Monday, December 31, 2007

a tale of two chianti's

We had an Italian dinner the other night. Sara's father cooked an excellent pasta dish and we each brought a Chianti Classico to go along with it. We ended up with two wines from the same region that were incredibly different. I brought a 2001 Castello di Fonterutoli and he brought a 2003 Frimaio Riserva.

Here is a really terrible picture taken with my cell phone:

The first thing you will notice is the difference in coloration on the corks. This foreshadowed the differences in the wines themselves very well.

The Fonterutoli was a deep wine with great texture. It had a bit of a floral smell and dark fruit taste. The first taste wasn't shocking and the finish was especially protracted, but it tasted great on the tongue and was my favorite of the night. It is aged perfectly for drinking now, and I found it for $25 at Nabil's.

The Frimaio was a much brighter wine. It was more inline with what you would expect from Chianti Classico. Very approachable and great nose. The wine tasted a bit tart after trying the Fonterutoli (I should have tasted them in the other order, but I went chronological instead of by weight). However, after letting the ol' palette air out, it stood on its own. This was in the $20 range too, I believe.

One Chianti per night is almost always good, but two makes for a great night. The food was awesome too.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

2004 and 2005 chimney rock cabernet sauvignon

I stopped by Nabil's today to try to get some empty boxes off him, pick up a Chianti Classico and see what he was tasting. I will tell you how the Chianti was tomorrow--in the mean time I wanted to jot down a quick note about the Chimney Rock.

Nabil is officially tasting the 2004 Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon. As I got there before the official tasting began, it was just me, Nabil and the distributor unloading the wines. Well, turns out Nabil accidentally pulled the 2005 Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon that the distributor had got as an advance taster. But, since it was already open, what can you do? So I got to taste both the 2005 and the 2004. Talk about being at the right place at the right time. Since I tasted them in that order, I will tell you my thoughts in that order.

The 2005 Chimney Rock Cabernet was tight. Super tight. It is going to be a great wine once it has some time in the bottle. As it stands now you have to aerate it before drinking it. The wine was smooth and classy, full bodied and wonderful fruity Napa-cab taste.

The 2004 Chimney Rock Cabernet was much more approachable and even more obviously well made. It was very similar to the 2005, just more integrated and ready to drink--though I would still decant it first. Nabil was selling this for just under $50 today. He only had two cases, so if you want some, better get over there quick!

Friday, December 28, 2007

2005 Cor Cellars Momentum

Another entry from Washington, this time Horse Heaven Hills. And another Cab/Syrah blend. Only this time, it is a value wine which I picked up for $17. The 2005 Cor Cellars Momentum hits the sweet spot. It is a great, earthy, full bodied drinkin' wine at a reasonable price. It is a screw-cap, which means you can close it up and put it in the fridge easily to drink over a few days. I give it 3.5 out of 5.0.

Short digression: I am in favor of screw caps for the vary reason I mention above. Sometimes I like to have a glass by myself and don't want to have to finish the whole bottle. I like being able to throw it back in the fridge and not worry about pumping or where did I put the damn cork. It will also free up more cork for higher end wines. When I open an expensive wine, I like the way pulling a cork makes it feel like something special. I realize wine is to be drunk, not worshipped, but I enjoy some ritualization.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

napa... it calls to me...

In order to further destroy my liver and life's savings, I'm moving to California. The proximity to Napa, I assure you, is purely coincidentel. Actually I'm changing jobs. The next few weeks will be pretty crazy, so please bear with me as postings may come slower. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

2004 Chester-Kidder Columbia Valley Red Wine

The Longshadows wines really are some of the best you can get from Washington. They are also, in my opinion, generally over priced. However, they are less overpriced then their Napa brethren. So if you can afford them, buy them; they do not disappoint. Many are also collectables, so get them while you can.

For my father-in-law's birthday, we opened the 2004 Chester-Kidder. It's a $50 wine. It is a well-made and reasonably complex Bordeaux blend with the addition of syrah into the mix as well. It is not some ridiculous tannin-bomb--it is well balanced with good acidity and supple tannins. It is not a fruit-bomb either--in fact, I give it a few marks off for not having much of a flavor at all. This wine seems much more European in its make than most Washington and California wines. It was a deep purple, but the kind that you can see right through. Medium-bodied they call it. It had a fairly good finish and was pleasant enough to drink. However, I would not consider it a showcase wine. This is a food wine. Drink it by itself and you will not remember it much. Drink it with the right food, and I think it will be spectacular. Furthermore, I am going to let it sit in the bottle for another year before opening one again. There is so much going on with the blend, I hope another year will give it a chance to find itself.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

2003 Cayuse Bionic Frog

Let me just say this now: jumpin' Jehoshaphat, what a wine!

In celebration of Sara's Father's birthday, Sara's Uncle was kind enough to open this bottle for us. Someday, maybe I will get an allocation of this wine from Cayuse (I did make their list for 2008 futures, but all I got was En Chamberlin). Until then, I'll take it where I can get it. This wine was really insane. Here is what Wine Spectator said:

Has amazing density, a wine of immense depth, wrapping silky tannins around plum, mineral, blackberry, prune and meat flavors, hinting at dark chocolate and walnut as the finish rolls on and on. Drink now through 2015. 208 cases made.

Also, it's a Syrah. I didn't quite catch all those flavors, nor could I really describe what I was tasting with the standard wine-taster's arsenal of words. I do agree, however, that this is a wine of "amazing density" and "immense depth." The initial taste smacks you in the face, but it mellows out very quickly into a barrage of different flavors and the finish just goes on and on and on. Not a wine for the casual drinker--this is a wine to be appreciated and marveled at.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

on hiatus

Just a quick note to let you know I'll not be posting until next week. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

2003 Chateau Beaulieu

You want to drink Bordeaux but you don't want to pay $80 a bottle to do it? This one got 89pts from Robert Parker and you should be able to pick it up for about $16. However, you'll need to buy two. About 60% of the bottles I've had have been great and the rest have been stinkers (one went right down the kitchen sink after a taste).

Sunday, December 2, 2007

australian tasting notes

The tasting at Nabil's was a lot of fun. Before I get to the notes, I wanted to mention the Distributor. The distributor doing the pouring was a good guy to talk with. He was not pretentious or stuffy in any way, and you could tell he had genuine love for the wines he was pouring. Ben and I were among the first people there at 1pm (sorry for the time change--it was snowing and all my plans were thrown off), and at one point I suggested he change the order of which he was tasting the wines. Some people doing tastings would have scoffed or been snooty about this. Having a friendly and approachable person doing the tastings is a big plus in my book. I wish I remembered his name so I could give a proper shout-out.

Anyway, on to what I thought:

2006 Black Chook VMR "White blend" - I didn't look too closely at the blend, but this is a decent white if you have to drink one. The price point was just right at about $12. Chook is Australian for Chicken, in case you were wondering.

2006 Catalina Sounds Pinot Noir - Ben refused to taste this one on principle. I tasted it solely on principle ("never turn down free wine"); it was fine. It was a pinot. If you like pinot, you'll probably like this. Not my thing. Also note, this one is from NZ, not AU.

2005 Kaesler Stonehorse Shriaz - A smooth and well-made wine. At about $20, this is a great wine to have and to drink. This isn't you classic ginormous, jammy, earthy, Aussie Shiraz. This is, as Ben said, "more like a French wine." It's incredibly approachable and anyone could enjoy this wine. I'd give it 3.5 / 5.

2004 Glen Eldon Dry Bore Shriaz - This is you classic Aussie Shiraz. This wine is dry as hell and gritty. I loved the dark, full-bodied taste. Again, at $20 you can't go wrong. For fun, get one of these and one of the Kaesler's and treat your guests. This is the wine that I suggested the order change for--he was originally tasting this before the Kaesler.

2005 Delisio Krystina - A classy wine. This is more like the Kaesler than the Glen Eldon: smooth and approachable. It's the best $30 Aussie I can think of right now. It's at least as good as some wines that are much more expensive (such as certain wines made by Sarah and Sparky). It actually reminded me of some Delille wines. I'm not sure I could pick this as an Aussie wine in a blind tasting.

2005 Amon Ra Godolphin - This is what brings the kids out to the tasting. This is, perhaps, a canonical example of a Shiraz. A great wine, but still young. If I was going to drink now, I'd pick any of the above three over this one.

Overall, a great tasting.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

wine tasting: australia

Nabil is tasting some Australians on Saturday, from 1pm -> 5pm. Should be a good tasting.
I'll be there sometime between 3:15 and 3:45pm.

2005 Amon Ra Godolphin
- Ben and I have both liked past vintages.

2005 Kaesler Stonehorse Shriaz
- Kaesler sounds like something I've had, but I can't place it.

2004 Glen Eldon Dry Bore Shriaz
- I think I saw this on Garagiste. I don't remember if I ordered any or not.

2005 Delisio Krystina
- I have previous vintages of Delisio in the fridge, but I haven't actually tasted any. Definitely looking forward to trying this, because I hear nothing but good things.

2006 Catalina Sounds Pinot Noir
- Never heard of it. Maybe I'll like it.

2006 Black Chook VMR "White blend"
- I have no idea, but it sounds cool.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

2005 Des Voigne Solea

For Thanksgiving I pulled out the 2005 Des Voigne Solea because I just couldn't wait any longer. Having drank The Duke recently, it was on my mind. I tasted it back in June and this was my favorite of the line.

In related news I bought the last of the Oregano Salami that Salumi had when I was there last Wednesday. Literally the last one they had. They're not making it anymore (though DeLaurenti may have some still).

I mention the Salami because it was a great pairing for this wine. The hints of Green Pepper were still there, but more mellow than I remember at the tasting. The wine was very enjoyable. The flavors have all really come together and I have new found respect for Des Voigne. I liked this one better than The Duke. It's a Cab / Merlot / Cab Franc blend for $28 that I can really get behind. I would buy more of this. They say it got 90pts from some magazine or other. I'd give it four out of five stars on the Jeffamascale.

By the way, this is my 100th post. If you're wondering what to get me for this milestone, all I ask for is that you share my blog with a friend or two.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

2005 Chateau Toulouze

2005 is the vintage for Bordeaux. When Garagiste started getting lots of the lesser-known Bordeaux, I figured when I'd order some here and there to have on hand. The theory was that since prices had gotten so insane on the high end and that you had to be an idiot to make a bad wine in 2005 in Bordeaux, that lots of underrated wines were to be had in the mid-range and value-range.

Well, that sort of panned out. This wine, the 2005 Chateau Toulouze Grand Vin de Bordeaux--at $13--technically fits the above theory. It's not a bad wine, but it is mediocre. Originally I was planning to leave the following as the only comment on the wine "unremarkable but drinkable" but I thought I'd give a bit more of an explanation.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I have quite a lot to talk about. However, I'm taking the day off. See you Monday?

Monday, November 19, 2007

2002 L'aventure Optimus

The more perspicacious readers will no doubt correlate the above title with the "My Favorite Wines" sidebar. It is true--Optimus is one of my favorites. The NYT Wine Blog, in a posting titled Greatness Within Reach, discussed Ridge's Monte Bello. I guess if you're a writer for the NY Times, $123 per bottle is "within reach." Those of us with Seattle area mortgages can't reach quite that far. However, the point is well taken.

Indeed, "greatness within reach" is really what I strive for in wine. I spent a few years trying all different sorts of things, ordering randomly from Garagiste, taking advice (good and bad) from wine shop owners, managers, peons and going to tastings. I've pretty much nailed down what I like, and I am at a point in my life when I really don't want to spend money on stuff that I don't like. I'll take recommendations from people I trust. I'll still go to tastings; I'll still accept the offered glass at a dinner party. But when I'm at my house, doing my thing, I only want to drink what I like. Life is to short to drink crap while the good stuff is sitting in the fridge.

So when Mr. Pasceri suggested we go for a "Gentlemen's Evening" (yes; he watches entirely too much television) at Morton's I pulled out my last bottle of 2002 L'aventure Optimus. The wine still has a good 10 years left in it, but it's tasting wonderful right now. It is really a beautiful thing. It's a $50 wine, but can be found as low as $40. Every vintage I've had is a different blend, with varying amounts of syrah and zin. The winemaker doesn't like to be restrained by rules about what varietals you can and can't use and how much. And this is why this wine will always be better than your average bordeaux, rhone or brunello. Coming from Paso Robles instead of Napa, I guess, helps keep the price below ridiculous.

This wine in particular has the following blend: 50% syrah, 46% cab and 4% zinfandel. Now when you name your wine "Optimus" which, as far as my amateur Latin can say, means "the biggest" you have to make a wine that lives up to that. This one certainly did. It has all the rich earthiness and velvety suppleness of a well made cab-shiraz, with the added kick of a mineral spiciness from the zin. I could taste no defects... the wine just made me really happy. And of course, we drank it with some of the best steak in town.

If you're ever at Morton's in Seattle, try to sit in Lisa's section. She is the best waitress by far. Tomorrow I'll tell you about the other bottle of wine we had.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

2004 Pitchfork Margaret River CSM

This is, quite simply, the best CSM I have had in its price range (sub-$15). It's a great wine, frequently beating out much pricier wines in head-to-head tastings. I was lucky enough to pick up half a case at the low, low price of $5/each. But even at normal prices, it's a good wine. And it has an awesome drawing on the label.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

2005 Madcap Pastor Fritz Shiraz

Ben brought this over for a night of grilling and drinking. It was a sub-$20 wine, which means I file this with the value keyword. The wine is a standard big, jammy, Australian affair. It comes with a screw cap, which is the trend in Australia; and normally I wouldn't mention it except I'm about to explain something and mentioning the screw cap plays into that. Most people would have just mentioned the screw cap and then said what they need to say and trust the reader to remember that they had mentioned the screw cap. Not me; this is just how I roll. And I've got lots of white space to fill.

Ben likes the screw cap because he can put it in the fridge after drinking half a bottle and it is still good the next day. So when he got to my house with it, half of it was gone and it had been open half a day. We set it on the counter to allow it to trend upward toward room temperature. In the mean time, we set about preparing dinner.

Seven Flavor Pork Tenderloin was the dish for the night. Step one: remove all the white, fatty bits with a sharp, non-serrated, 3" knife. Step two: coat evenly with just enough olive oil to cover everything. Step the third: go through the spice drawer and find seven different little bottles. Actually, we only found six because the cilantro was fresh. Step the fourth: chop cilantro into little, bitty, bits. E) apply bits of cilantro to pork. F) apply six remaining spices in descending order of size (1) oregano, (2) thyme, (3) dried red pepper flakes, (4) smoked salt spice mix, (5) spicy salt spice mix, (6) cayenne pepper, (7) chili powder. Hmm... I guess it was Eight Flavor Pork Tenderloin. Well, under promise, over deliver. Penultimate step: cook at ridiculous temperature for 10 minutes. Last step: eat with 2005 Madcap Pastor Fritz Shiraz.

Getting to the point, finally: the crazy spicy pork, combined with the fact the wine had been open for 24hrs or so prevent me from really adequately reviewing. So take with a grain of salt the following: I didn't like it, but I would drink it again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

2004 Plumpjack Merlot

My friend Ben is always going on and on about how terrible Merlot is, how nobody knows how to grow it or make wine from it, and how, in general, he thinks it is all a bunch of worthless, tannic piss. He might have a point, in the general case. However, I felt duty-bound to show him that at least one California wine maker knows what they are doing.

One of the best wines I have ever had is the Plumpjack Merlot. When it was young and just bottled it had intense notes of vanilla and was just a great, big, rich, earthy wine. Now that it has had a year in the bottle the vanilla has mellowed out quite a bit. It has become quite drinkable and classy. It's a damn good wine with a great taste and smell. Smooth, earthy, dark fruit. Mellow, supple tannins. There are few wines I would rather have than this one at this price point ($50).

Monday, November 12, 2007

2001 Sagramoso Amarone Della Valpolicella Pasqua

Most of my readers have probably never heard of, much less tasted an Amarone. So, quickly, Amarone della Valpolicella is a unique style of Italian wine. It's really rich, lots of flavors, but very dry at the same time.

This particular Amarone, the Pasqua, was $36 from Nabil. I've never had one before, so I can't really rate it relative to it's peers, but I can say I really enjoyed the wine. Not enough to buy it again for $36, but certainly enough to consider drinking some if I happen across it. There are those, Sara among them, who could probably love this wine enough to pay big prices for it. It's that kind of wine. I don't love it, but I respect it. It was really earth, dry and rich. If you weren't from Earth, you might not realize it was made out of grapes.

We drank it with home-made Gnocchi that Sara made, with a red sauce. The wine went perfectly. What can I say; it was meant to go with Italian foods.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

in blindness veritas? and other goings-on...

Slate has an article today on Blind Tastings, the merits thereof and the author's personal experience with one event. Interesting reading for those of you who care about such things.

The tasting I spoke of last week was great fun. I was a bit disappointed by the Sineann Pinot. The Zanzibar was pretty good, but still too young for me to tell if I'll like it better than the previous vintage or not. Parker gave it 93pts, which is pretty good for only the third vintage. The Creator from K was awesome and the clear winner of the bunch. Snap some up now, because it'll disappear fast.

I've got three wines to post about this week: an Amarone, an Aussie and a Merlot. Two out of three fairly uncommon on this blog. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wine Tasting, Saturday Nov 3rd

Nabil at Seattle Wine Co. is doing a tasting of Northwest Wines on Saturday. The lineup looks pretty good:

2005 K Vintners The Creator
2006 Syncline Subduction Red
2005 Zanzibar Sandra
2006 Sineann Oregon Pinot Noir
2006 Daedalus Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
2005 Ransom Gewurztraminer

I'm looking forward to tasting the new vintages of The Creator, Sandra and the Sineann Pinot. All three have been amazing in past vintages.

It's a free tasting and I think its from 2pm to 5pm, but I might be off a little. Show up around 3pm. I'll see you there.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

2005 Des Voigne Cellars The Duke

Des Voigne Cellars is a relatively unknown boutique winery new on the scene here in Washington. The Duke is sold out, but the others of the 2005 vintage are still available. I'd recommend them if you're looking for interesting new wines that you can afford. I mean, California wineries have just lost their mind with pricing (the average price for a California Cab is now $80 bottle).

I bought this bottle from the tasting at Nabil's shop. I liked the Duke very much at the tasting in June, so I thought I'd open it up and see how it's doing. I'm going to say it needs a bit more time. It was a hot wine. It's only 14.5%, but it is big and spicy and it burns. It's an odd blend of Zin, Cab, Cab Franc and Merlot which gives it a very berrilicious flavor, but it's still a titan. I drank it with some spicy pork ribs that Sara made and it stood up just fine. In fact, it looked me in the eye and said, "You think that's spicy? That ain't spicy."

This is a wine that can't make up its mind. Is it a Bordeaux Blend? Is it a Zinfandel? It's both... ?! It is not got that mineral taste that makes Turley so interesting. And it is not a smooth, sexy, opulent wine. It is really its own experience. And surely a food wine.

If you got some of this, sit on it. I think it'll mellow a bit more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

2005 San Valentino Scabi

This wine is awesome. I love everything about it. The price is $18 (but I got it for $12 from Garagiste). I really dig the label as well. It's modern and simple, but conveys the thought that you're getting a classy and well-made wine. The wine itself was great too--more on that in the following paragraphs.

The only thing I don't like about the wine is its unfortunate choice of names. Scabi. Too easily confused with scabies.

Anyway, this is a great Italian wine. It's centrally located Sangiovese, with even less in the way of obnoxious tannins than most Sangiovese. Yes, smoother than your average Chianti and a nice dark purple color. It restored my faith in wine after the previous night's experience. I could even detect a little bit of the "notes of tobacco" that the Garagiste reviewer promised.

Lake Chelan Winery Stormy Mountain Red NV

I've been to Lake Chelan once. A group of guys I went to college with and their current wives and girlfriends and I rented a cabin on Lake Chelan for a long Fourth of July weekend. It was very beautiful. The lake, however, was freezing cold as melted snow is its principle source of water. It was fun, but I got bored after the first two or three days. I can only beat everyone at chess so many times before it gets old for everyone involved.

There are lots of apple orchards. It is a good climate for that. I question how good the climate is for growing grapes. So it was with a very skeptical mindset that I opened this bottle. There's something I find a bit off-putting about non-vintage wines in general--like they're cheating.

Anyway, this wine of unknown composition was a clear, purply color. This added to my trepidation, since I generally distrust wines I can see through. Maybe it was a Pinot? Maybe a badly made Syrah? I may never know or care enough to find out.

The wine itself was surprisingly not bad. It was thin, no body to speak of, but it was smooth and had a decent enough flavor and smell. One could drink it. I'd cook with it. If I had to rate it, I'd give it two stars. It's better than the average Pinot Noir I've had.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

2004 CR Sandidge Syrah

I don't know how much it costs because I didn't buy it (I just got to drink some). But I suspect that CR Sandidge is one of the more underrated Washington wines for it's price. The 2004 Syrah was a great wine, good to drink on its own before dinner and drink now without decanting. It's a dark, cool purple color and has great flavor and body. It's a bit earthy, very smooth, more like a Coonawarra Shiraz than a Washington Syrah. In fact, it reminded me a bit of the Bin 128. Anyway, it was good, I'd recommend it, and maybe have some cheese with it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yalumba Museum Reserve 50 Year Old Tawny Port

Regular readers will remember to celebrate my wedding, I opened a bottle of The Grandfather. Well, I had another bottle of really old port I was saving for a special occasion -- the Yalumba Museum Reserve 50 Year Old Tawny. Turns out the special occasion was my bachelor party at Morton's.

Robert Parker gave it 96 pts. It was about $50. The port was a great way to finish the meal. We all had steak, of course, and then chocolate souffle, then the port. It had great color and flavor. It smelled quite strongly of alcohol and had quite a bit of burn going down. It was a quality product and I'm glad I tried it, but it just wasn't the amazing experience I had hoped for. The Grandfather was much more pleasant. The Museum Reserve I could almost have mistaken for Brandy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

happy hour: McCormick and Schmick

Last night I went looking for happy hour food. Sara was having dinner with a friend, so I figured I'd go get me some $6 burger and wine special. But, oh the horror! Upon arrival I discovered Ruth's Chris no longer does their "late" happy hour. They're under "corporate management" now (whatever that means) and so they only have the 4pm happy hour.

Other than a certain multi-billion-dollar CEO of a certain company I used to work for in the lobby talking business with someone, the place was dead. In the past, even on a Monday night, the bar was always packed. The bartender seemed quite depressed. He said he'd understand if I wanted to leave. And I did.

So I ambled across the sky bridge to McCormick and Schmick. Their late night happy hour starts at 9:30pm and is still going strong.

I had their S&M, er, M&S Cheeseburger ($2) their Hummus Plate ($2) and a glass of Penfold's Kanooga Hill Shiraz/Cab ($8). Obviously it's not a $6 meal, but it's pretty close. If I had really wanted to stick to the $6 limit I could have got a glass of beer and a cheeseburger and come pretty close. However, I wanted a glass of wine as I watched the Rockies finish their sweep and they don't have the $3 wine special at M&S.

The burger was pretty good. Nice and hot, but juicy-pink in the center. No mayo by default and it comes with Fries, which Ruth's Chris did not. The Hummus plate was good, but I wouldn't pay more than $2 for it: the red chips were a bit stale in places. The hummus itself was well-made with garlic and some time of oil on top, but without that overpowering flavor some hummusses (hummi?) have.

The Kanooga Hill Shiraz/Cab was what you would expect from the lower end Penfold's wines. It's as good a bet as any other by-the-glass wine, typically cheaper than the others and more reliable. This one hit the spot and went well with the burger.

I now pronounce M&S the new King of Happy Hour.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Penfold's The Grandfather Port

So, back when Raph and I were roommates, we had this crazy Australian neighbor. He was the kind of guy who would just walk right through your back yard while you were grilling dinner without asking. He was also of the opinion that most things Australian, when it came to wine, were generally superior. As we got to know Ben better, he made some good points and our livers all, collectively, suffered.

So, one day I was checking out a wine shop I'd not been to before. It was called Arista and they had a few bottles of Penfold's The Grandfather port. It wasn't cheap; I think I paid about $80 for it (though I now know better prices are to be had). I mainly bought it so I could set it up in my living room and every time Ben came over he'd see it and wish he had some. I told him I was saving it for a special event.

Well, the bastard just had to show me up. He flew to Australia and bought a bottle of Penfold's The Great Grandfather port, which is even better and more expensive, and set it up in his kitchen so I'd see it every time I came over. Lucky for me that was about the time I bought a house and moved away from his smirkiness.

So, I decided the special event I was saving The Grandfather for was my wedding. Only problem with that little plan was I was so busy the day of and at the wedding that I forgot all about it. So a few days later when Ben's parents were in town we had dinner then went back to my place and opened The Grandfather.

It is not like opening a normal bottle. The thing comes in a wooden box with a clear plexiglass sliding cover. The top is not wrapped in foil, but coated in red wax. It comes with a second cork and instructions on how to use it (soak in water for one hour before re-corking). We cut the wax, drowned the re-corking cork and all had a sip.

It's the best port I've ever had. Well, the best of this sort. There are some old Vintage Kopke's that really make me happy, but that's a different sort of port all together. As far as the brown stuff goes, this was truly great. Completely smooth, sweet but not overly.

So all I have to look forward to are my Vintage Kopke's when they come of age, and Ben's bottle of The Great Grandfather, which I eagerly await.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

on corn

Sara is reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. I haven't read it, but she's been telling me some of the things it says about corn. Which is what lead to this little exercise:

Last night we went to Safeway to get some sort of dessert and went about reading all the ingredients lists to find something that didn't have corn products in it. Almost everything in the candy aisle, the cookie aisle and the baked-goods area contain corn syrup. The only exceptions were some imported chocolates and cookies from Europe, and a single type of Mocha-Hot Chocolate powder.

But even if you manage to find something without corn syrup, it's next to impossible to find something that doesn't have any corn related product: corn starch, corn flour... even xanthan gum is derived from corn.

Preview: I'll be posting about two amazing ports this week. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

on storing wine

While I was on Maui, I happened to walk past the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse at the Grand Wailea. They were closed (it was early in the AM), so I'm not sure what it is like inside. From the outside, however, it looked like they had gone and stacked a bunch of very expensive wine in the big plate glass window, with the labels facing out so we could all see how spectacular their wine list was. If you've ever driven down highway 29 in Napa, pretty much everything you see was represented. At least three or four bottles deep.

There is a reason Maui is a vacation destination: the sun. Everyday the sun comes up and cooks those bottles of wine. It's very sad. I wouldn't order any wine from that branch unless they showed me where they had been storing it first.

Most wine is fine at room temperature for seven or eight years. Most of us won't be storing wine for 40 years; most American and Australian wines are meant to be drank much sooner.

For serious storage, you can buy a fridge to meet your needs. The fridge keeps things cool, which slows or stops various chemical reactions that can make the wine go bad. Most modern wine making techniques, however, will remove agents that would lead to such reactions (depending on the wine). It's only over very long periods of time that these things tend to become an issue. Or if you have older bottles of wine; though I suspect if you have any '62 Bordeauxs, you already know this.

The key to casual wine storage is keeping the temperature consistent and keeping it out of sunlight. Changes in temperature cause the cork to expand and contract. You don't want that. Sunlight has UV rays that can cause the wine to break down in unpleasant ways. These are your two biggest enemies.

To that end, you want to keep your non-refrigerated bottles in the coolest, darkest place in your house. Someplace you don't go into very often. Closets under stairs, basements, etc. I have a spare bedroom in which I put heavy, velvet curtains over the windows and plugged up the heat vents with a bathroom towel. I keep the door to the room closed and the lights off, except when we go in to pick out a bottle. In the summer, I unplug the vent and let the A\C keep the room cool.

Considering Ruth's Chris is a consistent Wine Spectator award winner, you'd think they would know better.

Monday, October 1, 2007

another explanation

Again I apologize for the long period of time with no posts. We just got back from our honeymoon. Regular posting will resume shortly.

In the meantime, I will plug the 2005 Portteus Zinfandel one last time. The 2006 is coming soon, so this may be your last chance to get some. Ben and I had a bottle the other night and it is still tasting quite nicely. Best Zin in Washington.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

2004 Gaja Ca'Marcanda Magari

For Ben's birthday, we went to Tonsoni's and I brought the 2004 Gaja Ca'Marcanda Magari. A blend of Cabernet Sauvingon and Sangiovese, this Super Tuscan didn't thrill me as much as it's younger brother Promis did. And it was nearly twice the price at $57.

The wine had a really nice inky purple color and when the waiter was decanting it across the table, I could smell the wine from about 5 feet away. It was shaping up to be an amazing wine and I was really excited. Then I tasted it and I was disappointed. It's not a very approachable wine. It's very subtle. Nabil recommended one hour in the decanter, but that didn't seem to do much for it. There wasn't a lot of fruit, or anything else for that matter.

You could tell it was a classy, well-made wine... I dunno. Maybe it needed more time in the bottle. Maybe, like the Wilson Gunn, it needs two days to open up. I'm still in love with Gaja, but I'll be putting my money into the 2005 Promis that was just released.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Charles Krug Winery (current releases)

Charles Krug is a Napa Valley winery located in St. Helena and owned by Peter Mondavi (Robert Mondavi's brother). Their website, which is built using Cold Fusion, is down right now, so I can't do much investigation other than what I remember.

So here is what I remember (all wines refer to the current release):

The Sauvignon Blanc was excellent. It had a really low price point; on the order of $10. It wasn't extremely dry, nor was it sweet or sticky. It was a nice, refreshing white with good crisp fruit. Their Chardonnay was also enjoyable. It had hints of butter and oak, but nothing overpowering.

Their Pinot Noir was surprisingly good. I almost never like them, but this one was quite nice. The color was exactly the light purple you expect from a Pinot, but it was more opaque than most. It was a bit sweet and tasted like grapes. A pleasant experience.

Their Merlot I did not like at all. It wasn't the over-tannic crap most wineries seem to churn out, nor was it too watery. It was muted and thin... not much body. It might go well with the right food. It was only 91% Merlot, with cab, cab franc and others mixed in. This would seem to indicate a sketchy year for Merlot.

The Zinfandel I didn't like either. It wasn't a big zin... it was a muted and thin zin. None of the pepper and mineral taste you get in the big zins. Again, this wine might be stellar with the right food.

Their Cabernet Sauvignon was very good, and had a price point of about $20. It was a bit hot, good body, good taste. But not enough that I wanted to buy it. This could be a good drinker or a safe restaurant order though.

The last wine I tasted was their Bordeaux-style blend. It was okay. It was mostly cab with some Merlot and then about five other varietals blended in, resulting in something that really didn't thrill me. The guy said it was elegant, but to me it just seemed flat.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

2004 turley juvenile zinfandel

The week of my wedding started off with dinner at Wild Ginger for my father's birthday. It was quite a night. The ten of us polished off two bottles of the 2004 Turley Juvenile Zinfandel with dinner. There are not a lot of reds that stand up to Thai / Chinese food... usually I would have a white wine (last time we went we had a Sauv Blanc). Turley never disappoints, and it was the best value on the wine list (and they have an extensive wine list). I think we might have cleaned out their supply, but if they have any left and you find yourself there, get it.

Also get the Seven Flavor Beef.

an explanation

I haven't posted in an inexcusably long time. You know it isn't because I wasn't drinking any wine. Far from it. I got married. And that takes lots of planning and all of one's free time. However, it's all done with and my life is getting back to normal. Do not fret though; I have a quite a backlog of wines from the past few weeks that I will be posting about.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

2004 Wilson Gunn Shiraz (redux)

I reviewed this once before, so I'll just say it's still as good as the second time around. I opened this, had a glass, then put it in the fridge for two days. Then I pulled it out again and drank the rest. Two days of fresh oxygen really made a huge difference in this wine. It opened up nicely and had an amazing earthy flavor. Decant, decant, decant!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

new release: Penfold's Grange and Penfold's Bin 707

I just picked up my allotment of the 2002 Penfold's Grange and the 2004 Penfold's Bin 707. It ain't cheap, but word on the street is this is going to be a 100pt vintage for Grange, and I just can't get over how much I love Bin 707 every time I taste it. Check back in a few years to see what I think of the 707 and in a few decades to see how I feel about the Grange. :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

2006 Justin Chardonnay

It's rare that I drink or review a white wine, but I'm in Justin's wine club, and they keep sending them. The other day we drank the Chardonnay.

It was good. Crisp, no alcohol burn, decent flavor. There was no oak, no butter... just fruit.

And that's about all I really have to say about it. Justin does everything well (except that Rose that I had--that was utter crap, but... it was a Rose).

Monday, August 6, 2007

2004 Chateau Ste Michelle Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2004 was not much different than the 2003. See my review of the 2003. It was slightly more oaky, but just because it was slightly younger.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

2003 Chateau Ste Michelle Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

Cheateau Ste Michelle is a staple of Washington restaurants and grocery stores. They're probably the first winery most people think of when they think of Washington State. Like most big wineries, they have a range of wines. Their cheapest wines are in the $10 range, and they're drinkable. But if you just take a step up to their Single Vineyard wines, such as the Cold Creek Cabernet, the quality jumps quite a bit.

Generally you can pick up the Cold Creek in grocery stores for about $22. I've always had a soft spot for this wine. I generally keep a few bottles from every vintage on hand. It's a great drinking wine, and I'd put it head-to-head with a lot of $30 and $40 California wines.

So the other night, on a whim, I opened the 2003 Chateau Ste Michelle Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon to see how it was doing. It's done. Drink it now. It's probably at its peak. It was smooth, a little velvety, a little earthy and a little oaky. Mellow tannins, nothing bad going on. Nothing spectacular, but eminently drinkable. All you readers out there spending less than $9 on cheap Australian Shiraz should give this a whirl. Go on... splurge.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

2002 Penfolds Bin 707

When I decided to stop buying random wine and just stock my celler with the things I really enjoy, Bin 707 had a prominate place on that list. In fact, as soon as I finish posting this I have to add it to my "favorite wines" sidebar.

This past Saturday, we had our housewarming party, finally. This is exactly the sort of special occasion I had been saving this wine for.

One could argue it's too soon to open the 2002, but that's silly. The wine is ready to drink with only a few minutes of decanting. It is quite amazing.

As wine lovers, we often read reviews that throw around flavors off the Davis tasting wheel and then we try the wine and taste none of it. Seems everything from France has pepper and everything from Australia has minerals and soil and such. I love it when I find a wine that really expresses the flavors in an obvious way. It's the ugly American in me. Plumpjack Merlot had the Vanilla; Portteus Zinfandel has the spice and limestone; and this 2002 Penfold's Bin 707 had licorice and anise in a major way. The wine was silky and earthy and made me feel like I'd won. I can't sing the praises of Bin 707 enough.

For those who don't know, its Penfold's upper-eschelon (read: expensive) Cabernet Sauvignon. They don't make it every year and, to quote Ben, "it's rare as rockinghorse poop." So, buy it where and when you can, ~$80.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

making wine in clay jugs

Luxist, whom I have never heard of previously, has a blurb on a winemaker who is using 300 year old clay jars to make wine. Kind of interesting...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

three wines

2005 Patrice Colin Coteaux du Vendomois - The grape is Pineau, and it is nothing like Pinot Noir. It's a light-bodied wine that was quite smooth and just slightly peppery. I wouldn't go so far as to call it velvety, but it had a nice texture. It was a very dramatic wine, starting out smelling and tasting of nothing but minerals and sort of metallic. However, it evolved quite a lot over the evening and settled down in to a nice, drinkable food wine. ~$15.

2005 Estezargues Domaine Gres St. Vincent Cote-de-Rhone Villages - A silky Syrah that had some intense floral and fruit flavors. It was almost too much for me. Almost. Sara and I did manage to finish the bottle. It's a great wine with a really long name. ~$15

2004 Bellevue la Foret Cotes du Frontonnais Ce Vin - This one is made from another odd Frenchy grape: Negrette. This is 100% varietal, and it was a smooth, tannin-free experience. It reminded me of Bordeaux's that I've had for much larger sums of money. This one is medium bodied and it had the pepper and berry/fruit mixture taste I like so much in French wines. A cheap wine from France, without the heartbreak and disappointment. ~$10.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

1998 Beausejour

I picked up a half case of the 1998 Beausejour from Garagiste. This was a good move on my part. I began seriously collecting wine in 2002, so my oldest bottles are from 1999 and 2000. Well, I have a '97 Grange but I recently got that to fill out my vertical. Anyway, back the Bordeaux.

The Beausejour is a Pomerol, which means it's going to be a Merlot-based blend. The more time I spend drinking Shiraz, the more I am wary of Merlot, but this wine did not disappoint. It is a medium bodied wine and had nice, structured fruit in front and a very long finish. Parker said it had "remarkable symmetry." Which I agree with.

For me this is a food wine. On it's own it is drinkable, but seems a bit thing. With the right meats and cheeses this wine could be an exceptional experience.

Friday, July 6, 2007

2004 Stella’s Garden Lost Highway Shiraz

So, Ben beat me to it. But I agree mainly with everything he said. The 2004 Stella's Garden Lost Highway Shiraz was The Awesome. Not a lot of wines will stand up to habenaro covered beef tenderloin. It's a big, fruity wine. The color was the darkest, inky-est wine I have ever really had. There was enough sediment in the bottom to build a condo on. It was a wine to make a Frenchman cry.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Fourth of July

We spent the Fourth in Edmonds with Sara's family. We had two great red wines.

The first is one I brought, the 2003 Worthy Sophie's Cuvee. This is a Bordeaux-style blend from Napa. This is a well-made blend in the California tradition. The wine had plenty of body and good tasting fruit. It wasn't a huge wine, but it wasn't without it's complexities either. You could smell the wine from a good six feet away after opening the bottle and it was quite nice in the glass. This was a $40 wine that got marked down to $20 which is when I bought it from Garagiste. Apparently it got a few bad reviews... but I don't see why. From the texture to the smell, this is everything you could want in a new-world style wine.

The second wine was the 2003 Cayuse Camaspelo, which is another Cabernet Sauvignon blend. It's just a great wine. Good bits of Oak and the distinct taste of Washington soil. It was a medium bodied wine with nice dark color. This is the lowest scoring of the Cayuse wines, but if I could find enough bottles I would drink it every night.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

2004 Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages

I know nothing about this wine. In fact, I don't even know where it came from. Ben suggested it may be the mysterious "Garagiste Bonus Bottle." Wherever it came from, we enjoyed drinking it.

This wine is not like many of the wines I review. It was a light-to-medium bodied wine. Very french; 12.5% alcohol. It had a nice earthy smell when we first opened it, but the taste was very hard to pin down. At times we could taste notes of cherry, at other times much more earthy, legumey, flavors came through. There weren't any noticeable defects; it was smooth and pleasant. Overall, depending on how much it cost, I'd recommend it as a good summer/food wine. Anyone know anything about it?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Yalumba Muscat Museum Reserve

The Australians have become famous for their work with Shiraz, but I have found they make an excellent desert wine as well. I'm not an expert on desert wines (or really any wines) but let me say this: sweet, smooth, good tasting, $14. Well, $14 for a half bottle (375ml) at Whole Foods, the Yalumba Muscat Museum Reserve is well worth the price. Of course the Penfold's Club Port is about $12 for 750ml, but sometimes you have to splurge. :)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

2002 Chateau Moulin-St. Georges

Ah, Bordeaux. More specifically St. Emilion. My favorite french appellation (Pomerol comes in second). Moulin-St. Georges is one of my favorite bottles, and the 2002 Cheateau Moulin-St. Georges is drinking quite nicely. On release Parker rated it 89-91, but I believe it has improved in the bottle.

The wine had lost the intense St. Emilion sent that comes from the bottle when it is young, to be replaced by a lighter, but still earthy smell. The first few minutes were disappointing, but after a good swirl or four it opened up nicely. It had a nice subtle mineral taste. The fruit had a hint of cherry or raspberry. The tannins were completely mellow. It was noticebly thinner feeling, but still rather full bodied. It still has it's dark, inky color.

Monday, June 18, 2007

wine lingo

Slate has an article today titled "why wine writers talk that way," which pretty much describes the content of said article. It's a quick read, and interesting if you don't already know the answer. Even if you do know, there's a bit of history about the terms people used before the food based terms we use now you may find interesting.

I don't have much to add besides my recommendation for a book on the topic: Plain Talk About Fine Wine, by the creator of Silver Oak.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

1999 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003 K Vintners Ovide

This past weekend was graduation weekend in Seattle. Both the UW and SPU had their commencement on Saturday. Sara's cousin, Ashley, and I both received Masters degrees (hers in Education, mine in Computer Science). To celebrate, the whole family went to Seastar for dinner. Sara's uncle brought the 1999 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sara's father brought a bottle of 2003 K Vintners Ovide. The Quilceda was opened, decanted and left to breathe while the Ovide was drank first.

However, before they even got there (they got stuck in UW graduation traffic) Sara and I each had a glass of the 2004 Turley Zinfandel Juvenile. This wine wasn't as good as the Atlas Peak, but it was still a good red zinfandel and had some of the same qualities. I hate ordering serious wines by the glass, since you never know how long it has been open or how it has been stored. I've been some places where they store their by-the-glass wines in the kitchen and they come very warm. I'd be surprised if Seastar didn't take every step to keep theirs fresh, but you never know.

The '03 Ovide was a great wine. It is a Cab/Syrah blend and shipped with a wax coating over the cork, as many of the K wines do. I didn't write down what adjectives I though went with this wine, but it was a very enjoyable wine. I've had two K wines previously (Syrah, The Creator) and both were excellent. Washington wines at their best.

If Cayuse is the ultimate Washington cult wine, then Quilceda Creek is the flagship Washington wine. Their Cabernet Sauvignons are internationally recognized, highly sought after and, generally, expensive. Drinking one, for me at least, is an exciting experience.

I liked the 1999 a lot more than the 1997. Might first impression was that it had a better fruitiness and was a smoother and more refined wine. The '99 is 97% Cab, 3% Merlot, compared with the '97 which was 89% Cab, 9% Merlot and 2% Cab Franc. The smaller amount of blending in the '99 indicates a better year for the cab and much more faith on the part of the wine maker in that particular varietal. It was a good dinner and a good way to celebrate graduations.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

2005 Turley Atlas Peak Zinfandel Mead Ranch (and a Champagne)

Friday was a quite a night. We went to Palace Kitchen, a Tom Douglas restaurant and also the site of our first date, for dinner. I've never had a Turley wine before, but I've heard the legends. Raph had an empty Turley bottle that occupied a special place on the mantle. So I finally broke down and ordered the 2005 Turley Atlas Peak Zinfandel Mead Ranch. My god, what a wine. It was powerful when first opened for tasting. Huge in the mouth with all kinds of spice, cassis, and strange chemical and mineral tastes. But 15 minutes in the decanter an it settled down quite a bit. It was very big and bright. It stayed spicy and the pepper became more apparent on the back end. The finish is long; it goes, as Tim put it, "on and on and on." This is Zinfandel as it should be and I enjoyed it completely.

I had earlier surreptitiously instructed the waiter to bring a half bottle of the Veuve Clicquot since I would be giving Sara her ring. Well, they were out of Veuve Clicquot so instead he brought a half bottle of the Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve Champagne. I don't know a lot about Champagnes, but I do know most of them I don't like because they're too sweet or too something. This one was very nice and not offensive in anyway. I would order it again if the occasion called for bubbly.

(And Sara said "yes, of course.")

Friday, June 8, 2007

2004 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Merlot

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a Rispoli Event. The event was the 2006-2007 UW PMP CS Masters Graduates Dinner at the Yarrow Bay Grill. I was a graduate. Mr. Rispoli was the organizer of said event. We all had a great time.

Now, Yarrow Bay Grill is a pretty decent resturaunt. Their wine list is mostly Washington and California, with a few other nations represented in small quantities. Their list is a pretty good indicator of who's who in Washington state. They have plenty of DeLille and one of my favorites, the Sequel Syrah. So I was excited to eat their.

Turns out the catered meal came with our choice of red or white. The red was the 2004 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Merlot. It seems these days Mondavi's name is all over the place in the grocery store. This is a $10 wine and I didn't expect much from it. However, as far as $10 Merlots go, you'd be hard pressed to find I better one I think. I'll open nominations now. The wine was completely inoffensive, with just a slight bit of alcohol burn on the back end. There wasn't especially anything complex or interesting going on, but for free I could drink it all night.

I'm just going to take time out and give props to Mondavi. Everything I've had from them has been a quality drop. I haven't ever been super-wowed, even by Opus One (before you jump on my case, realize I haven't tried every vintage ever made), but I've never been sorely disappointed... or mad.

There, glad I got that out of the way. I can't wait to see what I get to drink tonight.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

2002 Grant Burge The Holy Trinity GSM

If there is an under-represented wine blend in the US, it is the GSM. Yes, grenache, shiraz, mourvedre. Truly, it is a good blend. A great blend. A holy blend? Grant Burge thinks so. Thus after a vigorous round of de-lodging golf balls from sand traps, Ben appeared at my door with the 2002 Grant Burge The Holy Trinity GSM.

It was crap.

(Actually, it was okay. I didn't like it. Ben thought it was okay. I suspect he'll be reviewing it. I think that it was a bit thin and the flavor wasn't really appealing.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

2003 Justin Isosceles

I have my cache of Isosceles and I rarely dip into it. Ben was over, however, and I wanted to drink something of substance, so I grabbed a bottle of the Justin Syrah. However, before opening it, I consulted their Aging Chart. It said to hold on to the Syrah, but that I should drink the 2003 Justin Isosceles right now. So we returned the Syrah to the cellar and brought out the big bottle.

They were right about drinking it now. I don't think it will get any better with age. It was good, but not as good as the '02s that I have had. It was a very earthy wine, with the smell of vanilla and the taste of fruit, dirt and a bit of smoke. I love this wine, and it made me very happy, despite not being one of the stronger vintages.

I think you can pick this up from Internet sellers for around $50 (I believe it was $60 on release, retail). Other vintages, ('02 or '04) would be a better use of money, but if you already have some, drink it before it is too late.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

2006 Rochioli Sauvignon Blanc and the Wild Ginger Wine Celler

I took Sara to Wild Ginger last Friday, since she had never been. Finding a good red wine to go with Thai and other Asian food is hard. Experience has show it's better to just go with a nice white. So I asked Nabil to help me find a decent white. I asked for something that wasn't sweet, was a bit crisp and had some fruit to it. He brought me the 2006 Rochioli Sauvignon Blanc. At $30, I was a bit skeptical, but he assured me it would be wonderful.

It is always a good sign when the Sommelier looks at the bottle and says, "Ah, yes, we just got our allocation up in the cellar and I've been eyeing it in anticipation." It wasn't on the wine list yet, but it turns out they had cases of the stuff. I generally bring my own bottle when going out to the higher end restaurants, because I would rather pay the corkage fee than the markup. I sometimes feel bad if the wine I bring is actually on the list, though. Sometimes.

The wine itself was everything I asked for. It was very crisp, slightly dry wine with hints of apple and pear, and just a touch of oak. There was no alcohol burn. It was obviously a white wine made well. Usually I don't like Sauvignon Blancs at all.

Throughout the meal, the Sommelier kept returning to top off our glasses. After dinner, we still had close to half a bottle left, however (we're light weights). So I invited him to have a taste with us. He poured himself a glass and we spent about 10 minutes chatting about the various wines we like, and he told us about some of the rare one-off bottles they had upstairs. Then he offered to take us up to the cellar to have a look around. Of course we accepted.

Their cellar was certainly well-stocked. The front room consisted of boxes of wines on their main list. The next room consisted of wines on the full, expanded list which comes in a binder if you ask for it. The back room also contained the really old or rare bottles. He explained the acquire many through estate auctions or people selling their entire cellars. He let me hold a 1945 Haut-Brion. He also showed us some Latour bottles from the 50's and 60's. They had Grange going back to, oh, around the beginning of time as well as many other Aussie wines of all vintages.

Another interesting feature was the extensive collection of "send-backs." These are the bottles that are, ostensibly, corked and rejected by the consumer. It was an eclectic collection. He said they save them and return them to the distributor.

It was great experience and Wild Ginger now moves up my list of great Seattle restaurants quite a bit.

2005 Des Voigne Cellars

Friday I had the pleasure of tasting the complete 2005 line of wines from Des Voigne. It was a fun tasting too; the wine maker was a very enthusiastic and knowledgable guy. Des Voigne itself is a small, boutique winery based in Woodinville, WA and using grapes from Yakima and Walla Walla. Here are my notes:

2005 Sauvignon Blanc - Red Mountin Grapes, 13.2%. It was a smooth, easy drinking wine with just a hint of Butter. I'm not really into Sauv Blanc, so lets move on.

2005 San Remo - 100% Sangiovese, 14.5%, it had hints of vanilla and really struck me as a big, bold wine.

2005 The Duke - 14.5%, an eclectic mix of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc, this wine was a bit spicy and very different from your average Zin. I liked it very much.

2005 The Emcee - Merlot with 4% cab, 14.5%. My notes say: "Well made, some burn." Enough said.

2005 Solea - 14.3%, this is the Cab blend with Melot and Cab Franc. It had definite notes of Cassis and Green Peppers, which I think is a pretty bold move for a Cab. I liked this one best of all.

Overall, this was an excellent line of wines. The price point of mid to high twenty dollar range might scare off some consumers, but if you can afford it and are interested in some truely unique Washington wines, go pick some up.

Friday, May 25, 2007

2005 Justin The Orphan

I have previously professed my love of all things Justin. This is the second vintage of Orphan I have tried. The '04 vintage, released after the warehouse fire, wasn't very impressive and was inconsistent from bottle to bottle. I finally picked up a few bottles of the 2004 Justin The Orphan to give the current release a shot.

Every year Justin releases this wine. I hate to describe it as left-overs, but that's what it is. They make a blend out of grapes they didn't use in their other wines. I gather this one is mostly cab and syrah, though specifics of the blend don't seem to be available. I opened one bottle of the 2004 and it was okay. It's definitely at the top of the $15 range, but I just found it disappointing. It had some fruit, some smoke from the oak, and some really rough tannins that will probably mellow out over the next few years, etc. I won't be opening the remaining bottles anytime soon.

Monday, May 21, 2007

2003 Seven Deadly Zins

Raphael and I made this our house wine when we were roommates. We bought it by the case and opened a bottle whenever we had guests over. Everyone always enjoyed it. For the price it is a wine that, at least for the past three vintages, you just can't go wrong with.

Like Meatloaf is a baseline for restaurants, the Seven Deadly are a baseline for tasting red Zinfandel. If I go taste a Zin and it isn't better than the 7 Deadly, but it costs more, than I pronounce it overpriced.

I found a perfectly kept bottle of the 1997 Penfold's Grange at a small nearby grocery store, so while I was there buying that, I bought some 7 Deadly to fill out the six bottles I needed for a 10% half-case discount. :)

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Whenever I try a new restaurant, I usually order a test dish. At Thai places, I get the Panang Curry. At steak houses, I get the Fillet. At diners I get bacon and Swiss omelets and hash browns. I use these as calibration dishes.

Last fall, Sara and I went to Napa for a few days. While we were there we completely failed to make any dinner reservations. On Friday night we found ourselves driving from two hour wait to two hour wait. Then a helpful limo driver suggested we try Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. It's a block off the main drag, but what a difference that block makes. We got a seat right away (at the Bar, but a seat is a seat). Staring at the menu, I was inspired to order the Meatloaf. Aside from visiting PlumpJack, it was the best decision I made all week. It was awesome. One of the top food experiences of my life.

So Meatloaf has become one of my new calibration dishes. I mean, lets face it: it's Meatloaf. It is not a dish a lot of people go out and order. It doesn't exactly scream "fine dining." So, for certain types of restaurants to put it on their menu is for them to make quite a statement. Thus I oblige and order.

Here are my recent trials, in ascending order of awesomeness, with comments:

3. Purple Cafe and Wine Bar -- The mushroom sauce neither added nor subtracted from the dish. The ketchup-based topping was good, but way too sparse. The meat was of uniform density, but rather bland. It was well-prepared, but not spectacular. If they dropped it from their menu, I don't think anyone would notice. The mashed potatoes and green beans that came with it were excellent, however.

2. DC's Grill on the Plateau -- DC's is a great restaurant and everything they do, they do well. Their Meatloaf is no exception. It was a bit spicy. The waitress claimed it was the best in Seattle, and I can believe it just might be.

1. Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen -- I don't know how they make that sauce or what they put into it, but it is amazing.

This raises the inevitable question: what wine goes well with Meatloaf? That's the beauty of it. You can drink Zin, Cab or Syrah.

Monday, May 14, 2007

2003 C. R. Sandidge

On Saturday, Ben and I did some very relaxed golfing at Bellevue Muni. I shot 90, which sounds pretty good until I mention we only played 9 holes. I'm going to blame it on not having my own clubs (Ben is much shorter than I) and the fact that I haven't played since college (over six years).

When we got back to the house I opened the 2003 CRS Tri*umph for Sara and I to have with dinner. Ben hung out for a few minutes and had a sip. It was an awesome wine. Sara's dad is in their wine club, and I think he made a good call on that one. The wine was a Cab, Malbec, and Merlot blend, which isn't too common for a Washington wine. This bottle was a gift, but I believe it retails for around $40. It's a nice, mineraly wine and probably one of the few Washington wines that can reasonably command such a large price.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

2005 Slipstream Fastback Reserve Shiraz

Over at the Seattle Wine Blog is a post about Australian wineries spending money on advertising to entice consumers who regularly buy sub-$10 wine to buy $10-$20 wine. My personal thoughts on the topic are this: most of the cheap end of Aussie wines is still better than the cheap end of any other wine growing region. I'd rather drink a glass of cheap Aussie Shiraz than cheap California Merlot any day. However, I'm not really in need of convincing that I should be spending $20 on Australian wines.

Case in point: last night I opened a bottle of the 2005 Slipstream Fastback Reserve Shiraz which was a 93pt wine that I paid $24/bottle. It was worth every penny. I probably would have paid $30 for it, which is what most retail outlets charged for it, but it's a close call because I can always buy a bottle of Bin 128 for under $20. However, this was a nice change of pace. It was the dark, inky purple so characteristic of Shiraz but it had a definite hint of blueberry on the front end with a nice long, smooth finish. Drink it now and for a few years hence.

I had this by itself--no food. It's a good drinking for the sake of it wine.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

La Berta Almante Alicante

When I first opened the bottle, I thought it had gone bad, but it opened up rapidly and became drinkable within about twenty minutes. Made from the elusive Alicante varietal, the La Berta Almante is a pepper-bomb. It smells of pepper and spices, and it tastes, oddly enough, of pepper. It's really a bit too much pepper for my taste. However, it seems very much a food wine, so we drank it with dinner. I made Pasta e Fagioli and the wine really stood up to it. Garagiste described it as an "eccentric" wine, and it sure is at that. It's non-vintage, which means they blended wines from several vintages (2001, 2003 and ???). For certain people who really love old-school wines, this would fit the bill. I don't think I'll be buying more of it, even for $14.

Monday, April 30, 2007

cooking with the aussie

So, Ben says, "let's cook a feed." And the next thing I know, we're off to Whole Foods.

Fuckin' Parpadelle
0.75 Sweet Walla-Walla Onions, chopped
1.0 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
0.5 Shallots, finely chopped
2.0 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
1.0 Habenaro, finely chopped
1.0 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2.0 Cans of Tomato Sauce
0.5 Cups of Chicken Stock
1.5 Packages of Fresh Parpadelle Noodles
4.0 Ounces of Sliced Mushrooms, finely chopped
0.25 Pounds of Ground Beef
0.25 Pounds of Ground Lamb
0.25 Pounds of Ground Mild Italian Sausage
0.25 Pounds of Ground Ostrich
3 Tablespoons of Marscapone
0.33 Cups of Parmesan, grated
1.0 Package fresh Mozzarella
1 Cup of Good Red Wine
Generous amounts of Oregano, Salt, Pepper, Dried Red Pepper Flakes and Cayenne Pepper

1. Cook Onion, Green Pepper, Garlic, Shallots and Habenaro on medium-high heat until onions are translucent and everything is generally squishy. Stir occasionally, do not let anything burn.

2. Add half of the chicken stock, the mushrooms, all the spices, and all the various ground meats. Cook on medium-high heat until meat is browned, stirring often. Add chicken stock as needed to prevent burning.

3. Add tomato sauce, red wine, marscapone and mozzarella. Stir. Continue cooking on low heat for 10 minutes or so, until everything gels and a good consistancy has been achieved.

4. While that cooks, boil the Parpadelle noodles for a few minutes. They're fresh (you did get fresh ones, didn't you?) so they'll cook quickly.

5. Strain noodles, combine with meat sauce, eat with bread and good red wine.

We drank the 2004 Fox Creek Shiraz and the 2004 Sablet. They were good.

And if you're wondering what to do with the Mozzarella, you forget to put it in and just throw it in the fridge when you are done eating. This is a vital step.

Friday, April 27, 2007

2004 Wilson Gunn Shiraz

After we sucked every drop of the Ridge Essence from the bottle, we repaired to the wine room to select another. After much debate (and much eyeing of Raph's wine that he still has not managed to get shipped to Chicago) we emerged with the 2004 Wilson Gunn Shiraz, direct to me from McLaren Vale via Garagiste. It cost $17. Tanzer said it had aroma's of fruit, rhubarb and mineral with a "suave floral topnote." I say it smelled like a farm in the fall. That's probably not right either, but it was very distinctive. The taste was less distinctive, but very good. It was smooth, slightly fruity and thick. The wine was very dark, like most Austalians of this variatel. It was a pleasure to drink and hard to beat at that price. I think it even beats Penfold's Bin 128.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

2003 Ridge Zinfandel Essence

I picked up a half bottle of the 2003 Ridge Zinfandel Essence at Whole Foods for $30. It caught my eye as I was wasting time at the deli counter waiting for the man to slice my corned beef. (They have awesome corned beef.) It interested me because it was 100% Zinfandel. All their other zins are mostly zin, with small percentages of other varietals thrown in. So I figured this must be their best grapes.

What I did not realize until later was that it was also very sweet. A late harvest zin. Basically a dessert wine. It wasn't like Port, but it was definitely headed in that direction. So I had it with a piece of cake that Sara had made earlier in the day.

The wine was awesome. It is good that it comes in half bottles, because of the sweetness. We set out to drink, not to have an after-dinner dessert sip.

The wine itself, beyond the sugary goodness, was incredibly new world and full of fruit. That's about it. Ben liked it, and he usually doesn't go in for California wines.

Monday, April 23, 2007

2003 Rubicon Cask Cabernet

Using only fruit grown on their Rutherford estate, the Neibaum-Coppola folks have thrown together a great wine. Quite tannic at first, but once open it mellowed nicely without a long decanting period. The wine was New World but classy. No ridiculous amount of fruit. It is aged in American oak, but the oak in the wine is not overdone--indeed it was hardly noticeable.

((I feel a digression coming on, so new paragraph.)

Personally I love oaky wines. I like it when you can really taste it. I like American oak over French oak. I like Missouri oak the best. I understand this is a controversial view point. Some people think wine should taste like grapes and not furniture. Others point out over-oaking is a signal that something else is wrong and oak is being used to cover it up. I am okay with that... I like what I like.)

The point is, this wine isn't over-oaked. It was a bit ashy, and had just a hint of vanilla. Just a tiny little hidden drop. You can taste it if you work hard enough. And that was my real problem with this wine. It just wasn't enough going on. Smooth, easy drinking wines can be had for much less than the $62 this bottle cost. I was promised this wine would blow everyone away, but for the price I'd rather be drinking the PlumpJack merlot.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

how to study wine

According to the New York Times if you want to learn about wine the best way to do it is to do it at home. There suggestions are quite useful:
  • Find a good wine shop and a salesman you trust.
  • Find another wine shop.
  • Buy a mixed case from both.
  • Drink it with food.
  • Take notes. Like, start a wine blog, perhaps? :)
  • Buy more of what you like.

Seems pretty good to me. I think I'll be taking a class though.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

2004 Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel

What can I say? When it rains it pours. I just can't get enough of Ridge. Our Morton's expedition offered another chance to get some Ridge Zin. They Geyserville was like (Lytton Springs)++. It was richer and had a tiny hint of vanilla in the finish (at least when paired with the steak). Retail on this wine should be less than $35. It's opulent.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


Last night was guys night out at Morton's in Seattle. I had never been to Morton's but I had always heard good things. Five out of seven of us ordered the Chicago-style bone-in ribeye, which was excellent. It wasn't the best steak I've ever had. It was flavorful and cooked exactly as I ordered it, but I don't think I would get it again. Next time I'll probably go for the fillet. I think I still like Daniel's Broiler better for steaks (there was contention about this topic among the seven). But one cannot consider just the food when evaluating a restaurant.

What made the night great was the service. Our waitress was outstanding. She knew the wine list back and forward. At Morton's they bring the meat cart with your options before you order. She brought out the meat cart with a live lobster and told us all about it and how it would be cooked. Then she let me take a close up look and handle it. She didn't even bother telling us about the seafood options--she knew that wasn't what we came for. The whole time she was taking care of us she joked with us and took part in our conversation. The other members of the staff were equally attentive, keeping drinks filled and the table clean. At one point someone dropped a fork and the chef sent a member of the kitchen staff running to replace it (but Kevin was too fast for him and grabbed a replacement off a nearby table).

Other food: the pre-dinner bread is awesome, the lobster bisque is okay (great lobster, okay bisque), the chocolate souffle is incredible.

After desert a man appeared with a tray of glasses and bottles. He informed us the waitress had so much fun with us she was buying us all an after-dinner drink. We had our choice of Bailey's, Port, Cognac or Sambuca. And they did not skimp on the pours at all.

I'm glad I went. I was a bit jealous of Ben's experience at Tosoni's, and I think this makes up for it. I'll post about the wines we had in separate posts.