December 22Vignobles Chaigne et Fils comment on post
Vignobles Chaigne et Fils, who produce the Ballan-Larquette wine in the Bordeaux region, which we reviewed recently, send us an email regarding the post. I thought you might enjoy reading our communication as much as I enjoyed it, so here it is. As a note, you may recall a blurb I had about Wilfred Wong at the end of that review. Regis comments on that, among other things, but I have since taken the blurb out of the post (consider this a retraction), as what I said was disproved. Thanks to Regis for setting this straight for me!
December 22Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
This was the best of the bunch at this tasting, a pretty serious wine. Color was medium ruby red. The nose was pretty tight, lightly oaky and a good dose of cranberries.
Tasted of oak (subsided to a great degree after airing a while), well rounded tannins, cranberry, strawberry, and flowers (mostly rose petals). Mouth-feel was pretty pallet attacking with those tannins and good acidity. Finished with cranberry, raspberry, and heavy tanning (also subsided a bit after a while), and lingering rose petal.
All of the bottles were there on a side table and we could have grabbed any of them to drink after the tasting, but this was the one that everyone poured from in the end. If I didn’t have to drive home I would have just kept drinking and drinking this one. It probably would have been even better after another couple of hours. I also wish we had a decanter, which also would have improved the wine overall. This is a typical problem in restaurants… something I hope will change. At any rate, we would have scored it 89, but since I know it would have broken over the threshold to 90 soon, I went ahead with that score in full confidence. Worth the price, but not a great value – I’d feel better recommending it at $20 or less, which you can get by buying a case of it. This will also improve with age, so this might be an excellent option.
December 22Navarro Correas Syrah 2004
Although we aren’t going to drink this particular wine at the Christmas Party, we will be drinking the Navarro Correas Malbec… not sure about the vintage. Sasa wanted us to try this to get an idea of the quality of the Navarro Correas wines. I think that his effort was in vein really, as this wine wasn’t all that great, but when researching the wines I found that several people rated this wine around where we did, perhaps a little higher, but the Malbec was rated considerably higher. This might explain why Sasa was excited about getting the Malbec, and was so disappointed that he hadn’t received them at the time of this tasting. I look forward to tasting the Malbec at the party though.
Color was quite good, medium-dark garnet (slight purple tint). The nose smelled of smoked oak, licorice, and had a fairly strong vegetal aspect.
Tasted of smoked oak, rose petals, bright red fruit, and was pretty spicy. Mouth-feel was nice with a pretty good tannin structure. The finish was a lingering spice, rose pedals, and asparagus.
This wine is from Mendoza, Argentina… which is the region best known for its Malbec wines. This is a pretty good effort for an affordable wine from a region that isn’t known for its Syrah. It is a pretty interesting wine in general, and was really nice paired with steak… made the steak taste “pretty”! From what I can find, looks like the wine is retailing for around $10-12 and at that price it is not a bad QPR. I didn’t love the wine, but it is interesting enough to spend that kind of money to try it, just for the experience. It might score higher with you than me, depending on your preference… especially if you like wines from the Pauillac part of Bordeaux.
December 22Paige 23 Syrah 2004
I’m starting to hear more and more about this winery. First our friend Eiko had the Pinot Noir in a restaurant, and now this. I did some research on Paige 23 and found out that “The Ritz” has their entire line on their wine list… and they typically only have 3-5 wines in each category (although there are probably a dozen categories). According to Sasa of Metro Cafe, who carries at least some of the Paige 23 line, this isn’t the best of their line. I thought this one was quite good actually, but Eiko was in a fit about how much she liked the Pinot Noir. I can’t wait to try that one too. But I digress….
Color was medium red, really nice by candle light. Aroma smelled of a camp fire… I mean it really gave me flashback to so many camping trips I went on… licorice (which I REALLY like in a wine)red currant, vanilla, and even sausage… the kind you find in the gourmet shops that are hanging, dried/cured, and still linked. A very nice nose, indeed.
Taste was of black cherry, black plum, a little smoky flavor, with nice ripe tannins. Great complexity, kept us guessing and discussing for a while. Mouth-feel was nice and soft, with good acidity. The finish wasn’t so long, but not bad at all in flavor… a little black pepper, tannins, and a hint of the black fruits, but almost as if they started “un-ripening”, getting “redder”… if that’s possible. Paired pretty well with most of the dishes we were eating, especially the “Chicken with Creamy Sun Dried Tomato Sauce” Past dish… which is one of my favorite dishes there.
I’d give this a big recommend if it were a little cheaper… at 20 bucks it might be possible to do better. But if you’re in a restaurant and this is the only thing you recognize (maybe thanks to this post), get it… I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. If you have $20 to throw at something new, then again, try it, I’m fairly certain you’ll like it. Consider this a “recommend”… just not big. It is worth the money, just not a bargain. Oh, and I think this will get better with time too. Maybe buy a bottle and keep it for another couple of years before drinking.
December 22Tenuta Villanova Pinot Grigio 2006
Eesh, we were in much debate about this wine, mostly because of personal preference. I didn’t care for it much, but the girls liked it well enough. I’m actually a pretty big fan of Pinot Grigios from Italy, and have even had some inexpensive ones from Trader Joe’s that I liked quite well. But this one was just too narrow and way too much butter! As soon as I saw it I knew it was going to be fairly week – for my preference, as it was very pale straw in color. The aroma, which was the best part of this wine, smelled of weeds (like a grassy field with a big mix of weeds, many with flowers, etc.), citrus rind bell pepper, thyme, olive, hint of butter. Now, with that nose I was intrigued and though, OK, so it might be better than the color suggests, but… it tasted immediately of green olive, butter, the white part of a lemon peel (I actually confirmed this on the spot by taking a little bite of that and it fit exactly), and the rest white grape juice. The warmer the wine got, the more the butter came out too, to the point of me making a face and going “yuck!”, so definitely drink this chilled and keep it that way. Mouth-feel was interesting, in that with the buttery aspect it coated your tongue a lot, but at the same time, was pretty acidic. This would probably be pretty good paired with Fettuccini Alfredo with mushrooms and lemon herb chicken. It also gave me the impression that it was very high in alcohol. After I swallowed (yep, not much of a spitter if I don’t have to) I could feel the alcohol evaporating up my throat. It was more like the feel of drinking Sake. What’s left in your mouth in the finish is butter with alcohol vapor. It sounds worse than it is in reality, but that’s the only way I can describe it. I would pass on this at any price, but especially at $14… you can get better at Trader Joe’s for around $6.
Rating: 85 (This is a compromise with the girls)
Price: $14 (All Star Wine & Spirits)
December 22Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut NV (Sparkling White)
This was the first wine we tasted at Metro Cafe last Wednesday. This sparkling white is made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It has a light color with a slight peach tint, and lots of nice small bubbles… one sign of a potentially good sparkling wine (you don’t want it looking like soda).
Not particularly aromatic, but shows some peach, green apple, and a tiny hint of strawberry.
Tasted of green apple (with out the sourness), apricot, honey, some vegetal variety, citrus, and a bit of orange peel. Mouth-feel was particularly nice, with a good dose of acidity, which would make this good to pair even with a full meal. The finish was spicy with apricot, orange peel, and honey. It didn’t last as long as I hoped though.
All in all a pretty good sparkling wine. It was kind of what I would call a “girly” bubbly, in that it was on the fruity side, without that much complexity. I tasted this with 3 girls, and they all liked it more than I did… ‘nough said. Unfortunately I don’t know how much this retails for at the moment, so I’ll have to get back to you on that, along with an up or down for the recommendation.
December 21Tasting at Metro Cafe in Culver City
Domo Music Group is having their Christmas party at Metro Cafe this year and since our dear friend Eiko is organizing the event, we were invited to have a tasting at the restaurant to “OK” the wine list. It was big fun, and we had some pretty yummy wines.
Sasa Stankovic, who owns and manages the East European restaurant, also is the sommelier. This 36 year old from Serbia has done an outstanding job with this place. It is a great location, right near the intersection of Washington Place and Sepulveda Blvd. 11180 Washington Place, Culver City, CA 90232 US The food is quite good with some interesting selections. What I’m more impressed with is his passion for wine, and his ability to successfully pair food with the proper wine. I expected to have to make some changes to the selection for the party, but as it turns out, he has things well in hand.
I highly recommend dining at Metro Cafe if you’re in L.A., and just ask Sasa to pick the best wine for the dish you choose.
I will be posting the 5 wines we tried either later tonight or tomorrow some time.
Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut NV (Sparkling White)
Tenuta Villanova Pinot Grigio 2006
Paige 23 Syrah 2004
Navarro Correas Syrah 2004
Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
December 14Simi – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2003
This wine was given to Rika as a “Secret Santa” gift at her work’s gift exchange. We weren’t really expecting too much, but were pleasantly surprised.
Color is dark, ruby red with just a hint of purple.
The nose is very aromatic with a heavy vegetal component, like bell peppers and sage. Very earthy… old wood and dirt. There’s some spice in there too… it is certainly interesting.
Taste is hard to describe. It is very earthy, with subdued fruit – sour plum, not so ripe strawberry, and black pepper. It is quite acidic. We started drinking it with Korean bbq style beef ribs, and it was quite good for that. The sourness of the wine complimented the sweetness of the ribs.
Mouth-feel was not too bad initially, but by the end of the 3 hours it was pretty weak.
But by itself, there’s a good bit of spice on the back end. Tannin structure isn’t bad, but don’t think there’s much life left in it… that is to say I doubt it will get better with age. Not near as much oak as I was expecting, although I took a tiny sip right after decanting it and it was fairly oaky then, but after an hour that subsides quite a bit.
All in all it was an interesting wine that continued to change as it aired over about the 3 hours we had it out. There was a point, at around 45 minutes to an hour that it was at its best, in my opinion. For the money, I’d have to say pass on this one, as it isn’t $20 better than the 3 Buck Chilean Chuck. I’m not saying its the same… it wasn’t that bad. But you can do better for $23.
Thanks Robert for the wine, we did enjoy it, and found it quite intriguing.
Price: $23 (average price found online)
December 13Wine critics, ratings, and how to pick wine
We thought it was time to make a statement about wine critics and scores. I admit to being a “Vayniac”… part of the “Vayner Nation”… that is, I enjoy watching Gary Vaynerchuck on Wine Library TV. If you haven’t checked him out, you’re missing out. Check the link on the left sidebar, near the bottom of this page. One thing he preaches is that “ratings suck” – that is, you should be your own judge because what one person likes isn’t necessarily what you’ll like. That is both philosophical and a disclaimer, which should be used by all wine critics or wine bloggers. It couldn’t be more true, that you should go out and explore wine, of all varieties, origins, etc. and find what YOU like. Tonight we rated a wine quite high because we LOVED it. Apparently critics like it too, but maybe not as much as we did. By the same token, we’ve not liked wine so much, when critics loved it. You personally might prefer a wine that tastes really oaky, or one that is very fruity in a candy-like way. Those aren’t really for us. We like balance. I want to taste the “terroir” and some crisp fruits, but not like candy, and I want complexity… something that makes my brain kick into high gear to try and figure out. Above all, I want an overall pleasant drinking experience. That means color, aroma, mouth-feel, and aftertaste all exciting me. If that’s what you like too, them maybe our ratings will work for you, and then maybe not. The real way to find out what you like is to experiment. TRY the wines we review for yourself and see how you agree or disagree. Then comment on our review… we’d love to hear what other people think of the same wine. Maybe you can describe that something we can’t put into words – thus solving a puzzle for us! Yeah, that’s it, let’s work together! Anyway, you get the idea. You shouldn’t buy a wine just because it got a high score for us, or Robert Parker, Gary Vaynerchuck, Stephen Tanzer, or anybody. Try a lot of different wines to determine what aspects turn you on. Through personal experimentation you can then go through critics’ tasting notes and have a decent idea of whether or not you would like that wine. The rating isn’t all that important. For us, it serves as a reminder of how much WE liked the wine. Make your own ratings!
December 13Annie’s Lane – Copper Trail – 2001
This is a VERY lovely Shiraz/Cabernet blend from South Australia’s Clare Valley. The most aromatic we’ve tried yet.
Color is inky purple, dense. You can’t really see through it by candle light, but the highlights are gorgeous.
The nose… aaah, the nose. The first thing that hits you is the woody smell. I know it is oak, but it isn’t so specific as most oaky smells we’ve experienced. This might have something to do with the fact that it is 6 years old now. Also, it isn’t unreasonable for it to be oaky since it spent 22 months in oak barrels! We also smell licorice, tar and rubber. Don’t let that put a bad image in your imagination, it isn’t bad… it just makes it interesting. Beyond that you can smell tart red fruit, maybe even citrus, and vanilla. There is also a slight floral and smoky aspect.
When we had the first taste both of us had an eye opening experience… literally. We were taken aback with it. It was like BAAAAM! This is a different wine… different than anything we’ve had before. Yep, you can taste the oak, but it is totally integrated and pleasant. There is also a big tar versus red fruit war going on. The licorice is present too… not the twizler kind… more like the black, Dutch kind. My mom is from the Netherlands, and I know this taste well. I think I can taste cinnamon as well, but not certain that’s what it is.
Mouth-feel is excellent, almost creamy… really coats your tongue like a cherry syrup.
The aftertaste is big on licorice, black pepper, maybe a little of that rubber, and slight, ripe tannins.
This wine reminds me of a Barolo, only better. It is amazing. This is by far the best wine either of us have ever had, and we are getting sadder by the moment thinking we may not be able to find another bottle of it. It is truly wonderful. It is complex, rich, but at the same time seems light. It is plenty acidic enough to have with the heaviest of meals, yet really nice all by itself. If you have this wine, or find it, give it to us! Or, drink it now and have a wonderful wine experience.
Price: $19 (actually got it for $15 due to a distributor close-out through K&L)
PS We never read the review of a wine, which is posted below, right before drinking and reviewing a wine. Of course I typically will do research before even buying a wine, but pretty much always forget the details. I’m also not that impressed with other peoples ratings, as mine tend to differ often times anyway. I think the review below was done upon release of this wine in 2004, and it has gotten better with age.