December 29, 2010

Some Holiday Wines: 2006 Shafer Cabernet Hillside Select

Spent the holidays in Connecticut visiting the family and eating and drinking a lot. A quick recap on some of the wines will pop up in posts as I get back to posting a bit.

My brother was kind enough to treat us with a real fine bottle of California Cabernet. Shafer Vineyards, located in the heart of Napa Valley, is modern California royalty to lovers of California Cabernet. Their Hillside Select bottling is a mythical wine that has achieved cult status in the last 15 years. Many people wait years to get on the Shafer mailing list just to get access to the Hillside Select. It regularly receives scores in the high 90s, and even gets some triple digit scores from major wine critics...if that matters...

We decanted the 2006 for two hours, and it probably needed more. Very big young California Cabernet. Rich dark fruit, cedar notes, some black licorice, too. Long, long finish. Big, heavily fruited wine that really needs some time to shine. Obviously a very fine wine that will be even finer on down the line.

December 17, 2010

My Favorite Wines of 2010--Once Again, My List Goes to Eleven

As I asked last year, why is it that every December we get bombarded with lists of the year's bests: best movies, best sports plays, best wines, etc..? Perhaps it has something to do with our human desire to quanitfy and control things in nice, neat little lists.

Never one to shy away from bandwagonning, I've decided to contribute to the madness with a list of my top wines for 2010. It is, kidding aside, a good way to look back on wines drank, remember good times and stories shared, and memories made.

This list respresents wines that I found particularly moving throughout the year. Some are blockbuster wines that I was fortunate to taste, some are wines that I owned that showed well on a given night, perhaps due to the situation in which they were consumed. Many I've already discussed here.

You will find that most end of the year best-of lists go to well-rounded numbers like 10, or 25.
Well, in honor of one of the greatest movies of all time, my list, once again, Goes to Eleven. Sorry, Spinal Tap references never get old.

1993 Edmunds St John Syrah Durell-As reported in my post here, this wine was incredible and really stood out in a night of amazing wines. I can't think of how an aged California Sryah could show better than this wine did. Full of meaty, bacony-dark fruit goodness. Forget about wines of the year, this is just an incredible wine.
2001 Edmunds St John Los Robles Viejos-I like ESJ wines so much, they made my list twice this year. This little Rhone blend is a gem. A wine that costs all of $20 and continues to kick ass nearly 10 years from vintage. Steve Edmunds is the unsung genius of California wines. Provided, of course, you like old school wines that aren't all gooped up and spoofilated.

1994 Chateau Rays Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve-If not for the next wine in my list, I'd say this is the finest Chateauneuf du Pape I've ever had. I brought this wine to Rowdy's legendary Cassoulet dinner last spring. An intoxicating perfume...clean, spiced-red fruit palate that just dances through the mouth and leaves a lingering finish. Beautiful weight. So delicate, yet so penetrating. Profound wine.
1995 Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve de Celestins-As I said above, perhaps the finest Chateauneuf du Pape-based wine I've ever tasted.  Henri Bonneau's wines are things of legend. There isn't much of it, and it's very hard to find. Bonneau makes some of the longest lived Chateauneuf du Pape using traditional methods with out modern intervention. (<--See Bonneau's cellar in the pic to the left). The 1995 is a youngster still, but so damn good. Dark, dank, brooding nose. Palate is loaded with blood, smoked meat, tobacco, dark fruit, earth. So incredibly loaded with funky-earthy minerality and deep dark fruit, that it feels like a meal in a glass. Yet, it's so well-integrated and pure. A profound wine and a real treat.

1996 Domaine Lambrays Clos des Lambrays- My favorite Red Burgundy of recent memory. A beautiful, yet still youngish Grand Cru from Lambrays. I couldn't keep my face from returning to the haunting dark and perfumed nose. there's also an expressive, slightly sappy fruit. Incredibly feminine and powerful at the same time. A joy to drink.

1990 Krug Champagne Brut-No words for this. It's just brilliant. Thanks Rowdy.

1989 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain- Textbook aged California Cabernet. Takes 30 minutes to come out of its slumber...and then it's pretty, tobacco, cedar nose. Palate features leathery candied red fruit, more tobacco, and a sweet dark plumminess that fills the mouth.

 1982 Hanzell Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma--Again, another brilliant older California Cabernet in a Bordeaux style. Drank this with my brother during my birthday weekend and it was a great bottle. Hardly shows its 28 years.

2000 Arcadian Pinot Noir Pisoni-I like me some Arcadian, I've made that point here plenty. Joe Davis' Pisonis can turn into real beauties with time. In the past year, I had both the 1997 and 2000, and both were stunners.

2000 D'Auvenay (Bize-Leroy) Puligny-Montrachet en la Richarde-A lowly village wine is not supposed to be profound. Unless its made by one of the genius domains in Burgundy, Domaine Leroy, owned by Madame Bize-Leroy. This 2000 D'auvanay la Richarde was really lovely. A Beautiful nose that was floral and captivating. So precise on the palate...Pure and refined. A minerality, the essence of wet stones and flowers. Like your grandmothers garden in spring. A revelation, but an expense revelation at that. 
2003 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jesbal Selection de Grains Noble-The only dessert wine on my list as I don't drink a lot of dessert wines. I would, however, if I could afford to drink nectar like this often. A revelation of what Pinot Gris can do when ripeness is pushed to the extreme and handled by the masters at Zind-Humbrecht. A beautiful and powerful wine that was so incredibly rich, yet also crisp, dry and long. It was incredible and paired well with the decadent desert pictured below and prepared by ThirstySouth:
It was a good year of drinking, for sure. Made even better by the fact that I shared many of these bottles with great blokes like Eat It Atlanta, Rowdyfood, and Thirsty South. Oh, yeah, The Legend, too, but he has no link. He's just The Legend. 
Cheers and See you in 2011.

December 10, 2010

An Unintended Study in Contrasts: Bordeaux vs. California

You may recall the post from earlier in the week regarding the motherload tasting of Cru Beaujolais. That was certainly a good time, but later that same evening we had time, perhaps more time, to contemplate some additional wines over dinner. Three of the wines served during dinner provided an interesting study in styles of  wines that are highly rated, not inexpensive, and often used in comparing old vs. new world wines styles. The three wines were the 2003 Chateau Angelus, a Grand Cru Class Bordeaux from St. Emilion, and two cult Cabernets from Napa Valley, the 2008 Rivers Marie Cabernet, and the 2008 Kapscandy Cabernet.
What is interesting about comparing these wines (and that was not the intention of this tasting) is just how different these wines were. The Angelus, a Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend from Bordeaux, showed some of the textbook qualities one looks for from great Bordeaux wines. Despite being from the ripe 2003 vintage, it was full of floral elements, long cedar notes, and a darkness of fruit that permeates without overt sweetness. It was young, but still a pleasure to drink with the beef tenderloin.
Now...both California wines were obviously young being from perhaps this comparison is unfair at the onset. However, the fact that the California wines were nearly unpalatable to my old-world leaning palate is worth noting. Also, worth noting is that there were 8 other people at the table with varying interest in wine who agreed with my assessment. Both of the California Cabernets were uber-ripe and extracted, dripping with sweet fruit to the point that they were really difficult to drink and overpowered the food.

What is interesting is that the two California wines have garnered much praise from popular press like Wine Spectator, and wine critics like Robert Parker. Parker has come under fire in recent years for almost single-handedly leading to the proliferation of spoofilated-wines, wines that are highly extracted and loaded with alcohol. See, Parker likes those type of wines, and when he slaps a 100 point score on a wine (as he did with the 2007 Kapscandy Cabernet), people go ape-shit for the wine. I suppose it comes down to personal preference; there are plenty of people who might appreciate these wines. There was a time when I might have liked these wines...but that time is long gone now and tasting wines like these only confirms that for me.

As long as people remain moderate drinkers for the rest of their lives, no help with alcoholism would ever be necessary.

December 6, 2010

A Beaujolais Exploration

Recently attended a crazy night of wine and food at the home of a local wine enthusiast. The main event of the night was to taste through a large lineup of Beaujolais wines.

I've recently had some great experiences with current release Cru Boos, but this tasting was off-the-hook with multiple vintages, producers, and villages represented. We were fortunate to have Beaujolais bottles in the lineup from as far back as 1983, all the way up to the current 2009 vintage.
I'd like to say I took notes or could remember my thoughts on all of these wines, but that's just not reality. There were 34 bottles of wine spread out across the room...I tasted and spit, and tasted and spit, and swallowed some. As I discussed with several of the cool dudes in attendance, including ThirstySouth and EatItAtlanta, I was impressed how the majority of the 30+ wines were really well-made and interesting wines that spoke of a place. What's more, many of the wines cost less than $25! Cru Beaujolais really does deliver some bang-for-the-buck.

As for favorites from the lineup and from what I remember: The 1983 Devillaine Saint Amour was still rather alive with dusty cherry fruit and a bit of a tannic bite. Gets bonus points for being totally quaffable at 27 years of age.
Also very strong were a trio of Cru Boos from Masion Louis Jadot's Chateau des Jacques bottlings.
The two Moulin-A-Vent from 2003 showed the ripeness of the hot 2003 vintage (Eat It Atlanta dropped the knowledge here), and the 2005 was drinking on point right now. As for my favorite, that distinction goes to the 2007 Thevenet Morgon Viellies Vignes. Like a powerful young Burgundy, it was full of stemmy goodness and crunchy red fruit. A real treat, but it should be noted that it was perhaps the most expensive Cru Boo in our pack.
I won't drive you cray with all the notes on wines we drank after the Cru Boo tasting...that's right...the tasting was just a warm up. However, it looked a little something like this:

A great night with some great wines and food, and some real fine company.