Saturday, March 31, 2012

2008 L'Ecole No. 41 Seven Hills Estate Walla Walla Merlot

All right!  I am ending Washington wine month with a bang!  Tonight I am enjoying a bottle of wine from one of my absolute favorite winemakers, L'Ecole No. 41, this being the 2008 Seven Hills Estate Merlot.  I recently ordered half a case of this wine with the idea of cellaring a few bottles for a few years, as I expect this one will age well, but what's the fun in that?  I at least have to try a bottle!

This vintage is a blend of 80% Merlot along with 10% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to provide a little something extra.  The wine is a bright garnet in the glass and exhibits a nose of cedar, leather, red currant and the faintest hint of ginger spice.  The aromas just give you a sense that you're about to experience something wonderful and rich.  The fruit is wonderfully balanced with a layered taste of rich black cherry, blackberry and plum, with a wonderful mineral flavor that strikes you like a breath of fresh fall air on a hillside in Walla Walla.  The tannins are not overbearing, but rather are quite complimentary of the red fruit, allowing for a long, smooth finish.

Overall, this wine is still very young and likely to evolve over the next decade, but still I would give this one a solid 8.5, with potential to go much higher.  The wine is not cheap by any means, but I bought it for about $30, and it certainly compares to many Napa wines selling for quite a bit more.  As for pairings, I think it would go quite well with a nice grilled ribeye, but tonight I am enjoying it with some panko breaded chile lime chicken breast with black beans and rice, as I think it would balance the spicy citrus of the chicken quite well.  So I hope you enjoyed Washington Wine Month, it's always a fun time for me, but now we'll have to see where my thirst takes us next!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

2007 GraEagle Estate Red Wing - Walla Walla Valley

So little time left to celebrate Washington Wine Month, so I figured I had to open a bottle from the Walla Walla Valley today!  And this one I just picked up at my favorite local wine merchant, G.B. Russo's, on the recommendation of the proprietor.

This wine is a little different than the wonderful Bordeaux style blends that Walla Walla is known for, since this one has some decidedly non-Bordeaux grapes in the blend.  The 2007 vintage has Merlot (34%), Cabernet Franc (33%), Syrah (22%), Sangiovese (7%) and Petit Verdot (4%).  Now I bought this one on closeout since as I understand it, Nicholas Cole Cellars has closed and this wine is no longer being produced, which is always sad to hear!

As for the wine, this one is very nice once it's had a few minutes to catch its breath.  When I poured my first glass I was somewhat concerned as it seemed like a very light wine, which was definitely not what I was expecting, but as it opened up, my fears were allayed.  The nose is somewhat heavy, with a somewhat musty aroma, followed by leather, licorice and just a hint of ripe berry. The initial taste has hints of mocha, while mid-palate gives me a charge of smoked meat (and no, I haven't started even cooking dinner yet!).  The tannins are very subtle, which unfortunately for me leaves the finish just a little flat (it's still very smooth though).

This wine would be a wonderful food wine, suddenly I'm hungry for a grilled pork tenderloin, but that could just be me!  Overall I would rate this one a solid 8, particularly given the closeout price of just $15, which is about half the original price.  It's just sad that there will be not more after this one is gone, so enjoy this one and Washington Wine Month while they're around!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

2009 Chateau La Tour de Bessan Margaux - Just a Tease!

What an exciting day yesterday!  You see, in early 2010 after hearing what a great vintage the 2009 Bordeaux was, I decided to go in with some colleagues to buy some futures!  My first ever experiment with wine futures, and believe me they are nothing like commodity futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange!  You see, wine futures don't involve leverage, speculation or warehouse receipts, it's a simple transaction really.  You get a somewhat better price than the currently available wine, and you pay that price up front and get your wine a year or two or three later.

The the financial analyst in my, said what a great deal!  Margaux from one of the best vintages in over a quarter century for $20 a bottle?  Sign me up!  So we did, and bought a futures case of the 2009 Chateau La Tour de Bessan Margaux, ordered and paid for in April 2010, and finally delivered in March of 2012!  So we succeeded in buying futures, and taking delivery (though I'll admit this is a horrible idea if you get high off instant gratification), and the bonus was that during the 2 years in the desert, I actually bought a few bottles of the 2005 Chateau La Tour de Bessan Margaux and it was outstanding (you can see my review of that vintage here: and needless to say I really liked it, and the 2005 vintage is supposed to pale in comparison to the 2009.  And what incredible luck, as I was looking through the Bordeaux section of G. B. Russo's, where I ordered the futures, I noticed the 2005 vintage was marked down to the incredible price of $19.99!  I asked Dave Russo what the story was with such a steep markdown from the usual price of $44, and he said since everyone was waiting anxiously for the 2009 vintage, they just stopped buying the 2005.  Well load me up partner, I already know this is a wonderful Margaux, and for some $22 with tax, I'll take as much as I can!

So now I bet you're thinking, "Ok get on with it, where are the tasting notes?"  Well, that's where the tease comes in, you see this note was more about our successful experiment in Bordeaux futures, it's not really about the wine!  After all, you should know by now, 3 years isn't near enough time for a Margaux to mature!  Unfortunately you'll have to check back in 2015, by then this wonderful '09 Margaux should be just about ready to try.

Well, I started a little early since I couldn't wait, so here is a link to the review of the 2009 Chateau La Tour de Bessan Margaux, enjoy!

Friday, March 16, 2012

2010 14 Hands Hot to Trot Columbia Valley Red

So yes, I know it's March Madness, and the day before St. Patrick's Day (not a stellar wine holiday I must say), but you know what?  It's still March and that means it's still Washington Wine Month!  So I went out today to a local merchant near my office called Grand Central Market to find an interesting bottle, as I recall last year they had a nice selection of Washington Wines.  Well in the last year, they've remodeled the store and drastically cut down the size of their wine selection, but fortunately they still had a selection of 6 or 7 Washington reds, so I wasn't disappointed.

There was a nice bottle of Powers Cabernet, and some Columbia Crest which I've never been all that impressed with.  In the end it came down to two, one was a red blend from the Mt. Rainier area, which I'm not as familiar with, and it had a screw cap (you know how I am not a fan of screw caps!). Then there was a familiar label of the 14 Hands Winery, I've had their Cabernet a few times and it always was a nice everyday drinking wine, at a very good price.  This bottle was a red blend that I wasn't familiar with, but I trust the winery, and I do love nice red blends, so what the heck, give it a try.

The wine is a blend, primarily of Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a few other varietals added for good measure.  The wine itself has a garnet color with very little opacity, suggesting a lighter style wine, which is perfect on what ended up being a record 80-degree day!  The nose had hints of leather, vanilla and candied apple, with a bit of a smoky edge to it.  The taste is very fruit forward, with plenty of ripe cherries, plums and blackberry, and a bit of sweetness that gets right to the edge of too sweet, but then pulls you back with the mellow tannins that are just enough to give you that twang back from the brink of sweet preserves.  The tannins are also just enough to give the wine a clean, crisp finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a 7, given that it's still pretty young and likely to develop further over the next year or two, and the price isn't bad either, I found this bottle for $11.  I had a glass tonight with some simple pasta and red sauce, but I don't really envision this to be a food wine, rather it's an ideal wine for enjoying a glass or three on the patio on a mild spring or summer evening, watching the sun set and putting a relaxing finish on a hard day.  Speaking of which, it's time for me to relax and watch some hoops!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

2008 Mawson's Wrattonbully Cabernet Sauvignon

Tonight we have the time change, where we get to lose an hour of sleep so that farmers in the 19th century would have more daylight to plant and harvest their crops, and apparently now it helps with greenhouse gas emissions or global warming or some other hokum.  All I know is that I'm getting up effectively an hour early on one of two days a week I actually get to sleep in!  Man I could use a glass of wine to get ready for this...

Oh yes that's right, this is a wine blog!  And tonight, to celebrate the loss of an hour, I'm enjoying a wine from the land down under, a place where if you traveled there you'd lose the better part of a day, let alone an hour!  Tonight's feature is the 2008 Mawson's Wrattonbully Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is an interesting wine for it's names, Sir Douglas Mawson was a famous Australian explorer who embarked on expeditions to the Antarctic in the early 20th century.  Wrattonbully is an emerging wine region in south Australia along the Limestone Coast.  Certainly Australia has produced some absolutely wonderful wines, particularly their Shiraz, and more common now their Merlots and Cabernets.

This wine is a wonderful ruby red color in the glass and exhibits a nose of leather, oak, dried herbs and subtle fruit, cherry and blackberry.  I was expecting some bright fruit at the outset, but this one surprised me, as the taste of cassis was quite subdued, with a touch of berry at the high notes.  Mid-palate, there is a touch of woodiness, followed by well integrated tannins for a nice smooth finish.  Based on prior experience with Australian Cabs, I was expecting this wine to be much more fruit forward, but somewhat less bold that a typical California Cab, but this one is really elegant, medium bodied and subtle in unexpected ways.  It's the kind of wine that would be shocked and ashamed if it overpowered the dish it accompanies, rather I envision that it would provide a playful counterpart for a variety of savory dishes, from lamb or braised short ribs, to a hearty steak or a variety of seafood dishes.  Tonight I am enjoying it with some cod, rice and steamed asparagus. 

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 8, especially at the price, I bought a lot of 4 bottles from for $40.  The only negative was the screw cap, but for $10 and a lovely wine, I'm willing to overlook that discretion!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

2006 Luzdivina Amigo Vina de Moya

Sometimes you just need to venture out of your comfort zone, and for me that means heading to Spain!  Tonight I am enjoying a bottle of the 2006 Luzdivina Amigo Vina de Moya, a Mencia wine from Bierzo, Castilla Leon, Spain.  Now I'll be the first to admit my ignorance on Spanish wines, outside of an occasional glass of Tempranillo, so it's exciting to try a new varietal from an unfamiliar area.

Now apparently the Mencia grape has been cultivated in the Bierzo region of Spain since Roman times, so there is some history, and the grape itself is thought to be related to Cabernet Franc.  The wine itself is a deep purple color with a hint of ruby around the edges.  The wine has a nose of cedar and spice, with a bit of earthy oakiness (is that a real word?) and leather as well.  The taste is reminiscent of a cab franc, but veers off in a different direction than the cab francs I've tried, with very subtle fruit, some mild cherry and blackberry, and a hint of tangy rhubarb, perhaps strawberry that's not quite ripe.  The tannins are quite subtle, making for a long, smooth and very dry finish.

Tonight I am enjoying this wine with some grilled chicken and pasta tossed with some parma rosa sauce, along with some steamed asparagus.  The wine pairs nicely with the richness of the cream sauce, but I can imagine it complementing the spice and freshness of a rich paella or the wonderful Basque-style seafood dishes of Spain's Atlantic coast.  Overall I would rate this wine a solid 7.5 with potential for improvement over time, and at around $10, it's a great value for a wine region that is ripe for exploration!

Friday, March 2, 2012

2009 L'Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Red Wine

WOO HOO!!!  It's March and you know what that means, it's Washington Wine Month!!!  That time of year when we get to celebrate the wonderful wines of the great state of Washington, from the Puget Sound to the Yakima Valley, from the Columbia Gorge to Walla Walla!  The wonder of Washington is the exquisite climate for growing both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which gives rise to some of the greatest Bordeaux style blends produced outside of France today.

Which brings us to tonight's wine, a bottle from one of my favorite producers, and Wine & Spirits Winery of the Year for 2011, L'Ecole No. 41!  The 2009 Columbia Valley Red Wine for those of you familiar, is what used to be know as "Recess Red" and which used to be known before that as "School House Red" which is a blend of select Columbia Valley vineyards.  In 2011, L'Ecole underwent a re-branding exercise and developed a new, more classic label that highlighted the school and presented a more sophisticated look to their wines.  The good news is that despite the new label, the wine is as delicious as ever!

The 2009 Columbia Valley Red is a classic Bordeaux style blend of Merlot (55%), Cabernet Sauvignon (21%), Syrah(13%), Malbec (5%), Petit Verdot (3%) and Cabernet Franc (3%), aged 8 months in French and American oak barrels.  This wine is typically viewed as the everyday, table wine for L'Ecole, and perhaps one of the best values relative to its quality.

The wine itself is a deep ruby color with a nose of oak, licorice, leather and dried herbs.  The taste is well balanced with great fruit character of ripe cherry, blackberry and currant, with a nice earthy spice mid palate, and nice tannins for a pleasant, dry finish.  At every taste, this wine is at once friendly and inviting, yet you still get a strong feeling for the quality that went into the bottle.  The wine would pair well with a wide variety of foods, and it's not pretentious, as I feel it would be at home with a thick juicy burger just as much as with a filet mignon, and in both cases it would complement rather than overpower the food (which would be hard tonight with Thai food!).  Overall I would rate this one a solid 8.5, it's a great, food friendly wine, and at only $18 it's a fraction of what you might expect to pay for similar quality wines.  So let's get started with Washington Wine month!