Monday, February 28, 2011

The Weekend in Drinking

2003 Edi Kante Refosco was pure, focused, and delicious though maybe a bit pricey from what I hear; 2006 Deux Montille Pernand-Vergelesses Sous Fretille initially showed a little too plump, sweet and oaky, though it firmed and brightened up quite nicely after a few days in the fridge; 2000 Quinta do Feital Dorado Vinho Verde (yes, you are reading correctly - a 10 year old vinho verde) really was an interesting wine that grew on me over the several days it was open; 2002 Cazin Cour-Cheverny Cuvee Renaissance was tangy, candied, crystalline deliciousness; the Marco de Grazia Pinot Grigio in the Burgundy bottle was not surprisingly garbage (Josh, good to see you but I neglected to give you shit for this one, so I'm doing it now even though you're not so much up on the blogs...anyway, pinot grigio? Do you not recommend wine to people for a living??); Speziale Rauchbier on draft was smoky, malty perfection in a .5 liter stein.

Let's make it a good week everyone!

Friday, February 25, 2011

This week's Old & Rare: 1957 Calon Segur

Always fun to get a taste of something old at ye olde wine shoppe. This magnum did not have the best fill (mid-shoulder, I think someone who saw it told me), but boy did it show well. Intense, almost pungent, spicy dried cherry aromas, with still plenty of fruit intensity on the palate, with savory, peppery meaty umami notes co-mingling. A wonderful combination of freshness and evolutionary BDX savor. Very tasty, and probably one of the better OLD old Bordeaux I've tasted (though that's an admittedly pretty small group of wines).

Another old Bordeaux tasted earlier in the week, 1983 Chateau Canon St Emilion, was pretty, with very bright and slightly toasty red fruit, but not a whole lot of depth of flavor. A brighter palate impression, though without too much complexity, this wine is likely (I think) showing close to its best these days. Would love to hear other opinions from folks who have tried other bottles.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tasted Recently...

Nothing too crazy, but some goodies to be sure. I'll probably post another one of these later in the week, as I expect to be tasting some middle aged and older right bank Bordeaux - wines I hardly drink or describe on the site.

For now, though, a short list of goodies:

Equipo Navazos No.21 La Bota de Palo Cortado Jerez de la Frontera

From Valdespino, the oldest bodega in Jerez (and a bodega I will be visiting in less than a month, very exciting). This wine is so perfect an expression of palo cortado: the salty tang of amontillado, but with incredible flavor intensity and elegance, as well as a bit more richness on the mid-palate. Still a dry style. This is one of my top sherries. Just amazing.

Gutierrez Colosia "Sangre y el trabadero" Oloroso El Puerto de Santa Maria

I enjoyed a glass of this immediately after the La Bota above. Somehow, miraculously, it refused to be outclassed and certainly held its own. That having been said, it's important to note that these are entirely different sherries. The La Bota No. 21 contains some very old wine, and is the Jerez equivalent of any iconic, benchmark producer you can think of elsewhere. Sangre y trabadero (literally translated as "Blood and the worker," profound stuff, no?) is a younger wine, as well as an oloroso stylistically. So the wine never had any flor form above the wine in barrel. It is still a dry style oloroso, with a low (for oloroso) 18% alcohol. It shows just a hint of the rancio character inherent in oloroso wines, but the predominate quality in this oloroso, this oxidatively styled, fortified wine, is, quite paradoxically, freshness.

[Quick break from the notes. I should mention that the podcast will likely have at least 1 episode from Jerez. Live and direct. Once things get going, I will continue to post episodes (as I posted the trailer - scroll down a few posts if you have yet ot listen) on this site. It is also on iTunes and you can subscribe just like any of your other favorite podcasts. In fact, I encourage you to do just that whenever you are next on iTunes. Things are set up and ready to go.]

2008 Henri Gouges Bourgone Rouge

If anyone has not yet had a Gouges experience, you seriously ought to take corrective action as soon as humanly possible. Buy a bottle, order one in a restaurant, encourage a friend to open one from their cellar, whatever you've got to do. 2008 seems to be all about the charm with red Burgundies: fresh fruit, great acidity and transparency. As with the best of Bourgogne Rouge bottlings, this not only is a delicious drink, but it shows a lot of character reflective of its more specific origin: Nuits St Georges. Pure, focused, slightly floral and mineral dark berry fruit predominates. This is all domaine fruit from two separate .5 hectare plots.

As we are at the close of SF Beer Week, here are a few beers to round things out.

Kern River "Just Outstanding" IPA (draft)

Kern River has, deservedly so, been getting a lot of traction with this brew. I enjoyed a pint of the Just Outstanding yesterday at what is arguably the best German restaurant and bar in the Bay Area, Gourmet Haus Stadt. Hoppy to be sure, but not in the overt, California, uber hoppy to the point of distraction way. This is hoppy beer that is still balanced between alcohol, floral hop quality, and bitter notes. There is a more assertive malt build than is typical of the style, perhaps this is why I liked it more than most other IPA's?

Haandbryggeriet "Haandbic" Wile Ale

Currants, cranberries, lambic style yeast and bacteria, 18 months in barrel...right up my alley. This is one of the most complex and satisfying, intense and ethereal, as well as downright vinous beers I have ever tasted. To the wine drinkers, I'll just say that it somehow simultaneously evoked the Gouges Bourgogne above (pure red fruits) and Radikon's Ribolla (funky/cidery, but without sacrificing purity or focus). To the more beer inclined, I'll just say that if you like sours, Haandbryggeriet continues to make some of the most compelling ones around (I've found their other, non-sour offerings, to also be good and certainly worth checking out). To anyone reading, I'll go out on a limb here and say that for about $11 for a 500ml, this is one of the more gratifying beverages of any kind I have yet to taste.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A surprising discovery: or after tasting Chilean wines earlier in the day it all tastes good

Towards the end of the work day, I headed into the tasting room at work and, well, put in some work. Tasting. Champagnes, some Bordeaux, an older (85, was it?) Viader Napa Cab. Yeah, lots of the champagnes were delicious as always. Even the PJ was palateable (sorry to be lazy and infer the commonplace narrative that grand marque = bad, boring or a combination of the two). 2000 Fleury Cuvee Robert Fleury was soft, rich, open knit and welcoming. Aspasie Blanc de Blancs struck a particular chord on this day too - I usually like their wines ok but today it seemed especially full of vigor and delicious, extract packed flavor. Tasty champagnes aside, this post isn't about what I have come to expect, rather it is about surprises.

2008 Chateau Olivier Pessac Leognan Blanc. White Bordeaux. Sauvignon Blanc and semillon. 1/3 aged in new barrel. What's the big deal, here? Well, the wine simply struck me as a mouthwateringly delicious, tightly coiled young white Bordeaux, as memorable as I've had in a while. Mineral, bracing and full of a specific strain of acidity in white wine or champagne that I rarely encounter. Let's just call it, um, you know what I don't even know what to call it. It brings to mind my one Edmond Vatan Sancerre experience, Tarlant cuvee Louis, Houillon Savagnin, an eclectic mix of seemingly unrelated French white wines which I know to varying degrees, all of which however I respect greatly, due in no small part to this particular brand of intense, illuminating, yet balanced acidity. So why did this Pessac Leognan, previously unknown to me, make such a strong impression? All I know about this property is that it may be one of the very oldest in Bordeaux, with a recorded history going back to the 13th century. Maybe it's the vintage, perhaps the chateau is making some terrific wines, or maybe I had just had a long day of tasting, and any decently balanced young white wine with high acidity would have made a similar impression.

I know that $30-$40 white Bordeaux is not what many folks are looking for these days, but I would be curious if anyone out there has some experience with this estate's white wines. Anyone?

Monday, February 14, 2011

A quick one blog shoutout, Polish edition

Wojciech Bonkowski's Polish Wine Guide, as I was recently reminding myself while perusing the blog, is a useful site for anyone interested in learning something about wine as well as tea. Though the focus is on central and eastern european wines (a topic which even we champions of the underdog and lovers of the obscure know little about), Bonkowski will also review many other wines, as well as provide in-depth tea reviews. Beautiful photo's, great writing (in English) and another voice in the wine blogosphere well worth checking out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

SPAIN 2011

In about a month, it will once again be time for the annual (hopefully, going forward twice yearly?) trip to Spain. A portion of the trip I will be tagging along with this NC resident's crew, with stops in Jerez, Rioja and Pais Vasco, which will feature a tour of one of my favorite ciders. Swate! (actually, sour, but for me that would be sweet!) Anyway, verbal gymnastics aside, the rest of the time I will be in Rioja for some further wine exploration, as well as outside Girona for a bit more of the same as well as some R&R. And, of course,there will be the big PVN (productores de vinos naturales) tasting in Barcelona, featuring Laureano Serres along with some of his Spanish, French and Italian colleagues. A lot to look forward to this March!

Apropos the upcoming viaje to España, let's take a look at two Spanish wines I enjoyed recently.

La Cigarrera Manzanilla Sanlucar de Barrameda

The freshness, vibrancy and immediacy of this young manzanilla exceeds that of any other I have yet to drink. Now I love manzanilla (the name given to fino sherry aged in Sanlucar), but something about this particular one is so appealing and gulpable. The fruit is very expressive, reminding me of the abundant nisperos (loquats - like tinier, not as fuzzy, tangier apricots) you see in the Andalusian markets. Clearly, these wines were bottled and shipped very fresh. Of course, the requisite slight almond nuttiness also shows on this wine's finish. A real treat that I'll be drinking lots of this year.

2000 Lopez de Heredia Viña Bosconia Reserva Rioja

Though it was initially a bit tight, this one opened up to show all of the succulent warm red fruit one could hope for in a Bosconia, with that distinctive minerality and elegance. I do not recall the average age of barrels used to age this wine, but I bet it is north of 5 years, which is older than those used at most other traditional producers in Rioja. This wine went spectacularly with grilled Spanish style, pimenton laced, garlicky chorizos on its first night open. On the second night, it complemented a vegetarian meal of sauteed cauliflower, parboiled carrots, salad, bread and cheese. On night three, the Bosconia was great with braised chicken.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Das Racist at The Independent

This is about the closest a show has ever matched up to my expectations ever (not at all high, in this case). Even when Das Racist is not trying that hard (which I think is all the time) they still entertain and write better raps than most. I've a few questions though:

At this point in their career, why rap to tracks played over a Macbook? What, no DJ?
If the group took themselves just a little bit more seriously, would it make a difference?
Are there enough half smoked j's in a 300 person venue to satisfy Victor Vazquez' need for the weed?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Intriguingly sweet stuff from Barbeito

I bet that I could count on one hand the amount of times sweet wines (not demi-sec or Spatlesen, but full on sweet wines) have received their due here. There's a very good reason for that: most sweet wines (dessert wines, if you must) just don't interest me. Too heavy, too much sweetness, not enough acidity, not enough bottle or barrel aged intrigue to balance out the flavor profile and encourage another sip. Following are examples of sweet wines which generally fit into this category for me:

Ruby port
White port
Tawny port
Late bottled vintage (LBV) port
Vintage port (young, middle aged and 50ish years old - older than that I cannot say)
Pedro Ximenez
Muscat de Beaume de venise
Rasteau vin doux naturel
Australian "stickies"

German Riesling BA's would be an exception, as would good Eiswein and TBA, but given my little tasting experience with them as well as their high prices, I would say that these wines reside in a sort of sweet wine limbo. Oh, and I should mention that good examples of the terrific Hungarian dessert wines, Tokaji Aszu, would absolutely be welcome at my table.

What about great Madeira, though? Somehow, against all odds (southerly lattitude, fortification to 19-20%, popularity amongst rich, silver haired, late 18th-19th c Americans) these are arguably amongst the most intriguing of sweet wines. How could this be? Well, the simple answer would be terrific balancing acidity, even for the sweet Malvasia wines. A more complete explanation could be found in the wine I am sipping (perhaps more honestly, downing, given that I'm considering a third small glass of it this evening), the Barbeito/Rare Wine Company New York Malmsey.

Barbeito's Ricardo Freitas, as far as I'm concerned, is a winemaking genius. Surely the peculiar terroir of the island of Madeira is contributing something, here, but terroir and estufagem (slow heat exposure method critical to the creation of Madeira) can only give you so much. Having tasted some other blended, non-vintage Madeira, none are as complex, classy, and acid driven as those of Barbeito. Currently I'm drinking the sweetest of Rare Wine Company and Barbeito's Historic series blended Madeiras, the New York Malmsey. Containing wine as old as 50 years, there is little here to suggest a wine this old, the flavors are so vibrant. Sure, the wine is initially cola sweet. Pay attention, though, and there is a wonderful spicy quality, old wood aromas and flavors, and a truly bright, candied orange peel character to the finish. This tastes traditional and authentic, if I may be so bold as to say so (and if you will indulge me the right to describe wines I already know to be this way).

I'm about to pour one more (small) glass. Right about now I should stop....