Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tablas Creek Tasting

On our way back from Ensenada, we stopped at the Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles. Having never been to a tasting room before, I was a little anxious going in, but I found the staff friendly and accommodating, and their comments on the wines were tactful and minimal. None of the wines really impressed me with complexity or power, though having recently had a cold, my nose was still a tad stuffed. That said, I learned a lot, and experienced several new flavor-aromas.

1. Côtes de Tablas Blanc 2006 ($22)
NOSE: Apples, hints of melon. PALATE: Slightly sweet, but with balancing acidity. More viscous than the Herrenweg or the last Riesling I tried. Slight oiliness to the mouthfeel. Not much on the midpalate aromatics. Finish was nutty, slightly bitter, and acidic. Not as clean as the Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc '06. (87-89)-RP

59 Viognier
32 Marsanne (probably gives viscosity, according to the pourer)
6 Grenache Blanc
3 Rousanne

2. Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc 2006 ($40)
NOSE: A little apple, something like wood but slightly synthetic - furniture polish? Some toast! PALATE: Dry. Definitely had good acidity to balance the fruit. Weightier in the mouthfeel than the
Côtes de Tablas Blanc, but not more viscous. Didn't have the same oiliness. On the midpalate, this was the most aromatic of all the wines, with distinct nuttiness. Cleaner finish than the Côtes de Tablas Blanc. (92-95)-RP

65 Rousanne
30 Grenache Blanc
5 Picpoul Blanc

Côtes de Tablas 2005 ($22)
NOSE: Good fruit with a hint of barnyard. PALATE: Dry. Watery mouthfeel. Somewhat hollow on the midpalate - the Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc had more retronasal aromatics than this wine.Tannins that were fine-textured but clearly present. The finish was clean and tannic. More acidity than I would like. Not an extracted wine. ASPECT: Light, purplish. 90-RP

43 Grenache
24 Mourvedre
18 Syrah
15 Counoise

4. Mourvedre 2005 ($35)
NOSE: Earthier cherry notes. Less exuberant fruit than
the Côtes de Tablas. Earth. Slight barnyard. PALATE: Weightier than the Côtes de Tablas. Dry. Good, clean, tannic finish. More aromatic on the midpalate than the Côtes de Tablas. 87-RP

100% Mourvedre

5. Esprit de Beaucastel 2004 ($45)
NOSE: Cherry, quite earthy. There was a reticent tone of delicious fruit - similar to what I have referred to as "cherry" in past Syrahs. Perhaps this was the 27% Syrah speaking up. Somewhat tight nose. PALATE: Velvety feel. Sweet. Low acidity in the midpalate, but the acidity shows through in the finish. Good, strong, rich tannins on the finish. Somewhat woody aftertaste. 92-RP

50 Mourvedre, 27 Syrah, 17 Grenache noir, 6 Counoise.

6. Esprit de Beaucastel 2005 ($45)
When I first smelled this wine I noticed a "sulfur" smell that seemed similar to that of newly opened Aussie shiraz's. I asked if the wine was just opened, which it had been. When I smelled it a second time, I was disoriented, convinced I wasn't smelling the wine - there was another tone, ting the sulfur, that I could not identify, but that made me think of a person somehow - some sort of weird stinky body odor. I sniffed around outside, but it did seem to be coming from the glass. After a bit of swirling, that scent subsided and I was left with a bit of the sulfur and a yeast-like smell. When the pourer brought my glass to the attention of the guy who looked like he was in charge, he said it had a very slight Brettanomyces scent ("It's Brett, but it's barely there."). I don't know which of the three non-wine smells was Brett, but it was certainly very strange. The same guy said Brett is considered a flaw in CA but in Europe it is not as big a deal.

NOSE: some fruit, masked by the aforementioned strangeness. PALATE: Served too cold (makes sense - they had just opened it). This was even sweeter and more tannic than the last wine, giving me cause to wonder if sweetness and tannins have a cumulative build-up effect. Tannins should build after a certain point, as one's palate runs out of salivary lubricating enzymes (which are denatured by tannins). Some fruit on the midpalate. Clean finish. (92-94)-RP

44 Mourvedre 26 Grenache Noir 25 Syrah 5 Counoise

7. Vin de Paille 2005 (dessert wine, dried on straw after picking) ($55)

NOSE: Dried apricots! A little yeast (Brett?).
PALATE: Sweeeeeet. Unctuous midpalate, like sweet motor oil - slight petrol flavor. Apricot-like bitterness (not bad). Finishes bitter. Some acidity, but the sugar completely flattens it. The pourer said it was more acidic than most dessert wines. 262 g/L residual sugar. The 2001 Filhot I had after this showed slightly better (it was just barely drinkable for me), but I'm really on the fence for both of them. Dessert wines are tough for me. 90-RP

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tannat and Merlot: First Tastings

2004 Domaine Brana (Irouleguy, Pyrenees)($23)

Double-decanted and tasted in an Indian restaurant with strong ambient aromatics.

NOSE: Tight. The main scent was of freshly manured dirt, with a little cranberries and strawberries. A little creamy dark chocolate action too (an oxymoron? perhaps not). It didn't do much for me initially. And I can't say it was immediately delicious, but it was interesting, and it drew me back and eventually grew on me. Perhaps we didn't decant early enough. After a while, a brief tone of tight, but pleasant-smelling fruit shone through. Perhaps the grapes were not completely ripe in this vintage.

PALATE: If the nose had hints of milk chocolate, the palate was dark chocolate all day long! It reminded me of 99% Teuscher dark chocolate. If you've never had it, it's dark and bitter yet bizzarely creamy. The wine had a powerful attack of rustic earthy flavors, medium viscosity, explosively flavorful midpalate with good chocolate aromatics. Like satin in the mouth! The finish treated me to a little skit: first Alcohol and Tannins danced a little jig around a small, fading Cranberry. Then the little Cranberry spoke up with a bright, acidic tone. Finally, Tannins and a glorious Dark Chocolate Bitterness took the show home. The tannins gripped my tongue on the first taste, and did not let go until half an hour after the meal. It was really, really good. Stronger, fuller, riper tannins than Barrel Monkeys.

The acidity was present but not overt. The tannins were huge. This wine was a heap of fresh manured earth, supported by a stone wall of tannins with acidity as mortar. It really tasted like running into a rock wall. I would have liked more fruit, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
ASPECT: Dark saturated color, slightly purple (dim light).

With Indian food: I was left with just the manured earth smell and the tannins. Didn't go fantastically, but I'd try it again at a less noisy/smelly Indian restaurant.

13.5%, 70/15/15 - T/C/CF

2005 La Noble Merlot (South France) ($8)

NOSE: Sour milk. A little fruit, tiny bit of milk chocolate, some green banana.

PALATE: Light, watery, hollow midpalate. A little more acid than the tannat, but not an overt amount. A little bitterness. Finish: short. bitterness, alcohol, tannins. Seemed to have strong tannins, but J disagreed.

ASPECT: Saturated purple-tinged color.

This wine did not show well. (88-WA?)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

05 Freiherr von Heddesdorff Riesling Trocken

2005 Freiherr von Heddesdorff Riesling Trocken (Mosel)($15)

NOSE: A damp rock, and not an interesting rock, with a hint of bitter-smelling rotten melon. No citrus like the Barmes Buecher. Not delicious or interesting.

PALATE: Sweet. Good, crisp acidity, but still sweet. A nice bit of mild frizzante. The midpalate displays more bitter, overripe canteloupe. The viscosity is low to medium, with a faintly syrupy mouthfeel. Finishes with bitter, overripe melon, then fades to warmth, but it is not clean like Barmes Buecher, but ends with jousting sour and bitter notes. I now appreciate that the Barmes Buecher Riesling Tradition '06 was an exceptionally fruity, balanced, and clean-finishing wine. 12% Alcohol.

ASPECT: Clear, pale, with a faint tinge of yellow-gold.

WITH CURRY: Devolved into sweet, sour, and bitter. Any fruit was masked, though the acidity did cut through the mild curries. Aroma: eventually just bitter. Not appetizing.

CONCLUSION: Mr. Chapuis of the Corkscrew was dead-on with his caution that the aromatics are rather weak. However the woman who recommended it as dry was, I believe, mistaken. It seemed to have around the same sweetness as the Barmes Buecher as I recall. "Trocken" means "dry." Technically, it means R.S. is less than 4g/L, or R.S. is less than 9g/L provided T.A. is more than (R.S. - 2). That seems quite sweet compared to BM: 1.1 g/L or Yard Dog Red: .9 g/L. Not my cup of tea. SCORE: 60 RA

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thanksgiving Wines

Better late than never! Here are the wines from Thanksgiving in Boston (11/23/07). The wines were all tasted with food, so my notes should be treated with more than the usual circumspection.

Roux Pere & Fils Beaujolais-Villages 2005 ($13), second tasting:

See my notes for the first tasting. We opened this wine while cooking.

On the nose, it never developed the strong aromatics I remembered. It seemed to take on onion and pie characteristics at different times, depending on what it was close to. In fact, the nose seemed "tired" the entire time. Pretty disappointing. On the palate it presented none of the grippy tannins I recall, weak retronasal aromatics, mostly acidity and alcohol. I don't know what killed this wine, but it did not show well at all. Not corked.

2006 Pillar Box Red (Padthaway)($13):

The consulting winemaker, Chris Ringland, is known for his explosive wines, and this is no exception - a teeth-staining, palate-coating, spicy fruit bomb that has a peculiar "savory" flavor profile supporting a fruit-forward, pure nose. On the nose, Shiraz ("sulfur") and Cabernet ("chocolate-candied-cherry") tones come through, with black raspberry and a hint of synthetic apple. On the palate, it can be dry or notably salty-sweet, depending on food pairing. Just enough acidity that it doesn't grab attention, but frames the fruit well. Weak tannin structure. This concentrated, mouth-coating wine attacks the palate with dark, savory, spicy, extracted fruit. The savory-bitter midpalate character carries through to the finish, jousting with the weak tannins long after the fruit has faded. Not viscous in the mouth, but intensely flavorful, weighty. A well-made, super-flavorful, balanced, clean wine. Not aromatically complex. ASPECT: Brilliant, deep purple-red. ~2mm of clear meniscus. Completely opaque ~1cm from the edge. COMPOSITION: Shiraz/Cab/Merlot (50/42/8). Alc 15%.

2005 Yard Dog Red (Red Heads Studio) ($11):

NOSE: blueberries, butter, apple jolly-rancher. PALATE: Low acidity, medium to full-bodied, mouth-filling, tongue-coating fruit bomb. Slight dryness from light tannins yield to a smooth finish. Dark fruit on the midpalate. Very interesting by itself, but paired with the Thanksgiving fare, took on a fake, herbal quality that didn't go with the food. Didn't go with Kaltbach cave-aged cheese, either. In conclusion: interesting, a little "fake", good and satisfying and intriguing by itself. Red Heads Studio also produced the '04 Barrel Monkeys Shiraz. Mostly Petit Verdot with Merlot and a little Cabernet.

Malivoire 2004 Gewurztraminer (Ontario, Canada!)($19)

For me, this wine did something very special on the aromatics. Subtle lychees, lemon rind, a hint of grapefruit, rosepetal, and faint orange and spices instantly recalled a fruit market in India. A beautiful nose. On the palate, it was not to my tastes. Fruity and full-bodied, with good aromatics on the midpalate. A sweet, syrupy body with low acidity and bitterness from the midpalate to the finish. I felt slightly nauseous after the first sip, it was that sweet. Not my style.

ASPECT: brilliant golden color. "good color" according to GV. COMPARISON TO BARMES BUECHER: sweeter, less lychee characteristic, more complex nose. OVERALL: Great to smell, can't drink it.

My observation of Gewurz after tasting two representative examples: I love the nose, more than any other white wine. It resonates with my memories of Indian fruits. However I can't stand the sweetness and the bitterness. SCORE: 70 RA on the nose alone.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Four Aussie Shiraz's


Tasted with the Princeton Tasters group. My nose was still somewhat stuffed, and it was hard not to be swayed by the other tasters' comments. I also lost my tasting sheet, so only the most salient features are recalled.

Across the board, the wines were sweet, ranging from slightly sweeter than Barrel Monkeys, to downright sugary. All the wines were deep opaque purple, with almost no clear meniscus at the edge. All had a clear Shiraz characteristic. The Mollydooker nose was difficult to dissect under the alcohol, but all the other's had bold aromas. The Two Hands and the Winner's Tank stood out as the most complex and interesting noses. All had very gentle tannins - Mollydooker was the most tannic. Redbank stood out as the brightest, warmest, simplest nose. Two Hands and Winner's Tank were the earthiest/non-fake noses. Two Hands was the only unclean nose, with a hint of "barnyard."

The favorites were the first two, Winner's Tank and Redbank.

Tasting Notes:

2006 "Winner's Tank Shiraz" Eskadale Vineyards (Langhorne Creek)($16)
NOSE: Complex and real, with appetizing cherries, and hints of liquorice, burnt rubber, and egg nog. Several delicious tones I could not name. PALATE: slightly sweet, more than BM. Low acidity. Attacks the palate with extracted fruit. Aromatic midpalate. Long finish that unbalances, first faintly bitter, then fading into a sour aftertaste. Weak tannins. several largish particles of black fruit residue made it clear that this wine is unfiltered! Aromatically complex, and unoffensive in its balance, if not gripping. I would like it drier, with much bigger tannins.
I understand why Jay Miller of the Wine Advocate gives this 91 points. I give it 88, mostly on its nose. I really want another crack at dissecting that nose! 91-JM, 88-RA.

2004 Redbank "The Long Paddock" Shiraz (Victoria)($9)
NOSE: Warm, round, bright red cherry pie, with a hint of sweet yogurt. PALATE: Also sweet, but balanced by slightly higher acidity than the Winner's Tank. Don't recall the finish. This was the first wine to be finished at the tasting - possibly the most drinkable of the four. The '05 vintage earned a dismal 75 from Jay Miller, but I don't find the '06 flawed in any way (except being too sweet). If you like lightly sweet shiraz, this is a good value. 84RA.

2006 Two Hands "Angels Share" Shiraz (McLaren Vale)($34)
I had highest hopes for this wine. Highly rated by Robert Parker in past vintages, a quick sniff as we were decanting revealed an earthy, delicious shiraz aroma. NOSE: Great shiraz with buttery blueberry muffins. The earthiness I smelled during decanting devolved into a faint "barnyard" smell. I use that term because "poop" is somewhat indelicate. I don't appreciate this particular scent. In this day and age, people should be able to make clean wines, especially for 34 bones! PALATE: Sugar syrup. I was so disappointed I couldn't concentrate on the rest of the palate. It may have been slightly spicy. Certainly the tannins were very slight. At least it was sugary sweet instead of glycerine fake-sweet like the Mollydooker. I don't know how Jay Miller can give this a 93. Even if it tastes delicious, the combination of the alcohol and sugar, with low acidity and tannins, makes it cloying, densely undrinkable. Seriously: 3/4 of a glass of this wine and you feel your gorge rise! 93-JM, 63-RA.

2006 Mollydooker "The Boxer" Shiraz(McLaren Vale)($34, release $20)

This wine has become so popular that its price has inflated by 70% over Sarah and Sparky's intended price. Knowing about their glycerol-boosting methods, I expected a super-rich, overly-sweet wine that bore no resemblance to Shiraz. It turns out there was more to the wine than I expected. NOSE: Lots of alcohol interference, at times appeared more muted than the other's. Noteable and pleasing Shiraz note framed by rich, real fruit. A delicious if not complex nose. PALATE: As expected, glycerol sweetness prevailed. It struck me as less sweet than the Angels Share, and its quality of sweetness was different ("bluer"?). I think I am starting to be able to differentiate glycerine sweetness from sugar sweetness. A long, extracted wine, with a spicy bite, and bigger tannins than any of the others. To my palate, significantly better than the '06 Maitre D'. I appreciate that Sarah and Sparky Marquis have developed a truly unique, recognizable style of wines. In a blind tasting, I might have guessed Redbank, probably would have mistaken Winner's Tank and Angels Share for eachother, but I'm sure I would have recognized the Mollydooker. Not drinkable for my palate. 94-JM, 68-RA.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

'06 Pillar Box Red

2006 Pillar Box Red (Padthaway) $13

IN BRIEF: A teeth-staining, palate-coating, spicy "fruit-bomb" that has a peculiar "savory" flavor profile that backs up a fruit-forward, pure nose. Not a flavor profile that really resonates with me. Tannins are too weak for my tastes. A well-made, super-flavorful, undeniably balanced, clean wine. Not aromatically complex.

NOSE: Shiraz ("sulfur") and Cabernet ("chocolate-candied-cherry") tones come through, with black raspberry and a hint of synthetic apple.

PALATE: Only faintly sweet. Just enough acidity that it doesn't grab attention, but frames the fruit well. Tannins are weak. This concentrated, mouth-coating wine attacks the palate with dark, savory, spicy, extracted fruit. The savory-bitter midpalate character carries through to the finish, jousting with the weak tannins long after the fruit has faded. Not viscous in the mouth, but intensely flavorful, weighty.

ASPECT: Brilliant, deep purple-red. ~2mm of clear meniscus. Completely opaque ~1cm from the edge.

COMPOSITION: Shiraz/Cab/Merlot (50/42/8). Alc 15%.


Previous Tasting Notes:
(Tasted at Boston Thanksgiving Dinner 11/23/07) NOSE: a little shiraz, ripe cherries, maybe more. PALATE: low acidity, slight sugar - less than Cousino Macul but more than Barrel Monkeys. Salty/savory, in the direction of rare steak. Smooth finish, low tannins. Good, unflawed finish. Fruit filled mid-palate. OVERALL: This was a good wine, not that interesting to me on the nose, not offensive. I missed the tannins. Didn't do anything exciting with the food.

Discrepancies when tasted with meal: seemed noticeably sweeter, and slightly less tannic.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Peynaud on Wine

With an apt foreward by Michael Broadbent, Peynaud's "The Taste of Wine" (trans. Michael Schuster) is without parallel. Deftly constructed and supported with lucid figures and tables, this is even greater a work of scholarship than Broadbent's guide to tasting. Peynaud goes beyond the scope of Broadbent's work: he attempts to show how an enologist connects tastes with concentrations, imbalances with chemical flaws in the wine.

As my literary exploraton has progressed in reverse-chronological order, I have often seen Peynaud's work cited by others. Now I know the reason. So far, this is the only textbook-quality work I have seen on wine.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Correspondence with Sarah/Sparky Marquis

After a heated debate on the residual sugar content of the Mollydooker '06 Maitre d', I emailed Sarah and Sparky Marquis, the winemakers/CEO's of Mollydooker Wines, asking about the exact value. They were kind enough to clarify some aspects of winemaking:

On 11/14:

Hi Rajiv,

The residual sugar on the 2006 Maitre’D Cab is 2.8g/L. Most of our 2006 reds were bottled with residual sugar levels around 3g/L and this is normal for us. If I can help you with anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Sarah Marquis
CEO / Winemaker

On 11/15

Hi Rajiv,

Just expanding that one more step. All wines have residual sugar in at least the 2-3.5 g/l range. These are made up on unfermentable 5 Carbon sugars (normal sugar that is ferment able is a 6 carbon sugar) so in all winemaking we call anything under 3.5 g/L as being “dry” (meaning that is doesn’t have any fermentable residual sugar).

In our wines what you are seeing is fruit sweetness and structural balance. We call this “Fruit Weight”. We see Fruit Weight as being the “velvet glove” sensation of fruit on your palate before you see the structure of the wine becoming obvious.

Hope this helps

Sparky Marquis
Sarah's Husband/CEO/Winemaker

I responded on 11/15:

Hi Sparky,

Thanks so much. I had read in Alexis Lichine's Encyclopedia of Wine and Spirits that the threshold for tasting residual sugar was ~.2% (2g/L). We previously tasted Red Heads Studio's '04 "Barrel Monkeys" Shiraz, which seemed only vanishingly sweet to us, and had a residual sugar concentration of 1.1 g/L (listed on Vine St. Imports' website). Does that mean that the grapes were simply picked at a lower brix, so there were less sugars total, leaving less residual pentoses?

In any case, we were surprised by how much "sweeter" the '06 Mollydooker Cab tasted, and were curious as to how much of the impression of sweetness was due to the residual sugar, the (incredible!) amount of fruit, or other factors, like perhaps glycerine (would glycerine be higher since the alcohol content is high, and glycerol is a byproduct of fermentation?).


P.S: Please let me know if I'm misusing any terms - I'm a chemical engineer, and I worked in a yeast genomics lab for two summers, but the wine world is relatively new and confusing to me

On 11/18:


That is fantastic that you said that you are a chemical engineer as I will be able to use some of the technical terms that I tend not to use when I am normally talking about our wines.

In terms of the Cabernet, you hit the nail right on the head with your comment about glycerol. Early on in my career as winemaker, I found while studying the glycolytic pathway (the use of sugar by yeast to produce alcohol) that there was a particular side shunt to the pathway that produced glycerol. This site shunt can only be activated by the build up of NAD which is normally produced and then used in the complete glycolytic pathway.

In the latter stages of the glycolytic pathway after the glucose is broken down into 2x glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate the process is then:

1. GA3P to Acetaldehyde
2. Acetaldehyde + NAD (+ alcohol dehydrogenase) produces Alcohol + NADH2 +CO2

The NADH2 is used in the early stage of the split of Glucose to GA3P.

What we found was that if we bound the Acetaldehyde a build up of NAD occurred and that the side shunt to produce glycerol would be activated. We experimented with the use of SO2 (which is a preferential binder onto Acetaldehyde) and found that if we add SO2 to the ferment when the alcohol was being produced, that we could arrest the ferment momentarily and consequently produce glycerol. Our aim then was to produce enough glycerol to eliminate the “hole” typical in the mid palette of Cabernet. After quite some experimentation we found that adding 15ppm SO2 at each of 3%, 4% and 5% alcohol produced the amount of glycerol that we needed so that the glycerol on the palette mimics fruit sweetness. Glycerol per se, is not a natural byproduct of the production of alcohol and so 99% of other winemakers never get this benefit in their Cabernet.

Post fermentation we then work on the structural balance of the Cabernets, so that the underlying acid, alcohol and tannin (both grape and oak) compliment the palette weight produced by both the fruit and the glycerol.

Hope this helps and we look for the catching up with you soon.

Sparky Marquis
Sarah's Husband/CEO/Winemaker

On 11/19, I responded:

Hi Sparky,

Let me see if I understand this:

In the fourth stage of Glycolysis, Fructose-1,6-bisphosphate is split into G3P and dihydroxyacetone-phosphate, which is normally isomerized enzymatically into a second G3P. The next stage (phosphorylation of G3P) yields 2NADH as a by-product. At the end of glycolysis, pyruvate is decarboxylated into acetaldehyde, then fermented, using up NADH which would (if aerobic) go towards oxidative phosphorylation. If acetaldehyde is blocked by SO2, there is a buildup of NADH, which "reaches back" and makes the phosphorylation of G3P unfavorable. As a result, more dihydroxyacetone-phosphate goes down the alternate glycerol-synthesis pathway (which uses up NADH, restoring balance).

From what I could learn, glycerol production can be increased in several ways:

1. Induce a hyper-osmotic environment. - but the glucose concentration is limited by the brix at harvest.
2. Grow yeast at pH 7 or above - but again, doesn't make sense in winemaking.
3. Use special, osmo-tolerant yeast strains (because of (1), they produce more glycerol) - but this would alter many wine characteristics.
4. temporarily retard fermentation by fixing acetaldehyde with SO2 - a good solution because it doesn't mess with anything besides alcohol/sugar/glycerol concentrations.

Since both alcohol and glycerol are produced from a fixed starting glucose concentration, it seems to me at first that by producing more glycerol, you sacrifice alcohol content - a major part of the wine's "body." However a higher glycerol concentration allows the yeast greater osmotic tolerance, so if you harvest really, really high brix grapes, the SO2 will cause more glycerol production, but alcohol production will still be high. In this way you get full-bodied, 16% wines that also have enough glycerol to fill the midpalate.

So, do you harvest at a higher brix than most wineries because of your increased glycerol production?


On 11/19


Now you are talking my language.

I was going to say in the previous email: of course the usage of GA3P in the conversion to glycerol reduced the alcohol of the wine by the equivalent conversion (dependant on molecular weight ratios), but I thought that if I put this comment that I would have to go back to my chemical engineers handbook to look at the molecular weights to give you the real figures. All I can remember at the moment is that glucose is MW180 and everything else is affected by alcohol (my brain that is). Now what I do is tell our team….this is what we are doing and then we spend the rest of the time drinking rather than discussing (not really, all our team are very scientific, I spend most of my time myth busting).

And yes we pick at a higher Brix so that you get good levels of glycerol and alcohol……and much enjoyment as you drink our wines with high Fruit Weight.

PS if it was oxidative wouldn’t the process then go to the Kreb Cycle??

Sparky Marquis
Sarah's Husband/CEO/Winemaker

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I am encouraged

The great Vayniacs on the WLTV forum came to my rescue. Nothing like sympathetic wine-geek rage to cheer you up on a Saturday night!

I'm reassured that there is a strong community of people out there dedicated to learning about wine while keeping an open mind.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Michael Broadbent's Wine Tasting

Michael Broadbent's Wine Tasting (Mitchell Beazley Wine Guides)

The best-written, best thought-out material on wine tasting I have encountered yet. Next to Broadbent's work, other writers appear imprecise, self-indulgent, undisciplined, and frivolous. Broadbent is concise and precise, objective and eloquent. Highly Recommended.

Dom. Barmès Buecher Riesling '04 (Herrenweg de Turckheim)

Domaine Barmès Buecher (Alsace) 2004 Herrenweg de Turckheim Riesling (Corkscrew 24)

COLOR: Light, watery, not brilliant. NOSE: Very reticent, even after warming in hands. Only the faintest hint of fruit. No lemon characteristic. Mostly dull yeast. Maybe, just maybe, there was a hint of canteloupe rind. PALATE: Watery mouthfeel, thin flavor - poor concentration, hollow on the midpalate, some bitterness, acidity was not balanced by fruit or residual sugar - there was very little residual sugar, so it was fairly dry- much drier than the 06 Riesling Tradition. A lean and watery wine, not in balance, and $7 more expensive than the 06 Riesling! Very bad QPR. Pass.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

On Tasting Blind

Blind tasting holds a fearsome and controversial place in the hearts of wine lovers. Identifying a wine blind is one of the most impressive victories a wine lover can have - and certainly there is a correlation between blind tasting ability and wine experience. Robert Parker is said to have an encyclopedic memory for aroma and flavour profiles, and an uncanny ability to identify the exact wine he is tasting blind. Some wine writers villify blind tasting, arguing that it can be misleading (by which I assume they mean "embarrassing"). Others, like Eric Asimov and Kevin Zraly, have a more conflicted view.

Mike Steinberger, in an article entitled "In Blindness Veritas?: Tasting wine blind isn't all it's cracked up to be." cites an embarrassing incident in which he attended a wine tasting designed to disprove his claim that the best California sparkling wines couldn't stand up to fine Champagnes.

This article made me MAD.

Steinberger went in to the tasting with an agenda: to prove his earlier view right. Every wine he tasted, he was trying to identify as a California or Champagne, and then score it accordingly. This defeats the purpose of a blind tasting, AND represents the kind of twisted, old-world, non-scientific thinking that makes the wine world so screwed up.

Take a hint from Robert Parker and Gary Vaynerchuk: If it's good, it's good. If you weren't expecting it, then you just learned something, so be grateful. All that matters is what's in the glass. Everything else is just to give you a shot at predicting whether that glass will be good.

Steinberg showed that stodgy old-school prejudices can come into play (with some effort) even in a blind tasting. The converse is also true: An increasing number of new wine-drinkers are able to taste impartially, even when not blind. I have read so much bullshit on vintage charts and general principles that hold "almost all the time" that at this point, I'm fed up. I accept that there are many factors that can indicate a good wine, but I take it for granted that for every wine following a rule, there are two exceptions. Thanks to RP and GV, more and more young tasters are tasting without prejudice, and enjoying wine more

Barrel Monkeys: Take 3

2004 "Barrel Monkeys" Shiraz (Red Heads Studio)(McLaren Vale)(Wine Library: $16)

The bouquet attacks with deep, beautiful, and dark aromas of smoky blackberries, strawberry jam, black cherries, and a hint of nuts and wood. On the palate the viscosity is low, but nevertheless the feel is weighty, concentrated, and mouth-filling. Low acidity. Faint background sweetness. Fruit blooms on the midpalate, leading into a strong, persistent finish of sweet tannins. While I have had wines with more gripping tannins, and wines with more viscous bodies, no wine so far has matched up to this as a complete, seamless beauty. I have a deep affection for Barrel Monkeys (RP90).

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Gary Vaynerchuk's Advice

I emailed Gary Vaynerchuk of WLTV and he was kind enough to respond with some helpful advice:

On reading this blog, he remarked:

I recommend less reading and more tasting my friend. That is the key. Build the palate - that is the key to wine tasting and learning, and make sure you try different wines each time!

On Aussie Shiraz's with high residual sugar, he explained:

Lots of peeps lately are being turned off by this, but 5 yrs ago it was all the rage. Things change, flavors change, trends change - it's the way the world works! There is no code [tasting descriptor] for this but I would say start looking for wines that are not Cab and Shiraz based, there are so many wines you can try and taste that are awesome that Aren't that way, I would suggest spending some serious time in ITALY!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Gary Vaynerchuk on: How to Taste Wine

Gary's attitude is simple: Taste in a way that allows you most fully understand the wine. Can't smell the bouquet? Stick your nose all the way in and sniff harder. The most practical, non-flowery or aesthetic-driven description of tasting I've encountered. Also, Gary is doing these shows off-the-cuff. He's not sure beforehand of his reaction, and it shows in the sincerity of his conclusions.

How to taste wine: overview

The shape of the glass makes a difference

Decanting makes a difference

Temperature makes a difference

Wine ratings are subjective

How to train your palate - The Vayniac Way

Vintage year matters

Sunday, November 4, 2007

'06 Mollydooker The Maitre D', '05 Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas Cab

2006 Mollydooker "The Maitre D'" Cabernet Sauvignon (McLaren Vale) (Wegmans $20)

Sickeningly sweet. Hot with alcohol. Low acidity and weak, fine-textured tannins.

2005 Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile) (Community $13)

Nose: Interesting, if not appetizing: dominated by burnt rubber, with vegetal/earth tones, and a hint of olive. Less sweet than The Maitre D', but has noticeable residual sugar. Medium acidity and tannins balance out the palate. Better than the Maitre D', but not great.

Tasting Notes:

The '06 Mollydooker The Maitre D' was given "the Mollydooker shake," which certainly opened up the bouquet, revealing a straightforward, fruity, and delicious bouquet of cherries and raisins, though the alcohol was rather heavy in the nose. It was served a bit on the warm side, but then again, with 16% alcohol, perhaps it would have tasted hot and biting at any temperature. On the palate it was sickly sweet and alcoholic. The low acidity, and faint, fine tannins did nothing to support this wine. In sweetness it was a little less sweet than the Marquis Philips, which in turn was less sweet than the Kiss Chasey. However it was like Kiss Chasey because of the low acidity and tannins. To my palate, undrinkable.

The '05 Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas took some time to open up, even after triple-decanting. The fruit in the nose was there, but very subdued. At first there was a vegetal, earthy smell, perhaps sodden wood or mushrooms. Eventually the predominant smell of burning rubber appeared, with a hint of olive. The nose was quite interesting, if not delicious or appetizing. The palate displayed subdued sweetness, well balanced by medium acidity and tannins.

Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate says:

"The deeply colored 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Antiguas Reservas offers toast, spice box, cedar, and black currant scents." - Jay Miller

Either both Jo ad I have messed-up noses, or Mr. Miller tasted a completely different wine.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

'04: Ch. Pontet-Canet, Les Hautes Pontet-Canet

In Brief:

2004 Les Hautes de Pontet-Canet (Pauillac) (Sherry-Lehmann $27)

Possessed a subdued bouquet with fruit and hints of earth, wood, and spices. On the palate it was watery in texture, but with a good concentration of flavor, low acidity, a little fruit on the midpalate, and big tannins. The bouquet could be interesting, but is subdued and difficult to dissect.

2004 Chateau Pontet-Canet (Pauillac) (Sherry-Lehmann $47)

A beautiful, more forward bouquet with clear, delicious fruit, many shades of cherry, earth, wood, and spice. The concentration and extract fill the mouth, though the texture is watery. The acidity is noticably higher than Les Hautes Pontet-Canet, there is noticeable fruit on the midpalate, but the wine is really dominated by incredible, full, round, gripping tannins. The tannins will probably age this wine well, though it is too acidic and thin-textured for my tastes. The bouquet is very interesting, and I do not at all feel I completely understood its nuances. (RP 90)

Tasting Notes:

Tasted in-store at Sherry-Lehmann. It was difficult to clearly capture the aromas in the clear plastic cups they used, but one could get a general sense of the wine. The staff ranges from clueless, to slightly patronizing, to helpful and friendly.

2004 Les Hautes de Pontet-Canet (Pauillac) (Sherry-Lehmann $27)

The bouquet of this second wine displayed greatly subdued fruit with possible hints of wood, earth, and spices. It was hard to be sure of the particulars given the plastic cup and the ambient aromas, but I'm fairly certain the bouquet has deeper nuances. That said, the subdued nature of the aromas would probably make it very difficult, even in ideal conditions, to decipher this bouquet. The palate displayed low acidity with a hint of fruit on the midpalate, and powerful, gripping tannins. The mouthfeel was watery.

2004 Chateau Pontet-Canet (Pauillac) (Sherry-Lehmann $47)

A clear, delicious note of fruit gave way to an aromatically complex bouquet, suggesting dark cherries, mellow cherries, and mereschino cherry tones, along with earth/wood/spice notions. Again this is a rough description, possibly confounded by ambient aromas, but this bouquet would probably be interesting to observe in-vitro-vinum. The bouquet seemed to me beautiful - not sickeningly sweet like the beaujolais' single scent. In the mouth this wine somewhat failed to satisfy. It was not viscous, though there was great concentration of flavour, and I suppose in one sense, the wine's flavor was "mouthfilling." It was noticeably more acidic than Le Hautes Pontet-Canet, but with absolutely incredible, full, round, gripping tannins. There is fruit on the mid-palate, possibly a lot of fruit, though it was hard to tell as I was (excitedly!) distracted by the tannins. The finish was long, and dominated by tannins. I can see how this might be an excellent wine when the tannins mellow and uncover more fruit, though to my taste it is a bit too acidic and not full-bodied enough.

Robert Parker:

Wine Advocate # 171
Jun 2007
Robert Parker 90 Drink 2014 - 2025 $45-$90 (39)
Backward and powerful for the vintage, this blue/purple-colored 2004 exhibits classic creme de cassis, smoke, incense, and spring flower characteristics. Medium to full-bodied, dense, and excruciatingly tannic, this impressively endowed Pauillac is built for the long haul. However, patience will be required. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2025+.
Wine Advocate # 165
Jun 2006
Robert Parker (90-93) Drink 2013 - 2036 $45-$90 (39)
The 2004 Pontet-Canet has an inky/purple color and a classic nose of sweet creme de cassis, cedar, and spice box. It is medium to full-bodied, structured, quite tannic, but also impressively deep and full. This wine will need 7-10 years of cellaring and last for 20-30 years.
Wine Advocate # 158
Apr 2005
Robert Parker (92-94) Drink 2005 - 2035 $45-$90
A brilliant effort from proprietor Alfred Tesseron, Pontet-Canet’s 2004 may ultimately prove to be a better wine than its more famous neighbor, Mouton Rothschild. Medium to full-bodied with a classic creme de cassis-scented perfume, sweet fruit, ripe tannin, tremendous purity, and a personality that suggests no manipulation, no nonsense, and hard work in both the vineyard and winery, this beautiful Pauillac should age for 2-3 decades. It is one of the most concentrated and potentially long-lived wines of the vintage. Is it as good as the 2000, 1996, and 1995? Probably not, but it is a noteworthy effort for the vintage.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Domaine Barmès Buecher (Alsace)

In Brief:

2005 Crémant d’Alsace $16

Sweetness is balanced with acidity and strong, brilliant carbonation. A refreshing drink, though with a yeasty nose.

Riesling Tradition '06 $16.5

Nice fruit on the nose with strong lemon and a surprising hint of overripe melon. Sweetness is supported by acidity. Interesting flavorless glycerine finish. Balanced and pleasant.

Rosenberg Silicis Pinot Gris '04 $24

Nose: equal parts subdued fruit and yeast, with a faint hint of citrus. Low acidity, but the sweetness is countered by notable bitterness that extends from midpalate to finish. Slight alcohol "spiciness" on the back of the throat. Well-balanced, but I am not enthused by the hops-like bitterness.

Herrenweg de Turckheim Gewurtzraminer '04 $20

Lychees!!! Spritz of lemon and orange rind. HUGE for a white wine - medium bodied with notable bitterness, the finish is full of glycerine, with more heat than any of the other three wines, and a hint of yeast. I'm still surprised how much like lychees this smelled.

Tasting Notes:

These four Alsace wines were tasted at the Princeton Corkscrew wine shop. The wine glasses were a bit on the thick-rimmed side, and I caught one whiff of heavy perfume, but otherwise, smelling conditions were superb, the atmosphere friendly (save yet another joke from the French guy about how he knows I'm 21). The proprietors/winemakers were present and answering questions, mostly in German and French.

All four wines were of similar mild sweetness, and all offset that sweetness in some way. The Crémant d'Alsace with acidity and carbonation, the Riesling with acidity, the Pinot Gris with bitterness, and the Gewurtzraminer with a combination of bitterness and viscous body. They were well-balanced wines with each element clearly discernable. The nose of each wine possessed at least two elements, though no single wine was very complex aromatically.

2005 Crémant d’Alsace $16

A brief whiff of fruit was quickly replaced with the smell of yeast, occasionally revealing hints of citrus. On the palate the carbonation was strong and brilliant. The sweetness was just balanced by the acidity. This wine was refreshing to drink, but I do not consider it in the same league as a Bordeaux or a Shiraz. It is like a very, very nice italian soda, though the yeast smell, for me, is a little off-putting.

Riesling Tradition '06 $16.5

There is considerable fruit on the nose - green grapes (a wine that smells like grapes? incroyable!) with strong lemon and a hint of a diametrically opposite smell - perhaps overripe canteloupe. Sweet with balancing acidity, the body was unremarkable on the midpalate. In the finish, where tannins would take hold in a red wine, the flavor suddenly vanishes, leaving a tasteless but faintly sweet and viscous feeling, slightly warmed by alcohol. I know glycerol is viscous, and I've read that it imparts a slight sweetness to wine, so I'm going to guess that this finish is mostly glycerol.

Rosenberg Silicis Pinot Gris '04 $24

The nose displayed equal parts subdued fruit and yeast, with a faint hint of citrus. The acidity was low, but the sweetness was countered by a notable bitterness that first makes itself felt in the midpalate then lingers through the finish. A slight alcoholic bite on the back of the throat gives the impression of "spiciness." I'm not a big fan of the bitterness, but I can see how many would consider this a "well-balanced" wine. The co-proprietor and wife of the winemaker named this as her favorite, citing smoke and earth in the nose, which I can't corroborate, but... it could be there.

Herrenweg de Turckheim Gewurtzraminer '04 $20

Lychees!!! The aroma is exactly like that of lychees, with a spritz of lemon rind, and something that suggested orange rind. On the palate, it was sweet like the others, almost medium-bodied (due to high glycerin concentration, perhaps?) with ripe melon and yeast on the midpalate. Again, bitterness made itself felt on the midpalate. The finish was bitter, with a little yeast, then faded into glycerol, with more alcohol "heat" than the Riesling.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Kiss Chasey Cab/Shiraz/Merlot '04

In Brief:

2004 Swings & Roundabouts "Kiss Chasey" Cab/Shiraz/Merlot ($12 Community):

Too sweet. (RP 88)

Tasting Notes:

This Cab/Shiraz/Merlot/Tempranillo (49.3/28/17.7/5) has a nice nose of cherries with some raspberry character. There is also a shy but at times surprising second character of strong mineral scents, perhaps best described as wet metal. Medium-bodied, with a slightly syrupy texture, there is good fruit on the midpalate and a long finish with good, though not gripping tannins. Unfortunately the syrupy sweetness pervades the entire drinking experience, persisting almost as long as the tannins. The acidity is very low - which normally I wouldn't mind, but here it could have offset the sugar, and made the wine drinkable if not great. A disappointment from Vine St. Imports, the importer of both Barrel Monkeys and Small Gully The Formula.

Robert Parker:

"The only red I can recommend [from Swings & Roundabouts] is the 2004 Kiss Chasey Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Merlot, a delicious blend boasting a deep ruby/purple-tinged color as well as plenty of berry fruit intermixed with notions of smoke, herbs, and spice box. Fine texture, abundant fruit on the palate, and a plump finish suggest this amazing value should be drunk over the next 1-2 years. I tasted a few other offerings from Swings & Roundabouts, which were pleasant, but did not merit high enough scores to be included in this report." RP88

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ch. Calissanne (Provence) '05

In Brief:

2005 Chateau Calissanne ( Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence) (Corkscrew 13)

This 70:30 Cab/Shiraz blend has a pleasant nose of light cherries with a hint of spiced oranges, though the aroma is weak and tenuous. In the mouth this wine revealed a light body, with subdued acidity and slightly sweet fruit on the midpalate (by which I mean the part of the palate where the sense of smell is most in play. In time, the point right before swallowing, if you were to swallow). The texture was soft and watery, with a little milkiness. The finish revealed lots of soft tannins with some bitterness. A rather weak, subdued wine. Drinks easily.

Tasting Notes:

Benefited noticeably from aeration. After two hours or so, it was a bit better than 20 minutes after opening. However the aroma was always slightly weak and "closed." Tasted in close to ideal conditions, out of the Reidel bordeaux, and the Ravenscroft amplifier.

This 70:30 Cab/Shiraz blend possessed a pleasant, if rather tenuous, nose of light cherries and a hint of spiced orange. Due to the weakness of the aroma it was a bit difficult to detect subtleties under the relative strength of the alcohol fumes, and my nose was left somewhat singed by the experience. At times, the smell was a bit fake and artificial. At one point, there was a whiff of something warm and wholesome, akin to the smell of pie still baking. In the mouth this wine revealed a light body, with subdued acidity and slightly sweet fruit on the midpalate. Perhaps it was the tannins that evoked a soft, watery-milk texture, because it certainly wasn't high extract or concentration of fruit or alcohol (13%). The finish revealed lots of smooth tannins with some bitterness. A weak, wimpy wine that requires too much effort to detect its only slight complexity. Drinks easily and tastes quite sweet after a while, though not nearly to the extent of the Beaujolais-Villages.

Ch. Cap de Merle (Lussac-St.-Emilion) '04

In Brief:

2004 Ch. Cap de Merle (Lussac St.-Emilion) (Community $8/375ml)

Tasting Notes:

This wine was double-decanted and tasted under close to ideal conditions. The nose of dull cherry became even duller a few minutes after decanting, leaving an empty, generic alcohol smell. On the palate the acidity was unpleasantly high, with no fruit whatsoever. It finished with a hops-like bitter aftertaste and thin, tip-of-the-tongue-only, flavorless tannins. One wishes the finish would end sooner, but the bitterness and tannins are surprisingly persistant. While tasting this wine proved instructive as to what constitutes a "bad" wine, swallowing was rewarded with only regret. Further probing the nose for subtleties proved to be an even worse idea, as I detected the faint, but unmistakeable scent of animal fecal matter. I'm not kidding! It was very difficult to capture, but it was noticeable on three separate sniffings.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Roux Pere & Fils Beaujolais-Villages '05

In Brief:

2005 Roux Pere & Fils Beaujolais-Villages ($12, Varsity):
This Gamay (the first I've tasted) has a powerful, appetizing nose of candied cherries and strawberries, which is supported by a medium-bodied, slightly sweet, fruity palate, with good acidic freshness and strong tannins at the finish. The simplicity of this wine becomes boring after a glass or two, perhaps sooner if one is already acquainted with the flavor profile, and I eventually found the sweetness to be cloying. This would be a good, delicious introduction to red wine. Drinks easily. For lots of flavor and tannins with low alcohol content (12.5%) this is a good choice.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is powerful, fresh, and almost artificially fruity, like an overripe cherry confection, vaguely reminiscent of candied strawberries and overripe kiwis. Though I make analogies to strawberries and kiwis to describe the nose, there were not distinct tones but rather a single, unchanging scent.

The taste was similarly pure: loads of fresh fruit with a hint of sugar, acidic enough to evoke freshness. The wine is medium bodied, yet very flavorful with good extract. The sensation of ripe fruit fills the mouth. The finish is tart and considerably tannic.

In conclusion this is an extraordinarily simplistic wine, with an appetizing, aroma and a Wikipedia-entry palate. There is no transformation on the nose or palate, and no aromatic complexity at all.

It is quite good, but after a glass or two, it became tiring. Its simplicity and obvious component flavors became boring, and the slight sugary sweetness became cloying. I was left with the over-sugared sensation of having eaten lots and lots of jam. It's like eating candy - in a good and bad way.

We first tasted at Kalluri corner, where the wine seemed truly simplistic with the aromatic ambiance and tiny glasses. When I retasted from the Reidel bordeaux and the Ravenscroft amplifier, I was able to get a couple of different facets from the nose - notably the slight overripe kiwi characteristic. The fruit in the palate was more readily apparent too. In fact, even the texture was clearer in the mouth. The quiet, odor-free atmosphere in the study near my room, in combination with superior glasses, vastly clarified the bouquet and taste of the wine.

Conclusion: This wine drinks readily and requires no great concentration to enjoy it, however it left me unsatisfied in its over-sweetness, over-the-top (and slightly fake) fruitiness, and lack of complexity. A great wine to introduce a novice to red wine, since it illustrates acidity, medium body, tannins, and fruit aromas with blinding clarity. It was both frustrating and completely unrewarding to probe beneath its innocuous exterior (as I did to great length, aided by the Ravenscroft). I would only buy this wine again for a party of non-serious drinkers, or to introduce a friend to red wine.

Notes from Robert Parker:

RP: "Gamay is not drunk for its complexity but rather for its heady, direct, ripe, soft, fleshy, exuberant fruitiness and easygoing texture." - WBG 392

RP: "Beaujolais should be served [at] 53-56 degrees Fahrenheit." WBG 420
-Due to the cold and rainy night, this Beaujolais was probably somewhere in that range.

Parker also says that burgundies can be damaged by excessive aeration. This bottle was opened without decanting. and each glass poured "opened" in about 5 minutes of aeration by swirling.

RP: "The window of opportunity for drinking red and white Burgundy is one of the smallest of any great wine in the world. One of the great attributes of Bordeaux, and a reason, no doubt, why it commands the prices and international following it does, is the broad span of years over which it can be drunk. When a bottle of Bordeaux reaches its plateau of maturity, it can frequently remain there for 10, 15, sometimes 20 years before it begins a very slow process of decline. Burgundies can reach their plateau of maturity in five years and unceremoniously begin to fade after another six or seven months. " -WBG 421

RP: Drinking the finest mature red Burgundies is an experience akin to eating candy because of the extraordinary sweetness they convey. - WBG 422

'03 Small Gully "The Formula" Cab/Shiraz

In Brief:

2003 Small Gully "The Formula" Cabernet/Shiraz ($20, Varsity):
This is a delicious, deep wine, with lush aromas of dark cherry and overripe orange. The shiraz character is present but not dominant. Dark and dense, though medium-bodied, the fruit extract comes through boldly on the palate, and the gently tannic finish has hints of wood. I would have liked more tannins.

Tasting Notes:

We tasted this Cabernet/Shiraz blend at the Blue Point Grill in, thick-rimmed, almost cylindrical glasses, on the smallish side, but larger than Kalluri Corner's. Taking advantage of the screwtop bottle, we gave it a good shake after pouring the first glass, which seemed to open up the wine considerably. The nose was lush and filled with dark cherry and overripe oranges. There were also tones of lighter cherry, in the direction of a candied-cherry-like nose of a Saint-Emilion I tasted once (Jean-Faure '05). The shiraz character was present but not dominant.

On the palate there was an acceptable amount of acidity that did not hinder the big, dark, dense (though not viscous) fruity taste. Slightly spicy on the back of the throat, it had a good finish with woody tannins, though it could have benefited from more tannins to support its big, fruity frame and high alcohol content.

This was a delicious, deep wine, that may have possessed subtleties we missed under less-than-ideal drinking conditions. It paired wonderfully with mussels in white wine sauce and seared tuna, transforming flatteringly for each dish.

'05 Panarroz Jumilla

In Brief:

2005 Panarroz Jumilla ($10, Varsity):
The aroma of this blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, and Syrah is dark and salty, with a trace of blackberries. The palate reveals a medium-bodied wine with good extract and a simple tannic finish that is soothingly reminiscent of fresh bread. A good, straightforward wine.

Tasting Notes:

2005 Panarroz Jumilla ($10, Varsity)

We tasted this wine at Kalluri Corner, in the small, squat, thick-rimmed glasses they provided. Given the poor equipment and the strong ambient aromas of Indian spices, we probably missed the minutiae of the bouquet. There was a completely novel tone to the nose - a dark, almost salty scent (perhaps "leather"?) - with some fruit. Though the wine was medium-bodied, it had good extract and intensity of flavor. The finish was lightly tannic, with a hint of fresh bread. Comforting in it's simplicity, this was an un-exotic, straightforward wine, that was flavorful enough to pair well with naan, jalfarezi vegetables, and a mild channa masala.

Panarroz is the winemaker. Jumilla is the DO - Denominacion de Origen (the Spanish equivalent of France's AOC). While the DO of Jumilla is known for its use of Monastrell, the Panarroz is blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, and Syrah. The 2005 proportions are unknown, but past vintages have been equal parts, or 40, 40, 20.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

'05 Domaine Chèze, Cuvèe Ro-Rèe (St.-Joseph)

In Brief:

2005 Domaine Chèze Cuvèe Ro-Rèe (Saint-Joseph AOC, Rhône)($13 half-bottle, Corkscrew)
This 100% French Syrah possessed a lush, perfumed bouquet of bright warm hillsides, sun-drenched raspberries, gentle wood tones, and fresh bread. After an exceptional bouquet, quite distinct from Barrel Monkeys Shiraz and the Marquis Philips Shiraz, the light, acidic body with only moderate fruit concentration did not quite satisfy. The finish, though, lasted almost half a minute, with strong, fruity tannins.

Tasting Notes:

The bouquet was full and lush. Instead of the Marquis Philips' Plum and ripe pear notes, or the B.M.'s dark blackberries and smoke, this syrah smelled of bright warm hillsides, sun-drenched raspberries, gentle wood tones, and freshly baked bread. Not intense or powerful, the aromas were nevertheless mesmerizing, enchanting, and seductive. We tasted from two types of glasses - Reidel's 'Bordeaux' tumbler, and a Ravenscroft Vintner's Amplifier. While the Ravenscroft displayed a more concentrated aroma, each type of glass developed a distinct nose, both delicious. We took the first taste 20 minutes after decanting, and for the next hour or two, the bouquet continued to change, each inhalation releasing subtly different flavors.

If the bouquet was revelatory and beautiful, the taste and mouthfeel were not quite satisfying. It tasted good on the palate - all the elements of a Shiraz came through nicely, but it lacked texture, chewiness, and extract. The clear note of acidity (not present in Barrel Monkeys, present in Marquis Philips, but squashed by the sweetness) was not unpleasant, though wanted for more supporting fruit concentration. After such an attractive and lush nose, the mouthfeel and taste seemed a poor confirmation. The finish, however, was long, nicely tannic, and fruit-filled.

RP on the Saint-Joseph AOC:
"The northern Rhône's most underrated appellation for red and white wine. The reds and whites are juicy and best drunk young, preferably within 10 years of the vintage. No northern appellation has made as much qualitative progress as St.-Joseph. Moreover, these wines are fairly priced." - WBG 6th Ed. 698

Aromatic Profile:
"The red wines are the lightest, fruitiest, and mst feminine of the northern Rhône... Syrah can be at its fruitiest, lightest, and most charming in this appellation. A good St.-Joseph red should display a Burgundy-like black cherry, raspberry, and occasionally cassis-scented nose with medium body, light tannin, and zingy acidity. These are the Rhône's Valley's lightest reds and are best drunk in their first 5-6 years of life." - WBG 6th Ed. 705

Textural Profile:
"Good fruit presented in a medium-bodied, zesty format is the hallmark of a fine St.-Joseph red. They should not possess tannin for support, but rather crisp acidity"- WBG 6th Ed. 705

Louis Chèze:
"This is a northern Rhône estate to watch carefully. Chèze... has already made considerable progress with the quality of both his red and white wines. Moreover, he seems poised to soar enormously in quality over the next 4-5 years..." -WBG 6th Ed. (2002) 766

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wine Films

Clips on the Web:

Wine Library TV (Host: Gary Vaynerchuck):
These clips are great because of Gary's enthusiasm, breadth and depth of knowledge, and the fact that he describes the experience as it happens in time, which written notes cannot capture.

Robert M. Parker, Jr.
appears in the following interviews with Charlie Rose:

Charlie Rose special on Robert Parker

Charlie Rose: Robert Parker 1

Charlie Rose: Robert Parker 2

Charlie Rose: Robert Parker 3

Jancis Robinson appears in the following interview with Charlie Rose:

Charlie Rose: Jancis Robinson


Mondovino: Jonathan Nossiter's documentary on the globalization of wine is bewildering upon first watching - he seems to ridicule soulless californians and snooty french with impunity. However, watch it again with Jonathan's commentary and you will gain a unique perspective on the wine world.

Wine for the Confused: This is not so much an informative wine guide, as a guide to how to learn about wine, which I very much appreciate. Also, it's an hour of John Cleese!!! Watch it with friends over a bottle of wine and try not to die laughing.

Sideways: Whatever its faults, this movie first piqued my interest in wine. Actually my dad first piqued my interest in wine, but Sideways was second. For better or worse, this movie instilled in me a strong aversion to Merlot (which I've never tried).

'05 Marquis Philips Shiraz, '04 Bodegas Borsao: Borsao Crianza-Seleccion

In Brief:

2004 Bodegas Borsao: Borsao Crianza-Seleccion ($13, Varsity)

Fruity, sans sweetness, with nice acidity, this was a drinkable, bright wine. Since we have not previously tasted the Spanish varietals in this blend, we didn't know what to focus on, or to expect with this blend. No one aspect of the wine's nose or flavour stood out, as in the case of the B.M.'s smokiness, or the Yalumba's floral bouquet. (RP89)

2005 Marquis Philips Shiraz ($19, Witherspoon)
Fruity and viscous, with plum and pear besides the characteristic Shiraz blackcurrants and blackberries, this smokeless wine delivered complex flavours and scents with great clarity and intensity- but quite frankly, too sweet. (RP 91)

Tasting Notes:

2004 Bodegas Borsao: Borsao Crianza-Seleccion

Tasted this too early (~5 minutes after pouring) - it hadn't developed yet. Fruity with significant, though not unpleasant, acidity. Very little tannin in the finish. The nose was delicious and inviting, smelling of bright, warm, ripe fruit. I tasted a hint of initial sweetness, on the same order of magnitude as the Barrel Monkeys. It was enjoyable, but not interesting or impressive, since we lack reference for this blend of (according to the bottle) half-Grenache, a quarter-Tempranillo, and a quarter-Cabernet Sauvignon. In the future, we plan to taste similar blends together, and varietals with the same varietal.

"A stunning value, the 2004 Borsao Crianza Seleccion (a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Tempranillo, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon) was aged 10 months in French oak. It is a delicious, hedonistic fruit bomb offering soft tannins, medium to full body, and loads of sexy blackberry and cherry fruit as well as hints of earth and spice box. The elegance, flavor depth, and richness are amazing for this price point. Drink it over the next 1-2 years." RP 89

2005 Marquis Philips Shiraz

We vigorously decanted half the bottle, waited ~10 minutes before drinking. I think this peaked around 15-20 minutes after a well-agitated decanting, and remained open and aromatic for at least an hour. The bouquet bloomed noticeably. At first, from the bottle, it smelt faintly of sulfur (less than the B.M. from the bottle). Later, from the decanter, there were different fruit tones, especially blackberries/blackcurrants - the characteristic Shiraz aromas, but also plum and ripe pear. It was quite sweet. There was lots of fruit, but the sweetness, high alcohol content, and viscosity created a fleshy, heavy feeling. As a wine novice, I was impressed by two aspects of the Barrel Monkeys: First, the ability to deliver a strong, concentrated fruit aroma and flavour, without sweetness (save a small trace - 1.1% according to the importer). Second was a long, fruity finish, that melted away into mouth-puckering tannins, yet without bitterness. This wine had a tannic finish, but it was somewhat bullied by the intense sweetness. Any peppery nature was masked by a noticeable bite of alcohol in the back of the throat. At 15.9%, it was very alcoholic, and the mouthfeel was noticeably more viscous than the Bodegas Borsao. In small quantities, an enjoyable, interesting wine. After a glass or two, the sweetness becomes a bit cloying.

Tasters: Rajiv, Sanjiv, Paul, Jo, Liz, Doug

"Cut from the same mold as the Sarah's Blend, the inky/blue/purple-colored 2005 Shiraz offers up sweet, rich aromas of blackberries, toasty wood, licorice, and a touch of pepper. This dense, opulent, fleshy, full, rich, mouthfilling, concentrated Shiraz should drink well for 3-4 years."

2005 Marquis Philips Specs (The Grateful Palate Imports)

Region(s): Langhorne Creek, Padthaway, McLaren Vale
Varietal: Shiraz
Vine Age: 10-15 yrs
Alcohol: 15.8%
Fermentation: Completely barrel-fermented in oak. Barrel matured for 12 months.
Oak: 1 yr old American Oak
Production: 48,000 cases

'04 Barrel Monkeys: revisited! '04 Ch. Haut-Maurac (Medoc)

In brief:

2004 Haut-Maurac ($18, Corkscrew)
Almost no fruit, slight bitterness, a drab wine that smells better than it tastes, and is not really worth swallowing.

2004 Barrel Monkeys ($19, Community)
Still the standard for an excellent Shiraz! Deep, smoky, with blackcurrants and blackberries. A complex nose. The aroma blooms after~15 minutes, and the taste improves with each sip. Ripe fruit without residual sugar. Very long, fruity, tannic finish without bitterness. (RP90)

Tasting Notes:

Purchased two stemless Reidel Bordeaux glasses ($10/glass). The aromas are noticeably clearer and more enjoyable. We began to understand Alexis Lichine's assertion (and many other famous tasters') that scent/bouquet is everything: taste is merely a confirmation of the bouquet. In another manner of speaking, the aroma is the art, smelling is the tasting. The literal tasting and the drinking/swallowing of the wine are just perks.

At the Princeton Corkscrew's recommendation (not the Mr. Chapuis, a younger guy) - we purchased a 2004 Ch. Haut-Maurac. Cru Bourgeois, from Medoc, Bordeaux, $18. We were hoping to get an idea of a representative Bordeaux.

The nose had no fruit and smelled bright, yet inorganic. There was very little tannic finish, and puzzlingly it was bitter without being tannic, while the Barrel Monkeys was tannic at the end without being bitter. According to the guy in the shop, this wine has aromas of leather and earthy scents. We cannot corroborate this. We are in agreement that it was an unremarkable wine - there is no fruit in the taste at all, the mouthfeel is watery compared to the Barrel Monkeys. The nose was better than the taste. In fact, the nose was almost interesting - with a hint of fruit and perhaps some mineral scents, but it was not an inviting, or delicious bouquet, and I doubt it is a good representative of Bordeaux. With the thousand-odd Bordeaux wines that Robert Parker reviews every year, including 100 or more in our price range (<$25), I am intensely suspicious of a Bordeaux wine not reviewed by Parker. In fact this Chateaux has no vintages reviewed by Parker, or by any other significant critic.

Method: The wine was still very cool from the shop. We put a damp paper towel on it to cool it to slightly below air-conditioned room temperature. We poured it and let it sit for ~5 minutes before smelling and drinking. I was disinclined to finish the glass, so I left half the glass open while we went for a snack. Upon returning an hour later, the wine had noticeably changed. There was a distinct acid tone I had not noticed before. I thought perhaps there was a bit of fruit that had not been there before. The wine had bloomed slightly into a more complex entity, though unfortunately still not delicious. It still smelled better than it tasted. The rest of the bottle went to Monsieur Le Sink.

2004 Barrel Monkeys: Revisited!

After mentally comparing all wines with B.M. since that first tasting on Jo's birthday, I began to wonder how accurate my memory was. We poured a glass, let it sit for ~10 minutes, then tasted. My memory was accurate: the wine was intense as I remembered with beautifully deep flavors and aromas. The warmth of one's hand noticeably changes and deepens the bouquet, improving the clarity of the scents. The brief sweetness on the tip of the tongue was more noticeable to me this time. According to the importer (Vine St. Imports), the wine has 1.1% residual sugar, higher than the <.2% of a textbook "dry wine" (according to Alexis Lichine). The taste of fruit was profound - blackcurrants, blackberries, and smoke. There was something else in the nose as well - a flavour I could not recognize (perhaps RP's "liquorice"?). The tannic finish was long and delightful. More viscous than the Haut-Maurac, the feel was not quite chewy, but there was considerable concentration and substance. In conclusion: a wonderful wine that (at this inexperienced point in my tastings) challenges me and instantly reminds me of the dear friend with whom I first tasted it.

Barrel Monkeys Specs (Vine Street Imports)

Region: McLaren Vale
Varietal: Shiraz
Vintage: 2004
Vineyard: Multi vineyard blend - McLaren Vale
Vine Age: average of 20 years
Clones: predominately 1654 1127
Residual Sugar: 1.1
Alcohol: 15.5%
Brix: 24 - 27
Skin Contact: 10 day ferment, minimal post ferment skin contact
Oak: Tight grain, med toast 30% new french & american
Winemaking: Monkey Kung Fu
“Lover, not a Fighter" or “Chance favors the prepared mind".
We source fruit which naturally exhibits great concentration of flavor and color. We sometimes delay harvest until there is partial shrivel of the berries – a natural “Amarone” conducted on the vine. We drain off up to 15% of the free juice from the skins immediately after crushing. This bleeding or “Salasso” as coined by the Italians, results in a must with a much higher skin to juice ratio. The resultant wine is therefore more generous and carries more natural extract and darkness of color.
Production: 4,500 cases