on the finish as well as lingering strawberry.

This very well may be the most Burgundy like domestic Pinot Noir I have ever encountered. I'm not saying it's comparable to a top producer, but it's absurdly good (and not at all on par with my notes from the tasting room, which shows how subjective all this is).

Wine: 8
Value: Yes'm

Friday, September 04, 2009

2006 Frei Brothers Russian River Valley Reserve Pinot Noir

This goes for roughly $25, but I found it in an end of bin sale for half that. I debated buying more than one bottle, but didn't want to risk it.

Cherry on the nose, but also a fair amount of barnyard.

Light bodied with an excellent balance of fruit and earth. Cherry and strawberry mostly with a big dash of white pepper and a touch of fact, it's more than a touch, this is a wine with fairly big cola flavor, and if I may say so, that is a damn good thing.

More cherry and spice on the finish which is admittedly short.

Though this isn't the best PN we've had, it's clearly the best for what I paid and a worthy entry even at retail. I may have to hit up the shop again and see if there are more on clearance. An easy recommendation.

Wine: 8
Value: Yep