Archive for the ‘ United States ’ Category

Alright Mondavi, I See What Your Game Is

So, in spite of the so-so $17 bottle of wine-that-isn’t-impressing-anyone from last week, I’m after a merlot that soothes my deep-down need for a fruitbomb to go off in my mouth.

And folks, I think I’m as close as I’m going to get.

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Merlot 2007

This wine is everything you’d expect at a gay rights parade. It’s young, it’s hot, it’s a little spicy and it’s EXTRA fruity.

The nose really gives off a lot of blueberry and alcohol, but the mouth actually helps to tone the latter down. It’s blueberry, it’s blackberry, it’s all the black fruit you can imagine, but with very little sweetness. The oak is not overdone like you might find in those less expensive Mondavi wines, and everything balances together rather nicely.

This is not a structured Napa cabernet with lots of wood and barnyard; this is a fruit explosion in which the oak is meant to help remind you that you’re not drinking Welch’s grape juice, and the tannins are there to cover your tongue for a while so you aren’t gulping it down in sinful bliss.

From my experience, Mondavi (like a lot of the other big names in Napa) have their various wines on a tiered system: the “private selection” being near the bottom, and this “Napa Valley” likely being the next step up. I’m not sure which other levels their are in the middle, but I know that the top has one of what I like to call my “bucket list” wines (Opus One), which means I’ll likely encounter them on the way.

Hopefully soon my California red obsession will fade away, and I can start turning toward some of the more obscure (read: affordable) wines from around the world which don’t seem to ever get enough review.

The fruit and the fun of this wine make me want to give it a 90, but the high alcohol makes me want to take a point away leaving it at a very healthy (and happy) 89.

-Ryan

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.

New Year–Toss out recap

So it’s been about a year since I’ve moved into my apartment, and my roommate and I were doing some spring cleaning last week. I have a penchant for saving my favorite bottles of wine, and I decided to clear them out for a new year.  These were my favorite selections from last year:

Some of these wines have been blogged about, but those that haven’t will get a bit of mention here.  First: the Groth 2007 was shit. And it won’t ever be anything but shit.  There’s no hint of complexity.  It’s easy to drink, and you can fool your unfamiliar friends with it, but you may as well add jello mix to some Mondavi and sell it as the same product.

Standouts: Whitehaven (any vintage, really… 2007, 2008, 2009 have all been fantastic), both of the Chateauneufs were fantastically complex and savory, the 2005 Grand Traverse was out of control and so expressive that there aren’t words to describe it.  The Sauternes was great, as far as young ones are concerned. The Cab Franc was titillating. Stags’ Leap was as expected: bold, full, and a complex enough to please a daily palette–the Stag’s Artemis, while on the subject, is also worth the dough.

Mediocre: The Muga and Jordan were not up to par. Perhaps more time was required. The Barbaresco was not worth the $35 that it was.  At best, $20. I think 85-87.

The surprise of the batch was the Davis Bynum.  For the price point, it’s 100% worth it. 90-91? I remember that being a standout.

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.

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.