Archive for September, 2010

Don’t drop the soap…

Because apparently trying to bribe the handlers of greyhounds into testing out your new “vitamins” with a stipulation that they are not allowed to give said vitamins to any of the other dogs on the track that day, (while wearing a polo shirt with the words “TEAM KUJO” written in sharpie on the back) is considered “suspicious behavior”, my review of this 2008 Wanut City Wineworks pinot noir from the Willamette Valley may or may not be taking place in the local jail. How would this be possible, you might ask? Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in college, it’s how to train carrier pigeons to take notes to Malaysian children I keep locked in the basement working on my “secret project” of determining just exactly how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop.

They’re crunching numbers.

Get it?

Regardless, this little beauty is everything I could’ve hoped for in an Oregon pinot noir.

Now as many of you may know, part of Burgundy’s success with this particular grape over the centuries is due to the fact that Burgundy rests in a particular climate in France that is balanced on a knife-edge with regard to the grapes coming to their perfect ripeness. Much like any other fruit, when a grape is approaching overly ripe, it can have so much sugar that there is hardly any other distinguishable flavor present. (Imagine an extra-ripe strawberry). Oregon, it seems, has a way of mimicking this Burgundian quality of having a harvest that is almost always dangerously close to the time of year frost sets in over a vineyard, which means the grapes have a long time to sit on the vines and slowly come to maturation, but also that the entire crop could be lost to frost damage if the vineyard manager waits too long before harvesting.

Just as in Burgundy, the wines from truly great years will defy description, and can be counted among the best wines in the world, so is true of Oregon pinot noirs.

This 2008 pinot is a beautiful example of some of the classic burgundy characteristics, with its own little Oregon twist. Though a  bit more fruit-forward than your traditional AOC, the wonderful earthy qualities are by no means lost in this sinfully smooth red. Light in color, medium in body, with a touch of cedar spice and chocolate powder, this pinot is something worth living (or being incarcerated) for.

And as all great wine has a great food behind it, it’s not by any means difficult to imagine this elegant little red being poured with Oregon’s pinot-noir-food-of-choice: wild Alaskan salmon cooked over an open fire.

So ends my wine reviews for the evening.

Oh, and if you get a collect call from me, ACCEPT THE CHARGES.

Savage, at least in principle.

Well, it seems tonight is going to be a two-for.

As I apparently find myself continually crossing things like “flour”, “meat” and “sanitary drinking water” off my grocery list in place of wines I’ve always wanted to try, I’m currently sitting in my apartment with my very first bottle of Sancerre (one of the mainstays of the Loire Valley in France, and pretty much THE prime example of how the French feel sauvignon blanc should be made) and a bowl of boiled water with some ketchup in it for dinner.

Having had many different sauvignon blancs from around the world (mostly New Zealand, with a few Napa and Chilean sauv’s thrown in) I’ve seen everything from the “isn’t this chardonnay? It’s not, oh well let’s keep aging it in oak because well, that’s what we do with white wine here in California” to the passion-fruit-bomb-with-a-side-of-lawn examples coming out of the southern hemisphere.

This sauv, however, immediately strikes me as being a great example of what the word “sauvignon” originally meant, or at least where it originally came from: savage. This 2009 Domaine Daulny Etienne from the Loire is loaded with gunflint, and grass on the nose, with just the faintest hint of something I can only describe as the way a pumpkin smells when you first cut into it on halloween. Hauntingly high in acidity and tremendously dry, the mouthfeel of this wine is light and sharp, with the classic gooseberry, grass, gunflint and lime coming through after a few sips. The French, it seems, are doing with sauvignon blanc what they do best with all their wines; namely creating something that is by no means in your face or overbearing, but more a complex and subtle expression of the soil in which the grapes came from, and the climate of that year.

This particular Sancerre is fermented and aged entirely in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, from grapes that come from several of the 50 acres that Etienne Daulny owns throughout the eastern Loire valley.

With a plain loaf of bread and a soft but yet still bitter goat’s cheese this region is also known for, the savage can be tamed into a delightfully refreshing and simple experience without having to pad the walls of your living room.

First Post, First Pinot Gris. Hello Oregon!

Well well well,

It seems only fair that my first post be a wine that I’ve never had before. Surely this won’t be a recipe for failure!

Hold on a minute, I have to go get the wine key.

PSYCH!

This 2006 Adelsheim Pinot Gris is a twist-top, which has become an industry standard for wines from New Zealand and other new(ish) world producers. Oregon, it seems, has been under its own guise since the early 1960s, and is more than content continuing to do things just how it prefers to do them.

Now, it could be because this wine was purchased on the “CLOSEOUT, ABSOLUTELY MUST GO!” shelf of the local liquor store that it, at first, had a nose of “I can’t believe it’s not butter” and cooked pear. However, with a little time and a few swirls, the faux-butter settled down and the true fruit began to come through. Being that this particular winery will induce malolactic fermentation in certain lots of wine that end up being used in the final blend, and an even smaller portion is actually aged in older (read: mostly neutral) oak barrels, the soft oak characteristics will be present, but not overbearing. After a few sips, the pear characteristic comes out of its shell, followed by a nice apple finish. The diacetyl aspects settle down a bit too, which means (thankfully) instead of pears cooked in Country Crock, you get a nice fresh fruit flavor of crisp pear and apple with just a touch of butterscotch which in its own way can be reminiscent of applesauce or even caramel apples.

All in all, this wine is one of the very few examples I have seen thusfar that shows a delicate (and in this writer’s view, appropriate) amount of oak in a new world white wine.

Perhaps when I win the lottery or start feeding greyhounds steroids in their Kibbles ‘n Bits, I will do a summary of Oregon Pinot Noirs.

Damilano – Nebbiolo d’Alba – 2007 – Barolo

I savored this hot Nebbiolo with a pork loin sauteed in olive oil with caramelized onions and wilted spinach.  The pork was medium-well done and seasoned with black pepper and a hint of white vinegar.  I started drinking about five minutes after opening it.  It was  dark, ruby red with a little purple around the rim.  The nose was hot, but presented dusty road, and baby diaper (only slightly soiled), and TONS of pepper.  Black pepper, a little purple, and some white.  All-in-all it seemed pretty promising. It is medium bodied and extremely dry, with a finish lasting a full thirty seconds.

While cooking the pork, I was tasting the wine with smoked gouda and jalapeño focaccia bread.  The gouda cleared my pallet after every tasting, and the focaccia enhanced the flavor.

I really like the Nebbiolo grape, and this was a fairly decent wine.  At $13.99, I would recommend it highly for a dinner similar to mine, or as a wine to enjoy after you’ve already had a few drinks.

Pros: dry, medium-bodied, dark, spicy flavor, long finish

Cons: hot, hot, hot

Further reading:
Barolo Region
Nebbiolo Varietal