Category Archives: regions

Tasting Tablas Creek Vermentino 2006

I got a Tablas Creek VINsider club membership for Xmas from my beloved this year, and couldn’t resist opening one bottle of the six right away, because I’m undisciplined like that.

Tablas Creek VermentinoPale straw in color. Very, very green on the nose, with a slight copper penny whiff of mineral, and lots of lime zest and honeydew melon.

Lovely minerality and acid on the palate, with prickles on the sides of my tongue. Delicate herbal flavors of chive and thyme, with lemon/lime-coated honeydew and green apple. Exceptionally refreshing and well-balanced. A great quencher of a wine, with lots of style. Yum.

Tablas Creek Vineyards was founded in California’s Paso Robles region by the Perrin family, famous winemakers of Chateau de Beaucastel, the iconic Chateauneuf de Pape, as well as other great Rhone wines, and Robert Haas, a highly influential American importer. They imported all their vines from the Rhone, and all of their wines are made from estate-grown fruit. They also farm organically and have a minimalistic approach to winemaking, meaning they try to fiddle with the wine to the least amount possible. General Manager Jason Haas has a blog, and posts interesting stuff a couple times a week on average.

The grape Vermentino is best known as an Italian varietal, grown all over the country but with distinction in Tuscany, Liguria and Sardinia.  It’s thought to have been brought over from Spain in the Middle Ages.  In southern France, the same grape is called Rolle, and vinified in Provence and Corsica, the latter of which is really well-known for its great Vermentino-based wines.

When Tablas Creek was purchasing vines from the Perrin’s source in France to import to America and grow in Paso Robles, the nurseryman recommended that they also purchase some Vermentino, as he thought it would thrive in the rocky, limestone-rich soils (which makes me wish some Hill Country winery would plant them some Vermentino.  Spicewood Vineyards?  Are you listening?).

Tablas Creek originally tried to blend the Vermentino into their other whites, but the wine was so distinctive that they ended up bottling it by itself.   They bottle all their Vermentino with a Stelvin closure (which is a fancy kind of screwcap).  The minerality makes it a great pairing for shellfish and the citrus and herbal qualities make it a natural for Mediterranean cuisine as well.  A little pricey at $21 or so, the wine was impressively well-made and it was interesting to taste a US Vermentino, for sure.  If you’re into obscure varietals and you don’t mind plunking $20+ for a light, refreshing, sporty white, this is your bottle fa shizz.

Wine Blogging Wednesday #41: Friuli Whites

I really didn’t want to get a Pinot Grigio for this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday tasting of Friuli-Venezie Giulia whites, hosted by Fork & Bottle. I know that if they make Pinot Grigio well anywhere in Italy, it’s in Friuli, but still. There are all these other interesting white wines coming from this region, not the least of which is Tocai Friulino. I’d been reading all about them in Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy, the book we’re reading right now in our Wine Book Club. And then, two things happened.

Italo Cescon Pinot Grigio 2006First, I decided that my unreasoning, stubborn resistance to Pinot Grigio, even when I knew it would be well made and really interesting to drink, is unnecessary and stupid. Great wine is great wine, no matter how many people make plonk from the same grape all over the place. Second, I saw this adorable bottle with its cute little twig wrapped up in ribbon and a strong recommendation from the wine buyer at Specs. Cute, almost definitely good, and cheap? Italo Cescon Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave DOC 2006 here we come!

The twig, by the way, called a tralcetto in Italian, is attached to the bottle as a tribute to patriarch Italo’s grandmother Anna, who had a practice of keeping a bit of dead grapevine in her pocket after harvest as a remembrance of the vine’s rebirth in the spring. Or at least, that’s what the back label said.

Anyway, here goes tasting wine with one nostril tied behind my back: Continue reading

Tasting Vina Antigua Sangiovese-Bonarda 2006

For me, January is a month of financial abstinence; whether I spent too much on Xmas gifts, or I have newly resolved to be fiscally prudent, I tend to cut way back in January. This does not mean that I stop drinking good wine! Well, it didn’t until I moved to Austin and developed a dreadful allergy to cedar pollen.

But in the one day in a fortnight that I am in possession of two working nostrils, I am still able to open a bottle of wine without breaking open my piggy bank. In the spirit of January and the economic asceticism you, too, may be practicing, this month I’ll be reviewing about 6 wines that I bought at Specs for less than $7 each. They’ll have to come in spurts, depending on pollen levels. It’s supposed to rain this week, and I have high hopes! Continue reading

Tasting Veritas Monticello Cabernet Franc 2005

Veritas 05 Cabernet FrancWhile in Portland, my husband and I stayed with my father and his partner Mary (and Nikki the dog), in Mary’s gorgeous craftsman bungalow. They’re both wine lovers and keep a respectable-sized cellar in their basement, wherein lie many gently aging bottle of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

On this trip, we drank a lot more beer than wine, my husband having brought 4 liters of his latest homebrew, a double chocolate stout, for all to enjoy. Also, Portland has so many truly great small microbreweries that when I visit, I try to take advantage of being able to walk down the block and fill up the growler. (sighs) I fear Austin will never develop the beer culture Portland enjoys.

In any case, rather than opening any Oregon Pinot Noir this year, Mary pulled out a bottle she had been given as a gift: a wine from Virginia. I’ve never tried a Virginian wine, and in a kind of queer Xmas cultural mash-up, “Yes, Virginia” was all I could say! Continue reading

WineBat Tales: The Rhone

French Wine mapLast Monday was the WineBat Rhone tasting at Green Pastures. Six wines were presented for blind tasting, accompanied by some light apps, which were delish. Check the compiled results of the tasting here.

Food included charred beef with truffle oil and manchego, bacon-wrapped cherry-stuffed quail breast, blackened oyster with chimichurri, and dates stuffed with boursin — the latter of which was a huge hit at my table! There was a nice big crowd for this tasting, as you can see.

CrowdDamon told us ahead of time that we would have one Rhone-inspired new world wine in the mix of six, so I was on the look-out for that one, but I confess I didn’t peg it. Here is a list of the wines we tasted, from my most favorite to my least. The first three, to be fair, were pretty-much tied for first place with me:

Tasting TableE. Guigal Hermitage 1999, $70-110: 100% Syrah. Plummy, with a huge stank on it. Funky delicious barnyard aromas of manure and wet hay, with raspberry fruit and a whiff of bermagot. This is a monster nose, very heady and interesting to sniff. On the palate, black pepper, raspberry preserves and violets. Scratchy tannins, but a very stylish wine. I represented Guigal when I worked for a distributor, but I’ve never had a chance to taste their Hermitage. This was a knock-out, a beautiful example of the way the French can make a Syrah that has just as much power as an Australian Shiraz, but frequently much more fascination.

Continue reading

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.

Whence value?

I really enjoy American wines, but when I’m looking for an interesting wine for very little money, I never go American. I look at Spain, Portugal, Southern France, New Zealand and Australia, maybe even a small southern Italian producer. In my experience, $10 spent on a Spanish wine goes a lot farther than $10 spent on a wine from California, when you know where to look.

OK, but now the dollar is weak. European and South American wines are going to get more expensive. Plus, Australia is weathering a miserable drought, and predictions are that yields in 2008 will be half that of previous years. HALF?!? Yikes, people! According to Decanter, I needn’t worry because importers are swallowing the expense right now. But logically, it’s only a matter of time: all of my bastions of value are going to be getting more expensive. What’s a cheapo wine lover to do?

Dr. Vino addressed this issue last week, asking if California would drop the ball in reclaiming the one third of the wine sales in the US which are of imported wine. It seems like a perfect time for Americans to come back to US wines for their interesting value purchases. Will the consumer be offered great deals in these weak dollar times?

I do not have a good feeling about this, gentle readers. Two Buck Chuck aside (sakes alive, when will Trader Joe’s come to Austin?!?), my national brethren are not well known for bringing the value and the quality in the same bottle. But perhaps I’m in a rut. Perchance I have been turning a blind eye to the grand values America has to offer me. Let’s find out together, shall we, in a poll?

If I have not listed your favorite value region, please let me know by a comment and I’ll add it.

[poll=5]

Wine Blogging Wednesday #39: Silver Burgundy

Domaine Michel Cheveau Mâcon-Solutré PouillyI got a big jump on WBW #39 this time, tasting my wine nearly immediately after the theme was announced. Except it was that fantastic Domaine Michel Cheveau Macon Solutre-Pouilly 2006 that Brooklynguy wrote up this last Friday.

Hey, that was MY wine! Why he gotta be like that?

Well, Brooklynguy is right — this wine is sick. Sick, we say in thronging chorus! And all for about $24 per bottle, in Texas at least.

Pale straw gold in color. Lush, vibrant aromas of quince, lemon, cream and a brisk steeliness. On the palate, there are hard corners of minerality, with intense flint character, as well as pear, smoke, lemon and golden delicious apples. Usually a wine inspires me to either sniff or sip repeatedly; this wine demanded both, exhaustively. The finish just didn’t stop; this is exactly what I want from a white Burgundy, but more so. Run, don’t walk, to buy it. I got mine at Vino 100 Lakeway. Continue reading

Tasting Tuesday at Specs Brodie Lane

Another fun time was had by all at Specs’ Tasting Tuesday at the Brodie Lane store this last Tuesday. This time I attended with a friend, which increased my enjoyment enormously — what is it about being alone in a crowd that makes you feel, well, alone in a crowd?

To remind you of what this scene is about: Specs holds this Tasting Tuesday event on the second Tuesday of every month at their Brodie Lane & William Cannon store.  For $10 you get a Reidel tasting glass and you get one ounce pours of 20 different wines that Specs has priced on sale that night only.  The event runs from 5:30 to 8, if I recall correctly.

This month they had some of the same (mostly local) food vendors providing samples, but the Specs deli was also passing hors d’ourves, like duck liver pate on crackers, sushi rolls with krab and wasabi cream sauce, grilled pork tenderloin with lovely apricot goo on french rounds, herbed goat cheese, and chopped duck & raspberry something on crackers. Tasty comestibles; I must say that I’ve purchased food at the deli before and I was very satisfied. Continue reading

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! Continue reading