Wednesday, March 28, 2007

2003 Domaine Sorrin-Coquard Cesar Cuvee Antique

Friday was beautiful two weeks ago in Seattle. After raining all week the sun finally came out. I left work early, went home and mowed the grass. It put me in a good mood, the weather and the work. And since I took my glasses off to do it the world had that surreal strangeness it gets after your eyes have gotten used to wearing glasses and then you take them off. The sun was setting so everything was yellow sunset-colored. This demanded the perfect wine.

So I dug into the collection and found this, the 2003 Domaine Sorrin-Coquard Cesar Cuvee Antique. This is a unique wine. The Cesar variatel is an ancient one, grown in northeastern France since the time of the Romans. It has largely taken a back seat to Pinot Noir in Burgundy. But 2003 was very warm and Pinot didn't do so well, but the Cesar became a rock star.

From what I understand, this wine is meant to be 100% Cesar, but the title "Cuvee Antique" would imply a blend, so I assume it is mostly Cesar with some of the other Antique variatels used in lesser amounts. It is from 60 year old vines, only 100 cases made. I picked up four at the ridiculously low price of $18.

I had never (knowingly) had a wine with Cesar in it, much less a wine primarily composed of Cesar. It turned out to be a great sunny Friday afternoon wine. The wine was lighter in color, like a good Pinot, but the taste was astringent and chewy. The wine was smooth. Not just smooth, but smoooooooth. I'm not sure what to compare it to. This is what I should have taken to Aaron's blind tasting.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

2001 Penfold's St. Henri Shiraz

Readers of this blog who pay close attention to detail will note that the St. Henri is listed as one of my favorite wines over in the "My Favorites Wines" section to the right. So of course I was happy to see that Ben had brought over a 2001 Penfold's St. Henri Shiraz to drink last night. We were celebrating, um... Wednesday?

The 2001 is a great vintage for this wine, and Ben's bottle was nice and dusty indicating it had been sitting, undisturbed, in his wine cellar for the last six years. And I know he keeps his Penfold's wines well refrigerated. The wine had aged nicely, but was no where near the end of its lifetime by any means. It was a nice dark purple you expect from the Aussies and had that nice, earthy richness that is characteristic of these wines. It smelled and tasted of dark fruits, with almost no oak at all.

Some places, notably Whole Foods, have been charging ridiculous amounts of money for this wine--upwards of $70. Wine sellers that haven't lost their minds have this closer to $35-$40. I know Garagiste has gotten shipments for as low as $20 / bottle. So, keep your eyes open and shop around on this one.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

complaints and missing posts

I had typed a long post, but I clicked "Publish" without filling out the captcha. This lead to an error and the loss of the entire text.

I really wanted to send someone an e-mail about being able to at least save without using the captcha, but I couldn't find a single support e-mail alias for Blogger. Then I decided to post to a group, but that turned out to be more complex than just clicking the group and clicking post. I had to join things, or subscribe to things.

So I'm going to complain here, for all the good it will do. You out there reading this Blogger admin-developer types? Please do something about it. Forgetting to enter the captcha text should not lead to loss of post text.

Your captcha is pretty bad. I've had to cut and paste this entry several times after typing the captcha exactally as it is and still being denied the ability to post.

The audio version of the captcha fails to play as well.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

value wine tasting

My colleague Aaron had a wine tasting party on Saturday. The rule was: Nothing over $15. Here are my notes:

2004 Sterling Vintner's Collection Cabernet Sauvignon - Pretty bad. Icky.
2003 Northwest Cellers Cab-Merlot Blend - Pretty bad. Weak, bad color, overly sweet.
(NV) Cheap Red Wine - I can't believe California lets them export this. It's truly terrible. It was bright pink and incredibly sweet. It burned.
2002 Terra Blanca Merlot - A decent winery but an uninteresting wine. Merlot done badly. Don't let that discourage you from trying their other wines. I've actually been to the winery, and it's a beautiful facility. Anyone touring Yakima should stop in.
2003 Chateau Beaulieu - A sleeper of the '03 Bordeaux vintage, but unfortunately not very consistent from bottle to bottle. This is what I brought. I bought a half case, and some bottles have been stellar, one I had to pour down the sink, and this one was okay. It was smooth but lacked structure.
2003 Rabbit Ridge Syrah - A great value wine from Paso Robles. This was the favorite of the night among most attendees. Chewy, dark, smooth, fruity.
2005 Fat Bastard Chardonnay - Not overly sweet like a lot of value Chard, but not buttery enough (or at all) for my taste. A wine that sells mainly due to clever naming.
(NV) Cheap Red Wine - Can you believe two people brought this crap? At least we know it's not consistent because this tasted nothing like the other bottle. This one was absolutely revolting. I had to dump it after one sip. It was like drinking rubbing alcohol that had been flavored with wine-extract (which is a product I just made-up rather than denigrate Kool-Aid's good name).
2005 Seven Deadly Zins - My favorite of the night. I love this wine. It's been consistently good for the last three or four vintages and is a frequent drinker at my house. Some places have started charging over $20 for this wine, but you can still get it for $16 at most respectable wine shops.

This is the point where we left. A few more wines showed up later that I didn't get to taste, but I'm not too worried about it. :)

Overall, it was a rough night. And the rumors are true--I did get set on fire. There were these strategically placed tea-candles...

For pictures of the event, including the burn hole in my shirt, check out Aaron's page.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

happy hour: ruth's chris

Downtown Bellevue offers quite a triad of happy hours. Daniel's Broiler, Sea Star and Ruth's Chris each have great happy hours with very high food quality to price ratios. This week I hit Ruth's Chris.

The happy hour is from 9pm to closing. To eat I had a cheeseburger ($3) which was the best damn $3 burger you are likely to find in Seattle, not overcooked (medium) and made with good meat, lettuce, tomato and onion (hold the mayo). To drink I had the red wine special, which was The Little Penguin Cabernet Savignon ($3). The Little Penguin is a discount wine from Australia that nestles into the same class as the low end Rosemount and Penfold's wines. It was drinkable, if a little rough around the edges. It goes oddly well with the cheeseburger though.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Hoegaarden Witbier

Okay, so it's a wine blog. But I've already strayed into food, so I might as well mention beer as well. I usually don't drink beer at home because I like it to be from a tap. There are very few beers out of a bottle that I enjoy. I was skeptical that Hoegaarden would be any good out of a bottle, but it's actually quite nice. Very crisp, goes well with pizza. I give it 4.0/5.0.

a happy birthday indeed

On Friday night, Sara and I attended her esteemed uncle's birthday party. One of the things I love about her family is their high appreciation of fine wine and unending generosity in sharing it. We were, as always, in a hurry to get there in time for dinner (getting anywhere after work on a weekday in Seattle is a battle) and I utterly failed to pick a bottle from the wine cellar to bring to dinner (we brought a bottle of the Gaja as a present). It didn't matter--anything I was likely to have picked would have gone unopened in my desire to try the other wines that were present. We did have to drive home, after all.

When Raphael and I were roommates, we would frequently have guests over and go through a flight of bottles that had big names, but this night will stand out in my memory for a long time. Sure, there are some big names in the following list. Some may say they are overrated. I won't argue the point. What I will say is that drinking all of them was a pleasure. I hope I remember everything accurately.

We started with the 2003 Stag's Leap Petit Syrah. Stag's Leap has made an appearance here before, so you know how I feel about the winery. I've never had the Petit Syrah before this. I've often seen it, as I'm sure many have, at the wine shop, but it always made me a little nervous. Just something about the lone varietal stamped on the label that seemed a bit foreboding. All my fears were unfounded. It was a nice, dark, wine that was very smooth. It wasn't a gigantic wine which is what I expected. It had a few interesting layers and was very drinkable on its own, as we had it before dinner without accompaniment. For those keeping track, it is actually a blend of mainly Petit Syrah with Viognier, Carignan, Mourvedre, and Grenache. Like I said before, these wine makers know what they're doing.

Sara's aunt cooked dinner. It was (this is the theme for the night) another thing I had never had. Sara told me on the way over that it was going to be Cabbage rolls. Thoughts of bad Thai restaurants popped into my head, but she assuaged my fears. They turned out to be amazing. It was meat and other goodness wrapped in cabbage and cooked in a red sauce. I ate too many of them. I focused so much on eating them that I hadn't finished my glass of the Petit Syrah when I noticed the next wine had appeared in the decanter.

The second wine of the evening was the 1997 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. If you're wondering why that name sounds familiar, it's because Quilceda Creek is the only Washington winery to ever produce a wine that got 100pts from Robert Parker two years in a row (2002 and 2003). The 1997 was the first time I've ever had the pleasure of tasting anything from Quilceda, and I must admit it lives up to the reputation. This is perhaps the earliest anyone would want to drink the '97; according to the winery they should bottle age well into 2020. The bottle we had was young, but it was far from infanticide. It was a very well put together wine, blending 89% cab, 9% merlot and 2% cab franc. What I tasted most was the mineral taste that seems to be characteristic of these Washington wines. There were hints of fruit as well, but I had a hard time placing them. It reminded me most of snozzberry.

In case that wasn't enough, we went back to California to finish off the night with a bottle of the 1997 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon which comes from Napa. Unfortunately, I utterly failed to find out which of their cab's it was. It was oddly similar to the Quilceda, but more supple and less mineral. It was really great to drink after the Quilceda, because it really contrasted the two regions. A truly luscious wine. I will add it to my list of wines I'd love to drink daily but just can't afford.

Quite a night!