Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2006 Bernardus Marinus Red Wine

Well, it's a good time to enjoy a lovely Bordeaux blend from the Carmel Valley in California!  The 2006 Bernardus Winery red wine from the Marinus Estate in upper Carmel Valley in California, this wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec grapes, making it a very interesting blend.

The wine is a lovely deep purple color in the glass, and the nose exhibits a notes of red fruit, raspberries, cherries and blackberries along with some earthy elements of tobacco, leather and anise.  The taste is very fruit forward, with flavors of ripe cherry and plum, transitioning to dry spices and cinnamon.  The tannins are quite supple, leading to long, smooth finish with notes of dark chocolate and smoke, which is often characteristic of blends with Malbec.

This wine is a very nice wine that stands well on its own, but would pair nicely with a variety of grilled meats or hearty winter dishes, though tonight I am pairing it with pizza!  Overall I would rate this wine a solid 7, but with a price tag of $20 it seems as though it should rate a bit higher.  Even so, I am certainly pleased to be sipping on a glass or two of this one tonight, cheers!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

2011 Honoro Vera Garnacha

You know, I just don't drink enough Spanish wines.  I know they are having loads of troubles over there, so I figured they make wonderful wines and I should help out by buying a bottle or two!  In this case, it's the 2011 Honoro Vera Garnacha, which is the Spanish version of Grenache, a grape from the south of France that I've taken quite a fancy to in recent months.  This wine comes from the city of Calatayud, which lies just to the southwest of the French border in the Sistema Iberico mountain range, roughly equidistant from the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.

The wine itself is a very deep purple color in the glass, trending to more ruby color along the edges.  The nose is a very pleasant combination of sweet fruit scents with a combination of strawberries, sweet cherries and plums with just the faintest hint of cedar and spices.  The first taste brings some surprising smokiness and gravel which are enveloped by the fruit flavors, which present themselves as very jammy at first, flavors of ripe cherries and blueberries, which transition to rich plums laced with exotic spices that seem almost Oriental.  The young tannins are surprisingly well integrated leading to a lovely smooth finish.

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 7.5 as it's really a lovely, fruit forward example of the varietal that makes it wonderfully food friendly, plus it was a great value at only $8!  Tonight I am pairing it with some tortilla crusted tilapia, a variety of fingerling potatoes and some steamed asparagus, and I really love the way the fruit in the wine plays off the spice of the fish, very lively!  So try a lovely Spanish red wine if you have the opportunity!

Friday, October 26, 2012

2010 Yellowstone Roadblock Red Wine

And now we have come to the last wine from the "Taste My Vacation" wine tasting, the 2010 Yellowstone Roadblock Red Wine.  Now I wish I could say we saved the best to last, but unfortunately we haven't!  Now I bought this wine in the gift shop at Yellowstone National Park, so let that be lesson number 1, don't buy wines in national park gift shops!  And I really bought it because of the label, a roadblock caused by a bison, which was something that happened to me that morning coming into the park as we were stuck in a traffic jam caused by a herd of bison coming back into the park.  And let that be lesson number 2, don't buy wines because the label reminds you of something that happened to you earlier in the day!  No good can come of it!

Now the wine itself was made from organic grapes, but that really is lesson number 3, it really doesn't matter if the grapes are organic or not, if you buy them from a person that doesn't know how to make good wine with them, you may as well opt for Welch's.  The wine was somewhat light in color, with a nose of leather and grass, and that was the highlight.  The taste was somewhat earthy with some mild fruit, but then it had a finish that reminded me of cough medicine.  The only saving grace was that since this was a tasting I could share the misery with my friends!

Overall, I would rate this one a 4 and barely so, as there is no way I could recommend this for anything but marinades.  I should have saved this one as a $20 souvenir, or better yet, used the money I wasted on this wine to enlarge a print of the buffalo herd and put that on my desk as a souvenir!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2008 Reininger Mr. Owl's Red Wine

And now we have another great Walla Walla wine from the "Taste My Vacation" wine tasting, the 2008 Reininger Mr. Owl's Red wine! Now you might wonder about the funny name, and when you hear the story, you'll probably fall in love with the winery and the family that owns it, as it's quite endearing.  This wine is named for Reininger's cellar master Raul, but unfortunately when the winery owners' children were young, that had a difficult time pronouncing his name, so they ended up calling him "Mr. Owl"!  And thus when they wanted to craft a wine and name it after him, they choice of "Mr. Owl's Red" was perfectly logical!

The wine itself is a blend of mainly Merlot (88%), Syrah (7%) and Sangiovese (5%), and it's that latter that I believe provides some lovely differentiation to this wine.  The color is a lovely deep purple in the glass, and the nose exudes leather, oak and plum.  The taste is fruit forward as you might expect with a blend dominated by Merlot, but the initial burst of red berries and plum, give way to a spiciness, of cinnamon and anise, which is not surprising with the addition of some Sangiovese into the blend.  I found the tannins to be somewhat subtle and earthy, which gave this wine a long, mellow finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, as it was a really lovely wine, but the only thing holding it back was the price, which at $30 might preclude this from everyday drinking, but perfect for a special occasion.  The wine paired very nicely with some of the soft cheeses we had at the tasting as well as the green olives, but it would also pair well with a rare grilled steak as well!  Salut!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

2009 Famiglia Pasqua Passimento Veneto

So tonight I feel like having a little Italian, so why not open a bottle of our October wine club selection?  The 2009 Famiglia Pasqua Passimento Veneto, a wine from the far north of Italy, where the cuisine tends more toward rich risotto and polenta dishes.  Now, for those of you familiar with Amarone, this wine is very similar to the Valpolicella Ripasso, which is the second pressing of the dried Corvina grapes used to make Amarone.  The Pasqua family named this wine "Passimento" as they first dry the Corvina grapes before pressing them, creating a much more concentrated and rich flavor.  Then, unlike Amarone or Valpolicella Ripasso, they blend the first pressing of the dried Corvina grapes with Croatina, Merlot and several other local varieties of grapes from Verona that are not dried, resulting in a unique blend that has the richness of an Amarone, but is much more approachable for everyday drinking.

The color of this wine is a deep ruby in the glass, and the nose portrays a richness, with concentrated scents of blackberry and dried figs, leather and rose petals.  There's a sweetness in the nose that's somewhat deceiving, as this is by no means a sweet wine.  The taste starts with some strong fruit notes, ripe red berries and plums, transitioning to a gravelly taste reminiscent of some wonderful Bordeaux, along with dry herbs and just the faintest hint of mint.  The finish is somewhat tight, as the tannins are still developing, yet still providing for a smooth, dry finish.

As for pairings, this wine would pair well with a variety of rich, northern Italian dishes, and tonight I enjoyed it with some penne alla vodka, and the tightness of the tannins played against the richness of the cream in the sauce, while the rich fruit flavor of the wine balanced out the spice of the tomatoes in the sauce.  Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, as it's really a lovely everyday version of Amarone, maybe an Amarone light, but at a price that won't make you cringe.  I found this one at my local wine merchant for a tasting for only $14!  So if you have the opportunity, pick some up and enjoy it with a mushroom risotto!

Friday, October 19, 2012

2004 L'Ecole No. 41 Ferguson Commemorative Reserve

And now we get to one of our favorites of the "Taste My Vacation" wine tasting, the 2004 L'Ecole No. 41 Ferguson Commemorative Reserve!  I never had the chance to get any of this wine when it was released back in 2006, but I happened to try it when I visited the winery back in May and fell in love with it, so I brought back a couple bottles!  The wine was crafted in honor of Jean and Baker Ferguson, who founded L'Ecole No. 41 back in 1983, and it was made with grapes from some of the oldest Washington state vineyards that the Fergusons forged relationships with back when they founded L'Ecole: Klipsun Vineyard (Red Mountain), Bacchus & Dionysus Vineyard (Columbia Basin), Weinbau Vineyard (Wahluke Slope) and Stone Tree Vineyard (Wahluke Slope). 

The wine itself is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (48%), Merlot (42%), Cabernet Franc (5%) and Petit Verdot (5%), and it was bottled unfined and unfiltered, so you might want to decant it.  The wine has a deep, inky purple color in the center that transitions to rich garnet along the edges.  The aroma is a rich blend of leather, plum, roses and licorice.  The taste had some nice fruit on the outset, with blackberry and plum, transitioning to a bit of earthy spice midpalate, before the well structured tannins provide for a long, smooth finish with residual notes of anise and dark chocolate.  At the end, you're just left muttering to yourself, what a fantastic glass of wine!

As for pairings, I can think of nothing better to pair a glass of Ferguson with than a lovely sunset on a 72-degree evening as this wine just stand on its own.  Sure we enjoyed it with some olives and cheese, but this is the kind of wine you can open with some friends and have confident that you'll all enjoy the rest of your evening.  The consensus of our tasting was that this was our favorite wine of the seven we tried and I certainly agree.  I would rate this one a solid 9, and if you can get some, I'd encourage you to get a few bottles and put them up in your cellar, as this wine was made to improve with age.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

2008 Forgeron Barbera

Here we are at the forth wine of the "Taste My Vacation" wine tasting event, and this one is from a winery that I got to know and really like on my trip last May, the 2008 Forgeron Barbera.  Now I really liked what I found at Forgeron, and Marie-Eve Gilla is making some wonderfully sophisticated, yet food friendly wines, including the Walldeaux Smithie I reviewed back in June.  The second thing to like about this wine is the fact that it's a Barbera, a varietal I've enjoyed since I first tried Woodward Canyon's offering back in the 2002 vintage.  Barberas have such a wonderful flair that make them a delight for pairing with a variety of dishes, which likely explains why I am so enamored with them.

The 2008 Forgeron Barbera has a lovely deep ruby color in the glass, but with an opacity that really reminds me of many of the lovely wines of Tuscany, somewhat lighter than a typical Cabernet.  The nose is lovely, with notes of leather, blackberry and anise.  The taste is somewhat fruit forward, with flavors of ripe plum dominating, but then we transition to some serious spice notes that often come from a wonderful Barbera, before yielding to a wonderfully smooth, dry finish.

This wine would be a perfect complement to a wide variety of Italian dishes, from basic pasta with red sauce, to a lovely mushroom risotto, or buccotini carbonara, but it would also pair quite nicely with a number of French dishes, and here I'm thinking chicken Provencal, or a number of other dishes from Provence, as the spice of the wine can really hold up nicely to the richness and creaminess of these dishes.  Among the group at the tasting, the consensus was that this was our second favorite wine, which is saying a lot since there was some pretty significant competition!  Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, as it's a lovely, food friendly wine that can serve as the star of the show or a great supporting cast member!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

2009 Seven Hills Winery Ciel du Cheval

Ahh...here we are, the third wine from the "Taste My Vacation" wine tasting, a wine from one of my favorite wineries in Walla Walla, the 2009 Seven Hills Ciel du Cheval Vineyard red wine.  This wine is a wonderful example of the best of Washington wine in my opinion, hand picked, low-yield varietals based mainly on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, along with some Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot to make for a wonderful red blend that is so characteristic of the wines in Walla Walla.

The wine is a deep ruby color in the glass, as you would expect from such a blend.  The nose presents some lovely black cherry and plum, along with some cinnamon and floral notes.  There is also a sweetness in the nose, almost candy-like, which is offset by the aroma of licorice and just a hint of cedar.  The taste is a true delight, with a lovely balance of ripe berry and plum at the outset, giving way to fresh herbs and a certain earthy quality.  The flavors are very sophisticated in the way they play off each other and bring real balance to the overall taste of the wine.  The tannins are still a bit tight for this younger wine, but they work well for a long, smooth finish.

This was one of our favorites at the tasting, and believe me, the competition was pretty stiff!  Overall I would rate this one a solid 9, with much potential for aging.  This wine would pair nicely with a variety of wonderful dishes, from rich Italian dishes, to grilled steak, to Indian curry dishes, as it has the strength to stand up to bolder dishes, but the sophistication to bring out the layers of flavor in more complex cuisines.  If you can find this wine I would recommend buying a few bottles, and if you can't find it, contact the folks at Seven Hills Winery, as I'm sure they'll do all they can to help you get some!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

2005 Carmela Cabernet Merlot Blend

Now on to the second of my "Taste My Vacation" wine tasting, you can see the lineup here and this second wine is from an emerging region, the Snake River Valley in Idaho, the 2005 Carmela Cabernet Merlot blend.  I brought back a few bottles from the Carmela Winery, and tasted the 2004 Carmela Cabernet Sauvignon back in June.  Now the Snake River Valley is interesting as the climate tends to be a little more arid than the Columbia Valley, and given the volcanic history of the region, the pumice and ash in the soil adds to the characteristics of the wines produced here.

This one is an interesting blend, modeled after some of the classic Bordeaux blends, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and this one is split right down the middle with 50% of each grape in the blend.  At first pour, this wine has a strong aroma of alcohol, but some time in the glass and it begins to open up a bit.  The nose has a lot of carbon and smoke, along with some lovely dry herbs.  The taste has some mild fruit at the outset, giving way to some herb flavors and concentrated spice leading to a very dry finish.  In sharing our thoughts on this wine, one person in the group exclaimed "Hot Lava!" so that might give you some sense of this one!

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 7.5, and it paired especially well at our tasting with the 5-year old cheddar and the lovely pear mustard and soft cheese that a friend brought.  It would also work well with some nicely grilled steak, or even a spicy chili!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Les Bourgeois Jeunette Rouge NV

And so it begins!  I am starting to post my reviews from my "Taste My Vacation" event held last weekend, so brace yourselves, this is going to be good!  We will go in the same order we tasted them, so if you click here you can see what we tasted and the order, etc.  Since we are going in order, tonight's review is of a little wine I bought at a small winery in Missouri called Les Bourgeois, just east of Kansas City (don't ask how far, this was a distraction as I was so focused on getting barbecue!).  Oh, and for all of these reviews, please excuse my photos, I took them with my phone and even though I took them all before the tasting began, it still looks like I took most of them well into the evening festivities!

Now what's interesting about this winery and Missouri in general is a specific grape called the Norton grape, as this is apparently the only wine grape that is native to North America, all the rest have been transplanted here over the centuries from Europe.  Now the Norton grape has a long and storied history, and was cultivated and made into wine not long after the revolution, including on Thomas Jefferson's estate in Virginia.  It was made into some award-winning wines in the mid-19th century, so it has some heft behind it.  Now I tried Les Bourgeois' pure Norton wine at their tasting room, and I'll admit I was taken aback when the young lady serving the wine asked me if I liked mushrooms, and then informed me that if I liked mushrooms I'd like this wine.  Not exactly a stellar endorsement, and since I really am not a big mushroom fan, I was prepared for the worst.  I was not let down, it was pretty repugnant at least in my taste.

So, I tried the Jeunette Rouge, which was a blend that contained some Norton along with a number of other varietals, and in this case I was pleasantly surprised.  The wine has a lighter color and body, similar to a pinot noir.  The nose is full of red berries, leather and an earthy aroma of mushrooms and moss.  The taste was very fruit forward, with the berry flavors quickly giving way to flavors of fresh herbs midpalate, and then leading to some wonderfully mild tannins and a smooth, dry finish.

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 7, it wasn't spectacular, but for only $12 it was certainly well worth taking home from Missouri!  This one would pair nicely with some stronger fish dishes, or some classic southern cuisine given the earthiness and how that might accent some comfort foods.  So if you get down to Missouri and want to try some wine from the Norton grape, I highly recommend it!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

2001 L'Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon

Time flies when you're having fun!  Here we are, already at my third Cellar Saturday, the first Saturday of the month where I open up a bottle of wine that's been waiting patiently in the cellar for me to finally open up and enjoy.  And this month we have a really special treat more than a decade in the making, and a wine from my all time favorite winery, L'Ecole No. 41 in Walla Walla!

What a wonderful wine, I can tell already!  The color is a rich, deep ruby color, and the nose is a wonderful blend of earthiness, oak, offsetting a sweet spiciness, that's a blend of cassis, cherry and blackberry, balancing out the spice of cinnamon and dark chocolate.  The taste is remarkable, with flavors of ripe fruit coming through despite the age, which are quickly overtaken by notes of cocoa powder and cherry cola, leading to a wonderful bit of mint and cedar with a hint of earthiness, and a classic flavor of rich, dark chocolate that is so characteristic of Walla Walla wines.  The finish is very long, dry and smooth, and after a decade, the tannins are still very well structured and vibrant, which is a perfect complement to the overall lush mouthfeel of this wine.

Given this is such a wonderful, classic wine, I better have something besides Taco Bell to enjoy this with, and yes, you know me better than that!  So I've paired this wine with a dinner that is a marriage of summer and fall, with the last bits of summer coming together with the very best of what fall has to offer.  I've started with the summer, a simple salad of sliced heirloom tomatoes with a bit of fresh basil, drizzled with 25-year balsamic vinegar.  And once that gets your tastebuds moving, the main course is a rare grilled angus ribeye, with sweet potato fries and grilled white, yellow and orange carrots, bringing in the classic root vegetables of fall.  And after all that, I'm ready for a nap!

Oh, but before I doze off in the La-Z-Boy, my rating!  I am totally biased, but I would have to rate this one a solid 9, as it's a stellar example of the wine, the terroir and the vintage, I just have no idea of the value since I bought this back in 2004!  In any case, I'll be enjoying this one again someday, as I still have another magnum left in the cellar!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

2009 Stags Leap Napa Valley Merlot

It's a new month, so I say go big or go home!  And tonight we are going big, since I'm already home, with the 2009 Stags Leap Napa Valley Merlot!  Now many of you already know I like my Merlot, and I am a big fan of Stags Leap, so since I had three bottles of this wine delivered to my office today, I figured why not try one with dinner tonight and get me in the mood for a presidential debate (I think I'll follow it on Univision, so I get less biased reporting and the the chance at the appearance of gorgeous models and confetti, thanks to Don Hunt for that line).

Now, on to the wine!  This one has a lovely, deep purple color in the glass.  The nose is absolutely lovely, with aromas of leather, oak, mint and something green that I can't quite put my finger on.  The taste is just an explosion of wonderful flavors dancing around your mouth.  I often talk about how flavors progress from your first taste, to midpalate to the finish, but this wine just shows a pronounced yet smooth transition through all those phases.  At first I taste lovely fruit, cassis, ripe cherry and plum, which transitions to oak and leather, moving toward a fantastically earthy finish, which I honestly didn't expect.  The tannins are very well structured, providing balance to the earthy flavors and a wonderfully long finish.  It's still very young, and could probably be cellared for another 5 years before reaching its prime, but it's drinking beautifully now (which reminds me I have a few bottles of '07 Stags Leap Merlot around here somewhere that I should drink!).

Now for those who are familiar with Stags Leap, the wines are usually pretty pricey, but occasionally you can find a bargain as I did with this wine for only $20 on wineshopper.com.  For that price, I can easily rate this wine a solid 9, and I only wish not that I'd bought more than 3 bottles!  Tonight I am enjoying this with some maple bourbon glazed pork tenderloin, steamed rice and fresh green beans, and yes, this wine has every chance to overpower that meal, but I won't complain one bit!