Sunday, December 6, 2009

2005 Howell Mountain Zinfandel Beatty Ranch

This wine has a lovely dark garnet color with well-defined legs once swirled.  On the nose I get lively aromas of black raspberry and white pepper and a tickling in the nose from the alcohol (15.6%).  Initially, I was getting hints of brettanomyces, but that seems to have blown off.  In the mouth one gets a nice fresh flavor of dark fruits, spice (pepper, primarily), and bright acid backed with a nice tannic structure.  The good balance of fruit, spice and acid lingers on the finish.  I've tasted this wine on three occasions with very consistent results.  This was a $15 bargain at Trader Joe's (retailed for $45).  The 2006 Beatty Ranch Zin is not of the same caliber.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

2006 Ridge Zinfandel Dusi Ranch

This perennial favorite zin has a nice dark cherry color.  Although it's a little cold having just been brought up from the storage area beneath my house the nose gives off blackberries, cherries and a complex spice blend of white pepper, nutmeg and cloves.  Oh yes, and you can smell the alcohol, but the aromatic nature of the wine makes the alcohol not as pronounced as it could be at 15.8%!  Surprisingly devoid of tannins, the taste of this wine is dominated by cherry and dark berry fruit and much less spice than I expected from the aromas.  On the finish, the alcohol creates a burning effect on the tongue, but there is also fruit that lingers.  I would have expected to detect more acid than I'm getting, but I think the alcohol is masking that. This is not as sweet as some of Ridge's late picked wines, which have significant residual sugar and alcohol.  The grapes come from the Paso Robles area and were picked at a high sugar content which fermented efficiently providing a high alcohol, low RS wine.  I like it, but with I were drinking it with lamb instead of pizza.s

Sunday, November 29, 2009

2006 Ridge Carmichael Zinfandel

Well, it happens, reportedly, about 5% of the time.  This wine is slightly corked, the musty aroma immediately detectable.  Ridge would certainly take it back, but I don't have time to mess with it.  I tried to get past that to see what a non-tainted bottle might offer.  The grapes come from Carmichael Ranch on the North Coast.  This medium-bodied wine has a pretty ruby color with nice gradation.  There is plenty of fruit on the nose, mostly blackberries, and a slight amount of spice.  In the mouth, there is a nice acid/fruit balance, but I can't get past the corkiness.  The rest goes down the drain.  Too bad, because I'm a big fan of the winery and of its winemaker, Paul Draper.

Update:  I contacted Ridge through their website and within three days they had delivered a new bottle at no charge.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

1999 Kendall Jackson Great Estates Cabernet Sauvignon

This is the last bottle of a case of this wine I bought around 2002.  There is a slightly brown rim in the glass and the color of the wine has lightened slightly, now more translucent than I remember.  On the nose I get cassis, dark cherries and a grapey, slightly off (sulfuric) note.  Initially, the fruit had largely escaped, leaving a soft though prominent acidic taste.  The tannins have dwindled, as well, to the point of being non-existent.  As the wine opened up, the fruit began to come through and the acid subsided to create an enjoyable balance, which complemented the grilled filet mignon we had for dinner.  I've enjoyed this wine over the years and have appreciated the chance to see its development.

2003 A. Rafanelli Merlot

This wine began as a project for Shelly Rafanelli, daughter of David and Patty Rafanelli the winemaker their family winery that specializes in zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon.  A small production wine available only at the winery (their zin and cab are available to mailing list customers, at restaurants or at the winery only) is worth trying and buying.  On the nose one gets sweet cherries, earth tones and mushrooms.  Dark, but not completely opaque, the color is what you'd expect of a big wine.  While there was a lot of fruit on the palate, I got iron on the finish, which was a bit off-putting.  Still, I like the merlot and I respect the family and what they're doing with their wines.  You must call for an appointment to taste at A. Rafanelli, and don't be put off by their phone manner, which can be less than welcoming.  Once you're at the winery, I've never had less than a welcoming, gracious, and pleasant experience.

Monday, November 16, 2009

2001 Unti Petite Sirah

This dense wine comes from a small producer in the Dry Creek Valley.  A friend and I were wine tasting in the area in the summer of '03 and stopped in to see what this winery, unknown to us, was about.  A very friendly frenchman was working the tasting room and we had a good visit.  This bottle was about $20.  A dark purplish-black with bits of sediment, this petite sirah has a nose of blackberry with a bit of brettanomyaces.  In the mouth I'm getting the blackberry and other dark red fruits, acid and, as the wine opens up, the brett becomes more pronounced (not a positive).  The tannins have softened to the point of being barely noticeable, as the fruit and acid dominate throughout the finish.  While this is not the greatest petite sirah, it's nice to have something a bit off the mainstream from time to time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2005 Serdonis Cabernet Sauvignon, Ink Grade Vineyard

Serdonis is known for making big Cabs from Howell Mountain Grapes.  After pulling the cork, on which tartrates had formed, there was a good amount of sediment on the neck which needed wiping before pouring the wine.  The color of this wine is true to its vineyard name; completely opaque, dense purplish-black.  On the nose there is abundant cassis, some oak, and a touch of bazooka (yes, the bubble gum).  The wine has a velvety mouthfeel with plenty of acid and dense, intense cassis.  Tannins are present, but they are surprisingly smooth, unlike other wines of this age I've had from Serdonis.  While the wine is well-made and enjoyable, it's not exceedingly complex.  This wine will hold up for another few years, but at this stage in its development I don't think it should celebrate its 10th birthday.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2005 Woodenhead Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

This wine comes from a small winery in the Russian River Valley (River Road) that's very easy to drive by, but if you stop, you'll most likely have the undivided attention of the tasting room staff.  They have a wide selection of wines, mostly forgettable, but this one caught my attention.  Although it is extremely light in color and body, it has a vibrancy that's enjoyable.  As close to transparent as a red wine can get, the brownish color on this pinot reminds me of a tawny port.  Lots of strawberry and raspberry on the nose, along with alcohol (14.3%), and it has a consistent flavor profile, but with a backbone of acid.  This is not a wine to contemplate, but to enjoy in the moment.  The light bodied wine paired nicely with breaded pork chops and broccoli.  The price was in the low $20's and I might just have to stop back and pay them another visit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2008 O'Reilly's Pinot Noir

Rated 89 points from Wine Spectator, this is a great value-priced Pinot Noir from Oregon at just under $15 per bottle.  In the glass, this wine is medium-light in color and body.  On the nose, one gets a lot of dark cherry, a hint of anise and some floral scents.  In the mouth, this Pinot has a good fruit/acid ratio giving the medium-long finish a nice balance throughout.  The alcohol, at 13%, is not domineering, but contributes to a well-balanced wine.  For this wine, grapes are sourced from throughout the Pacific Northwest, with much of the fruit coming from the Willamette Valley.  The '08 O'Reilly's was delightful with broiled salmon and drank well on its own.  This is a great everyday wine if you have enough to drink it everyday.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

2005 Ridge Buchignani Carignane

I've taken some time off from writing about wines I've had. Not intentionally, just got busy. The reason I'm doing the blog in the first place is to force myself to think about and name what I'm getting from the wine. It makes me more a more intentional consumer. This wine is 100% old vine, hillside Carignane from the Buchignani Ranch. These folks also grow a nice zinfandel on this property. This is not a heavy wine --the color is a translucent ruby. The nose is quite closed about 15 minutes after opening. There is some fruit, but so faint that it's hard to identify. Though the wine is 14.6% alcohol, even that isn't apparent in the nose. As I work more on this I'm getting some blackberry in the nose and in the mouth. The acid overpowers the fruit at this early stage and there's a slight sulpheric note in this light to medium bodied wine. The finish is of medium length and pleasant. Perhaps as this opens up it will develop into something more, but at this point it's a fairly simply, slightly funky quaff.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

2004 Melville Estate Pinot Noir

This lovely Pinot from the Santa Rita Hills has a medium garnet color and an incredibly aromatic character. This is a rich wine that is very satisfying to inhale, as it has layers of aromas, all pleasant, that are inviting and enticing.  The nose is slightly jammy, with aromas of lilac, clove and molasses and vanilla.  The sensation in the mouth equals the aroma's allure.  Intense flavors of fruit include hints of strawberry jam  and blackberry with a complex floral and spice essence.  The bottle has now been opening up for a few hours and the aroma deepens and the finish lengthens as it spends more time in the glass.  This wine is a real treat which, as enjoyable as it is now, can easily withstand a few more years in the bottle.

2006 Vidon Pinot Noir Mirabelle (Chehalem Mountains)

Some friends and I had a wonderful experience when we visited Don Hagge at Vidon Vineyard.  He's a guy who loves wine and loves what he's doing, and that is evident as he welcomes guests to his winery and tasting room.  This small production wine (100 cases) exhibits the character of its terroir with elements of mushroom and earth on the nose, with  a background of raspberry vinegar.  Its light garnet color belies the depth of aromas and flavors which include well-integrated tannins, acid and fruit.  The medium finish is a pleasant amalgam of the light red fruit and bright acid that makes this wine so pleasing.  It's ready to drink now and may develop more with a couple years in the bottle, but why wait?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2005 McGuigan Bin 2000 Shiraz, Limestone Coast

Ok, I've never been a big fan of inexpensive Australian wines.  I've had a couple of really nice Shiraz wines from the McLaren Vale that friends who have lived in Australia bought, but otherwise, my attempts to find Shiraz wines that I've liked have met with disappointment.  In general, I have found Aussie wines to be rather one-dimensional, sometimes with off aromas or flavors.  And, so it is with this wine.  On the nose I get stewed fruit and brett (barnyard smell) and though I grew up in Wisconsin, I'm not a fan of the barnyard smell, especially in my wine.  The wine is light ruby in color and if I try to block out the barnyard effect, I can pick up hints of black fruit and chocolate.  In the mouth the flavors are dominated by acid on the front end and brett on the back end, but fruit does come through on the medium-length finish.  This was a gift and I wouldn't recommend it.  Time will do this wine no favors.

Monday, September 14, 2009

2005 Ridge Zinfandel Oltranti

Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards is one of my favorite winemakers and a really nice guy.  The Oltranti, like many of Ridge's recent zinfandels, has an intense aroma of fruit and ample alcohol (15.1%).  Dark cherry, black raspberry and floral notes fill the nose and, thankfully, help mask the alcohol.  In the mouth, there is a lot of fruit which lasts all the way through the long finish, but also an almost burning sensation from the alcohol.   There's a nice acid that helps the balance.  This is almost all zinfandel with a bit of carignane and petite sirah blended in.  I had this with lasagna and a caesar salad and it stood up nicely to those bold flavors, but I could also imagine drinking this in front of a fire on a cold and rainy night with a selection of medium to strong flavored cheeses.  I wouldn't give this more than a couple more years of aging time.  While the acid and fruit will become more integrated, I believe the alcohol will become too dominant when the fruit begins to fade.  Still, it's lovely now; but share it with friends or find a designated driver if you're away from home.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2005 A. Rafanelli Zinfandel

From one of the venerable zinfandel makers in Sonoma County, this 2005 from Dry Creek Valley is an opaque purple-black with dark, sweet cherries, black licorice, vanilla and toast, and alcohol on the nose. After decanting for a couple hours the wine is highly aromatic - just get your nose close to the glass and the aromas come wafting toward you. There is a sweetness on the attack, followed by black currant, raspberry and tar. The long finish is dominated by fruit and acid. This is a somewhat rustic zinfandel; chewy, with tannins that are developing nicely. This will easily go another three to five years, but it's enjoyable now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2003 Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel

Stepping out of the Rhone Valley for a bit, I thought I'd try a wine I've had several times to see how it's developing. This '03 Zin from Cline sold for $10 at Costco several years ago. Always, in my opinion, superior to the '04, the wine is holding up well and developing nicely. Having a translucent purple-black color, still with a clear rim, this hearty zinfandel has plenty of fruit on the nose and in the mouth.  Along with the bright acid which helps the wine to remain fresh and vibrant, plum and sweet cherries  run all the way from the attack through the lengthy finish. This California designate zinfandel does not have the spicy character that I enjoy and which is typical of many Dry Creek Valley zins, but for an "everyday" wine, this does quite nicely. The alcohol is given at 15%, which is high, but certainly not atypical of this varietal which has crept up in alcohol content over the last several years. I'm glad I have a couple bottles left, because I'm really enjoying this right out of the bottle.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

2006 Clos de L'Oratoire des Papes (Chateauneuf du Pape)

Wine Spectator rates this wine 91 points.  In the glass the Clos de L'Oratoire has an intense, opaque, ruby color with a clear rim on the edge.  The aroma of minerals is the first thing to hit the nose, but as the wine opens up, one smells dark red jammy fruit.  In the mouth there is a bright acid and soft tannins, followed by minerals, earth and dark cherries.  The acidity and tannic structure should help this wine last a few years and it should improve as the acid, tannin and fruit become more integrated with time in the bottle.  $26.99 at Costco.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

2005 E. Guigal Gigondas

Rated 89 points by Wine Spectator, 91-93 by Parker.  This wine has a deep ruby red color with dark cherry and spice on the nose.  This Gigondas has a lot of fruit including plum and cherry on the front end with nice spice notes as it lingers in your mouth.   The wine is somewhat rustic and has good complexity and a medium to long finish.   A nice food wine, this is well-structured with mouth-drying tannins that should mature and soften given time in the bottle.   For around $24 at Costco (a few dollars cheaper through some online stores), I'll buy a couple more to lay down for two to three years so that the tannins will smooth out a bit. 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

2007 Perrin & Fils Cotes du Rhone Reserve

Available at Costco for $7.49, this was rated 87-89 by Parker and 87 by Wine Spectator.  A typical Southern Rhone blend, this wine is composed of 60% Grenache, giving the wine sweetness and fruit, 20% Syrah, adding depth of color and spice, and 10% each of Mourvedre and Cinsault, which (ideally) provide structure and complexity.  This wine displays a deep red opaque color which belies its lightness in the mouth.  On the nose I get strawberry, cherry and alcohol.  The strawberry and other dark red fruits, as well as tobacco, are apparent in the mouth, but the finish is rather bitter and short (unfortunately, the bitterness lingers).  This is a fairly simple wine, but at 8 bucks, it may be worth a try.  And you can leave the corkscrew in the drawer...this one has a screwcap.

Update:  After having been opened for a day (vacuum pumped overnight) the bitterness seems to have dissipated, leaving a simple, but tasty wine.  Perhaps, given its youth, I should have decanted the wine on Day 1.  At $7.49, I'll probably try this again and decant for a couple hours before drinking.   Stay tuned!