Saturday, June 11, 2005

Another Day at The Wine Shop
Dropped into my favorite wine shop today for their Chardonnay Tasting. I guess Chardonnay is not as popular as it used to be. I’m an hour late for the kick-off but I’m still the first one there. Unexpected, because there has been an older, bearded, guy at the last couple of tastings who has professed a distinct preference for this varietal. He turns up about twenty minutes later with his usual bag of cheeses and crackers. He’s late because he had to watch his great grandson play baseball. Some things are more important than tasting wine!

By the time he arrives I’m already well into the Chardonnays. A group of six that I taste double blind. An interesting and diverse line up that shows once again that unwooded Aussie chardonnay performs very well while stuff from across the Atlantic just does not come up to par. OK, Michael cut these foreigners some slack. So while the conversation turns to fish restaurants, and which of the four Sideways characters would you want to spend time with, I turn my attention to some of the better quality whites and reds from the Winebar list. I only select a couple of the whites, but I have to admit that the 2001 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Clos des Papes, Paul Avril is pretty good. It is almost as unusual as the 2003 Rosak Chardonnay from the Santa Rita Hills of California. Among the reds I pick out three. One is the only Aussie on the list, another is a Carlisle Zinfandel that I have heard a bit about and the third is the Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan. Whoa, $8.35 a taste! I could have bought a bottle of cheap Shiraz for that. This stuff better be good.

Maybe it was the eight tastes of white wine, or trying to decide whether I’d want to spend time with Miles or Maya (like that is a difficult choice), but by the time I get to the to reds I’ve forgotten the order they were poured. Now I could just look at the list. Its only a matter of turning over the page that I’m writing my tasting notes on. But how hard can this be? Barossa Valley, Sonoma County and Bordeaux. Hell, let’s make it really simple. Australia, USA and France.

Eyes, nose and tongue primed. Let’s go. The first wine is extremely nice. Delicate and yet very complex. Very soft and supple on the palate with tannins picking up toward the finish. Well structured, great potential. The second wine is even better. Very open with cloves and currents. On the palate it has a lot of acidity and huge tannins, and the flavors caress the palate in a lingering afterglow. I’m definitely buying this! The third wine gives an immediate alcohol hit. Initially closed it grudgingly gives up aromas of earth and caramel. The palate is a battle between frighteningly victorious acidity and defeated tannins. I believe the description in some wine circles is austere. Right! Well I’m steering right away from this. If you want to spend time with the wine it does seem to soften, but I’m ready to spend time with Maya. However first I have to flip this piece of paper.

Wine 1 is 2002 Betts and Scholl, Grenache, Barossa Valley $29.99USD 14.9% alcohol
Wine 2 is 2003 Carlisle Zinfandel Sonoma County $23.99USD 15.8% alcohol
Wine 3 is 2002 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan $69.99USD

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