We hope you had many pleasant sips and hearty laughs with friends and family over the holiday weekend. As you might have assumed, the Terroirist cell opened many bottles last week, many of which were American offerings and most of which impressed!
Read on to see what we had. If something wowed you over the weekend, let us know in the comments!
On Sunday, my brother and I got together for some pizza and opened a 2008 Sandler Wine Company Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands. I’m a huge fan of the wines Ed Kurtzman makes (in addition to Sandler, he’s the winemaker behind August West, Freeman, and Roar), so my expectations were high. And sadly, I was a bit disappointed. The wine was certainly tasty – super tart raspberries, cherries, and even some nectarines, along with a good dose of baking spices – but it lacked the depth and concentration I’ve come to expect from Sandler wines.
On Tuesday, Robby Schrum and I visited Medium Rare – a DC restaurant that exclusively serves steak frites – and brought a 1973 Freemark Abbey Petite Sirah York Creek. The wine was stunning – easily one of the most memorable (and tastiest) wines I’ve ever had. For a solid 45+ minutes, the wine was focused, precise, and full of life. Lots of beautiful red and dark fruits, along with tobacco, sweet herbs, Christmas spices, dried plums, and more. The wine started to become flabby after about an hour, but overall, it was phenomenal.
On Thanksgiving, I failed to abide by my own guidelines (I’ll blame the host!), but fortunately, a number of different wines were opened. We pulled corks on a 2008 Becker Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; a 2009 Arista Winery Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard; a 2008 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Klopp Ranch; a 2007 Woodenhead Syrah Russian River Valley; and a 2007 Novy Family Wines Syrah Russian River Valley.
The Becker Vineyards Cab was fun because it came from Texas Hill Country, but I wasn’t a huge fan. The Oak Monster was on steroids, and the finish had an off, banana-like flavor. The Pinot Noirs from Arista and Merry Edwards were phenomenal – both were textbook examples of wines that pull off power and finesse. The Woodenhead Syrah, sadly, was terribly corked (and no, I didn’t try the saran-wrap trick). I’ve probably had this Novy Syrah a dozen or more times, and it never disappoints. It’s opulent wine — dominated by bold blackberries and black olives – and it’s always delicious.
Lots of great wine and even greater times for which to give thanks. This year’s turkey day treats were as follows: 2007 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf Nahe Spaetburgunder ‘R’, a spicy, heady Pinot Noir full of darker black cherry, clove and plum notes. As expected, this needed time to unravel; once it did, it dominated the palate with punchy all-spice and brambly fruit.
Alongside the German Pinot Noir — the 2001 Weingut Buerklin-Wolf Pfalz Riesling “GC” Gaisboehl, a vineyard in the heart of the Pfalz wine-growing region owned and farmed solely by the team at Buerklin-Wolf. We served it from magnum, which significantly affected the youthful vivacity of this decade-old Riesling. It was fresh and full of lemon and citronella oil aromas. I’d characterize the palate presence as sandpaper citrus: lots of torque, lots of expansive secondary notes of honey and dried apple, and a crunchy finish you could almost sink your teeth into. A real food wine, and perfect with the IR-cooked turkey.
We served another red from magnum, Domaine Monpertuis’ 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Secret de Gabriel Vieilles Vignes. I was curious to see how the relatively low 14.5% abv in a 2007 cuvee speciale would manifest. This was certainly a towering wine, full of poise and restraint, but far from over-the-top. This had all of 2007 in spades, along with the structure of 2005 and the red fruit precision of 2006. I was impressed by the concentration of red fruit characteristics — lots of ripe cherry, pomegranate and Twizzler-ish strawberry (minus the overt sweetness) — and their marriage to the depth and butcher shop-meatiness that often comes with more “purple,” lofty old-vine bottlings. This is probably one of the most rooted, Provencal-inspired 100% Grenache wines I’ve tasted from Chateauneuf-du-Pape in a long time.
Friday evening’s leftovers met with the following line-up: 2008 Manos Negras Pinot Noir Patagonia Argentina, an incredible expression of high-altitude fruit, confirming my suspicions that Patagonia may actually be as promising as the pundits would have us believe. Huge cranberry and cherry attack that carries enough tidal force to cascade into the finish, dragging with it some earthy notes of sage and leather. I was very impressed, particularly by the $14 price tag. We opened one more 2008, this one from the other hemisphere –Vietti’s 2008 Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne. It was food wine to the core; in fact, so much so that I didn’t actually care for it on its own. It was the archetypal expression of vino da tavola, built for rich tomato-based sauces and hearty pasta.
The last two wines were, once again, Grenache-heavy wines. The first, a proprietal Eric Solomon wine from Spain, was pretty solid for the price. The 2010 Altovinum Calatayud Evodia was marked initially by a scary, new world mocha characteristic that fortunately let off after an hour or so. The aromas eventually meandered toward black toffee and maple notes, then toward more pronounced raspberry and blackberry syrup. While this may seem almost gimicky and cloying, the wine itself, flavor-wise, remained barely within the borders of restraint. A nice high-altitude pepper and caraway charasteristic joined lock-step with notes of beef and soy. I liked this, at least up until the point when it started to fall apart. Not a lot of structure to this. The second wine was the D66 Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes Grenache, produced by Dept. 66, which I believe is a Dave Phinney/Orin Swift project. It’s produced in Maury in southern France’s Roussillon appellation. Not surprisingly, the D66 shares many of Maury’s more famous dessert-wine characteristics. Schist-centic notes of mulberry and licorice dominate the nose and palate of this transplanted Cali paradigm. The D66 would have been a great candidate for fortification, its tannin and acid-rich structure and ri(iiiii)pe fruit underscoring parallels with the great fortifieds of Portugal’s Douro Valley. For those who enjoy pleasure over place, this would be a grand table companion…just keep the candles away.
I enjoyed a nice lineup of American wines with Thanksgiving dinner and the leftovers that followed. Up first was a 2002 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley from magnum. While I didn’t take formal notes, this is in a fantastic place. Smooth red fruits with the underlying cedar and clove notes so common in napa cabs with some age.
Next up was a check-in on the 2009 Copain Syrah Tous Ensemble. As expected, this needs time but has all the parts to make a beautiful wine. It’s currently dominated by dark fruit with shades of soy and olives starting to peek around the corner. I’ll give the rest of my bottles another year or more.
I closed the week with a 2008 Two Hands Cabernet Sauvignon Some Days Are Diamonds. I pulled the cork and let the wine breath for an hour and wish I’d opened it sooner. The primal nose smacks you in the face. In the mouth, rich blackberry and vanilla are complemented by more subtle rose petal flavors. It’s a big wine, but wonderfully balanced. It should improve over the next few years. If drinking now, give it 2+ hours of air.
This week’s wine theme was bright red fruit with soft earthiness. I was on the hunt for Pinots and Cru Beaujolais all of Thanksgiving week.
- On Wednesday at a ladies’ lunch at Nice Matin we had a half bottle (why are those half bottles so ridiculously cute?) of Chateau Thivin Cote de Brouilly 2006. Perfumed red raspberry and an undercurrent of Dr. Pepper (weird?) on the nose. The palate was really pretty with a lightly acidic punch of red berries. Perfect for our lunch.
- With Thanksgiving we opened a number of wines, the best was a barely chilled bottle (or three or four) of 2007 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir RRV. Another beautiful wine. Red cherries, raspberry, sweet earth, and floral / rose petals.
- Finally, on Saturday night as we decorated my Christmas tree, we enjoyed a 2009 Nintey + Cellars Lot 28 Pinot Noir. I was uber-skeptical that this would be any good and I assumed it would taste and smell like a gimmick. I was 100% pleasantly surprised as this was a 100% pleasant wine. Young, bright, pure fruit and a supporting light tannin structure. It wasn’t so good that it took the focus off of our holiday celebrating, but was good enough that it made us all very happy. Especially at $18, I’d give this a 90+ and use it for entertaining again. It’s a good conversation starter for novice winos too.
Four Thanksgiving notes to share — and I did manage to follow the Terroirist-in-Chief’s advice.
We opened with two sparklers — both fun, neither worthy of notes. Hardly a better occasion for raspberry-flavored champagne than Thanksgiving!
After the sparkling wines, we moved to a 2009 Flynn Riesling from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It had a beautiful floral nose. Extremely bright and light in color. Some faint lemon notes on the nose as well, but the floral notes dominated — and almost overwhelmed. Tart sweetness on the palate, with some candied lemons. The wine did lack acidity. Huge flavors, but not monolithic. Overall, delicious.
Next up was a 2009 Robert Keenan Chardonnay from Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain District. Pale gold in the glass. Much to my surprise, there were creamy tropical fruits on the nose — crisp bananas, limes, and sweet fruits stand out. Cream on the nose as well, moreso than butter or oak. A tad bit of spicy heat, too. On the palate, bananas again; the creaminess hewed toward toasted butter. Also picked up some crisp, perhaps underripe tropical fruits and kiwi. Oakiness moderated the meager acid. The only negative was the extra heat. Not sure if this would benefit from extra time on the rack or if there’s just too much alcohol. Bold — tons of interesting stuff going on.
Our first red was a 2009 Rivers-Marie Pinot from the Sonoma Coast. This wine was a tremendous disappointment. Very dark, unusually so for a pinot. Cooked cherries and berries, along with significant forest floor notes and an almost stench of wet leaves on the nose. Black cherries on the palate — the fruits were huge. I expected a lot more minerality. Somewhat short finish. Overall, I was hoping for a bit less fruit and more brightness. The stewed, cooked fruits were fun to notice but were overbearing.
The final red was the evening’s star — a 2007 Robert Keenan Merlot from the Carneros region of Napa Valley. Dark purple in color. Terrific nose. Dark, rich fruits, licorice, orange peel, and a hint of forest vegetation on the nose. Rich, soft fruits with some orange notes, too, on the palate. Medium-long finish, with dark tannins. Big — reminiscent of some cabernets. Extremely pleasant.