12.31.2008

Lion's Crest Chardonnay '07

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: Much to get to. My wife, undeterred by the Huskies' 0-fer season, was kind enough to pose with the night's wine, one of the final of 2008. It really was an all-in-the-family thing, since the wine was shipped from her brother and sister-in-law, Mark and Maya and our cool-ass nephew, 4 month-old Drake. (Really, you guys were too kind to us this Christmas. We will make it up to you... uh, sometime later.) As you can guess, they were sweet and sent us some wine and, they said, couldn't wait to see the review. So here it is. My wife was pretty high on it; I poured her a little sample. She swished it around the glass, gave it a good sniff, took a sip and excitedly handed the thing back - she wanted a fuller glass. Me? I was a little skeptical at first; the label indicated that it was produced by an outfit out of the City of Angels. And when I think of L.A., winemaking is not what I think of first. There are many things I think of, but it's probably best to leave that be... Anyway, the chard had a decidedly fruity nose, one that initially caught me off guard. The chards I've had give away their characteristics quickly in the nose; but this one was a curveball. On the tongue, it was dry, as you'd expect. It was a solid, solid drink; while low on the adventure scale, it would be a wine that I hold up as a wonderful example of what a chard can and should be. Not oaky, not buttery, just solid and enjoyable. And, for any wine, that scores as a win in my book.
Do-over? Yup
Final Grade: B+

12.24.2008

Carta Vieja Clasico Sauvignon Blanc '08

Country: Chile
Thoughts: This is the first wine we've had from the 2008 vintage. My first assumption was that the wine - unless it was somehow spectacular - needed more aging. But I see Wine Spectator (in one of the few pages on its site you don't have to pay to see) recommends drinking Chilean whites immediately upon their release. I'll trust their judgment, I suppose, but the Carta Vieja needed something different, whether aging, better weather or any other number of factors. I wish I could generalize and say I'm not a fan of Chilean sauvs, but the four examples I had really ran the gamut, from the excellent Cono Sur to the abominable Montes. This fell somewhere in between. The nose was rough and tumble; a little harsh - my wife's word - and earthy and tough from the get-go. Initially, the taste was solid; it began sweet with those telltale earthiness and dryness late. But the wine didn't hold up; by the end, it was all earthiness and all dryness and neither were very appealing. I suppose if I could've found some other flavor that this wine could have hung its hat on, I wouldn't be so down on it. The gold standard in wine, for me, is a drink that's adventurous and so compelling that I have to keep coming back. The key is that it's adventurous and compelling after each taste; with the Carta, it felt like each sip brushed a little more of the surface away, revealing a less-pretty underside.
Do-over? I would not be in favor of it
Final Grade: C+

12.19.2008

Stival Pinot Grigio '07

Country: Italy
Thoughts: If you don't mind, I'll skip the inane one-liners and jokes for the night. Just not into it when the real world intrudes, as it sometimes does. A former wrestler that I used to cover was a victim in a most unspeakable crime; though his passing is a sad event for me, I grieve more for the kids and coaches and family who are forever changed because of this. I pray for them all. But I've made a commitment here and, with a heavy heart (and some internal debate about whether a post here is even appropriate), we press on. This wine was a treat from beginning to end. A strong, vibrant nose, even with a touch of honey. The honey came through initially, but it mellowed into a dry, enjoyable drink. But, for me, this kind of flipped pinots on their head; that telltale citrus taste was dominant, not the sweet fruitiness. The finish was more honey, though lighter than the nose and in the initial taste. A very different and interesting wine.
Do-over? Yes
Final Grade: A-

12.16.2008

Apropos anniversary post: Wakefield Promised Land Unwooded Chardonnay '07

Country: Australia
Thoughts: Wow, can you believe it's been a year since we started this thing? It started 365 days ago with a simple mission statement: "Simply, I want a place I can go back to and find what I liked when I'm in need of a glass." If you've been with us for any length of time, you know it's more than just that. Each wine we've tried, all 133 of them, has a story: Tried with friends or family or during a special event or just relaxing at home. I tried to make that point with little anecdotes here and there. It's amazing to me how this has grown; I don't mean in terms of readership - it's not exactly WashingtonPost.com, but it never was about that anyway - but how my curiosity about wine has increased. I recently added a link on the side there for Snooth. I posted an introductory note in their forum that described it like this: "One bottle turned into another. Which led to me wondering how a pinot was different than a sauv. Which led to me wondering how an Oregon pinot was different than an Italian pinot, and how a Cali sauv was different than an Australian sauv. Which further led to me starting a blog so I could keep track of what I liked." My wine knowledge has grown exponentially, yet I know I'm far from an expert. Is it the promised land? Not yet, but maybe in a few years. So thanks to all of you for playing along; I won't go through the whole list like I did back with Wine 100, but the sentiment and deep appreciation to all remains. Anyway, on with it: This was a curious pick from Whole Foods, where I stopped to ensure I'd have something new to write about for tonight's special happenings. Really, in the whole Australia section, there were three different unoaked chardonnays - with label specifically saying so - that I could have tried. This one, however, caught my attention first, so it made the ride home with me. (Plus it had the most unusual description of being unwooded, which invites all manner of dick jokes. I'll leave it to you to make up your own.) The nose was powerful and evident from the start; I had barely gotten the screw cap off when the wine announced its presence. Upon closer inspection, it was exactly what you'd expect: flowery with a hint of fruitiness. Initially, the wine had a dose of sweetness on the tongue, but it dried out quickly. Proportionality was always maintained, however, and I never felt like I was sucking a lemon. The finish was also dry in that sparkly sort of way. It's a good sipper of a wine, one that can be enjoyed over the course of an evening (though it's good enough that it probably won't last very long). Despite the overpowering nose, which wasn't in line with how mellow the wine itself was, it was a rather enjoyable drink. It's chardonnay, the way it oughta be.
Do-over? Right price, right taste, so yes
Final Grade: B+

12.14.2008

Folonari Pinot Grigio '07

Country: Italy
Thoughts: As we've gone over several times in the past, eastern Pennsylvania - my homeland, but really it applies to the whole of Pennsylvania - is not, nor has it ever been, wine country. I should have realized this when I tried this latest drink. I was out a Christmas party for my dad's side of the family; we held the function at a little bar/restaurant situated along one of the roads that leads into town. Yuengling was on tap, of course, but they also had Warsteiner and an Italian beer, so maybe it was worth a chance. As it turned out, the chance paid off only in being able to add another wine to the blog. Certainly, not all of the problems with the Folonari were directly the wine's fault; it came straight out of the fridge where it was quite cold, negating any nose it might have otherwise had. The subpar taste, however, is the wine's fault, and we take great issue with that. There were hits and (mostly) misses of the telltale fruit, but the best way I can describe is the difference between television on an old, black-and-white set and color television. Even a run-of-the-mill TV produces a superb picture these days, but the Folonari left me feeling like I was trying, and failing, to adjust the rabbit ears on a B&W set. There was a shell of fruitiness there, like maybe it had once been there and evaporated. Even the finish was rough, an unhappy ending to an unhappy drink. If a standard pinot is a lush rainforest, this was barren wasteland. It survives the ignominy of an "F" grade only because I was able to soldier through the glass.
Do-over? Uh, no
Final Grade: D-

12.10.2008

Christmas party special: Picpoul de Pinet Hugues Bielieu '07

Country: France
Thoughts: I've long since gotten over the embarrassment of taking a photo of a bottle. Sometimes it's not an ideal situation - others may look at me strangely, but that's fine by me - but I do a wine blog and damn if I ain't gonna take it seriously. Fortunately, everyone's been kind enough to play along so far, from bartenders to waiters to my wife's colleagues, who took turns working 30-minute shifts at the bar so all could be hydrated during the annual Christmas party. Really, it was a no-lose deal; serve up drinks and enjoy the view (the floor that hosted the party had a wall of windows to an eye-level view of the Capitol dome). So with that in mind, we took the opportunity to add a freebie to the list; most any free wine should be an automatic A, but we have standards around here. And this was a toughie, right from the start; there were three phrases on the label that all plausibly could've been the name of the wine. Coteaux de Languedoc? (Nope, that's the appellation.) Hugues Bielieu, a little further under the first phrase? (Nope, a Google search shows that's the second half of the name.) Picpoul de Pinet? (Ding ding ding.) So apparently the name has something to do with the grape; I figured, like most French wines, it was simply a blend that had been in use for centuries, but I can't seem to find anything that indicates it's more than one grape. According to K&L, picpoul means "lip stinger," and that would be apt here. There was a certain bite to it, almost like when you take a gulp of Coke and push your tongue to the roof of your mouth, except not quite as severe. It almost seemed bubbly, yet the wine was still. It was dry and slightly puckering, though not in an overpowering way. I thought the wine would get better the more I tried it, and indeed my taste buds became accustomed. It was a decent enough wine, particularly after getting past the first few sips. My biggest gripe, however, was the distinct lack of any bouquet whatsoever.
Do-over? It gets some hits on CheapWineRatings.com, so who can argue with that?
Final Grade: B

11.27.2008

Chateau Coucheroy Pessac-Leognan '06

Country: France
Thoughts: This one was buried on the bottom row of the wine fridge. I don't know how it got lost down there and I don't remember buying it, but it seemed like a fine opportunity to give thanks for the chance to try and write about wine. Obviously there are more important things to be thankful for - a loving family, an incredible wife, a solid roof over our heads - and this is just one of many items. So thank you vintners and thank you technology! About this one: It's the rare wine you can smell from a mile away. I made no specific effort to get a whiff of the cork, it just happened; I didn't try to preview the nose when I brought the wine in from the kitchen, it just happened. So I did have a hint. When I went in for a closer inspection, the nose came alive with a strong dryness - so strong that I could only get one crack it before the sniffer was overwhelmed. On the tongue, it was smooth and the dryness from the nose held up; there was an undertone of grapiness, but it was moderate enough not to compete with the dryness. "It's like a mellow sauvignon blanc accented by a hint of sweetness," I wrote. There's good reason for that, I suppose, since the blend is mostly sauv with a little semillon for good measure. Before I started this grand experiment, I had a pre-formed idea of what a white wine would taste like; to me, this wine epitomizes that ideal. It's a solid drink and one I wouldn't hesitate to get again - if I remembered where I got it in the first place.
Ingredients: 90 percent sauvignon blanc, 10 percent semillon
Do-over? I would have no problem with that
Final Grade: B+

11.24.2008

Covey Run Gewurztraminer '05

Country: USA
Region: Washington
Thoughts: This wine sat in the fridge for a long time; it predated the fridge, I think. So I left it to my wife to pick out a wine, and this is what she came up with, a Washington gewurzwhateverthehellitis. Wiki comes through, as usual, to explain how this grape got its, uh, challenging name. And I, apparently mistaken, thought it was pronounced Gur-wurs-TRAM-in-er; my wife tells me it's Gur-Wurs-tra-MEEN-er. Not like I'm German and know how to sound out this stuff... Anyway, I don't know much about gewurztraminer, heretofore known as that grape, but I know it's on the sweeter end with rieslings. "It's a great apertif," my wife said, again showing that her considerable vocabulary skills. She said apertif as I was taking my first sip; in a moment of alliteration, my first thought was "apple." That's what came out to me in the wine; the nose was similar to your average pinot grigio, but the taste lacked that dominant citrus taste. What was left, then, seemed to be in the same ballpark as apple juice. So my wife was right, it'd be a fine pre-dinner drink; though I liked the taste, I bumped the grade down for a lack of adventurousness. Still, it was pretty solid and something new to me and to our grand experiment here.
Do-over? In the right situation, yes
Final Grade: B-

11.23.2008

Black Mountain Pinot Noir '07

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: If the label looks familiar, congratulations, you're a hardcore follower (and thanks for playing along). We tried the winery's pinot grigio back in May with less than stellar results. Undaunted - and with the promise of expanding my horizons ever so slightly - Kerry (this Kerry) recommended I give the pinot noir a whirl. I've heard so much about it, what with so much of the family in Oregon and all, but never pulled the trigger. Until tonight. And it was a most curious experience. My first sip was syrupy and, to my palate, buttery, though that sensation diminished in a few subsequent tries. (A thankful revelation, since my wife seemed to think I was nuts to find that wine buttery. But it was.) The craziest thing was the mouthfeel; the wine danced around the tongue a little bit then, unexpectedly, it felt the whole damn thing had crystalized. That really caught me off guard. The wine smoothed out nicely after a few sips and it was a fairly interesting experience. "It's an acquired taste," Kerry said. And, down the line, I could see myself acquiring such a taste.
Do-over? N/A
Final Grade: N/A

Salmon Harbor Chardonnay '06

Country: USA
Region: Washington
Thoughts: That's our good friend Kerry holding the bottle of Salmon Harbor on a night in which we celebrate parts of the Northwest. (Please note that not every aspect of the Northwest was celebrated.) Despite the subject of the link - which we dare not mention - there were good times to be had, especially as Oregon State rallied itself past a very solid Arizona squad. See, Kerry's husband, Bill, is a huge huge huge Beaver fan; one needed only see his expression to tell whether OSU had gotten a first down or given up a sack. So, with all of that in mind, the Salmon Harbor helped ease the tension of what turned out to be a Beaver victory. The wine had a floral nose, flowery yet light, very inviting and attractive. The taste was a lush fruitiness, at least as much as one could expect from a chard; degree-wise, it's comparable to the superb Rock Rabbit, though that had a better taste all around. The level of fruit was comparable to a pinot grigio, yet those telltale characteristics were there, even if they faded into the background. The finish was dry and not incredible, but certainly something to be enjoyed.
Do-over? Count me in
Final Grade: B+

Banrock Station Chardonnay '07

Country: Australia
Thoughts: I'm proud to say two similar - both solid picks - yet different chards top the list tonight. First, an offering from our friends down under. A floral nose with nice balance opened the drink; it wasn't too sweet, not too grapy, just comfortably pleasant. The taste was just on the cusp between light and moderate fruitiness; in other words, precisely what one would expect from a chard. The finish was also on the light side, but it was certainly there, though not an explosion - again, most likely what you'd expect from a chard. There's something to be said about wines that live up to the standard of what a grape should be. And while I don't pretend to be some expert on the grape generally - and particularly not how it's grown Down Under - I found this to be a very good example of what a chard, at least in my opinion, should be.
Do-over? I would have no problem with that
Final Grade: B+

11.16.2008

Linden Late Harvest Vidal '04

Country: USA
Region: Virginia
Thoughts: No, I didn't know what vidal was either; our friend Nate assured us it was a solid dessert wine. So, in my mind, there was no better way to finish off my wife's superb apple crisp than with a dessert wine. (Vidal blanc, Wiki says, is primarily a northern grape because it can deal with the winter cold. Oh, and it's also really sweet and thus makes a good dessert wine.) Indeed, it was; I've tread lightly through the dessert wine category before, most notably with a flop from Chadds Ford. But this one was different; I can't help but wonder if maybe the Chadds Ford got a bad rap because I didn't drink as it was supposed to be enjoyed - with dessert. Still, the Linden was solid. The sweetness was there, of course, with a little grapiness. It wasn't overpowering, but that may well could have been because my taste buds were already primed for sweetness. The finish was a nice fadeout that, by itself, was barely noticeable; yet somehow it seemed to be a fitting end to a fun night with friends.
Do-over? In the right circumstance, yes
Final Grade: B

Justin Isoceles '04

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: It was a night of experimentation, as I took the plunge with not one, but two reds; unlike the last foray, this one had better results. I started off the night with one of the bottles we brought with us, the Drouhin Chard from France. That's always a favorite, as evidenced by the grade, but I wasn't feeling it tonight. So I moved on to a pre-dinner cocktail (OK, so it was just Jack on the rocks) and the steak dinner was offered with a choice of a straight cabernet sauvignon or a red blend. Knowing that I'd fared well with white blends, I went that route, the safe route. That led me to the Isoceles, which was intriguing enough alone. I was struck by the hint of mint in the nose; knowing little about reds, I was surprised to find such an aroma there. The taste was sturdy but not off-putting; there was none of the metallic taste (my guess would be the tannins) that doomed the cab I'd tried before. So it was a success, I made it through a good glass. After dinner and dessert (which included a vidal), we ventured outside and found an increasingly chilly atmosphere. But that was not enough to deter us from a round of cigars and some wonderful conversation. I can always count on Aaron to pick out a good smoke from his collection, and he gave me a wonderful mellow Avo 80th (though sadly, there's no reference to them on the website). We also threw back a decanter full of port, which seemed to be a red pinot grigio. It was fruity and a little heavier than your typical pinot, but one I'd definitely consider having again - though I never did get the vintner or the vintage. I don't think it's one I could do on a frequent basis, but I'd certainly be down for a do-over.
Ingredients: 79 percent cabernet sauvignon, 11 percent cabernet franc, 10 percent merlot
Do-over? N/A
Final Grade: N/A

11.11.2008

Mâcon-Villages Cave du Lugny Chardonnay '06 (No. 125)

Country: France
Thoughts: Why yes, that is Mike Rowe dropping by for another milestone. I wish it was excellent reaction by me and the camera phone; sadly, my cover is blown by the little box in the upper right of the screen. Indeed, risking sobriety merely for the sake of judging wines is a dirty job, yet I carry on. So this milestone was retrieved during the same outing that netted the wonderful Rock Rabbit; if anything, this one carried more pressure, as it was one of Whole Foods' top 10 wines while the Rock Rabbit simply stood among many in the USA white rack. To me, the designations were misplaced. The chard, and oh how I've come to appreciate the French chards, was solid but unspectacular. It led off with a flowery but barely noticeable nose; what followed was a light and wistful drink with honey notes that stayed - and even intensified a bit - through the finish. Halfway through the sample, i.e., glass, it turned a bit drier, though that didn't impact the drink in any way; it just changed the scope a little bit. So while it was a gentle enough drink, and certainly worth the price, it doesn't approach the Drouhin, it's a decent enough wine in its own right.
Do-over? Whole Foods is a lot closer than Total Wine, so yes
Final Grade: B

Menage a Trois '07

Country: USA
Region: Napa
Thoughts: Thanks, as always, to my wonderful wife who assisted in photography (well, if what we do passes as photography). (I know you can't tell, but about 15 minutes lapsed between sentences here. I was going to make a reference to the current Ford commercials - can't find a link - with Denis Leary that say if you own a truck, it's probably not because you're a hand model. Given my wife's family's ties to Ford, it was apropos. Instead, YouTube only brought up Leary's old stand-up bits like this and this - NSFW for language, by the way - which distracted me. Smoke 'em if you got 'em!) Anyway, back to the wine, however un-Learyish it may be. The bouquet was sweet and grapy, but it faded quickly, so it was tough to figure out what else was there. Even after I let the drink sit for a few minutes, the nose barely registered. Once I swished the wine around the tongue, it came across sweet; it was my first drink of the night, so the first sip was appallingly sweet. Fortunately, it mellowed after that and became a nice, relaxing drink. The finish was there, but it barely had a pulse. In all, it scored well on the taste and above average on the compelling factor but considerably low on the adventure factor. Still, it's definitely a do-over.
Ingredients: The winery's Web site didn't list percentages, but ingredients include chardonnay, moscato and chenin blanc
Do-over? Soitenly
Final Grade: B

11.08.2008

Welcome, Austria: Leo Hillinger Pinot Grigio '07

Country: Austria
Thoughts: Ah, Austria, home of Viennese sausages and birthplace of our Governators, pictured above. Yes, I pulled up an Associated Press photo of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he seems to be earnestly explaining some new policy. Really, instead of pounding on the lectern, I'd recommend an underhanded karate chop through the bottle... OK, it really wasn't that bad, but it was far from stellar. Come on, this is supposed to be pinot grigio; of all the wines I regularly check out, this is supposed to be the most lush, the most fruity and the most enchanting. This wasn't. It was flat and a little hot on the tongue; it even smelled more like a sauv than a pinot. Then again, maybe that's what a terroir of flat, eastern Austria brings; maybe something in the west, in the middle of the Alps, Innsbruck-ish, would have a little more character. Or maybe I'm just bitter about being sucked in by a cool-looking label (again) and, as it turned out, one cool-ass-looking building. So I'll make the promise again that no, I won't fall for a pretty label again. And in six weeks, I'll be back lamenting all over again.
Do-over? The magic 8-ball says: "Outlook not so good."
Final Grade: C

11.05.2008

Election night special: Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay '05

Country: USA
Region: Napa
Thoughts: Those of you that know me and know my wife understand why wine was needed on Tuesday night. This was the second of two for the evening and, frankly, it was unrealistic to expect a Mondavi to live up to the standard that the Rock Rabbit had set. Even some of the highest-rated wines here would've had difficulty with that. As it were, the Mondavi - and may God rest his soul - failed on its own merits. The nose was disappointing, dominated by a grapiness. I had hoped for something better once I took a sip, but nothing much came of it - too mellow. The finish was lightly buttery, but I've come to accept that even that's too much for my liking. Beyond that, there was little else to share. It was just kind of there, helping the night pass. But I demand much more from my wine; that's why this receives a low grade.
Do-over? Not unless I have a compelling reason
Final Grade: C

Rock Rabbit Sauvignon Blanc '06

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: Before tonight, I'd never been in Whole Foods before. My wife assured me that they had a good wine selection; so, in need of milk, I dropped by for the first time (and laughed heartily at the outrageous price for a gallon of organic two-percent milk). But while there, I saw this wine sitting in the USA section and decided to give it a go. At under $12, it certainly was the right price. And, I'm happy to say, it exceeded every expectation. As we've noted in several other sauvignon tests, there are certain characteristics that seem to run through the family: earthiness and minerality chief among them. But this one was different; the nose was fruity and fresh. So was the taste, which was mellow but surprisingly different. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't nearly as lush as even a typical pinot grigio; but it was light and refreshing, which many sauvignons are not. Moreover, the finish seemed to vary on each of the early sips; there was slight minerality, there was dryness, then there was just a fade that left you wanting for the next sip. In our grand experiment here, one of the hallmarks of a superb wine for me is a compelling taste, one that leaves you unable to wait for the next sip. This had it. And looking back among my highest-rated wines, this one would be a certain top-five pick and would likely crack the top three. A fantastic wine all around.
Do-over? I told my wife that if finances were not limited as they are, I would go back to Whole Foods and buy a case
Final Grade: A

11.02.2008

Hogue Chardonnay '06

Country: USA
Region: Washington
Thoughts: I hit up Hogue's pinot grigio back during the in-laws' visit and came away impressed. So when a bottle of chardonnay turned up during my wife's recent visit to the store, I was ready to give this one a go, too. It didn't disappoint; it wasn't as spectacular as the pinot, but certainly not something I'd turn down if offered. As you can tell from the list at the right, chard is far and away the most frequented wine 'round these parts. So, while I'm no sommelier, I have a decent feel for them; this one was considerably different. In the nose, there were the certain characteristics that you expect from all chards, but this one had a little zestiness to it, almost like what I'd get from a sauvigon blanc, a hint of pine needles. Something outdoorsy like that. It carried over to the taste, too, much to its benefit. As we've mentioned time and again, the over-oaked and buttery chards are so tiresome; finding one that isn't is almost a bonus. And this wasn't; like the bouquet, that telltale chard taste hung around on the tongue but wasn't a bother. It was complemented well with a mellowy taste though, unfortunately, no other flavors that jumped out. A solid wine, but not a breakthrough.
Do-over? For the deal that Hogue's wines are, certainly
Final Grade: B

10.26.2008

Wolf Blass Presidents Selection Chardonnay '06

Country: Australia
Thoughts: Yes, it bugs the hell out of me that the name isn't Wolf Blass President's Selection Chardonnay. Just writing "Presidents" has no meaning... unless they mean something else what what I'm seeing. Sorry for the aside, but these things gnaw at me. Earlier in the night, while my wife and I were watching Ohio State-Penn State, she casually referred to the Lions as "we." I patiently explained why that also bugged the hell out of me - we're not on the sideline, we're not a part of the team, therefore no "we." Her alma mater, the University of Washington? Cool, that's acceptable. So is "we" for Moravian, my alma mater (and a 23-17 win over Juniata today, I might add). But not for Penn State, who neither of us has a connection to. She just chalked it up to one of my foibles... but I digress. I went with an Australian chard because I felt like it would be a whole lot more doable than the oaky chards from California. And it was - to a degree. With an untested tongue, I got an incredible array of flavors from the first sip: a quickly-fading apple which complemented a chalky nose. The wine was doing well until it hit the back half of my tongue, when it seemed to turn insanely dry and lead to a crisp finish. Since it was my first drink of the night, I'm willing to chalk it up to an unready palate. Anyway, it was an adventurous first sip, which gives it a solid rating initially. The problem was that the adventure didn't hold up for very long; by the second glass, I felt like what I was drinking was wholly non-descript and unworthy of the praise I had previously given it. It was an OK wine - I've definitely had better and I've certainly had worse.
Do-over? Only for instances in which there is no other alternative
Final Grade: C+

10.21.2008

Two Vines Columbia Crest White '06

Country: USA
Region: Washington
Thoughts: I must say kudos to my in-laws, who picked out nothing but winners from the wine shop at Wegman's (which, I'm proud to say, they thought was a pretty sweet place). This was a curious blend - the ingredients are below - which made for a very sweet yet floral nose. As usual, the scent gave hints of what was to come: It was indeed sweet tasting, but not to the level of a dessert wine or even a riesling. I was hoping for a better counterbalance with some dryness; there was some, but it wasn't anything I would really call "dry." I know it sounds stupid, but I'm thinking terms of degrees here - like on one end there's your super sweet wines and on the other there's your super dry wines and somewhere there's a midpoint. The primary flavors in this wine weren't on the extreme end, but a few notches away. So while it was perfectly acceptable to me, it wasn't anything that thrilled me.
Ingredients: The percentages weren't listed, but it included chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and semillon
Do-over? Yeah, I'd have no problem with that
Final Grade: B

Chateau St. Michelle Pinot Gris '07

Country: USA
Region: Washington
Thoughts: Yes, the wine joins an empty Gentleman Jack bottle - merely for effect. The nose on the wine (not the Gentleman Jack) was fruity and lush; the telltale citrus flavor was there, but so was a hint of pine needles - giving the fruitiness an unusual crispness. On the tongue, that lushness of fruit was still there, though it faded into the background a bit. Replacing it was a refreshing bit of honey. It mixed wonderfully with the citrus, which seemed to be closer to orange than anything. (And my deepest apologies for the gibberish that appeared last night, after I'd tried one too many wines.)
Do-over? Yes, I'd say so
Final Grade: B+

EDITED so that this entry sounds partially intelligible...

Antinori Champogrande Orvieto Classico '05

Country: Italy
Thoughts: The region and the terroir came highly recommended by my astute in-laws. Not so long ago, they said, an Italian restaurant in Bend offered selections from Orvieto Classico, and that recommendation was good enough for me. First, though, a note on the wine: The label seemed to indicate it was a blend of locally available grapes, though it didn't specify which ones - for shame. Still, it was a quality drink; the best way I could describe it is like this: pinot grigio on steroids. The lushness, the citrusness of your typical pinot grigio seemed to be there - but it was somehow amplified. There seemed to be a caramel characteristic to it, particularly in the finish. Said finish held long and made for a satisfying end to this winner.
Do-over? Yup
Final Grade: A-

10.19.2008

Heron Chardonnay '06

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: It seems like there's a glut of highly-rated wines; there's a reason for it. With my in-laws picking up some selections for us, we're able to rely on what they've tried and what they've liked. When I'm buying, I'm mostly picking blindly, so there's a much better chance for a loser to slip in there. And this is another of those solid wines. The nose was oaky, hiding the fruitiness that abound when wine met tongue. There was fruitiness there, though it was pretty mellow at the same time. After a second or two of swishing it around, there was an odd sensation, almost like it was waxy. Obviously, it wasn't really waxy, but the mouthfeel was most unusual. Undaunted, I kept swirling and a dryness came in to play. The finish was mildly explosive, capping a solid wine indeed. (And yes, I chose the setting for the picture for the most immature of reasons. I can hear the Wheat Thins now: "Dude, are there any Twinkies around here?")
Do-over? Yup
Final Grade: A-

Hogue Pinot Grigio '07

Country: USA
Region: Washington
Thoughts: I've seen Hogue all over the place but never had much of a reason to try it; perhaps because I saw it all over the place was precisely the reason I didn't try it. But it got a healthy endorsement from the in-laws. "It's like a house wine for us," my father-in-law said. Indeed, it was pretty solid; it had all my favorite aspects of a pinot grigio - the fruitiness and the lushness - but it also seemed to have an underpinning of caramel as well. It was a very enjoyable drink and, if I remember right, the price is decent too. While the bigger bottles are more economical for us, I would have no problem with Hogue becoming our house wine, too.
Do-over? Certainly
Final Grade: B+

10.18.2008

Soave La Cappuccina '07

Country: Italy
Thoughts: Bob, my father-in-law, seemed excited for me to try this Italian. It's not one I've heard of, but the back label said it was made of 100 percent garganega. Wiki says the grape can produce lemon, almond and spicy notes; I can't specifically remember any of those, but the nose was interesting in a floral sense. Like our other wine tonight, it had hints of oakiness - though not nearly as prominent as the viognier - and was also mellow and dry. The finish exacerbated the dryness, giving it a spritely feel as it went down the hatch. It was an interesting drink and it reminded me of a more hardy sort of chardonnay. At any rate, it was a good sipping wine and was easily enjoyable as the night closed by watching Boise State close out Hawaii.
Do-over? Yeah, I would say so
Final Grade: B+

Fess Parker Viognier '06

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: It seems like time and again, I hit on the same varietals - chard, pinot grigio and maybe a couple others. Viognier's peen pretty under represented; this makes only the fourth one I've had in our grand experiment. Perhaps there's a reason for it: None of them have scored terribly high. But, always one to get back on the horse, we pushed forward with the Fess Parker offering, served up the by the folks at Restaurant 3. (Truth be told, our first option, a pinot blanc from Alsace, was sold out.) This was my father-in-law's pick, and it went nicely with the wonderful food at R3. In the nose and in taste, it had a defining oaky characteristic, not unlike one would expect to find with certain chardonnays. It certainly changed the wine profile on a larger scale, I thought; the oakiness helped make it a little more low key - mellow seemed too strong a description - with an underriding dryness. It was an excellent wine to sip, and made dinner and conversation all the more enjoyable.
Do-over? So far, it's the best of the viogniers, so yes
Final Grade: B+

10.17.2008

Val do Sosego Albarino

Country: Spain
Thoughts: Once again, I'm honored to have a guest: It's my mother-in-law, Chris, who gamely volunteered to be part of the blog. She's holding a bottle of our latest Albarino, which didn't seem to show any vintage. Usually that's a concern, but I had remembered having a good experience with albarino in the past (though, as usual, my memory was a little hazy). Still, I rushed headlong into the albarino, expecting good things; I was only mildly disappointed. The nose was entirely too grapy, like I was burying my nose into a quart of Welch's. Eventually the nose tilted toward floral, after my nostrils had flown the white surrender flag. The taste was fairly crisp and was reminiscent of a light chard; a light, sparkly finish completed the drink. Though this one won't rate high (and neither did the last one, if you clicked the link), I continue to see promise in albarino. I'm confident that one day, I'll find one that blows me away.
Do-over? Not unless this becomes the high-water mark in my quest for stunning albarino
Final Grade: B-

Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon '06

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: OK, so it doesn't take a sommelier to know that I've departed from the norm here; I just want everyone to know that I try to keep an open mind about all wine. Yes, the secret is out: I tried a red. Oh, I've tried them before, but I've yet to find one that interests me enough to come back for more. So with my in-laws (wine-savvy in-laws at that) in for a visit, they tried this cab and pronounced it to be a good value and an excellent wine. I even had a bit myself, and tried the same process by which I've evaluated every wine on here. I only had a tiny bit; the nose was non-existent to me, though that very well could have been different with a full glass. The little nose I did get was musty, like an attic that hasn't been visited in more than a year. On the tongue, it was everything that had kept me from becoming a true believer in reds: sharp with a buttery aftertaste. I found zero complexity - again, possibly owing to my complete lack of experience - and a hard-edged, single flavor to it. I may yet stumble across a red that I can tolerate; but if this one - a wine hailed by people I trust - didn't do it for me, it's hard to imagine that there's one that will.
Do-over? N/A
Final Grade:N/A

10.05.2008

3 Blind Moose Pinot Grigio '07

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: I should have studied the label a little better. Instead, the humorous drawing caught my attention; dammit, when will I learn to not be influenced solely by the catchiness of the name? Anyway, the location on the label simply read California; even with most of the other California wines I've had on here, a more distinct location was noted: Sonoma County, Lake County, Mendocino County. Per AVA rules, a wine that lists a location must use a certain percentage of grapes from that location (say, 80 percent or so, possibly higher). California isn't an AVA by itself, of course; instead, one can assume that 3 Blind Moose gets its grapes from a number of sources around the state. From what I've read, this should be a warning sign of a lesser-quality wine; by using such a large assortment of grapes from heaven knows where, the characteristics of a region's vineyards - the terroir - is lost. I don't think I'm at that point yet, but I want to be able to see what's the difference between a Napa pinot and an Oregon pinot. By casting a net so wide, 3BM can't tell me that. And really, it showed up in the wine too; you all know my affection for pinot grigio, but the 3BM was wholly bland. The nose was light and indiscernible after just a few sips; the taste was lightly cirtusy with no depth or complexity. It was disappointing, but I should've known what I was getting myself into...
Do-over? No chance
Final Grade: C-

10.04.2008

Barboursville Virginia Chardonnay '06

Country: USA
Region: Virginia
Thoughts: In the past, we've had limited success with East Coast wines; the lone Virginia wine was less than a success. But I was willing to come back and try Virginia again, since Barboursville was the lone state winery represented in a massive Wine Spectator grading issue I had from several months back. The lesson being, for me anyway, is that if Wine Spectator judges it good enough to review, your damn right it's good enough for me to try. And I'm glad I did. Short of the Stags Leap, this was one of the best chards we've had the pleasure of trying. I remember the Picket Fence being strong and likeable, but I have to think this is even stronger. It was mellow, unoaked, and thoroughly enjoyable. It was crisp and dry, yet altogether drinkable. Really, it's hard to describe; other than to say that my wife - with a distinct West Coast bias - proclaimed it to be really good. We don't throw around A's very often, but this is most certainly in the discussion.
Do-over? Absolutely
Final Grade: A-

Trinchero Mary's Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc '05

Country: USA
Region: Napa
Thoughts: I knew this one was going to be interesting from the get-go. I opened the bottle and, with the cork a foot away from my nose, I caught a whiff of what the wine had in store. As I sat on the La-Z-Boy and contemplated football, life and wine, I had the glass better than two feet from my nose. From time to time, I got a whiff. So I knew the bouquet was going to be loud, and it didn't disappoint when I stuck my nose in the glass. Yet it was a mild nose; the sweetness that I caught from so far away was readily apparent. That sweetness held up in the taste; really, it was nothing like the typical sauvignon blanc: no earthiness, no minerality in any aspect of the wine. Instead, it was sweet that turned drier as the glass got emptier. Still, it was a rather enjoyable wine, and I had absolutely no problem going back for a second glass.
Do-over? When I'm looking for a different kind of sauvignon blanc
Final Grade: B+

9.30.2008

Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio '07

Country: Italy
Thoughts: Whoo-hoo, pinot grigio, one of my favorites. And straight from the heartland. This one's gonna wipe up, right? Uh, not quite. Since its purchase from Total Wine, it enjoyed a nice cooling off process in the wine fridge, which is supposed to keep wine from getting too cold and, thus, muting the flavors and the aromas. Despite that, this wine suffered from just that. I damn near stuck my nose underwine - if you will - just for a glimpse of what was to come. After several attempts, I was able to latch onto a familiar aroma. But I shouldn't have to work that hard. On the tongue it was much the same; lots of tiny flavors floating around here and there, but nothing that jumped out. How, exactly, am I supposed to make a judgment on a wine that's barely perceptible? I mean, yeah, it was a pinot grigio, and I like those a lot. But the standard in that group is lush flavor, characteristics that have to fight to get your attention. In this one, had any flavor even been impish, that would have made it a standout. The weather outside when I tried this? We were under a tornado warning (fortunately we had little more than threatening thunder and lightning, a bit of rain and a soft breeze). That pronouncement commands your attention. Sadly, nothing about this wine did.
Do-over? Nope, better options are available
Final Grade: C

Misterio Chardonnay '07

Country: Argentina
Thoughts: Of the 21 chards we've gone through, only five have been from outside the U.S. We're happy to make that six (and, at the same time, welcome the first Argentinian wine to the Trial); I even had the lede written (borrowing a newspaper term) before I tried the wine: Misterio, but really no mystery at all... But, as any sportswriter will attest, one of the worst things you can do is to write the lede in your head before you actually experience the story. So here they are, unrehearsed thoughts about the Misterio: The nose was floral, one could almost mistake it for a pinot grigio; and that, in my experience, was a welcome departure from the typical California chards; it only takes one whiff and you know what you're getting into. The taste was quite curious; on the front of the tongue, it was biting, almost acidic. Everywhere else, it was mellow and very subdued. The label claimed it was aged in oak, but it was hard to pick that out - as it was for most any other flavor. The finish was non-existent as well. My wife, in an anti-drinking state because of some recent maintenance at the dentist, tried it anyway and liked it. I did too, but felt like so much potential was unrealized.
Do-over? If it's on sale, sure, but it won't be a label I seek out
Final Grade: B

9.28.2008

CK Mondavi Willow Springs Pinot Grigio '07

Country: USA
Region: Napa
Thoughts: Obviously, we're about value here. The great majority of wines that we've gone over can be had for under $20; the few that aren't are a rare exception. So when you see the megasized jug like today's Mondavi - bought on sale by my wife - you may automatically think a lesser quality than, say, a smaller shop elsewhere in Napa. But we review each wine on its own merits; and if certain biases are brought beforehand, I do my best to make that clear. With no experience with Mondavi - that means any family member - we bring no biases here. (The only bias is with the sweet job I did installing our new dimmer, seen in the background. Borrowing a phrase from Elizabeth Barrett Browning: How domesticated am I? Let me count the ways...) Anyway, the wine spent the afternoon in the big fridge, so that may have lowered the volume on the nose - I found it to be very light and nearly impossible to pick out any distinct notes. It was equally mellow on the tongue, though hints of orange and vanilla popped up from time to time. Yes, the citrus is the hallmark of pinot grigio, but it really seemed to manifest itself in an orange flavor in this wine. Completing the theme, the finish was virtually unnoticeable as well. The character changed in the next few sips, as the wine seemed to get dryer. Though my wife said she was a fan, I - as often happens here - disagreed. It simply brought too little to the party.
Do-over? Maybe if it's on sale again - maybe
Final Grade: B-

9.27.2008

Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay '07

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: Maybe Sen. Barack Obama would like a glass of wine too. Actually, he was looking at debate moderator Jim Lehrer, but perhaps he was dreaming of a California chardonnay. And in this instance, I wouldn't recommend Wente to him. Really, the wine was like the first presidential debate on Friday night: Precisely what you'd expect and utterly forgettable. Both Obama and Sen. John McCain seemed glued to their talking points and unwilling to veer off them; the Wente was virtually no different than any number of other chardonnays I've tried. Both candidates reverted to tried and true campaign messages (McCain hammering on experience, Obama linking his rival to the current administration); the Wente was slightly buttery, moderately floral and slightly dry - ho hum. And neither's body language presented him as the picture of maturity, whether it was McCain's head-down approach as Obama talked or Obama's continuous interruptions; the Wente, meanwhile, was just good enough to make the pain of the debate a little more tolerable. On Friday night, neither man nor wine impressed.
Do-over? Nope
Final Grade: C

9.21.2008

Thanks for stopping by, but... (UPDATED)

Perhaps some of you are stopping by after one of the posts here (this one, in fact) was picked up and placed on the Reuters' Web site.
Clearly, however, something is amiss. The post was placed in the Personal Finance section; the only link between this and that is choosing to use some of that personal finance on wine.
This blog is picked by Blogburst, which redistributes our content to a wider audience via various mainstream outlets. As of Sunday morning, snippets of our posts have been accessed 1,462 times (led by the Chicago Sun-Times' 845 views). Six other people have viewed the page above.
It's out of my hands which outlets pick up our content and what they do with it. I have e-mailed Reuters at one of the general e-mail address to make them aware of the discrepancy but have not heard back.
So if you've arrived here in error, I apologize for pushing you onto a page you may not have wanted to see in the first place. But if wine is your thing, have a look around and feel free to let me know what you think.

-- UPDATE: I got an e-mail from Blogburst editor Daysha Taylor, who assures me that nothing on their end is broken. The problem, apparently, is that Reuters uses a 'contextual' search to identify Blogburst-affiliated blogs that would seem to fit that particular story; that was my hunch in the first place (and something I certainly should have noted earlier). I'm guessing my Barons Bourdeaux somehow caught Reuters' computers' attention; my guess is that it had something to do with Barrons, even though the two are spelled slightly differently. I hope this clears things up, as I had no intention of blaming Blogburst for the misplaced post. I know it isn't their fault.

9.20.2008

J. Vidal Fleury Cotes du Rhone '06

Country: France
Thoughts: Perhaps you've noticed the new feature to the right, down the page a little, which spells out what I'm looking for and what each of the grades mean. If not, go check it out. We'll be here when you get back. (Pause.) So this is another new one that we picked up on a recent Total Wine run; my wife was kind enough to pose the bottle in front of one of her birthday presents, even if the West Coast Huskies were enjoying a bye week. So this is a white rhone, with a decidedly German-looking label. And truly this was an adventurous wine, but not in the way I was expecting. Off the bat, the nose was intriguing, sweet and floral and soft but also, in a way, crisp (if all four of those things can co-exist in a single wine). On the tongue, it presented a dry front but, at times, came across sweet too, mostly on the back of the tongue. The finish was a trip at first, dry but fading into a long-lasting honey. At that point, I was debating whether to go A-minus; it would've been a tough sell for me - just a little too straightforward and the occasional sweetness was too fleeting - but I went over it in my head. As the glass went on - and this may purely be the fault of my own taste buds - the wine got dry and the other characteristics seemed to disappear. At that point, I was downgrading to a straight B. But toward the end of the glass, those fringe characteristics have seemed to reappear; so I'm settling on a B-plus, which is where it was originally. Phew.
Do-over? I would be OK with that
Final Grade: B+

9.19.2008

(drumroll) No. 100: Chateau St. Jean Fume Blanc '06

And here we are. The century mark: achieved.
Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: Well, we made it. Every endeavor gets a fair amount of help along the way, but I'll save that for after the review here. This was the first wine of the night with Andrew and Rebecca, celebrating my wife's birthday. I was tasked to pick the first, and this was the only one that jumped out at me (well, others did, but they were over $45). We had decent enough success with the only other fume blanc out of the 100, so this seemed wholly appropriate. The nose was interesting - sweet and very grapy, like one would expect from a whiff of Welch's. As I tried to delve deeper, there seemed to be a hint of grassiness as well, but that seemed rather fleeting. The taste was an interesting dance; as I swirled and tried to get a feel for it, distinct tastes darted about too. "Was that caramel?" I wrote in my notes, as silly as it sounds. As an overall impression, it was fresh and melon-like with an intensely dry finish - though it toned down quickly in subsequent sips. It's hard to say this was the most exciting wine I've ever had, but I kept coming back to it. In that regard, the wine passes just fine.
Do-over? When I'm looking for a good fume blanc, whenever that might be
Final Grade: B+

-- ANYWAY, THANKS and gratitude go out to my wife, who got me hooked on this. May we share many more drinks together... You guys, for sticking it out with me even though sometimes I felt like I hadn't a clue what in the hell I was writing about... Special thanks to my brother-in-law, Mark, who has always been a valuable resource; and to Matt, my non-drinking friend who is always around for support... And big thanks to the bartenders and servers at our neighborhood haunts (tonight it was Carlyle, as you can see, but that also goes for our friends at Clyde's and the good folks at Portello's Winecafe in Bend). It was they who put up with my questions - would they mind if I just borrowed the bottle a second to snap a pic - in stride. Thanks to all of you; here's hoping we can find some more winners in the next hundred and beyond.

-- MILESTONES: I've also added a new tag, appropriately named Milestones. It's for pure fun, but it includes every 25th wine. I'll try to keep up with that as we move forward...

-- AND, LASTLY, it appears Blogger has moved this up in the order. If you can count, you realize I tried three wines on Saturday night; the fume blanc is the official No. 100, while the viognier was No. 101 and the chard was No. 102. I try to post in the exact order they were consumed and I'd prefer there not be any discrepancies.

Meridian Chardonnay '06

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: We finished up Thursday night strong, getting back to one of our more familiar varietals. Like the viognier below, the Meridian Chard was also rather unique, though it had a much better upside, I thought, than the viognier. The nose was a new one, a light sort of mint hit my nose, like I held my nose above a pack of really nice smelling Halls. There was also another element to it that I debated in my head for several minutes; there seemed to be a chalkiness to the bouquet, too, strange as it may seem. The taste was unusual too, smooth and dry; the finish was almost tart and definitely crisp. I thought that this was a taste that would take some getting used to, and luckily the orientation didn't last long. It was an intriguing drink, if for no other reason than it was something different; anyone can make a chard and oak the hell out of it, I suppose. So when one crosses in front of you that steps out of the norm, you're forced to take notice.
Do-over? Yes, I would say so
Final Grade: B+

Longview Adelaide Hills Beau Sea Viognier '05

Country: Australia
Thoughts: Why yes, it was underserved grape night. Our first drink, as seen below, was the fume blanc (the second one listed here); there are only two other viogniers as well out of the now 101. This was an interesting wine, and not always in a good way. For some reason, my mind was thinking sweet when this one got ordered; my wife gently reminded me that that wasn't the case (must've been thinking riesling... hey, they both have lots of i's and e's). The nose was among the most interesting we've come across. It smelled fresh, like the aroma that hits you when you walk out to a dewey early morning. I think labeling it musty would be going a little far, but it did fall just short of that. On the tongue, it seemed rather one dimensional - and that one dimension wasn't all that alluring, either. There was a hint of something burnt, but that didn't stick around long. The finish was just kind of there.
Do-over? I'm certain we could find something better
Final Grade: C

9.16.2008

Ovacion Verdejo-Viura '06

Country: Spain
Thoughts: A quick lesson in two minor grapes (assuming you're OK believing what's on Wikipedia): Verdejo is a grape concentrated in the Rueda region of Spain, where this is from. It's supposed to be aromatic, soft and full-bodied; it imparts some characteristics that remind you of sauvignon blanc. Viuri - which has a bunch of names, including Macabeo, which is how its referred to on Wiki - is primarily a complimentary grape, used in a blend or to make "young white wines suitable for early consumption," the entry reads. Well, somewhere along the line, one of the grapes failed to do its job. The hints of sauvignon blanc came through in the nose, but it was more rough and tumble than an SB. The nose was powerful, and you couldn't get away from the fact that there was an intense oakiness, almost to the point that it smelled like something had burned. (I checked, and nothing had actually burned, thankfully.) For all its nosy bluster, the taste was light; I didn't even note what was in there. But as it started, so to it ended: The finish was stout, big and again rough and tumble. It was like a sauvignon on steroids. Maybe that's good for a wine trying to bench 550, but I prefer something more manageable.
Do-over? No thanks
Final Grade: D

And with that, we're one away from the big 1-0-0. We will celebrate appropriately when the time comes...

Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc '07

Country: Chile
Thoughts: First off, I have to apologize for the photo; it was taken in a bar, after all. I'll keep the pic in my e-mail and maybe I can lighten it up at work tomorrow. Photoshop is a wonderful program... Anyway, I don't really recall why this jumped off the wine list at me. Maybe it was because Chile is represented by only four other wines on here (only Germany has fewer) or maybe it just reminded me of Big Sur and the days of my youth when I naively thought a kid from landlocked Pennsylvania could be a kick-ass surfer. I dunno. No matter the reason, I'm glad I took the chance. It had all the elements of your normal sauv, but it was big and in your face; it was impossible to overlook all that it had to offer. The nose was bold and dominated by grasses and pine needles, yet it wasn't overwhelming. The taste was a tour de force of citrus at first, but mellowed nicely. The finish was intense - in a similar way as when it hit the tongue - but faded to the same grassiness from which it began. It rated very high on the adventure scale and, thus, gets a high grade overall. The clear class of the field of the now 18 sauvignon blancs we've tried.
Do-over? Absolutely
Final Grade: A-

EDIT to add that Photoshop is a wonderful tool...

Caposaldo Pinot Grigio '07

Country: Italy
Thoughts: This was the wine I started off with, after the obligatory Yuengling, of course. (Though you all know I have taken this experiment seriously, I have yet to find a wine as dependable as our old friend Yuengling.) The nose on this was sweet, your usual hints of citrus came through. On the second attempt, it was noticeably musty; but I'm willing to chalk that up to some mistake I made. On the tongue it was pretty tropical (again, no surprise) but as I swished it around, it seemed to feel very light. The initial lushness faded quickly, and it turned a little too think for my liking. It mostly held together, though, and the finish was crisp - almost like what I'd expect from a sauvignon blanc. So while it was a typical pinot grigio - always good for me - I would've liked a little more weight, a little better mouthfeel.
Do-over? I could do either way
Final Grade: B-

9.14.2008

Horse Heaven Hills Chardonnay '06

Country: USA
Region: Washington
Thoughts: Why, it's the lovely and talented Rebecca presenting the evening's wine. (In truth, I had a lot of wine, but all of them - except this one - have appeared before.) Rebecca and her husband, Andrew, came over for dinner tonight. This used to be a regular occurrence until the two of them moved back west to Phoenix. Luckily for us, they're in town this week, and we're able to share some time with them; how we do miss them, so I'm happy to enjoy as much of this week as possible. If I remember the chain of events correctly, my wife had passed along the link here to Rebecca, who shared it with Andrew. I asked which of them would want to appear in the blog, and Rebecca (was) gamely volunteered. Anyway, I picked this one up during wine shopping for tonight; it was a highly-rated selection (91 points, if you believe the little shelf cards at Total Wine) but at the very affordable price of under $15. The nose was fresh and gave little hints of flower and pine needles; but mostly it was light and challenging to get a full reading. On the tongue, it was light yet rather dry, moreso than many other chards (and there are a lot) on the list. The finish was slightly buttery - not enough to make me cringe - and again re-emphasized the dryness. Though it was a bit of a departure from the typical chard, it was a solid drink.
Do-over? Tough to beat the price
Final Grade: B+

9.06.2008

Hanna Chardonnay '06

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: How apropos. Hanna visited us twice today; for much of the day, she rained and blew and made for a rather ugly day. After she left, she returned in the form a very typical California chardonnay. But hey, at least the latter doesn't threaten damage to life and limb and does the very admirable job of getting me drunk. (And, while I'm thinking of it, I'm loving the idea of using our wireless network with a reliable and decidedly unshitty laptop. In terms of insta-blogging, there's nothing better. My old, POS laptop - a $300 eBay special - was far too clunky to enjoy in the living room.) Anyway, this had all the hallmarks of a typical California chardonnay but nothing to distinguish it from the others. The nose, taste and finish were all precisely what I'd expect from a well-oaked Cali chard. I really wish there was something more to it than that - you all know the joy I take in verbosity - but it's really kind of blah, with nothing that's remotely remarkable. This is chardonnay No. 18 (skip to :48) and there's really nothing I can detect that sets it apart in any way from any of the other 17. But, then again, it's getting me drunk at the end of a wet day, so I can't complain too much, can I?
Do-over? Can't see a reason for it
Final Grade: C+
-- UPCOMING MILESTONE: If you haven't been keeping count, this is wine No. 95 (:30). That means only five more until the century mark. We'll have something special when we hit 100, but I'm still deciding what that celebration will be.
As always, thanks for reading along!

9.01.2008

Barons de Rothschild Lafite Bordeaux '06

Country: France
Thoughts: Fine, nitpickers, I realize that a white Bordeaux has nothing to do with Seattle Metro magazine or any of the 100 best wines of the Northwest (which really was only a boon to cab, pinot noir and syrah drinkers). But hey, I needed a different background. Luckily enough, the sentiment carries over as well. As one would expect from such a wine, it was a 60-40 blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc, and it shone brightly. I couldn't really grasp any sort of nose, which was a disappointment, so I had no clue as to what to expect. It started off really dry; I don't doubt that the wine I'd just finished had something to do with that. Despite that, it still had a semblance of balance to it and mellowed nicely as it got swished. It finished dry but not harshly; instead, it was more of a warm glow (and yes, nitpickers, I realize the difficulty of translating a visual into something tangible on the palette). But it was an excellent wine, one I'd have no problem picking up again. Though we couldn't remember, this selection may have come to us during a visit from Mark, my brother-in-law and new dad. (Let me also say publicly congrats to Mark and his wife, Maya, and may they rest assured that young Drake will never lack for sources of football knowledge). So, if this was Mark's pick, we owe him big-time. He got us a winner.
Ingredients: 60 percent semillon, 40 percent sauvignon blanc
Do-over? Yes, and we will be certain to toast our closest family in Idaho
Final Grade: A-

Spier Discover Sweet '07

Country: South Africa
Thoughts: As noted in our previous stab at Spier, we stumbled upon the brand while touring through Total Wine a few months ago. We picked three that we liked; the chenin blanc earned a solid B. This one's a bit different; the name alone is confusing, but 'Discover' seems to be an offshoot of the regular Spier label (at least according to their site). So this is their sweet wine; it's a blend of some type, but the label didn't include the ingredients, the aforementioned site makes no reference to the '07 version of the wine and only the '04 vintage relays what's actually in there (Bukettraube and Weiser Riesling; the former isn't even spelled right, according to Wikipedia). So heaven only knows. Anyway, the nose was an unusual one, rather sugary - almost like if you'd take a hearty whiff of an open watermelon, but slightly more intense. The taste did quite a turnaround though, starting with a nice balance of sweet and dry; the more it swished around the back of my tongue, the more sweet it tasted. It went quite well with our pre-dinner crackers and bologna and, on the whole, was very drinkable. It fell short on the journey for me, however; though the dichotomy of the sweet/dry was the hallmark of the wine, it felt merely like they were representative flavors. I didn't feel encouraged to really try to figure out what the flavors were, as they only seemed to be sweet and dry. A major concern for our purposes here, but that shouldn't be taken as a slam.
Ingredients: Something sweet, something not quite as sweet and perhaps something else
Do-over? Sure; it's perfectly acceptable
Final Grade: B

8.24.2008

Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay '07

Country: USA
Region: California (55 percent Monterey County, 45 percent Santa Barbara County)
Thoughts: Let's hope my fantasy draft turned out better than this clunker. (In case you're wondering, I landed: Peyton [keeper], Boldin [keeper], Turner, Houshmandzadeh, McFadden, Roddy White, Vernon Davis, Ray Rice, Eli, Minnesota's defense, Crayton, Owen Daniels, Phil Dawson, Reggie Brown, Sidney Rice and a flyer on Leinart.) As I've said before, I tend to stay away from the megawineries; but I thought, well, it's a Grand Reserve; that's got to be better than the standard offering, right? If that's true, I'd be afraid to try to the standard offering. It's a shame, too, because this 'un started off with such promise. A light, airy and slightly dry nose, almost restrained; mellow on the tongue, too, fruitiness here and there but nothing overwhelming. And then it hit me; the butteriness of certain chards that I so despise beat me about the head on finish. It was a sad ending to an otherwise laudable drink, and it caught me so offguard that I have no choice but to sink it. We'll kill off the bottle, sure - it's not like some of the piss we've had before - but no longer will it tempt me from its crate at Costco. Only its unfulfilled potential kept this wine from joining the "D" class - otherwise known as the Dreck class.
Do-over? Nope
Final Grade: C

8.21.2008

d'Arenberg Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne '07

Country: Australia
Thoughts: Naturally, one would have to be a little concerned about trying a wine named after a painfully shy crustacean. But it was offered to us as we went to visit our friends, Mac and Ronda (who, by the way, played a crucial role in our first-ever wine tasting; that experiment eventually became the project you see before you). We were checking in on the two of them and their one-month old son, Beau. All are well, we're happy to say. Back to the wine: What a curious blend this is. Despite limited experience with Viognier, we know enough that it's supposed to be sweet. After a quick run through the blends, we've never come across Marsanne, but ever-helpful Wikipedia comes through. The strange thing is that these two formed a wine that is about as close to sauvignon blanc as one would expect from a wine that's not sauvignon blanc. The earthiness is apparent in the nose and in taste; a little mineral and grassiness in the nose, a crispness in the taste. It did come across a bit sweeter than sauvignon - the Viognier coming through, no doubt - and the finish was a tad dryer. But really, it was a pleasant surprise that these two grapes came together in such a way; it would make for a nice twist in what would otherwise be a perfect setting for sauvignon blanc.
Ingredients: 52 percent Adelaide Viognier, 42 percent Marsanne
Do-over? I would certainly be willing to give it another go
Final Grade: B+