Friday, August 19, 2005

Wine: Coeur d’Alene Cellars Viognier

Apparently Viognier does not read this blog. Not that it should, necessarily, but seriously, the Coeur d'Alene Cellars approach in 2003 was exactly what I was complaining about: the "Idaho wine" (quotes due to the fact that its grapes come from the state of Washington) is a no-holds-barred, fully mechanized cream assault. Folks talked of apricots as they do on their website, but frankly I was underwhelmed with the overly vegetative smell.

Yikes. A friend paid too much for it at a vegetarian restaurant which will go unnamed (oops); the restaurant described it as spicy and pointed out with glee that it must be unfiltered because it's so cloudy. Sorry, it's not just unfiltered: it's flawed.

Which gets me thinking about wine contests in general. What does it mean for an Idaho wine, made entirely from Washington's grapes, that can dismay me so much to win a gold prize in an Idaho contest? (Lest you think I am making too much of the state distinction, these grapes are travelling around 200 miles on average.) Perhaps it's best not to think of things about which you have nothing nice to say.

But maybe this blog has earned at least the right to complain a little bit; there isn't too much negative here. Wine contests are bizarre and especially confusing for the average consumer in part because of their large catalog of categories. For example, one such contest has six (6) categories for varying levels of residual sugar; if you don't like dry or cloyingly sweet wines and a particular wine hoists a gold medal, what does that mean, exactly? I have yet to see a wine bottle explain exactly what it won, and in which category. I especially get a kick out of the fact that most competitions are done with more than one judge; an average of varying tastes doesn't tell you much apart from an indication that a wine may not be grotesquely flawed in its hilariously obscure category. (It doesn't always bother me to be a kettle calling the pot black.)

And there's another thing, too, that's hard: picking on someone just becase you don't like their style. But hey, I don't. (Only a wine so overly oaked can force me to use the word 'but' as a sentence starter so often. My grade school English teachers, wrong though they were on this particular topic, would beat me with a stick.) I fail to see how a casual wine drinker could find a difference between this ~$20 Viognier and a cheap, overoaked Chardonnay.

Value: 0.5
Color & Clarity: 1.0
Bouquet: 2.0
Flavor: 1.0

Friday, August 12, 2005

Wine: Hendry Ranch Zinfandel

Zinfandel, I apologize. I've been saying for so long that the tendancy toward high alcohol in your wines is starting to annoy me, but recently I've been proven wrong. Constantino's "The Zin" is a hugely alcoholic yet wonderful wine, and after tasting Hendry Ranch's 2001 Zinfandel, I'm convinced that something can really work even when you're approaching 16% alcohol by volume.

Packed with blackberry and cassis notes and blooming with the pleasant scent of great foods on the grill (charcoal, barely a hint of vinegar, and game), the Hendry is a fine example of a wine that can taste wonderful without being overwhelming even while it is turning you into a tipsy fool with only a large glass or two. Deep rich color makes this a Zinfandel worth gazing upon (which works quite well, since it pays off if you take your time with this one).

Last night, I shared another Nero D'Avola and I must admit that while I enjoyed it I was thinking back to the Hendry. The Zinfandel was well-matched with a grilled beef tenderloin (which, strangely enough, we grilled as we ate our homemade tuna tartare).

Value: 2.5
Color & Clarity: 3.5
Bouquet: 3.5
Flavor: 3.5
Everything that is new or uncommon raises a pleasure in the imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possessed.
~Joseph Addison

Monday, August 08, 2005

Wine: Château Moulin de Bel Air

Flavor, sometimes, lies in wait; it peeks around the corner and casts a shadow into the hallway so that we know it's there yet still too shy to come into the room. We can smell its perfume, but just barely. Stuck with idle conversation and tepid wine, we must wait until the decanting has drawn our friend out to us. Occasionally it isn't until we've forgotten about the event that great flavor finally joins us.

Château Moulin de Bel Air, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (70/30), is an affordable wine that greatly benefits from an hour or two of decanting. At first taste, it had a slightly offensive vegetable quality to its bouquet and a short, fiesty finish. Scents of leather were present, but not much else.

A few hours later, having forgotten about the wine in the decanter, I revisited it and was more than pleasantly surprised: it had truly bloomed into a fine example of a Medoc wine. With its finish lengthened and softened, it was certainly more welcoming than before. The bouquet exposed pleasant hints of cedar and dark fruit. A great 15$ match for a lamb dish or perhaps a relaxed, outdoor BBQ.

Value: 3.0
Color & Clarity: 2.5
Bouquet: 3.5
Flavor: 3.0