Tuesday, May 29, 2007

2002 Terrotica Syrah

2002 Terrotica Syarah is produced by Chateau camplazens, a vineyard own by Susan and Peter Close, a couple from the North of England. The name of this vineyard literally means "Camp (of) Pleasure". It is located at the top of La Clape, a limestone mountain 10 miles long and 4 miles wide overlooking the Mediterranean. La Clape is an official sub-appellation of Coteaux du Languedoc that is gaining in reputation for its wine making.

Camplazens harvests three primary types of vines, following the directives of the AOC La Clape; namely Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan. The vineyard also has a small amount of Viognier as well as a new variety called Marselan.

The 2002 Terrotica Syrah carries a 13% abv and cost $6 at Costco.

Tasting notes:

Color: Dark ruby, almost purple.

Nose: Heat upon opening followed by notes of green vegetable. With air, aroma of red cherry, herbs and slight hint of roast meat becomes apparent.

Palate: Initially harsh with streaks of green pepper. As wine opens, the alcohol smooths out yielding more dried cherry and plum flavor; blending with stronger herbs flavor (rosemary?). Quite oaky. Coarse tannins throughout.

Body: Medium to full.

Finish: Short with continuous notes of herbs, dark fruit, black pepper and hint of bitterness.

Comment: The 2001 vintage of this wine is given 88 points by Wine Spectator with the following tasting notes:
"Firm and flavorful with a meaty aroma and loads of dried cherry, plum and spice flavors. Interesting, late-release style, with a finish filled with underbrush and bitter chocolate notes."

However, the 2002 Terrotica Syrah seems to suffer the same fate as the rest of wines from Southern France (Lighter in body with fair amount of under ripe grapes). The 2002 Terrotica Syrah is firm but not very flavorful. There are dried fruits, but definitely not "loads of them".

This is definitely not a sipping wine. Paired it with marinated skirt steak and they are pretty good matches. Surprisingly, this wine does hold up well for about 2 hours, the entire duration of dinner.

10/24/07: Opened my second (and last) bottle. This time the wine revealed much richer dried cherry and violet notes. On the nose, the meat aroma still dominated but the green notes were gone. The palate was consistent: mostly dried cherry and plum. It was still too oaky but the tannins was better integrated. The short finish was all about dark fruit, black pepper and slightly bitterness.
One downside of this wine was the the fruit faded rather quickly in the glass and the flavor was overwhelmed by bitterness and dusty wood notes.

Monday, May 28, 2007

2005 Ayama Chenin Blanc, South Africa

Ayama Chenin Blanc is produced by Slent Frams of Voor-Paardeberg, South Africa. This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc from Paarl. The grape is harvested at February 2005 and bottled at August 2005. The soil where the grapes are grown, Pedeberg Mountain, is composed of sandstone, granite and shale. according to the producer's information, this 2005 Ayama Chenin Blanc carries a 14.72% abv and contains 1.87 gram of sugar per liter.

Tasting Notes:

Color: Pale straw.

Nose: Grassy and faint pear. Hint of citrus.

Palate: More grassy and pear flavor. Mid palate is made up of lemon, apple (?) and flower notes. Fairly crisp.

Body: Light.

Finish: Clean and dry. Slightly bitter.

Comment: Good QPR consider the price paid ($7). Personally, I prefer Chenin Blanc from Saumur and Savennières which has more minerality. 14% alcohol is a bit too high as good food wine, but nonetheless, this wine match well with a dinner of roasted hake and garden salad.

Refrigerated overnight. Served with a dish of stirred-fried green beans, chicken stripes, onion and celery. This alcohol is is noticeably receded and grassy nose less dominant, but the mouth feel remains the same. On palate, in addition to the pears, it becomes more floral with even a hint of honey.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Solevenian, American and French medley

This past Wednesday, my wonderful bartender friend Steve at Cafe Mae Mae is bidding farewell to the cafe and embark on a new career with the hospitality industry in France. To say Bon Voyage to Steve, I decided to stop by this charming cafe to have a drink with him.

Little did I know beforehand that by the time I left that place, I was treated with a medley of Solevenian Cabernet Sauvignon, American Fume Blanc, French Liquer Fabrique and finally a specialty drink called 'Escape' that is quite fitting for a nice sendoff for Steve. Not to mentioned a taste of the heavenly chocolate cake as dessert.

Wine tasted:
2004 Santomas Koper Cabernet Sauvignon, Slovenia
2005 Grgich Hills Cellar Fume Blanc, Napa Valley
NV L. Garnier Liqueur Fabriquee Par Les Peres Chartreux

2004 Santomas Koper Cabernet Sauvignon, Ludvik Nazarij Glavina Cellars, Slovenia
This table wine grade cabernet sauvignon is produced by the Ludvik Nazarij Cellars sourcing grapes from Koper, a sub-region of Primorje (meaning "near the sea"). The average age of the vines are fairly young, generally around 10 years old.

Tasting Notes:

Color: Dark ruby.
Nose: Typical cab - Currant, vanilla and toasty oak and a touch of heat.
Palate: Tannins quite soft, fairly well integrated. Quite smooth and balanced. Not particularly big and rather straight forward. The nose follows through to the palate yielding consistent notes of currant, vanilla and faint herbs.
Body: Medium.
Finish: Short but clean, tannins does not obscure the aftertaste.

Comment: What a pleasant surprise. This wine is 13.5% abv. Retail price is about $12 but it is hard to find in the US. Would definitely try again.

2005 Grgich Hills Cellar Fume Blanc, Napa Valley

Grgich Hills Cellar is built in partnership of Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, a Croatian immigrant, Austin Hills and his sister, Mary Lee Strebl in 1977. The heart of the vineyard is located in Rutherford, Napa Valley. The grapes of this Fume Blanc is sourced from the American Canyon/Carneros area vineyards.

Tasting Notes:

Golden straw.
Nose: Grassy, pear and toasty.
Palate: Rich and very balanced. Taste of grapefruit, vanilla and subtle oak. Zesty acidity.
Body: Full
Finish: Clean and crisp.

14.2% abv. Fermented in 50% stainless steel, 50% 3-year-old French oak. Retail price is about $30 in NYC.

NV L. Garnier Liqueur Fabriquee Par Les Peres Chartreux VEP

Chartreuse (Chartreux) is a French liqueur composed of distilled wine alcohol flavored with extracts of 130 herbs and flowers. The liqueur is named after the Grande Chartreuse monastery where it is produced, which in turn is named after the Chartreuse Mountains, the region in France where the monastery is located.

With almost 400 years of history, Chartreuse is one of the oldest and most mysterious spirits still available. Only three monks from the order know the secret recipe, each hold one third of that recipe and all have taken a vow of silence, so the secret recipe is kept safely. The liqueur was originally created as an "Elixir of Long Life" in 1605 by Peres Chartreux. The formula was perfected over the years and by 1737 the liqueur was released to the world in a form that is close to what we drink today.

Tasting Notes:

Color: Golden yellow.
Nose: Initial rush of alcohol, followed by juniper, pine and exotic herbs after the liqueur warms up in the snifter.
Palate: Rich and very smooth. Layers of pine, juniper, herbs and slightly floral; hint of sweetness at the backend.
Body: Full.
Finish: Ridiculously long and savoury.

Comment: 54% abv. Retail price is about $100 in NYC. A nice after dinner drink.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

2004 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine represents the first Californian cab I really drank in 2007. For the longest time, I have shied away from new world cab and concentrated on wines from left bank Bordeaux and Languedoc regions. Time for a change!

Ordered this Cabernet over lunch at a local wine bar for $10 by the glass. At a restaurant for a cab of this quality, it is really a good deal. Retail price at time of writing should be around $

According to the producer, 2004 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon is 97% Cabernet and 3% Petit Verdot. The fruit of this wine comes from both Rutherford and local Napa Valley vineyards. Each vineyard block was harvested and made into an individual lot representing that block. The wines were pressed off the skins from 10 to 23 days after crushing. Blending generally takes place between January and April of the year following harvest and the wine is aged for 18 months in American oak barrels with 1/3 new wood.

Tasting notes:

Color: Dark ruby.

Nose: Fairly closed. Mostly currant and hints of vanilla.

Palate: Velvety and smooth with layers of warm dark fruit. Relatively thin at first. With air, the wine gains weight, Supple tannins begin to creep out. Other flavors also become more evident: cedar, spice possibly some leather. Very balanced but not a whole of of depth or complexity.

Body: Medium to full. Supple tannins.

Finish: Medium long. Notes of chocolate.

According to the winemaker, 2004 was one of the earliest harvests in Napa Valley history. This wine already show signs of maturity and should peak in 2-3 years. If properly stored, it should drink well for 5 to 8 years after that. Buy 1 to lay down is not a bad idea.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

WBW #33 : Mid-Priced Midi Wines

Domaine De Lavabre is an ancient estate located at the foot of the Cevennes mountains in the appellation of the Pic Saint-Loup, north of Montpellier in the Lnguedoc region.

Rescued from dilapidation by Olivier Bridel from Normandy, Domaine de Lavabre is now one of the foremost properties in the Languedoc. Traditional grapes including Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Syrah are planted in this estate.

Three A.O.C. red wines are produced by Domaine De Lavabre:

Domain de Lavabre - an entry level cuvee
Les Demosielles de Lavabre - a mid tier red
Chateau Lavabre - top cuvee

The wine I contributed to the tasting here for WBW 33 is 2001 Chateau Lavabre Pic St. Loup. It has a whopping 14% alcohol by volume. Paid $25 in full retail from ViNOViNO, a shop in NYC that specializes in artisanal and estate bottled wines.

Tasting Notes:

Color: Deep garnet

Nose: Powerful aroma of roast meat, garrigue, dark fruit. Slightly alcoholic (not surprising with the 14% alcohol.)

Palate: Waves of cherry and blackberry that follows the nose. Very concentrated. Good acidity with firm backbone with a spicy backend. Tannins is still a bit harsh at this time.

Body: Medium

Finish: Medium long. Hints of earth.

This wine does take a while to open up in the glass. Once it opens up, this wine holds up well for over 3 hours.
It is delicious right now but should be even better with 2 to 3 years of cellar time when all the elements are further integrated.
Drank it over 4 days (refrigerated with pump and vacuum). The alcohol and tannins softened up on the 3rd day but still held up well.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

2002 Tyrrell's Chardonnay Old Winery

The land of Tyrrell Winery is recognized as some of the Hunter Valley’s finest. Currently, this producer's wine portfolio is huge and the source of grapes comes from wine regions including McLaren Vale, Limestone Coast and Heathcote but this producer still call the Hunter Valley home.

According to Tyrrell's information, 13% the grape of this Chardonnay is sourced from Tyrrell’s McLaren Vale vineyards and the rest from Hunter Valley vineyards. This wine received 5 months of oak treatment in French oak barrels. It has 13% alcohol.

I took advantage of Wine Library's free shipping deal and bought this 2002 Chardonnay for $7. Based on the purchase price, it is a high QPR wine.

Tasting Notes

Color: Pretty yellow.

Nose: Cotton candy, pear, slight oak.

Palate: Nice citrus and fruit attack, bright acidity to keep the sweetness in check.

Body: Light to medium

Finish: Clean but short. Slightly bitter aftertaste.

This is a simple Chardonnay. Cooked cod fish with dill sauce for dinner which pair well with this wine. Decent food match.

Side notes:
Wine Enthusiast August 2003 - 01/08/2003
“A fresh, food-friendly wine, the Old Winery Chardonnay has passion fruit, papaya and fresh herb flavors, with a light nougat aroma on the nose. On the palate, it’s gravelly, and maybe a little spritzy. It’s not a full, creamy, toasty blockbuster-but that’s part if its charm.”
88 points

Monday, May 7, 2007

2004 Willamette Valley Vineyards Chardonnay 'Dijon Clone'

Opened this wine Sunday night and paired it with pan seared wild pink salmon and a side dish of roasted baby red potato mixed with onion and mushroom. Even though the producer's fact sheet does not list neither fish nor potato as suggested food match, this wine does go surprisingly well with this type of salmon and potato (maybe because both dishes are well coated with oil).

With 14.5 % alcohol and less than 0.2% residual sugar, this chardonnay is definetely not a sipping wine that you serve at a casual cocktail party. It does beg for food.

Price: $16 from the winery.

Tasting notes:

Nose: Oak, vanilla and straw (my wife even noticed a hint of damp leaves)

Palate: Oak and vanilla nose follows through in the mouth. When wine warms up, citrus and strawberry flavor start to announce their presence.

Body: Medium and smooth.

Finish: Clean. Vanilla, hint of spice and a slighty bitter.

Comment: This is not the most interesting Chardonnay you can buy for $16. But at this price point, you can do far worse. It is at least varietally correct and has enough acidity to keep it from being flabby and boring.

Drank this wine in the course of 2 days. On the second day, it is slightly bigger and rounder.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

2003 Grizzly Flat Shiraz - a $3 beauty

Grizzly Flat is produced by Grizzly Flat Cellars, San Luis Obispo, CA. According to the marketer, Underdog Wine Merchants, the grapes for Grizzly Flat Shiraz are sourced from Central Coast, CA. This wine carries a 13.5% alcohol.

From the surface, this wine does fit the profile of those wines that aimed for cute marketing ploys. Not only it has a eye-catchy name, the wine label also says 'Big Bold Red' that would attract folks who like big, bold wines.

Once I pulled the cork, I have realized that this is really a decent Shiraz that will satisfy the crowd at at summer barbecue. Winejudging.com also awarded the 2003 Grizzly Flat Shiraz the 2006 SCHOTT ZWIESEL Silver medal for Syrah/Shiraz costing below $14.

In my opinion, it is as drinkable as any under $10 Shiraz, if not better. I found this wine in the closeout section of a New Jersey wine shop for merely $3. (What a deal!)

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Bold and spicy. Alcohol pokes out a bit upon opening. With air (about 45 minutes), cherry and plums notes shows through.

Palate: Initially very tannic and alcoholic. after 30 minutes to 1 hour, tannins and heat smooth out and the wine shows typical Syrah notes of plum, cherry and the oak in background becomes more apparent.

Body: medium to full, a little flabby.

Finish: Short with some heat. Slightly oaky and spicy.

Comment: Excellent QPR wine for $3-$6, but not for the price of some retailers that charge $13 for it. Drink best between 1 to 3 hours after opening.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

2004 St. Francis Zinfandel 'Old Vine'

My friend Johnny brought this wine to dinner this evening. The grape of this Zin is sourced from vineyards at Sonoma Valley, CA. It carries a 15.5% alcohol.

Wine maker's notes:
This distinct “old world style” of wine displays deep aromas of ripe black cherries and licorice, rich with spice and toasty oak notes that carry into a long luscious finish.

According to website of St. Francis, this Zin is aged in American oak barrels for 14 months before bottling and held in the winery from 4 to 8 months before release It has aging potential of 5-7 years..

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Initial tight and yields little. After 30 minutes, toasty oak and plum becoming more apparent.

Palate: Nose carries to the palete. The alcohol sticks out throughout but the mouthfeel is quite smooth and rich. Jammy plum and blueberry(?) with faint hint of oak, vanilla and spice in the background. With air, tannins starts to smooth out.

Body: Full.

Finish: Medium. Becoming tannic at around 1 hour mark.

Comment: At time of posting, this Zin is a bit disjointed. It should benefit from 1-3 years of cellaring. Also, at $15-20, this Zin may not be a good QPR wine. I may buy another bottle and compare it with an a similar Zin from the same region such as 2004 Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel in a few years.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

2005 Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling

According to the fact sheets from the producer, the grape type of this Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling consists of 92% Riesling, 4% Early Muscat, 1% Gewurztraminer, 1% Pinot Blanc, 1% Muller Thurgau, 1% Ehrenfelser.

62% of the grapes comes from Tualatin Estate and 38% comes from 'other' vineyards of the Willamette Valley.

This semi-sweet Riesling has 4% residual sugar.

Price paid: $12

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Peach and citrus.

Palate: Peach, honeysuckle, semi-sweet. Relatively good acidity.

Body: Light to medium.

Finish: Reasonably clean.

Comments: This is just a easy everyday Riesling. Quite refreshing. No cellar potential.
Follow-up notes: 5 days later, it is still surprisingly drinkable.