Friday, September 23, 2011

2008 L'Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon

Today is the autumnal equinox, half day, half night and the first official day of Fall, so what better way to celebrate fall than to go back to school!  In this case we'll be going back to school at one of my absolute favorite wineries of all time, L'Ecole No. 41 in Lowden, Wash.  You see, today I was fortunate in that a long awaited order (blast you summer head!) arrived at my office, along with the L'Ecole red wine club selection for fall!

So to celebrate this banner day, I am enjoying a bottle of the 2008 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon!  Now wines from Washington are exceptional in many ways, and those from Walla Walla represent the cream of the crop in my view.  Having lived in Washington and Oregon for five years, I had more than my fair share of opportunities to travel in the Columbia Valley, visiting the fine folks at L'Ecole as well as the many other fine vineyards along U.S. 12.  The wines are exceptional Bordeaux blends that can stand up to the best wines anywhere in the world, and many are such small vineyards with limited production that having a bottle is sure to be a special treat to share with friends and family.

Tonight I am enjoying a new vintage, the 2008 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon, which is likely still a bit young, but sure to mature quite nicely in the years to come.  I must have at least two or three cases of L'Ecole wines with vintages going back to 2000, and it's really interesting to see how the wines have evolved and matured over the years (unfortunately your author hasn't evolved and matured nearly as much!).

The wine itself is a beautiful ruby red color, and the nose is a blend of plum and black cherry mingling with rich leather and earth, suggesting your about to get your wine drinking butt kicked by a really solid red!  The taste is a surprisingly delicate and sophisticated array of fruit, with plums, blackberry, yet an elegant tannic structure that provides a fabulously dry finish that's quite unexpected from a wine with such fruit.  After a long day of work, I am so happy to relax with a glass of such a nice wine that brings back memories of warm summers in the high desert of eastern Washtington...Ahhh... As for my rating, this wine is not inexpensive, but it's worth every penny of the $36 asking price (by the way, if you are a wine club member like me, you get all sorts of exclusive bottlings and other fun stuff, 3 special shipments a year, and 15% off the price of this wine!), so overall I would rate this one a solid 9 with plenty of room to advance as it matures.  So if you have access, pick up a bottle for yourself today, and enjoy it with a rare ribeye and some grilled veggies like I'm doing tonight!

Finally, a note for my friends at L'Ecole No. 41: I know you've spend a lot of effort on the new labels and marketing, and I think it's fabulous.  The embossed white labels of the Walla Walla wines and special wines is sophisticated and projects a solid image for the winery.  However, some of us have enjoyed the Recess Red over the last few years, and before that the School House Red, they were fun and whimsical, and fit well with the old labels, so I can understand how they might not make it with the refreshed 2009 vintage.  That said, the new "Red Wine" that replaces the recess red has to be renamed.  I mean really, we go from whimsical "Recess Red" to "Red Wine"?  You may as well save the printing fees and stencil it on the bottle with white paint!  Here's a suggestion, how about a contest to name the replacement?  Get your fans involved, offer a nice prize, maybe a free bottle of the newly named wine in their honor?  I'll get you started, here is my suggestion, let's go back to School House Red, but with a French twist, "l'├ęcole maison rouge."  Now set loose the creativity of your rabid fans to honor the best red table wine on the planet under $20 (in my opinion anyway) with a name that fits the great product that it is!

Friday, September 9, 2011

2005 Saviez Zinfandel I love a good Zin! And although I freely admit that some of the best Zins come from Lodi, on occasion the Napa Valley comes up with some pleasant surprised as with tonight's escapade, the 2005 Saviez Vinyards Napa Valley Zinfandel.

Now this is one of those vertical picks, as last year I had such a good experience with their 2004 vintage, we decided to go with it again for our office wine club's September pick, and I was not disappointed!  The wine is a classic Zin, fruit forward with a long smooth finish.  The wine itself is a deep ruby red, with a bit of opaqueness.  It exhibits scents of ripe berries, cherries and a hint of leather and tobacco.  As you take a whiff, you get the sense that something really good awaits!  And there's no disappointment with the taste, as the sweetness of rich ripe fruit quickly gives way to leather and cedar and a long, smooth, tannin filled finish.  The wine just exudes the characteristics of a small production, high-quality producer.  Now, compared with the 2004 vintage, this is clearly the step child, as that vintage was just super all around, but this one is still quite a nice Zin and one which I would easily buy at the price.

Tonight I enjoyed this wine with a nice rare New York strip and an ear of grilled corn, a perfect summer meal to start the weekend.  Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8, with a chance to improve with a little age, though Saviez is quite good at not releasing their Zins before they are at least ready to drink!  Salut!

Monday, September 5, 2011

2009 Il Bastardo Rosso di Toscana

Happy Labor Day!  What a wonderful holiday to celebrate the end of summer, and in some cases a last hurrah for summer barbecues and cook outs, such a shame, but alas the changing seasons adds such spice to life doesn't it?

So on this Labor Day, I decided to go to the supermarket to get some groceries and perhaps find something good for my dinner this evening.  Well, I was thinking perhaps a nice steak, maybe a nice pork tenderloin, but let's not decide too quickly, and instead just let the super sales inspire me! 

We'll turn to my dinner in a moment, but for the wine tonight I picked out one of my old time favorites, the 2009 Il Bastardo Rosso di Toscana, a lighter red wine from Tuscany which would pair very well with my dinner.  Plus it has to have one of my favorite labels of all time, Il Bastardo himself, relaxing with a glass of his wine, oh how I can identify with this man!

The wine itself as I said was on the lighter side, with a clear ruby color and a nose of light fruit, leather and a touch of cedar.  The taste is quite dry, with a hint of ripe fruit, very few tannins and an exceptionally dry finish.  This wine would pair well with so many dishes, from steaks to roasts, to chicken and fish.  So what am I pairing it with tonight?  Well I started at one supermarket, where I like their produce, but not so much their meat (do you have that problem, you find yourself doing your grocery shopping at multiple stores?  I guess it's just like the old days before supercenters, where you went to a bakery, a butcher shop and a farm stand for your food...) but they had a nice Labor Day sale on fresh sweet corn, locally grown for 10¢ an ear so I picked up some, since that can go with any cook out!  Then off to the other store for some meat, still thinking about steak or pork tenderloin, when there I see the live lobsters for only $8 each!  So that is dinner tonight, steamed lobster with drawn butter and corn on the cob!  A real New England holiday meal in the Midwest, though it also reminds me of back in college when the Civil Air Patrol sold Maine lobsters for like $5 each as a fundraiser, so every fall when we got back on campus we'd have our annual lobster fest!

So back to the wine, it's not all that impressive, but it did make that Lobster come alive with flavor, and for $8, how can you complain about Il Bastardo?  With that label alone, I give this wine a solid 7!  Enjoy the end of summer however you celebrate!

Friday, September 2, 2011

2008 Ravenswood Teldeschi Zinfandel

Oh how I love a good Zin, and this week has been a good week for them!  Earlier in the week our monthly wine club selection was a good Zin, and today I received a delivery of 5 bottles of 2008 Ravenswood Teldeschi Zin from!  So tonight I will enjoy a bottle.

I have a long history with Ravenswood, when I was a sell side analyst, we had our monthly "dog 'n' pony" show and one time in 2000 we met with Ravenswood, one of the few publicly traded wineries.  And after the presentation by their CEO and CFO, they opened up a case of their wares for us to try, mostly reds mind you, which suited me just fine.  Needless to say, we picked up research coverage, but I was not the analyst in charge, yet I still maintained a fondness in my heart for Ravenswood, with their signature tagline "NO WIMPY WINES!" Well, eventually they were bought out, so the investment side worked well, but even afterwards, they have maintained and even expanded their great wines, moving from their own label to specialty single vineyard labels like the one I am trying tonight.

The 2008 Ravenswood Teldeschi Zinfandel comes from a great family vineyard run by the Teldeschi family and focusing on growing Zin, along with petite syrah and carignane, which are often blended with this wine.  The wine expresses everything I expect in a great Zin, the nose is full of bright fruit, blackberry, cherry, black currant, along with a wonderful hint of cedar and tobacco.  The color is an inky, dark purple that suggest the strength of the wine and the smoothness of the tannins.  On the palate it's a simply delicious and vibrant explosion of fruit, followed by a long, smooth, dry finish that is so characteristic of the Zins of the Dry Creek Valley in the Sonoma Valley.  So wonderful, it would pair well with a grilled steak, seared tuna with a wasabi glaze, or a simple Italian dish, like the sausage with onions and multi-colored peppers I am enjoying it with tonight!   Keep in mind also, this is a young wine, and although I treated myself tonight, the remaining bottles will likely be cellared for at least a few years to mature.

Overall, this wine is a little expensive, with a usual price around $35, but I got a great deal on this for only $21, and for that price I rate this a solid 8.5 to 9.0!  There are so many other great wines from Ravenswood I'd encourage you to try, from their basic everyday table reds for $8-9 to their exclusive single vineyard bottlings, they are all high quality, great wines that have never disappointed me!  Cin Cin!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Celebrate #CabernetDay!

Well, hard to believe it's been a year, but it's September 1st and #CabernetDay once again!  So tonight I am celebrating (!) with a bottle of 2007 Wine Spots Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, after all, I heard somewhere that Napa Valley makes good cabs, and 2007 was a pretty good year! =)

I can't remember where I got this bottle, but in looking it up on the internet, it apparently was a pretty pricey bottle, though I can't imagine I paid that much for it.  Wine Spots is interesting in that rather than a single vineyard, they go to various spots known for great wines and work with local producers to come up with a wine that vividly illustrates what makes that spot great for wine, hence the Wine Spot!  Well lucky for me, this particular bottle seeks to show the best of Napa Valley in a bottle of Cab, perfect for #CabernetDay!This wine was made with a blend of grape sourced from acclaimed sub-regions including Rutherford and Oakville, so it should be pretty good right?

Well, I won't leave you in suspense any longer, it is indeed VERY good!  The nose is an interesting combination of lush fruit, leather and a hint of a light floral scent.  The mouthfeel is big and luscious, with lots of velvety tannins for a long finish.  The taste bursts forth with blackberry and cherry, with a woodsy sort of background, and despite the early fruit, the wine is actually quite dry, really showing the greatness of Napa Valley Cabs.  This wine would be a perfect match for grilled steak, or some rich barbecue as we approach the last holiday of summer, though tonight I'm enjoying it with some spicy chorizo and bean tacos!  I can't remember how much this one cost, but ignoring price I would rate this one a solid 8.5, a great Napa Cap to enjoy anytime!