Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
This time around the the 2005 Starr Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles fruit was the standout. Aged in 100% French oak, this medium bodied wine has an appealing nose of berries, earth and mushrooms with rich complex flavors and hints of spice. Carole came up with the best descriptors - fuzzy, chewy, dirt. Her mind has not been tainted by years of read ing the same old stale wine notes - cassis, lead pencil, and forest floor. The 2005 Viognier from Bien Nacido Vineyard was fresh, clean, round and fruity. The fresh 2005 Roussanne was too green apple for me this time around. The 2006 Rose tasted of strawberry and rhubarb. The ruby red 2005 Grenanche had a lovely nose and tasted of rhubarb pie. The 2004 Syrah tasted of berries and mocha. The 2005 Zin tasted too tart and green to me. The Reserve wines seem more subdued or shall we say, reserved. In addition to the 2005 Cab, our favorites were the 2005 Grenacheand the 2004 Syrah. Next year we hope to taste Sophie's wine!
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Washington Merlot Wins!
A few days ago, ten of us, tasted three inexpensive American Merlots blind. The result? A statistical rarity - every taster ranked the wines the same way. The winner? 2004 Columbia Crest Merlot, available at almost every gas station in Washington state for $7 a bottle. The other two wines - Two Buck Chuck($2-$3) and Searidge Merlot (4$ -Safeway's answer to Two Buck Chuck). The Columbia Crest seems round balanced, easy with good fruit. The Charles Shaw had off, chemical smells (volatile acidity?) and tasted thin and tart. Probably a spoiled bottle, although around here, the distributors seem to hold wine too long in hot conditions. The Searidge seemed ordinary. Any of these would work better with food. If we had had a better bottle of Two Buck Chuck, it probably would have been softer, fruitier with a sweet feel to it, but the Columbia Crest still would have been better. Finally, price is related to quality!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
So Many Wines, So Little Time!
Paso was known for olives for many years and it is only recently that the wine world there has bloomed. Just like Walla Walla, known for onions, the number of wineries has exploded in the past five to ten years. Paso even has its eccentric Frenchman at L'Aventure making world class wine . It has its incubator wineries similar to those at the Walla Walla airport such as Anglim which has a tasting room downtown and makes wine in a shared facility. Winemakers help each other out. The winemaker at Tablas Creek trained with the winemaker at Adelaida and Tablas Creek in partnership with Chateau Beaucastel imported Rhone varietal vines that pretty much launched the Rhone Rangers and many of the wineries in Paso Robles. It even has it's superstars such as Helen Turley who can hide out in Paso from the advocats and barristers in Napa while turning out great wines in pastoral bliss just west of downtown.
Paso is split into two very distinct regions - east and west of downtown. To the west, the wines are the antithesis of the stereotypic California fruitbomb. No tropical fruit and oak here. The wines are almost all somewhat acidic and thin in a style very similar to their French counterparts. They are definitely food wines. To Robert Parker's credit many of these limestone based wines have scored in the 90s showing that Parker is not stuck on the gout Parker, even though winemakers all over the world are still striving for the Enologix numbers that paint a wine big with lots of fruit and chocolate. Wines from the east side are valley wines with more fruit and soft structure, more typical of the California prototype. With so many wines and so little time we spent what little we had on the west side among the limestone slopes between the town and the glorious 1700 foot hills lurking majestically above the Pacific.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
La Reve Californie
Driving down the backside of Silicon Valley on I-280 (not in the rush hour), the tawny hills show no evidence of the frenetic activity just over the hill, creating a precursor, an illusion perhaps, of pastoral peace and beauty to come - the smell of eucalyptus, cattle grazing beside the road, vines showing their colors on gradual slopes - who could ask for more?
For me, La Reve Californie is the wine country, not the Napa Valley with its trophy and tourist wineries, but the the wine country - Paso Robles, Los Olivos, Solvang, Lampoc, Santa Barbara. Lucky me, I got to stay with my friends, Steve and Carole, in Morro Bay where the surf hits the sand, the sun sets are pink, the views are spectacular, you can still buy locally caught fish and the wineries are just a short drive away. Steven, BTW, makes the best poached eggs in the world. So tempting, they call out for red wine!
On the way to Morro Bay, I stopped at Hahn and Scheid wineries near Arroyo Seco. The Hahn wines were okay, but nothing to write home about. Carole tells me I tasted the wrong wines. Hahn had pulled out 30 year old Cab and Merlot vines to replace them with Pinot Noir. Why? Terroir? Winemaker preference? Money! The Bordeaux grapes went for about $2000 a ton, the Pinot sells for $4500. Thanks a lot, Miles! Oh well, so much for pastoral beauty, nothing is what it appears to be.
Scheid on the other hand continues to supply their grapes to many prominent wineries, but decided to make some wine of their own. Their 2006 Sauvignon Blanc is an exquisite example of the Sauv Blanc prototype in the "New Zealand style" although I found it pleasantly lighter. Elegant, light, crisp, tart with just the right amount of grassiness, lemon and grapefruit in both the nose and the mouth. Great with fish, seafood, and oysters, but quite good on it's own, too, since is so nicely balanced and not too acidic. If I were handing out ratings it would definitely rate at least a "90."
Check back to read about my visit to Paso Robles wimeries with Steve and Carole.
Monday, October 08, 2007
1. 2006 Trinchero Chardonnay, California - fresh, dry, fruity, great value, drink now - $6
2. 2006 Hogue Fume Blanc, Washington - dry, but balanced, Sauvignon Blanc, drink now $4
3. 2006 Moulin Ferrand Entre Deux Mers, France - Dry, crisp, tart, with good body, great oyster wine, drink now - $6
1. 2006 Osborne Solaz, Merlot/Tempranillo, Spain - Delicious, fruity, Tempranillo with "training wheels," drink now - $5
2. 2006 Terra Brisa, Malbec, Argentina - excellent, good fruit, interesting Malbec flavors, drink now - $5
3. 2006 Serabel, Cotes du Rhones, France - light, fruity, easy, like Beaujolais, drink now -$5
4. 2005 Segonzac, Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux, France - Fantastic value, a full-fledged 2005 Bordeaux with great black fruit flavors and lots of tannin just as a good Bordeaux should be at this stage , definitely need to be laid down for several years. Buy a case and see how this wine develops over time. Start to drink 2009 - $10
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Our Home Away From Home
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Almost Just Right - Enotria!
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
One night we went to "Pair", a very popular local neighborhood bistro, with our friends Sam and Carol. "Pair" is apparently an allusion to the pairing of wine and food. Even though they have a fairly long wine list and a one page menu of small plates, I didn't actually see any effort to pair wine and food. We tasted five different wines by the glass. I had a 2005 Gournier Viognier from France. It tasted tart, old and tired - adequate, but boring really. Sam had a 2006 Trumpeter Shiraz/Malbec from Argentina - earthy, rustic and good. Carol had a 2004 Hornillos Ballesteros, Mibal, Ribera del Duero Tempranillo from Spain. It was clearly the best wine with delicious black berry fruit and a quality Carol described as rustic, the characteristic smokiness of Spanish wine which has almost been banished like the real flavor of real pork ( the non-other white meat) and the real flavor of real lamb. Diane had a 2004 Valentina, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo from Italy which had a bright cherry nose with hints of tobacco. It was round soft and easy with good fruit - a good value. The most interesting wine was a "Pinot Noir" from the Trentino in Northern Italy. This 2005 Pinot Nero from Lecthaler first presented with a small blast of acid, but then it was smooth fruity and relatively light like an inexpensive Oregon Pinot.
The plates were small. The Romano Beans and Roasted Artichokes were tasty and the portions were adequate. The Confit of Duck was less than two square inches, as were the Salmon and Halibut - just barely enough for a micro taste for each of the four of us. I thought if they had had Escargot on the menu that they would serve just one snail. It seems we are going from Cuisine Minceur to Mini to Micro to Miniscule. Soon the glass pours will shrink, too, and I will be forced to lose weight.The health authorities certainly needn't fear that Pair is contributing to those 200 extra calories Americans consume every day. Perhaps it is better to think of pair as a wine bar. All I know is at $50 per person I felt robbed.