Tuesday, January 30, 2007

2005 Portteus Zinfandel

Portteus is a 74 acre, family operated winery in Washington's Yakima Valley. Their winery is very scenic and they have big fuzzy dogs. But that's not the real story here. The real story here is their Zinfandel.

I got the bottles at the Winery. I remember hitting the Zin in the tasting room--I hadn't had any coffee yet and it woke me up. Then a few months later I opened the bottle and poured some for some friends. My friend Don took one sip, squished up his nose, let out a moan crossed with a "yuk" and put the glass down, never to taste it again. He's not a red wine fan.

Oh. My. God. The 2005 Portteus Zinfandel is a monster. I mean, it's huge. I don't know how the wine fits in the bottle. You want pepper? You got it. You want to taste the rocks in the soil? This is the ultimate expression of the soil.

You want a wine that can stand up to The Man? This is a wine that can beat down anything. In fact, you'll need to eat something fairly strong with this wine.

(Those of you who don't know, The Man is a hot sauce made from, in no particular order: pure capsicum powder, Mexican insanity peppers, transmission fluid, and tear gas; further reading here.)

This is probably the most unique wine I have tasted in Washington state. At $26, you need to have some of this wine in your collection.

Monday, January 29, 2007

why buy expensive wine?

Slate has an article today on one man's pursuit of a rare $700 wine. This is a good read for those of you who ask questions like, "is that $100 wine really that much better than this $10 wine?" This might give you some insight on why someone would be willing to spend so much money on a single bottle of wine.

The most expensive bottle I have ever bought has been the various vintages of Penfold's Grange at about $225.

What is the most expensive bottle you have ever bought?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

2004 Vieux Chevrol Lalande de Pomerol

This weekend I visited another character in my cast of wine-snobbery: Garagiste. Those who don't know, Garagiste is a Seattle-based importer of limited production and good-value wines. The way it works, as far as I know, is this: you get on their e-mail list, when you see something go by that you want, you reply and say how many you'd like to order. Then every once in a while, you call them up, make an appointment to pick-up and go see what you got. It's kind of like Christmas every time I go.

To celebrate my good friend Don getting a new job, we had breakfast Saturday at Coastal Kitchen. Since it was breakfast, only scanned their wine list briefly, but I did note that they have half-priced wine nights on Tuesdays. The breakfast was excellent as well--I got a ginormous portion of blueberry marscapone coffee-cake. The fresh squeezed orange juice was welcome as well.

After breakfast we went to Garagiste to perform my semi-annual pick-up. I got lots of goodies. And just like Christmas, I had to open one now. So when Ben's wife called last night asking if I wanted to go to dinner at their place, the perfect opportunity presented itself. I brought along a bottle of the 2004 Vieux Chevrol Lalande de Pomerol, which I got from Garagiste for $18. We drank it alongside an Australian meat pie and raw carrots.

This is what Gargiste had to say about the wine, and I have nothing to add, except it goes great with Australian meat pie:

"Vieux Chevrol is one of those important properties that remain a beautiful jewel in the face of sandpaper. They are a one of a kind winery and they have more in common with Trotanoy or Lafleur than one may imagine (without the new oak). This wine bridges the gap between Romanee St. Vivant, Pomerol and some form of satiny, sultry Syrah. It is light to medium bodied, bright red cherry in color and owes its pedigree to its place as well as to the owners of the property that allow the wine to express itself without heavy extraction or color - all with the velvety sap of a Grand Cru Burgundy. A gorgeous wine that is as special as it gets from this area."

So, if you can find some of this excellent Bordeaux, please pick one up for your enjoyment.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ben Strikes Back

This is a blatant plug for my friend Ben, who has been mentioned on this blog several times. Ben and I have shared many bottles, and I respect his opinions and recommendations. He is Australian, however, so beware his bias toward the Aussie wines. That man loves a Shiraz...

Anyway, here's his blog which is an obviously inferior response to mine. :)

2000 DeLille Chaleur Estate

Not to be outdone by his brother-in-law, Sara's uncle brought a bottle of the 2000 DeLille Chaleur Estate to help celebrate Sara's mother's birthday. The winery that Parker so famously dubbed "the Lafite-Rothschild of Washington," DeLille has never let me down and this was no exception. For a Bordeaux-style blend of Cab, Merlot and Cab Franc, the wine comes out very dark in the glass (which I like). Fruit-forward and a good finish. Definitely a wine that deserves to be drank with food. I can't say enough good stuff about Delille.

My first experience with Delille was St. Valentine's day last year. Sara and I had a bottle of the 1999 Delille Doyenne Syrah with dinner. This turned out to be the perfect wine to drink with Ragu of Wild Boar. My next experience was the D2, simply because it is affordable and it lived up to the expectations the Doyenne set.

You know, when I pay off my student loans, I may just join their wine club.

1998 Behrens & Hitchcock Merlot

Sara's father brought a 1998 Behrens & Hitchcock Merlot over to help celebrate Sara's mother's birthday. Up front I have to say it's a great winery and an obviously well made wine. And I love a good Merlot. One of my favorite wine's is the PlumpJack Merlot and if I could afford it I would drink it every night. That said, the majority of Merlots (where the wine is overwhelmingly Merlot; I often love blends that involve Merlot) just do not do it for me and this was one of those wines. It was smooth--not too tannic--and the label is very pretty. But I can't really say much more for it.

2000 Stag's Leap Estate Reserve Cabernet

The other night we had dinner with Mitch and Sarah at Cafe Flora. Those of you who have not experienced Cafe Flora, you should check it out. I am not a vegetarian--in fact I generally don't consider it dinner unless a large land animal died--but I appreciate good service and finely crafted food, no matter what it is.

A quick glance at Cafe Flora's wine list didn't reveal anything I especially felt like paying for that night, so I decided to let my friends pick up the corkage fee and bring my own wine. I entereed the cellar and came out with my last bottle of 2000 Stag's Leap Estate Reserve Cabernet.

At this point I will introduce a new character in my little blog-narrative: Nabil. Nabil owns Seattle Wine Co., which is located on 130th in Bellevue. 2000 wasn't the best year for Napa Valley wines. Somehow Nabil got a close-out deal on the 2000's and recognized that, even though it may have not been the best vintage ever, a well-made wine is still a well-made wine. Raphael and I picked up several 6-bottle cases for $25 / bottle. This was truely an excellent deal.

The wine itself was great. One of my favorites. The tannins were mellow and the wine was complex. A hint of vanilla on the finish. Not as much oak as I generally like (I'm an oak-freak). It's 98% cab with just 2% merlot.

If you have this wine, you may as well drink it now; I don't think any further aging will get you anything.

Monday, January 22, 2007

how to buy wine

I found this guide to buying, ordering, pairing and tasting wine quite interesting.

I will be posting more wine review/experiences tonight. I have a backlog that includes Stag's Leap and Delille, among others.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Ball Buster (round 2) and Columbia Crest Merlot

It snowed in Seattle yesterday. This is always a huge disaster, as it generally never snows here. The abundance of rear wheel drive cars where I work doesn't help either. Trying to leave campus yesterday was impossible until way into the evening. To pass the time, we started drinking the wines we could find.

My esteemed colleague (let's call him 'Clint') happened to have one of two bottles of the 2005 Ball Buster Shiraz in his car that he had bought on my advice. He had tried the other bottle previously and agreed it was a great wine for the price. So we drank it. I enjoyed it as much as the first time. Bold, fruity, smooth. Not a real big wine, not real mineral-ly. And at 15.5% it definitely livened things up.

Then another colleague of mine (let's call her 'Lum') procured a bottle of the 2002 Columbia Crest Merlot. And a corkscrew, which we didn't previously have (The Ball Buster is a screw-cap). It wasn't bad at all. It was smooth, and that bottle emptied just as quickly as the first one. I have no idea how much it cost, but I wouldn't pay more than $10 for it. Whoever donated that--thank you very much.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

A Tale of Three Wines (and Three Australians)

Last night we went over to Ben's house to meet his parents who were visiting from Australia. That explains the three Australians (Ben's wife is from Washington).

Now for the more interesting part where I talk about the three wines we drank. First was a local find from their recent expedition to Leavenworth (a small town in Washington that decided one day that they would get more tourism revenue if they adopted a Bavarian theme). The Icicle Ridge wine that we drank was an interesting blend of Merlot, a grape I have never heard of, and Cab Franc. I am usually skeptical of tourist-town wineries (outside of the Napa ones, of course), but it was actually very good. A bit of mineral taste, but smooth and pleasant. Not sure what it was called -- my cell phone camera pic I took is too blurry to read. Their website is terrible and doesn't bother to have pictures of the labels, so that was no help either.

We moved on to the 2005 Balboa Cabernet that I brought. This was another Washington value wine. I picked up three bottles for $8 each. Still a little young, it needed a long time to open up: approx. 8 hours (!). But the tannins were mellow, the fruit was forward and I would recommend this wine to anyone who wants a decent cab to drink with any normal meal during the week.

Lastly Ben opened a 1999 Rosemount GSM for us on the theory that since his Mom and I were both over, it was only fitting. Now I know exactly how long one needs to sit on this wine for it to come into fullness: eight years. The wine was excellent, as always, but Ben's restraint in letting it mellow in his cellar this long made it the best GSM I have ever drank. Dark color, very smooth, no tannins at all to speak of, oaky, earthy, a hint of mineral from the rocky soil... a spectacular wine. Current vintages go for about $25 at Costco.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

2003 CRS Klingele Vineyard Syrah

I've recently had the pleasure of tasting two of C. R. Sandidge's wines: the 2003 Tri*umph and tonight the 2003 Klingele Vineyard Syrah. Another Washington syrah, it was much more exciting than the previously mentioned Isenhower. A dark in color and full in body, it really needs some decanting time before drinking, but as it opens up the wine is amazing.

I had the Tri*umph a long time ago, so I don't remember the details other than it was a very unique wine that I really enjoyed. I have another bottle in the cellar, so in a few years I'll be able to give it the review it deserves. In the mean time, pick some up if you can.

I must say, the CRS web page is one ugly site. 1998 wants its graphics and layout back.

2004 Isenhower River Beauty Syrah

This 2004 Isenhower Syrah from the Horse Heaven Hills appellation of Washington was disappointing. The wine makers had some skill, you can tell that, but it there was almost no flavor and it burned on the back-end. I would seek to spend my $32 elsewhere.

Monday, January 1, 2007

2001 Red Diamond Shiraz

Previously I mentioned the Red Diamond Cab and tonight I was able to try the Red Diamond Shiraz. It is apparently not widely sold in stores but most can order it. Also about $8, this wine is an incredible value. It's a great Washington syrah for the price. It doesn't have any of the burn that the Cab displayed, and it can probably bottle age for a good while only improving.

If you've been drinking the el-cheapo Rosemount Estate, then stop and buy this instead. You'll be buying local and, imho, buying a better wine.

2004 Delille D2

The Lafite-Rothschild of Washington State. Every wine I've had by Delille I've liked a lot. The Doyenne will always have a special place in my heart as one of the great Syrah's I've had. However it is the D2 that we had with dinner last night. We did the prix fix dinner at Cafe Juanita, which included quite a range of food--beef tongue, fois gras, veal, duck... so it was hard to pick a wine. The D2 is Delille's second bottling of their Bordeaux blend. It's a great all-around wine and most restaurants around here have it for about $65 making it relatively affordable.

The prix fix menu was a 10 course meal, but our waiter somehow managed to skip a course for us. In return he comp'd us a bottle of some Italian wine that I neglected to remember. It was nice, and a good wine, but we had to drive home, so we barely made a dent in it.