Monday, March 18, 2013

Calera Mount Harlan Chardonnay 2011

Bought six bottles on rec from Parker's strong review, 93+ points. Opened one last night  and it lives up to the praise. To me it tastes Burgundian though with the new world ripeness or fatness I expect and like. The nose and palate offer caramelized apple, pineapple, pear, maybe apricot and toasted oak. A bit of salty toffee-maybe that's the caramel again. Good minerality and acid. Full body, creamy and quite long finish. I think it'll drink better in a year and will be good for a few more yrs. Delighted to have five more btls.

Had another bottle on Ap. 1, 2013, at Zatinya in DC with old Evanston friends Steve and Susan Wildman--a great reunion dinner. The wine was really wonderful after 30-60 minutes offering an extraordinary kaleidoscope of aromas with nuts, flowers, caramel and tropical fruits. The oak is strong here but the air brought more precision and balance.

WA: The 2011 Chardonnay Mt. Harlan bursts from the glass with expressive apricots, peaches, crushed rocks, French oak and spices. Rich yet weightless, the 2011 is striking from the very first taste. Once again, Calera’s Mt. Harlan Chardonnay is world-class. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018. 

2010 Owen Roe Sinister Hand

This is a Grenache Syrah Mourvedre blend made to resemble southern Rhone. In fact when given a blind taste by a rather aggressive sommelier at Ripple last night in DC with Max and Laura and Francie, I immediately identified it as a Rhone wine. The sommelier was annoyed because I sent back a 2009 Priorat that had been advertised on the menu as the 2008. The Parker ratings were 86 and 91 points respectively. He of course poo-poohed Robt Parker and his ratings but that's bullshit--5 points is a meaningful difference and Parker's palate, whatever one thinks of it, is better than a random sommelier (I'm not sure this guy even is a professional sommelier). In vaguely insulting terms he said essentially "Well if you want a big fruit bomb like [that plebian rube] Parker enjoys, I'll bring you something else." So he brought this Rhone blend, hid the label, poured, and when I asked if it was a Rhone he said it was a new world Rhone from Washington state.  OK, so, it was a pretty good wine. I'd give it 90 points. Initially it was somewhat one dimensional, emphasizing strawberry almost like a gamay (beaujolais grape) and acide, but with air it rounded out, gaining depth, complexity and finishing nicely balanced. It picked up spicy nuances, a touch of white pepper, cherry fruit, maybe some lavender too.

Not a bad recommendation, but poorly delivered. And the only reason I ordered the priorat was because a Rioja Alta Vina Ardenza 2004, listed on the menu, was in fact sold out. So, listing a wine that was out of stock on the menu, then trying to fob off a 2009 as a 2008--that'll be my last trip to Ripple. Though the food is always quite good.

By the way, not Parker but Tanzer reviewed this wine and gave it, tad-dah, 90 points: (71% grenache, 24% syrah and 5% mourvedre):  Bright ruby-red.  Precise, inviting aromas of black cherry, licorice and herbs.  Juicy and sharply delineated, with terrific intensity and lift to its pepper and cherry flavors.  Lively acidity lends this wine a light touch, and firm tannins won't stand in the way of enjoying it soon.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

2008 G D Vajra Barolo Albe

At Glass Half Full last night with Connie and Hans, it was half-price bottle night so got this barolo. Generally this is not of my favorites; usually I find it way too expensive, and for some reason nebbiolo has never got me juiced. But it earned 93+ from Parker so at half price I thought it worth trying. I wouldn't give it so many points, maybe more like 91. It took perhaps an hour to really round out and show its stuff, which was predominantly black cherry and a kind of spiciness that WA below labels "incense." That's not a bad term; I'd say some kind of combo of balsam, eucalyptus, and mint. Very pleasant but not as full bodied, multi-dimensional and long on the palate as I'd like.

Wine Advocate 93+: The 2008 Barolo Albe is flat-out delicious. The Albe has often been a big step below the flagship Barolo Bricco delle Viole, but not in 2008. Although softer and rounder than that wine, there is plenty of vintage character in this vibrant, beautifully articulated Barolo. Sweet dark cherries, incense, licorice and tobacco are all wrapped around a pliant finish. The 2008 is accessible even today, and is a great – and I mean great – introductory Barolo for the year. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2020. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

2005 Anderson's Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Although the Right Bank from this winery in 2005 was a bit disappointing, immediately on opening the cab performed better. It also has some age on the rim but not as much as the Right Bank. The nose is flowery, a certain iron filings nuance, blackberry vanilla jam or perhaps blueberry and cassis. To me it tastes and smells like a classic ripe but balanced California cab--on the model of Beaulieu Private Reserve from the Rutherford Bench. I suppose Conn Valley is not far from the Bench, the former on the eastern edge of Napa Valley, off Silverado Trail. It doesn't taste like a bordeaux, it does taste New World. But it does have the slightest touch of what I call the St. Julien nose (St. J. being about at the middle of the Medoc and halfway between the "masculine" St Estephe and Pauillac to the north, and the more "feminine" Margaux, Graves/Pessac/Leognan and Pomerol/St Emilion to south/southeast). Could the St J. nose be something to do with mushroom + smokey forest floor aromas? I've never quite identified it.  I see Parker says it's a classic Pauillac nose, so maybe that's it not St. Julien. He says it's cedar and tobacco and smoke. I do get the smoke and maybe I call forest what he calls here cedar/tobacco.

The finish is very long and nicely balanced; it's warm but not overly hot with alcohol. The tannins have certainly softened. With time in glass, the aromas are developing very nicely indeed, justifying the positive reviews the Anderson's Conn Valley wines usually get. I'll give it 94 points. The balance between acid and ripe fruit makes me think this one will go a decade. There are tannins in there but they're soft enough to be almost unnoticeable.

I really like this one. I think this is only the 2nd Cal. cab I've had since returning from spending 2012 in Europe (the other being the great O'Shaughnessy '07). In EU CA cabs are virtually impossible to find, though of course there were plenty of other great alternatives (esp. from Spain and France). It's good to have an excellent one.

About 4 nights later, I opened the wine, preserved only with the vacuum pump from Ramon Bilbao. It was damn fine. Makes me think the 2nd day might have been better than the first. And let me say, another 3-4 nights further on, again after only using the vacuum pump, I had a delightful glass that was a dead ringer for a fully mature St Julien or Pauillac, round, elegant, spicy, persistent. It makes me think that some controlled experimentation on exposing wines to oxygen, then pumping air out, re-opening xx hours later, etc. might, along with data about the properties of the specific wine, enable us to sort of speed up aging by deliberately opening a bottle of great young wine, then reopening after pumping out the air xx days later. I've been doing this of course but without controls or careful observation. Anyhow, 3 cheers for the Anderson's Conn Valley Cab '06.

Wine Advocate (Parker) says 96 points as of 2008, and says drink till 2033: The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is showing even better than it did last year, which is not unusual when tasting the wines of Todd Anderson and Mac Sawyer. Dense ruby/purple to the rim, with the classic Pauillac-like nose of creme de cassis, cedar wood, a hint of tobacco leaf, and very subtle smoke, the wine displays charcoal and roasted herbs, full-bodied power, wonderfully sweet tannins, and a long, long finish. This is a 20- to 25-year wine that should just get better and better as it ages, but it is accessible enough to drink now. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bodegas Cepa 21 Hito Ribera del Duero 2009

Had this with dinner at District Kitchen a few days ago; pumped it and put in refrig. I think it's been 4-5 days and opened it this evening with cheese. Chosen because it receives consistently good reviews. So, it's a nice fragrant wine with vanilla blackberry and huckleberry and spice--i'd say wintergreen- overtones. The palate now has some heat and tang from acid that puts it out of balance. But my guess is it would've been better 24 or 48 hours after opening. Unlike other less expensive wines on offer at the restaurant (they actually took the first bottle they brought back because it was essentially undrinkable), this is quite good if nothing special. I think it's fair to give it an 88+, and it could get a bit better with another year in bottle, and 3-4 more years to drink.

90 points from Wine Advocate: The 2009 Hito is 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) aged for 8 months in large French oak. It sports the rich fruit of the great 2009 vintage along with enticing aromas of cedar, mineral, tapenade, violets, and blackberry jam. Savory, ripe, and balanced in the mouth, it is an excellent value for drinking over the next 5-6 years. 

90 too from International Wine/Tanzer: Bright ruby.  Red and dark berry aromas show very good clarity, with spice and floral notes providing added lift.  Juicy and precise on the palate, offering focused raspberry and bitter cherry flavors and a hint of candied rose.  Finishes bright and long, with resonating spice and cherry notes.  This wine is quite suave, and surprisingly drinkable now, but it has the balance to age.