Archive for January, 2009

kfr1I have written other posts about K Vintners, Charles Smith and his wines (see links below). Originally hailing from Northern California, Charles Smith arrived in the Walla Walla Valley following 11 years in Scandinavia managing rock bands. Located at the base of the Blue Mountains in Walla Walla Washington, K Vintners opened its doors to the public on December 3, 2001 on property homesteaded in 1853 with the adjacent farmhouse built in 1872. K Vintners first release was 330 cases of the 1999 K Syrah Walla Walla Valley.

Robert Parker Jr. rated him an “Excellent” producer from the state in his 7th wine buyer’s guide and Jay Miller (of the Wine Advocate) called him a “Brilliant winemaker.”

His Riesling is harvested from a single rocky vineyard, said to be done in a halb trocken/medium dry style. The result is a wine loaded with aromatics and flavor. The name choice? To quote Mr. Smith directly “Why Kung Fu Girl? Because Riesling and Girls kick ass!” Bright yellow straw color. On the nose, pear and citrus with some white peach, almond and floral notes. On the palate, lots of green apple, pear, and citrus. Good weight, mineralty and crisp acidity. Not very complex and some sweetness (a bit too much for my palate) make this a quaffer candidate.  This might not be my wine of choice to drink solo, but think it would be quite good with Asian (especially Chinese or Thai) or Indian food, or anything with some heat and spice given the acidity and sweetness. And at $11 a bottle it offers a lot of value.

Related posts:
K Vintners Roma 2002
K Vintners Viognier 2007

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img_0929Chateau de St-Cosme itself can trace its history back to the year Columbus made his trip voyages across the Atlantic and the cellar itself includes stone tanks first lowered into position by Roman wine-growers. Louis Barruol has become one of the new stars of the Rhône since taking the reigns of the family domain in 1992.

This wine is a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Picpoul, and Viognier. Fresh and appealing nose of nectarine, melon, lemon oil, rain and honeysuckle. On the palate, peach, mango and pear with some custard, almond, citrus, fennel and spice (some black pepper and jalapeño zippiness). Good complexity for a Côtes du Rhône Blanc, and while it might not have the complexity of a great Condrieu, it does bring richness, elegance and impressive purity and minerality — and a focused, persistent finish. 13.5% alcohol and about 1,000 cases produced.

This wine can be purchased for $19-$20 a bottle, not inexpensive for a white Côtes du Rhône, but I thought it was a lot of wine for the money.  Recommended.

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img_0924I bought this wine a couple of weeks ago from the Wine Exchange in LA. There was a one bottle limit, so I purchased a bottle along with another bottle of something else, as I have never been able to justify the shipping on a single bottle of wine.

They shipped the wine despite the fact that half of the country would soon be experiencing the coldest weather in a number of years. It arrived extremely cold with a slightly elevated cork. Upon closer investigation, it was clear that this was not going to be in it for the long run. I contacted the Wine Exchange and they responded by saying I could have had the wine held for shipment if I had purchased at least six bottles — or should have had it shipped overnight or three day. I wasn’t really expecting them to do anything at this point, but I do question why they shipped the wine.

I have ordered wine on extremely cold days from other retailers. Some well-intentioned and insightful merchants simply hold orders and advise they will ship when it warms up a little (or cools down) — and if you want to go against their better judgment you can contact them and say ship now….why a store with Wine Exchange’s pedigree doesn’t employ such judgment in crafting policies and procedures that protect their clients is beyond me.

So the next evening I opened the wine and wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was still in fine form and actually showed quite well after being decanted for a few hours.

The 2005 Relentless is 78% Syrah and 22% Petite Sirah. 3,500 cases produced and 14.9% alcohol. Dark, inky purple in color. A very aromatic nose of fresh violets with blackberry and cassis. On the palate, chewy and meaty with dark cherry, red currant, blueberry as well as an underlying (but substantial) minerality with asphalt and pencil shavings. Lush with velvety soft tannins with nice structure and purity, though a bit candified and not leaving a lot to the imagination. In all honesty, I was torn on this wine — certainly a lot to like, but not sure if it offered anything more than the obvious — and in rather large doses.

The next night, I opened a bottle of 2005 Ridge Syrah Lytton West — it showed some restraint and elegance that the Shafer lacked — and I appreciated the fact that it took me a little bit longer to appreciate all that it offered. I still think this would have been wonderful served with a rare rib eye or porterhouse on an evening that I did’t feel much for thinking — but preferred to have a glass that offered more opulence than provoked imagination — and there are nights when that fits the bill.

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Ridiculously Tasty

picture-4Ridiculously Tasty is just getting started and promises to be worth reading ….it’s on my blogroll and I am sure to be a fan.

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guigalw072009 is a year that demands value. Budgets are being cut — at work and at home everyone is looking at ways to be more economical. In the wine world, that doesn’t have to mean that quality takes a hit as well. Everyone knows that you can buy a wine for $30 dollars that is comparable to the quality of a wine that might cost $100 — or a bottle for $11 that rivals a $22 bottle. It just requires a little bit of work to find the best quality values. Though 2009 is still young, I would suggest this is one of the great white wine values of the year.

Guigal’s Côtes du Rhône Blanc is a blend of 55% Viognier with Rousanne, Marsanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc. I opened a bottle last weekend and was impressed by the quality of the wine. Even at twice the price the wine would be a good value. Fresh and floral aromatics of orange blossom and white flowers, honey, stone fruit and tangerine. On the palate, fairly rich and creamy with apricot and white peach and some key lime. Solid acidity and minerality with a clean, polished finish.

I also tasted this along side the Tablas Creek Vineyard Côtes de Tablas Blanc 2006, a California Rhône blend that was a favorite under $20. Though I do like that wine a lot as well, the Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc held up extremely well side by side. It was a virtual toss up. Add cost into the decision ($19 versus $11 a bottle) and it would not be a very difficult decision. Obviously, variety and trying new and different wines is the way to go and I would recommend both, but this is a lot of wine for $11 dollars a bottle. The other white wine I would put out there at the under $15 price point is the Mas De Bressades Roussanne-Viognier 2007.

Other white wine suggestions for value seekers?

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gaillard-ivre-2007I am a big fan of Perre Gaillard. His Condrieu 2006 was one of my favorite white wines from last year. In fact, I could put it on my list of top 5 whites (that is if I kept such a list). On that list, I would also include the McPrice Myers Viognier 2006 and Didier Dagueneau Pur Sang 2006.

Gaillard’s wines are consistently excellent and some of the greatest quality/value plays in the entire Rhône. Gaillard got into the wine business at a very young age. His first vineyard was the Chardonnay vines he planted in his parents’ garden. Later he worked at Guigal and Vidal Fleury. He was a force at Guigal in the 1980s, helping to create La Turque which became a benchmark vineyard in Cote Rotie. Today, Gaillard is considered by many to be one of the most capable craftsmen in the Northern Rhône and is also considered a master of Syrah, Viognier and Roussanne.

Le Secret Ivre is a joint effort between Pierre Gaillard and Kimberly Jones of the Shiverick/Jones import house. The 2007 release is 60% Viognier and 40% Rousanne. The majority of the viognier comes from Condrieu. Light golden yellow in color. Viognier infused aromatics of apricot, white peach and honeysuckle. More apricot on the palate — with asian pear, apple and a touch of pineapple, kiwi and lemon zest.  A creamy textutre with good richness and acidity and a clean, solid finish. I thought this was a very nice bottle of wine, but it didn’t impress me as much as some of his other wines, but certainly worthy of a recommendation. 14% alcohol. 100 cases produced.

Other wines from Pierre Gaillard:
Pierre Gaillard Condrieu 2006
Gaillard Côtes du Rhône Les Gendrines 2006
Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Clos de Cuminaille 2005

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img_0897Wine is kind of like music. You can make it in one spot and shoot it to people all over…

That was my greatest wine experience….and it was a pretty crap 20 cent bottle of wine…

~Charles Smith

Owner and winemaker Charles Smith with his big hair, kick ass attitude and bold packaging has earned the moniker “rock star” of Washington State Syrah. In some ways he reminds me of a young Randall Grahm that had been kidnapped at a young age and forced to listen to heavy metal and drop acid for days or perhaps weeks on end. That is not meant as a slight to Charles (nor I am not suggesting that Randall never dropped acid), But like Randall, Charles brings a fresh of breath air to the business and immediately captured a lot of people’s attention, including mine.

Originally hailing from Northern California, Charles Smith arrived in the Walla Walla Valley following 11 years in Scandinavia managing rock bands. Located at the base of the Blue Mountains in Walla Walla Washington, K Vintners opened its doors to the public on December 3, 2001 on property homesteaded in 1853 with the adjacent farmhouse built in 1872.  K Vintners first release was 330 cases of the 1999 K Syrah Walla Walla Valley.

In addition to K Vintners, Charles has now started his own label as well. The intent of Charles Smith Wines is to create wines to be enjoyed now but with typicity in regards to the varietal and the vineyard. I was able to get my hands on the 2005 Charles Smith Wines Heart Syrah and the 2005 Charles Smith Wines Skull Syrah. The wines disappeared after Parker released his scores of the latest Smith releases.

I bought this wine a few years ago at my favorite Wisconsin wine store in Milwaukee. Grapes and Grain has carried K Vitners from the start and a visit to their store is usually my best bet for getting my hands on some of his more sought after wine, besides K’s mailing list.

The Roma is dedicated to his mother and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Deep purple in color with a touch of copper. After letting it breath for an hour, it showed beautiful and perfumed aromatics of black cherry and dark fruit compote, vanilla, violets — with some pine and green olive. On the palate, blackberry, cassis, cocoa, wet leather, tobacco with some pencil shavings and a minty herbaceousness. Nice minerality, soft velvety tannins and acidity with a lot of focus and a persistent finish. Modern with lots of nice fruit, but structured and finessed, as well as layered and textured. The wine has aged quite nicely, though I personally would open this now if I had more. I savored each sip of this wine — and it is one of the better wines I have had from Washington — and on the short list of best wines from the last 4-6 months. Recommended.

It’s worth checking out the man behind the wine. The video below is from Grape Radio and will give you a pretty good idea of what makes Charles Smith tick.

Related posts:
K Vintners Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2007
K Vintners Viognier 2007

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img_08841Alice Feiring wrote about this wine — and I figured I better get my hands on a few bottles after she pronounced it wine of the year.

I purchased it from Chambers Street Wines for $10.99 a bottle. As Alice noted in her post, Chambers Street direct imports the wine — and you can only find it at their store.

The nose is pure Chinon, Loire — great aromatics with perfumed violet and berry with a bit of earthiness, pencil shavings and  and some herbaceousness. On the palate, it is a bit rustic as Alice notes, but also displays great purity as well. I was expecting it to bring the funk, and it did have some funk, but not your farmers market in a bottle cab franc. Loaded with plum, some green pepper — and as Alice noted, green tea — probably the best example of a flavor profile that includes green tea you will ever find in a wine — the green tea component really comes through. Quite a lovely bottle and an interesting bottle as well — not to mention an outstanding value at $10.99 a bottle.

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img_0879Mention Cornas and you will probably include Auguste Clape in the same breath. The son of a chartered accountant, Auguste Clape first came to Cornas in 1949 to marry his wife, the daughter of a local winegrower. Today the two are still happily married, live in the same family house and farm the family vines (many now approaching 100 years in age).

His is the leading estate in Cornas ( a small appellation comprised of some 250 acres), a leader in the Nothern Rhône and one of the finest producers in all of France. The wines are in a class of their own with an inimitable intensity and richness — as well as great charm and depth of flavor.

Clape, at 80 years old, is one of the few remaining old heroes and an icon of French winemaking. He now works along with his son Pierre-Marie making wines in the same way he has for decades. Anyone who has decided to seriously explore Syrah cannot consider their work done until they have had a Clape Cornas. A deeply inky, mineral-rich wine that is in a class of its own given its power, depth, and complexity. That being said, it would be a mistake to overlook his other wines, including his white wines.

Clape’s Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc is 100% Marsanne with fermentation done in cement vats and aged in stainless steel. Light, golden straw in color. Light notes of citrus, lemon curd, honey, white flowers on the nose. On the palate, pear, Fuji apple, pomelo, quince and white pepper on the palate with a very pronounced and steely minerality. A bit oily, rich and textured with crisp acidity. Medium body, impeccable balance and a solid finish. A great start to the 2009 — and might just be my choice to end the year next December. Recommended.

The wine is imported by Kermit Lynch — a national treasure and and icon in his own right. I often recall Eric Asimov’s profile of Lynch, which certainly is one of the better attempts at defining his contribution to the wine world and is definitely worth a read. I am also currently reading Inspiring Thirst: Vintage Selections from The Kermit Lynch Wine Brochure — which is a collection of his musings from from 1974-2003. It is a very entertaining and enjoyable read, but seeing the prices from 30 years ago is a tough pill to swallow. For example, Lynch sold the 1980 Auguste Clape Cornas for $7.95 a bottle — on sale from the regular price of $8.75.

Speaking of prices, you can now get in on pre-arrival on wines from Auguste Clape (and Thierry Allemand) — which might not be a bad idea as I expect prices will only continue to increase once the reviews start to come in on the 2006 offerings. His 2006 Cornas is priced at $72 a bottle, which may seem expensive compared to the 1980 price, but if you can find the 2005 Cornas you will probably pay $100 or more for a bottle. All the details are in the latest newsletter from Kermit Lynch.

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