One of the most compelling reasons for growing grapes and making wine is that the more you experiment with locations and growing regions the more you get rewarded. With a wine making history of over 300 years, Argentina has evolved from a country that makes wine for its own consumption to a Country that makes wine that now begs comparison with some of the world’s most compelling producers. With wine making at altitudes ranging from 1000 ft to over 10,000 ft in rare cases, with 3000 ft being a common elevation, Argentinean wines have good acid from the diurnal temperature range , while their warm daytime temperature produces lush ripe fruit. The rocky, mineral laden soil, at the foot hills of the Andes Mountains gives a depth to some of these wines that reminds one of Italian wines. Low tonnage per acre and the use of French varietals in addition to Malbec and Tennat, help lend some contiguity with other world wine regions while retaining its own signature palate and terrior.
Archive for June, 2011
|DECEMEBER 2010 – CALIFORNIA TASTING
With this trip up the coast of California, WineandBeerTasting.com is introducing its rating system. Scores are based on the 100-point system, initially introduced by Robert Parker in his Wine Advocate newsletter more than three decades ago, and now widely used by other leading wine publications like Wine Spectator and International Wine Cellar. Most wines scored here will be fall in the 80 to 100 point range, indicating wines that range anywhere between decent with no real flaws to all-time classics. On the latter end of the spectrum, we are not ones to liberally use three-digit scores at every available opportunity. Those scores, we feel, should be reserved for the elite few – wines that transcend time and represent the very pinnacle of this art form. Wines like the 1945 Mouton, 1989 Haut Brion, 1985 Sassicaia or the 2001 Yquem may be considered the vinous equivalent of the Mona Lisa, Michaelangelo’s David, or Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in that there is little to no room for improvement. Therefore, we feel that bestowing a perfect or a near-perfect score on a wine, especially if it is still unformed and in barrel, should be done with great caution and with serious consideration of how the wine will ultimately measure up to all-time great examples within its peer group.
In general, we evaluate wine based on the following parameters: color, aromatic complexity, purity and intensity of fruit, length of finish, refinement of tannins, and overall balance. Each wine’s note is followed by a numerical score, which represents, in our best opinion, what the wine will drink like at its peak. A (+) designation behind some of the ratings suggests that the wine possesses considerable upside, and at maturity may merit an even higher rating. Also a score with a bracket, as in:  means that it is a tentative score and the wine was not very accessible, but would seem to score around a 90. In rare instances, a wine may not be scored at all. This scenario may arise if the wine is completely closed aromatically or we feel that our sample may not be truly representative of the wine for some reason. The highlighted name designates the paragraph that discusses that specific wine.
2007 California Reds- Both in Napa and Central Coast were powerful, with big fruit and an accompanying good acidity, balanced, and generally ageable. Some select Central Coast wines showed a slightly roasted character and were slightly out of balance. Overall, though, the vintage was a smashing success all the way from Santa Barbara to Napa and Sonoma. Wines from most properties are very easy to drink now, yet will generally benefit from a few years in the cellar.
2008 California Reds- These wines varied dramatically all over the state. In the Central Coast, the vintage clearly appears inferior to 2007, as few Rhone-style blends exhibited pure, fruit-driven personalities. Most of the 2008’s were quite a bit more tannic and in general more reserved than the 2007’s were at the same time last year. The best examples will clearly benefit from a few years in the cellar, but they will never be confused with the flamboyant and extroverted 2007’s.
In Napa, some of the properties made better wines in 2008 than in 2007. Like in the Central Coast, the 2007’s are generally more approachable and fruity, while the 2008’s display more of a cool vintage character as well as more obvious tannin. In select properties, the 2008’s appear to have more stuffing and aging potential, and in time will likely eclipse their 2007 counterparts. Some 2008’s are also more aromatically complex, and more thought-provoking, cerebral wines with less flash than the 2007’s but with greater overall interest.
Dec. 2nd, 2010
The winery, located in a rather non-descript building right off State Route 101 in Santa Ynez valley, is chock-full of barrels housing primarily the 2009 and 2010 vintages. On this visit, however, we tasted several bottled 2007’s in addition to a good number of barrel samples of the promising 2009 vintage. Matt Dees, the personable and energetic winemaker has been crafting powerful Bordeaux- and Rhone-style blends for the last several years.
The first wine sampled was the Pairing, a second label recently introduced as a more affordable introduction to Jonata’s wines. The 2007 Pairing consists of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. A dark, Cabernet-dominated concoction, the Pairing is dominated by notes of cassis and licorice as well as some smoky oak. Already approachable, this wine represents a great value at its $25 price point. Although technically a second wine, the Pairing contains enough structure and extract to drink well for a decade, and may even improve with a couple of years in the cellar. WB 89.
The 2007 Fenix, a Merlot-based wine aged in 75% new oak, is one powerful youngster. Very dark in color, the Fenix boasts a nose of dark plum, cassis, chocolate and subtle oak. On the palate, a plum, cassis and a subtle iron-like note lead the way to a big blast of tannin that coats everything in sight. This serious, brooding Merlot begs at least a few years of bottle age in order for the components to become better integrated. WB93.
The 2007 Todos is an intriguing wine – a blend of 44% Syrah, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon and a host of other grapes (>5), including Viognier! Dark ruby-colored, the wine is dominated by its Syrah component aromatically. Beef blood, bacon fat and smoky olive can all be found here. The wine finishes with a 20+ second cascade of dark fruit, a peppery component and round tannin. At the $50 price point, this bottling could be considered a good value, at least when compared to its much more expensive siblings. WB92.
As good as the 2007 Todos is, it is towered over by its big brother, the 2007 Sangre, a 98% Syrah/2% Viognier blend. Here, the aromatics are more powerful, while the Viognier adds intriguing floral note that is not evident in the Todos. Bacon fat, smoke and violets dominate the soaring nose, and the mid palate is marked by strong minerality and a powerful acidic backbone. At 60+ seconds, the finish is distinguished by fine-grained tannin that refuses to let go. This very darkly colored Syrah recalls some of the ripe vintage Hermitage wines of the Northern Rhone, yet has a personality that is all of its own. There is no doubt that it will last for at least two decades or longer. WB95.
Jumping to the barrel samples, one of the more interesting wines year in year out is the Cabernet Franc named Alma. Perennially one of California’s best Cabernet Francs, the 2009 Alma does not disappoint. Dark red in color (but not as dark as the 2007 Sangre), the nose is redolent with freshly picked flowers and red cherries. Complex notes of cassis, licorice and minerality dominate the palate and don’t let go for a long time. Even at such a young age, this is clearly a star in the making! WB 93-95.
The 2009 Desafio, Jonata’s flagship Bordeaux blend, had a tough act to follow, coming on the heels of the brilliant Alma. Dark purple in color, the Desafio was slightly reduced on the nose. Once past the reductive note, cassis, licorice and dark plum component were in evidence. A linear, full-bodied mid-palate lead to a 30+ second finish. A very solid offering here that is likely to be excellent given the solid track record of this wine ever since its debut vintage of 2004. WB 92-94+.
A big Viognier component (7%) gives the 2009 Sangre a violet/lavender-like lift– some might say an effeminate touch. Lighter in color than the 2007, the 2009 barrel sample is meaty, beefy and minerally on the palate. Time will tell whether it will reach the great heights of the 2007, but there is little doubt that this will be a serious, uncompromising Syrah of considerable breed and nobility. WB 93-95+.
The 2009 La Tierra, a predominantly Sangiovese bottling, is darker in color than just about any other Sangiovese that I have ever tasted. Classically-styled Brunello this is not! Once past the dark color, the wine is marked by very strong acidity, a bit shocking given its hot-climate birthplace. Strong tannin and acid really clamp down on the finish. No real reference point here, so it is difficult to tell what will become of this down the road. [WB 90]
A 100% Roussanne cuvee, the 2008 L’Avion spends 20 months in 100% new French oak, primarily in 130-gallon puncheons. Copious kiwi and lychee flavors, a full body, high glycerin and good acidity characterize this white Rhone-styled wine that is nicely balanced and could be an interesting ringer in a flight of high quality Roussanne/Marsanne-based wines from the southern Rhone. WB91.
Although co-fermented with Viognier, the 2008 Syrah Originals is a meaty, bacon fat-laden wine in which a subdued component can only be discerned with vigorous swirling. Medium- to full-bodied, with good fruit density, the Originals ends with a big tannic punch that lingers for 20+ seconds on the palate. WB90+
A flagship Syrah, the 2008 Hilltops is dark red in color. The Viognier component provides considerable aromatic lift to the otherwise dark plum and smoky meat aromatics. Considerable tannin in the finish will demand a few years in the cellar. A serious Syrah, but perhaps not as true to varietal here as at other properties visited on this trip. WB 92.
Paul Lato Wines
As the only white in the 2009 stable, the 2009 Sierra Madre Chardonnay is light gold in color. Packed with prominent citrus fruit on the nose and palate, this Chardonnay is quite minerally in the mid-palate, with some unresolved oak lurking in the background. With powerful mineral- and melon-infused finish of at least 20 seconds, this concoction would benefit from 2-3 years of bottle age. Clearly in a Burgundian style here, like a top flight Puligny premier cru from the likes of Sauzet or Henri Boillot. WB93-95.
The 2009 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills Vineyard Suerte sees 100% new oak during élevage. Rich ruby red in color, with a deep red cherry and an exotic floral note, the wine is equally beautiful on the palate, with liquid cashmere-like texture that is a testament to superior winemaking skill. Surprisingly fresh in the mouth yet richly fruited, this is far from your typical full-throttle fruit bomb that passes as pinot noir in some parts of the state. WB 93-95+.
A new bottling, the 2009 Zotovich Vineyard Pinot Noir Sea Biscuit hails from the Santa Rita Hills. Like the Suerte before it, the thing that stands out the most is the incredible silkiness and balance here. Displaying ripe cherry, raspberry and intriguing eucalyptus aromatics, this nectar seamlessly cascades across the palate with layer after layer of red fruit flavors. A remarkably beautiful wine! WB94-96+.
For the first time, Paul Lato was able source some Pinot Noir grapes from the Hilliard Bruce vineyard in Santa Rita Hills for his own use (he serves as a consulting winemakers for Hilliard Bruce Vineyards). Light on its feet, the 2009 Hilliard Bruce Vineyard Pinot Noir displays the same refined seamlessness that is found in spades in the Suerte and Sea Biscuit. Medium red in color, the wine is marked by cherry cola and potpourri notes. On the palate, it is nearly weightless, but is packed with red raspberries, cherries and a hint of plums. A proverbial “iron fist in a velvet glove”! WB 93-95+.
By contrast, the 2009 Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir is much darker in color. Aromatically, dark cherry, plum, black raspberry and a hint of smoke can all be found here. The serious theme carries through on the palate, where a whiplash of acidity and some earth undertones prevent the sweet dark fruit from taking over. For all of its power, this wine has the same magical refinement as the Suerte, Sea Biscuit and Hilliard Bruce. A more serious, if not necessarily better, counterpart to some of the more red-fruited pinots in this portfolio. WB93-95+.
Also dark in color, the 2009 Fiddlestix exhibits aromatics of cherry coke, black raspberry and spices. On the palate, flavors of black cherry preserves, iron, minerals and smoke are impressively powerful and complex, yet one can sense that the overall product is a bit more rugged and slightly less polished than the other Pinot Noirs on display here. By the exalted standards of this operation, this is more Pommard than Vosne-Romanee. WB 91-93+.
In addition to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs, Paul Lato also produces Syrahs of distinction. The 2009 Bien Nacido Syrah Hillside is co-fermented with 5% Viognier. Spice, bacon fat and floral notes lead to a deep, meaty palate crammed with dark plum, tapenade, and some pepper. While bigger in body than the Pinot Noirs, the Bien Nacido Hillside Syrah possesses the same level of refinement and balance that are found throughout the Pinot Noir lineup. There is nothing warm climate about this Syrah – in fact, I think it would make for a great ringer in a lineup of top-notch Côte-Roties from a ripe vintage. A sample from a second barrel was equally impressive. WB 94-96+.
Finally, the 2009 Larner was aromatically closed, making it more difficult to assess. Like the Bien Nacido Hillside, the Larner sports a glass-staining dark purple color. Full-bodied and meaty, with hints of black olive, it does not seem to be as floral as the Bien Nacido Hillside. Judgment reserved.
Dec. 3rd, 2010
2008 HMR Vineyard Pinot Noir is light ruby red in color. Aged in 30% new oak barrels, the wine is medium- to light-bodied, with red cherry and currant flavors, bracing, crisp acidity. By no means overpowering, this Pinot should be consumed over the next few years. WB88.
The 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve is considerably darker in color than the HMR Vineyard bottling, with a crimson hue prevalent. Medium-bodied, with deep cherry, tart raspberry and exotic spice flavors that lead to a tannin-dominated finish that really clamps down on the mouth. This really needs a few years of bottle age to shed away some of the tannin cloak. WB 89+.
Dark red in color, the 2007 Syrah Anna’s Estate is filled with smoky beef, bacon fat and black olive aromas. In the mouth, this powerful syrah is full-bodied and tannic. Big, slightly gritty tannins make their presence known on the 20+ second finish. This could use a bit of refinement, or at the very least a 2-3 hour aeration. WB 89.
A bit four-square is the 2007 Viking Reserve Cabernet. A bit closed on the nose, some vigorous swirling reveals hints of cassis, red cherry and plum. Medium bodied, the wine lingers on the palate for more than 30 seconds. It could use a bit complexity, although it might just be in an awkward stage at the moment. [WB90]
The 2006 The Don is a Port-Like wine that carries lots of sweetness throughout, but very little acidity. These sorts of wines always confound me, so I will reserve judgment.
An interesting mix consisting of 68% Muscat and 32% Viognier, the 2007 Dessert Wine offers up aromas of strawberry, kiwi, and passion fruit. Compote-like sweetness on the palate is coupled with low acidity, which makes it difficult to drink more than a few sips. WB85.
We started the tasting with the 2009 Cotes du Tablas Blanc. A second label of sorts to their Esprit Blanc, the Cotes du Tablas Blanc is a blend of 45% Viognier, 28% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne and 7% Grenache Blanc. Subdued aromas of lemon, quince, and flowers on the nose lead to a strong acidic profile in the mouth, with bitter pits, lemon rind and overt oaky element that detracts from the wine’s balance. This is meant to be drunk on the young side. WB 87.
A big step up was the 2009 Esprit Blanc. Aromas of quince, pear and ginger lead to a medium- to full-bodied white with a slightly waxy texture and a 20+ second finish. Unlike the Cotes du Tablas version, the oak here is perfectly integrated and as a result, the wine is much more harmonious. WB 90.
Yet another notch better is the 2007 Esprit Blanc. A blend of 68% Roussanne, 22% Grenache and 10% Picpoul, it exhibits aromas predominantly consisting of citrus fruit and pears. On the palate, the full-bodied, slightly waxy, tangerine-dominated palate leads to a long clean finish with no discernable oak notes. This one will age effortlessly, but is already drinking very well. WB 92.
An interesting counterpoint to the 2007 Esprit Blanc is the 2009 Bergeron, a 100% Roussanne Cuvee that can only be obtained at the winery. This wine has the sheer thickness of Arnold Schwarzenegger – but is rather clumsy in other respects. Pungent aromas of beeswax and flowers lead to a viscous, glycerol mid-palate that is honeyed yet bitter at the same time. The rather abrupt finish is refreshing, but one cannot help but ask as to why not try to go for a touch more grace here at the expense of the big muscle. WB 89.
The final white we tasted was a 100% Chardonnay called the 2009 Antithesis. Aged in mostly old oak, the wine was closed aromatically when we tasted it. Medium-bodied, citrusy, with bracing acidity, this Chardonnay resembles a good quality Puligny at the Villages level. A good effort that can be drank now. WB 88.
The first red we sampled, the 2008 Cotes du Tablas Creek, had a pleasant note of red cherries, cranberries and pomegranate. Medium-bodied, with delicate red cherry flavors on the palate, the wine culminates with a 15-second finish and light tannin. A pleasant wine meant for current consumption. WB88.
As expected, the 2008 Esprit is a much more serious red than the Cotes above. Considerably darker in color, the wine unfurls raspberry, cherry aromatics as well as an intriguing spice note. Bigger on the palate as well, with some earthy overtones, finishing with big, dusty tannins that coat most of the gums. It is a serious Rhone-style blend that will probably improve after 2-3 years of cellar aging. WB92+.
Earth dominates the 2006 Esprit, both on the palate and on the nose. Medium red in color, with musky, earthy notes interspersed with red raspberries, meat and herbs, the wine continues to hold on with a long lingering finish that is characterized by its round tannins. A very successful bottling, but won’t make anyone forget about the ethereal 2007 version. WB91.
The 2007 Syrah, which contains a dollop of Grenache, is a dark-colored, modern-styled beverage. Dark cherries, plums, and a faint olive note are the hallmarks of this wine. Medium- to full-bodied, this dark-fruited Syrah ends with massive tannins that demand at least several years’ worth of bottle age. The only shortcoming on this is that tell-tale Syrah aromas appear to be in short order here. WB 92.
There is no doubting that the 2008 Mouvedre is true to its terroir. Filled with dark fruits, slightly spicy and gamey, this beverage steamrolls through the mouth and leaves a huge tannic track in its place. Really cries out for a few years in bottle. WB 89+.
Unlike the 2008 Mouvedre, I did not find the 2008 Tannat all that exciting. Blended with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, it is fairly tight, with copious plum and animal notes present throughout. It would need several years to let down its guard. A bit thin in the mouth, it drops off at the end like a boulder at the edge of a precipice. At this point, the wine is of academic interest only. But, I give kudos to the winemaker for trying to wrestle with this varietal. Judgment reserved.
The 2006 Vin de Paille, a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier, is an alluring wine. Pretty notes of honey, ginger, and flowers lead to palate saturated in marmalade and candied citrus slices. Best part is that there is a generous amount of acidity on the finish, so that the wine never becomes cloying or tiring. Delicious! WB 92.
Even more unusual is the 2006 Sacre Rouge, a 100% Mourvedre (yes, Mourvedre!) dessert wine. Orange-red in color, it exhibits complex notes of figs and plum compote. The sweetness is prevalent on the palate, and an unusual gamey component adds to the interest here. Could use a touch more acidity. Interesting wine here, but not for everyone. Again mostly of academic interest, but sometimes experimental uses of uncommon varietals can be rewarding. WB88.
By comparison, the 2006 Pinot Noir is much better. Translucent red in color, this gently extracted wine displays notes of red raspberry, cherry and eucalyptus. Light- to medium-bodied, delicate flavors of cherry and tart cranberry lead to an acidic finish with little tannin to speak of. Lacks the polish exhibited by many of the Pinots that we tasted on this trip. Drink now. WB85.
|The 2006 Aria, a blend consisting of 55% Syrah, 27% Grenache and 18% Counoise, was ruby red in color. Marked by a light cherry note and some spice, this tasted much older than the vintage indicates. Medium bodied, with light tannin on the rather abrupt and acidic finish, this is ready to go. WB85.
The 2006 Syrah displayed aromatics of black cherries, beef and some funk. Like the Aria, this wine was medium-bodied and is gently extracted with a bright, acidic profile and clear crimson color. This really could use a bit more mid-palate punch, at it is a bit light for a Syrah. This too should be consumed on the early side. WB 88.
A varietal that I am normally not very fond of, the 2007 Zinfandel delivers an olfactory shock with notes of cherry cola, campfire smoke and raspberry. Once past the ostentatious nose, the wine is medium bodied, filled with red cherry, cranberry and slight spice on the back end. With no traces of alcohol that are so common with this varietal in general and in this region in particular, the wine ends rather abruptly on the palate. Not exactly your run-of-the-mill Zin here. WB 88.
Recently bottled, the 2001 Assini (60% Sangiovese and 40% Zinfandel) spent nearly nine years in barrel prior to bottling in the fall of2010! Much darker in color than the preceding wines, with cola, spice and underbrush notes, this medium-bodied wine carries dark fig flavors and a leathery component into a tannin-filled finish. This will hold for a while. Could not be more different than the other wines from this winery. WB 89.
A 100% Sangiovese-based dessert wine, the 2006 Riza is a port-styled wine. Sweet, slightly stewed nose of black cherry and herbs leads to a raspberry liquor-like mid palate that could use a bit more acidity. Interesting for academic reasons only. WB 84.
Dark ruby in color, the 2007 Pinot Noir has a red fruit-dominated nose with some reduction stink that is not very pleasant. On the palate, the wine displays excessive sweetness and not enough acidity. A poster child for overdone CA Pinot Noir. WB 81.
Better is the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark purple in color, this Cabernet is at present dominated by cassis and Asian spices. Very fruit-forward in style with a medium finish, this can be drunk now or cellared over the short term. WB87.
The 2007 Syrah has a soaring nose with beef, olives, and camphor. The palate, however, does not quite live up to the aromatics, with a rather four-square dark plum fruit component that leads to an unexpectedly short finish. WB 88.
Darker in color still is the 2007 Petite Syrah, which in this instance is blended with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. With a meaty, savory and slightly smoky nose, the wine leads to a very fruity mid palate that culminates with a 15 second finish with some tannin. Could be drunk now but probably better in 2-3 years. WB89.
Dec. 4th, 2010
The flagship 2007 Obsidian, a Cabernet Sauvignon blend, is deep purple in color. Aromatically, one could easily discern black raspberries, mocha, flowers, and lead pencil on the effusive nose. Big and powerful in the mouth, with cassis, plums, underbrush and considerable minerality coexisting harmoniously. For a wine packing such a big punch, it is remarkably svelte. Finishes very long (45+ seconds), with enormous tannins. Unlike the 2006 Obsidian, which could be drunk on release, this one is for the cellar. But in the long term, the 2007 Obsidian will probably eclipse its more approachable older brother. WB 94+.
Rich purple in color, the 2008 Outpost Zinfandel (1000 cases) is characterized by notes of blueberries, incense and figs. Medium- to full-bodied on the palate, with notable smoothness, the wine effortlessly carries a rich blue fruit mid-palate to a lingering finish filled with fine-grained tannins. A young, but very good Zinfandel! WB 91.
The 2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is dark ruby red in color. Soaring cassis note interspersed with a slight leafy character that adds to the complexity here. Silky on the palate with liqueur-like sweetness. Really fans out on the finish, where the big tannins and serious structure make themselves apparent. A very nice wine with considerable polish. WB92.
Next, we moved onto the 2007 Outpost True Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. A blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, the 2007 True Cabernet struck up dark cherry, raspberry and some smoky notes. Beautiful cassis fruit and liqueur-like elements seamlessly transition into a long and fruit-filled finish. Drinking well already, this will age effortlessly. A spectacular Cabernet that is polished to the max, this is a wine to seek out! WB 96.
In comparison with the rock star 2007, the 2008 True Cabernet comes across much less focused. Subdued nose of black raspberries, plums, flowers and a hint of herbs, with a spicy nature characterize this serious and masculine wine. Potentially more complex than the 2007, it is dense and filled with dark berries, with a distinctly cool climate character to the fruit, and with none of the liqueur-like sweetness that is the hallmark of the 2007 bottling. This very serious wine will benefit from a few years’ rest in the cellar, and only suffers in comparison with its more extroverted older brother. Only time will tell if it will catch up, or even surpass the 2007. WB92-94+.
The 2008 Petite Syrah is an impenetrable inky purple in color. Very sweet boysenberry and dark cherry compote flavors are in evidence throughout. In spite of its massive size, the wine shares the same polish that makes the Cabernets here such standouts. Enormous tannins on the finish beg for at least 3-4 years of undisturbed cellaring. Fans of Napa Petit Syrah should be all over this. WB 93.
A step up in quality is the 2007 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. Inky purple in color, this very dense wine boasts lots of cassis, spice, and underlying minerality. It is also longer and slightly fresher than its 2007 Howell Mountain brother. Long finish with serious tannins here – needs to be aged for a minimum of 5-7 years. WB93+.
2003 State Lane Vineyard Proprietary Red (90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot) is the first wine produced from Kapcsandy’s State Lane Vineyard after replanting. Already displaying some evolved aromas of sweet tobacco, a touch of leather, red raspberries and flowers, this medium-bodied wine is ready to drink, but will continue to evolve over the next 5-10 years. WB90.
The 2006 Estate Cuvee State Lane Vineyard (48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc) is a noticeable step up in intensity and quality. It has a dark ruby red in color, with smoke, black cherry and plum on the nose. The deep, concentrated mid-palate is loaded with cassis that is deftly balanced by just the right amount of acidity. Not too dissimilar to a ripe vintage classified Margaux. In a word – fabulous! WB93.
A second wine of sorts, the 2007 Endre is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. A very approachable Bordeaux blend, the 2007 Endre is actually mostly (85%) press wine. Dark raspberries and plums can be found all over the place here, and the wine has a very opulent feel to it, especially for a second label. Drink now. WB92.
The 2007 Estate Cuvee State Lane Vineyard (46% Cabernet, 46% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot) is very dark in color, especially compared to the Endre. A bewitching nose of red raspberry, aromatic herbs and sweet earth leads to a full-bodied, cassis- and licorice-infused nectar that has remarkable polish on the palate. The serious tannins arrive quite late. This is even better than the 2006. Fabulous! WB 95.
The 2008 Endre is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (51%), Merlot (25%), Cabernet Franc (16%) and Petit Verdot (8%). A dark, brooding nose of smoke, red and black raspberries jumps from the glass. On the palate, plums, earth, smoke and serious minerality are all in abundance. Not liqueur-like at all, with a long 25+ second finish. This second wine is good enough to compete with many so-called first labels in Napa and elsewhere. WB 92.
As good as the 2008 Endre is, it does not measure up to the 2008 Estate Cuvee State Lane Vineyard (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot). Beautiful aromas of black raspberry, plum, flowers and bay leaf soar from the glass. A big, round mid-palate is full of cassis and carries the impeccable balance into a long, broad finish. On the same level as the 2007, and possibly even better. WB 96.
The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, blended in this case with 8% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc, displays aromatics of cassis, licorice and plum that are uncompromising in their intensity. A bit monolithic at present on the palate, the wine is crammed with beautiful dark fruit and minerals. Very round tannins reach everywhere on the long finish. This is at the same level as or perhaps a hair below the 2008 Estate in overall quality. I suspect that this will be much better in 5 years’ time. WB94+.
The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon contains 5% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot, is an impenetrable inky purple, nearly black in color. Licorice, blackberries, lead pencil and violets comprise the highly aromatic nose. On the palate, cassis and minerality dominate the taste buds. The texture here is ethereal, and a near perfect balance and weightlessness that can only be found in very few cabernets in the world. It finishes explosively with round, very fine tannins that linger on the palate for longer than a minute. Wow! WB 96+.
If liberally thrown superlatives bother you, and then please feel free to skip over the loose verbiage referencing the following wine. I am talking about the 2008 Roberta’s Reserve, a predominantly Merlot-based wine that also contains a small percentage of Cabernet Franc (4%) that left me nearly speechless. With a highly aromatic nose of lavender, plums, red raspberry, coffee and smoke, this utterly seamless wine packs a serious wallop on the olfactory senses and salivary glands. Red raspberry preserves, mocha, orange peel and deep minerality are accompanied by a near weightless sensation on the palate, leaving this taster to shake his head in disbelief as if the flavors somehow magically materialized on the palate. Really fans out on the very long, kaleidoscopic finish that just won’t quit. This is, without a doubt, the best US Merlot that I’ve tasted, and would make for a great ringer against top vintages of Pomerol superstars such as Trotanoy, La Conseillante, and L’Evangile etc. My favorite wine of the trip. WB 98.
EMH Black Cat
The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is probably a tiny notch below the 2007 in overall quality, which is saying something! Purple in color, it tastes like a cooler climate version of the 2007. Richly-fruited and well-balanced, this wine still has some oak and tannin to integrate, and really needs to be cellared for a few years. WB 92.
Our sample of the 2009 Black Cat was much more similar to the 2007 than the 2008. Very dark red in color, the wine had an expansive nose of black cherries, black raspberries and aromatic herbs. Lots of fruit on the palate, and little to no detectable oak makes the wine drinkable already, even though it has yet to be bottled. One of the few times it was sampled in barrel. Excellent! WB92-93+.
Dec. 5th, 2010
The 2005 Estate Chardonnay, on the other hand, is anything but lacking in power. Aromas of citrus, nut oil, and traces of pineapple and oak are at once more powerful and defined than the preceding wine. Medium- to full-bodied, with orange, quinine and a very powerful stony sensation on the palate is accompanied with bracing acidity. The long finish continues the sensation of liquefied granite and is accompanied by a youthful bitterness that is normally absent in New World Chardonnay, but is found in some of the better examples from Corton-Charlemagne and Chablis. A bit disjointed now, this could really improve in a few years’ time. WB 91+.
Tasted last year from barrel, the 2007 Syrah continues on its positive evolutionary trajectory. Notes of bacon fat, underbrush, Provencal spices are all in evidence. Musky black cherries, tapenade and hints of gaminess characterize that medium-bodied palate. Even at this early stage, the wine is impeccably balanced and without a sharp edge in sight. While approachable now, this too will benefit from a few years in the cellar. WB 93+.
There are only 125 cases of the deep purple-hued 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Aromas of black raspberries, cassis, violets and bay leaf on the nose give the impression of a cool-climate year. Medium-bodied, with cassis, plums and striking minerality on the palate, this is hardly your typical Napa Cabernet. Cool, deep dark fruit with slightly green undertones continue to linger on the palate for more than 20 seconds, and are accompanied by a whiplash of serious tannin that grip like a vice. If the fruit outlive the tannin, this could be even better than it is showing at the moment. WB 92.
First up was the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (clone 1155). This cuvee sees 20% new oak, but it is completely soaked up by the fruit. Aromatically, this is easily identifiable as a Sauvignon Blanc due to the tell-tale grassy aromas. In addition, one could discern pink grapefruit, lemon, and flowers in this medium- to full-bodied wine that is quite fruity, but not at all sweet. WB 91.
The 2009 Unoaked Chardonnay exhibits aromas of lemon and white flowers. On the palate, this Chardonnay is medium-bodied and tastes like a liquefied Granny Smith apple mixed with crushed stone. Laser-like acidity, the absence of any discernable tropical fruit and a long, harmonious finish fool the taster into believing that this is like a high quality 1er Cru Puligny or a minerally Meursault-Perrieres. WB 93.
Switching gears to the 2007 Proprietary Red (50% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot). Soaring aromatics of cassis, coffee, and lavender, play off a minerally mid-palate with red raspberry, plum, and licorice. It finishes with big tannins that beg for bottle age. But there is no doubting the high quality here. WB 93.
Even more exciting is the 2008 Proprietary Red. Although a bit shy at present, the beautiful nose can be coaxed to reveal flowers, aromatic spices and pencil lead. It is beautiful on the palate with deep black cherry, raspberry and while having a minerally streak that won’t quit. A very long finish with very fine tannins makes this a very approachable yet cellar-worthy Cabernet. A buy! WB 94.
The 2008 Era (52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot), tasted from barrel, is a behemoth of a wine. Inky purple in color, with sensational aromatics of blueberries, violets, lavender, and incense, this is not for the shy of heart! Liqueur-like in density on the palate, with licorice, blueberries and ripe plums harmoniously co-existing with structural components and acidity in an unabashedly full-bodied yet refined package. It finishes for 50+ seconds with huge tannins and lingering sweetness. This is pure Napa decadence. Wow! WB 94-96.
As hard as it is to imagine, the 2008 To-Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon may be even better than the Era! Outrageously intense nose of violets, raspberries and lead pencil jumps from the glass. Incredibly complex, with a rich mouth feel and flavors that seamlessly transition from cassis to earth, from leather to smoke, all underpinned by gentle minerality. The amazingly long finish lasts for at least 60 seconds, throughout which gentle tannins caress the palate. A runner-up for wine of the trip! WB 96.
The 2008 Late Harvest wine is a blend of 55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon. Apricot, honey and peach show themselves on the nose. Fruit compote, nectarine and beeswax can readily be found on the palate. It finishes long and sweet, with just enough acidity to keep the wine from becoming cloying. 170g/L residual sugar. WB 92.
A dead ringer for a high-quality Sauternes, the 2006 Late Harvest Reserve is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon. Strong botrytis displays itself on the nose, while candied oranges, peaches and apricots on the very sweet mid-palate. There is just enough acidity to keep things in check. A very nice effort. WB 93.
Better is the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve. Violet, super-ripe raspberry, and liqueur aromatics give way to smooth, plummy, licorice-infused flavors on the palate. It finishes with, big, dusty tannins. This really needs lots of time, preferably at least five years. But there is no denying that the quality is there. WB 92.
While it is too early to tell, I would venture a guess that the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve will eventually reach greater heights than its 2005 brother. A dark, brooding nose is presently dominated by blackcurrants and a hint of lavender. On the palate, this is a serious, dark, brooding wine filled with licorice, minerals and spices. Serious tannin exists on the long finish. This is already excellent, but should really be cellared for a few years to allow for harmonious coalescence of the vinous components. WB 92+.
Deep ruby-red, the 2007 Chabot Cabernet is lighter in color than the preceding Private Reserve Cabernets. Dominated by black raspberries, plums, and licorice, this wine is very fruit forward, displaying all it’s got in the first few seconds. A perfume-like nose that falls off rapidly thereafter, with a rather tannin-infused clipped finish that is a touch less refined in comparison to the flagship Private Reserves. WB 89.
The 2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is dominated by blueberry and raspberry liqueur aromas. Medium-bodied, with black cherry and underbrush on the palate, the wine finishes with dusty tannins and a lingering note of spice. A solid Cabernet, yet one might expect more Howell Mountain fruit. WB 90.
A Sauternes-style wine, the 2006 Nightingale is a blend of 70% Semillon and 30% Sauvignon Blanc. Heavy on the apricot and spiced pears on the nose, the wine is dense on the palate, with fruit cocktail, mango, and marmalade flavors coming through. The problem is that there isn’t enough acidity to buffer all of the considerable sweetness on the palate. As a result, the wine just isn’t as refreshing as it ought to be when compared to dessert wines from colder regions like the Loire. WB 86.
|UPCOMING EVENTS OF INTEREST Pinot Days Southern California (www.pinotdays.com) will return to Barker Hangar for its second year on January 15, 2011 and will feature
Serious wines and serious fun: Over 90 wineries will pour more than 300 wines and the winemakers will share their stories.
Although the wines are highly acclaimed and sophisticated, Pinot Days is not a wine-word slinging, ascot-wearing wine tasting event; rather, It’s decidedly fun. The winemakers are inviting and animated. (No doubt some of them, having spent the early hours amid the grapes, will show up with a little vineyard dirt on their jeans.) The high quality and wide diversity of these wines, coupled with the passion and accessibility of the producers, make Pinot Days a very unique, invigorating wine tasting experience that will make an ardent Pinotphile of you if you are not one already. So step into your casual So Cal style and join us for a wonderful day of exquisite, hand-crafted wines and absolutely enchanting pinot people. Last year’s inaugural event was a sell out; the Los Angeles crowd fell for pinot and its
Also, the most comprehensive tasting of the new releases from Bordeaux will be at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, CA on January 22, 2011
Union des Grands Crus Bordeaux Tasting
Date: Saturday January 22nd, 2011
For tickets, go to:
MEET THE WORLD’S GREATEST WINEMAKERS AND CHATEAUX OWNERS
BE AMONG THE FIRST TO TASTE THE 2008 BORDEAUX!
Wally’s has the honor once again of welcoming over 100 of Bordeaux’s greatest Chateaux owners and winemakers to Los Angeles for the incomparable Union des Grands Crus tasting. The growing popularity of this unique event has prompted us to stage this year’s edition at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, which will allow you ample room to navigate your way through the hundreds of wines being poured. This tasting is an unrivaled opportunity for you to explore the very best Bordeaux has to offer at a fraction
Current list of participating Chateaux
Château de Chantegrive, Château Bouscaut, Château Carbonnieux
AGING WINES, WHY BOTHER?
So, what makes a wine ageable? This is a hotly debated topic in wine circles. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer, and no one-size-fits-all formula that can be used to determine whether a wine will benefit from aging. However, long-lived wines do share some common characteristics. First, the ageable wines frequently have lots of fruit or dry extract in industry parlance. Whether the wine is sweet or dry, cellarable wines need to have lots of dry extract in order to age years or even decades. Freshly bottled wines are typically very fruity; yet long-term cellaring causes wines to steadily lose fruit. Wine enthusiasts and collectors who cellar bottles understand that what mature wines lose in youthful exuberance, they gain in texture, seamlessness and complexity.
Second, ageable wines have typically high acidity and/or tannin. Sound acidity is of special importance for the aging of white wines, as they are normally devoid of tannin that is present in some of the more robust red grape varietals. Dry red wines primarily based on cabernet, merlot, syrah and (to a lesser extent) pinot noir typically contain a good amount of tannin, which helps in graceful aging of those varietals. The mechanism by which tannin and acid aid in aging is poorly understood, yet those two components are often a good predictor of age-worthiness of wine.
Finally, sulfate level is important, especially in dry white wine, as it acts as an antioxidant. Oxidation of wine is typically detrimental to wine, and prolonged oxidation turns wine into vinegar. Sulfates remove any free oxygen in wine and retard or prevent oxidation from taking place. Wines low in sulfates should not be aged for any extended period of time, as the risk of oxidation is too great. Some wines have so much sulfur added to them by winemakers that upon opening they may reek of rotten eggs! One way to combat elevated sulfur levels in young wine is to either oxygenate it by decanting, or to immerse a small copper fragment (or a clean penny!) for a few seconds. The latter binds up much of the dissolved sulfur, thereby allowing the fruit to shine through.
Some of the most ageable wine in the world is produced in and around Bordeaux, France. This fascinating and historical wine-making region is explored in greater detail below..
SHOULD YOU EVALUATE WINE AND BEER WITH FOOD OR WITHOUT?
Wine on it’s own, when comparing type to type (cabs to cabs, etc), you get an appreciation for region, climate, residual, tannins, and so forth. The same can be said for cheese, such as different cheddars, the sharpness, the aging, and texture.
All great chefs seem to be of one mind, finding what works well together by marrying foods and wines to be in harmony with each other, not to cause conflict and disorder.
Remember to find your way through your nose and your stomach, always smell and taste, and enjoy.
Until next time.
We all have differences of opinion, I as a taster, disagree with Mr. Short. When I am trying to evaluate a specific beverage, I prefer to evaluate without the influences of extraneous flavors. By introducing different outside flavors, obviously you can judge their compatibility and interaction with their paired foods, but it is hard to dissect the food from wine since they can play off each other and interact with each other.
The beauty of cooking and preparing food is that it can be a collage of flavors which play off of and interact with the wine/beer that is consumed at that time; the combination broadens and adds complexity to the wine/beer and food experience. But when finding out what ingredients you are starting with, i.e. what the beverage tastes like on its own, and what the food tastes like on its own, you can then prepare a better marriage of flavor when later uniting them.
Thanks you Mr. Short for your submission.
We accept submissions, please contact Editor Peter Ronen firstname.lastname@example.org
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