Thursday, May 24, 2007

White Burgundy Value

With the dollar's continual pummeling at the hands of the euro, the pound and other currencies around the world it is much more difficult to find good values from abroad, especially from the old world. Take that up a notch with excellent wines from all over France out of the 2005 vintage and you're looking at $30 a bottle "bargains" from across the pond. Thus, though I regularly get pinged about the reasonable prices of French juice, the tag line generally includes a price north of $30, with most in the $45+ range. D. Sokolin hypes a lot of RP rated wines and I have done a lot of business with that retailer, usually through its fine salesman Daron. Sokolin's prices are generally fair, some times the best (you have to be choosy and use Wine-Searcher relentlessly) but even then it's impossible to find well priced 2005 Bourdeaxs or red Burgundies from anywhere. When a mixed case offering of 2005 white Burgundy from Sokolin crossed my desk a few weeks ago I ran the wines through the wine-searcher grind and found that the prices were very good, all below $25 a bottle. I bought the case and, after waiting for the wine to settle a bit, opened one of the 3 varietals I bought. My picture here shows the 2003 vintage--it was the best one I could copy from the net; I drank the 2005.

Vincent Girardin is apparently the negotiant of the moment in Burgundy and seems to be everywhere. He produces all sorts of wines out of his "Domaine" (this wording appears on wines where he owns the grapes too, but I suspect that all of his wines are produced at the Domaine), which is in Meursault though he sources red and white grapes from all over Burgundy. I've had many of his wines and find them to be very good to excellent with a high quality to value ratio, though his prices have also crept northward of late. I hadn't really paid attention that I was buying mostly Girardin wines when I ordered the case but that's what I ended up with and am not complaining now. The moral of the story is to pay attention to the "good value" emails as you might find one that's true.

Tasting Notes: The wine is Vincent Girardin 2005 Rully 1er Cru Les Cloux which checks in at 13.5% alcohol. I paid $24 a bottle from Sokolin. The wine is straw in the glass, opening with delicate notes of lemon, plumeria and vanilla, very fragrant. Citrus/lime notes take over mid-palate offering a refreshing juicy wine, with a creamy finish that includes gooseberries and spice. Balanced and nicely acidic, this is both an easy drinking every day wine and good party wine with seafood grilling. I'd buy this again.

Rating: Very Good.

Cheers, Barrld

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pinot Heaven

I've written about Red Car Wine Company previously, with its art deco labels and back of the bottle chapters telling noir tales of affairs of the heart. Though most of Red Car's wines are Syrahs, both single vineyards and blends, it also produces a couple of Pinots, mostly under the Amour Fou sub-label. With an address in the heart of Los Angeles, all grapes are sourced and produced elsewhere, at what used to be more than one co-operative. The Company now has a winery in Santa Maria, though I wonder about trucking Pinot grapes there from the Russian River, given the delicacy and think skins of these grapes. As you can see below, it works somehow.
At any rate, the Red Car Syrahs are generally huge and jammy, but very well made and stylistic. I've found the couple of Amour Fou Pinots that I've tried from the 2002 vintage to be very good but missing a bit of complexity and length. I opened a 2003 Amour Fou the other day and, well, it's the real deal. I picked up this wine direct from Red Car for about $40 a bottle when it was released 2 or so years ago.
Tasting Notes: The wine is Red Car 2003 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Amour Fou Chapter Two, which checks in at 14.9% alcohol. The grapes were sourced 70% from Keefer Ranch and 30% from Martinelli and a good dose of new French oak was used along the way. The wine is a lovely garnet in the glass and virtually explodes with alluring fragrances of camellias and blackberry pie, with a dash of white pepper on the nose. Chocolate, dark fruit and earth control the mid-palate, framing a dynamic set of flavors, complex and juicy. Full bodied but not heavy, with good balance and acidity. Long, long finish with tiers of flavors, mixing robust raspberry, smoke, fennel, blueberry compote, wow! This is the complete package, a classy, delicious wine of many dimensions. Bravo!
Rating: Superb!! (only my second one!)
Cheers, Barrld

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Over Rated?

While I can't rank Zinfadel in my top 5 wine varietals, I do occasionally enjoy that deep purple juice both straight up and in well crafted blends. At the same time, the sheer full throttle vibrancy of some Zins, coupled with the grape juicy sweet style I find in less expensive Zins makes me wary, esp. at potlucks. My preference for stylized, refined wine with multiple tiers of flavor tends to exclude most Zins, which lean towards a huge fruit/alcohol punch in the mouth. Honestly, though I base my prejudices on my early wine drinking days in the late 90s and I know that Zins have evolved away from one dimensionality. All the more reason for me to pick up a few bottles of The Prisoner from 2003.
A guy I know has a considerable gray market deal going in his house in Brentwood. Where he gets the wines, I don't know, but his prices are good, his selection excellent and no sales tax. I've bought a couple of cases of fine first growths from him (1994s, very well priced) and some of this and that. Anyway, I was buying some 2002 white Burgundy and my friend J said, ever try this? He plucked a bottle of The Prisoner from his cluttered shelves and handed it over. Good juice, he said, Laube loved it. Being a sucker, I bought 3 bottles for $22 each, did I say no sales tax? Anyway, I drank one soon thereafter (no memories one way or another) and lost the other two somewhere in the cellar. I found the bottle consumed for this review when I was rearranging my wines. I took a peek at the WS ratings and saw that Laube gave the wine a 92 in 2005 so I looked forward to tipping back a couple of glasses. Unfortunately, that proved to be a let down.
Tasting Notes: The wine is Orin Swift The Prisoner, Red Table Wine 2003. Swift is obviously sourcing juice from various AVAs as the wine notes that it was "Bottled in Napa" but has no AVA listed. The wine checks in at 15.2% alcohol and is a blend of Zin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Charbono (from where? I thought that all of the Charbono vines in CA were replaced long ago) and Petit Sirah. Not sure of the percentages as there is no info on the website but it's clear that Zin controls the blend. Dark purple in the glass, alcoholic nose with berries and clay, black fruit and maple syrup mid-palate, with a decent though tannic, viscous blackberry finish. Frankly I expected more--better fruit expressions and integration, softer tannins, fuller balance. Honestly, I couldn't have a second glass and had to drink the bottle over a couple of days, which took the starch out of the tannins but dulled down the fruit too. Maybe I will give the last bottle away.
Rating: Good.
Cheers, Barrld