Saturday, October 30, 2010

Austin Wine Merchant Tasting - Spanish Wine

Today at Austin Wine Merchant a Spanish wine importer, Askari O.H. LLC, featured four different wines from various regions in Spain.

Castillo de Maetierra Libalis 2009 from Rioja is a white wine blend of 90% Muscat a petits grains (Apianae), 5% Viura, and 5% Malvasía. It retails for $13.75/bottle at AWM.

Aroma - lychees, very sweet
Taste - lychees, sweet, very nice finish

A very yummy wine!

Hacienda López de Haro Crianza 2006 from Rioja is 85% Tempranillo, 8% Graciano, and 7% Garnacha. It retails for $14.99/bottle at AWM. The importer was very knowledgeable about the production of each wine - this one happens to be aged in old oak for around a year, which allows it to be labeled "Crianza."

Aroma - black cherries, spice
Taste - black cherries, spice, black tea, moderate tannins

This wine tasted fresh and interesting. I would definitely consider purchasing it.

The labels on these bottles are really fun - the youngest man on the label indicates that this is the youngest wine of the series, and the oldest man on the label indicates that his is the oldest wine of the series. Today I tasted the bottle on the left and the one in the middle.

On the far left is Matsu El Picaro 2009 from Toro. It is 100% Tempranillo and earned 90 points from Wine Advocate. It retails for $17.50/bottle at AWM. This wine is sourced from vines that are 60 - 80 years old, the youngest in this vineyard. It is aged in new French oak for six weeks.

Aroma - red and black fruit, spice
Taste - red and black fruit, tons of spice and tea, moderate tannins

This wine is okay - a bit too young for my tastes, but other might like it a lot. On to the label with the middle-aged man!

In the middle is Matsu El Recio 2007 from Toro, which is also 100% Tempranillo and retails for $27.50 at AWM. It contains 14.5% alcohol, but doesn't smell or taste hot. It is sourced from 100-year-old vines and aged in French oak for 14 months.

Aroma - dark fruit, vanilla
Taste - dark fruit, vanilla, tobacco, moderate tannins, quite a bit of wood

This is an okay wine for this price - a little too much vanilla for me, but others might like it.

I didn't taste wine on the far right from the bottle with the oldest man on it - it will be the oldest vintage (2006?) from the oldest vines in the vineyard.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Royal Blue Tasting - Graziano Family Wines

Another fun Thursday wine tasting at Royal Blue last night. Rae from New Vintage Wines was pouring the Graziano Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and the Graziano Zinfandel 2006. Both are from Mendicino, California.

The Sauvignon Blanc retails for $11.99/bottle at Royal Blue. Rae says that it is fermented in stainless tanks and aged in neutral oak.

Aroma - apples
Taste - apples, good acid, not as super-crisp as some others, slightly bitter finish

An okay wine at a very reasonable price. Would definitely purchase it but it wouldn't be my very first choice.

I've tasted this vintage of this wine before - see the updated tasting notes on this wine's main page!

Rae and I talked at length about different importers of reasonably-priced boutique wines, and she mentioned a couple of importers of Italian wines - John Givens and Vinaio. Will have to look for their wines!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Château d'agel 2006, Minervois, France - $24

Had this wine at Mulberry during dinner with friends. It retails for $24/bottle there. I can't find the varietal composition for the 2006 vintage, but both the 2008 and 2009 are 40% Old Vines Carignan (AKA Carignan de vielles vignes), 30% Grenache, and 30% Syrah.

Aroma - minerals, a little barnyard
Taste - dark fruit, minerals, black tea

Tastes better than it smells!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lapostolle Casa Carmenère 2008, Rapel Valley, Chile - $10.50

This Chilean red is 85% Carmenère and 15% Merlot. It retails for $10.50/bottle at Austin Wine Merchant.

Aroma - black fruit, a little hot
Taste - black fruit, moderate to strong tannins, long finish

A nice wine, and I'd totally buy it again. It contains 14.1% alcohol which I can smell, but can't taste.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Casa Zuliani Cabernet Franc 2006, Isonzo del Friuli, Italy - $32

Yesterday after the Downtown Living Tour we stopped at Crú - A Wine Bar for a splash of wine and nibbles. This Italian Cabernet Franc is 100% Cab Franc from DOC Isonzo del Friuli. It retails for $32/bottle at Crú and can be found online for $12/bottle.

Aroma - black currant
Taste - black fruit, tea, moderate tannins

We had this wine with steamed mussels in white wine/butter/garlic, a Margherita pizza, and a pear and Gorgozola pizza. The wine went well with everything, and on Sundays there is a 30% discount on bottles at this wine bar, which is always nice considering the average markup.

A side note on the pizzas - they were tiny for the price ($12 - 15/pizza the size of a salad plate), and the Margherita left a lot to be desired. The pear and Gorgonzola did taste great, but I probably won't purchase it here again.

Terres Dorees L'ancien Beaujolais 2009, France - $16.25

This red Beaujolais by Jean-Paul Brun is made from Gamay and was rated 90 points by Wine Advocate. It retails for $16.25/bottle at Austin Wine Merchant. It is low in alcohol - only 12%! Love it!

Aroma - red fruit, spice
Taste - red fruit, light spice, soft tannins, very clean

Seems like this wine would be very food friendly. According to its importer, Louis/Dressner, the wine is made using "old style" techniques such as relying mostly on indigenous yeasts for fermentation. The result is a Beaujolais that tastes fresh. Very different than the Beaujolais that I've had in the past, which are generally Beaujolais Nouveau (which I understand Brun also makes, but I probably will stick with this style of Beaujolais).

A very nice wine - I like it a lot and will definitely purchase it again! In fact, I think I may be in love with another Louis/Dressner selection!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Austin Wine Merchant Tasting - Pedroncelli Winery

Another fun tasting today at Austin Wine Merchant. Richard Morehouse, part of the Pedroncelli family, hosted a tasting of five Pedroncelli wines. His father has been the winemaker there for 64 years - incredible!

Pedroncelli Sauvignon Blanc 2009, East Side Vineyards, CA retails for $9.99/bottle at AWM and is a really great value! Just like its 2008 vintage, this SB is crisp, fruit, and refreshing. It is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, and was rated 87 points and a Best Buy by Wine & Spirits and 86 points by Wine Spectator. It contains 13.3% alcohol and was aged in stainless steel.

Aroma - bright citrus fruit, honeydew melon
Taste - bright citrus fruit, honeydew melon, crisp, good acid

This vintage will also be extremely food-friendly. Love it!

Pedroncelli Chardonnay 2008, Dry Creek Valley, CA is 100% Chardonnay and retails for $9.99/bottle at AWM. It was rated 84 points by Wine Enthusiast. It has 14.4% alcohol, which is quite high for a Chard.

Aroma - apples
Taste - apples and wood, not crisp

This wine is okay for a Chard, but definitely not my taste.

Pedroncelli Pinot Noir 2009, Russian River Valley, CA retails for $14.99/bottle at AWM. It contains 14.1% alcohol, which is quite high for Pinot Noir.

Aroma - cherries and light spice
Taste - cherries, tobacco, soft tannins

I like this wine - don't love it, but it's a nice PN.

Pedroncelli Zinfandel Mother Clone 2008, Dry Creek Valley, CA was rated 88 points by Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits, and Connoisseur's Guide. It retails for $11.99/bottle at AWM. It is a blend of 95% Zinfandel and 5% Syrah.

Aroma - dark fruit and spice
Taste - dark fruit, spice, tobacco, moderate to strong tannins

I like this wine although it contains 15.7% alcohol. However, it does not smell or taste hot, which is a huge accomplishment by the winemaker.

Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Three Vineyards Dry Creek Valley, CA is a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec. It retails for $11.99/bottle at AWM. It contains 14.1% alcohol, which is higher than the average Cab Sauv.

Aroma - dark dark fruit, tobacco
Taste - dark dark fruit, tobacco, black tea, moderate tannins

Softer tannins than most Cab Sauvs. I like this wine and would buy it.

Another fun tasting, AWM!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Goulart Clasico Malbec 2009, Mendoza, Argentina - $32/bottle, $8/glass

Had this wine with dinner tonight at Bess Bistro on 6th. It retails for $32/bottle and $8/glass at Bess.

Aroma - dark fruit
Taste - dark fruit, tea, moderate tannins


Reserva Quinta dos Rouges 2003, Dão, Portugal - $33

Had this wine at Mulberry. It retails for $33/bottle online.

Aroma - dark fruit
Taste - dark fruit, moderate tannins

A nice wine!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Manon Tempranillo 2007, Tierra de Castilla, Spain - $6.50/$26

This Spanish Tempranillo retails for $6.50/glass and $26/bottle at Malaga Tapas and Bar. Its price ranges online from $5 to $8/bottle.

Aroma - dark fruit, musty, earthy
Taste - dark fruit, cedar box, moderate tannins

This wine went well with most of the tapas we ordered - everything from fish to pork. But, after seeing the markup, I might not order it at Malaga again.

Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Central Coast, CA - $20.99

Smith & Hook is part of Hahn Family Wines. Their Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 contains 14.8%, and retails for $20.99 at Royal Blue. This was the second wine I tasted tonight at RB.

Aroma - black fruit
Taste - black fruit, moderate tannins, soft tobacco

I like this wine, but it's way too high in alcohol. Because of this it wouldn't be my first choice. But it does taste great and has very smooth tannins for a Cab Sauv.

Hahn Estates Pinot Noir 2008, Monterrey, CA - $13.49

This was the first of two Hahn Estates reds I tasted tonight at Royal Blue. It retails for $13.49/bottle there.

Aroma - cherries
Taste - cherries, tobacco, moderate tannins

This Pinot is okay. I think the older vintages are better (specifically 2006), a little more complex.

Hess Select Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Lake County, Calfornia - $9

Hess Select's 2008 Sauvignon Blanc is 100% Sauv Blanc and retails for $9/bottle at the Austin Wine Merchant.

Aroma - tropical fruit, rubber tires, hot!
Taste - bitter grapefruit

The alcohol content of this wine is 14.5%. No wonder it smells so hot! I'm not a huge fan of this wine. The Pedroncelli Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is much better, and a much better bargain. I like my Sauv Blancs tropical and acidic, but not bitter.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Villa Pozzi Nero D’Avola 2008, Sicily, Italy - $8/$32

Ordered a glass of this Italian Nero d'Avola at Taverna tonight. It retails there for $8/glass and $32/bottle. Online the prices average around $10/bottle.

Aroma - red fruit, light and pleasant
Taste - red fruit, clean, soft tannins

This wine paired well with Taverna's Cozze al Vino “Marittima” (mussels in white wine, garlic, and tomato broth) and Risotto ai Frutti di Mare (risotto with saffron and seafood), which were both unbelievably delicious. Like it, and will definitely buy it again! Will also get the mussels and risotto again, too!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Austin Wine Merchant Tasting - Red Wines from the South of France

Austin Wine Merchant always has fantastic wine tastings on Saturdays from 12pm - 3pm. Today's event featured five reds from the South of France, all of which contain Grenache and Syrah. Four of these wines are from Robert Kacher Selections, and one is from Vintage 59.

Mas de Guiot 2009, Vin de Pays du Gard is a blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache and retails for $8.95/bottle at AWM.

Robert Kacher Selections provides great info about this wine, which is from the Costières de Nîmes region and is grown and made by Sylvia and François Cornut. The vineyards are farmed naturally and sustainably, and the fruit is picked late. The fermentation takes place in stainless tanks.

Aroma - red fruit, acid (surprisingly! I think this indicates a freshness to the wine that I don't seem to sense in most aged in barrels)
Taste - red fruit, tobacco, soft to moderate tannins, very slightly reminiscent of beer (hops or yeast?)

This wine was good, except that I didn't prefer that very slight beer flavor at the end. Perhaps under different conditions it would be better, because I liked everything else about it. A great buy for the price!

Mas des Bressades Cuvée Tradition 2009, AOC Costières de Nîmes is an equal blend of Syrah and Grenache (according to the importer, Robert Kacher Selections), or 55% Syrah and 45% Grenache (according to the winemaker, Cyril Marès). It retails for $11.25/bottle at AWM.

Mas des Bressades is considered to be one of the top estates in Costières de Nîmes. This wine is fermented in stainless and aged in concrete tanks.

Aroma - dark fruit, black olives? (a teeny-tiny bit salty)
Taste - dark fruit, moderate tannins, acidic

I really liked this wine!

Domaine Sainte-Eugénie 2007 Corbières is a blend of 40% Carignan, 30% Grenache, and 30% Syrah, and is from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. It retails for $9.99/bottle at AWM. The wine is produced by Gantier, Ratero and Brignoli from free-run juice, and is fermented and aged in barrels and casks.

Aroma - strawberries and cherries
Taste - fruit and wood, moderate tannins, light sweet tobacco

I wondered why I tasted so much wood in this wine, and after doing some research and discovering the way the wine is fermented and aged, it's no wonder. And, having just tasted two wines fermented and aged in stainless and/or concrete tanks, the wood was especially noticeable.

This was not my favorite wine of the tasting, but it was fairly good and I did like it. I need to try it again without having it sandwiched between non-oaked wines. Sometimes a little oak is just fine!

Château Coupe Roses La Bastide 2008, Minervois is a blend of equal amounts Carignan and Grenache, and about 5% Syrah, and it retails for $13.75/bottle at AWM. It is made naturally without additives, and élevage takes place in tanks. This is the only wine at this tasting that is not imported by Rober Kacher Selections - its importer is Vintage '59. Château Coupe Roses is the domaine of husband and wife team Françoise Le Calvez and Pascal Frissant.

Aroma - bright red fruit, cotton candy (one of the AWM staff says light spice and lavendar, too)
Taste - bright red fruit, moderate to strong tannins, fresh!

I really like this wine, and will definitely be trying it again!

Mas Lavail Tradition 2008, Côtes du Roussillon is a blend of 40% Carignan, 40% Syrah, and 20% Grenache from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, and retails for $13.75 at AWM. Not much info about the production of the wine itself except that it is hand-harvested and aged in vats. Another Robert Kacher Selection, this wine is made by Nicolas Batlle (pronounced "buy") and cousin Lionel Lavail.

Aroma - the darkest black fruit, spice, very aromatic
Taste - black fruit, tobacco, strong tannins, big and fruity, full-bodied

A lot of people will like this wine, especially those that enjoy big reds from Napa and Sonoma. It's a fine wine, but my tastes are leaning towards those that taste a little fresher and not so fruit forward.

Overall an excellent tasting at AWM!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

La Dolce Vita 2010

As most Austinites know, La Dolce Vita is a fun and fantastic fundraising event for the Austin Museum of Art. It's held annually on the gorgeous grounds of Laguna Gloria. I was lucky enough to go with MS tonight, and it was simply AMAZING! Twin Liquors and local wineries provided the wine, and about 50 local restaurants provided the food!

Last year the event ran out of wine quickly, so the first thing we did was head to the wine tasting tables, and Becker Vineyards was closest to the entrance. I've had a few Becker wines before. Their Prairie Rotie 2009 is a Rhône-style blend - it retails for $16.95/bottle. I did not like this wine - it smelled heavily of sweet cola, and not in a good way. It also tasted very heavy. It may have been better with food, but since I was planning to hit the seafood tastings first, I needed to find a lighter wine.

The next wine we tasted was the Abrazo Garnacha 2009, which retails for about $9/bottle. This wine went great with seafood, specifically the four tuna, salmon, and shrimp dishes below.

Fleming's served a seared tuna and julienned veggies on a light and crisp wonton chip - absolutely fantastic!

Parkside served Gruyere Gourgeres and Salmon Tartar. Both were great!

Imperia served Tuna Crudo on a Whole Wheat Wonton Spoon - AWESOME! And I also tried a Chocolate Sake Truffle - yum!

The next booth was Satay and Get Dim Sum. This isn't actually a photo from that booth, but it's close enough. They served barbecued shrimp on Asian slaw, and some kind of dark meat chicken thing. Everything tasted good, but not as fresh as the raw/nearly raw tastes we just had at Fleming's, Parkside, and Imperia.

The next wine we had was the Gnarly Head Pinot Noir 2008, which retails for $10.99/bottle. I've had the Old Vines Zin but never the Pinot Noir from this winery. It was a nice wine for the price point.

And of course we had to try the Alamos Malbec 2009, which retails for about $8.99/bottle. It went nicely with the next taste from El Arbol.

El Arbol served shredded ribeye on a little piece of toasted baguette. It was good, but a little greasy for me.

Carmel Road Pinot Noir 2008 is from Monterrey County, California, and retails for $18.99/bottle. It was very food-friendly!

Paggi House served an oyster and fennel soup that was really wonderful! The little oysters were at the bottom of the cup, and the soup was creamy but not heavy. The presentation was gorgeous!

This Baus Family Vineyard Private Reserve Zinfandel 2008 from Sonoma Mountain was quite nice. It retails for $15.99/bottle.

Jack Allen's Kitchen offered a leg of quail wrapped in bacon, microgreens salad, and homemade pimento cheese on a whole grain toasted pita. I liked everything but the cheese - I'm not a huge pimento fan.

Whole Foods has been offering tastings of Duchman Family Wines quite a lot recently. I like their crisp white called Vermentino, but this is the first time I've tried their red Dolcetto 2009. A very nice wine! I believe it costs approximately $26/bottle.

Jasper's offered a pork tenderloin, microgreens, and potatoes (underneath the pork). Everything was way too salty.

This Louis Latour Domaine de Valmoissine Pinot Noir 2008 retails for about $14/bottle. It was also very food friendly, especially as our next few bites included crab cakes!

Good old Eddie V's - love the crab cakes with remoulade sauce!

This was a new experience for me - Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka! I seriously could not taste the vodka, but still didn't drink too much of it - needed to save room for more wine. Something that seems to be growing in popularity in Central Texas is a taste for spirits and mixed drinks. Yay - maybe spirit prices will go up and wine prices will go down!

Judges' Hill offered pork on top of polenta. It was okay, but not my favorite bite of the evening.

Alamo Drafthouse surprised us with this spicy pork stew, which was a lot like a great chicken tortilla soup! It was spicy with creamy fresh avocado and crispy tortilla strips. Excellent!

Frei Brothers Reserve Merlot 2007 from Dry Creek Valley was my only Merlot of the night (you know it's not my fave varietal). It retails for $15.99/bottle. It is a blend of 90% Merlot, 6% Petite Sirah, and 4% Zinfandel, and earned 88 points from the Wine Advocate and 86 points from Wine Spectator. It was okay.

Another crab cake from Eddie V's - not sure why they had 2 different booths, but this crab cake was actually better than the last one, and the presentation was nicer. I think it was the temperature (warm) and the texture (crisp, flaky).

This zucchini crudite (I think that's what it was called) from Eastside Showroom was FANTASTIC! It was on a little crispy toasted slice of bread, and I really loved it! The chef talked a lot about the local food that she uses, which of course made me love the bite even more!

This steak kabob from Steiner Ranch Steakhouse was the tenderest beef we had all night. It was really fantastic. The manager talked with me extensively about the wine list - will have to go visit sometime!

This hanger steak from La Sombra was really tough. It was seasoned well, but I didn't love the texture.

Filet mignon with Gorgonzola cheese from Sullivan's - simple, sublime, superb!

This squash soup from Botticelli's was absolutely wonderful!

The mac and cheese with pancetta from Cover 3 was really good, but the pancetta was a tad too salty. And, I prefer white truffle oil on my mac and cheese!

J Black made a nice beef or pork bite. I LOVE the size of these portions, and this dish was AMAZING!

Sterling Affairs from the Long Center provided caramel balls with black truffle oil, pancetta on top. The popcorn was a tad bit stale, and the pancetta wasn't quite integrated into the popcorn - just sort of sprinkled on top.

Siena presented mashed potatoes with black truffle oil over game. I ate the potatoes - YUM! Didn't get a chance to try the game - too gamey.

The Caramel Corn from La Condesa was crunchy, sweet, and salty at the same time! Nice thick caramel coating!

This Cruz de Piedra Garnacha 2008 from Spain retails for $8.99/bottle. It's a good wine.

The Cote 125 Corbières 2008 is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignan, and retails for $9.99/bottle. It was a nice wine, and I would definitely try it again.

This shrimp on biscuit dish from Word of Mouth Catering was okay. The shrimp didn't seem very fresh - it was quite shriveled, which could have been because it was kept warm for a while? I also didn't love the sauce. I actually couldn't finish it.

Clam chowder from Truluck's is always awesome! I love it because it's not too creamy or heavy. A little malt vinegar and chopped chives added a kick!

Pirhana Killer Sushi always delivers, and they did so tonight with a crab/asparagus/masago roll, and cream cheese/asparagus/crab/jalapeño pepper

This Charamba Duoro 2007 is a blend of Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional and retails for $7.99/bottle. Wine Spectator gave it 88 points. I didn't love this wine - it was very bitter.

Could not drink this DBS 2008 wine from McPherson Cellars. Too sweet. It's a blend of 50% Dolcetto, 36% Barbera, and 14% Sangiovese and retails for $15/bottle.

This Casabayo Tempranillo 2008 from the Vinos de la Tierra region seems to have been aged a while in oak. It has a distinctly bitter tobacco taste. Not my favorite of the evening. Retails for $14.99/bottle.

This was a pretty good 2006 Tempranillo by Cacho Ribera Del Duoro. Nice and dry, with just a hint of barrel aging. I would purchase it again. Retails for $14.99/bottle.

Yes - love this wine - a 2008 Petite Syrah by Torre di Pietra! I think this was my favorite wine of the evening. Spicy, dry, not too much wood. To top it off, this is a gorgeous winery to visit! Retails for $24.95.bottle.