Monday, November 26, 2007

Tasting: Wine Spectator's 07 Wine of the Year, Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005

I hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Well it took a bit longer than I had hoped to crack open this bottle, but I finally did on Thanksgiving day. So here is what I thought of Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005, Wine Spectator's wine of the year for 2007.

Color: Very dense/dark ruby color

Nose: Sweet and fruity with berries, spice and some floral notes.

Taste: The wine is BIG & BOLD from the offset with a burst of sweetness up front, but then mellows in on some dark fruit, licorice, mild oak and spices. It is a very hearty with a slight bitterness (likely due to its young age). A long finish with mild tannins, but not the kind that will stick to your teeth and make your whole mouth purple. Really good, tasty wine that will only get better and better if stored in the right conditions. I look forward to trying another bottle next Thanksgiving!

The Verdict: 8 corks (may increase to 9 corks with some time in the bottle).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wine Spectator - 2007 Wine of the Year...and the honors go to

I know this will sound weird, but when I finally saw which wine took this year's top honor from Wine Spectator's editors, I got really excited. The reason, you see, is that I have been indulging in Chateauneuf du Pape for about the past month, AND several months ago I bought a ton of it from various vineyards. And wouldn't you know, of the 20 or so bottles I bought, I only bought a measly 3 bottles of the wine that Wine Spectator has just given it's highest honor to. I haven't tried it yet, but will now and I can assure you that come Monday there will be some tasting notes on this blog.

Note to all of you, if you've never tried a Chateauneuf du Pape, I highly recommend it. It's also important to note that this is the second Chateauneuf du Pape to make the top trust me you'll want to get your hands on some of this yum yum.

Check back on Monday for my tasting notes, as well as some others...I'm attending a dinner tomorrow night, and will try to get note from other folks, from novice to experienced wine drinkers.


Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005 - 98 points - $80

Here's what Wine Spectator had to say about this beauty:

In the Southern Rhône's recent trio of great vintages starting with 2003, no other Châteauneuf-du-Pape domaine has produced better wines than Clos des Papes. Under Vincent Avril, quality has improved steadily, and the 2003 (97 points) was Wine Spectator's No. 2 wine in 2005.

At 98 points, the 2005 is Avril's best wine yet, displaying an enormous core of fruit and minerality along with massive structure. The Clos des Papes red (the estate also produces a white) is a blend of 65 percent Grenache, 20 percent Mourvèdre, 10 percent Syrah and other grapes from 74 acres of vines around Châteauneuf. Avril keeps yields low, picks vineyard blocks separately for ideal ripeness and vinifies the destemmed grapes in ceramic-lined vats. The wine is aged in large wooden foudres
for up to 12 months before the final blend is assembled.

This is really tight now, but it's packed with dark fig, currant, espresso, licorice and chocolate notes. Superfleshy but seriously structured, there's layer after layer of sweet spice, fruit and minerality pumping through the finish, with lots of latent depth and power. Far more backward than the 2003 and 2004 on release, but considering this typically puts on weight as it ages, it should be a monster--à la the 1990--when it reaches its peak. Best from 2009 through 2030. 7,500 cases made. –JM

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tracking Wine Spectator's top 10 of 2007 - Today #4, #3 & #2

Hey gang. As you know, we've been tracking Wine Spectator's top 10 of 2007. Now some of you may say who cares, but trust me, as we approach the holidays, you will be wondering what bottles of wine to buy for friends and loved ones, and I for one think the top 100 is a great list to work off of. While we're only tracking the top 10, you can find the other 90 from the top 100 on Wine Spectator's web site. So we've covered 10 through 5 so far, and here are the next three wonderful bottles ranking 4, 3 and 2. Tomorrow we will know the number 1 bottle according to the magazine. Anyway, here we go.

4. Antinori Toscana Tignanello 2004 - 95 points - $79

3. Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005 - 95 points - $49 - **9 corks**
I actually have a dozen or so bottles of this little beauty in my wine racks, and really do enjoy it. For the price, thus far the cheapest of the top 10, I think it's absolutely outstanding.

2. Ridge Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains Santa Cruz Mountain Estate 2005 - 95 points - $35 - **8 corks**

That's all for now...stay tuned for the big winner tomorrow. I can assure you that whichever bottle is named #1, it will be one of the top sellers at any and all local wine shops within a few weeks.

The Vine Guy

Get Out The Vote

Don't forget to take a quick second to vote in our poll on the top right corner. We're trying to gauge the types of wines we should be reviewing/discussing by polling you! Our readers! (All 20 of you)

I prefer wines from the good old U.S. of A. most of the time, but in addition to my US mainstays I will generally focus on a region or country for about 6 months at a time. First it was Spain, then Portugal, then Argentina, and now I'm fully into Italian wines.
Right now, as I've mentioned in the comments section a few times, I'm moving towards big, hearty Cabs and Zins. Our weather here in the Northeast makes these deep red wines ideal for sitting next to a fireplace or paired with a nice roast with hearty root vegetables. Weather is definitely one of the most significant factors in choosing a wine and really something to consider when serving guests. But, if you like white wine in the winter time, don't let me (or the weather forecast) stop you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tracking Wine Spectator's top 10 of 2007 - Today #6 and #5

OK, so Wine Spectator has announced two more bottles to make the top 10 list for 2007. The following came in at numbers 6 and 5.

6. Château Léoville Las Cases St.-Julien 2004 - 95 points - $90 - **10 corks, absolutely wonderful Bordeaux**

5. Two Hands Shiraz Barossa Valley Bella's Garden 2005 - 95 points - $60

Stay tuned as we follow this baby all the way to number 1.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tracking Wine Spectator's top 10 of 2007

Hey gang. Wine Spectator has started announcing its much anticipated top 10 list of 2007 wines. They will work from #10 to #1 this week, with the top spot being announced on Friday. In honor of a great magazine, and its great top 100 tradition, we are going the track it for you here and let you know if any of your favorites make the best of the best. So here are the bottles that have made the top 10 for 2007 so far. You'll notice Grape Nut made mention of the Robert Mondavi in his last post. For bottles on the list that I have personally tried, I've also noted my score...not that it matters:

10. Krug Brut Champagne 1996 - 99 points - $250

9. Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 2004 - 95 points - $125 - **8 corks**

8. Mollydooker Shiraz McLaren Vale Carnival of Love 2006 - 95 points - $80 - **9 corks**

7. Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia 2004 - 97 points - $150

That's all for now...stay tuned for more.

The Vine Guy

Wine News - SF Chronicle: Constellation Brands buys several California premium wine labels

Some interesting news coming out of Cali, the mega winemaker, Constellation is buying several high end labels in Napa and Sonoma...from the San Franscisco Chronicle below:

Constellation Brands buys several California premium wine
Sam Zuckerman,
Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Constellation Brands, the world's biggest winemaker, said Monday that it has agreed to buy several well-known premium labels, including the popular Clos du Bois brand, a major addition to its California operations.

The company, based in upstate New York, will pay $885 million for the U.S. wine business of Fortune Brands, which also includes the Geyser Peak, Wild Horse, Buena Vista Carneros and Gary Farrell labels. As part of the deal, Constellation is acquiring about 1,500 acres of vineyards in Sonoma and Napa counties.

The Fortune wines sell approximately 2.6 million cases annually. Clos du Bois, which Fortune
describes as the nation's No. 2 super-premium wine brand, represents about 2 million cases of that total.

The deal, which could close before year-end, builds on Constellation's existing California wine business. The company catapulted to the top rank of Northern California wine production in 2004 when it agreed to buy Robert Mondavi, one of winemaking's most prestigious names...
For the rest
click here.

I don't know what type of impact this will have on these specific labels, but I always find it interesting - the struggle of the family owned or smaller winery verse the large conglomerate. I guess I tend to get caught up in the romanticism of the family wineries opposed to drinking wine from a mega-producer. But I guess at the end of the day, it's all about the quality of wine. But two wines together one owned by a multi-national and the other owned by a small group of investors, I'll go with the little guy. (Did I mention I like the movie Rudy)

On a slightly separate note, I did read that the 2004 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve - recently ranked number nine on Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2007 list - because of the sale to Constellation will be the last vintage produced by the family . Might be worth picking up a few bottles for that reason alone.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Tasting: Clos Henri Vineyard

I enjoyed this wine over the weekend with a stuffed pork loin (red peppers, spinach and Mozzarella cheese) and a pesto pasta. I paid $24 for the bottle at Wine Library. It was my first encounter with Clos Henri.

The wine: Clos Henri Pinot Noir Marlborough 2005

Region: Marlborough, New Zealand

Color: Very light ruby, more translucent than I had expected.

Nose: BEAUTIFUL. Thing I noticed most was the floral hints, but nice cherry and other berries represented.

Taste: Very warm notes of cherry, raspberry and spice, by no means overwhelming. Through the finish the fruit picked up steam, and also noticed a touch of oak on the back end. Surprisingly, the floral notes I detected in the nose didn't hit my pallet, though there was a slight hint of grass/hay. It did have a 20 second finish that was very smooth and soft.

I really enjoyed this wine, more so than I expected. I've been enjoying New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs for a long time, and figured it was time to expand my horizons and try something else. I grabbed this bottle on sale at Wine Library at the suggestion of one of the fellas there. I thought it went perfectly with the meal. I give it an 8 cork score, though when I asked my dad to rate it 1 through 10, he gave it a 9...and he's a man that knows quite a bit about wine, producing it all his life.

Verdict: 8 Corks

Have you guys jumped on the New Zealand band wagon yet? If so, what is it that tickles your fancy at the moment?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Tasting: Jaffurs Wine Cellars

I tried the 2006 Jaffurs Wine Cellars Santa Barbara County Syrah last night. I paid $50 for the bottle at a martini/wine bar called Cibar (17th and Irving) not too far from Union Square in New York. I didn't take formal tasting notes, but I'd say it was exactly what I was looking for last night.

Jaffurs Wine Cellars 2005 Santa Barbara County Syrah
Color: Ruby red
Nose: Nice, but not overwhelming. Hints of red fruits.
Taste: I enjoyed this wine, after a light-dinner, celebrating with a few recently engaged friends. The wine had nice bold fruit fruit flavors up front with a hint of spice, finishing with a silky bit of sweetness that made it perfect. It's not an extremely complex wine, more straight forward, but enjoyable none the less.

The Jaffurs website doesn't list the 2006 vintages yet. Additionally, from my limited research, it seems that Cibar is only charging a double markup - really not that bad for Manhattan. The wife and I are working on a trip to Santa Barbara at some point, so we will have to add this to the list of wineries to visit. Anyone else have a particular Santa Barbara wine they would recommend? Or just a bottle that's drinking particularly well?

I would give this wine a 8 corks.

A separate question: Anyone dreading the weak dollar for wine consumption reasons? I think it's certainly going to crimp some of my purchases of Italian wines if this keeps up.

This & That: News Briefs from the Wine World

Hey gang, here are just some interesting tidbits I came across this week in wine news...

Go ahead, drink up. Don't' worry about hangover headaches...anymore?

The effects are all too familiar: a fancy dinner, some fine wine and then, a few hours later, a racing heart and a pounding headache. But a device developed by University of California, Berkeley, researchers could help avoid the dreaded "red wine headache."

Chemists working with NASA-funded technology designed to find life on Mars have created a device they say can easily detect chemicals that many scientists believe can turn wine and other beloved indulgences into ingredients for agony.

The chemicals, called biogenic amines, occur naturally in a wide variety of aged, pickled and fermented foods prized by gourmet palates, including wine, chocolate, cheese, olives, nuts and cured meats.

The prototype — the size of a small briefcase — uses a drop of wine to determine amine levels in five minutes. The researchers found the highest amine levels in red wine and sake and the lowest in beer. For now, the device only works with liquids.

CONGRATS TO NEW ZEALAND...Seems they're entering the big leagues.

A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir have been voted the best in the world at the International Wine and Spirit Competition. The competition is considered one of the top wine awards in the world, and makers of Malborough's Vavasour Sauvignon say the win should help put them on the international map.

Villa Maria Pinot Noir was also judged best of its category and the winery also won best wine producer in New Zealand.

With over 300 other wines to compete with, it was the aroma and fine lingering finish of Marlbourgh's Vavasour Sauvignon that captivated the judges.

"It literally means it is the best of the best for that particular variety," says Executive Director of the competition, Alan Gibbons.

The event carries some impressive credentials. It started in 1969, with winemakers from around the world entering to have their best bottles judged by 40 international masters.

And prices are reasonable too, the wine crowned the world's best Sauvignon Blanc can be yours for around $20.

Docs Continue to find benefits of Grapes

New York researchers are focusing on grape polyphenols in wine and grape juice to help maintain long-term cognitive health.

Researchers at the Center for Research in Alternative and Complementary Medicine in Alzheimer's disease research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York say Concord grape juice and red wine polyphenols show promise in counteracting beta-amyloid plaques associated with cognitive decline.

Two recent population studies associated moderate red wine and 100 percent fruit juice consumption with lowering the risk of Alzheimer's disease dementia.

That's all...enjoy your weekends!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Winery Tasting: Rosenblum

The above picture has nothing to do with the below post, although it's good to be back in the metro area. I took it last night with the better half at a fundraiser for the local art museum. I just wanted to post a picture.

I was on the West Coast this week for business, something I've been doing on a more regular basis lately. When in the Bay Area, I try to squeeze in a winery tour, tasting or at least a nice dinner with a good bottle of wine. It is always an opportunity to try wines I will never see in New York City or the surrounding area and a nice diversion to being on the road.

This trip, with my meetings wrapping up unexpectedly early, I headed over to the Alameda winery of Rosenblum Cellars.

A little background, I've been a fan of these wines for a couple of years, but never really tasted their top-end wines until a trip to their Healdsburg tasting room. Other than realizing that my wife and I wanted to spend a lot more time in Healdsburg, we knew we were absolutely in love with Rosenblum's wines. During that trip we bought a case of wine and signed up for their Red Rangers Club. Neither has disappointed. The case contained a mixture of Annette's Reserve Zinfandel Redwood Valley and Fran's Vineyard Reserve Syrah Rockpile. The first October shipment of the Red Rangers club did not let us down and we are eagerly awaiting our next shipment.

Back to my visit. So, I decided that seeing I had to drive through the Alameda area anyway, I should stop by and see where all of the magic happens. I was not disappointed.

First, I was greeted by someone that seemed familiar and had a familiar name. It was Farley, from Wine Outlook, an amazing wine blogger and occasional poster on this site. Do yourself a favor check out her writing; intuitive and intelligent, she affords us on the outside an exclusive view of the industry. Farley and her coworker Kenny G poured me some delicious wines from their tasting menu and I was quickly reminded of why I love these wines so much. As a special Halloween treat, for almost guessing her costume (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) I was able to try the special secret pour in honor of All Saints Day - the St. Peter's Church Zinfandel. All of the wines from tasting menu were delicious.

During my tasting, Ken Rosenblum, part of the husband and wife team that founded the winery walked into the tasting area. I was stoked. For me, Ken Rosenblum is an inspiration, a person who was able to change careers and make a run at his dream - ending up wildly successful. We talked for a few minutes about his wines and his recent trip to New York and New Jersey. Very nice, down-to-earth person.

After all this, I had to buy some wine. I picked up a few bottles of the Desire chocolate port (Which I will be sharing with my older brother and a few cigars) for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday and I was lucky enough to pick up two of the last bottles of the 2005 Rominger Syrah Yolo County. There was a bit of a run on the Rominger as Wine Spectator Advance had rated it a 91 points. Having tasted it that day, I would have to agree with that rating.

I have to say that I highly recommend visiting the Alameda location. If you live in the bay area, you really have NO excuse. The staff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable about their wines. Plus, who knows, maybe you'll run into Farley, Kenny G, or Ken.


Reader Assignment: Go out and buy a bottle of Rosenblum and post our review in the comments section. On the other hand, just go buy a bottle and enjoy it. I'll be posting reviews of my Rosenblum bottles as I open them up - prehaps one this weekend.