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.