Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Friday, February 29, 2008

Back To Paso Robles

I'll start with a disappointment and end with a bang - two wines that changed radically in the course of just a few months. The 2004 Turley Ueberroth Zin was a smooth, balanced medium sized beauty with great fruit at the winery. Now we get lots black fruit, but also vegetal, eucalyptus smells and flavors. While technically maybe not a defect, for my palate it is a turn off. What happened? Is it just bottle variation or something else? On the other hand, while the 2004 Tablas Creek Tannat was dark, inky and good at the winery, it has turned into a mind-blowing fruit filled monster - big, inky, purple, spectacularly fruity, but not jammy. Tablas Creek, a collaboration of the American Haas Family and the French Perrin family, was a pioneer in the Rhone Ranger movement in the U.S. and, in fact, many of the starts for Rhone vines in California and Washington came from Tablas Creek. Tannat is not a Rhone variety, but someone in France couldn't help themselves and shipped it anyway. Let us be grateful. Tannat is the main grape in the Irouleguy appellation in the Basque country and in the Madiran appellation of Southwest France. For many years, Madiran was created a black monster, kind of the Grendel of wine, that only mellowed with many years of ageing. When we were at Daguin's Hotel de France restaurant in Auch some years ago, he strongly recommended against Madiran with duck breast as he felt the wine would overwhelm the duck. In recent years, some Madiran and Irouleguy winemakers have softened up as traditional Madiran and Irouleguy are so against the current global taste in wine. The winemaker at Tablas Creek has achieved the perfect balance between Old World tradition and New World fruit. This wine cries out for duck. This wine is loaded with fruit and loaded with tannin. Which will win? The Tablas Creek website says it is "surprisingly approachable", will benefit from three to five years of ageing, and will last for ten years. It certainly has a enough tannin to age, but how will the fruit change? As mentor, Fritsy Haskell used to say, "wine is a living thing!"

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

1997 Whitehall Lane Leonardini Merlot

Another California wine that has aged well. This wine was great, perhaps at its peak, five years ago, but like a beautiful woman, it is still beautiful five years later with perhaps a subtle touch of refinement. Healthily red blooded with no more youthful purple blush, but full of refined flavors of raspberry and chocolate in a subdued subtle way, not as great as a 20 year old Bordeaux, but a pleasure to drink nevertheless. Who says American wines don't age well? Me! Except that some of them do pretty well. Unfortunately this is hard to guess at, although reserve wines and wines from specific vineyards generally age better as do many so-called cult wines, although this is not always true. What a shame that winemakers seem more and more reluctant to reveal their intentiona and best guess about when a wine achieve maturity and how long it will last. Matt Kramer recently wrote about his experinece of floundering around without a list of tips and without the ease he experienced as a professional wine writer offered free sample all the time - kind of like the first President Bush not knowing about a bar code scanner in a supemarket.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

1997 Robert Craig Affinity

I definitely have an affinity for this Bordeaux-style beauty. Someone on the internet called it spectacular and they are right. Not all American wines fade early. This one, at ten years of age, seems to be only about halfway through to full maturity. Deep rich brick red in color, the nose is full of black fruit notes especially and truly cassis followed by meat, tobacco, tar - almost like a traditional Barolo. Big and youngish tasting, reminiscent of a big Washington state Syrah. Not a fruitbomb but somewhat jammy and in the Robert Parker style -raspberry, cherry, blueberry and chocolate. This would be great with a Valentine's Day dinner of steak followed by a chocolate dessert. Robert Craig is kind of a super-second in the cult world of Napa wines - that is delicious, but not outrageously expensive and more available than, say, Screaming Eagle.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

First 2005 Bordeaux

I just picked up a bottle of 2005 Chateau Tour St. Bonnet, Medoc Cru Bourgeois at Costco for ten bucks. Beyond all the hype surrounding this Bordeaux vintage, this is a real value. If it is a harbinger of what's to come, look out! Loaded with raspberry fruit upfront, it follows through with a medium dose of tannin and acid. It will benefit from ageing for a few years. Not complex, but interesting enough for the price. Buy a case and start drinking it in a year. For some of us , this could be our everyday wine. For the rest a great splurge. Might be at it's best in 2011. In the bad old days it might have rated a 75, which was not bad, but now we must give it an 84. If the French could produce this level of quality at these prices consistently, they might actually succeed in the global market. Here the French finally have the raw material for Ten Buck Charles.
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