Thursday, October 29, 2009

St. Hallett Faith Shiraz 2007, Barossa Valley, South Australia - $17.50

This was the second wine I tasted at Royal Blue's Thursday night wine tasting.

Aroma - red fruit
Taste - dry, red fruit

Honestly, I didn't exactly get enough wine to form a firm opinion about whether I wanted to actually purchase the wine. But I probably will, just to try it with different foods.

Martín Códax Albariño 2008, Spain - $18

Another Thursday evening wine tasting at Royal Blue - fun!

Today I tasted a Spanish Albariño, which I've never had before. It reminded me in almost every way of a light, crisp, Sauvignon Blanc (my favorite one thus far, which is made by Kim Crawford).

Aroma - citrus
Taste - lychees

George, one of the owners of Royal Blue, says that his favorite Albariños have a light salinity to them because the grapes are usually grown along the coastline.

The wine distributor's rep says that Albariño reminds him of Argentinian Torrontés, which he feels is somewhere between Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. He also says that this wine is great with seafood, which I have no doubt about.

I also found a closeup of the 2006 label, which I've included below just in case I feel like doing more research on the region in the future.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pascual Toso Argentinian Malbec 2006 - $12

Just another wine I want to remember - Pascual Toso Malbec from Argentina. Royal Blue Grocery has it. I can't remember where I first tasted it (maybe with you, Em), but I want to remember to try it again now that I'm keeping a wine tasting journal.

Vintages of this wine have been rated as high as 91 points (the 2006 vintage, Wine Enthusiast), and have been considered top 100 buys in wine.

Update - November 27, 2009
I found the 2006 vintage of this wine at Whole Foods for $12 the day before Thanksgiving, and I thought I should get it so that I could finally make some tasting notes for it. We opened this wine after dinner, so at first we didn't have it with any food. It changed a lot as it breathed - I'll try my best to capture those layers here.

Aroma - at first the aroma was hot (and D thought yeasty - like bread dough)
Taste - at first, very hot and burned/lingered at the back of the throat

Aroma 2 - fruity - raspberries?
Taste 2 - red fruit, soft tannins

Now, with dark chocolate cake, a couple of hours later:
Aroma 3 - cocoa, dark fruit
Taste 3 - tobacco, soft tannins

Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir 2007 - $24

This is a really nice Pinot from the same label (Belle Glos) that MS and SD gave me for my birthday. I really liked it! It was easy-drinking, light, and fruity.

Other vintages of this wine have rated consistently between 88 and 91 (WS, WE, RP).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Manga del Brujo Calatayud Red Wine 2006 - $15

This Spanish wine is really nice - 65% old-vine Garnacha, 15% Syrah, 15% Tempranillo, and 5% Monastrell.

Aroma - fruity, spicy, a little hot
Taste - fruity, peppery, dry

I bought this wine at Costco. It's rated 90 points by Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - $30

I bought this Cab because it's from the Rutherford, an area very well-known for Cab Sauv. Wine Enthusiast rated this at 93 points, and I bought it at Costco for $30. We had it before dinner, as well with our Ribollita (Tuscan white bean soup). I think think that D also liked it with his Cheez-its.

Aroma - dark chocolate and fruit, nutty
Taste - dark fruit, dark chocolate, with a very long finish

Drinking this wine is like drinking a glass of dark, fruity chocolate - yum! I'll DEFINITELY buy this one again!!

The Big Red Monster Red Wine - $12

MK and I had this wine last night while we watched Frost/Nixon and snacked on Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gouda, Brie, multi-grain crackers, apples, and of course, truffle oil popcorn.

This was a really big red wine. Of course everyone notices the over-the-top label, which in my opinion is marketing genius. I bought this wine at Whole Foods because the label was so fun, and I thought that MK would really like it! According to several sites on the internet, the wine is made by NV and is a blend of Zin and Syrah.

Aroma - dark chocolate and dark fruit
Taste - dark fruit and tobacco with a dry finish

MK noticed that the aroma really opened up after we let the wine breathe about an hour. I'd get this again - would be curious to try it with dinner.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Velvet Devil Merlot 2007 Washington State - $13.50

Thursday wine tasting at Royal Blue again. I've seen this Merlot all over Whole Foods - they were pushing it hard for a while, and I believe it's a few dollars less there than at Royal Blue. Perhaps they were pushing it so hard because the winemaker, Charles Smith won the 2009 Food & Wine Magazine's Winemaker of the Year Award.

I don't favor Merlots. I find them easy to drink but not interesting at all. They are fruity - that's about all I can say about them.

Aroma - fruit
Taste - simple, no complexity, straight fruit flavor

Needless to say, I didn't purchase this or the Eve Chard (see below). These are not varietals that I am interested in, and neither of these particular wines changed my opinion at all.

Eve Chardonnay 2007 Washington State - $13.50

Another fun wine tasting at Royal Blue Grocery in downtown Austin. You know I'm not a huge Chardonnay fan, but this one was okay. The label is fun, and is apparently inspired by the apple flavors in the wine, which I found immediately.

Aroma - crisp, green apples
Taste - crisp, dry, green apples

The rep from the wine distributor told me that this Chard is aged in neutral oak for a few months, then finished in stainless steel. It's fruity and not buttery at all. Wine Spectator gave it an 88. The winemaker, Charles Smith, won Food & Wine Magazine's Winemaker of the Year Award for 2009.

See my tasting notes for the other wine at this tasting.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Frei Brothers Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 - $12

Film and Food was an amazing event! The food included tender scallops from the Driskill, Frito Pie from Ranch 616 (same as they served at La Dolce Vita), apple and salmon bites from Parkside, amazing bruschetta bites from The Belmont, seafood guacamole from Maria Maria, soup bites from Whole Foods - and that was just the start.

The finish included Irish Crème and Red Velvet cake balls from Austin Cake Ball, and poached pears with port sauce and cheese (Gruyère?) from the Driskill.

My favorite wine of the evening was this Cab Sauv. The only tasting note I wrote down was "great!" I started off the evening with a Zinfandel called Kicking Bull or Bucking Hill or something like that. Then MS got me a glass of this CS, and it was an entirely different experience. While the Zin was "okay" (again, my only tasting note) but the CS was terrific!

The wine is from Alexander Valley in the Sonoma AVA. According to the wine's website, it's 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 4% Petite Sirah, 3% Cabernet Franc. It's a really nice blend.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wine Books and Resources

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention these great books about wine and CA wine country! The first one is A Tale of Two Valleys - this was the book that sparked my interest in visiting Sonoma! Interesting read, and you can definitely tell whose side the author is on.

The book I've just finished is called The Billionaire's Vinegar, about the most expensive bottle of wine ever purchased ($156,000 for one bottle). I learned a lot about important wine people in the book - absolutely fascinating for a neophyte oenophile!

The other great thing I learned about in the book is The Wheel of Wine Aromas! I found this copy of the wheel online - I'm hoping that it'll help me improve my wine tasting vocabulary!

The book I've just started is called When the Rivers Ran Red, about California wine country during Prohibition. A page-turner so far!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Baritone Shiraz/Cab 2008, Australia (1 liter bottle) - $12

CC recommended this wine while we were at happy hour today, so I thought I'd make a quick note of it. It comes in an odd 1 liter bottle (I've never seen one of those!), and is apparently around $12 at Spec's. Will have to try it sometime!

Castillo de Monséran Garnacha 2007, Spain - $8

Had a couple of glasses of this light Garnacha at Mulberry with CC after work. Fabulous, easy drinking all by itself! Happy hour price was $5 per glass. Ordering straight from the winery, the wine costs $8 per bottle. And, if you order a case, you get shipping for free!

Aroma - cherries, red fruit
Taste - light and fruity, a little dry at the end

We had this wine with Devils on Horseback (figs stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon) and gorgonzola crostini topped with coppa and honey - it went okay with both, but I would probably choose a heavier wine to go with these appetizers next time. But the wine itself was really great, and reasonably-priced as well!

Friday, October 16, 2009

La Dolce Vita Austin 2009

What an amazing night, and thanks a MILLION to the fabulous friend of my fabulous friends!

This was my first time to experience Austin's favorite wine and food extravaganza, and it was simply unbelievably, indescribably, fun and decadent! From the unique sushi roll by Piranha Killer Sushi (tuna, avacado, kiwi, strawberry) to the Frito Pie (made right in the bag with fresh pico de gallo) by Ranch 616, the diversity and amount of food seemed limitless.

The wine was a little more difficult to find at the event, as the wine tents were interspersed between the food tents, but I did try a Llano Estacado Winery 2007 Cab/Shiraz blend (nice, went well with fall-off-the-bone rib and potato salad) - $11 per bottle according to the winery's website.

I also tried (in the words of the man who poured the wine), a "lighter, sweeter" Cabernet Sauvignon. This I had with the little bite of raw fish from Roy's and from Parkside. Unfortunately, it was so dark in this particular tent that I couldn't see the label of the wine.

Another great food find was Perla's Seafood and Oyster Bar - the served oysters on the half shell with different sauces. Sadly, this was one of the last bits of food that I could squeeze into my already-fully belly - we had eaten our way around the entire museum grounds by the time we reached Perla's!

What a great first experience at La Dolce Vita! It is an evening that I will never forget!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Permutations Pinot Noir 2008, Victoria, Australia - $32

MS, SD, and I made a wine stop at Cru during the Downtown Living Tour today. We ended up sharing a bottle of this fabulous Pinot Noir from Australia by R Wines. BTW - wine by the bottle is 1/3 off on Sundays at Cru - good to know! Here are our combined tasting notes:

Aroma - sour cherries, bright fruit
Taste - tart fruit, nice tannins, long finish, clean taste

We all really, really liked this wine! MS and I had it with the mussels in white wine broth (and tons of garlic!) and the garlic loaf - yum!!!!

Stephen Tanzer rated this wine at 90 points, and Robert Parker at 86. It's priced at around $15 retail, and $32 at Cru (before the 1/3 off discount).

Definitely a keeper!

Friday, October 9, 2009

7 Deadly Zins, Old Vines Lodi Zinfandel 2007 - $12

I've had this Zin before, and have purchased it as a gift several times for friends. It sports a fun wine label, and all things considered is a very conventional California Zin. It has aromas of fruit and pepper, and it tastes of fruit and spice with a definite bite at the end. It earned 90 points from Robert Parker, and was included in his publication "Fifty Super Domestic Wine Values."

Update - Saturday October 10, 2009
This Zin is GREAT with fried green tomatoes!

Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe


3 medium, firm green tomatoes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
2 beaten eggs
2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs or cornmeal
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper


1 Cut unpeeled tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle slices with salt and pepper. Let tomato slices stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place flour, milk, eggs, and bread crumbs in separate shallow dishes.

2 Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Dip tomato slices in milk, then flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. In the skillet, fry half of the coated tomato slices at a time, for 4-6 minutes on each side or until brown. As you cook the rest of the tomatoes, add olive oil as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Update - June 30, 2010
Haven't had this Zin in about 8 months - let's see how it tastes with chicken ravioli and roasted zucchini and yellow squash!

Aroma - dark fruit and spice
Taste - dark fruit, spice, moderate tannins, a bite at the end

It's really great with our dinner!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Domaine des Ormousseaux, Coteaux de Giennois Pinot Noir 2006 - $25

Girls' night in again - MK brought over this French Pinot Noir by H. Veneau, and it was really lovely! We had it with Spanikopita, carrots/celery/roasted red pepper hummus, pistachios, and Ghirardelli's 70% cacao dark chocolate.

Aroma - red fruit

Taste - fruity but dry, nice tannins

Nice, would get again! Great with SYTYCD!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Jardin Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Stellenbosch, South Africa - $17

Aroma - earthy, vegetal, "tuberous" (coined by Conor McGann - means that it has aromas of root vegetables)

Taste - dark chocolate, dark fruit, some tannins, very very heavy

Wine Enthusiast rated this wine at 90 points, and I purchased it at Costco for $17. It's very heavy, so I would have to pair it very carefully with specific foods if I purchased it again. Not ruling it out, but it's not a shoe-in.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Stump Jump 2007 Red, McClaren Vale - $13.50

This Australian red blend by d'Arenberg consists of 50% Grenache, 29% Shiraz, and 21% Mourvèdre. You know I love a nice red blend, and this one was okay. This wine can be purchased for $13.50 at Royal Blue.

I detected bright aromas of sour cherries, plums, and other red fruit. Not surprising considering that the wine is half Grenache.

The wine tasted light with lots of black fruit and a bit of smoke. The rep from the wine distributor said she tasted raw meat. I didn't. Goes to show how subjective our palates are!

Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, and Stephen Tanzer all rated this one at 88 points. Gary V didn't like this wine at all - found it disjointed and chaotic, and gave it a 71 - yikes!

The Stump Jump 2007 White, McClaren Vale, Australia - $12.50

This Australian white blend (from the d'Arenberg winery) of 62% Riesling, 18% Sauvignon Blanc, 8% Marsanne, 6% Viognier and 6% Chardonnay, is supposed to smell like diesel, according to the rep from the distributor who was conducting the wine tasting at Royal Blue. I couldn't smell anything like that, no matter how I tried. What I smelled and tasted was a little bit of soap. It also had some aromas of melon. But apparently the Riesling is supposed to impart an aroma of petrol to the wine - go figure!

Needless to say, I wasn't wowed by this one, even though Stephen Tanzer from IWC gave it 89 points.