Category Archives: grapes

Tasting Santo Cristo Garnacha 2008 Wine Blogging Wednesday #71

Here’s how it went, today at 5:50: “Hm, I guess while the kiddo is watching a special treat TV show before dinner, I’ll surf around wine blogs for a sec.

Wait, is it Wednesday?

Wait, isn’t there a WBW coming up?

Wait, is today the effing 16th?

GD it, I was going to drink that crisp white in the fridge tonight.

Hell.

Do I even have any Rhone varietals in the closet?

Cotes du Rhone, Morgon, Bourguiel… Oh!  I forgot about this little Garnacha.

Campo de Borja, cool.  $7.50, easy to open for no other reason than blogging.

Plus, that’s all I’ve got that works.

OK, let’s crack it open, snap a photo and get to writing.”

So I poured out a glass and got started 10 minutes before dinnertime.

This is a pretty little wine; purple in the glass, with ruby-red tints, it smells of raspberries and mint. Tart on the palate, with pepper and flavors of unripe blackberry now, as well as a hint of… tar?  Then the tannins come and chase everyone out of the room; the finish is pretty long, with cane berry flavors re-emergent and lingering.  A decent level of complexity for this wine I spent $7.50 on at Austin Wine Merchant, though more of a quaffing wine and less of a food wine, to my mind at least.

I am confident of the latter statement because I happened to make barbecued chicken thighs, anasazi beans and baked sweet potato fries tonight for dinner, which was, I thought, fortuitous.  I like Rhone varieties with barbecue flavors – Syrah especially, of course – but Spanish Garnacha can be so heavily extracted that they can sometimes pull off that sweet fruit/charred notes match.

With the Santo Cristo, though, the barbecue sauce on the chicken really brought out the tarry notes in the wine.  Maybe if there were more acidity in the wine to offset the tomato… but the creamy sweet potatoes and beans didn’t match very well either.  If I knew then what I know now about this wine, I’d put it with a fattier meal, like a grilled sirloin, or maybe just not tricky-dick barbecue sauce.

Garnacha is my ticket in to Wine Cast’s Wine Blogging Wednesday #71 because it is the Spanish version of Grenache, that staple grape of the Southern Rhone.  Grenache/Garnacha is a high-producing vine that is known for its spice, ample berry fruit and high sugars (which translate to high alcohol).  When the Spanish vinify their really old, old vines, however, the resulting Garnacha wine bears only superficial resemblance the French Grenache.

OK, so this is probably my worst WBW post ever.  I did not plan, so I have not had time (had people over this evening after I got the kid to sleep, and it’s late – for me at least – now) to really research the producer or write a cogent breakdown of the region or the grape. I really like the Campo de Borja region for wines that drink way above their price tag, just so you know.  And I am in favor of Rhone varieties wheresoever they are planted.

Drink Garnacha.

Scamp out.

Tasting Zolo Bonarda 2009

Honestly, I don’t know how this bottle even got into my cellar.  It looks like something I would buy; (1) it’s Argentinian, so reasonably priced, (2) interesting grape and (3) just plain fun to say.  Heh, kidding on number three.  I don’t buy wines because they’re fun to say.  Much.

Bonarda is a super-prevalent grape in Argentina and nowhere much else.  In California, it’s called Charbono but doesn’t enjoy the same level of popularity. Bonarda (or Charbono) is used generally as a blending grape due to its ink-dark color and intense tannins.

Evidently Argentina is experimenting with single-variety Bonarda wines. Cool! Zolo is a wine brand made by Finca Patagonias; they mostly do Tapiz, and describe themselves as “one of the most technological wineries in Argentina.” Which, totally not trying to be condescending here, cracks me up.  That usually tells me that they’ve got solid grapes, maybe always have, and now focus on the science of making large quantities of stable, crowd-pleasing wines. Fair enough.

The color is all Heart of Darkness, all the time in the glass.  The nose is pretty hot, with stewed blackberries, jammy jam and dusty earth notes.  The palate is spare – prunes are hanging around, and there are certainly tannins, but there’s also enough acidity to keep them from waking the baby.  And then there’s that smoky, toasty, don’t-call-me-fruity-or-I’ll-punch-you finish.  Something about this wine makes me think of… leather.  Not black leather, as the color would lead you to believe, but the dark brown leather of good riding boots.

All the dark tones of this little goth number make me think of what to pair it with.  Duck confit? chocolate coated pepper steak? boiled leather aux herbes?  Actually, the chocolate isn’t far off the mark – I snuck some dark chocolate chips out of the freezer, and they’re a hit.  But the smokiness of this wine makes it an excellent wine to go with my husband’s favorite food… Texas barbecue.  Yep, 12-hour smoked beef brisket would totally make out with this Bonarda.  They can get all intense and philosophical together, and talk about how they hate their parents.  It’s a date.

 

Tasting Tablas Creek Tannat 2005

This poor wine – somehow, I have let it molder age in my cellar for what is probably WAY too long, but Tablas Creek built this thing, and they build them to last, my friends. Let’s see how it’s drinking. This post is being taped before a live studio audience. (At least, I think the cat is still alive. Granted, he has not moved in a while.)

The wine is Dark. Joseph Conrad Dark. Pink Floyd Dark. Pretty intense nose – hot (which means I can smell the alcohol) and dusty, with a generous note of pepper and some vague tobacco-ey hints. Wow, I may not have over-aged this. Cool. Crap, I should have opened it for a special occasion. Oh well.

Palate is pretty flat. Crap, I seem to have over-aged this. Cool, it didn’t ruin a special occasion.

But wait, Tablas Creek’s own vintage chart says this wine is in its early maturity! I guess I need to let it open up. Granted, it’s been in a glass for at least 30 minutes, but maybe that’s not enough for a 6 year old Tannat. OK, let’s cut to commercial information about Tannat.

Tannat is originally from the foothills of the Pyrenees, in southwest France. It’s a highly tannic grape, known for having lots of spice and dark, dark fruit. And spice. These days, the people who drink the hell out of Tannat are the Basques and… wait for it… Uruguayans. Yep, there is more Tannat grown in Uruguay than in France – in fact, one third of all wine made in Uruguay is Tannat. Random, huh? Now I know two things about Uruguay – 98% literacy rate and seriously suckers for Tannat.

Oh look! Wikipedia says that Basque settlers brought Tannat to Uruguay. OK, that makes sense. Shew.

Tasting wine again – yes, it’s opening up now. OK, good – I can be chagrinned about the lack of a party; that’s always a better thing to be bummed about than over-aging your wine.

One thing I can assure you: if you drink a generous helping of this wine with nothing in your stomach but spaghetti squash and chayote, you will probably have a headache in the morning. I’ll report back about that.

On the subject of food, this wine would be awesome with some of those Central Market truffles I finished two weeks ago. Also, it would be tasty with a big, thick steak or some duck or pate or other fat-rich plate of goodness. Even well aged, this wine is all about the tannins.

Finally, 90 minutes after pouring, getting that smooth plum and blackberry fruit on the palate. This is really coating, rich stuff – stick to your teeth kind of wine. And spice-er-iffic: LOTS of cigar box, pepper, herb and other earth scents on the nose now. Fuck, I love Tablas Creek. They ferment the shit out of some grapes, y’all.

Surely there is some decent chocolate somewhere in this house.

I’m not sure how easily you’ll run across this vintage in your average wine store, but if you happen to find the current vintage of Tablas Creek’s Tannat, know that it will age beautifully for at least 6 years, and that it’ll take a while to communicate all its flavors once you pour it into a glass. It runs about $25 per bottle – I got mine when I was part of the winery’s wine club – and is well worth the cash.

Tasting Oxford Landing Viognier 2006

I buy all nearly all my wine in large batches.  Part of it is because there are frequently deals in my local wine shops in which you get 10-20% off when you buy a case. A mixed case, of course – I’m never in a position to buy a whole case of one wine at a time, as tempted as I might be.  Though I admit that I have considered buying that Famega by the case.

So in this last batch of wine, I bought a selection of white wines under $10.  It’s not easy to get a viognier for around $10 – the grape is a pain to grow and all – but Oxford Landing is a good bet for value, no matter the grape. I think I paid about $8 for this bottle.

Oxford Landing Viognier 2006: pretty yellow

Oxford Landing Viognier 2006: pretty yellow

This is a bit of a case of “you get what you pay for,” but not to the point of Stop Drinking.  The nose is heavily perfumed, almost soapy, with notes of overripe peach and newly cut oak slats. Palate = lemon, nectarine, something greenish, and cream.  Weirdish, like apple ice cream.

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that this wine did not pair well with a PBJ (J was strawberry jam).  I was thinking about that, and viognier is actually a wine that I would have picked for PBJ, in that the body might stand up to the peanut butter oil.  Alas, a tannic wine would probably be better; the viognier was just nasty with it.

The wine WAS quite pleasent with beef stroganoff, though.  Makes sense; cream to cream, you know.  Unless you like a thick and creamy wine for sipping, this is not a “sit down and glug a glass in front of the TV” kind of wine, to my mind.  Good for pairing with creamy dishes, as mentioned, and perhaps some cheesy enchiladas or some such. Peach melba.  Fondue?  Enchiladas suizas might be the perfect dish… just brainstorming here.

kicked in the pants

Thanks to an impromptu chat with a wise new mother, I was suddenly inspired to throw off Preggo Prohibition and Freaking Have A Glass Of Wine Already (my words, not hers). Yeah, mothafuckah……! (flips the upside-down bird at abstinence) Take that! I’m BACK!

Since the rapidly growing criatura is the size of a turnip this week, we’re celebrating said humble root vegetable with take-out Thai food and a Jaboulet “Parellele 45″ Cotes du Rhone Rose 2007. Makes sense in my head, anyway.

After ordering the Scamp household classic Thai food comfort order (spring rolls, pad thai, red chicken curry), I toddled off to World Market for some wine, thinking vaguely that they might have chilled wine. It’s been so long since I opened my cellar closet door, I couldn’t even remember what was in there, and I certainly haven’t been keeping anything cold.

WM doesn’t have a cold box, unfortunately, but I enjoyed browsing anyway and I bought a couple of wines from their Wine Speculator Top Whatever List display (an 05 Lehmann Shiraz and a Mosel Riesling), but for tonight’s momentous occasion I grabbed the Jaboulet Rose for only about $11.99, which is reasonable if not ridiculously cheap for said bottle.

I mostly went to WM because it was quite close to the restaurant, Blue Bamboo, which is the Thai place closest to my house. They’re both in this ridonkulous strip mall on Highway 71, and I was mitigating the guilt over my splurge on Wednesday’s dinner by not driving all over creation. For the record, in Texas this can be a challenge. I have found some decent inexpensive everyday wines at WM, so I have to give it at least a B- as far as a wine shop goes.

Blue Bamboo gets a C, I think, after their second chance. It took a Really Long Time to get my take-out order, and their pad thai is stunningly bland, though the red curry was acceptable and the spring rolls had nothing particularly wrong with them. I’ll try eating in the restaurant before I give up on them completely, but Thai Spice in Lakeway is much better, for the same money or less.

The wine wasn’t cold when I brought it home of course, and the bean was insisting on food immediately upon my arrival home. What’s a wine lover to do, in this situation? Unless you have a way cool insta-wine-chiller, I recommend the method indicated in the photo.

The Jaboulet CDR Rose is a charming salmon pink in the glass. Nose of grapefruit, raspberry, and strawberry, with a hint of herbal-greeniness. On the palate, this mutha is TART, with flavors of strawberry lemonade with mineral ice cubes. Nice body and comfy mouthfeel. A tasty rose, complex for its price point, but not too involved.

With the pad thai, which needed lots of lime to bring it to life a little, the wine’s fruit just disappeared, leaving all the tartness and mineral – rather not The Thing, if you understand me. With the curry, however, which was much spicier and had that sweet-creamy richness of coconut milk, the fruit was much more forward. It was kind of like the tartness, and to some degree the mineral, was so busy fighting the hot pepper that it never made it to my tongue.

The wine is made up of 50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault and 10% Syrah, according to Jaboulet’s website. I’m not going to gabble on about the French region of Cotes du Rhone just now because it’s late and my womb treats everyone better when I get some good sleep. More than one post in June, though – I promise!

Winebat Tales: Oregon Pinot Noir

I represented Oregonians with a brief talk at last Monday’s Winebat tasting of Oregon Pinot Noir, and had a blast doing it. The wines all showed beautifully, and the resulting tasting was an orgiastic, olfactory delight.

Here’s a summary of the infotastic blurb I introduced the wines with:

“As with most areas in the US, winemaking in Oregon dates back to pioneer days and was halted by Prohibition. Oregonians waited over 30 years after the Repeal to get back to stomping the grape, though, and it was actually Californians who brought the impetus and the grapes to plant in the Willamette (rhymes with “damn it”) Valley in the late 60s and early 70s. A milestone for Oregon wine was when a Pinot Noir from Eyrie Vineyards won the Wine Olympics in 1979. Oregonian wineries, like those in Texas, tend to be small and family-owned.

The Willamette valley, home to the largest concentration of Oregon wineries, is located at roughly the same latitude as Burgundy, with cold, wet winters and warm, dry summers. No, it doesn’t rain all the time everywhere in Oregon. Pinot Noir makes up about 70% of the wine output of the state.” Or something like that.
Then I laid down a brief description of What You Might Be Smelling and Tasting and commented on how PN is well known for its uniquely silky texture. And we all set to the serious business of sniffing and sipping. I’ve listed the wines below in order of my preference, but really all of them were lovely business.

Penner Ash WV PN 05Bethel Heights Casteel Reserve Pinot Noir 2005, $50: Gorgeous minty, Bing cherry, lavender, mushroom and forest floor aromas. Bright, sweet explosion of acidity on the palate, with really integrated tannins and lovely Portobello and clove flavors. The texture is truly fine, solid but satiny. Extravagantly good.

Penner Ash Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2006, $48: Very fragrant, with mint and truffle, vanilla and strawberry syrup on the nose. HUGE on the palate, with bright cranberry and concentrated cherry cordial. Very intense, spicy tannins, and rich, unctuous, concentrated structure. Flamboyant, but sleek.

Benton Lane Pinot Noir 2006, $26: Candied cherry, vanilla, rose petals and over-the-top strawberry. Slightly on the astringent side, the palate has cranberry, earth tones and sharp-edged tannins, with a little Prince of Wales tea on the back end. Very structured.

A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir 2006, $19: Kind of a whang on the nose at first, but that blew off to show really distinct strawberry and cherry, with a really earthy palate of plum skin, crazy overflowing spice and ripe mushroom. The finish goes on and on.

Erath 05 PN labelErath Pinot Noir 2006, $19: Nutmeg and distinct strawberry cream cheese on the nose. Smooth and sensuous on the palate with black tea and bright cranberry cocktail. Sexy, sexy.

Solena Cellars Grand Cuvee Pinot Noir 2006, $25: There was this chewing gum in Mexico that came in the flavor “violet,” and this had that smell, kind of chemically flowers, along with some slightly charred truffle. Soft and supple on the palate, without much grip. Kind of mediciney.

I’ll be at the Winebat blind tasting tonight at Green Pastures, where we’ll be enjoying six Spanish reds and matching light apps for only $25. Coming?


Tasting Domaine Andre Brunel Grenache 2005

So after some disappointing explorations of some smaller Austin wine shops, I finally took the time to really explore the Austin Wine Merchant, and I must say I was very pleased with what I found there!  They have an exquisite French selection, some off-the-beaten path Italian reds, and they sell bin-ends for a tidy discount, which allows me to build a cellar with things I probably wouldn’t normally pick up.  Why is it that $5 or $10 off a bottle makes it nearly irrisistible?  Madness!

Another nice thing about the Austin Wine Merchant is that they actually have some reasonably priced bottles, which is sometimes hard to find in collector-oriented stores!  I picked up this Domaine Andre Brunel Grenache, a Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, for only $5.99!  Continue reading