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Wine Blogging Wednesday #40: Petite Sirah

Peirano Estate Petite SirahLovely Wine Blogging Wednesday, you are everything I ever wanted homework to be: only slightly challenging, involving some field research and ultimately delicious. Why did I pick The Bell Jar for my senior research paper, and not Petite Sirah? Thanks to host Sonadora at Wannabe Wino for a great idea for this month’s tasting, and to Lenn Thompson at Lenndevours for inventing this virtual tasting that brings the wine blogosphere together every month.

I found this Peirano Estate Vineyards “Heritage Collection” Petite Sirah 2005 at Grapevine Market, where it was one of a 6 bottle discounted case I bought, so I got it for $12.59. Tasted with carnitas on brown rice with sides of acorn squash mashed with gorgonzola and cornbread baked in a poblano cup.

Inky maroon in color. On the nose, mint is very strong, but not as strong as the waves of blueberry jam pouring off of it. There’s some coffee there at the end too, but really this is all about the minty blueberry madness. The palate presents juicy, sweet blackberry fruit, roundly passive tannins and a dark chocolate finish of medium length. This is a fairly rich wine, not flabby but certainly chubby.

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Tasting Yalumba Y Series Shiraz-Viognier 2006

Picked this one up as a 6th wine to round out my discounted half-case at Grapevine Market for about $10.50. I’m a huge fan of this varietal combination, so I was curious to see what a Yalumba would do with it.

yalumba shiraz viognierDeep purpley-red in the glass. Whopper of a nose with blackberry, roasted meats, a powdery floral note like perfumed dusting powder, slight tar and some menthol. Lots going on in the olfactory realm here; I love that top note that Viognier gives to Shiraz when they blend, and this had it, though not in spades. On the tongue there was some tart cherry or unripe blackberry, with some tarry or possibly graphite notes. The mid-palate was rather lacking here, but not a bad wine for the money at all.

Deb’s Key West Wine & Gardening blog reviewed the 2005 Yalumba Shiraz-Viognier, quite favorably, and What To Drink Tonight liked the 2004 as well, so you can see that this is a pretty reliable producer, year to year.

Yalumba bills itself as Australia’s oldest family owned winery, and I must say I’ve always been quite impressed with their price-quality ratio. Founded in 1849 by English brewer Samuel Smith in the Barossa Valley, the name of the winery means “all the land around” in the one of the aboriginal languages. Evidently Yalumba was the first to commercially plant Viognier in Australia, in 1980. I do like their Y Series Viognier, which is from the Eden Valley, and is a great value.

The practice of blending red Syrah and white Viognier to make one wine comes from the Cote Rotie, in the northern Rhone Valley in France. The Cote Rotie region is famous for some of the world’s finest Syrah bottlings, and wine laws there allow for up to 20% of the red wine to be Viognier. Check Wine Library TV’s review of 4 Cote Roties here.  In practice these days, most Cote Roties are 100% Syrah; but I must say I dearly love how Viognier can act as a Wonder-Bra for Syrah, lifting and separating, as it were, the Syrah’s floral components, while adding its own rich floral element. There’s something very yin-yang about these two grapes, and I’ll make jump into that tao every chance I get.

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Yes, Ma’am

Praxis ViognierWhen the Doctor tells me to eat takeout, I don’t ask questions. I just scamper my way on down to Pao’s Mandarin House and pick me up some Three Cup Chicken, because that is the SHIT, my friends. Can I get a witness? Testify!

The other night I was sitting on the couch with my sweetie, and he had a craving for the brie we had in the fridge. I was reading Spittoon’s post on how well Sauvignon Blanc does with cheese, and thought, I wonder how that Praxis Viognier I have the the fridge would go with this? So I poured myself a glass, lickety-split, took a bite of Brie, and sipped some Viognier. Gentle Reader, listen closely: Never. Do. This. Oh, lawsy me, stay away from this evil combination of flavors!

Poor Praxis Viognier; it’s not your fault I wasn’t using my noggin. I finished the glass, wondering what I’d pair it with that might actually work, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t had any Pao’s in a while. Hmm…

Thus it felt like Fate had slapped me upside the head when I read Good Wine Under $20 the next afternoon and saw that Dr. Debs was recommending takeout as a way to treat oneself right during the holidays. AND she was recommending Viognier with non-incindiery Asian food! I was suddenly On A Mission From God.

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Wine Blogging Wednesday #38: Portuguese Table Wine

This was an exercise in trust for me; I’ve never been a fan of Portuguese table wines, at least nothing other than Vinho Verde, which I like very much. I resolved to take this opportunity to learn a little more about a region I had pretty much written off as producing fruitless bottles of scrape-your-teeth tannic monsters. Many thanks to Catavino‘s Ryan and Gabriella; their Portuguese Table Wine Cheat Sheet was great help to me!

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Tasting Domaine Chandon Pinot Meunier 2005

Why does a sparkling wine house make a still Pinot Meunier? As a curiousity, or to help wine people teach about varietals? The latter is always my secret theory. It could also be that someone in the winery is freaked-out-in-love with the varietal, seeking to champion it like Paul Draper did with Zinfandel. From what Domaine Chandon says on their website, the grape grows so well for them in Carneros (one of the few places it’s grown other than France), that they just had to make a stand-alone wine from it.

Pinot Meunier, the grapePinot Meunier is a red grape that is used to blend into Champagne and sparkling wines, like Pinot Noir is. Most Champagnes, white or rose, are blends, with the exception of Blanc de Blancs, which is made exclusively from Chardonnay. Rose Champagnes, though, are blends of white and rose juice from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. It’s generally agreed that Pinot Meunier is a mutation of Pinot Noir, a grand dame of a grape with slutty, mutant ways; Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and even Gamay are also thought to be mutations of Matron Momma Noir.

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Tasting Tormaresca Masseria Maime 2001

Say that five times fast, right? To go for the easy joke, this wine with a mouthful of a name was a real mouthful. (Ba-dum-bump.) Tasted at Lake Travis Wine Trader at one of their Tuesday wine classes, led that week by the exceptionally knowedgeable AJ Hernadez of Republic National Distributing.

Maime LabelAlmost black in color, and nearly opaque. Intensely nutty, gamy nose of tar, amaretto, prune, currant and black pepper. One of those noses that is hard to quantify because it’s so monolithic — you can pick away (at the nose, haha) and capture aspects of it in words, but largely it smells like… its rich, powerful self. I guess Fitzgerald was right: the rich are different from you and me; they’re difficult to describe.

Presents an earthy, chewy palate; not super-fruity in its plumminess, but rich and meaty. There is a scratch of tannin in the velvety texture, like cut glass beads on a plush pillow. Parker, as he gave this wine a 91, recommended that it be drunk between 2006 and 2015. I think we’re still on the early side, but heavens we’re getting there!

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Tasting Champalou Vouvray Sec 2005

What an delightful wine. Tasted at Cork & Co., a downtown wine bar, as part of an excellent French wine flight, I was blown away by this Vouvray. I had never heard of the producer until I looked them up as part of this post, and I will definitely be looking for their wines again!

Champalou VouvrayPale gold in color. When cold, I detected very pronounced apricot on the nose with some hints of orange blossom. As the wine warmed up, the scent of honey was unmistakable and intense.

There was a peachy sweetness on the palate that was offset by a hint of bitterness and strong minerality, creating an overall marmalade flavor. I was fascinated how the attack (the first flavors detected upon taking the wine in my mouth) was sweet, but then the flavors hit this wall of mineral, which stopped all the sugar but allowed my palate to pass through unscathed. The flavors all but disappeared after the “sugar wall,” leaving my palate seduced and then refreshed and clean, with only a lingering hint of unsweet honey muskiness to show for my swallow.

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Tasting The Crossings Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005

The Crossings Sauvignon BlancI can’t get enough of that tasty, tasty New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.Nothing else quite compares; white Bordeaux can come close, with its filigree minerality and level-headed conjoined twin Semillon. Chilean SB is lemony and fun-loving, bright and fresh as a debutante. There are excellent Cali SBs out there, too, though I’m not a Fume Blanc fan these days. But it’s New Zealand that takes this short-lived, sassy grape and gives it a steroid-injected makeover worthy of Oprah and What Not to Wear combined.

I had a glass of this wine for $7 at Mars Restaurant, at their new location on South Congress, while sitting on their huge patio on a beautiful Texas late-summer afternoon.The sun was dimpling through the huge live oaks, and it was not sweltering. Divine!

Yellow straw in color.Luxurious nose of sweet gooseberry, perfumed honeydew melon, and very green grass.SweetTart lemony flavor on the tongue evolves into fresh pink grapefruit, with a mineral bite to it of almost-bubbles. A Crystal Light tanginess traipses along the mouthwatering finish. Feels like the Goddess of Spring just slapped my mouth awake with a newly-mown lawn and a bag of Ruby Red grapefruit.

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Wine Blogging Wednesday #37: Tasting Argiolas Costera 2005

Argiolas CosteraDrink Indigenous is this Wine Blogging Wednesday‘s theme.

Well, I’m a dumbass. I thought that the dominant varietal in this wine, Cannonau, was indiginous to Sardinia, one of the Italian islands. Wrong! It’s largely thought that Cannonau was brought to Sardinia in the 18th century from Spain — general consensus seems to be that it’s a derivative of Garnacha, or Grenache. Dissenting Italian opinions here. If a grape has been grown in a region for 4 centuries and has its own name, isn’t it indigenous by now? Probably not. But I tasted this wine up good, damn it, and so you’re going to hear about it.

Deeply purpley-red in color. Immediately in the glass, there’s a dusty-earthy nose, maybe cedar notes, with black licorice and ripe bing cherry. When it opens up, it’s got really ripe, sexy fruit. I can see why Parker gave this a 91 — it’s totally his style! And for only about $14!

On the tongue, it gives up some plum flavors (you know how the skin is a little sour? like that) and has a note of tar, mixed with a slightly minerally tone. It’s rare for me to detect minerality on the palate of a red wine (it’s much easier for me taste that flavor – like rocks in your mouth – in whites), but here it is! Happy Mouth Co-op, membership: me.

I kept thinking “boy, I bet this would be great with food, like a nice strong cheese” and so I made myself a piece of whole wheat toast with a gorgonzola cream cheese spread. Loveliness! The spicy acidity of the gorgonzola was a nice complement to the earthiness of the wine, and the fat in the cheese spread really smoothed the wine out. Those Eye-talians know how to make us some food-appropriate wine, yo.

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Tasting Rosenblum Cellars Heritage Clones Petite Sirah 2005

Rosenblum PS Heritage ClonesThis was an impulse purchase — normally I don’t buy bottles this expensive, sticking to under $10-15, but I was meeting friends at my house and saw this in the wine store, and…

Color is dark and inky, like black blood in a movie. The aromas are warm and earthy, with some tarry characteristics. This wine is on the hot side (meaning the alcohol content is high enough at 14.4% that I can feel it burn my nose a bit), and presents vanilla oak, sweet cherry, white pepper and mocha notes. There is an interesting, elusive whiff of aged cheese or truffle or really sticky skunk bud.

On the palate, I get licorice, tobacco, and powerful blackberry jam flavors. The wine has a strong tannic grip, which makes it meaty and chewy-feeling, like it’s tight on my teeth and gums. The acidity is good, though, balancing out those structured tannins. The long, lingering finish is very reminiscent of dried blueberries. This wine is rich and delicious, very rewarding for $23 a bottle. Drink it with something equally rich: italian sausage, duck, or osso bucco.