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.