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+


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+


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-


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+


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-


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