Friday, October 31, 2008
SLAKED! serves a dedicated market of wine lovers from across the world that wants independent tasting notes; not scores, not philosophical ramblings, not bullshit. If I like a wine, I write about it glowingly. I don't hide my approbation. Generally, I don't write about a wine if I really didn't like it; but sometimes I will.
I am not a professional wine critic and I don't pretend to be. I don't like wine snobs and I don't consider myself one. I do this because I enjoy it and it fills a niche. There are too many so-called critics in the world and I don't want to be one of them.
Among other things, I believe that natural cork is a beautiful thing, that wine should be tasted with food, "made in the vineyard," and that "terroir" is generally a useless marketing concept.
I hope this sets the record straight in some respects.
If you have found this cite helpful at all -- please leave a brief comment.
1. In the Wine Spectator's Wine Experience post I erroneously referred to the President of Ridge Vineyards as Don Reiss. His real name is Donn Reisen. My bad. Apologies to Mr. Reisen.
2. In the DC event in April, I was introduced by Kathryn Hall to someone I was given the impression was David Ramey. This was incorrect. I don't know who the hell the guy was that I met.
Anyway -- here's a big THANK YOU to everyone who's been visiting since the early days and encouraging SLAKED! along the way.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I was very excited to taste this rose from Rene Geoffroy. The salmon color was so alluring, and a previous bottle of theirs had blown me away. But I found this premiere cru brut rose disappointing. Don't get me wrong, it was a fun Friday night wine, but it was sweet and tasted like it had been specifically dumbed down for the American market. I prefer a more subtle style of Champagne, as dry as snow, with good acidity, fresh fruit, and ephemeral texture, like the Aubry we tasted last week.
Chianti Ruffina is a small area outside of Chianti Classico which, as far as I can tell, has the same winemaking rules applied to it but gets the benefit of a different name. Castello di Nipozzano, Frescobalidi's primary estate is located here, surrounded by Tuscan hillsides that are, "Dry and stony, with clay, limestone, well drained, [and] poor in organic matter" according to their website.
Frescobaldi claims this vineyard is picked manually (not by machine) and the wine aged for 2 years in two and three year old barrels. It's a very good wine, but it left me with a mild headache, which I blame on their probably using too much sulphur in the winemaking process. About this last point, however, I may be wrong. It could be I just drank too much. Ha!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I have a love/hate relationship with Wine Spectator. I love their events. I occasionally enjoy their magazine. I routinely disagree with their wine scores (they gave Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2005 only 85 points – WTF are they thinking?!) and I take issue with the 100 point system generally. But I have to remind myself that it’s for neophytes, and serves some purpose.
(Audrey, reading Wine Spectator in Lake Tahoe, Spring 2008)
(Audrey, reading Wine Spectator in Lake Tahoe, Spring 2008)
So it was with glee and trepidation that I ordered one ticket for the California Wine Experience at the Marriot in NYC – but mostly glee.
Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley “Eisele Vineyard” 2005 **** Smoky garnet color. Earth and minerality on the nose. A wine of great depth and class, and my favorite 2005 Napa cabernet of the night.
Bond “Pluribus” Napa Valley 2004 ** did not display the depth and concentration I hoped for from a 2004 Bond. Between this and Harlan, I preferred this for its more fragrant nose. That being said, a delicious wine.
Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2005 *** Gorgeous fresh flowers on the nose and big thick body of nicely ripe fruit.
Carter Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard 2005 ** Deep, fragrant and thick, perhaps a touch overwhelming fruit. Unlike the Pluribus, which a touch too unripe and fragrant, this was a touch too much.
Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley “Special Selection” 2006 ** Reminded me of the 2004 Shafer Hillside Select in its concentration and subtlety. Gorgeous fragrance and fruit.
Cayuse “Bionic Frog” *? is a 100% syrah from Walla Walla, Washington State. I couldn’t quite figure this one out. Cayuse garners big scores from the major wine writers for being a “full throttle” Northern Rhone look alike, but it didn’t blow me away at all. Apparently “bionic frog” is proprietor Christophe Baron’s nickname: “bionic” for Baron’s boundless energy and “frog” for, well, because he’s French. Baron hails from Champagne, and I wonder what the true story is why he choose the arid land in southern Washington over his family's centuries-old Champagne house, Baron Albert.
Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley “Pritchard Hill Estate Vineyard” 2005 *** Good thick body without being overt or sweet; just nicely ripe with a touch of spice and pine. Very fine.
NV Domaine Carneros Brut Rose Carneros * light rose petal notes and good texture. A little flabby, but this exceeded expectations. (A joint venture between Champagne Taittinger and Kobrand.)
DuMOL “Clare” Chardonnay 2006 ** DuMOL is one of my favorites every year, and meeting Kerry Murphy and his wife for the first time was a blast. This is gold in color, big and fruity. From a small harvest. Just released to the mailing list this week. Cellar for 2 years and enjoy for the next decade.
DuMOL “Finn” Pinot Noir 2006 ** Garnet color, with underlying minerality and sour cherry notes on top. Needs time to breathe and develop.
Dunn Vineyards “Howell Mtn.” Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 **** Dark and fluid flinty acidity with a big spoonful of ripe dark berries and cream. Just gorgeous. Tasted thrice and consistent notes. This is flat out a wine to find and enjoy.
Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2005 ** Dried herbs on the nose with nice minerality, but not too fleshy.
Hanzell Chardonnay Sonoma Valley 2005 *** hmmm, always one of my favorites. I should have ended the night with this.
Harlan Estate Napa Valley 2004 ** Once again, I was not wowed by this wine. Last year the 2003 propriety wine was like plush chocolaty velvet. This year, the 2004 was underwhelming.
Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley “Trailside Vineyard” 2002 ** about as good as the Harlan, for 1/5 of the price.
Kapcsandy State Lane Vineyard “Estate Cuvee” 2005 *** This is the estate blend – that is, the third wine from this property after the “State Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon” which serves as the flagship wine and the “Roberta’s Reserve,” a merlot based blend. All of these wines come from the same vineyard and see similar winemaking. The Estate Cuvee is remarkable and simply lacks the depth and concentration of the flagship wine.
Kathryn Kennedy Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 **** Probably the best wine very few people care about, and my #3 wine of the night. This is still evolving. Aromas of pine and cedar, boysenberry and heavy minerals on the finish. If you’ve never heard of this winery, do yourself a favor and splurge on a bottle. Thank me later.
Kistler Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 **** Delicious. Full, minerally, with perfectly ripe fruit and gorgeous balance. #2 wine of the night overall, and the top wine of 2006.
Ladera Vineyards “Howell Mtn.” Cabernet Sauvignon **** Stunner. Depth, grip, perfectly ripe fruit, very little spice, nice balance. Had never heard of them before, but will seek them out in the future. Apparently the family used to raise cattle in Montana before chucking it all (no pun intended) and heading for Napa. Smart move. They make some great wine.
Lail “J. Daniel Cuvee” 2005 *** a deep almost inky color with minerals emanating from the glass. This wine was a little closed, with dry fruits and dried flowers on the palate. Almost tasted like American oak, although I know they use 85% French. I suspect this will start drinking beautifully in two years and have notes of cedar and pine. Very concentrated.
Lewis Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 *** This is a standard (almost formulaic) three star wine with all the trimmings, fresh ripe fruits on the nose, big oak and blueberry on the palate, chalky sweet tannins, and a long sweet finish. There is nothing wrong with this wine, except it lacked character. That’s where the “Cuvee L” steps in.
Lewis Cellars “Cuvee L” 2005 **** This is a slightly thicker wine than the Reserve, but there is a touch of cardamom and mellow clove. Needs time to breathe.
M by Michael Mondavi 2005 **** I actually enjoyed this immensely, even though I only tried it to see how Michael and Timonthy Mondavi were doing things differently now that they’re on their own, and I didn’t expect very much from this. I was surprised. It’s refined, silky, reserved and balanced; full bodied with minor spice notes (perhaps a touch less spice than the Continuum). In other words, don’t be fooled by the ridiculous packaging. Michael and Timothy are producing some excellent cabernet still.
Merus 2005 ***? Ohh…the density of Merus is something to behold. This is thick and tastes like molten blackberries with big spicy and nutty notes throughout. Coats the mouth and finishes strong. I’m a little disappointed that Merus is under corporate ownership now. I enjoyed these wines more when they were made in a garage in downtown Napa.
Owen Roe “Dubrull Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 **** I’ve always been a fan of these wines. This wine in particular was remarkable, and reminded me of Ramey’s Pedregal Vineyard cabernet sauvignon. This retails for about $60 and was probably the highest quality-to-price ration wine of the night. (Owen Roe’s “Abbot’s Table” is one of my favorite crazy-blends from Washington State.)
Paloma Merlot Spring Mountain District 2005 ** incredibly ripe, plush, and forward; very juicy.
Pride Mountain Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 **** Simply gorgeous. Concentrated and rich without being overt or overripe.
Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon “Pedregal Vineyard” Napa Valley 2005 *** (previously reviewed) a little closed tonight, but fragrance is of dried flowers and herbs, blueberries and cream. Needs time.
Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 1978 **** The Wine of The Night. Everyone was talking about this wine. Surrounded by four star wines, this clearly stood out as the wine of the night. A five star wine, really. I stood around the table waiting for seconds, and begged Paul Draper to pose for a photo with me. Ha! When someone asked why they were pouring the 1978, Donn Reisen, President of Ridge Vineyards replied, “Because we can.” I guess that says it all.
(Paul Draper, left; the author, right.)
Schrader Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard “Old Sparky” (1.5ltr magnum) *** Cocoa, blueberry and minerals. Great class.
Shea Wine Cellars “East Hill” Willamette Valley 2006 * Dark garnet color and good acidity underline this ripe pinot noir.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Cask 23” 1999 (?) After tasting richer and riper cabernets, this wine was lank and disjointed. Disappointing … I have enjoyed these wines immensely in the past. Maybe the wine closed down.
Viader Napa Valley 2005 *** Bouquet of dried spring flowers. Concentrated and well balanced with notes of cedar, cigar, and graphite.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The Artemis is a bit thin and green and in my opinion and not really indicative of the unique wines Stag's Leap has been producing for over three decades. But I couldn't say this wine won't taste better when I have something better than a little plastic cup and the wine has aged and developed.
The Karia is a fruit bomb with little grip or underlying acidity providing balance or structure. That said, it was not unpleasant and I can imagine myself enjoying this wine at a wedding or something.
I'd like to say just briefly that when I visited the property in Napa Valley in January 2007 I was amazed at the high quality of the estate wines. The 2004 S.L.V. *** and Fay Vineyard *** wines are deep and rich with mild spices. There is a distinctive sophistication about them that sets them apart from sweeter, fruitier wines produced by their neighbors. The 2004 Cask 23 *** was similar to the S.L.V. and Fay, in my opinion, but lacked the spice nuance, and I thought it was the winery's attempt to follow the cult crew in producing a chocolately rich cabernet for immediate consumption. I enjoyed the S.L.V. and Fay slightly more.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tua Rita is the home winery of couple Rita Tua and Virgilio Bisti bought their estate vineyard in Suvereto in 1984 and planted cabernet sauvignon and merlot, with another seven hectares planted later. Eighteen hectares are currently planted, of which only twelve are producing. They started making wine in 1985, but only bottled and sold wine starting in 1992. Tua Rita currently produces about 40,000 bottles annually. The wineries lie at 100 metres above sea level, on clay and river silt, which adds a depth to the wine which some has described as “ash,” but which I think of as mud or river silt. Stefano Chioccioli is their consulting enologist and agronomist.
Suvereto is a commone (municipality) in the Province of Livorno in Tuscany, located about 90 km southwest of Florence.
Monday, October 13, 2008
The Blue Point Grill in Princeton, New Jersey is my favorite restaurant in the world. I know I sound like a kid saying that, “my favorite in the world,” but it’s true. Number 1. The Best. All time favorite. Hands down. And maybe it’s a sin for a New Yorker to say this, but my favorite restaurant isn’t in Manhattan, it’s not even in this state. It’s in New Jersey. That’s right … the Garbage State. Across the bridges and tunnels and down the double yellow line road. NJ. State of the yellow license plate. Here’s why.
For one, it’s B.Y.O.W. (“bring your own wine”) which let’s just say is sort of important to me.
Second, the fish is fresh, and there’s a lot of it to choose from. The folks at Blue Point have their own seafood store next door called Nassau Street Seafood and Produce Company. The sides are usually excellent, (I’m a mashed potato guy, a root vegetable medley fan, and a steamed brussel sprouts lover – all three are excellent).
But not least of all, it’s all about the oysters. And the oysters are in season.
It’s a little too cold for Sancerre so I opted for this bottle of 2003 Peter Michael chardonnay from the “Ma Belle Fille” section of the Knight’s Valley estate vineyard. I’ve had this wine before, when it was a touch livelier. Full bodied, very fleshy with mostly honeyed notes and some melon and citrus. A Pamela Anderson chardonnay. Very unlike anything I’ve tasted from Burgundy – in fact, I don’t think Burgundy can even make a wine like this. It’s a true California fruit bomb, and it’s delicious.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
A part of the Under $25 Crowd, really, but not a huge pleaser. Maybe this was corked, but it came across as plastic and manufactured. Like wine made with tea bags. Too bad....I was really looking forward to drinking this during the presidential debate.
Light bodied, crisp and very dry. Grass notes mostly, with a tart citrus texture. This is a good value, not too sweet or oaky to serve at dinner, but perhaps too stringy to serve with anything delicate. Would cut through a nice fish, but destroy your oysters.
This Billard Pommard has thinned out a little since we tasted it on release a couple years ago. The acidity has come forward the fruit is like sweet strawberries with a dark chocolate dusting. Very enjoyable now, but I think it will still be good in six years.
This 2006 Macon-Lugny "Les Charmes" Chardonnay * from Cave de Lugny was like a coil of ripe sweet grapefruit. A good value from Burgundy for a light chardonnay to serve at dinner.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
After attending our friend's play at the Bubble Lounge last night we stepped across the street for dinner at Cercle Rouge. I ordered this 2006 Bernard Baudry Chinon "Les Granges" ** split over Kumumato oysters and duck breasts. I've had this wine twice now. From Baudry's younger selection of wines (10-15 years) this is not as thick or mouth-filling as "Les Grézeaux" - a selection from old vines - or "Le Clos Guillot" - but it is still pretty strong stuff, and probably we drank it too young still. Mostly blackberry and black currant with underlying earthy cabernet francness and a smoky texture in the mouth. A Chinon for the cellar.
For a more in depth look at Bernard Baudry, see The Wine Doctor.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
This Aubry rose is effervescent. It's so light I might not be able to tell it was pink if I only tasted it with my eyes closed. It's dry as bone and the texture of it pops in my mouth like Pop Rocks Strawberry Popping Candy. Nothing like any other Champagne I've tried recently.