Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year! 2010 is going to be great, I can feel it!

Good morning, it's New Years Eve! How cool is that? I personally feel like 2009 has flown by, but luckily I'm not getting the feeling of being caught up in it, more that I've been a willing participant in the ups and downs of the past 365 days. I can only hope 2009 was a great year for everyone, and that 2010 will be that much better.

To avoid a cliche like "this has been one of the most interesting years of my life", I'll try to summarize my experiences in 2009 as those of knowledge-building. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I tried to learn from as many situations, people, things, and other resources as possible. Was it rewarding? Definitively, unequivocally yes!

So, where does that leave me and my relationship with wine? Looking back, I tried a lot of wine and finally started this blog, something I'd talked and dreamed about for a while. Also, I started to grasp the importance of using social media to connect with other people in the wine world. Perhaps more importantly, I started being proactive in seeking out wine-related content. The amount out there is amazing, and it's a lot of fun to read what other people are thinking and drinking. Looking back (hey look, a cliche!), I can honestly say that the content available is usually of good to great quality. Perhaps we can liken it to a winery like Mondavi. There are many levels of Mondavi wines, from the Woodbridge cheap stuff to the high end Mondavi Reserve Cabernet. Then again, maybe the comparison won't work so well because content publishers don't really have a price. Oh well, I really tried to fit wine into that somehow! My point is that the amount of content available is huge, the quality varies, but there's something for everyone. Maybe that can be a summary of wine in general? We all drink what we like, and I hope we all get to continue that in 2010.

To continue with the question in the above paragraph, I looked back on 2009 as a learning experience, a way to get my feet a bit wet in the massive world of wine. And seriously, it's massive. Don't underestimate what the possibilities are or what you can do within that world. I leave 2009 happy with the wines I love, eager to learn more about wine, eager to keep networking, and very eager to keep producing content...Even if only five people read it!

For 2010, I did make some wine resolutions. First and foremost, I'm going to do a better job of remembering the wines I've tasted over the year, I didn't do that this year and it's left me with a feeling of sadness. Originally this entry was going to highlight some of the best stuff I'd tasted in 2009, instead it's a somewhat rambling piece about what wine meant to me last year. Next, I need to work on this blog a lot more, adding fresh, original content that'll keep you coming back for more. Call it finding my niche, call it building my brand, but it's got to be done. Third, expanding my knowledge, taking some cooking classes and wine-pairing classes would benefit me immensely. You not only add experience and vocabulary, you add skills and perspective, two things I believe are critical in establishing your content and relevant to wine lovers. Finally, I need to visit more wineries and just do more wine related traveling this year. I've got plans for a couple of trips to the East Coast in April and June, hopefully attending the big Wine Bloggers Conference in June as well, and going to more wine tastings wherever I can. Guess the new car I want is going to have to wait till 2011!

I hope to write my first blog of 2010 tomorrow or Saturday, after tasting some more wine. Please have a wonderful, safe and happy New Year. Thank you again for reading, see you next year!

Beau Carufel

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It's the holiday why not go camping? Oh and drink wine too!

I just looked and it's been a ridiculous amount of time since I updated, over two weeks. What's going on here! Apparently one of my (many) 2010 resolutions will be to update my blog at least once a week.
However, it's not like I was idle, just sitting there not updating. I worked a ton, drank some wines, got some great editorial feedback on my burgeoning blog, and had a fun holiday season with my family and friends.
The editorial feedback was pretty valuable, as were the things I was able to learn from people like Gary Vaynerchuk. I watched some of his videos that didn't so much deal with wine as with what you have to do to reach out to people, create connections and build your brand. For us in the blogging world, it's critical to build that brand. Gary's approach seems to advocate building those connections, keeping your content fresh and original, and working your ass off. So what I have been trying to do is integrate that message with some other things I've learned, like creating that niche to get your voice out, the value of an original approach, and just plain writing well.
Before I go into what I drank for the Christmas Day stuff, I do want to post up something and maybe make my readers aware of it. There's a conference in June, in Washington that's called the Wine Bloggers Conference. Basically it's open to anyone who writes (blogs) about wine and features some great ways for both beginners and advanced bloggers to network, learn, taste, eat, and just get really deep into the wine world and more specifically, the ever changing wine blogging world. The reason I'm writing this out is because there are some scholarships available to people who might not be able to afford the airfare or hotels or the registration fee to this event. I know times are tough for most of us but they could really use some donations to increase the amount of scholarships and truly open the event up to as many people as possible. The link is here, and that's really about the extent of my solicitation to you. They'd appreciate any amount and you'd definitely get some press.

So, onwards to the review!
2005 Parson's Flat Padthaway Shiraz/Cabernet
(image credit to

There you have it, that's what I drank on Christmas Day, out in the Anza Borrego State Park with my Dad and younger Brother. We used to camp all the time, going back to our days in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. This year we'd planned to camp in the winter, when it was cooler, and the trip ended up falling on the 25th and 26th of December. It wasn't a huge thing, just load up the truck with supplies and a bbq and head out for the night. Our menu wasn't even that fancy, we brought burgers, stuff for sandwiches, chips, beer and wine (duh!), along with various other smaller things. This would be a big departure from the somewhat fancier Christmas dinners I was used to but it seemed fun and different, which always appeals to me.
Now I won't take a lot of time to describe the trip, because after all, this is a wine blog! I would like to share a couple of things though. First off, I was amazed at the fact that out there, the world is in basically five colors, and three of them are shades of brown/gray. The landscape is so austere, rugged, but also lonely and almost primeval. You could easily think that it's looked the same for 1000 years, maybe 10,000. We hiked through rough country, across terrain that varied from semi-truck sized boulders to soft ravines of broken granite sand. Cacti were everywhere, you really felt surrounded by desolation, that feeling pressed down on us like a giant hand. I was moved and reflective of a few things, but this also isn't a philosophy blog.

So after we retired back to camp, it was time to relax, enjoy beer, listen to the Chargers game and prep dinner. The bottle of wine, 2005 Parsons's Flat from Padthaway was opened about two hours before dinner was ready, to give it some time to breathe. As soon as I pulled that cork, I was struck by big fruity aromas, like a mixed-berry pie! Pie that maybe had a bit of blackberry and boysenberry in it, less on the strawberry. There was some raspberry too, and a dollop of vanilla, the oaky kind though. Vanilla notes always make me think, can we describe it better? I want to say it's something like a fresh cut board quickly dipped in a jar of vanilla, then held about six feet away from you. Does that make sense? You get the stronger vanilla note but also a subtle undertone of oaky-woodsey kind of smells.

Okay so enough with trying to wow you with my super-cool wine geek references. We finally got the burgers done (thanks Dad!!) and poured cups (yes I said it, cups) of the stuff. Another sniff left me with the same expression except maybe a small bit of that cocoa powder smell from really high end hot chocolate. Cool! This was going to be interesting. Right as soon as I tasted, that ripe fruit was back, but it was well balanced. What struck me as interesting was the firmness of the tannins on the palate. I suggested it was the mid-palate but my dad didn't think so, and well he's got 30+ years in the business so yea I was off the mark. What I felt though was this firm tannic streak right in the middle of the tasting procession, that is to say it broke up the lush, soft fruit notes and gave the wine a backbone. That was good because the burgers were juicy, cheesy and cooked to perfection. The finish was clean, with some lingering tannin and maybe blackberry and almost this tarry quality, which I felt was rather interesting.

What did I think of it? Well here's the thing, it usually retails for around $40 U.S. I paid $14.99 for it. Would I buy it again for $15? Yes! Definitely, at that price it gets an A- from me, a really tasty wine that pairs well with great food. Now, would I be happy if I'd spent $40 on it? No way, it was too simplistic at that price, overwrought with the juicy fruit notes, the tannins weren't as silky as they should be, and there was too much oak all through the wine. If the wine was $40, I'd give it a C+/B-. What a difference $25 can make right? There you have it, a fun Christmas experience that hopefully interweaves some nature and some wine. My dad said it was the perfect wine to have outdoors while grilling burgers, and I think he hit the nail on the head.
I hope everyone had a stellar Holiday Season and will have a great New Years, I for one am really excited about 2010 for a bunch of reasons. I'll cover that in a future blog entry. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, I appreciate it to no end.

Beau Carufel

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Experimenting in Tasting Wines..2008 Sauvignon Republic Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc

After my last column where I mentioned The Good Grape as one of my preferred wine blogs, Jeff Lefevere (anyone else think that's a lot of e's in his name?) was cool enough to actually post a comment on my page. As a total novice, I was honestly floored. If you read my response to it, you'll see that I really have nothing to say in reply. What he said though was really interesting: "Second, I would encourage you to completely re-imagine the tasting note / sensory evaluation process. Blogs are great for experimentation and doing something new, unique and novel will an asset to both you and your readers."
Ok, that's REAL advice from a pro, thanks again Jeff! Luckily, today my brain was engaged and I began to think about this, and to ask the question "What can I do to re-imagine the tasting note/sensory evaluation process?"
At the risk of sounding cavalier about wine blogging, my first inclination was to screw around with the methodology of tasting, the whole "swirl, sniff, sip, spit" thing. What if I blindfolded myself? How about not sniffing the wine (kind of hard, I tried)? What if I didn't spit! (Yes, that would be actually pretty awesome)? Expanding on those concepts certainly is fun, but does it provide value to the reader, who might actually want to hear about a wine and might actually want to see if I liked it or not?
None of them appear to. So let's go back to square one, re-imagining the tasting note/sensory evaluation process. Tasting notes are just a grouping of words to describe what you taste right? Hmmm, I could use different words or references, like the always awesome Gary Vaynerchuck. But see, I'd just be copying him, not to mention doing an invariably poor job. He's crushed it (to use his words) in that department. What else is possible? Something that's out there, but not too far out there so as to be stupifyingly obscure.

Anyways I tasted a wine tonight too, the 2008 Sauvignon Republic Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc...

It's quite good, and ridiculously cheap at $6.99. Great acid here, it's balanced and not overwhelming (hello N.Z. I'm talking to you). Beyond that lies a happy place of ruby red grapefruit, wet grass, wet rocks (seriously!), and some passion fruit or guava, can never really tell the two apart unfortunately. It's a quick finisher (that's what she said!..wait..damn it...) but because of that balance I alluded to earlier, things just seem to work. The wine also smells pretty good because you get all sorts of floral aromas, fresh cut grapefruit, meyer lemon, almost a hint of like whipped cream too or lemon meringue cream where it's not super sweet but still is sweet enough. Upon sipping it again, I detect a bit of that fleshy, almost creamy character on the mid palate too. Oh and I changed my description, it's more of a key lime pie thing going on, but one where the person who was making it got drunk off mint juleps and added 50% more limes than necessary. I even want to say there's something oddly persimmon-like, I tasted dried persimmon slices the other day and this vaguely reminds me of them.

So yea, very very solid A- for this wine. I really like it! In fact I'm probably going to buy some more. Now if you're read the other blogs I've written you know at the beginning I usually give background and detail about the wine. This time I didn't, I rambled on about something. Your background is this, Check it out, they are doing some really awesome stuff with a varietal that's near and dear to my heart. We're done for now, I'll post some more stuff this weekend and keep thinking about the advice Jeff gave me. As always, please post comments, questions, whatever. Let me know what you like and don't like, I deeply appreciate feedback. I also deeply appreciate free wine samples. If you want to follow me on twitter, I'm @UCBeau and will of course reciprocate.

Beau Carufel

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I read something interesting this afternoon, and it got me thinking...

After I logged into my google reader account to see what some of my favorite wine bloggers were talking about, I read this blog post by Jeff Lefevere, the guy over at Good Grape. After reading the blog he linked to, right here, I got to thinking about this potentially complex question. Now I tend to agree with what Jeff Lefevere posted about the 10 Truths about Wine Blogging. Just posting reviews of what you tasted (like I've been doing) is indeed a recipe for "zzzz" (like what you've been doing). So what I started wondering was how someone starting out can both blog about what they drank last night AND provide something relevent, i.e. something worth reading in a sea of blogs. A lot of what I see from wine bloggers is basically filed under two topics: "industry news" and "wine tasting/reviewing". There is indeed some commentary, and some of it is quite good, but from what I've read, there really isn't a huge amount of original content, especially if the commentary is about the aforementioned industry news. What then is the best way to differentiate yourself from this seemingly standard format?
Sadly, I don't know if I have an answer yet, since I'm so new to both reading blogs and blogging myself. Most of what I post is purely stream-of-conciousness, versus writing an essay, editing it, then putting it online for everyone to look at. I can however share what I did think of when the question I asked first reared it's Burgundy colored head. Call me naive and I am, but I still think that a blog with original reviews has a place in the crowded field (Lefevere estimates over 1000 wine blogs out there). Writing about wine should be based on your passion for it, therefore I really think wine reviews should be fun for the reader. Using esoteric and/or overly technical terms confuses people, makes them not want to: A. come back to your blog and B. seek out what you blogged about. Also important is posting actual reviews instead of short, one paragraph blurbs about a wine. There are some people who do that, or worse, just copy/paste from the winery's site! That's utterly ridiculous, especially when you're reviewing cheap wines like Yellowtail, Penfolds or Barefoot type stuff. On the other side of the coin, original commentary on what's going on in the wine industry (like the current controversy about Champagne reducing output to keep pricing in place -- pas bien!) will serve to both educate and stimulate your readers, right? In any case, that's what I came up with, and I'll try to add more commentary about what's actually going on in the biz. I'm lucky to have some pretty deep connections and data sources so hopefully I can provide some unique insights to my readers. All four of you..Wow this might have been my shortest blog yet, and as usual I welcome all comment and constructive criticisms. I'll be back later in the week with some more snore-inducing reviews ;-)

Beau Carufel

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sur Lie sounds so sexy! Muscadet is a sexy wine! Here's why.

Hi again! Ya, my bad, it's been almost a week since I updated this. Totally on me and I will get better. Hell, I'm even thinking of branching out and posting more than just wine reviews, like stuff on travel and sports, even the cooking I try to do! But in any case here's a shoutout to Gray over at Wing and a Prayer Blog, he goes places I only dream about. Great writer, you should read it if you love travel as much as I do.
Anyways enough with the brief aside! You're here for one reason..well maybe more than one cause you may have accidentally stumbled upon this little blog while looking for real blogs about wine. But in any case how about we review a wine I just tasted? By "just tasted" I of course mean a glass is sitting right in front of me. What I'm tasting tonight is a Muscadet Sevre et Maine. It's French, from Muscadet which lies close to the coast along the Loire River. The grape is commonly called "Melon" but it's fancy name is "Melon de Bourgogne". Wikipedia has a surprisingly accurate and well written piece on Muscadet so I recommend going here to check it out. It costs 7$ at Trader Joe's. Some other pertinent info would be it's from Chateau Des Cleons and is imported by Plume Ridge out in the city of Industry here in California.

Onwards to the review!
2008 Chateau Des Cleons Muscadet Sevre Et Maine
So, why did I buy this wine? Well for a few reasons. One, I've had Muscadet wines before and loved the bracing acidity and light body, but with the wonderful bouquet and complexity good ones have. Second, the region is very close to my favorite part of France, the Brittany coast. Third, it was priced right and hey, I buy (so far) all the wines I blog about so price does come into play.
This little gem was pulled out of the refrigerator about an hour before I poured it, to give it time since I hate serving white wines at bone-chillingly cold temperatures. In the glass it's got a really neat pale color, somewhere between that clear/almost grayish tint of a pinot grigio to the light light straw colors of a Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc. At around 11.5% alcohol, it's definitely light and perfect for a hot day..which today is decidedly not (for San Diego at least).
First impressions from the sniff would be a light perfume-y aroma, lime/citrus, florals, hints of pear, and some yeasty notes that are really wonderful. They give it substance, it doesn't just vanish after a half second in the nose. I'm impressed! Obviously the next logical step would be to taste it, which I did. When it first hits your palate, there's splendid acidity, like a fine brush across your mouth. It really cleanses things but in a really refreshing way. I tasted grassy notes, some minerality, definite lemon peel, again that fleshy/yeasty sensation, maybe a hint of pear/green apple too. The finish is absolutely razor sharp, it's gone in a few seconds. Before you go thinking that's a negative though, consider this. It's a dry white, it should in fact have a very quick, clean finish! That's the point, to cleanse your palate and get it ready for the next bite of food. This Muscadet does that quite well, yet also leaves me wishing for another sip right away. That's also big in my book, because the savory taste sensation is one of my absolute favorites. Maybe that's why I really love Japanese food so much. Suffice it to say I'm thoroughly impressed with the wine. It hits all the required points really well in my opinion.

Now I get to give it a cheesy rating. After a few reviews I'm still pondering my system, and would absolutely love some feedback from my (small amount of) viewers. Does this setup work for you? Is it easy to understand and more importantly, does it help you trust what you've read from me? Anyways if you care to answer those questions, I'd love to hear about it. This wine gets a solid A- from me. It's not perfect by any means, it's not "amazing" or "enthralling" or whatever. It's really really good though. If I were working for a wine rag, I'd say between 88 and 90 points. That's just my limited experience with Muscadet wines though, and I really need to taste a bunch more. (Free samples anyone?) If you can get this particular one, I say do it. Try it out, see what it tastes like to you, I sure enjoyed it. Even though it apparently isn't the season, according to the experts, for these kinds of wine, I still believe they have a place at your table. Fall and Winter aren't all about mutton stew and rib roasts, you gotta have other things in your diet and this would pair well with a lot of things. Some suggestions I have are: grilled fish with lighter sauces, salads with creamy dressings, mushroom turnovers, clam chowder, any other shellfish. There, I bet the real chefs out there are rolling their eyes and dismissing me but who cares. Wine and food are all about what YOU like to cook and eat, no one else. That's it for now, I'll be tasting some wines this weekend and will do my best to write them up.

Beau Carufel

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pinot time baby! 2006 Lost Canyon Las Brisas Vineyard Los Carneros

Hey! Well it's been way less than a week since my last review but I picked up something so tasty I really wanted to share it. Now you may be asking "Umm Beau, why don't you review every wine you drink?" and that's legit. My answer though is: Because sometimes I don't want to. There, the unvarnished truth of the matter. That being said, I actually enjoy writing these reviews. They're fun for me and hopefully somewhat entertaining for you. I may not be a Gary Vaynerchuck or James Molesworth but I can certainly try to communicate to you how a wine makes me feel. BTW if you're at all into wine, google those two. Seriously. Anyways on to some backstory about this wine, I bought it from my old pals at San Diego Wine Company because they got a steal of a deal on it from their distributor. Presumably the winery wanted to vacate the old vintage and move towards the 2007. I paid 12$ for it, popped into my wine fridge for a while, and "found" it a few days ago.

Onwards to the review!

2006 Lost Canyon Las Brisas Vineyard Los Carneros Pinot Noir
You read the backstory, where I bought this and when. I admit it wasn't my Thanksgiving wine, instead I had something else that if I remember enough of, I'll blog about. This little gem is a different animal. I opened it and poured a small taste, noting color and opacity. It really looks as a Pinot should, light, almost delicate. That was my first clue that it might be something I really liked. I read the little blurb on the back of the bottle but didn't do much research beyond that, so I think this stuff is made from sourced fruit, not a winery-owned vineyard. I may be wrong though.

On the nose, immediate red cherry, spicebox, hints of oak and strawberry. Woohoo! That's cool! Just the barest touch of heat from the 14.5% alcohol but it's ok, if things are in balance, heat doesn't matter too much (to me at least). Great feeling of acidity, finally something that tastes like it doesn't have Syrah added. So now we taste it. BOOM! Acidity!!! Very nice, hints of toasty it's aged in American Oak right? Geez that acid is staying with me. I'm also picking up some dried cherry/cranberry aromas. Maybe even a touch of bittersweet chocolate. That kind that fancy people use for baking, but when us normal folks try it we make all scrunched up faces like it's not good at all and we've been fooled. You know what I mean? This is certainly interesting wine but as of now I'm feeling like it's a bit unbalanced, there's way too much emphasis on the acid and maybe even heat! My palate is feeling a bit awkward. Okay there's a hint of strawberry, maybe raspberry too but I really doubt it. I kinda like this stuff though, if for nothing else that it's so atypical of the California Pinots I've been trying lately. If anyone out there's reading right now, you may be confused. That's ok, I am too. Should I like this wine or not? It's tasty in some ways, refreshingly different, but how honest is it as a Pinot? Don't get me wrong, there's some lush, luxurious velvely textural qualities across the mid-palate which I really enjoy. Those are the strawb/raspberry notes I think I tasted earlier. Right, ok I can be somewhat decisive and say I do like this wine. Really, it's pretty cool and I'd actually recommend it for 12$.

Ok we get to the part where I score the wine. Overall, because it's priced so well I'm going with A-, that's A minus to you folks. It's a well done expression of Carneros Pinot, but it's got flaws. Noticeably it's got way too much heat and some unbalanced acid to deal with. Keep in mind though, I'm tasting this without accompanying food. Yea, I'm that hardcore, just the bottle, glass, and me. Would I recommend this? Yes I would, easily and happily. Would I buy a case? No, definitely not. A few more bottles to have with the fish, like Salmon or something. If you see this wine for 12$, buy a couple of bottles. You may enjoy it. That's about all I can say at this point, please feel free (as always) to email me with concerns or whatever. And as a small reminder, yes I do accept winery samples and yes they get a fair shot here. All wines do. Take care, talk to you pretty soon as I've got more wines to try!

Beau Carufel 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Another wine! 2007 Olivier Leflaive Les Setilles

Hi again, I'm sorry it's been over a week! Things have been pretty hectic at work but that's no excuse. Tonight we're going to try a white Burgundy I bought at San Diego Wine Co. a few months ago, but just now got around to tasting. Now, I'm a huge fan of Chardonnay from Burgundy..Seriously..I'm always down to taste them, talk them up, critique them (not that I'm a real critic) and just generally enjoy them. Here's why; to me they embody what Chardonnay is without the "effects" so often added in other regions (California, I'm talking to you!!). They don't use heavy doses of oak, they avoid the giant butterball taste (malolactic fermentation) and therefore to me are more purely expressive of terroir and of what Chardonnay can taste like.

Onwards to the review!
2007 Olivier Leflaive Les Setilles
This beauty was opened a solid four hours before I tasted it. Yikes you say? I say..well..I say I forgot I opened it. Then I stuck it back in the fridge. So about 40 minutes before I tasted it, I pulled it out and poured it into a lovely Riedel (spelling?) Chardonnay glass. So a little bit about this wine. The grapes are sourced from Puligny-Montrachet (score!) and Mersault (SCORE!!) and then vinified in oak for eight months, followed by eight more months in stainless steel. Yea, you're drooling but it's cool, I am too. Let's see how it did.

On the nose, I got immediate hints of buttery richness, which to me screams partial malolactic fermentation. This isn't bad though, because right after that I picked up some delicate pear and peach notes, hints of lime peel, maybe some other citrus too but I can't be sure. Definite green-ness like one of those wheat grass thingies you see at Jamba Juice. I was impressed and pretty happy to smell these things, since they make my olfactory senses happy. When I sipped it, I noticed some minerality tastes, like a flint or shale thing going on. Very cool! Also there was the yummy acidity on the finish, making it a clean wine, compared to the Chards that just linger and linger making your palate feel almost oily. Some of the other notes I picked up included lime, a hint of oak, Granny Smith (should I capitalize that?) apple and a definite bit of buttery texture. I'm searching for other ways to describe the wine but am coming up a bit short. Basically what I'd tell someone who asked me was that it's a very well made white Burgundy. It's clean, has some fleshy undertones (from the malolactic treatment) but also keeps things light and is more terroir driven than a lot of California Chards. I really liked this stuff, I'll be picking up a couple more bottles especially for $14. The one thing I'd maybe nick it for was the quick finish, I would like a bit more of a lingering note of the lime/lemon/butter notes since they really contrasted each other in a balanced way on my palate. Oh and now that I remember, 13% alcohol, a touch on the high side for my preferences in white wines. I'd prefer my reds to be that high but not my whites.

So on to the admittedly childish scoring system. This wine gets an A-. Why? Well as I stated above, it's delicious with only a couple of very minor dings. I am really happy it was $14, and would gladly pay $20 for it. If you see it out there, I highly recommend picking up a bottle, then emailing me whether you liked it or not. It was better than a B+ wine because I felt the added value was there, i.e. I'd pay more than the list price for it. I know, it's a subjective way of scoring, but so is every other way too, I promise you. Next time we'll taste a red, I already have a couple in mind I'd love to share with you, my three or four readers. Also, I'm hoping to get a guest columnist in here to post a review of his/her own. That's all I'll say for now, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and keep drinking the good stuff!

Beau Carufel

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2008 Lugana "San Benedetto" Zenato Mamma Mia!

Hello again, I'm back with another wine review. This one will be an Italian white that's a blend of Trebbiano and Garganega. I'll be honest, I've never knowingly had Garganega and I didn't even know what this was a blend of before I tasted it. Maybe that'll help take some bias out of the review, as I wasn't specifically searching out some characteristics of the Trebbiano grape. So, near as I can tell, this wine is made by Zenato (it's a Leonardo Locascio selection) and it's from Lugana in the Lombardy region of Italy.

Onwards to the review!
Zenato "Lugana" San Benedetto 2008

I pulled this out of the fridge about 50 minutes before I poured a glass, and it was opened when I removed it. In the glass, it's got a nice straw color, reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc more than a Pinot Grigio (I say it looks like Trebbiano!) There were a fair amount of legs but they were rather thin, but this one clocks in at 13% alcohol.

On the nose, I got citrus (think grapefruit mixed with key lime pie), pineapple, a hint of apricot, some lively golden delicious apple..all the smells were bright, vibrant and made me happy. They were pretty well balanced and seemed to flow seamlessly into one another, something I do look for in the wines I drink. After sipping, what struck me was how round the wine felt, with a little bit of a lingering finish. Definitely more citrus/acid than I smelled. There's some fleshy carrythrough with the apricot but the apple notes I smelled seemed to turn into the tart granny smith variety. Definite mineral undertones (yea I read the guys in Oregon who said minerality wasn't really in wines) but it may have been more of a shale type flavor. Yum! I like this stuff! I personally didn't detect any oak, which was cool. Sweet stone fruits hit you right at mid-palate, and once again I felt everything was well integrated, the flavors dovetailed nicely into one another.

My "score" if you can call it that is a B+. This wine cost me 12$ over at San Diego Wine Company, and I'm perfectly happy with it. I'd buy it again to pair with the appropriate dishes, and don't feel like I wasted my money. When drinking it, I felt I got exactly what I paid for, a tasty 12$ dry white wine. There you go, it didn't wow me but it definitely didn't suck either.

There you have it, a tasty, light but fleshy Italian white wine. Next time I'll be doing a red, maybe something turkey themed, maybe not! I have a lot stuff to go through. I got an email asking whether I got any wines as samples and whether I'd disclose that. To date I've received no samples at all, but I do welcome any that any winery would like to send me. I will fully disclose they are in fact samples, as well as give the winery's suggested MSRP. They'll be critiqued just the same way I'd do a wine I paid money for. So if anyone out there's reading this and wants to send some samples my way, by all means do it, I'm open to anything! Thanks and I'll be in touch soon.

Beau Carufel

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My First Review!! Vina Herminia Rioja Crianza 2004

Oh boy this is it!! My first wine review on my own personal blog. To say I'm excited but nervous would be completely accurate. How will you, the reader(s) react? Some quick explanations might be in order. First off, I bought this wine at San Diego Wine Company. Second, I'm a big big Spanish wine fan. I absolutely LOVE the Juan Gil stuff, and will drink basically anything from Jumilla or Priorat. That might give impressions of bias but I'm trying my best to be objective. Last, I'm in no way a professional, as if you couldn't already tell. This is just my impressions of a wine I bought with my own money to enjoy.

So on to the good stuff. I am testing out various ways of ratings but right now kind of like the grading system used in my school days. A, B, C, D, F ; various plusses and minuses in there of course. So the "benchmark" wine would be a C. I'd expect something solid, good in terms of price:quality, but nothing exceptional. In short, an average wine getting an average grade. 

Onwards to the review!!

Vina Herminia Rioja Crianza 2004

This was opened about one and a half hours before I tasted it, but it was not decanted and I didn't use one of those fancy aerators.
In the glass, it's a beautiful dark ruby color, absolutely gorgeous. You can tell there's some heft to the wine, but it isn't as crazy-dense as a Petit Sirah or something to that effect. The blend here is 85% Tempranillo and 15% Grenache (Garanacha), seemingly a standard blend in Rioja, unless of course the wine is 100% Tempranillo.

So on the nose, I immediately was hit by a spicy aroma, then in quick succession some black fruits like cherry or even cassis, earthy notes, oak, and some alcohol heat. Nothing out of the ordinary and everything was in a nice balance. I enjoyed sniffing it a few more times before deciding I had to taste it, after all I'd be doing a huge disservice by not sipping it..Right?

On the palate, I was struck by the soft, round tannins. They were absolutely pleasant, nothing too crazy and nothing too soft either. Again there was balance in how the tannins presented themselves. Right after that, I again got some spicy notes, black cherry, raspberry, leather, and American Oak manifested as a subtle vanilla tone. This is where the wine was a bit unbalanced, veering towards the black cherry and leather, with barest hints of oak and raspberry, along with just nuances of a spice. The finish was lightning quick, actually a bit disappointing to me. I wonder if I should have decanted it or aerated it. Then again, Jancis Robinson called it a "young but fully mature Rioja" right here. I know it doesn't matter much but I think she's spot on.

So there you go, my first real review. I'd give this wine a B-. It's solid, great price point, and there are some very pleasant aspects but it definitely didn't blow me away or make me want to go buy another bottle. It was definitely better than average but just didn't excite me the way I'd hoped.

I hope you enjoyed this post, please comment (be nice!) and let me know what you thought. If I'm wrong on things, tell me so I don't do it again. If you like what I wrote, please give me a shout out. Thanks and I'll be in touch soon! Oh and sorry about the horrid picture quality, that was taken with my Blackberry versus a proper digital camera.

Beau Carufel

Friday, November 6, 2009

My first blog! (sort of)

Hi! This is my first attempt at making a blog. We shall see if it succeeds or fails, of course I wish it to succeed. I think I should introduce myself first, so you know who's writing these words. I'm Beau. Currently I'm 26, living in San Diego and work for a somewhat unique company. For job security reasons, I won't name them but I'll mention they're a nationwide group of neighborhood stores. In the interests of full disclosure though, I will mention I have worked in the wine business for 7 years (no, that isn't a typo). Even at my current job I'm involved in wine to an extent, though much less than I'd like to be.

So what should you expect to see (on a somewhat regular basis)? I love many things, but few more than: Wine, Travel, Sports, Cars and Food. Those are what I imagine most of my blogs will be about, and I promise to make every effort to update as frequently as possible. Please remember that the opinions posted here are mine and mine alone, they do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else. If I quote someone else, I'll fully disclose that.

Well let's keep it concise for my first time (that's what she said!) and leave it at that, expect the first real blog post to come within the next few days after I taste some wines I bought today at San Diego Wine Company. I highly recommend them if you live in San Diego and love to get super deals on wine.