Category Archives: reviews

Tour de France Friday Flight at Vino

tour de france flight from Vino

Never take a picture of 5 bottles back-lit by the summer sun.

This last Friday I flew out the door right after dinner was over so I could enjoy Vino‘s excellent Friday night flight event with my friend Jen. Vino hosts a wine tasting every Friday night of 5 wines for $10. The wines are excellent, the pours are generous, and you can bring in your own food if you want. Needless to say, it’s usually packed. :)

We got there late — around 6:30 — and couldn’t find a seat. We ended up standing at a bar table and tasting through the flight, which was hot but better than nothing. :) Vino is a wine store I will miss when we move to Milwaukie in a few weeks, since they’ve got a stunning selection of fun, off the beaten track wines. Also the owner’s weekly newsletter is hilarious.

My friend Jen knows what she likes, but doesn’t waste her brain with all the vinifera/vinology details that I store. So it was fun to taste with her and get her input on the wines.

Tasting notes:

2012 DOMAINE PIERRE MARCHAND Pouilly Fumé (Loire Valley) $19.95: Straw yellow in the glass. This wine smells floral and gooseyberry-y, with a nose full of coastal breezes and fresh starts. I could smell this wine all day long, and longer. I wish I was smelling it right now. In the mouth, it’s nice and limey, opening up to a wide flavor of mineral stonyness, and finishing off with a slightly metallic whang. Just like Cyrano, this wine is all about the nose. And poetry and deceit and seduction, but focus on the nose.

wine flight glasses

This is what a flight of wine looks like if you put all the glasses on the numbers so you can keep track.

2013 L’HERMAS Vin de Pays Saint-Guilhem-Desert (Languedoc) $16.95: This rosé has a pale, salmon blush color. Even though the wine was a perfect temperature for tasting, the nose was kind of closed off here. I smelled lemon zest over unripe strawberries, with maybe a little herbal scent on the very edges, just barely showing up. And then you take a sip and this wine is Fun! Fun! FUN! A slight petillance (spritz) on the tongue makes you think of pop rocks, except not sweet. Instead these flavors are also very minerally with über-restrained rapeberries stuffed with thyme.

2012 DOMAINE DES FORGES Anjou Gamay (Loire Valley) $10.95: This wine was deep purple, with earthy musty dusty black licorice on the nose and an overly plushy pillow of a palate covered with faux fur. Finish was persistent but wallowy. I wondered if this wine was slightly corked, to be honest. I heard people buying it after the tasting, and based on this taste I couldn’t tell you why.

2012 DOMAINE POLI Niellucio “Ile de Beauté” (Corsica) $13.95: THIS wine, though. THIS WINE. It’s from Corsica, but it’s sassy and bouncy, as if someone made a wine from Clippy. Garnet in color, this one smells like baking spices and plums. Nutmeg. Cherries. Cloves. Fern spores. When you get tired of figuring out if that underleaf smell is really what fern spores smell like and take a drink, you’ll enjoy a sproingy, well-balanced wine full of fruit, enthusiasm, and presence, with a finish of sandalwood and beet chips which is (enjoyably) long-lasting. Buy, drink, repeat.

This is the least jowly photo that Jen took of me tasting wine that evening.

This is the least jowly photo that Jen took of me tasting wine that evening. And I’m even smiling!

2011 DOMAINE LABRANCHE LAFFONT Madiran “Traditions” (Madiran/SW France) $16.95 or 23.95: Huh. Ok, so the tasting sheet at Vino says this wine is $24 but their website says it’s only $17. I like it and wanted it to be about $14 and from Spain, so if it’s really $17 I’d be more likely to buy it. Madiran is kind of in Spain; it’s closer to Spain than lots of parts of France. It was getting trendy right before I left the wine business. Or I was getting trendy, not sure. Anyway, I don’t know if Madiran is trendy anymore or ever was, but this wine is pretty cray-good.

The color is a deep, dark purple-black, like Prince in a terrible mood. Smell it and you’ll enjoy a busy Manhatten street corner of a nose, with bustling vanilla, tobacco, blackberry, spice, earth, and coffee. And maybe some scents I lost in the crowd, like a rookie detective trying to follow a spy on her first day. Except it’s hardly my first day, Bruno. The taste? Oh my. The palate has amazing structure, with this Matrix-like slomo, elegantly composed, complex explosion of cane fruit (that’s mostly blackberries) and black currant with hints of toast and tar underneath. It’s really good, and in retrospect I like it a lot for $17. I’d like it better at $14, but I’m very cheap and maybe you’re not.

 

Liveblogging red wine at WBC14

Live blogging the whites and rosés yesterday was so overwhelming that I almost didn’t attend the reds session this afternoon, but then I talked myself into it. I joined a little late because I spent so long talking WordPress in the lobby with the charming Allison from Please the Palate that I ran my laptop battery nearly dry and had to run up to my room for the power cord I had left there.  She liveblogged the reds too, so if we tasted the same thing, you can compare us. If we diverge greatly, trust her notes, not mine. :)

The Wines

Casey Flat Ranch 2011 Red Blend: (52% Cab, 24% Syrah, 6% Merlot, 1% Viognier) Oak and green pepper on the nose, mashed blackberries, and cedar. Kind of a pruney palate, with lots of pine and forest floor, pretty grippy tannins and a lasting menthol/chestnut flavor on the finish.


Gypsy Canyon 2012 The Collector’s Pinot Noir: BIG pomegranate, spicebox, mushroom, and thyme on the nose. Deep cherry juice on the palate with . Smooth mouthfeel, elegant tannins, with some coffee and blueberry on the finish. $110

Bianchi Heritage Selection Paso Robles 2011 Zinfandel: Pretty classic black pepper and blackberry jam with a nice lifted aspect on the top. Tastes like a good bbq ribs wine: sweet notes without cloying jamminess, but a nice bitey char at the end that I think would balance well with any grilled red meat. Yummy!

If you choose to engage in liveblogging, you might be writing your notes with the winemaker looking over your shoulder at your tasting notes. No pressure! :O

Trione Alexander Valley 2009 Red Wine Blend: Wow, menthol much? Mint/tobacco/green pepper overload. Really green on the nose but super-purple in the glass. I was expecting it to be spare on the tongue but it explodes with juice and goes out like an angry, eucalyptus-laden lamb. $45

Taken Napa Valley 2011 Red Wine: two millennial sons of famous Napa winemakers make this; sophisticated nose of pretty oak, currant, and pepper. Grippy tannins and nce fruit. Nothing wrong with this wine, but it didn’t blow my socks off. $30

Bandit NV Cabernet Sauvignon: You’ve seen this wine in the bright purple Tetrapack “bottle.” Great for camping or floating the river. Unremarkable cabernet with sweet oak, blackberry, and pine needles. Very soft tannins and a pretty vegetal finish, but good with burgers over a campfire I bet. Following the fancy Napa cab blend didn’t do it any favors. :)

Labyrinth Presqu’ile “Clone 667″ 2012 Pinot Noir: Musky sweet/sour burgundy style nose, pretty violets, spice, and subtle herbs. I really enjoy smelling this wine. Smooth and delicious on the tongue, with elegant satiny texture. Extremely well-made. $50

Brecon Estate 2013 Paso Robles Cabernet Franc: Really pretty, floral and fruity nose. The oak lifts the floral spicy smells and complements without competing. Someone said caramel, I guess I can see that. Bright and sassy palate, with not-quite-ripe blackberries and a little tarragon on the finish.

Consilience 2011 Santa Barbara County Syrah: Great floral/fruit nose with brisk black pepper. Jammy and grippy on the palate but not overwhelmingly so. Violets? Lavendar? something flowery on the end there. $20

Whew! Let’s not do that again for a while, ok?

WCB14: liveblogging whites and rosés

10 wines in 50 minutes! WAT.

Urban Legends Cellars 2013 Grenache Blanc: oodles of lime, floral notes, quite a whang on the palate with honeydew and lazy peach, not as much of the acidity I was looking for. Fermented stainless with some lees stirring in tank.

Uproot 2012 Grenache Blanc: trying to attract 20somethings, funny little card showing flavors. Kick-ass opulent stone fruit nose here, with pretty high alcohol. Good melon and lemon on the palate. Not completely off-balance, but it tilts much farther away from acid than Urban Legends did. Continue reading

Live Wine Blogging to commence on Friday July 11

I’ll definitely be live-blogging my tastings at the Wine Bloggers Conference next weekend, using the WordPress iOS app. Unsubscribe if you don’t want to hear about all the cool juice I’ll be sampling in Santa Barbara County! :)

Tasting 2008 Methven Family Vinyards Pinot Noir Reserve

This is a really great wine, but this tasting record is from after letting it sit in my fridge for a week. :) Sorry, wine! I have a terrible time drinking up a whole bottle by myself. Sorry to disillusion you, but I have to be quasi-alert at 4pm for a 2yo, so…

Opulent, intense plum on the nose, with a fair amount of heat from the alcohol. Warm spices and a slightly stewed scent that I associate with Ripasso. That’s probably from sitting in the fridge for a week, alas.

The palate has amazing body: structured but silky, though I’ll admit much of the fruit is muted by the time this has been gently decaying in my icebox. Still a real pleasure to drink, though, with some zingy cranberry and black tea on the finish.

I got this as a gift, but it seems to run about $22-25 per bottle; very much worth the price.

Tasting Black Mountain Pinot Noir 2012

Black Mountain Pinot Noir 2012I can’t find my good wine key. I have had to use this crappy, only-in-case-of-an-emergency one for weeks now, and it’s incredibly annoying. Using a good wine key is a simple pleasure – it’s a unflashy, elegant way to open a bottle, and it sets the tone for what follows.

So, Black Mountain Pinot Noir is a $6.99 wine from Trader Joe’s. Really, for under seven bones you shouldn’t hear much guff from me about this wine, right? Because Pinot is expensive to make – the damned vine is persnickety as hell – and anyone buying a cheap-ass bottle of PN should know what they’re getting in to. The glass in this picture cost more than the entire bottle of this wine.

That being said, if this wine were any good at all, you know I would not have kicked this review off with two long sentences about my lost wine key. I hesitated – I did! – when I pulled this bottle off the shelf at TJ’s, because I *thought* I remembered this wine being unredeemable plonk.  But toddler-related sleep deprivation screwed me yet again, and I did not feel my memory was as reliable as it really, truly was.

It’s sharp and lemony on the nose, with notes of histrionic, under-ripe cranberries and, ok, some not-unreasonable spice and black tea. Unfortunately, it really falls apart on the palate. Tart yet flabby and muddy, this is not a pleasure to drink. For the record, if you spend another $2-3 at TJ’s, you can buy a fairly competent Pinot Noir.

Andrea. Remember. YOU DO NOT LIKE THIS WINE.

Tasting Middle Sister Drama Queen California Pinot Grigio

My dear friend spent a decompression day at my house after SXSW Interactive, and brought me this wine, which she says someone dropped off at the WordPress booth.

Free!  Free wine is my favorite price.

I confess that the marketing of this wine has me on the fence. I like accessible, approachable wines that straight-up tell you what to expect. I especially like them when they’re affordable and easy to find. I feel happy when they help people feel more comfortable with drinking wine, a beverage that so often is perceived as exclusionary and snobbish.

But I don’t like it when I feel I’m being pandered to, and I recognize it’s a fine line. The Middle Sister wine brand is one of  ten brands developed/owned by Canopy Management. Their brands all “tell a story,” which to my ear means that what’s selling the wine is the marketing/packaging, and not necessarily the wine’s flavor or quality.  Which, to be fair, could be said about nearly any foodstuff or beverage that I have not tried already or researched before buying. So, OK: hall pass.

Canopy Management also owns a company (site? group? concept?) called Wine Sisterhood, which describes itself as “celebrating and sharing the world of wine from the female point of view,” and encourages people (women people, presumably), to “actively participate in the creation of the next new hot wine brand.”

All this is prompted by the fact that women drink more of the wine in this country.  Plus, we do most of the shopping.   The wine industry wants to figure out how to get women to buy their wine, stat.

Enter Canopy Management and their Middle Sister brand.  It’s ingenious in many ways; it fulfills the consumer’s need for personalize-able variety.  It appeals to the oft-ignored middle sister, and every woman, no matter her birth ranking, has felt like the ignored girl.  Each wine has its own “personality;” what’s more, on their website, you can take a Cosmo-style quiz to see “which middle sister you are.”

It’s been a while since I’ve done a magazine quiz… and guess what?  My Middle Sister Wine Personality is actually the wine that had randomly been brought to me!  Spooky! Fate!  Something!

Here’s my Middle Sister Wine Personality synopsis (with comments):

Drama QueenYou’re a Drama Queen. Nobody does quite like you do.* You like to make an entrance. You know the best color/cut/face/eyebrow/wax lady.** You are friends with the bartender, the chef, the kid who started Face Book and the mayor.*** You’re a social butterfly.**** When it’s time to land, it’s poolside in South Beach with a glass of Middle Sister Drama Queen Pinot Grigio. And a cabana boy.*****

This actually describes some women I love dearly, who wish I would buy sassier shoes and less schlubby clothes (and probably, secretly, that I would wax my eyebrows).  I like to take them shopping with me, because then I look much more elegant than I would if I dressed myself.  But I have yet to discover what this persona has to do with Pinot Grigio or those who like it.  And, while I enjoy being arbitrarily how fabulous I am by a quiz just as much as the next gal, it’s a reach to connect gender to personality to wine preference, if you ask me.

Anyhow, let’s taste what’s IN the bottle, shall we?

Pale straw yellow in the glass.  Nose of pear, lime and melon.  Very heavy honeydew on the palate, with a spritz of lemon and a white grape juice finish.  Not frightfully… dramatic per se, but quite pleasant and easy to drink.  Keep it cold – when at a cool room’s temperature, it gets a little clunky.

Brass tacks: if you like kitschy wine labels or gimmick names, I can extrapolate from this one wine’s quality that Middle Sister makes drinkable, uncomplicated wines which will not let you down. The Drama Queen is very pleasant.  I will mention that when I want a wine to “tell a story,” I prefer the story to be about a region, a grape or a winery’s vision.

*(thanks, that’s very kind and pretty much true of everyone)

**(Actually, I don’t know any of these people; I go to the salon about every 6 months, and have never waxed anything, ever.)

*** (Except for the last three.)

****(more of a groundhog – oops! shadow!)

*****(If his name is Tom.)