Monday, December 13, 2010

2001 penfold's rwt

Well, I've done it again.  I've committed infanticide.  Well, maybe not infanticide, perhaps just nineyearoldicide, whatever that's called.  This wine, while excellent, should probably have been left sitting for at least another few years.

But I couldn't help myself.  It was Thanksgiving.  I wanted to open something special.  And this was the oldest thing I had in the "drinkable" pile.  Of course it paired horribly with just about every dish we had on the table.

The wine itself was a wonderful dark purple.  It smelled like plums and had a velvety, jammy taste to it.  It was quite smooth, with no defects discernable to my amateur palate.  I decanted it for about 20 min prior to drinking, and that probably could have gone on longer.

Anyway, I don't have any more of it, so I won't know if it gets any better with age unless Ben has some stashed away.  If so I propose we conviene in 2013 and give it a try.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Shingleback Black Bubbles Sparkling Shiraz

The wife and I picked this up on a whim at Whole Foods for around US$20.  We were having a vegetarian concoction of couscous, avocado, broccoli and a broccoli-pesto sauce for dinner and it just seemed like it might go well.  And when it's hot, like it was that weekend, a well-made sparkling wine might just be what one needs.

The food, by the way, was amazing.  The wine itself was pretty okay.  It was a nice, dark, inky color which is to be expected with a name like "Black Bubbles".  There was quite a bit of frothy-pinkness at the top and I think my decision to use the French wine glasses (as opposed to some Riedel goblet of opulence) was a good one.  There was plenty of fresh, black fruit taste.  It had good balance that made it seem like more than just carbonated Shiraz.  There is a place for this wine, probably as the first wine in the afternoon of a night that will be full of a long line of wines, but all on its own it left me wanting more...

I like the label design too.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

2004 Hay Shed Hill Pitchfork CSM

Still the best wine under $10 made in Australia.  I love the label and I love the wine.  When I can, I buy a case of it and drink it all year and it never fails to impress.

If you can find it, stock up.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

2006 mith

Still one of my favorites. Has great, dark color and sweet candy-like dark fruit taste on the palate, but still very young. Needs more time in the bottle.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2006 Seven Deadly Zins

Still a pretty decent wine, but the '06 just didn't live up to previous vintages. Great wine for the price, and if you know nothing about wine this is still a great pick to take to dinners, parties, etc.

I do have it on good authority that the most recent vintage of the Earthquake Zin is a better pick then the Seven Deadly.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another Smörgåsbord of Wine Porn

In no particular order:

I found a bunch of this 2000 Rosemount Hill of Gold Shiraz in a local wine store. I'm not sure what the current release is, but this one is a few years old. If you have this wine, drink now. It will not be getting any better. It is brown around the edges and incredibly pungent. It is a decent wine, if you're feeling adventurous. I picked this up a few months ago for $20.

Next we have the 2004 Matthews Claret. A great Washington wine, good for all occasions. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

I have nothing good to say about the 2004 BV Napa Valley Merlot, so I will say nothing.

The 2004 PlumpJack St. Helena Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon is a great wine. Very different from the more recent PlumpJack vintages, but the oak has mellowed quite a bit and the flavors are much more integrated than when it was young. A great wine, but a bit on the expensive side at $50.

The 2005 Scabi, in addition to having one of the most visually appealing wine labels in my collection, is also a great drop! I've only found it through Garagiste the one time I got it, but I would recommend it to anyone if you can find it.

Last but not least in anyway is the 2006 Justin Savant, their Cab/Syrah blend. It's a great wine, but not as spectacular as I had hoped. Only available through their wine club (or the right local Bay area store, as I found), this wine is about $50. And because Justin always has lots of useful information on the back label, the back of the bottle:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

2006 Rombauer Zinfandel

As good as it ever was.

If you liked previous vintages, you'll like this one too.

A great wine for the price ($25).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

a whole lot of Justin

I just got another shipment from Justin so I keep finding excuses to open them.

We start with the 2006 Justin Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a special one for me because I have never had it before. Indeed, this is the first time I have got a shipment of it. It was an inky purple wine (which I like), and full of oaky fruit (which I also like). This is a great wine, but at $45 it just is not as thrilling as some other California Cabs in that price range. The wine club price of $36, however, makes it a very reliable drinker, and a good deal.

Next we have the 2006 Justification, the 63% Cab, 37% Merlot blend. I used to say the Isosceles was my favorite wine, but now I just can not make up my mind between the Justification and the Isosceles. Really, these are where Justin earns all my respect. Their Cab, their Syrah, their whites--all good solid wines, and alone they would make a respectable line. But these blends! This is where Justin really shines. I opened this on election night to celebrate.

Third was the 2006 Justin Syrah. I could smell the pepper and taste the fruit, the cassis, and the oak. This is a great Syrah--not as good as the 2002 Reserve Syrah, but still a nice bottle. Certainly it impressed my guests who got to drink some.

Lastly we opened a bottle of the 2007 Viognier. Not a lot to say about it. If I have to drink white, I like to drink Viognier. I would drink this one again. It was light and crisp, not syrupy-sweet.

Monday, October 27, 2008

2005 Lewis Alec's Blend Napa Valley

Lewis doesn't need me to tell you how good their wine is. This wine was great. Fantastic. Too expensive for me to add to my list, but it made a great gift for which I am very thankful.

Sara and I drank this at home with a good, home-cooked meal. It really made my night. I love cab-syrah blends, and this is one to rival some of my favorite Australians. If you want the details, here's the reverse of the bottle.

If you've not had it, this is a great California wine to try on a special occasion.

Monday, October 13, 2008

2005 Baer Ursa

This was a gift, and I quite enjoyed it. You'll probably enjoy it to. A great little find from Washington state.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

how to uncork a bottle of wine

First you need the proper equipment. There are people who open bottles of wine everyday for a living. These people are called waiters. There is a tool called the waiter's key. This is not a coincidence. Proper ones look like this:

The thing on the left is a foil cutter. You can get by without one, but they're very cheap and make your life a bit easier. If you don't have one, you must use the little "knife" on the back of the waiter's key.

The important thing is to get a waiter's key that has the hinge. To do it properly you have to have the two stages. See the orange arrow.

Use the foil cutter to remove the foil. One twist while pressing inward and it should come right off cleanly.

Next open up the waiter's key and insert the corkscrew. You do not want to push the tip directly into the center. Instead, you want to do it slightly off-center so that the center of the corkscrew spiral is aligned with the center of the cork itself.

The next part is the part that so many wine-opening gadgets get wrong. You want to twist the corkscrew down far enough into the cork so that you can maximize the volume of cork you exert force on while pulling it out. However it is of utmost importance that you do not puncture the bottom of the cork. Things like The Rabbit and counter-mounted cork extracting machines almost universally puncture the bottom of the cork. Those weird cork extractors that have the two arms that go up while you screw the thing downward are also notorious for doing this--they can't function properly without breaking the bottom of the cork. If you break the bottom of the cork, depending on the age and composition of the cork, you most likely end up with bits of cork floating in the wine. Which nobody likes.

With the waiter's key you generally want to leave about a full twist above the top of the cork. Once you are at the proper depth, put the first stage of the metal arm on the rim of the bottle and make sure the hinge is bent inward.

Then you simply left the lever while holding the metal arm in place with your free hand.

When the cork cannot be pulled further, move the hinge so that it is bent outward and put the second stage of the metal arm on the rim.

Pull upward on the lever one more time and the cork should slide right out with no pulling or problems.

At this point you remove the cork from the cork screw, make sure the bottom of the cork is wet by touching it with your finger and smell the wine in the bottle. If the cork is dry and the wine smells like socks and nasty, find another bottle. Otherwise, drink and enjoy.

If at any point the cork doesn't move easily, jiggle the lever up and down or give the screw another bit of a twist and try again. Basically approach it as you would any stuck item by trying to loosen it by applying forces in different places until it comes unstuck.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

2004 Gaja Ca'marcanda Promis

I have quite a backlog of wines to blog about. There are several factors that have caused this. Things have been incredibly busy at work shipping new versions of the product; Sara got a new job and is working two jobs while she transitions to the new place; Sara's parents were in town for a week staying with us, so I did a lot of wine-drinking but zero wine-blogging. Also, I sometimes forget to post. But I always remember to get the photo. Here is a glimpse of things to come:

But those guys are at the end of the queue. Today's post is about a wine further back in my backlog, the 2004 Gaja Ca'marcanda Promis.

I reviewed this wine a year and a half ago, but that was before blogger made it easy to upload photos. My opinion of it has not changed much, but it has mellowed out quite a bit. We decanted it and had it with pasta, and it was just a great, easy-drinking wine that tasted the way medium-bodied Italians should.

The Promis is one of the wines that I just buy a half case of on release every year and keep on hand to open when we have people over for dinner. It's a great wine to which everyone should consider subscribing, though at ~$35-$40, it can be pricey. It is the price you pay for consistency and quality in Italian wines.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

2004 Chateau Vieux Chevrol

Not as good as I had hoped, but a very pretty bottle.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dinner with The Family

Sara's Aunt, Uncle and Cousin were in the area and they stopped in Palo Alto to visit us for a day. They were kind enough to take us to dinner. That, combined with Sara's Uncle's love of wine and extensive wine knowledge inspired me to pull out a bottle that I expected he (a) had never heard of and (b) would love.

The 2004 Mith is a stunning wine, one of the best Washington wines I have ever had. Sara described it as "like drinking candy." I'm sure that will evoke different images for different people, but it is not inaccurate. The wine has no hint of alcohol in the taste but has plenty of beautiful yet subtle fruit.

Of course, since we went to an Italian restaurant, Sara's Uncle also wanted to try one of the wines off their list. He chose a 2004 Amarone.

I'm not an expert on Amarone, in fact, this was only the second one I have ever had, but I enjoyed it. It was sort of a brownish color, compared to the vivid purple of the Mith. It has a very unique taste, not unlike a nutty-raisiny taste. It was a bit hot, but went nicely with the food. I couldn't finish my glass though, because I had too much to drink and too much rich food by that point.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Party Wine

A few weeks ago we had a sort of house-warming party. Sara BBQ'd some ribs, made some other dishes, and invited my new coworkers over for dinner. I ducked into the closet and came out with the following.

The 2004 Chester-Kidder, a merlot. A good merlot, but not really my style of wine. It's smooth and drinkable, but does not have the nice fruity flavor I tend to go for.

The 2005 Portteus Zinfandel, of which I can not say enough good things. Have you joined their wine club yet? Why not?! This is a Washington Zin that puts a lot of California wines in their place. Think of it as Turley that you can actually get a hold of. Though I hear the 2006 is a very different sort of Zin. I am looking forward to trying it.

The 2002 Moulin-St. Georges, my stand-by Bordeaux. I got a lot of this vintage from Garagiste at a ridiculously low price. I love to pull it out for guests.

The 2006 Mark Ryan The Dissident. There are two things I believe to be true about Mark Ryan. One, he is a great wine maker. Two, his wines are over-priced. This particular bottle was a gift, so the second theorem is rendered moot. The wine is billed as a "red table wine," which is about right. It was a decent enough drinker, though honestly I think I only had a small taste of it. It was a bright and fruity wine. If you like Mark Ryan's other wines, this one will please you. Though I think for the price, you can do better.

I will end this post with a picture of the awesome coconut cakes that Sara made, and a promise of more posts to follow soon.

Friday, June 27, 2008

2006 Turley Old Vines Zinfandel

I love California Zinfandel, and I love Turley. And, of course, Turley will always have a special place in my heart.

On my trip to Seattle I was lucky enough to come by four bottles of the 2006 Old Vines Zinfandel and so I figured we should open one up for the family to try before I bring them to California and cellar them.

As always, the Turley did not disappoint; indeed, this is the best wine that $35 can buy. The wine is full of peppery spice and complex structured berry fruit flavors. It smells great and is a bit young but eminently drinkable.

We had it with salami, fruit and cheese as we sat on the back porch over looking Puget Sound. It was quite nice.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

2005 Cougar Crest Cabernet Franc

There is nothing like sipping a well made, Washington grown, Cabernet Franc outside on the deck of a not-quite-completed house overlooking the Puget Sound. This 2005 Cougar Crest Cabernet Franc came courtesy of Sara's uncle Chris.

The 2005 did not have as much vanilla as the 2004, which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who you ask. I like the vanilla flavor that certain oak barrels will impart. Chris though it had a bit too much oak influence. Either way, we both agreed this was a nice wine to drink. If you like other Washington wines, you will like this one.

Wine Spectator gave this 93pts, and I think that is pretty fair. This pushed the price up a bit into the low to mid $30 range, but everything seems to be getting more expensive. The wine is very fruit-forward and smooth. My personal feeling is that Cougar Crest is one of the better Washington wineries and their entire line bears tasting, but I always seem to like the Cab Franc the best.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

2006 Chateau Montelena Potter Valley Riesling

Sara's father bought this from the winery on our last Napa trip. I think it was around $14.

The wine was very yellow with fruit and floral notes. It was dry for a riesling, but still very nice to drink. Today it is supposed to top 100 degrees again here in the Bay Area, so if you have some in the fridge, now would be the time to pull it out and drink it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

2004 Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon

This was my treat to myself. I had not tasted the 2004 Bin 707 yet, but I had fond memories of the 2002 and I wanted to see how this one was going to turn out.

The 2004 is not as luxuriant as the 2002 was. The 2004 has the dark, full bodied color and the wonderful pungent smell, but the flavor was a bit dull. I think the wine is very young and the various components will integrate better with a bit of time. The wine was short on the palate, with bits of dark fruit. It was smooth and supple, but not mind blowing.

While I was in Seattle I also managed to score a few bottles of the 2005, so I have something to look forward to in this department. I hear it is the best vintage ever.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

birthday smorgasbord

The day of the event we had a pretty good line-up, as you can see for yourself:

Some quick notes on each:

The 2001 Betz Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon is probably the star of this bunch. This is a great wine with fruit and veggie notes, acidity and tannins that are a bit rough but are well structured to create a great drinking wine.

The 2002 Red Diamond Shiraz is very similar to the 2001 which I already reviewed. This is still the best wine I have found for under $10.

Second place goes to the 2005 Portteus Zinfandel, which I can never get enough of.

I do not think we got around to opening the Vina Robles cab.

I am not a huge fan of 2006 the ghost of 413 syrah. The name is clever, and the wine is drinkable enough. But if you are looking for value syrah, you can do a lot better than this for $15. Look to Australia.

Still more wines from the Seattle trip to come. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

2005 Rombauer Zinfandel

Just got back from a road trip to Seattle. Birthdays were involved, so lots of wine was consumed. I will be dealing with them in approximately the order in which they were drank.

The Rombauer Zin will always have a special place in my heart because it is one of the first wines I tried where I actually began to understand the differences between wines, and what makes a really great wine. The 2001 was our house wine when I lived with Raph. But I am not going into that story now.

Anyway, my father-in-law opened this for us the night we got into town to have before and with dinner. It is a great wine and I still think it represents a good value ($27) for your average daily-drinker. It is pleasantly fruity and smooth, and medium bodied. Always good to have a few bottles around for unexpected dinner parties and such. It is a drink-now wine, so no need to be stingy with it or worry about aging it.

Monday, June 9, 2008

2005 Marquis Phillips Shiraz 9

I picked this up from Seattle Wine Co for about $35. Robert Parker gave it 96-98pts, and you just do not find those wines for that price these days. So I snatched some up. I am glad I did.

It was a real deep, rich, shiraz. Lots of blackberry and some toasty oakiness up front. Overall a great wine that I really enjoyed drinking over the course of three days. It held up well in the fridge even, with just the cork pushed back in.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

2003 Stella's Garden Lost Highway Shiraz

So, I was in Vegas at this restaurant. The first thing I noticed is their wine markup is about 4x the normal price of a bottle. Which is ridiculous. But I did not follow my own advice and bring my own bottle, so I was stuck. Luckily we were splitting the tab 8 ways.

The second thing I noticed was they had the 2000 Stella's Garden Lost Highway Shiraz on the menu. The 2004 was stupendous, so I figured lets have a go at one with some age on it. Of course, they brought me a 2003. Another thing I hate is restaurants who do not update their frickin' wine list. But, still, I will take a 2003. So they open it and decant it and add $136 to the bill. Bastards.

Anyway, the wine was very good. It was not that dark, midnight-satin, inky color the 2004 was. It was still a nice, full bodied Shiraz, but much less remarkable than the 2004. The '03 had nice color and was pretty smooth for a 15% wine. Everyone at the table, even non-drinkers and non-wine drinkers all liked the bottle. There was good dark fruit and just a hint of spice.

Monday, May 26, 2008

2002 Moulin-St. Georges

No need for me to type a full review again, but I am just going to say that it has been very consistent from bottle to bottle.

And here is a picture.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

2003 Fairview JakkalsFontein Shiraz

As a Shiraz purist and having lived in close proximity to a fellow from down under, I get twitchy when people outside of Australia call their wine shiraz. Furthermore, my general preferences for wine regions have always been California and Washington, France and Italy, and Australia. However, like all oenophiles, I am always searching for a good deal on a spectacular wine. Or even a notable wine. Well, at least a drinkable wine.

I do not remember actually ordering this wine, but I did because I have the e-mail to prove it. It must have been an impulse buy. It was $20 from Garagiste.

This wine was hot, running at 15% by volume. Sara and I were quite sloppy after drinking it. We paired it with Mac and Cheese, which does not really soak up any alcohol. We both enjoyed the taste, and as you can see from the photo above, had a good time. And neither of us had head-aches the next day.

The wine itself was not like an Aussie shiraz. At least not the ones I typically buy. The wine was lighter, more medium bodied, and a sort of ruby color. There was no sediment to speak of. It was all bright fruit and supple tannins. Despite being 15%, it did not burn or have a bad finish. It seems like if I had to put it on a spectrum it would be right between your older, brighter Aussie shirazes and some of the California style zinfandels (the peppery ones, not the velvety ones).

If this is a good example of South African terroir, I think we are all going to have to take them very seriously. I highly recommend this one.

Friday, May 16, 2008

2005 Justin Justification

Sara's parents came to visit us in Palo Alto. Sara made a cassoulet the first night they were here (which was excellent) and I wanted to open a nicer bottle to go along with it. You can see for yourself in the picture below that we enjoyed the wine.

The wine is a great blend of 64% Cabernet Franc and 36% Merlot. The wine was still young, with the some pretty recognizable vanilla flavors in it that will fade over time. The tannins were tame and it wasn't acidic at all; the wine was smooth and complex with a fairly short finish. It is a good drinking wine that goes great with home cooking. Now I can not decide if I like it or Isosceles better.

If that is the only difficult decision I have to make, I guess things are going pretty well.