Archive for September, 2011

Merlot: The Cabernet for the Impatient

It’s fall, it’s on the chilly side, and the leaves are starting to change color… It’s now that I turn my attention to the deeper and darker reds that are built for this kind of weather.

This week’s treat? The Markham Vineyards 2007 Napa Valley merlot.

A deal, but not necessarily a steal

The more I get into these Napa wines, the more I am reminded that Napa is not and Eden in which all the fruits plucked from the trees turn into beautiful wines. In fact, there are some that turn out to be good, but not great. And the more I lean toward merlot, and merlot blends, the more I realize that the characteristic jammy-ness and ripe fruit this grape is so known for are really what I’m looking for in a Napa cab. Sadly, I don’t have the $60 to $80 to spend on a single bottle of cabernet, so I am trying to cheat and get my smooth, oaky fruit bombs I would love to see from a cab through a merlot instead.
My first thoughts about this merlot is that it’s big. Like, greyhound bus big. And like it says on the label, it for sure has the “dark ruby hues”, but the wine feels like it’s holding something back. Instead of a deep velvety jammy merlot, I’ve got a big, neutral and oaky one. The tannins are prominent, but not overwhelming, and the nose has strong notes of dark fruit and much lighter ones of white pepper.

Overall, however, this wine is just ok. It is not that inky black/red that I’m looking for in a big bold Napa merlot, but it’s not a feeble extra green merlot like we make here in Traverse City..

All in all, I’d give this wine maybe 88 or 89 points. It’s been done right, but I presume most people would enjoy drinking it, but completely forget it by the next day.

Next week, (if I can maybe sell a kidney or start dealing drugs) I will try to get a bottle of Duckhorn merlot so I can show you all (and myself) just exactly what this grape is all about.

Yalumba 2010

It’s been a while, but I’m going to pick up where I left off: Viognier. It’s turning into fall here but we’ve still got some 65 degree days, and I thought I’d hit up the local market (now in Grand Rapids) for couple dozen bottles to kick off a new season. The first one I want to talk about is the Yalumba 2010 Viognier. This puppy is from the south of Australia, but it’s got a kick from the far east. The nose is green… very green. Which I’ve come to expect from Viognier. First smell is sawgrass and bitter green apples. They talk about apricots on the product description page, but I didn’t pull that on the first taste as much as I did the hint of wasabi. Not the smoking, nasally-decimating wasabi you get on your sushi, but the first taste, the front of your tongue when you set the sushi down in your mouth–before it rockets through your throat into your nose. It settled into the bitter flavor I’d associate with the few Viogniers that I’ve had. Chilling the wine to cellar temperature dulls the taste too much, and I think this is best consumed at about 65-68 degrees. I feel like the flaws and young, green content of this wine are its best qualities. I consider it value at around $13 per bottle, and I’d rate it an 87.

One Rioja to Rule Them All

Well folks, it’s that time again.

It’s September, and Burritt’s is having its annual wine sale which means there are scores of great wines to be had and prices that even lowly college students with meager living accommodations can afford. This month’s wine to be?

The gold standard Rioja this side of the atlantic.

2007 Muga Rioja

Tempranillo and Garnacha have never been so good.

As you may well expect, this producer, being one of the more notable Rioja producers one can find in northern Michigan, has the ability to create consistently great Rioja year after year. Unofficially labeled as “the Bordeaux of Spain” Rioja does have a long-rooted (pun intended) history in the production of great red wine, including somewhat secretly (and scandalously) selling their wines to the French when it was a bad season up north. Curiously, most of the wines purchased by the French to blend into their less-superior grapes were Bordeaux.

It is precisely this reason why Rioja gets this notorious designation, and after you have your first glass, you can absolutely see why.

Deep red color, but no hints of any blue around the edges. The nose was initially very hot and loaded with cassis and inky blackberry, but after letting it settle down a bit in the glass, it had a chance to give off a slight hint of some kind of earth. Upon tasting, the tannins were very pronounced at first, but then settled down quickly and dissolved into the silky feel that continued all the way to the finish. Wine in mouth, it became easy to see those wonderful qualities of cedar and smoke which we’re all hoping to find in our structured red wines. The comparison to a Bordeaux  starts to make sense as the wine makes its way down, but with one very prominent distinction; the fruit in this wine is clearly of great importance to its producers, as the blackcurrant and blackberry stick with you all throughout the drinking experience, whereas with many Bordeaux, the fruit shies away before the finish, leaving you feeling like someone left a tongue depressor in your mouth.

After a few sips, (which eventually turned into joyful gulps) small little marks around my glass proved exactly what the tasting had shown; lots of extract and a lingering finish. It seems this wine is destined to impart flavor wherever it touches, even if that’s only touching the rim of your glass.

That’s all for today, hopefully sometime soon I will make my way back to Burritt’s to score a nice Napa cab, or a Russian River Valley pinot.