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

'04 Yalumba Shiraz/Viognier (Barossa Valley), '04 Bonny Doon Cardinal Zin

In Brief:

2004 Yalumba Barossa Shiraz/Viognier (Barossa Valley) (Wegman's ~$20):
Lighter and brighter than Barrel Monkeys, fruity, floral, and complex - a heady and colorful wine. (RP90)

2004 Bonny Doon Cardinal Zin (California) (Wegman's ~20):
Disappointing, given Ralph Steadman's colorful description. An uninspiring, if unoffending wine.

Tasting Notes:

Both were tasted outdoors, on a still-breezed, warm summer day.

Yalumba Barossa Shiraz/Viognier 2004
Aside from shiraz aromas, the nose had a floral tone (perhaps from the Viognier?). It smells brighter and headier (perhaps because the viognier is a white wine grape, and so has a higher vapor pressure). The initial sweetness is lighter than the Barrel Monkeys. Fruit impressions: pear, nectarine, other light fruits. Between extremely light fruit tones, right before the bite, there is a tinge of a flavor that is unusual and weird - perhaps RP's "glycerin"?<>. Barrel Monkeys had a long finish, with loads of tannins - mouth puckering - a good conclusion to the series of dark, intense flavors. Here, though, there is almost no astringency at the end. There is a acidity right after the initial sweetness which was not there at all, to my recollection, in the Barrel Monkeys - perhaps this acidity contributes to my impression of lightness. An interesting and delicious wine, whose flavors and aromas are communicated with clarity.

"The outstanding 2004 Shiraz/Viognier (95% and 5% respectively) offers an exotic, flamboyant nose of blackberries and flowers along with wonderful intensity, richness, fruit, and glycerin. Enjoy it over the next 3-4 years. Importer: Negociants USA, Napa, CA; tel. (707) 259-0993"

2004 Bonny Doon Cardinal Zin:

The flavors were not as intense as expected. Contrary to what I have read about Zinfandels, it was less alcoholic than the Yalumba, with very little bite. There is a pleasant fruitiness - blackberries and raspberries - yet the flavors are unclear and hard to isolate. The nose seems darker, though with a lemon-rind, perhaps grassy tinge. Its aromas are less heady than the Yalumba - in fact, the alcohol is barely noticeable in the nose, though it is only 0.5% less by volume than the Yalumba (13.5%). Drinkable, unremarkable.

Robert Parker:
"There are just over 13,500 cases of this wine, which should be called "Cardinal Sin" as it is a crisp, tart, lean effort with little fruit. I'm sure the irrepressible Randal Grahm will argue that it reeks of terroir, but, if truth be known, there is little to it. According to the fact sheet, it is a blend of 73% Zinfandel, 13% Carignane, 5% Mourvedre, and dollops of Barbera, Dolcetto, and Freisa. It's a shame one of the wine world's most talented, innovative as well as funny people has become a poster boy for massive quantities of industrial-styled, innocuous wines. -No Rating Given"

Winemaker's Specs

The 2005 blend is 77% zinfandel, of which 77% is grown in the Central Coast. For years we have been buying grapes from this 100 year old sandy vineyard for our Cardinal Zin blend. The warmer climate gives rise to the more classic plum and cherry aromas.

The grapes are handpicked and trucked to Santa Cruz for processing. All of our zinfandel is 100% destemmed. The zinfandel variety by nature has large berry and cluster size. We perform a 20% saigner to help increase the juice ratio in our zinfandel ferments. Through saigner, we achieve a more concentrated wine with rich mouthfeel. During peak ferment the tanks are pumped over and delestaged up to three times a day. The wine is fermented dry and pressed off skins.

After primary fermentations, we blended 13% carignane and 4% mourvedre to complete the blend. The wine goes through a malolactic fermentation and is aged in 3,000 gallon wood tanks for 8 months. We aged about 20% of the wine on medium toast oak dominos for 4 months. The oak treatment contributes a clove spice character and soft vanilla character which helps to balance out the final blend. Before bottling, we lightly filter the wine.

All this treatment and still the wine fails to please - perhaps it was "eviscerated" by filtering!

Wine Literature

A list of helpful literature.

The Emperor of Wine (Elin McCoy)
-Fascinating, clear and informative. An excellent orientation to the unreliable and bullshit-filled world of wine.
Making Sense of Wine (Matt Kramer)
-credibility doubtful, but very provocative
Alexis Lichine's New Encyclopedia of Wine and Spirits
-old attitudes, old knowledge: a good reference.
Terry Robards' New Book of Wine
-Robards writes for the Wine Spectator.
Hugh Johnson's World Atlas of Wine
-Excellent maps, again - old attitudes, old knowledge, but a good reference.
The Wine Brats' guide to living with wine
-Their focus on de-snobberizing wine often hinders their clear thinking. The shape of the glass matters, guys- Accept it!
Untrodden Grapes (Ralph Steadman)
-Almost no credibility to speak of, this is best treated as a fantastically illustrated work of fiction. A fabulous book.
Judgment of Paris : California vs. France and the historic 1976 Paris tasting that revolutionized wine (George M. Taber)
-Dry and pedantic, with exhaustive histories of each wine at the tasting, this is nonetheless factual and credible, and not overly florid or fanciful in descriptions. An excellent portrayal of a critical period in the history of the wine industry.

Windows on the World of Wine (Kevin Zraly)
This is the first education-geared book I have read. As a student still in college, I'm something of a connoisseur of textbooks, if you will, and I found this to be greatly lacking. For one, its attempted scope is far to large. Often Zraly describes pricing and classification without any description of the characteristic tastes of the region. While I appreciate the accessibility of his writing, there are many elements of the wine world that are far too complex to simplify, and by doing so, one sacrifices the true picture of things. Trying to extract information from this book was like trying to work out the mechanism of DNA replication by reading a zoology textbook.

Books by Robert Parker:

The World's Greatest Wine Estates
Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide

-All of these are excellent references.


The Wine Spectator
-Flashy and commercial, with wine advertisements sandwiching wine ratings, this journal appears to cater to the inexperienced and imprecise, especially the rich and clueless. In my opinion, it's lack of credibility and reliability (because of committee tastings), and emphasis on simplifying the immensely complex world of wine, make it a confusing read. Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate, however, generously refers to The Spectator as "Required Reading." More telling is the curious fact that full-page ads in the Wine Spectator often advertise their wine's Parker Score.
-An extensive, if clumsy, database of ratings and tasting notes. Parker's scores are consistent, and his tasting notes are articulate and appetizing. His expert avoidance of conflict-of-interest, and willingness to admit his rare mistakes, make him by far the most credible wine critic.

'04 Barrel Monkeys Shiraz (Redhead Studios, McLaren Vale), '05 Cycles "Gladiator" Pinot Noir

In Brief:

2005 Gladiator Pinot Noir ($13, Community)
Unremarkable, unoffending

2004 Barrel Monkeys Shiraz (Redhead Studios) ($19, Community)
Remarkable clarity and intensity of flavors, especially blackberries and smoke. My reference point so far for a delicious, complex, and individual Shiraz. (RP90)

Tasting Notes:

The 2005 Gladiator Pinot Noir was briefly chilled before tasting (~10 minutes at 4 C). Faint sweetness on the tip of the tongue yielded to an assortment of soft flavors, some too faint or brief for me to isolate. A smooth finish with a hint of dryness, it was a wine to linger over. The second time I tried it, it was too cold, and the flavour seemed washed out. In retrospect, it seems unremarkable and lacking clarity, especially compared to the Barrel Monkeys.

Later we tasted the 2004 Redhead Studios "Barrel Monkeys" Shiraz. It was briefly and faintly sweet on the tip of the tongue for a fraction of a second, then deep and powerful, the dark fruit registering boldly and lucidly, but again, almost too quickly to capture. Blackberries and smoke! There were multiple dimensions to the flavour: mouthfeel (viscosity, texture, astringency, alcoholic bite), flavour, associations (visceral associations with smoke and dark fruits), location on the tongue, and time (the time-sequence of flavours and sensations was surprisingly quick and difficult to dissect).

RP: 2004 Barrel Monkeys:
"As the hilarious label says, "Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Taste No Evil." A saturated ruby/purple color is accompanied by aromas and flavors of blackberries and licorice in this medium to full-bodied, classic Australian fruit bomb. Pure, ripe, and undeniably delicious, it should be enjoyed over the next 1-3 years. Score: 90. —Robert Parker, October 2006."