Archive for the 'Tastings' Category


Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

The Red Wine Haiku Review is a fun blog. What does it really tell us about rating wine? Here are a few gems:

127)’The Fifteen’ (15% alcohol) Grenache 2001 (France)
Frankenstein grenache
Amped up like a crackhead Rhone
Two percent too high

125)Frei Brothers Redwood Creek Syrah 2002 (California)
Like a candy cane
That fell into the toilet
Gross, but kinda fun

Tastings: bordeaux varietals

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

I really wish I could come up with some creative, witty description to introduce this tasting and describe the wines. However, deep down I am a scientifically bent, somewhat uncreative winemaker, not an arts and humanities bent ‘channeling my creativity’ winemaker. Yes we could debate the merits of both and how they would impact the quality of my wines, and yes…arts and humanities bent people would be wrong…except lawyers. No, instead I give you the number crunching of a slightly above average but disappointing tasting (though I personally enjoyed several wines). I’ll describe a couple and list the average scores (from 1-10) in addition to the low and high score for each wine.

Havens, Reserve Merlot Napa Valley, Carneros, 2000, ~35$ (Avg: 6; 4 & 8 ). I am going with GB on this one. Many of us detected aged character on this wine, ~ early 1990s. Well, you can see it is a 2000. Personally, I tried not to fault it for age because the flavors of soy, leather, and cola were mixed nicely with cassis and chocolate, and the mouthfeel was concentrated and seamless with a long finish. GB has had the wine before and swears it is all the good and none of the bad normally…we’ll trust him.

Columbia Winery, Reserve Merlot, 2001 ~20$ (Avg: 6, 4 & 8 ) . Perhaps the real winner because of the pricetag. Lean bright fruit, a little aritifical. Good amount of tannin, slightly overripe in mouth with a decent finish.

HdV Wines, Proprietary Red, Carneros 60$ (Avg: 6.5; 5 &7). Pellegrini, Alexander Valley Merlot, ‘Cloverdale Ranch’, 2003 ~22$ (Avg: 6; 4 & 8 ). Sebastiani, Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002 ~15$ (Avg: 5.5; 4 & 8, WS:90, WE:84). Padthaway, Henry’s Drive, Australia Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002 ~ 38$ (avg: 5.5; 4 & 8 ). Pahlmeyer, Napa Valley Merlot, 2003 ~90$ (Avg: 5.5; 3 & 9, very ripe wine). Columbia Crest, Columbia Valley Merlot ‘2 Vines’, 2001 ~ 8$ (Avg: 4; 3 & 5).

Tasting: Critics

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

After recent discussions regarding the wine rating system of a member of the tasting group, I found this aritcle and couldn’t help but pass on the gossip. I don’t think our group spats have ever been elevated to this degree of name calling and whining.

As I have implied in previous tasting notes, I am inclined to side with the score of the competitions because multiple people are scoring a single wine. However, Parker does make a interesting point about the inherent bias in using people within the industry to judge the wines of said industry (in this case Australian). Is there another beverage out there that can inflame such passions? Oh how I love wine.

Tasting: Austrlian Reds

Saturday, November 12th, 2005

The theme was Austrlian reds. Remeber I am averaging scores of all tasters so they may be slightly depressed, but if you were to see a 9 it would really mean something. (Think of a 5 as an average wine).

As the criticism (and praise) of Australian reds go, so went this tasting. The wines were good, especially for the money, and yet were not remarkable or very distinguishable from one another. Here are 2 highlights. 9 people attended, 8 wines tasted, scores shown are averages of the group rounded to nearest 0.5 (1-10 scale). 1) Pirrammam, McClaren Vale, Petite Verdot, 1999 (Score: 7, $19). Despite the face that no one could possibly order this wine due to an inability to pronounce it, for me it was the winner of the flight. Accused of being a little oaky, it was otherwise very nice. Showing aged characters of soy and aldehydes mixed with anise, raspberry licorice, vanilla, and caramel. Great concentration and balance in the mouth. 2) Peter Lehmann, clancey, Shiraz 2002 (socre: 7, $20). Some said ‘green’, some thought it was just hints of Cabernet character that was integrated well with dark berry jam , caramel, and black licorice. Very nice mouthfeel, subtle and finesse describe this wine.

I don’t have room to describe them all, so here are the rest with their scores and prices. Tintara, McClaren Vale, Shiraz 2003 (Score: 7, $19). d’Arenberg, Derelict Vineyard, mostly Grenache 2002 (Score: 7, $32). Zonte’s Footsteps, Shiraz Viognier 2004? (Score: 6, $16). Marquis Phillips, ‘Sarah’s Blend’, SE Austrlia 2004 (Score: 6, $15). Dominique Portet, Heathcote, Shiraz 2000 (Score: 4.5, price not know - tasted a little old and tired but did improve in glass). Torbreck. Cuvee Juveniles, Barossa Valley 2004 (Score: 4.5, $25).

Tasting: Sauvignon blanc

Saturday, August 6th, 2005

Only 4 of us could make it for the Savvy tasting. Tonight the rating system was a ranking, one being the best, 4 the worst. The scores below represent the sum of the rank given by each person for each wine. RH wasn’t there to instigate a debate on the merits and drawbacks of this system, so I won’t go into too much depth now. The drawback with this system is that it doesn’t tell you how far a part the wines may be, nor does it let you know how the flight was as a whole (e.g. your #1 wine may have receieved a rating of 4, but it just happened to be better than the others).

Syvain Bailly, Prestige, Sancerre 2002 (score: 7). This wine was very nice and clearly different from the rest of the flight (the only non-CA wine). Perfumey, lime, with some tropical (lychee) and hints of mint and vanilla. Great acidity from the beginning to the end, lemon and some passion fruit flavors on the finish which had good length. For me, the clear winner, it received 2 first place votes, a second, and a third place vote.

Fiddlhead Cellars, Goosebury, Santa Ynez Valley, 2003 score - 8. Green apple, lemon, hints of basil/anise (JD mentioned jasmine). After a little time in the glass, the nose became less intense. The mid-palate was round, slightly viscous with some ML and oak characters. The acidity was decent. In general the group all liked this wine, the rankings (for this wine and the previous one) falling different mostly by stylistic preference. Votes were 1st, two 2nd, and 3rd.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Rancho Chamilles 2003 (score: 9). Slightly minty, not very intense aromatically. Perhaps citrus. Less acid than the others, a full mid palate which made me (and others) think oak and ML. In general this wine was not very flavorful with average acidity and a decent finish. It still received a first place vote, though for me it is on a lower register than the first two wines, despite being close in score. Votes: 1st, 2nd, and two 3rd place.

Pellegrini Sauv. blanc, 2004 (score: 16). Its rare that we have such a clear loser in a flight, but this one did everything it could to earn the distinction. It started out reduced, and it took a while for the sulfur smell to dissipate. There were also hints of banana, bubble gum, and some lychee (perhpas lingering fermentation esters, it is still young). The acidity was ok, but in general the wine simply wasn’t very interesting. On a positive note, the mouthfeel wasn’t too bad. For those who it isn’t obvious by the above score, the votes were as follows: four 4th place votes, ouch!

Overall the flight was above average. For me the Syvain Bailly was a clear winner, Fiddlehead second, but as a group both of these wines and the Stag’s Leap were well liked. It should be noted that the Fiddlehead and Syvain Bailly are the most expensive wines in the flight.


Monday, July 4th, 2005

I won’t bore you with the mundane details of our trip to Champagne. However, it was wonderful to tour not only production facilities and talk to various winemkaers, but we were also exposed to several different vineyards and current viticulture practices either in use, or under investigation. The following list is not exhaustive, but I only wrote notes for a few of the wines, as I had opportunity. Almost half of the wine we tried were accompanied with food; fish, pork, duck, all in cream based sauces paired beautifully with the bubbly. (The scores below is out of 10 and was an arbitrary rating I gave based on my own impressions, and the impressions of a few students with whom I was tasting).

Moet & Chandon: Due to their shear size, and my alacrity for small wineries, I was bound to be biased against their wines. However, I was impressed not only with the wines, but the viticulturist and enologist who hosted us.
Brut Imperial (6) - Typical Champagne. Aromatically just ok, slightly yeasty, slightly oxidized with just hints of citrus fruits. The mounth however was quite fresh starting and finishing with lemon. Good length with a crisp tart finish.
Brut Imperial Rose (7) - Fresh red berries (strawberries?) some anise, lots of Pinot character. In the mouth, this wine was quite viscous and weighty, especially in the mid-palate with slightly less acid than the Brut Imperial. The flavors lingered for a while. Yummy.
Nectar Imperial (8) - I found this wine very interesting. At first I thought it might be oxidized, but then realized it was more like caramelized nuts, honey, glazed fruits, or even like a warm croissant. Throughout other tastings in Champagne I feel like I began to learn that the ‘oxidized (aldehydic, rotten apples)’ character that some think is typical of Champagne is probably closely linked to the toasted, glazed fruit, honey aroma. It just seemed the line between the two was thin, and that some producers were dancing on the edge of being one or the other. This wine was like that, but ultimately I thought the flavors were more interesting, with a lot of richness and complexity. In the mouth, the flavors were as described for the nose but add a little cirtus with a good crisp, fresh middle and finish. This is a demi-sec and might be just a little too sweet, but in the end this was the most remarkable of the 3 Moet and Chandon wines.

Duval Leroy, Fleur de Champagne 1997 (7.5): Very nice overall. Croissant, toasted nuts, with hints of lemon. In the mouth it was quite fresh, crisp, with citrus flavors lingering at the end. I know a ‘97 is not that old for Champagne, but I was still impressed with the fresh fruit of this wine of almost 8 years. This wine was paired with Mousseline de Poissons, a la Creme de Saumon (read lots of butter and cream with Salmon). An excellent pairing.

Christian Busin, Brut Tradition (6) - 100% Pinot noir. This wine scored almost all its points in the mouth. Great weight, viscous, creamy, with a lengthy and tart finish. But the nose was just ok, slightly oxidized. It did pair well with the Magret de Canard Sauce au poivre vert (again read juicy fatty duck with a butter, cream based sauce…with more cream).

An interesting aspect of travelling to Champagne with young, inquisitive German wine students is that helpful discussion was generated by the direct questions of Germans who are used to an entirely different style of sparkling wine (’sekt’ for them). Sekt is often made from Riesling, very fruity and floral, or they say, ‘reductive.’ Whereas Champagne is oft characterised as an ‘oxidative’ style, more toasted, creamy, and slightly aldehydic. I like both at times but I gathered from the limited translation that some of the French may regard Sekt as too intense, too singular in its character, lacking finesse and subtlety. In contrast, the Germans might say Champagne is too oxidized, old, and subdued. In the end though, several of the Champagnes we had were enjoyed by all as more and more the discovery was made that oxidative (glazed fruits, honey, toasted nuts) is different than oxidized (aldehydes). At least I think. Opinions?

Tasting: Weingut Assman

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

Yes, its Assman, except that the double ’s’ is really a charater I don’t have on my keyboard.

2003 Riesling, Spatlese, Geisenheim Klauserweg: Showing a surprising amount of age (petrol, honey) for being so young. Unfortunately the petrol never really blew off and was perceieved by mouth as well. This seemed to depress the freshness of the citrus and floral aromas and flavors by mouth though the honey lemon aroma accompanying the petrol wasn’t entirely unpleasant. The wine was slightly sweet up front but turned a little sour on the finish. If I was tasting with a German, I suspect they would suggest that the sourness (which was biting) at the end means that they probably added tartaric acid, which winemakers could do only in the very warm 2003 vintage. Overall it was simply okay. I have had much better Rieslings thus far.

2003 Saptburgunder (Pinot noir), Rheigau: If you like popcorn butter poured over fried banana chips and strawberries than this is a wine for you! Additionally, a little RS gave a sickly sweet impression and I wasn’t sure if I was drinking children’s cough syrup or some weird movie theatre concoction. On a more positive note, the oak was nicely done.

Tasting: Ryan’s tasting notes?

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005

I recently read an excellent review of Lustau ‘Los Arcos’ Armarillo dry Sherry. I am not drawing attention to the wine. This blogger/writer writes a creative review that can be appreciated by those of us (which I think is most of us) who desire not to simply use winespeak devoid of meaning but understand that certain descriptors are somtimes unavoidable. Enjoy!