It has been a decent week for tastings, despite the fact that the trade guys are all mostly preoccupied with retail business this week. Most of my tastings this week centered around planning for events for next year or for replacements on current selections, mostly upgrades for some of our catering offerings. I was also tasting for a few items that are straight up proposals on new list items.
Running nine wine lists means that I have to taste a fair amount wine on a regular basis, as we are constantly being faced by vintage changes, price increases, and out of stock situations. Here is a listing of what I tasted through this week and why:
Monday morning started with a selection of wines from Andrew Murray Vineyards located in Santa Barbara County. There are several lines in production, one the Andrew Murray Estate labels, and the second is This is Elleven, a labeled created out of a desire (or perhaps a tribute) to be a big hair rocker of the 80s era, and takes its name and references from This is Spinal Tap.
Tasting these wines was needed as we are going to be hosting a Max Lunch Club tasting on Friday January 17, featuring the wines of Andrew Murray and the Elleven range. I should point out that we were quite impressed with the drinkability of each of these wines, loved the white blends, the Pinot Noir and the Syrah Tous Les Jours. The other thing I should point out is that the Syrah Tous les Jours is a wine that was mentioned in the movie Sideways. It was the wine that Miles and Maya are first getting to know each other personally and instead of opening the Richebourg in Stephanie's wine fridge, they choose this wine, but found it a bit forward.
Here are my notes...
Elleven Unplugged White blend Santa Ynez, 2012
Chenin, Sauvignon Blanc
This wine is tastey, clean and fresh, I enjoyed the interplay of the varietals, some of the guys I was tasting with found it kind of ordinary. I found a touch of smoke and pear flavors through the finish. About $14 retail.
Andrew Murray Camp 4 Vineyard Santa Ynez RGB White Blend, 2012
50/50 bend of Rousanne and Grenache Blanc
we all really enjoyed this one, fleshy and fruity with a delicate nose of white peach and nectarine, supple and just off dry. The finish is delicate, smooth and easy.
Elleven Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley, 2012
Ton of cherry and cranberry fruit flavors, touch of whole cluster earthiness, but plenty of fruit and smooth finish to enjoy. Medium-bodied red that is great for drinking anytime.
Elleven Cabernet Sauvignon Big Brother Red Santa Ynez Valley, 2012
we did not particularly enjoy this as the fruit was not pulling through to make up for the weird tannins
Andrew Murray Syrah Tous les Jours, 2012
Good smooth nose of pure cherry fruit mixed with a bit of earthy notes. Finishes smooth and easy, with some fleshy deliciousness.
Overall we really enjoyed these wines and added the Syrah on the regular wine list and will be featuring the Pinot Noir for a January feature.
Later that day I was presented with a selection of pretty interesting selections, mostly from Napa, but with a couple of Italian items thrown in for good measure. No request to taste these wines, just a rep-selection for the day presenting some top wines. These were mainly presented through the Coravin, a new device used to tap a bottle of wine without opening it. www.coravin.com Each wine was in good condition from this process.
Morlet Coteaux Nobles Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2011
smooth chocolaty notes, fresh juicy fruit. Pretty good Pinot Noir
about $100 retail
Morlet Passionement Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009
I was told this was more Merlotbased, but the website says Cabernet Sauvignon...in any event there is a distinct stemmy, lean quality, but great dusty tannins and lovely fruit through the finish
about $200 retail
Levy & McClellen Cabernet Sauvignon Napa, 2006
ummm, this is wicked expensive, big huge heavy bottle in over the top packaging, so if you can afford a $450-500 bottle, then by all means, use your means and go for it, cause this is big, chewy and round, fully loaded with loads of linear Napa fruit, and lovely, youthful dusty tannins, and a plummy finish.
La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino, 2008
Ripe fruit nose, smooth feel, mellow and clean with lovely sangio-chewy taste.
Tasted this later on in the evening as well, and was delicious, smooth and tasty, with great acids.
Felsina Chianti Classico, 2011
Delicious, smooth with a great feel and taste - could easily be on a list and/or pair up with any Italian meal. This is fabulous.
Next on the tasting list was wine dinner featuring Italian wines from Domaine Select Wine Estates, and our boy Michael Knipp was generous enough to come speak with our guests about the wines.
GiA Bianco Venezia Giulia, 2012
lovely, almost perfect non-descript drinking white wine, that is a blend of Pinot Grigio, Ribolla Gailla and Malvasia. Pleasantly clean and fresh, smooth style and good mouthfeel, medium acids and easy finish. Nice.
Comes is a liter bottle, about $15.
Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi, 2012
another clean and smooth white, that just reminds me of Italian white wine with its smooth, simple chracter, just a touch of minerality and mellow finish.
Velenosi Pecorino, 2012
From le Marche, this white has a bit more weight than the previous two whites, but similarity in the feel and flavors, but just a hint of oxidation, which adds to the complexity.
J. Hofstatter Pinot Nero, 2012
easy fruit bomb (I know its a weird thing to say about an Italian Pinot Noir) with cinnamon and cherry flavors that are pure and smooth through the finish. Delicious Pinot Noir.
COS Frappato Sicily, 2011
Bright, full, fresh cherry fruit is dominant. Smooth and loaded with fruit flavors with a wild edge to the flavors. Quite interesting and seriously smooth on the finish.
Medici Ermete Lambrusco Concerto, 2011
Lambrusco you say? You mean Reunite? Why no, I mean one of the finest red wines made in the zone, in fact its the only Tre Bicchieri Lambrusco, not too shabby. Lovely fruit here, on the dry side and a bit challenging when you fist taste it, but the more you get in the glass the better it becomes. We had people asking for more - and they were the ones doubting the selection when I first poured "Lambrusco??" Just buy this and enjoy, if you can get it.
Great combination for this dinner of wines for this dinner. I really fins the selections from Domaine Select are always on point and true to appellation and varietal, even the less expensive wines show elegance and character; upper scale wines are some of the most unique and interesting wines available.
Yesterday I had a lunch date with one of my good, old friends, who now work for Esprit du Vin, a division of Palm Bay International. EDV focuses mainly on French selections and our three wine tasting had just that.
Paul Mas Pinot Noir Pays d'Oc, 2012
dusty cherry nose, with a fresh palate style - felt and was literally cool on the palate, which helped the overall impression. Not your typical tart cheap French Pinot, this has some juiciness and a round fruit feel. Not quite New World, but close for those looking for a balance between complexity and easy style.
about $11 retail.
Fernand & Laurent Pillot Puligny Montrachet Noyers Brets, 2011
From the first whiff, this is immediately enjoyable, although a bit heavy handed in the oak department, but despite the vintage the fruit is clean and almost fun to drink. Will it be around in a number of years? probably not, but for immediate service and enjoyment - this is a no-brainer.
About $65 retail.
Jean-Michel Gerin Cote Rotie Les Grandes Places, 2009
1.8 ha plot, this is an older producer who combines the style of fresh/modern winemaking with a classic influence - i know that is a bit cliche, but you get the clean feel of modern winemaking along with this taste profile of an older producer. There is a juts bit of earthy, leathery (Bretty) mixed with the fruit, which is delicious. Just enough tobacco, and leathery complexity mixed with the fruit to create a complex palate of flavors. Pretty tasty wine. About $170 retail.
Today, I had a number of wines that needed tasting due to some placement issues and price issues. Here is a quick synopsis of what I ran through tonight at the house...
Cuvaison Chardonnay Carneros, 2011
Cuvaison Pinot Noir Carneros, 2011
Ok, not a huge fan of these wines. Over-priced a bit for the level of quality. Simplistic styles showing a bit of awkward oak and finishes that fade prematurely. Nothing really flawed, technically, but just nothing really exciting, either. If you want a straight forward pleasant wine, this can be for you, but I find it unfortunate that a winery that has been around since 1969, and is located in such a great location can continue to make such underwhelming wines.
Next up was group of wines from Goose Ridge Winery, second label called StoneCap, all estate grown from the Columbia Valley appellation in Washington State. Has the potential to be a tremendous value label.
StoneCap Chardonnay Columbia Valley, 2009
This is long in the tooth, and shot a bit. Pass.
2012 in the new package is due in my market by February, wait for this.
StoneCap Merlot Columbia Valley, 2012
Great fruit and texture, pretty typical style of this price point ($9 retail), from Washington State. I actually drank a good portion of the bottle with dinner. Straight up and easy style showing some good complexity for the price point. Definitely recommend for daily consumption.
StoneCap Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, 2012
Not quite as generous as the Merlot, but good texture and just about enough fruit to match the feel. Pretty good. I would rather drink the merlot, but if this was it I would be ok.
Alfredo Roca Pinot Noir Mendoza Argentina, 2011
Good surprise for an inexpensive wine (about $8-9 retail). Pretty close on New World Pinot Noir fruit and feel with cinnamon, cherry a touch of smokiness and all in a smooth, soft drinking style. Had with spaghetti dinner and it was just fine, but could easily stand up to more complex dishes. Argentine Pinot Noir - ok, I'm sold. Lovely and a good buy.