Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wine in London

I'm sure there is a more sophisticated way to do this but I don't really care. A link to my Facebook page with pictures of some of our wine escapades in London in 2008......and no, my facebook page is not about wine.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

2010 Landmark Australia Tutorial

A recent email from Lucy Anderson, Manager - International Marketing and Communications, Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, gave details of the 2010 Landmark Australia Tutorial. This is the second Landmark Tutorial and follows the highly successful 2009 event.

The media release, issued 18 September 2009, states…..

A Landmark return for the Australian wine industry

Following the internationally acclaimed, inaugural 2009 Landmark Australia Tutorial, Wine Australia is today announcing the 2010 Landmark Australia Tutorial will take place in the Yarra Valley in September next year.

For the first time, Wine Australia is inviting applications from Australia’s leading wine professionals to join the best and brightest opinion leaders from around the world in the five-day tutorial.

The intensive course consists of a series of tastings and themed master classes charting the development of Australia’s fine wine credentials says Wine Australia general manager of market development, Paul Henry.

“We are searching for the next generation of leading wine professionals who will help shape an informed awareness and opportunity for Australia’s regionally distinct and fine wines in their respective markets,” Mr Henry says.

The first Landmark Australia Tutorial was held over five days in the Barossa Valley in June this year. More than 1,000 initial enquiries were received with 12 participants chosen from Australia’s key export markets including the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Japan and China.

Julia Harding MW, one of the UK participants from the first tutorial said, “The 2009 Landmark Australian Tutorial gave me more information to back up my belief that Australian wine is much more varied than most people think and also can be a lot more subtle than its stereotype.”

Some of the leading figures in the Australian wine industry have again confirmed their commitment and involvement in the tutorial such as Peter Gago, chief winemaker at Penfolds and Robert Hill Smith, proprietor and vigneron, the Yalumba Wine Company.

Next year’s tutorial will take place in the Yarra Valley which, like the Barossa Valley, is a renowned tourism destination and one of the key wine regions in Australia allowing Wine Australia to yet again showcase the regional diversity and ‘terroir’ of its wines to an international audience.

“Developing a shared understanding of Australian excellence in the fields of wine, food and tourism is critical to the evolution of our future success on the world stage,” Mr Henry said.

Information about the tutorial can be found here and details of the application process can be found here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Australian Wine is Boring

Perhaps its just because I’m Australian that I find myself scratching my head in frank puzzlement when someone says that “Australian wine is boring”. Its just so hard to believe. Such a statement cannot come from someone who has tasted across the diversity of Australian wines, can it? It must be because there has not been enough exposure because the variety that comes from 50 plus wine regions and thousands of wineries is simply mind boggling. How can I be sure? Well I’ve tasted wines from regions in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, The Australian Capital Territory, Western Australia, and Tasmania. Reds, whites, desserts, sparkling, warm climate, cool climate, high elevation, and low elevation, mass produced and exclusive boutique. With such variety its just too hard to make everything boring!

Who would say that French wine, or Italian wine or even Californian (let alone the whole of the USA) wine is boring? Wine from any country covers a spectrum from undrinkable to nectar, so how can one country’s contribution be boring. I suppose if you were just drinking a narrow spectrum of very similar wines then you might begin to think that everything tastes the same and get bored with the similarity. And its quite possible that if you buy your Australian wine outside the island continent that you do suffer from a lack of choice. Its also possible that some Aussie wines from South Australia especially those from Barossa and McLaren Vale do have a sameness about them. But isn’t that to be expected? Those two regions are not that dissimilar, especially when compared with the Grampians, or the Pyrenees, or Mornington Peninsula.

There actually is no simple way to get a true idea of the diversity of Australian wine without visiting the country itself. But the next best thing might be to look at what wines Australians collect. The Wine Ark among other things stores wine for Australian wine collectors and it has cellars in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Sunshine Coast and Perth. That means they cover the largest population areas of the country and so would have a pretty good sampling of what is popular in Australia. They have just surveyed the more than 3,000,000 bottles of wine in their cellars that comprise over 8500 collections across the country to discover Australia’s Most Collected Wine. It comes as no surprise that the most collected wine is Penfolds Grange but the other 49 wines in the top 50 are likely to raise some eyebrows especially here in the USA.

From my point of view the most interesting list is that of the Top 10 Collected Shiraz wines, seven of which come from South Australia which has all those hot nasty regions producing all those syrupy, goopy wines. I’ve tasted all ten wines with the exception of the Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier. You could do a whole lot worse than build a collection of Aussie Shiraz around the wines listed. Mind you I have only one in my cellar, the Penfolds St Henri Shiraz, but then I do have a bunch of other Shiraz that cover the full range of diversity if not regionality.

Here are the Top 10 Shiras by ranking and region.
1 Penfolds Bin 95 Grange Shiraz -Various Regions - SA
2 Penfolds St Henri Shiraz -Various Regions - SA
3 Rockford Basket Press Shiraz - Barossa Valley
4 Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz - Various Regions - SA
5 d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz - McLaren Vale
6 Penfolds RWT Shiraz - Barossa Valley
7 Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock Shiraz - Heathcote
8 Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz - Eden Valley
9 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier - Canberra District
10 Dalwhinnie Moonambel Shiraz - Pyrenees

The survey resulted in Top 10 Collected lists for Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Semillon. Take the lists to your favorite wine shop and see what they have. I’m currently drinking the 2005 Petaluma Piccadilly Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills of South Australia that I picked up for the ridiculous discounted price of $12.99USD.

A word of warning. Don’t rush out and buy the recent vintages of these wines to consume tonight because the list is of cellared wines which often show their best, depending upon the wine, after a few to many years of maturity. And remember this is just 60 or so of thousands upon thousands of wines, so if at first you don’t find what you like keep looking!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Should Wine be Bottled like Beer?

In the most recent issue of Wines and Vines English wine writer Jamie Goode has a very readable article on Oxygen and Wine. Jamie covers several aspects including a research initiative being funded by Nomacorc, bottle closures and the technology being used to measure oxygen in wine. One of his conclusions is that the variability of oxygen pickup during bottling can be a significant problem for wine. But the most interesting point he discusses is that the beer industry has spent considerable time and effort to avoid the presence of oxygen in its product. In relating this to wine Jamie notes

George Crochiere gives some examples of the sorts of levels of oxygen that might be introduced to wine bottles during different filling procedures. In the worst-case scenario, a gravity-filled bottle sealed with a cork without any vacuum will pick up 2.6ppm oxygen during filling and have a further 1.8ppm oxygen in the headspace, giving a total of 4.4ppm.

If a vacuum filler is used and the headspace is evacuated, this figure will fall to just under 1ppm. If a screwcap is used and the bottle is filled using a vacuum filler, then pick-up in bottle filling is 0.6ppm. If liquid nitrogen dosing is used, headspace pickup is 0.7ppm; without this it is as high as 4.75ppm, giving an initial TPO (Total Pack Oxygen) of 5.36ppm. Crochiere points out that in the beer industry, the best-run bottling lines give oxygen pick-ups of between 0.05 and 0.15ppm, while average lines are 0.2-0.4ppm.

Obviously bottling under a vacuum and using a screwcap cuts the level of oxygen dramatically but not to the level of the best bottling achieved with beer. Even an average beer bottling line reaches levels that are better than the best wine practices. So why is wine not bottled like beer?

Clearly one argument is that we still don’t know what level of oxygen wine requires especially for maturation (cellaring). And we also don’t know whether different wines may need different levels of oxygen when placed in bottle. There are companies producing liners for screwcap that allow different levels of oxygen to pass. Different levels of oxygen, that does make the imagination wander. Just picture, one day Penfolds Grange may come in screwcaps of different colors. One color will signify a liner that allows little or no oxygen ingress/egress so you can cellar the wine for decades, another color may signify a liner that allow a little oxygen to enter so that maturation is hastened over a decade or less, and another may let in even more so that you can quaff your Grange as soon as you get it home from the wine store. And, of course, seeing as the Fosters Group makes both beer and wine your Grange for the cellar is likely to come with a twist top crown seal!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

1299 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

There was time when beer was the only alcoholic beverage I drank. That was back when beer in the Student’s Union bar at ANU was a cheap 20 cents a glass (10 oz) or a $1 for a jug. Before I graduated I had moved on to spirits with Canadian Club being a favorite. Although the Scottish father of one girlfriend was always trying to convert me to Scotch, even at his daughter’s wedding reception! During those days wine was just starting to interest me. It became the primary focus only after I had a job and money to spend.

Decades later my exposure to beer usually means a Corona when Miranda and I have a quiet lunch or dinner at one of the local restaurants. But my interest in beer has been reignited after I met an Englishman in Washington, DC! It all came about when 20 of us sat around a table trying to figure out which research laboratories were the most deserving of government largess. After 10 hours of restrained squabbling it was time for dinner. Lebanese food and Lebanese wine, a passable start to the evening. But what to do next, walk back to the hotel, seek out an ice cream parlor, or follow the Englishman to a pub where he said they serve over a thousand beers. The English are not known for exaggeration but a thousand beers? Three of us decided to check it out, one because like the Englishman he makes his own home brews and the other two because we were thirsty.

What we found after a not insignificant walk on a rainy night was a covered stairway leading up to what looked like a house and turned out to be what can only be described as a dingy, dark bar. This didn’t look good but the dirty carpet, worn floorboards and smell of stale beer didn’t slow down the Englishman. Down to the bar only to find that there was no space. Up to the main floor where he found us a table cramped up against a wall, surrounded by tables of 20 somethings coddling all manner of beer glasses and bottles. Beer bottles and cans were everywhere as were beer posters and signs. A waitress placed a small booklet in front of each of us and said she would be back to take our orders. The Englishman was not exaggerating. There were 10 pages of beers with at least 100 per page. There were beers from Albania to Wales. The beers from Belgium alone covered almost two pages. Australia had two, two beers that is. There was one beer from a country called Tasmania! I didn’t want to point out the obvious because the list did split England, Scotland and Wales.

I started with a St Peter’s Old Style Porter (10.9 oz for $10.95USD) and followed that with a Daleside Old Leg Over cask ale (16.9 oz for $10.95USD). I was just warming up for a shot at a Thomas Hardy’s or JW Lees vintage ale when it was decided that we all needed to be sane and sober for another day of deciding who was worthy of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money.

But I’ll be back!

The Brickskeller was begun in 1957 with 51 different beers. In 2002 it held the Guinness World Record for the most varieties of beer commercially available, a crown which, I believe, is now held by the Delirium Cafe in Brussels; they serve over 2,400 different beers. The Brickskeller claims to be the Mother Church of Beer and to have served over 6000 different beers. With George Washington University close by you could call it a cross between a university bar and a dark, slightly unkempt, English pub. But whatever you want to call it, it’s definitely worth a visit.

I said I’ll be back but in truth I only get to DC two, sometimes three times a year. That means relying on the Brickskeller to quench my new found interest in beer could leave me might dry. Fortunalely San Diego does have its own version of the Brickskeller called South Bay Drugs and Liquor. Drugs and liquor in one place? Well this is California.

South Bay Drugs and Liquor began life as a drug store (or Chemist for those outside the USA) but has grown a sizable listing of 300 or so local and international beers, including vintage ales. Now I know where to get that JW Lees vintage ale.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Landmark Australia Tutorial Begins

The first Landmark Australia Tutorial began today. OK, given the time change between San Diego and Adelaide it actually began almost one day ago. But the important thing is that it has begun. Twelve participants identified as international opinion-formers "with extensive wine experience in buying, selling or editorial decision making” will be spending five days learning about the history, depth and breadth of Australian wine from some of the truly outstanding figures of the Australian wine industry including principal tutors, Dr Tony Jordan, Michael Hill Smith AM MW and Andrew Caillard MW, as well as leading Australian wine experts James Halliday and Brian Croser.

A web site is up and running with details of the Tutorial as well as links to some of the blogs from a few of the participants, and the occasional tweet. But alas at least on my computer (one running Internet Explorer version 6) the format is terrible with a greenish bar running across the screen at regular intervals making the whole thing almost impossible to read. This is unfortunate as I wanted to be able to read about how the participants are enjoying (or otherwise) their experiences. I guess I’ll just have to follow along on the blogs of Jamie Goode, Julia Harding MW (Assistant to Jancis Robinson) and Tyler Colman.
Note: Using Intenet Explorer version 8 solves any problems the the Landmark Australia site.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ever wonder how The Wine Advocate reviews wine?

I guess there is something to the complaint in recent weeks that at The Wine Advocate it is common for some of the staff to avoid the written rules; see here

The procedure, contained in The Wine Advocate Rating System, states in part When possible all of my tastings are done in peer-group, single-blind conditions, (meaning that the same types of wines are tasted against each other and the producers' names are not known). The ratings reflect an independent, critical look at the wines. Neither price nor the reputation of the producer/grower affect the rating in any manner.....

The reality is this!

The conditions are clearly not peer-group nor single blind. And the comment that hosts ply him with enormous meals that leave him groggy and overfed is sure to raise the possibility of conflict of interest.

I guess Parker could argue that the text in the TWA Rating System refers to how he reviews and does not apply to his independent contractors like Dr. Jay Miller. But why then do the good Doctor's reviews appear in The Wine Advocate?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Wine decanting: Is it all hot air?

In today’s LA Times W. Blake Gray has written about decanting. There are some very flowery comments, especially from Piero Selvaggio, owner of Valentino Restaurant Group. And some clearly single minded comments such as "Almost every wine in the world does benefit from aeration. The only exceptions are wines we rarely drink -- older, expensive Burgundies that could collapse with too much air," from Karen MacNeil, faculty chair of the wine department at the Culinary Institute of America's Greystone campus.

But then the piece ends with this. Susan Rodriguez, a research fellow at Cal State Fresno, recently did a blind tasting experiment and discovered that her panel could not tell the difference between a wine that had been decanted for two hours and the same wine right out of the bottle.

"The people who set it up were flabbergasted," Rodriguez says. "They were sure they could taste a difference."

That has been the experience here at SHIRAZ, just search the site under “decanting”

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

An Education in Australian Wine

I have at least 50 books on various aspects of wine in Australia, and I know there are at least a dozen or more sitting in the library of a relative in Australia. Plus there are quite a few that have been loaned, never to return! But even that number is far from a complete collection of the books that have been written. The Australian wine industry has a long history, and has grown so much in size and diversity in recent decades that its hard to recommend any single book as a complete treatise. But I do have one recommendation that is worth looking at. A set of four DVDs from Panorama International Productions titled Wine Trails of Australia.

Wine Trails of Australia won’t make you an instant expert on Aussie wines but it will give you an excellent introduction to the various wine regions and winemakers that contribute to the diversity of wines on the island continent. All the major regions, Barossa, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Clare Valley, are covered, and that is just South Australia. Unfortunately after that things get a little confusing. The regions are then addressed mainly as either states (Western Australia, Victoria) or cities (Sydney, Melbourne). But the biggest problem is that the four DVD set has been complied without any thought given to organizing the regions either in terms of location, importance or history. So Volume 1 gives you Barossa, Riverina, Queensland and Canberra, and the latter has footage and commentary from the Orange region mixed in. This will be more than a little confusing to those with no knowledge of Australian wine regions. But you are more than compensated by excellent scenery and a wealth of history in terms of the region or city as well as the wines.

Several winemakers provide commentary about their wines in each of the 14 episodes and some might consider some of the statements as shameless advertising of their own products. But the wines are their livelihood so if anyone has the right to self-advertise they do! More enticing are the snippets of history that run throughout the episodes. They don’t all relate to wine but I guarantee you that you will learn something new. And even if you do consider yourself an expert on all things pertaining to Aussie wine you might end up learning a few interesting bits of wine trivia. For example, Yellow Tail started out expecting to sell 25,000 cases of wine into the USA but sold 7, 000,000 and all by word of mouth, no advertising! Or that the winemaker at Katnook, Wayne Stehbens, tools around in a power blue Bolwell MKVIII, also known as the Nagari, with a monster air intake over the engine.

With a series like this you might expect there to be a web site with material that didn’t make it into the finished product or even out-takes from the original filming. And at the end of every episode you are encouraged to visit But don’t get too excited because such a site does not exist.

The DVD set has a release date of October 29, 2007 but it is not clear when the footage was actually shot. The best buy is the complete set at approximately $40USD from Amazon as buying the individual episodes will set you back $18AUD each and then you only get 13 of the 14.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The alcoholic level, it was too high.

Three posts in one day! Well that’s because Shiraz is still alive, and no more so than when extolling the virtues of Aussie wine, especially South Australian wine. Here is a little tidbit from The Australian online.

"The alcoholic level, it was too high." This comment on South Australian wine is dropped into the conversation by Spaniard Emiliano Matesanz in listing the things he found odd on moving to Adelaide at the end of 2006.

He quickly adds: "But once you start to understand and taste the different types of wine you have here, it is beautiful."

Beautiful, just beautiful. What else is there to say?

Drinking with SHIRAZ on Saturday – Red Burgundy Feb 21 2009

As I have noted before there is nothing more confusing in the world of wine than Burgundy. The only really simple fact is that the reds are made from Pinot Noir. That is unless they are from the Beaujolais region in which case they are made from Gamay. Yes, Beaujolais is considered part of Burgundy; I told you it is confusing.

Lost as I may be in terms of understanding the appellation system in Burgundy that does not stop me from tasting the wines. Although I am often hesitant in buying them for the simple reason of, again, confusion. Confusion with what is written on the labels of the bottles. At these Saturday tastings I always go up to the wine bar after I have tasted and scored the wines to record their alcohol content. The reason for doing this is almost unconscious and it has its explanation in being a Shiraz lover. It’s a macho thing, I have to prove to myself that it is Shiraz that carries the big numbers. In any case with Burgundy, it doesn’t matter if its red or white, what is written on the label is often much more than what is written on the tasting sheet. Now it may be that the person writing up the wine list is just trying to save space. But all the head nodding, going back and forth from the wine labels to the tasting sheet, makes me look like my head is on a spring. And that is just not kind especially to someone who was told as a 15 year old that it would be a good idea if he did drop French and take up Agriculture!

What do I expect from red Burgundy? Well there should be power mixed with grace. Don’t confuse tannins with power; the power should come from the fruit (if a young wine). The mouthfeel should be silky, slippery, gliding over the tongue. And the flavors will have an Old World earthiness mingling with aromas of strawberry and cherry. There should be acidity and it should enhance the lightness of the wine on the palate. Lightness, grace and power, they seem a contradiction but when I taste a really good Burgundy all three are there, swirling and dancing around each other.

First Wine
Light cherry red with pink edge. Strawberry, Cola, a little cherry and brambles. Nice acidity, adequate length. Well structured even if quite a simple wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.5, 9.5=17.0/20, 85/100.
Drink: 2012-2016.
Wine: 2007 Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes-de-Beaune, Domaine Arnoux Pere et Fils (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 12.5%
Price: $17.99USD

Second Wine
Light cherry red with pink edge. Quite muted with suggestions of cherry and orange peel struggling up from the wine. A slightly sour acidity is the dominant feature and its not helped by the lack of depth to the middle palate.
Score: 2, 2, 3.4, 9.4=16.8/20, 84/100.
Drink: 2013-2017.
Wine: 2006 Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine Bachey-Legros (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $18.99USD

Third Wine
Light cherry red with pink edge. Aromas of graphite and a hint of truffles dominate over a touch of cherry. A well structured lighter wine with juicy acidity and good carry of Pinot Noir flavors across the palate. A pleasant wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.7, 9.8=17.5/20, 87/100.
Drink: 2012-2018.
Wine: 2006 Mercurey Premier Cru, Clos de Montaigus, Domaine Patrick Size (Côte Chalonnaise)
Closure: Cork
Price: $25.99USD

Fourth Wine
Light cherry red with pink edge. A little sulphur with forest floor and cherry notes. Quite fragrant but this does fade. Medium weight with good structure and balance and an appealing finish. A more pronounced presence on the palate that the previous wines.
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 10.0=18.0/20, 90/100.
Drink: 2011-2018.
Wine: 2006 Santenay Premier Cru Clos Rousseau, Domaine Bachey-Legros (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Price: $31.99USD

Fifth Wine
Bright cherry red with pink edge. There is more power to this wine and its enhanced by notes of musk, brambles and cherry. A wine of excellent balance and structure. The acidity is quite pronounced but it adds real zip to the wine and marries well with the fine finish.
Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 10.2=18.1/20, 91/100.
Drink: 2013-2020.
Wine: 2006 Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge, Plantes Momieres, Domaine Bachey-Legros (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Price: $31.99USD

Sixth Wine
Bright cherry red with pink edge. Definite Pinot Noir characters of strawberry and cherry intermingles with a little dusty oak and anise. The prominent acidity covers the palate and curls the tongue but its supported by excellent flavors and good length. Too young at present. Will definitely improve.
Score: 2, 2, 4.1, 9.6=17.7/20, 89/100.
Drink: 2014-2020+
Wine: 2006 Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Seuvrées, Domaine Castagnier (Côte de Nuits)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $44.99USD

Seventh Wine
Light Cherry red with pink edge. Sulphur/graphite over faint lychee, mushroom and spices. Medium weight with excellent mouthfeel. Better concentration than the previous wines even though the acidity is again dominant. Excellent length. Will need time to show its true character but it pushes all the right buttons.
Score: 2, 2, 4.1, 10.2=18.3/20, 92/100.
Drink: 2013-2019.
Wine: 2006 Aloxe-Corton Les Caillettes, Domaine Henri Delagrange (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $38.99USD

Eighth Wine
Vibrant cherry red with pink edge; looks to be very young. Much riper and forward than the rest with mulberry, raspberry, oak and sweet tea – seems New World. Medium weight with excellent flavor carry, bright acidity and very firm tannins on the finish; even the alcohol pokes out. Will needs loads of time to soften.
Score: 2, 2, 3.7, 10.0=17.7/20, 88/100
Wine: 2006 Chambolle-Musigny, Les Bussières, Domaine Olivier Jouan (Côte de Nuits)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $38.99USD

Ninth Wine
A deeper cherry red with a red/pink edge; darkest wine of the group. Quite confected with anise and mulberry. Soft and velvety on entry with excellent flavor carry across the palate, finishing with firm tannins. Shows considerable concentration and power. Has the potential to really improve over the next 5-10 years.
Score: 2, 2, 3.5, 10.3=17.8/20, 89/100.
Drink: 2015-2025.
Wine: 2006 Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru, Les Ruchots, Domaine Olivier Jouan (Côte de Nuits)
Closure: Cork
Price: $44.99USD

From under the Wine Bar

The Burgundy tastings at Vintage Wines are $10 affairs and sometimes there are a few special wines under the bar. I just happened to walk up to the bar to see if I could fill out the identities of the wines from the labels when the store owner began to pour out two additional wines, and he gave me a taste. Both were Grand Cru wines; the 2006 Charmes Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Oliver Jouan (Côte de Nuits), and the 2006 Clos Saint Denis, Domaine Castagnier (Côte de Nuits). I received only a small pour, not really enough to sit with and write notes on, but both wines were what red Burgundy is all about. Velvety soft with wonderful spicy, floral, earthy aromas that caress the palate with the sensation that it has been enveloped with the most wonderful of liquids. Wines you could luxuriate in.

As a contrast to this sampling of red Burgundy I asked for a taste of the one California Pinot Noir on the Wine Bar. It was the 2007 Siduri Pinot Noir from the Santa Rita Hills region. Santa Rita Hills is a cool-climate viticultural region within the Santa Ynez Valley, and is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Siduri was dark cherry red in color with a reddish pink edge. Initially it smelled of pepper, plum, ripe cherry, and glue (incomplete malo? EDIT: As winemaker Adam Lee of Siduri Wines notes in his comment below the wine did indeed finish mallactic fermentation.) with a toasted note developing with time; nothing at all like my impression of Pinot Noir. On the palate it was medium to full bodied with excellent flavor carry, juicy acidity, soft, ripe tannins and an attractive spicy note on the lengthy finish. It was very drinkable. It just was not Pinot Noir (EDIT: Just for clarification. I am not asserting that the wine was not made from the Pinot Noir grape. As winemaker Adam Lee has noted this wine was made from "100% clone 115 Pinot Noir, with 15 barrels coming from the Clos Pepe Vineyard and 6 coming from the Cargasacchi Vineyard.") Score: 2, 2, 3.2, 9.9=17.1/20, 85/100.

For more on Burgundy go here. For more on the Burgundies tasted go here.

Image ©

On Wine Fools

Picture the scene. A wine tasting of high end Old World wines, let’s say Burgundies. The room is bustling with all manner of wine drinkers, all with different levels of experience from the professional to the newly minted wine drinker. Most are gathered around the pourers, glasses thrust forward for their share of amber liquid.

A small group of three stands apart, a wine neophyte, a Sommelier and a wine critic, each with his nose inserted deeply into his glass of Grand Cru Chambolle-Musigny. Screwing up his face and exhaling a snort through his nose the wine critic is first to offer an opinion “This is ghastly”. The neophyte, taken aback, casts his eyes to the floor but then summons the courage to say “No I disagree. Underneath that unusual odor there is a delicate floral aroma that I find appealing”. The Sommelier, smiling kindly, looks at the neophyte. “Yes, you are right. There is something there that is quite attractive. Well done, a floral note can be quite typical of a Chambolle-Musigny. But do you also detect the musty, wet newspaper odor as well? And when you taste the wine do you find it more than a little acidic, even metallic, and lacking fruit character?” “Well, yes” says the neophyte. “I smell and taste those things but I don’t know what they are. Do you know?”

“They are typical of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole or TCA. Its most often produced when fungi convert chlorophenol into chloroanisole. It can be a problem with a small percentage of corks which is why a wine smelling of TCA is said to be corked.” “Ah, so that is what a corked wine smells like” says the neophyte, burying his nose into his wine glass once again. “I have smelt that in a few wines, but I didn’t know what it was. Thank you for explaining it to me.”

Turning to the critic the Sommelier adds “What do you think about our new friend. He has quite a good sense of smell. With a little more knowledge on wine faults he will be an asset to our tasting group.” “No, he is a fool” scoffs the critic,”It doesn’t matter what he can smell. A corked wine is a corked wine”, and walks off to find others of similar persuasion. “Don’t mind him” says the Sommelier “He’s always been a wine snob”.

What prompted this little post? Just the opinion that if you are going to call a wine drinker a fool you probably are not a person that will draw a sympathetic audience when you want to talk (or write) about wine.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Seduced by a Label

This weekend we finished the second bottle of what hopefully is the worst wine I will drink this year. I was told that the label was by the guy who did the album cover for the Beatles Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and so I bought two bottles because Miranda is a BIG Beatles fan and so is her English pen-friend of 40+ years. It was thus a memento/gift without regard to the quality of the wine. But, of course, the label designer was not the guy who did Sgt Pepper's, so we decided to open one about a week ago. It’s a California Cabernet (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah, 2% Petit Syrah) but at about $12USD/btl you don’t expect much. And there wasn’t much, except for the wood splinters – and this is from someone who doesn’t mind a bit of oak. So why open the second bottle on the weekend? Lighting doesn’t strike the same wine twice, right? Yes it does. This stuff was so difficult to drink that Miranda tipped her’s down the sink, but I persevered over two nights. And this was purely as an academic exercise to see how much punishment my palate can stand. The answer? Not a lot. If you ever see any R Wines Red Label Cabernet Sauvignon don’t buy it, not even for the label. I think tonight I’ll pull out an over oaked, unbalanced 16% alcohol Shiraz just to appease the taste buds.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Drinking with SHIRAZ on Saturday – Pinot Noir Feb 7 2009

For many Pinot Noir is the wine from the movie Sideways. To others it is the grape of red Burgundy and it even finds its way into Champagne. As a grape variety Pinot Noir is apparently quite old and also prone to mutate, hence there are numerous clones of Pinot Noir. If you are a maker of Pinot Noir wines, especially in the New World, then one difficulty you face is selecting the clones or clones of Pinot Noir that best suit your location and wine making practices. If you are a true aficionado of Pinot Noir then your focus is on Burgundy, whose wines serve as a benchmark when you taste, should you so condescend, Pinot Noir from the rest of the world.

If you are me you don’t really worry greatly about the snob appeal or otherwise of an individual Pinot Noir wine, you just hope it tastes of the grape itself. In other words for me a Pinot Noir wine has to have varietal character. What is the varietal character of Pinot Noir? The wine must be light in color, much lighter than a Shiraz for example. The aromas should be of cherry and strawberry, and perhaps the forest floor and/or truffles. There may be violets, but there should not be stewed plum or any other flavor associated with overripe grapes. Why? Because a Pinot Noir wine should express a degree of delicacy; it is after all a delicate grape. The mouthfeel of the wine should be medium weight with vibrant acidity and fine tannins. Silky, velvety are descriptors that are often used for the fineness of the tannins. Pinot Noir is a very sensitive wine and its not uncommon to uncork a young wine and find that the edge has begun to turn orange/brown; I don’t trust such a wine to live for very long. Alternatively you can pull the cork on a 10-20 year old Pinot and it will look (and taste) almost as though it were bottled last week. Did I say its a pernickety grape!

The tasting of Pinot Noir at Vintage Wines of Feb 7th could have been of wines from anywhere except Burgundy (that tasting was on Feb 21). As it turned out all the wines were from the US.

First Wine
Cherry red with a pink edge. Sweetly flavored with notes of strawberry, cherry and bubblegum. There is even a Cola note lurking with some smoke. Medium bodied with adequate flavor carry and fine tannins that become more compact on the finish. It has a pleasant and uncomplicated, if not charismatic, appeal.
Score: 2, 2, 3.4, 9.3=16.7/20, 84/100
Drink: Now to 2012
Wine: 2006 Saintsbury Vineyard, Carneros, California, USA; Clones: Pommard, Swan, 115, 667 and 777; 20% Lee Vineyards, 16% Toyon Farm, 6% Saintsbury Home, 15% Stanly Ranch, 7% RMS, 8% Brown Ranch, 5% Cerise, 6% Rodgers Creek. 17% misc.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: $23.99USD

Second Wine
Cherry red in color with an attractive pink edge. More earthy with brambly fruit and a hint of musk and strawberry. Medium weight with acidity that catches the focus of the palate. Fine, ripe tannins carry an excellent finish, but again a rather simple, uncomplicated wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 9.5=17.4/20, 87/100
Drink: Drink now to 2015
Wine: 2007 Fritz Winery, Russian River Valley, California, USA;
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13.9%
Price: $17.99USD

Third Wine
Cherry red with pink edge. A little closed with musk over a citrus note, some cherry and forest floor. A well balanced wine of medium weight with excellent flavor carry. Opens with some air to reveal more Pinot Noir character on its lengthy finish. A well made wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.8, 10.1=17.9/20. 89/100
Drink: Now to 2017
Wine: 2006 Soter Winery, North Valley, Oregon, USA; North end of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13.9%
Price: $31.99

Fourth Wine
Cherry red with pink edge. More Pinot Noir in character than the previous wines with forest floor and cherry over a toasted oak note and perhaps a touch of sulphur. Its fresh and lively in the mouth with nice flavors but the a slight sweetness detracts from the appeal. The tannins are soft, the acidity adequate and the finish has good length but its another uncomplicated wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 9.6=17.5/20, 87/100
Drink: Now to 2015
Wine: 2006 De Ponte “Clay Hill”, Dundee Hills, Oregon, USA;
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.2%
Price: $33.99USD

Fifth Wine
Deeper cherry red with a pink/red edge; deepest colored wine of the flight. A richer, riper style with plum, ripe cherry, a hint of Cola, varnish and dusty oak. Fuller on the palate the flavors carry extremely well and are supported by firm tannins and juicy, mouthwatering acidity. There is definite appeal here but its difficult to see any Pinot Noir character.
Score: 2, 2, 3.6, 9.6=17.2/20, 86/100
Drink: 2010 to who knows? The acidity and tannins could hold it for some time but its not likely to look like Pinot Noir.
Wine: 2005 Ampelos Cellars, “Lambda”, Santa Rita Hills, California, USA; the clonal composition is 61% clone 115, 5% 667 and 777, 3% 828 and 31% pommard.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $24.99USD

Sixth Wine
Cherry red tinged with orange brown and a orange brown edge; either older or oxidized. Another shy wine. There is richness lurking there but with a bottom note of ketchup mixed with spices and a touch of caramel (Oxidation?). In the mouth this is an extremely appealing wine with softness and suppleness lacking in the other wines. What flavors there are carry beautifully across the palate to a lengthy finish. A very nice wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 10.3=18.3/20, 92/100
Drink: Its hard to tell how long this wine will live if it has premature oxidation. I’d like to taste it again to see if there is any bottle variation. If sound it could live a good ten years or more.
Wine: 2006 Alcina Cellars, Raimondo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, California, USA;
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.7%
Price: $27.99USD

The one thing I was hoping to see with these wines was one or two of the rich over-ripe Pinot Noir that populate wine shop shelves in the USA. Some of them can be quite extraordinary because of the palette of flavors they present even though they sacrifice varietal character. The 2005 Ampelos Cellars “Lambda” fits into the mold. I’m not a big fan of the style but there is no doubt that it has its advocates. What I would have liked to have seen in this tasting was a Mount Eden Pinot Noir. Even though the current vintages are made in a different style to those of past decades the Mount Eden, to me, represents excellent value for money in American Pinot Noir and those past vintages have aged wonderfully. From the wines tasted the Soter has to take the gong as the wine with the most potential to age and its consistently good as a previous tasting shows.

2006 Soter Pinot Noir, North Valley, Oregon, USA. $31.99USDCherry red with pink edge. Aromas in the bramble/earthy spectrum over a mélange of strawberry and cherry. Its attractive, and even has varietal character. Light-medium in weight with expressive and yet delicate flavors on the palate and an excellent, supple mouthfeel. A nice little wine, still young, might grow into something you would want to spend some time with. Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 10.2=18.1/20, 90/100. Tasted Jan 17, 2009

Image © norme

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Wine Advocate Does Australia

Jay Miller, Robert Parker's surrogate taster of Australian wines, has come out with his latest set of reviews after his 2008 visit. The wines are reviewed in Issue # 181 of The Wine Advocate. Miller provides reviews of 1072 wines, which I believe is the largest number reviewed so far by The Wine Advocate. But its his introduction, titled Australia 2009: Into the Abyss that will see Parker’s followers, and quite a few others, nodding their heads.

"In my tastings for this report, many, if not most, of the importers with whom I sat down have trimmed their portfolios and/or begun to diversify into what they perceive as more fertile ground, particularly Spain and Argentina. In not much more than a decade the market has gone from boom to bust and to an unsettled future. "– Jay Miller, The Wine Advocate

Miller uses import figures from Oct 2007 to Oct 2008 to show that Aussie wines imported into the USA under $10 have seen double digit growth but wines over $20 have decreased by 50%. He gives a few reasons for this but avoids one that bears consideration and that is that Parker’s focus on South Australia has been the foundation stone for the boom and the bust.

Robert Parker never really saw value in many of the wines outside South Australia. True wines were recommended from a variety of regions but his main focus never really strayed from the Barossa and McLaren Vale for almost a decade. That myopic view lead to too many wines from too many producers that were just too similar. It meant importers like The Grateful Palate could establish virtual wineries producing export only wines for a specific market without regard for regional character. Such wines were nameless and faceless to wine drinkers in Australia and therefore lacked the backing of those who know the countries’ wines best. Such wines could never represent the regional diversity of Australia that is far, far broader than Robert Parler’s palate. Or as one importer told Miller “designer brands with no real core values – no bricks and mortar, no faces and places behind them, no regional expressions” Designed for whom is a question that must be asked.

Miller does seem to appreciate the diversity in Australia better than his boss, so has that changed how The Wine Advocate sees regional Australia? Perhaps not. I’ve not yet had the time to look through all 1072 recommendations but what is a concern is that on the first 2 pages of that 22 page list of scores there are only 5 non-South Australian dry wines (all Victorian) among a mass of South Australians. The great diversity of Australian wine deserves better than that.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bottle Shock

Bottle Shock is very loosely based on George M. Taber’s excellent book “Judgment of Paris” in which Californian wineries win a 1976 tasting competition against French wines from Burgundy (white) and Bordeaux (red). The story in Bottle Shock centers on Jim and Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena and their 1973 Chardonnay that won the white wine tasting set up by Steven Spurrier of the L’Academie du Vin in Paris. But that is where any serious similarities with history end.

The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was only the second vintage after Jim Barrett (and Ernie Hahn) had purchased the winery and Barrett was still practicing law. Virtually ignored in the movie is Mike Grgich, the actual winemaker at Chateau Montelena. Grgich appears several times in the movie but is not identified and if you did not know that he wore a beret you would not know who he was. He is the person standing next to Jim Barrett in the winery when Barrett exclaims “Crap. Mike, its not clear”. And then tells Bo that the wine will need to be racked again. Even the discoloration of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, a tragedy in the making in the movie and the reason for the movies' name, is a bone of contention. Barrett says that it did happen but Grgich has said that the 1973 was “perfect from the very beginning” and that the 1972 wine had a temporary discoloration.

Bottle Shock comes on the heels of two recent movies that feature wine, Sideways and A Good Year. Bottle Shock has none of the (black) comedy, romance, music, or wine lore of Sideways. It also fails to measure up to A Good Year which, like Sideways, has a fictional storyline. And some quite passable comedic acting by Russell Crowe. The failure of Bottle Shock to succeed may well lie at the feet of those who thought they could rewrite history for the “silver screen”. Hollywood rarely does well at transferring non-fiction to fiction; too much is lost in the conversion.

One aspect of the movie that is difficult to understand is that while a number of the real life personalities are left out of the movie the French wine judges are described in great detail. Eight of the judges noted in the Appendix of Taber’s “Judgment of Paris” are correctly identified. Missing is Michel Dovaz who taught wine courses at the Academie du Vin in Paris. Also missing is Patricia Gastaud-Gallagher who was a director at the l'Academie du Vin and who was also intimately involved, with Spurrier, in organizing the Paris tasting. It has been stated in other reviews that the movie is a poke in the eye of the French and this very accurate identification of the French wine judges would seem to support that possibility; the outcome of the tasting was so embarrassing for the judges that at least one, Kahn, asked for her scorecard back.

Additional Features on the DVD include four deleted scenes, An Underdog’s Journey: The making of Bottle Shock, Chateau Montelena: One winery’s search for excellence, and audio commentary by the cast and crew. To be brutally honest none of these add to the movie or the true story behind the Judgment of Paris. If you want history read Taber’s book. If you want a movie woven around wine buy the Sideways DVD.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Drinking with SHIRAZ on Saturday - Zinfandel or ZPC

Its been called California’s grape. So much so that a bill was put to the California state legislature to name Zinfandel as California's "historic wine”. But the Governator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) vetoed the attempt. It was the correct thing to do as Zinfandel is not a native American grape. Genetically it is related to the Italian Primitivo and the Croatian Crljenak Kaštelanski ("Kaštela Red"). In fact Dr Carole Meredith, who performed the genetic analysis, refers to the variety as "ZPC" - Zinfandel/Primitivo/Crljenak Kaštelanski.

Zinfandel or ZPC is a truly versatile grape. It can be used to make a blush wine (White Zinfandel) or robust, fruity reds of depth and concentration and high alcohol, or light bodied reds, or fortified dessert wines and even a dessert wine called Zinfandel essence which comes from late harvest grapes not fermented to dryness so that the alcohol is low and the sugar levels high. The production of White Zinfandel in the 1970 saved many of the old vine vineyards which are now used to produce a resurgent dry red style. Even with this new found interest Zinfandel still plays prince to the king, Cabernet Sauvignon, in California. And this is a good thing for us common folk who like to drink fine wine because it means that these special wines, from old vines and often made in small quantities from individual vineyards, are very often ridiculously inexpensive. Often blended with other varieties by design and sometime by default because of vineyards containing mixtures of varieties, the regional diversity of Zinfandel still shines through. In many respects California Zinfandel is a purist’s grape because it is in its own home and is unspoiled by the desires of winemakers to mold it into a representation of something from another country. The Zinfandel tasting at Vintage Wines was held at the very end of January and all six wines were tasted blind.

First Wine
Deep, dark cherry red with red/pink edge. Attractive, aromatic wine with aromas of black/blueberry and brambles mixed with oak. On the palate its full bodied with a soft and supple entry and attractive flavor carry. Well balanced with juicy acidity and fine tannins.
Score: 2, 2, 4.1, 10.1-18.2/20, 91/100
Drink: Now to 2016
Wine: 2006 Sebastiani Dry Creek Valley, California, USA; 86% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah, 3% Barbera
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.6%
Price: $17.99USD

Second Wine
Deep, dark cherry red with pink/red edge. The nose is framed by a geranium top note over black pepper and cherry. Its different, but appealing. Full bodied with tannins that are just a bit too firm at present and the mid-palate cries out for more depth. It could all come together with time..
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 9.8=17.8/20, 89/100
Drink: 2010-2017+
Wine: 2005 St. Francis, Pagani Ranch, Old Vines, Sonoma Valley, California, USA; a field blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Carignane and Alicante Bouschet.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.8%
Price: $33.99USD

Third Wine
Dark cherry red with red/pink edge. Dark sweet tea over cedar with ripe cherry bobbing up to the surface. It all seems a little too ripe but this is the trend in Zinfandel. Full bodied with soft, supple entry and an excellent carry of flavors across the palate. The tannins firm up on the finish. This is a serious mouthful of wine.
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 10.1=18.1/20, 91/100
Drink: 2010 to 2020
Wine: 2006 Rosenblum, Paso Robles, California, USA; 88% Zinfandel, 12% Petite Sirah
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.9%
Price: $13.99USD

Fourth Wine
Cherry red with red pink edge. Attractive aromatics that are overshadowed by alcohol, spicy ripeness and ethyl acetate (EA). In the mouth it’s a little softer and leaner than the others with very fine tannins. This is a true drink now style that lacks the solid structural foundation for long term cellaring.
Score: 2, 2, 3.8, 9.7=17.5/20, 87/100
Drink: Now to 2012
Wine: 2005 Karly “Warrior Fires”, Amador Country, California, USA; a blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 15.1%
Price: $19.99USD

Fifth Wine
Dark cherry red with red/pink edge. Resinous oak dominant over mulberry and cherry. There may be some eucalyptus in there but I think that might be the oak showing its exuberance. Fuller bodied than the previous wine with great flavor carry finishing with firm tannins. This is a wine that needs time but the potential is there. And yes all that oak (and eucalyptus) will integrate and become more attractive. (If any of these wines are from Ravenswood its this one – I’ll say it’s the Dickerson because of that resinous oak note.)
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 10.2=18.2, 91/100
Drink: 2011-2018
Wine: 2006 Ravenswood, Dickerson Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, USA; “Pretty pure stand of Zinfandel”.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 15.8%
Price: $25.99USD

Sixth Wine
Dark cherry red with a red/pink edge. Very expressive, very ripe aromatics with black and mulberry, spices and oak. Full bodied with firm, ripe tannins and beautiful flavor carry that is a prelude to a lengthy finish. I like the structure on this wine.
Score: 2, 2, 4.1, 10.2=18.3/20, 92/100
Drink: Now -2018
Wine: 2006 Opolo “Mountain Zinfandel”, Paso Robles, California, USA; 100% Zinfandel.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 16.5%
Price: $16.99USD

From under the Wine Bar
On occasion José, who pours the wines on Saturday, will pull out a bottle or two from under the bar. These wines are usually the remains from a tasting group that meets each Friday night. They gather to taste the new wines on the Wine Bar, and they also bring wines for a themed tasting. On this occasion it was Zinfandel. So José poured me a taste from two unfinished bottles.

Mystery Wine One
Deep, deep deans color. Truly black at its core with bricking at its edge. Lots of roasted and smoked meats. Very OXO cubish with a little caramel note for sweetness. Full bodied but oh so soft as it covers the palate with great line and the finish has all the roasted meat flavors you could want. What is it? Beats me. But it looks way over 10 years old.
Score:2, 2, 4.3, 10.3=18.3/20 93/100
Drink: Now and probably over the next five (2014) because it looks like it might hold quite well.
Wine: 2001 Ravenswood Belloni Russian River Valley Zinfandel, California, USA; Old mixed vineyard, has Zinfandel, Carignane, Alicante Bouschet, and Petite Sirah.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 15.2%
Price: NA

Mystery Wine Two
Deep, dense, black at its core with a mahogany edge. Rich ripe and very aromatic; Christmas cake over blue and mulberry. Boy, is this ripe! Full bodied but soft and supple on entry with an additional note of iced tea. The tannins are gone but the flavors carry well and the finish is great. I don’t see this going much longer. I saw this wine when José poured it and I wasn’t all that surprised.
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 10.2=18.2/20, 91/100
Drink: I wouldn’t wait, drink it now.
Wine: 2001 Carlisle “Carlisle Vineyard”, Russian River Valley Zinfandel, California, USA; 85% Zinfandel, 15% Mixed Black Varieties.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 16.3%
Price: NA

There are two things of note about these wines. First is the color which hinted at wines much older than they turned out to be, and second was the difference in flavor profile. The current dogma is that if grapes are picked ripe then the flavors will all be the same. Well that is just not true here. Oh, and one other thing. Our little group always brings way too much food to these tastings and so we passed around a chocolate dessert called “Melting Chocolate” to the others in the tasting room. The consensus was that this rich dessert made the Zins sit up and sing. And both José and I agreed that was especially true for the Carlisle Zin or should that be ZPC!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Andrew Jefford to Write Book on Aussie Terroir

Andrew Jefford, who has written a number of tomes on wine, is now in Australia on a Senior Research Fellowship at the University of Adelaide and as Winewriter in Residence to the Australia Wine 2030 Project. He will be in Adelaide for about a year during which time he plans on writing another book – on Aussie wine as he describes below on his blog.

The overall aim of the year is to research and write as much as possible of a book on terroir in Australia … or, if you prefer, what makes Australia’s greatest wines and vineyards different from each other and from those found elsewhere on the landmasses of our precious blue planet. With that in mind, if any Australian producer would like to contact me with information, samples or anything else which might deepen my understanding of the above, they are most welcome to do so: the address is 12 Rawson Penfold Drive, Rosslyn Park, SA 5072 and the landline is 08 8364 5296, or via the ‘Contact’ section of this website. It’s a great privilege to be here, and to have the chance to learn more about a major world wine culture in situ rather than breezing through in customary journalistic style. I’m anxious not to waste it.

You can follow his time in Australia via his blog as well as via a new, monthly column for Decanter magazine beginning later in 2009.

It will be interesting to see what he comes up with in terms of which wines and/or regions exhibit a sense of place.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Drinking with SHIRAZ on Saturday - New Release Aussies

Held on Saturday Jan 17th at Vintage Wines in San Diego this tasting is one of several during the year to feature Australian wines. The moniker new releases should be taken with some caution as some of the wines might have arrived on the shelves the day after the previous “New Release Aussie” tasting. Still this is always an interesting tasting for me because I have a pretty intimate knowledge of the Aussie wines that are available at Vintage. I might not have tasted them all but I’ve looked at the labels so often that the wines have etched themselves into my subconscious. Those sorts of wine memories are not the best to recall when tasting wine but they can be a great foundation for some hilarious mistakes in identifying what might be in the glass.

This Saturday was to be no exception, although the memory problem was more a failure of remembering a wine that had been tasted rather than one that had not. In such cases you have to confess your folly and hope that some considerate soul will offer sympathy and a tale, or two, of their own foibles when confronted with more wines than commonsense.

First Wine
Dense cherry red with red edge with the faintest orange tinge. Notes of plum, blueberry, and spicy oak. Full bodied with a soft and supple entry opening to juicy acidity. A nicely flavored wine with a lengthy finish.
Score: 2, 2, 3.8, 9.8=17.6/20, 88/100.
Drink: Now to 2014
Wine: 2006 Glaetzer “Wallace” Red Blend, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Closure: Screwcap
Alcohol: 14.5% abv
Price: $19.99USD

Second Wine
Dense, dark cherry red with red edge. Aromas dominated by spicy oak, blueberry, plum with the alcohol poking its way in as well. In the mouth full bodied with some serious oak and alcohol. The flavors carry well but its not a wine to get excited about.
Score: 2, 2, 3.6, 9.5=17.3/20, 86/100.
Drink: Now to 2012
Wine: 2007 R Winery “Strong Arms” Shiraz, South Australia
Closure: Screwcap
Alcohol: 15% abv
Price: $8.99USD

Third Wine
Dense, dark cherry red with red edge. A big, spicy wine with nutmeg over violets and smoky oak. Unusual for an Aussie red. Full bodied and the oak is dominant but still nicely integrated with the exuberant flavors that all mesh together to give excellent length to the finish. Marred only by a little sour note at the end.
Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 9.6=17.5/20, 87/100
Drink: Now to 2016
Wine: 2007 Thorn-Clark “Shotfire Ridge” Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Closure: Screwcap
Alcohol: 14% abv
Price: $14.99USD

Fourth Wine
Dense cherry red with red edge. A little closed. Blue- and blackberry with well integrated oak. Full bodied and the first wine to show some expressive tannins but its all dominated by oak notes. Still its an attractive wine and so far the most appealing to quaff.
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 9.8=17.8/20, 89/100
Drink: Now to 2013
Wine: 2007 R Winery “Luchador” Shiraz, South Australia
Closure: Screwcap
Alcohol: 14.5% abv
Price: $14.99USD

Fifth Wine
Dark, dense cherry red with a slight orange/brown tinge to the red edge. Attractive and complex spicy nose with lead pencil case and blue and mulberry notes. Much nicer wine, much better structure and balance. Needs some time as the acidity does poke out a bit but it has possibilities.
Score: 2, 2, 4.2, 10.1=18.3/20, 92/100
Drink: 2011-2018
Wine: 2006 Slipstream “Fastback” Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.4% abv
Price: $25.99

Sixth Wine
Dense, dark cherry red with red edge. Smoky oak, roasted meats with hints of nutmeg and mocha. Yep this zings. A very well put together wine with excellent mouthfeel and excellent length. But there is a lurking suspicion that the alcohol in this isn’t low!
Score: 2, 2, 4.3, 10.3=18.6/20, 93/100
Drink: Now-2018
Wine: 2006 R Winery “First Class” Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Closure: Screwcap
Alcohol: 15.5% abv
Price: $23.99USD

So what is the problem here? It all seems like a pretty typical tasting of the style of Aussie Shiraz that makes its way to the USA; fruity, oaky wines that do have palate appeal but are not true expressions of Aussie Shiraz. The answer is that I have tasted the 2006 R Winery “First Class” Shiraz before and was not all that impressed. The previous tasting was with a single bottle drunk during dinner. My notes then were “Deep, dense cherry red with red edge; got that right! Smoky oak, black pepper, black- and mulberry, and mocha. Rich tending to over ripe but not stewed. Full bodied with fine tannins and juicy acidity. Lacks a mid palate but has good flavor carry and length. Drink: Now to 2012. Score: 2, 2, 3.8, 9.8=17.6/20, 88/100.” Tasted 12/29/2008.

A five point spread on two separate occasions, not as bad as some wine judges, but it’s the differences in the description of how the wine felt in my mouth that are disturbing. As I’ve noted before I try to do the Saturday tasting blind and I can honestly say that I had no idea what this wine was. It was the last wine and so just on experience I know that its likely to be bigger, especially in alcohol, than the others in the flight. But how could I be so effusive over the wine in mixed company when by itself it was so average. It may well be that it’s the company in which it was tasted that has had the biggest influence. The higher alcohol would add weight to the wine and give a rounder, fuller feel in the mouth. I’m a firm believer in tasting wines together rather than as individuals and this does show that the “First Class” does stand up well in company. Its also probably a good example of why this style of wine does so well when reviewers taste multiple wines at one sitting. Now that I have this view of the wine what would happen if it was tasted again by itself? I’m glad you asked.

Deep, dense cherry red with red edge; another perfect repeat. Predominant oak notes over mulberry, blackberry and a little smoke. Full bodied with upfront acidity, excellent flavor carry with tannins firming up on a finish that is just a little too hot. Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 9.6=17.5/20, 87/100. Tasted 1/21/2009.

So there you have it. The 2006 R Winery “First Class” Shiraz, a wine that stands out in company. In fact it really needs company. Don’t drink this alone!

From the Wine Bar
As usual the Wine Bar was replete with offering from all over the wine world. I tasted the wines in bold and all were excellent to outstanding and I’m going to talk about all six!

White: 2007 Alban Viognier, Central Coast, California, 2007 Mount Eden Chardonnay, Wolff Vineyard, California, 2006 Stag's Leap Chardonnay, "Karia", Napa, California, 2005 Puligny-Montrachet les Pucelles, Domaine Jomain, Burgundy, France, 2005 Chassagne-Montrachet le Cailleret, Vincent Girardin, Burgundy, France, 2004 Nittnaus Gruner Veltliner Eiswein, Austria.

Red: 2006 Soter Pinot Noir, North Valley, Oregon, 2006 Chambolle-Musigny AC, Roumier, Burgundy, France, 2003 Gattinara, Travaglini, Italy, 2005 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California, 2005 Ch. Petit-Village, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2005 Dona Paula Malbec, Seleccion de Bodega, Argentina.

White Burgundy
2005 Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles, Domaine Jomain, Burgundy, France. $55.99USD
Light straw with clear edge. Matchstick, a little beeswax and some citrus. Very typical. Very attractive with a light, crisp freshness that fans out carrying the flavors across the palate to a lengthy finish. The good stuff. Score: 2, 2, 4.2, 10.2=18.4/20, 92/100.

2005 Chassagne-Montrachet Le Cailleret, Vincent Girardin, Burgundy, France. $55.99USD
More of an oxidized note with apricot, cold tea and marmalade. Medium weight with a more luscious texture than the Puligny-Montrachet. Has excellent flavor carry, crisp acidity and great structure coupled with excellent length. A really nice wine. Score: 2, 2, 3.8, 10.3=18.1/20, 91/100.

The two appellations that are the origin of these two white Burgundy wines abut one another with Puligny-Montrachet being more northerly. Both lie in the Côte de Beaune. The Puligny-Montrachet wines are exclusively white and are described as more elegant, nervy wines than those of their southern neighbor. That is evident in the fatter style of the Girardin. Both the Les Pucelles and the Le Cailleret are Premier Cru vineyards and while they cost quite a few dollars they are much more refreshing to drink than many Napa Valley Chardonnays that cost almost as much. There will be a chance to make that comparison in March when Vintage Wines will do back-to-back Saturday tastings of White Burgundy and (California) Chardonnays in March.

Pinot Noir
2006 Soter Pinot Noir, North Valley, Oregon, USA. $31.99USD
Cherry red with pink edge. Aromas in the bramble/earthy spectrum over a mélange of strawberry and cherry. Its attractive, and even has varietal character. Light-medium in weight with expressive and yet delicate flavors on the palate and an excellent, supple mouthfeel. A nice little wine, still young, might grow into something you would want to spend some time with. Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 10.2=18.1/20, 90/100.

2006 Chambolle-Musigny AC, Roumier, Burgundy, France. $69.99USD
Light cherry red with pink edge. Subtle and seductive with violets, and geraniums, opening to licorice/anise. A little firmer and more aggressive on the palate than the Soter but all it needs it some time to soften. Has great length to the finish. Score: 2, 2, 4.1, 10.2=18.3/20, 92/100.

Chambolle-Musigny is one of the Cote-De-Nuits appellations and is devoted to red wine. It lies just south of Morey-St. Denis and is reputed to produce smooth, elegant wines. This commune level wine is not cheap but its quality is obvious. Still the Soter from Oregon stood up well against it. Like many New World pinot noir the Soter achieves its delicacy by being lighter in weight than wines from Burgundy which, in my experience, achieve elegance and depth while still being a solid mouthful of wine, at least when young.

Cabernet/Merlot Blends
2005 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California, USA. $29.99USD
Deep dense cherry red with red/mahogany tinge to the edge. Slightly all over the place with banana peel, cassis, dusty oak and a little gluey note. Full bodied and very expressive with nice carry of flavors. An attractive, well balanced Cabernet although a little simple in style. Score: 2, 2, 3.7, 10.0=17.7/20, 88/100.

2005 Chateau Petit-Village, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France. $54.99USD
Deep dense cherry red with a red/mahogany tinge to the edge. More spicy notes, cinnamon dusty well integrated oak, and a bottom note of violets. A little lighter in weight that the Whitehall Lane but with better structure and carry of flavors onto the palate. Its also a more drink now style but it has decades ahead of it. Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 10.2=18.1/20, 91/100.

Chateau Petit-Village is an unclassified vineyard in the Pomerol region of Bordeaux; wines from the Pomerol region are not classified. Chateau Petit-Village comprises an 11 hectare vineyard made up of 75%Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc. In contrast the Whitehall Lane Cabernet, while also a blend, is 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 3% Malbec. So here is a comparison between a Cabernet dominant wine versus one made mostly with Merlot, and of course from different parts of the world. The Whitehall Lane is an entry level wine and their Reserve label might have provided a better comparison but it is possible to see the Cabernet in the wine with cassis and the weight of the wine. In contrast the Ch. Petit-Village is a little lighter and softer in the mouth with less evidence of Cabernet character, and is more drinkable now. And is worth twice the price of the Whitehall Lane as it is definitely a better wine and more likely to reward long term cellaring.

Image © Shane White

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Decanting - The Answer for Hidden Terroir!

In a recent piece over on Appellation America Dan Berger wrote the following

“one of the key factors in all great wine - evidence of the terroir - is easily obliterated early in a wine’s life, and the only way to access it is to decant the wine and allow air to work its magic.”

OK Dan, I’ll bite. Before you arrived at this enlightened moment of wine truth just how many wines did you find that revealed their terroir following decanting? And by that I mean performing a triangulation test with one bottle decanted for a few hours compared to a freshly opened bottle?

I have no doubt that Berger is correct in saying that some wines can exhibit sulfur (and other) odors soon after a cork is pulled or a screwcap ceremoniously removed in the Helm manner. And these odors can mask the depth and complexity of the wine. But for exposure to air to reveal hidden terroir is bunkum. Just like any other aspect of wine lore aeration produces effects that can be entirely subjective. If you don’t believe me get a couple of bottles of one wine and a few friends together and do your own triangulation test.

What is a triangulation test? In essence it is a test to see if a taster can distinguish between two wines (or as I have used in decanting experiments here on SHIRAZ - decanted versus non-decanted wine). Two glasses receive one wine and a third the other wine. It is the task of the taster to identify which glasses contain which wine. And because two glasses have the same wine it shouldn’t be all that hard, right Dan!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An Inauguration Wine

A new beginning. An about-face from ineptitude, secrecy, embarrassment, and hopefully no more mind numbing mistakes. What wine do you select to celebrate such a moment in history? I doubt that I have ever thought so long and hard about any wine selection. Should I pick something old, something expensive, perhaps elegant, unflustered, or maybe big and bold, something foreign or American? I became a US citizen in October 2008 but I am allowed to retain my Australian citizenship, so perhaps something from Australia. I searched my cellar row by row until I picked up a bottle of Jim Barry McRae Wood Clare Valley Shiraz, turned it over and read the blurb, and I knew I had my wine.

Miranda cried tears of joy on Inauguration Day and her tears still come easily whenever President Obama appears on the TV. I’m not immune to moments of emotion myself. We live in more than just interesting times, these are generational times, times that will turn into page turning history. And history flows over recent events like the sweet icing on a great and wonderful cake because on the day before President Obama’s inauguration the nation celebrated one individual whose speeches do move me to tears, do so now just typing his name. We will never know the joy with which Martin Luther King Jr would have greeted the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States had he been allowed to live. He would have been just a few days over 80 years old. His assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee took all future joy away from him and from a nation. But an assassin’s bullet cannot shatter a dream, even time could not shatter the dream. The dream has now been carried on Dr King’s shoulders all the way to the White House. A day after he is celebrated a nation celebrated Dr King’s dream.

Why pick the Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz as my Inauguration wine? Quite simply the parallels of history. There is no other wine that I have that fits so well. Just like the election of President Obama the seeds for the McRae Wood were planted by a pioneer and visionary in the 1960’s and now the fruits of that labor can be celebrated. It is more than just a suitable wine because as is written on the bottle an inspired choice was made in the birth of this wine, just as Dr King’s dream inspired a nation to rise up and put hope and change above fear and secrecy.

In some respects it may seem trite to compare a winemaker’s accomplishments to that of Dr. King but in truth we all, at least I hope we all, strive to achieve greatness in our own way. Perhaps more poignant is the fact that so many can share in the success of that greatness. The 2003 Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz is one of those wines which tasted on any other day might have just been extremely good, but on the night of January 20th it was superb. Deeply colored, richly flavored and powerful, its vibrant acidity made it soar over its supporting firm powdery tannins to a lengthy finish. It’s a wine that has promise. It could last a few years. Its drinking window could be 8 years, easy!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

San Diego Restaurant Week - Part Two

Miranda decided that we would bookend San Diego Restaurant Week and so our second restaurant visit came on the last day of the week long event, Friday January 16th, at Mille Fleur. This is a restaurant we had wanted to sample for some time because it has been described in glowing terms from coast to coast. So we braved the traffic disaster that is described as the 5/805 merge and then wound our way via Del Mar Heights Road, Via De La Valle, Via De Santa Fe to Paseo Delicias. It you are thinking that is a bit of trek to find food you are correct but it beats traveling further north on the I-5 during the evening rush hour. Mille Fleur is in Rancho Santa Fe, a rather exclusive enclave of San Diego County where homes fetch multiples of seven figures. In fact the median price of a home rose 2.3% in 2008 to $2,430,000! So when there is a chance to mingle with the rich and famous over a 3-course meal for $40 its simply not polite to say no!

Mille Fleur
I love polished wood and this place has plenty. The service is also polished, although Miranda was convinced that out waiter/sommelier was out of the French castle scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I actually thought he looked like Manuel of Fawlty Towers but he was far from disorganized or confused, although he may have been a little Spanish. We settled on a mix of French and Spanish. Whether he was Basque or not he was attentive and expert in opening the bottle of 2006 Lagier Meredith Syrah (Mt Veeder, California) that I have extracted from the cellar for our meal.

Each of the three courses had three choices or you could, for quite a reasonable price, select from six additional courses. We stayed with the fixed menu. I started with the Assorted mushroom and truffle risotto, which came with arugula pesto, watercress and pea tendrils and then had the Trio of Colorado Lamb:leg,chop and sausage with flageolets beans and savoy cabbage as my main course. Miranda started with the Leek and potato soup with smoked salmon, asparagus confetti, horseradish and dill followed by the Black pepper "onglet" hanger steak accompanied by gruyere spaetzle, and caramelised onions. We both had the Warm apple-brioche pudding with currants, cinnamun, rhum sauce, ice cream for dessert.

The food was something special, especially my main meal. I’m originally Australian which means that I rarely go further down the menu than Rack of Lamb. The reason is that the meat is often sourced from either Australian or New Zealand and I’m at home with that. But the Colorado lamb was mouthwatering and perfect with Lagier Meredith Syrah which was more typical of the elegant style of Aussie Shiraz than the full blooded styles that cross the Pacific to USA wine shops.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Drinking with SHIRAZ on Saturday - Half Bottles

This is the first of a new series of (hopefully not irregular) posts in which I will take you to my favorite wine shop for some wine tasting. I have been gladly burdening my credit card at Vintage Wines in San Diego for over 20 years simply because they provide great value, service and knowledge. And they also put on some great wine tasting events. The most regular is their Saturday tasting which, if you have the stamina, has three parts. For those looking for wine bargains, seemingly more and more winos these days, there is the $2 Tasting which consists of between 4-6 wines of $15 or less/bottle. Next is the $5 Tasting which consists of 6 wines selected around a theme such as a region, variety, or wine style. Finally there is the Wine Bar which consists of 12 wines (usually 6 white and 6 red including at least one dessert style) which is changed every Friday afternoon.

My Saturday visit to Vintage Wines always includes the $5 Tasting and a selection from the Wine Bar. I try to do the $5 tasting single blind, that is I know what the theme is but not the wines. This is not done to display the depth and breadth of my wine knowledge to anyone else who might also be in the tasting room, but rather to reinforce to myself the total lack of ability I have at identifying wine. The truly sad thing is that I continue to taste blind every time I go to Vintage Wines.

Half Bottle Tasting (January 10, 2009)
The world is in an economic tailspin. There are daily headlines of woe everywhere. Its enough to drive a person to drink. But can you afford to? And would all that alcohol consumption be good for you anyway? If you are looking for ways to cut your wine consumption to satisfy either economic or health concerns or both, then I have the answer for you. Half bottles are the way to go.

There is an argument that the wine in half bottles ages faster than the much more conventional 750 ml bottle. Careful readers might have noticed that I used the word age rather than mature; if you don’t know what I mean by that compare Bridget Bardot in her 30’s with her appearance now; in her 30’s she was mature, now she is aged.. Aging, so the argument goes, is accelerated in half bottles because the neck and ullage are similar between 375 and 750 ml bottles and so there is potentially more oxygen per milliliter of wine in the half bottle and thus oxidation occurs at a faster rate. Of course all this depends entirely upon whether air or an inert gas (such as nitrogen) has been pumped on top of the wine during bottling and also on the amount of air the cork allows to ingress into the bottle during its life in the cellar. If you are worried about premature aging in half bottles the best bet, as always, is to go with bottles that have a screwcap.

The only real problem with half bottles is that there are too few wines that come in this size. Their scarcity has made them hard to find in both wines shops and restaurants although this seems to be slowly changing. For those interested in finding a good supply of half bottles look no further than the end of this post. For those who want to know what your local wine shop might have on their shelves in half bottle format read on.

Vintage Wines has a fairly small but quite diverse range of half bottles and it was immediately obvious from the contents of the six glasses that José put in front of me that the half bottle tasting was going to cover a good range of the wine styles they had available, including one that should have been more familiar than it turned out to be.

First Wine
Clearly a bubbly. Lightest straw in color with a faint hint of honey brown. Attractive doughy/yeasty nose, that turned to a more baked bread aroma with air. Bottom notes of beeswax and marmalade. Light weight with a nice fizz on the tongue. Very refreshing with the flavors carrying well onto the palate and providing good length to the finish.
Score: 2, 2, 3.6, 9.8=17.4/20, 87/100.
Drink: Now
Wine: Non-vintage Gosset Brut Excellence, Champagne, France
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: NA
Price: $18.99USD

Second Wine
Straw gold in color with a clear edge. Quite nutty with a toasted oak note and a little beeswax and truffles and a hint of musk. Developed the aroma of orange dominant marmalade with time. Full bodied, oily, nice flavor carry, supported by juicy acidity and attractive length. A well structured Chardonnay, might even be from Burgundy.
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 10.0=18.0/20, 90/100.
Drink: Now-2010.
Wine: 2004 Steele Chardonnay, Steele Cuvee, California.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: $7.99

Third Wine
Light cherry red with a pink edge. Ah, Pinot Noir. Top notes of cherry and strawberry with bottom notes of dry earth and spices; not California. The rich red fruit aromas are enhanced by a little air. Soft and supple entry with a very silky carry across the palate to a lengthy finish supported by firming tannins. A nice little wine that should improve over the next few years.
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 10.2=18.2/20, 91/100.
Drink: Now-2012.
Wine: 2006 Domain Drouhin Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.1%
Price: $19.49USD

Fourth Wine
Deep, dark cherry red with red edge. Dusty oak, a little banana skin with a middle note of cassis and a hint of blackberry. This is very young Cabernet but its quite appealing. Medium to full bodied in weight it has bright acidity that melds well with the fine but gritty tannins. It’s a nicely structured wine that needs time to throw off its excesses.
Score:2, 2, 4.1, 10.1=18.2/20, 91/100.
Drink: 2010-2016.
Wine: 2004 Rubicon Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Cask, Rutherford, California.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.2%
Price: $19.99USD

Fifth Wine
Deep, dense, cherry red with red edge. Very closed with a hint of smoked meats and a little smoked oak and a bottom gluey note hinting at incomplete malo. Livens up with a little air. Full bodied with firm, aggressive tannins, clean acidity and nice length. Not sure what this is! This will also need some time to show its character.
Score:2, 2, 3.8, 9.8=17.8/20, 89/100.
Drink: 2010-2018.
Wine: 2004 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.7%

Sixth Wine
Golden yellow with a clear edge. A mélange of spices, raisins, apricot, and butterscotch. Full bodied, viscous and luscious tending towards being a little cloying due to the lack of crispness on the finish. It’s a nice wine, its just not all that it could be.
Score: 2, 2, 4.2, 9.6, 17.8/20, 89/100.
Drink: Now 2020.
Wine: 2004 Nittnaus Gruner Veltliner Eiswein, Austria
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 9.5%
Price: $17.97

Tasting wine is always a learning experience. Only a week previously the Ehlers Estate Cabernet Sauvignon had been part of the Vintage Wines aborted “Hair of the Dog” tasting, AKA The Half Bottle Tasting. Yes, in two weeks I had been served 13 different half bottle wines and I couldn’t even recognize the one wine that had been served both times. But I have an excuse because the earlier tasting seemed from a completely different wine. In that first tasting The Ehlers was rich and ripe with blueberry and blackberry, spices, cherry and a trace of licorice. It was tightly wound but well balanced with upfront acidity and firm tannins. All in all nicely structured with excellent length but still too young at this time. Score: 2, 2, 4.2, 10.1=18.3/20, 92/100. Sounds like a completely different wine and that is what can happen when different bottles of the same wine are consumed. The wine at the second tasting with its smoked aromas looks a little like its aged prematurely perhaps due to poor storage or heat exposure. I have a couple more bottles in the cellar that, once opened, might tell us which is the real Ehlers. Stay tuned to these pages.

I guess you are wondering why the tasting on January 10th has been called the Half Bottle Tasting when it is really Part II. Well there is only enough time in this week to catch up with one tasting. But if anyone wants notes on the other 5 wines I have them.

Interested in trying a few half bottles, perhaps building a half bottle collection? The largest range that I know of is available at Half Wit Wines, an online wine shop that specializes in half-bottles. You can get anything from the 1999 Chateau Musar Rouge Bekaa Valley from Lebanon to a 1978 Chateau Margaux. Oh, and just as an FYI a split is not a half bottle (375ml), it’s a quarter bottle or 187ml. Don’t worry, I’ve made that mistake myself.

From the Wine Bar
As usual the Wine Bar was replete with offering from all over the wine world. I tasted the wines in bold and all were excellent to outstanding but I’m only going to talk about one.

White: 2006 Dechant Gruner Veltliner, Alte Reben, Austria, 2008 Matua Sauvignon Blanc, "Paretai", Marlborough, NZ, 2006 Matanzas Creek Chardonnay, Sonoma Valley, 2006 Conn Valley Chardonnay, Napa, 2005 Meursault les Narvaux, Vincent Girardin, 2004 Nittnaus Gruner Veltliner Eiswein, Austria.

Red: 2006 Morey-St. Denis la Riotte VV, Olivier Jouan, France, 2006 Nebbiolo delle Langhe, Prod. del Barbaresco, Italy, 2005 Ch. Lascombes, Margaux, France, 2003 Castello di Meleto "Rainero", IGT, Toscana, Italy, 2006 Conn Valley "Right Bank: Red Blend, Napa, 2006 R Winery Shiraz "Boarding Pass", Australia.

2006 Morey-St. Denis la Riotte VV, Olivier Jouan, Burgundy, France. $47.99
I like Pinot Noir, but then I like just about every wine grape. My problem is I don’t understand Burgundy, how the vineyards are laid out and named. All those small parcels of vines, all with seemingly endless names. How does one keep it all memorized and understandable? A great example is the Olivier Jouan Morey-St. Denis La Riotte. Morey-St-Denis is a village in the Cote de Nuits and Oliver Jouan has a total of about 20 acres but only 0.74 acres comprise his La Riotte vineyard; the map in this Burgundy Report on Morey-St. Denis gives you a great idea about how fragmented Burgundy vineyards can be. The Jouan La Riotte vineyard is rated as Premier Cru (1er Cru) and this 2006 is a wonderful little wine. Its cherry red in color with a pink edge and has a very distinctive nose of cherry and strawberry, spices and sweet geranium, and a bottom note of bathroom salts – the know, the ones the lady in your life uses to make herself smell beautiful! It’s a little shy on the palate with super-soft tannins and clean balanced acidity. Beautifully structured, this is really nice Burgundy. Score: 2, 2, 4.4, 10.4=18.8/20, 94/100.

Image © Casarsa: No this is not one of the gathered throng that drinks with SHIRAZ on Saturday, I just thought it might help to grab your attention. And I was right, wasn’t I?