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.