What I Did While I Was Away Last Week (with a couple reviews thrown in)

Sorry for the absence.
I know you missed me.
I missed you too!

I was on a much needed vacation. Away from Chicago. Away from work. Away from everything except family and a few friends. 
It was fun. I guess there’s not a ton to report other than that. There were some wines consumed. Some beer. Some Sake. Good times all around.

Tonight I want to talk about a couple wines. A bit of a roundup so to speak. We have a Garnacha, Malbec, and Malbec blend.

So without further ado…

 

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Quadrum – Binny’s Exclusive 2012 Garnacha (Garnacha/Tempranillo blend) – 14% alc – about $10

This first one is a Binny’s Exclusive. Pours Deep red/purple. Full of crisp and bright fruit flavors. Cherry, raspberry, blueberry, a little plum. Moderately drying. Very tasty. Very worth it. End of the Sip and finish taste decidedly of pie crust. Yum.
YES.

 

 

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Michel Rolland – Clos De Los Siete 2009 Malbec – Mendoza, Argentina – 14.5% alc – about $17 – blend of 57% Malbec, 15% Merlot – 15% Cab Sauv – 10% Syrah – 3% Petit Verdot

Looks deep red fading to pink on the edges. Aroma of red and dark fruits (cherries and blueberries mostly with a hint of strawberry). Also detecting oak with small hint of vanilla. Heat is noticeable. 

Taste is of oak and cherries. Thought it needed more time to open up, but this follows through even to the second day. Very dry in an extremely oaky way. Medium body. Pronounced heat. Finish is all heat and oak with some berries. 

Honestly it’s not as bad as this is sounding but it’s certainly not memorable and definitely not worth my $17 again. I’m sorry to say..
NO.

(Pay no attention to the Grenadine in the background….)

 

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Bodegas Y Vinedos – Urban Uco Malbec 2012 – 14.2% alc – Argentina – about $10

Had this awhile ago. Bought it again to take home to my parents’ house to share with them over dinner. Worth it both times.

Bright fruit. Moderately drying. Not incredibly complex but definitely an easy drinker with nice flavor that pleased everyone at the table. 
YES.

 

Next time we are going back to Argentina. And then probably one more time after that… Hmm, maybe we’ll do a double review on those two. Yeah, that’ll be the plan for now.

Soon after, we’ll take a trip to Ohio. It’s gonna be fun, I swear.

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California makes Chardonnay. This one’s pretty good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not usually a Chardonnay drinker, which is precisely why I bought one. There’s quite a range of flavors you can get out of a Chardonnay; dry, buttery, oaky, sweet, tropical, and probably some others. 

I’ll get to where this one stands below..

For now I’m gonna take a side quest to talk about serving temps (feel free to skip to the review if you don’t care about what is to follow..).

Red wines I’ll generally just serve at the temperature they’re stored at. Some would say that’s a smidge too warm but I’ve had good luck with it so far. Whites I’ll usually pull from the fridge and open up and go. I read something interesting the other day alluding to most people drinking white wines too cold so that got me thinking I’d try something different.

So for this guy I put it in the fridge for a bit, then opened it and gave it some time. I like it; works pretty good. Nothing too crazy or mind blowing here. Just leave the bottle out after you serve a white wine that was chilled until you’re ready to call it a night.. more or less.

Anyway, let’s talk about sex. Oh shit. Wine… That song just popped in my head randomly.

 

Mt Eden Vineyards – 2011 Edna Valley Chardonnay – 13.8% alc – Central Coast, California – about $20

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This wine was aged in assorted barrels for 8 months.  Assume all tasting notes are referring to both Day 1 and Day 2 unless otherwise noted.

Poured a pale straw yellow color. Reminded me of many Berlinerweisse beers or possibly an Ardbeg 10 year Scotch. Yup. So there’s that.

On the nose I got tropical fruit first, followed by a slight buttery note. The alcohol heat was extremely well hidden. Hints of vanilla, honey and a dash of ginger came a little later. Almost a floral perfume-y smell popped up every other whiff or so. Eventually candied dried pineapples and maybe apricots. Very nice complexity if you look for it.

The taste was initially sweet. Then the acidity hits you. Dry without FEELING dry. Pretty cool. I’d say this is definitely on the sweeter side of Chardonnays in my limited experience with them. The buttery note (and really it’s just a whisper on Day 1) wafts every so gently under the tropical fruits. The dried fruit flavors hit hardest after the initial tropical juicy pineapple blasts, and that spice sneaks in there a little as well.

Mouthfeel is a solid medium. Nice refreshing consistency. At first I thought it would be better suited to cooler nights such as these we’re enjoying now (well not so much enjoying as we are experiencing, really…), but then it occurred to me this would work really well on a cool summer evening with some friends on a back porch. Probably with chicken or even a bowl of homemade popcorn. At least, this kind of made me crave popcorn…

The finish is also of medium length and pretty warming (in a creep-up-the-back-of-your-throat-after-you-swallow kind of way). Biggest thing that lingers after you swallow is the candied fruit flavors and vanilla with that little hit of ginger spices. after 15 seconds or so there’s a lingering nutty/biscuity flavor as well. Day 2 brought buttered then eventually caramel covered popcorn to the finish line.

So. $20. Refreshing. Complex. Good overall. Buy it if you see it, especially if it’s on sale.

YES

A 2005 Rioja. Classy or Bust?

Tonight we travel back to Spain, as promised. This being a 2005, it’s the oldest wine I’ve had. Yeah, I know, it’s really not that old. I need to get out more.. or spend more money at the store. But a milestone is a milestone and here we are.

It’s a fairly standard blend: mostly Tempranillo (65%), with Garnacha taking up another 25%, and Graciano and Mazuelo rounding out the rest at 5% each.

It’s also a Crianza, so it spends a decent amount of time in Oak and in the bottle before release. This particular wine spend the better part of 2 years in American Oak and then 2 more years hanging out with its makers before being released into the wild.

In my experience with beer and barrels, many times the beer can end up thinner than the maker intended, so I was curious to see what the mouthfeel would be like in this wine. Although, I don’t know the intentions of the winemaker in this particular case.. Anywho it’s just something to think about.

Review!

 

R Lopez de Heredia – 2005 Vina Cubillo Crianza – 13.5% alc – Rioja, Spain – about $23

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I’m the type of person that is extremely influenced by expectations.

For example, I honestly was not expecting to like the movie “The Hangover.” Frankly, it looked stupid to me. However, when I finally got around to seeing it (on DVD no less because I didn’t want to spend the Million Dollars it takes to get into a movie theater to see a movie I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing) I LOVED IT. It was really funny. And I think I really only liked it as much as I did because I didn’t expect to like it at all, when in fact it was a pretty decent comedy by all accounts.

I have plenty of examples to illustrate the other side of the coin as well but we’ll leave them for another time.

I mention all this because I was very very excited to open this bottle. Due to my blooming love affair with Spanish reds and the fact this is the oldest wine I’ve tried thus far, my expectations were quite high. Also, I liked what I had read about it.

(Ed. note:  What Iain is getting at is that if he likes this wine, it must meet or exceed his high expectations.  When he says he is influenced by expectations, he truly means it.  Ask him about the movie Kick Ass.)

 

(Iain Note: As an aside, this has got to be one of the best bargains for the price if you consider the fact this is an 8/9 year old wine for $23.)

So I poured this thing into a glass. This wine started out almost burnt-orange and then became a deep, dark red as it filled the glass. The burnt-orange stuck around towards the outside of the glass. I’d like to think that attributes to the relative age of the wine.

Smelling it I got bright juicy red fruits, a slight sour note, tobacco, what I at first thought of as Cedar that then revealed itself to be that of a Cigarbox, and some spices. Pretty nice and tidy. Day 2 reveals much of the same.

I was kind of disappointed with the first sip, to be honest. It hit me hard with that sour note. I seriously got flashbacks to the last wine I reviewed. My stomach sank.

Then it occurred to me I may not have let it breathe as much as I needed to. It had really only been open 30-40 minutes. So I set the glass down, let the bottle breathe, and watched another episode of Supernatural before going back to it.

That made all the difference. This time, big cherry flavor, then sour and oak intermingling. Spices hit at the beginning and then very end of each sip. The balance of sweet, sour and oak is really nice. Nothing too forward. Nothing out of balance really.

Giving this even more time to breathe (this is especially true on the second evening spent with it), candied oranges and lemons and a slight hint of honey come in somewhere in the midpalate. This is certainly finely crafted.

It is, however, delicate. Put this next to some big Napa Cabs or even many Pinot Noirs and it’s barely a blip on the radar. Give this a night out alone and take your time with it. Get to know it. It’s really got a lot to say.

The mouthfeel is on the lighter side of medium (winemakers choice or all that time in oak?), but it definitely works here.

Finish is medium length with that cigarbox and red fruit carrying the load. The dryness will sneak up on you the more you drink, slowly enveloping the mouth.. all sneaky-like.

YES.

Black Slate lacks faith in itself

Tonight and through the weekend, we’re gonna take a trip through Spain! “Where the beer flows like wine…” 

Oh wait.. That’s Aspen (bonus points if you guess the reference). 

Spain! Where the wine flows like, uh.. well. Wine I guess.

Okay, tonight’s wine is a Priorat by Black Slate. From what I’d read, I was expecting to fall in love with it. Big, full and a lot going on. Hard to argue with that, but does it work (for me at least)?

 

Black Slate – 2011 Porrera Vi de la Vila, Priorat D.O.Q. – 14.5% alc – Porrera, Spain – about $20

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Two nights. 
One bottle.
First night: Pours thick and dark. Deep garnet colored. Syrupy and heavy in the glass. I gotta say it looked like a big wine, which I was anticipating. First sensation that I noticed upon smelling was a big hit of savory soy sauce notes. Those quickly gave way to Luden’s Cherry Cough drops (I felt like I was back in middle school eating those babies like candy), black cherries, menthol and a bit of brambly bushes. It definitely took me off guard.

The taste was sweet up front, with a big hit of balsamic (almost acetone-like) in the middle. Cherries, chocolate.. cough syrup? Drying to the back of the mouth after swallow. The mouthfeel?  Sticky and thick . Medium finish with chocolate covered cherries poking out of the cough syrup. 

And I gotta say, night 2 was much of the same, possibly even falling off a bit more. Just sweet all the way through with that distracting sour note in the middle, then the oak on the back of the tongue. 

This seems like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. I liked the thickness for the most part, except the balance is way off. I really can’t go through more than a couple glasses, to be honest. For some this may be perfectly fine. If you’re a fan of sweet and sour it might hit the right spot for you.

Unfortunately, I can’t justify the price. The $20 would be better spent somewhere else I’m afraid.

NO.

Next time we’ll take a trip through Rioja. Let’s see how that one does over the next few nights.

Cheers!

Here’s lookin’ at you, you Argentinian Cab Sauv…

So it’s no wonder a lot of people that enjoy red wine enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon’s. The issue with the style/varietal is that the cost of admission for the highly rated, big, brash, in-your-face, mind meltingly awesome Napa (and other CA regions’) Cabs can be pretty high. So most of us are left to wade in the shallow end of the pool where the drinking is much thinner and doesn’t have a lot going on as far as complexity is concerned. 

Then we can remember there are actually other places that can make a Cabernet Sauvignon (it came from France for chrissakes) that you don’t have to trade a first-born (or any-born for that matter) to take home. And, as it turns out, Argentina is pretty good at it. For a place I’d usually think of when it comes to their Malbec and grapes of Spanish descent, they can apparently do a pretty nice Cab as well. 

And that brings us around to tonight’s wine, a Cab Sauv from Mendoza, Argentina. 

 

 

BenMarco – 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – 13.9% alc – Mendoza, Argentina – about $18

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As per usual, this was drank over 2 nights to see how it develops over time and whatnot. We have these nifty stopper/pour-er thingys that do a pretty good job of keeping me entertained (I’m rather easily amused, as it were). 

It looks like wine..
Uh, like… red wine?
Wait, that’s not a question.
It looks like wine!
Okay, let me start over..

In the glass it’s a very deep dark purple; kind of inky and…
You know, the description of how a wine looks, to me, is kind of rather silly. Possibly a little redundant. I know it CAN be important. But is it always? Eh. Maybe in a couple years I’ll look back at Past-Me and say, “Man that guy was an idiot.” But for now, I’m gonna stick with this. It looks like red wine. (Also, I’m partially colorblind.) (Ed. note: Iain formally apologizes for that rant. Please forgive him.)

Well at least it smells good! And, seriously, it does. On day 1, first whiff brought lots of baking spices and brown sugar. A little cocoa and dark cherries with some greens barely peeking through. Toward the end of the glass a hint of cinnamon. Not too hot but you could definitely tell it is nearing 14%. Day 2 brought the heat a little more, but not unbearably so. Also, the green notes, which it turns out are more brambly with grasses and dead leaves, are more pronounced on the second day. The fruit grew overnight as well, with the spices and brown sugar taking a back seat. Enticing to say the least.

A few sips and it is pretty clear from both nights that this is a big wine with a small pricetag. Big brown sugar, dark cherries, a savory thing here or there (soy sauce almost), with the baking spices and cocoa at times. Day 2 followed the nose with the bigger fruits to balance the spices. Really really nice. 

In the mouth, it feels silky smooth. Very lush and full, like a medium mouthfeel that’s a little too big for his britches. It’s funny because I didn’t realize how big a mouthfeel I was dealing with on Day 1 until I later drank another red that I knew to have a decent, medium body. Day 2 I’m feeling a little silly cause, damn if this isn’t a big wine. Not syrupy. Just full. And fun. Worth taking out to at least a dinner AND a movie on your next date. 

The finish is pretty tidy as well. And I don’t mean tidy to mean short, just that it keeps the niceness moving along throughout the drink. Long but not unwelcomingly long. Day 1 was immediately drying with lingering cocoa and brown sugar. The only difference on day 2 is a little more fresh fruit and less drying.

Okay, I gotta say, honestly I wasn’t exactly excited about opening this up. It just happened to win the eenie-meenie-mieny-moe of the the night. Well I’m glad this is what I ultimately went with because it’s definitely worth picking up if you see it. Kind of a no brainer when you consider the fullness and complexity for the price. 

YES.

See you next time folks!

Shotgunning some Yes/No’s to pass the time..

Today I’m gonna do some shotgunned mini-review-style Yes’s and No’s as I work my way through tomorrow’s full-write-up review..

The idea here is to go over some recent wine purchases and say a few words for each and give it a rating.
Yup. Reviews. Shotgun style!

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Dreaming Tree – 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – 13.7% alc – Napa Valley, California – about $13:
Light, easy drinking, lots of berries with a hint of vanilla. Does a body good and doesn’t break the bank. 
YES.

Barista – 2012 Pinotage – 13.5% – South Africa – about $14:
Bacon! A little espresso and dark chocolate. Spend a little more time with it and you’ll find ripe dark cherries hidden under those smoked meats. If you want something interesting and want to go against the grain with an oft-maligned varietal, try this Pinotage.
YES.

Santa Ema – 2010 Merlot Reserve – 13.5% – Maipo Valley, Chile – about $13:
I gotta tell you I was avoiding Merlot for awhile. This guy brought me back to the camp with it’s fun vanilla spices and soft, silky texture. Seriously worth a look.
YES.

Bodegas – Luis Canas Crianza 2009 – 14% – Rioja, Spain – about $17:
This made me want to try more spanish wines. Damn. Tempranillo is a special grape when you get it in some wood for awhile. Not the most complex thing out there but what do you want for under $20? Oh, right. A good wine. Yeah, this one’s good. 
YES.

Oro De Castilla – 2011 Hermanos del villar Verdejo – 12.5% – Rueda, Spain – about $15:
Okay, it smells amazing. And then tastes mostly like cat pee. Letdown for sure.
NO.

 

Well there we have it. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s full write up!

First review(s). It’s a Two-fer.

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So to kick things off we have a YES and a NO. You know, just to get into the swing of things and get an idea for format or whatever.

 

A little bit of background for the first wine we’re about to take a look at..

 

I LOVE RIESLINGS.

There’s so much variety winemakers are able to achieve from this…variety… of grape. The range of flavors can be astounding. It’s no wonder a lot of people that are really into wine love rieslings.

There can be a lot to like, and there can, of course, be a lot to not like. Sometimes the petrol notes can get a little overwhelming. Or the dryness can get in the way of the overall balance. For me, I like a riesling with a nice balance between acidity and sweetness and a nice evolving chemistry between different flavors.

This is kind of where I get burned when reading reviews of Rieslings. Many of the top-reviewed, highly-scored Rieslings are a little too dry for me or have too much petrol or minerality going on. I like the peach/apricot/pear flavors to be a little more pronounced.

Riesling to me means Germany. And Mosel. (I love some of the stuff coming out of Ohio too… looking at you Chalet Debonne.) Dr Loosen really knows how to make a Riesling. Work your way through the entry level for about $10 and you’ll see what I mean. But the one I’m about to talk about is a Spatlese release. These Rieslings are a later harvest and usually sweeter wine than something like a Kabinett. Read up on Rieslings. It’s a good time. On to the wine!

 

Dr. Loosen – 2011 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Rieslings Spatlese – 8.0% Alc – Mosel, Germany – About $30

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The nice thing about white wines is you don’t have to give them a lot of time to open up. You just open them and BAM! They’re ready to go. This one is no exception. Overall, my girlfriend and I drank it over a 3 night span. There was no significant drop off or evolution between night one and night two, but it started to fall a bit by night three. Not a big deal but something to keep in mind. Served chilled from our fridge. 

The first thing that hit me when I took a whiff was petrol and rock. A few seconds later and a few more whiffs brought about some of my favorite things about this wine. THE FRUITS! Apricot! Peach! Pears leaping from the glass! Then an almost Creme Brulee/burnt caramel/cream kind of thing. That’s the stuff. Pretty wonderful.

The taste was more of the same, minus the petrol/minerals, plus a really awesome lactic sour note to balance the sweetness. I’m sure the petrol/minteral qualities were there.. somewhere. But it was damn hard to pick those out under the fruit and cream and sour then sweet. Every sip brought a different flavor. A different sensation. From start of the sip through the finish. Just tasty tasty stuff. Flavor and nuances for days.

Worth the price? Yeah. Taste good? Check! 

In a word, this guy’s a YES.

 

Now for Part 2 of the post. Sha-Bam-Bam.

I’ve heard a lot about the big, bold, full-bodied red wines of Douro. So I found one, supposedly. For reds, I’d usually go for something from Spain.. or Argentina. But I was feeling frisky, so here we are. I guess there’s not a lot else to say here so let’s talk about what we have.

 

Post Scriptum – De Chryseia 2010 – Red Blend – Douro, Portugal – 13% Alc. – About $20

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We let it breathe for a little over half an hour before helping ourselves. Very deep, dark violet. Do I smell Oak? Yeah. A lot of it. It’s kind of hiding the dark fruits. Blueberries are the big one. But there’s so much heat it’s pretty difficult to get much else. There’s an interesting savory quality though. Almost like a steak on the BBQ. Makes me hungry for an actual steak. And that might give way to some other flavors from this glass, but I don’t usually pair a lot of wine and food. (Not like I’m against it but it just doesn’t happen often.) 

Right now I’m on day 2 of the bottle. Day 2 brings licorice on the nose. Pretty cool, but is it enough to save it?

Tasting it, the dark fruits come to play first. Then we get the oak/savory qualities. The finish evokes some dark chocolate which is pretty cool (and the licorice hits on the finish on day 2). There’s nice grip actually, but then there’s that heat coming out again. The balance is close but a little off kilter. Another sip and “hello again, Oak.” This guy shakes your hand every time you see him, even if you just talked to him 5 seconds ago.

Is it worth $20? Almost. But not quite. Nice complexity, but the heat is too much. Do I like it? Almost. But not quite. It’s pretty good, but I wouldn’t give it another go.

Unfortunately here, I’m gonna have to go with NO.