March 2010 Archives

2009 New Zealand Mohua Sauvignon Blanc

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Inexpensive Sauv Blanc from New Zealand. Pear and citrus on the nose, it's a tinge green visually. Taste is pear, citrus, lemon, lime, and it's bright, with good acidity. It was a perfect compliment to a lime-garlic-chili sauce on haddock. Good, mouthwatering, but short, finish. At about $15 it's a good meal accompaniment. Interesting to compare the label between this Mohua and Matua - this is a bird with wings spread and the Matua is a whale tale, but they instantly make me think of each other despite color palate differences. (Leave it to someone who took a trademark class to look at this as a trade dress issue - no idea who came first.) About $15. Tasted March 2010.

It's the conversation, not the monologue!

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A friend passed on this great post -

Johnson essentially says "no one reads wine blogs" but everyone wants wine reviews and conversations. It's essentially what I said about wine being a great way to interact with others a few posts below - it's the story, the conversation, the opportunity to meet new people that wine is about. And we don't capture it on our blogs!

I post my reviews here and at CellarTracker. CellarTracker links the main page for any wine to Twitter when I post, so that sometimes starts a conversation, either on Twitter or on CellarTracker (or in it's new incarnation, Wine Stories - clearly they get it). And my writing becomes part of the aggregate record on a wine. But in a year I've only blogged about 120 wines, while I've talked about a lot more.

Good post, good link, and I'd love to hear from others about what they find interesting. But I probably won't hear it here - it will probably be on Twitter. Or CellarTracker. And that's OK.

And now for an art diversion

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I have to plug my sister-in-law's art. She has such an incredible color palate for her art pieces, they make me smile every time I see some of them. She's just getting online now, watch for regular updates on her site, including both archival pieces and her new digital media self-portraiture. Take a look, comment if you like it, and by all means buy it if you really like it. I have about 20 pieces hanging in our home, from large pieces to small, and they are exquisite. is her site.

Stewart Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2006

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Beautiful, beautiful cherry red translucent wine. This is the wine you see in commercials and on book covers for a bright, red, shining Pinot Noir. Would photograph if I had a fresh beautiful glass handy to showcase the wine in. Red strawberries, some cherry, a bit of cola, some spice and licorice from the French oak. It's bright, fresh and lively at the front, with fresh red fruit dominating, nicely acidic and tart, light to mid weight, and a very long, mouth watering finish, reminds me of cherry Twizzler's (that's a compliment from me). Well rounded, no inconsistency front to back. Relatively low production, 1000 cases according to their website at it's made from Russian River Valley Gibson Vineyard Pinot Noir, with Paul Hobbs as their consulting winemaker. I really enjoyed this wine, though some might say it's too much fruit and not enough other complexity in the wine. About $40 if I recall correctly.

Lucia Vineyards Santa Lucia Highlands 2007 Pinot Noir

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Nice Santa Rosa, California, Pinot Noir, red fruit clearly apparent on the nose, beautiful cranberry red, semi-translucent, red fruit tastes, very fruit driven. Round wine, supple, soft, mid-weight Pinot. Great mouth-watering acidity, long finish. If I had to pick out fruit it would be red cherry, strawberry, and it's tart, maybe a bit of white pepper or something similar. About $40, tasted March, 2010. notes at

Lucia Vineyards - and the winemaker notes at
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2004 Muga Reserva Seleccion Especial Rioja, Spain

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Deep red, totally opaque, nose has fabulous non-fruit components - cedar, spicy oak, pencils, very complex, and then there are dark fruits, blackberry in particular. The taste is terrific, a lot of tart cherry, spicy red and black fruit, definite presence of French oak, and some spearmint. Mouth watering acidity, mid-weight body. Nicely balanced alcohol, acid, fruit and tannins, with tannins not nearly so present/overwhelming as some recent notes suggest, but they are definitely there. A blend from Rioja, well made, highly recommended.
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2008 Martinborough Vineyards Russian Jack Pinot Noir

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Probably the best low cost Pinot Noir (under $20) I've had, competes with $30-$35 Oregon and California Pinots. Great red color, semi-opaque, with a nose of red fruit, cherry, strawberry, cherry Twizzlers, French oak with a bit of burnt pepper, and a bit of earth. It's juicy, red fruit driven, nice acidity, no apparent alcohol, no obtrusive tannins. Terrific value, nice example of New Zealand Pinot.
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Wine experiences

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vineyards of the Rioja region in Spain

Image via Wikipedia

People drink and taste wine for varying reasons. I taste wine for the experience, friendship, knowledge, and enjoyment. I first had wine in California over 20 years ago. It was white Zinfandel. Cheap white Zin at that. Then I had wine in Spain, mostly table wine with the meal of the day at the local restaurant. About $6 or $7 for lunch with a glass of wine mixed with 'gaseosa' - a sparkling water. It was more or less a wine spritzer, certainly accompanied the meal well, but definitely not a way to experience the wine. That was probably best, as they were very low cost table wines, not the classic Rioja, or even the Navarra Garnacha Spain was becoming known for. I had a few of those while I was there too, but only because a friend was a connoisseur or someone's family members made wine.

Fast forward to the popularization of Australian wines by Yellow Tail, or other "pretty label" wines, and I might have one at a party, or pick up a bottle for dinner company. Still nothing spectacular, but maybe at least being exposed to different varietals made me learn more about wine's breadth.

Then I went to a tasting at a local wine retailer with a friend. A master sommelier did the lecture. He started to explain what it was we were tasting. But he didn't start with taste - he started with the way it looked. White, red, shades of each, transparency, translucency, rim of the wine, 'legs' and more. Then he went on to the way it smells, what components are in the 'nose' and how they compared from one wine to the next. Varietals had different characteristics, and so did different regions, both because of 'terroir' or the land it was grown on, and the way wines were made in each region. Minerality? Herbs? A whole wine flavor and nose wheel? Amazing what was there - and it varies tremendously from wine to wine.

Criticism began to take on the same meaning in wine as in books or movies - what are the components, how do they work together, what's good, what's bad, why does one wine vary from another, what's the approach the winemaker took to bring out the characteristics most valued? And all that before you even get to how it tastes.

Tasting wines then begins to take on new things - looking for the fruit, dark, red, blue, or fruity like jam or candied fruit, or cooked fruits, or specific fruits like blackberry, cherry, plums, or citrus fruits - tropical, stone fruit, grapefruit, or the earthy components, mushrooms, forest floor, brambles, and more. Alcohol level, body, tannins or structure. How those all play together from the first sip, or front, to the taste that lingers, or the finish, and whether they make your mouth water or dry it out. How they go together with foods.

And so that sparked an interest - so I did what most people who have research experience do - went looking for the resources to learn more. I found Wine Spectator. The Wine Advocate - Parker was a lawyer like many wine critics and writers, and later like many wine makers or vineyard owners [insert joke about how you make a small fortune in the wine business - start with a large fortune]. And then the same friend gave my wife the book What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea - Even Water - Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers.

That book goes through just about every food you could think about, and recommends good, great, and classic pairings. And does the reverse - if you have a bottle of wine and want to know what to cook with it, look up the varietal, the region, or style, and get recommendations. (And if you're really advanced, try another of their books, The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs.) Start with one flavor and work into the next and if you're a heck of a chef, you can put it all together.

After those, it was the Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia. (Advice - don't buy it if you don't have great eyesight - the print is TINY.) It's one of the best resources on wines, regions, houses, and wine makers you'll ever find. And there are so many books on wine that no matter your interest, you'll find something you enjoy as a resource.

Anyway, digression, after those tastings, that research, and a few more tastings we decided to take a few classes. We met lots of friends at the classes, engineers, professors, sales folks, business owners, and yes, lawyers. Quite a few. Other tastings and classes ensued, and we got to discuss travel, wines and food, restaurants, cooking, and, yes, more wines. It's interesting how wine can open up so many conversations about so many experiences that people have had around wine. Those led to wine dinners at a local French restaurant. (Yes, I had snails there again. Yes, I appreciated them far more than when I was 23 on the coast of Spain.) In short, wine has led to a lot of good friends and experiences that had nothing to do with wine per se. And that's why I enjoy tasting wine. I write about those tasting in part to remember what I've tasted, what I liked or disliked, but also because it's a way to give back to a community I've enjoyed being part of for the past few years.

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2007 Alpataco Pinot Noir, Patagonia, Argentina

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Inexpensive Pinot from Argentina, equivalent to a California Pinot in the less than $20 range. It had red fruit, but not bright cherries. Nice red, relatively bright, light, translucent but not transparent. Medium weight, red fruit, nothing distinct that stood out, good balance, nothing distracting, tannins were fine, alcohol was low, fruit was there, nice acid, short to medium finish. Worthwhile at about $16, not a standout, but often wines at this price are less about what they are, than what they aren't. And this wasn't bad, it just didn't stand out in any way.
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Betz 2006 Syrah La Serenne

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Dark purple, nose of dark, dried fruit, cooked prunes and black fresh fruits. Burnt toast and pepper is readily apparent. The taste is dark fruit, and it's a medium bodied Syrah. From the Columbia Valley in Washington, it's from a producer, Betz, who is doing great things with Washington wine. About $59, it's a good value compared to Hermitage, though I like a few other Washington state Syrah wines as well or better at similar prices. Worth a try.

2004 Château Cos d'Estournel

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Dark cherry red, lighter red rim, black and red fruit, but soft, very broad nose. The taste is fruit driven, but not fruit dominated, with soft subtle tannins, mouth-watering acidity, medium bodied, and spicy finish. Cab/Merlot Bordeaux from the Saint Estephe area, a second growth, well made, but nothing jumping out as complex, elevated. I expected more, but lots of reviewers seem to be suggesting it's closed right now. About $125. Tasted February, 2010.
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Deep burgundy body, light salmon colored rim, intense nose, tomato vines, tomato fruit, French wood, a bit of pepper and dark blackberry. The wine is elegant, light bodied, with dry tannins and not a lot of fruit. It was an interesting Cab/Carmenere blend, not sure it drinks to its price, though it's probably a good example of Maipo Valley in Chile. About $59. Tasted February, 2010.

Halleck Clone 828 Pinot Noir 2006

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The Halleck 828 Pinot Noir is deep red in color, translucent, with dark fruits on the nose, including cassis, boysenberry, and spice. The mouth was medium to full bodied pinot, with good structure, not a typical light, finesse Pinot. It was spicy, lots of acidity, dark cherry, tarn but not over bright, and plenty of dark fruit, including dark black Santa Rosa plum. It was well made and very interesting. Only about 266 cases made, not many. Check out their website at
A bit of oak on the nose, malo very present, and then a surprise - barnyard on a California Chardonnay. The taste was a light citrus, maybe pineapple and tropical citrus. It had mouthwatering acidity, seamless front to back, and then some pleasant minerality on the long finish. Nice Chardonnay, interesting region, but I still prefer the ZD Chardonnay as my favorite. About $50. Tasted February 2010.
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This page is an archive of entries from March 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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