Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
“The fruit flavors are dense and yet the tannins are very smooth,” says Catena, 69, over a lunch of sweetbreads, blood sausage and a variety of beef cuts at Piegari Vitello e Dolce, a Buenos Aires restaurant. “That’s a rare combination for a new world wine; that’s why it’s popular in the U.S.”
Actually, it's popular in the U.S. because it's a big, beefy wine comparable to a big California Cabernet, but priced at $12 to $50 (depending on the maker -- Bodega Catena Zapata, for example, sells its spectacularly intense reds for $50 and up), it's half or a third the price of comparable Cabs at a given level of bigness (so to speak).
A trade tasting by Argentinian importers in San Francisco this past Spring was a real eye-opener: a grape that made a bad name for itself in the form of cheap, corrosive Chilean Malbecs ten years ago, these Argentinian reds were all flavorful, complex, and interesting. I recommend you try them if you haven't already. (And if you can get a Zapata, jump at it.)
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
I was surprised that most of my Avoids were tasted ten or more years ago. Either my budget, or my tastes, have improved.
Image of Cardinal Zin Cellars via Snooth
Here are some less-than-impressive wines I've tasted in recent years (with the year tasted in parenthesis).
Americana Vineyards Sweet Rosie, NV, $9 (2009)
A dessert wine, but the sweetness is uninteresting. By contrast, the Pinot Noire NV and the Baca Noire NV from this Finger Lakes, NY winery were quite good (at $20 and $13 respectively), as was the NV Revolutionary Red at $14 (all 2008). My biggest gripe with this winery is their refusal to list the varietel on the label--or on their Web site. In the tasting room, they tell you that many of the wines are blends that include American grapes, not European -- grapes developed at the wine research center at nearby Cornell University, where they work to figure out how to tweak the grapes so they will produce tasty wines that grow well in the mid-New York State environment. This should be a bragging point, especially attractive to tourists from, for example, California, who enjoy tasting something really different. To conceal what should be a marketing asset is amazingly dumb.
Beringer 1999 Nouveau Beaujolais, purchased at BevMo for $5. Awful! Strong chemical aroma ruined it. (2000)
Bonnie Doon Vineyards 2001 "Cardinal Zin" "Beastly old vines" Zinfandel - Santa Cruz. This is my third try at the Cardinal Zin and I give up! It's not Beastly or anything like it -- it's just mundane and bland, despite the wonderful wine-label art! (2003)
Chateau Ballan-Larquette Bordeaux. $10. Give it air for at least 30 minutes and it will taste great, says clerk! Nope - just nasty, sour, and uninspired, no matter how much air I gave it! What a loser! (2006)
Domaine la Bouissiere, Gigondas Burgundy. Falls flat and loses interest very quickly--before you're finished your glass! Sigh...Disappointing for this price! $30! (2008)
Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Alexander Valley, Northern Sonoma Eh! A gift, but I believe this brand, widely available at BevMo, sells for well under $30. (2006)
Michael Pozzan Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006, Alexander Valley Special Reserve. A gift. I've heard good things about the Pozzan wines, but this one was a bit harsh. You'd think something called Special Reserve - and especially, a Cab from the renowned Alexander Valley, heart of Napa Cab country, would be better than this. My gifter certainly hoped so! (Maybe I should have waited a few years?) (2008)
Rosemount Shiraz, 'Hill of Gold,' 2003, $11, at BevMo. I like Rosemount shirazes, and the Hill of Gold is their idea of an upmarket reserve version for a few dollars more. And past vintages of this wine I liked. But this one was simply not impressive; I found it thin and acidic. (2009)
Stonehaven Riesling, 2005, Winemakers Select, south Australia. Uninteresting. (2007)
Terre de Mistral Rhone, Cotes-du-Rhone, Red Table Wine, Estezargues, France, 14% alcohol, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, Counoise. Extremely mediocre. Would not buy again. (May 2009)
White Truck Pinot Grigio, 2007, California, BevMo, $11. Two bottles, one tasted Aug 08, the other Xmas 08. I like many White Truck wines, but not this attempt. It amazes me how hard it seems to be to make a drinkable Pinot Grigio.
I notice that it's common for wines gifted to me to be disappointing. This illustrates the ongoing problem that suppresses greater growth in wine buying -- you don't know what you're getting unless you've tried it before -- and sometimes not even then. One reason for the continued popularity Two-Buck Chuck is the convenient fact that you can buy its unpredictable Merlots and Cabs and Chardonnays and, if the bottle you open tonight is not to your tastes -- well, what the heck, it's only $1.99. It's when you pay $30 or $80, figuring you'll get that much better a wine -- and it turns out you don't like it -- that you are disappointed. And you won't be buying pricier wines very often after that. So good wineries lose out.
So tell me -- what sources do you trust for deciding on new wines to try? Which wine blogs or wine sites, for example?