Monday, July 25, 2005

2004 Caymus 'Belle Glos' Pinot Noir Blanc: Your Sweetness is my Weakness

I put this alluring Rose on the tasting table yesterday. It seemed to go over very well with women. Very well. I couldn't put my finger on exactly why, though...

I mean, most women are reluctant to spend twenty bucks on a pink wine. Yet they crowded around the tasting table, snatching up bottles left and right.
What is it about these bottles? Is it the slick pink color? The elegant cursive on the label?


(fade in Barry White)

Aw, yeah. Sit back baby. Let's turn the lights down low. You know I love you, woman. I am qualified to satisfy you.

Okay, seriously. I realize that this is the obvious extention of the traditional red wax-dip for which Belle Glos is famous. Red wine, red wax; pink wine, pink wax. But is it that everybody ignored the uncanny resemblance to a phallus, or that they just decided to run with it?

I'm just curious, 'cause its not like Caymus can claim not to have noticed. Can't you just see these bottles winding down the production line like an army of love toys?

The wine inside this irrisistable package is likewise seductive. It's a very sexy jeweled rose color that glints in the light--very nice. According to the label, the juice is aged for a time in oak before it goes back to sit with the skins, which has produced a voluptous pinky, the likes of which I've never tasted. The nose of earthy/berry pinot varietal aromas does not prepare you for the rush of bright, rich, almost creamy berry flavors that linger lovingly in the mouth with fantastic acidity to hold them up. A lot of people who tried to tell me they didn't like rose were moved by it.

I'm thinking this rather beautiful bottle of wine would go well on one of those dates mid-way into a totally steaming love-affair, with a light dinner of escolar filets in thai green curry sauce or immaculate crab cakes, followed by a dip in the jacuzzi for dessert.

Let the music play, baby.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Italian Taste-O-Thon 2005

If I were forced to choose only one country from which my wine would ever come again, I would shout "ITALY!" before the gun was even put to my head. No other country yields wine that can be so diverse, so smartly manage to be rustic and elegant at once, and love food as much as they love shining on their own. Our buddy Greg supplied us with a showing of amazing wines, ranging from modest Rosso to Giacosa Barolo.

The Coternas and Giasosas...I am not worthy.

I've had Piedmontese wines of all sorts before the tasting, except for Barolo. For years, its mystique was extolled to me by those who knew. I rushed through the tasting of all the other stuff, even skipping stuff, to get to the Big Boys. It wasn't until later I realized I'd made a mistake. NOTE TO SELF: Barolos need to be opened and drunk the next day. We decanted this baby for three hours, and still it was only partially awake. But, oh, the tiny aromas fighting to get to the surface...I only got a hint of them.
LESSON LEARNED: Barolos must be treated with respect.
What I did glean from tasting the Barolo was so different from my expectations. I must have anticipated they would be powerful in the way Brunello is powerful--full, rich, multilayered and BIG, but they aren't like that. The power is all in the aromatics and tannins. They're leaner and subtler than any wine I've ever tried. I can't wait to learn more about them.

We started with whites:

2003 Regillo Frascati, Tenuta De Pietra Porzia
Frascati...ah, one thinks of big bottles in grocery stores in this part o' the world. You get it for free, I think, instead of water in its own hometown of the same name in Lazio. But, brothers and sisters (can I get a Witness?) I am here to preach the Gospel about cheap white wine: GET IT FROM ITALY. It does not suck.
It had a curious, Sauvignon Blanc-ish nose to it, and was clean, suprisingly rich and imminently quaffable. I forgot to get the price from Greg, but I would hope it wasn't over ten bucks. Otherwise, it'd be overpriced.

2003 "La Funambola" Erbaluce Di Caluso
Okay, fine, it's Bonny Doon. But it's made in Italy, so it counts as Italian. Erbaluce is a tee-niny DOC in Piedmont near the city of Caluso; the grape Erbaluce is usually made into a sweet white. I've only had one other dry Erbaluce with which to compare this wine, and it was much higher in acidity and a better food wine. But this Bonny Doon comes from the infamous HOT 2003 vintage, so acid is lower and fruit is phatter, so it was almost a different creature altogether.
But not bad at all. The nose had a fresh-air quality, with a bit of lemon and white flowers. Think: clothes washed in Citrus Fresh Arm & Hammer. The palate was bright, smooth and clean with a little almond to it. Maybe a better porch sipper, though, than a food companion.

2003 La Planeta Chardonnay
For me, drinking quality, modern-style, New-world Chardonnay is like taking a bite out of an enormous coconut macaroon filled with butter. That first taste is decadent and pleasing, but after that, get that nasty thing out my face.
This Chard is clearly intended to appeal to Cal Chard fans. It is a big, bright gold affair with rich coconut/apple/creme brulee flavors. The main difference, though, between this and a lot of other NW Chards is that this one had sufficient acidity to carry these voluptuous flavors through to a crisp finish. How that happened in 2003, I know not. I'd recommend this Chard to someone who has to buy a bottle for a Cal Chard lover but doesn't want to buy yet another bottle of Rombauer.

On to the reds...

2001 Parrina Rosso
I'm told this wine has its own little DOC in Tuscany. As in , just this wine. Hmm...someone had connections...
It's almost all Sangiovese with a touch of Merlot, and it goes, I think, for around nine or ten bucks. It's classic Sangio--dried leaves, cherries, bright acidity. Good deal, I'd say.

2001 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre
This used to be one of my favorites. A sort of odd take on a Valpolicella Ripassa:

70% of the grapes picked are vinified immediately. The remaining 30% are left to dry until the end of December when they are vinified and re-fermented with the wine from the fresh grapes. The result is higher alcohol content, rounder style, lower acidity and more extraction than a Valpolicella Classico.

I don't remember the wine being so low acid and rich, and frankly, I think my tastes have changed. This didn't really move me. Or maybe my palate was pooped. I took a break after this one.

2001 Regaliali Rosso
An old favorite, reasonably priced. A Nero D'Avola-based wine with warm, dried cherry nose, a bit of spice on the palate, and pleasant tannins. Totally beautiful with the pizza Matt made.

2002 Falesco Merlot Umbria
I've decided that Italy is one of my favorite places to look for Merlot. I've had this one a while ago, and was likewise pleased with it. If you're looking for one that DOESN'T taste like Chocolate-flavored cherries Jubilee, but rather like rich, deep, savory Merlot, check it out.

2001 Sole di Sesta Cottanera Syrah, Sicily
Okay, YUM...this is a dark purple beauty with a rich smoky fruit nose and a nice backbone of acidity to hold it up. Beautiful.
Towards the middle of our tasting, I had the great pleasure of finally seeing the portrait my dear friend Stephen Schwolert had made for me. OMFG, what a painter! For this lovely work, he received a bottle of 1999 Clos Du Caillou 'Quartz' Chateneuf Du Pape. (Oh, yeah, and a shitload of money for the painting!)

After the tasting was "officially" over, the boys decided that a Metallica Retrospective was in order. What can I say? We're all possessed of many, many interests.

At last, we got the munchies and tore into a grand variety of dark chocolate cookies, along with a cold, fizzy bottle of:

2003 Marenco 'Pineto' Brachetto D'Acqui (Frizzante)
Sooo delicious! Roses, strawberries and sweet nothings in your ear. A perfect, and I mean PERFECT, companion for dark chocolate. Blissful.

Special cheers to Stephanie for the gorgeous grub, to the Hub for cleaning up after, and to Greg, for the opportunity to check out so many fantabulous wines.

Ciao and Clinkies.

Monday, July 11, 2005

2003 Bodegas Luan 'Equis' Vino de la Tierra de Castilla

I seem to be the only member of my wine team who likes cheap Spanish wine. Matt, for instance, says they "just have a dirt thing" he doesn't like. "What dirt thing?" I insist, and he can't really put it into words. Tim joins in and says, "Yeah the Spanish dirt thing," and they nod to each other knowingly. "Maybe something to do with the wood they use," Matt says.

Whatever it is they don't like must be the thing I like, because I'm all over the Garnachas, the Monastrells, and the Ribera Del Dueros under $20.

My latest love is the handsome fellow pictured above. Oh, Lord, how I crave his company. Sometimes, when I'm with another wine, even a big, rich, classy one, I secretly fantasize about him. It's been a while since I've had such a crush on a bottle. But if you try one, I assure you, you'll understand.

First off, the label is very slick, with a touch of something seductively mid-century modern about it. Can't resist that. The mix is Bobal, Garnacha, Tempranillo, and Merlot (and probably something else, the sources differ). It's under Kork (i.e. artificial, as in Cork-with-a-K, like the Crab-with-a-K that goes into cheap Chinese food) but the wine inside is a lovely ruby-purple, with a nose of crushed ripe raspberries and a touch of pine. It's lush and ripe on the palate, with the same juicy berry/pine, and a suprisingly long finish that has a touch of...a touch of...
Okay: Spanish Dirt. Are you happy??? I admit it! And I don't care! Maybe he's a little "dirty", what's your point? You just don't know him like I do!

(RP must have thought my way about it; he gave it a '90', so there. Nyah, nyah, nyah. I feel sooo...mega-validated.)

Did I mention that he's a cheap date, too? TEN bucks, people! Under that, if you're lucky.

This bottle paired nicely with a store-bought roasted chicken and Episode 5 of Six Feet Under.


The sweet, sweet stank of wine

I found another blog that had posted this SF Chronicle article a while back, and thought I would, too. It's an amusing and informative look at all the wacky descriptors wine tasters use to pontificate on the aromas of wine. Good read for geeks and non-geeks alike.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Geeking Out on a Friday Nite

I love Jancis Robinson. G'wan, laff your ass off, call her a snooty Brit, whatever. But I think she's fabulous.
The Hub went out with the boys, and I decided to finally watch that 'Jancis Robinson's Wine Course' 2-DVD set I'd been sitting on since Netflix sent it to me two weeks ago. I fully expected it to be super cheesy, and to get bored with it, so I put it on my laptop and watched the first episode.

I ended up stopping the DVD, driving to the store, buying goat cheese, crostini, pate and cornichons, a lamb chop, potatoes and onions, and a bottle of Mitolo 'The Jester' Shiraz. I was gonna tuck in and watch this puppy from start to finish.

I was endeared to Jancis the moment she expressed her trepidation about Sauvignon Blanc. I thought, wow! I'm not alone. It's okay to be generally resistant to a particular varietal. I feel

She moves through the world's most famous varietals by the regions from which they popularly hail, bouncing from New Zealand to the Loire Valley, from Cote Rotie to Australia, from Burgundy to Willamette Valley, recording the myriad of methods, attitudes, and pretenses of making wine. She illustrates the conflict between Old World and New World gospels, interviewing everyone from Aldo Coterno to Ernst Loosen to that nutty Australian guy with the porkchop moustache who loves to toss loads of sulfuric acid in every batch. A few of the winemakers from both sides are made to blind taste their competitor's wine with predictable reactions: the Old World producers say "this wine is technically sound, but it has no soul" and the New World producers say "no one likes this style anymore".

I highly recommend this DVD set. Jancis Robinson is charming in all levels of company, the stories of winemakers all over the globe are fascinating, and I promise: if you're anywhere close to being geeked-out on wine, you will have left the experience making plans to abandon your shite-y day job and move to France/Italy/Chile/Napa.

Which brings me to the wine I drank while watching this, and the epiphany I had about style.

2002 Mitolo 'The Jester' Shiraz, McClaren Vale

Ain't nothing wrong with this wine. Mitolo is hands-down, one of the best producers in South Australia. For around $20, this wine delivers lots of elegant shiraz goodness: big, lush fruit, gentile licorice, and well-integrated oak.

Problem: After about a glass, I was totally bored with it.

There was something missing. And I realized what it was, finally: earth. The aromas of terrior. Dirt and air and rocks and rain. It was as though this wine was created in a void, or a laboratory, or something. It tasted like someone had painstakingly controlled every single aspect of the vinification with the goal of making a Perfect Wine.

I started thinking about wines I'd rather be drinking: that Notarpano, or a Chateneuf, or even a nice cheap Spanish wine. Something that tasted like it came out of the damn ground and got rained on, and got picked by grubby old hands.

God help me, I am an Old World Girl.

And a big freakin' GEEK.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Yes, we have Notarpanaro

Long ago, when the Hub was a young and foolish bartender, he made the terrible mistake of dumping me. I was devastated. I made as big a scene of handing him back his apartment key as I could, then drove, weeping, to the neighborhood Fresh Plus, to pick a bottle from their modest but eccentric selection. I chose a bottle with a dull but dignified label that had been marked down a dollar and shuffled back to the checkout stand.

When I got home, I lit a fire, made a pity nest on the couch, put on Elliot Smith and popped my bottle, intending to weep and drink until I passed out. What I didn't realize was that I was about to learn what a special bottle of wine can do for a sister shunned.

The bottle was a 1990 Notarpanaro Salento Rosso IGT, and at the time, I had never had anything like it. It was dark, brooding and rich. It kept me company like a plump Italian Nonna. I stopped boo-hooing and was suddenly compeled to watch The Godfather.

Obviously, me and that redheaded bartender patched things up, and recently, I remembered that wine and went on a quest to see if it was still available and still as mysteriously rustic and comforting. Without too much effort, I found it:

1999 Dr. Cosimo Taurino 'Notarpanaro' Salento Rosso, IGT (Winebow Imports)
85% Negroamaro/15% Malvasia Nera

The label is no longer quite as plain; now sporting big gold lettering and a jaunty '1999' below. I was happy to find that the wine is even better than I remember it. Deep ruby color you can get lost in, aromas of stewed black fruit and tobacco, and a palate fat with prunes, raisins, licorice and the ashes of a love affair extinguished. This is what the term 'meditative wine' is all about. It's rustic as all get-out, so it's not for chickenshits, and it will make you hear The Godfather theme in your head when you drink it.

I'm thinking this is so...almost...Amarone-like, that it would pair beautifully with the same kind of cheeses Amarone does. So the next time some heartless prick/bitch leaves you lonely, grab the aforementioned DVD, this wine, a plateful of chunked aged cheese, and forget about him/her.

Oh, and an extra tip: leave off the Elliot Smith.