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Slurping Around with P.D.W. December 2012

Hi all – First the apology for this being so late. Harrieth and I were in Australia the first three weeks of November, then Thanksgiving, then an NIH study section, then a short visit to Dallas. We do have a wine report from the Australia trip, but I will not make it this month’s column because it is 110 pages of single spaced text. But it does discuss 954 different wines we tried at over 60 wineries in McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley, so if any of you are planning a wine trip to those areas any time soon, I would be glad to send the full report to you so you can pick and choose where to invest your time.

Sparklers worth having:

Just as last year and the year before that, I thought I would now triplicate-publish my sparkling wine suggestions verbatim – so self-plagiarism, since I have not tasted the wines this year. As I reread the following from Dec 2010 and 2011, I think the discussion still applies; the prices are likely higher, I have not checked. But likely not that much higher:

Low price: Freixenet is a big Cava (Spanish equivalent of champagne) producer and they make some very dependable and tasty white sparklers. I like Carta Nevada Brut and Cordon Negro Brut. Both are very widely available. The former is a touch sweet but full of tasty fruit and costs just $6. Goes very well with cheese and crackers, smoked oysters and olives in front of the fire. The latter (wine, not the fire) is dryer and technically “superior” to the former and costs $9 (Trader Joe San Diego prices). Both have just 11.5% alcohol so they will not dissolve your brain tissue.

Medium price: Schramsberg and Roederer Estate are two very reliable California sparkler houses that also make excellent bubbly. Schramsberg blanc de blancs is mid-$20’s; their blanc de noirs low-$30’s. Roederer Estate’s non-vintage brut is about $20. These are all classical sparklers with finesse, dryness, and light, zesty, apply/yeasty flavors and are clearly high quality.

Higher end: Veuve Clicquot is a true French champagne and is always excellent, again with light, clean, dry elements yet tasty and long-lasting. But it costs $35-$40. Still, that is less than many high-end French bottles, and excellence is guaranteed.

And do not forget Australian sparkling Shiraz if you can find it. Not much gets to the USA, sadly, but if you can find one, give it a try. The makers usually leave a touch of residual sugar in the wine, but usually there is very good depth of flavor. Great with any red meat, obviously. No specific names to suggest because they are so rare – just ask your wine shop, and you never know. They vary in price from $10 to $30. I probably would not pick the cheapest.

Now that the Red, White and Blue Journal Editors (or perhaps I, as editor of the J Applied Physiology) will arraign me/myself on ethics violations, I shall redeem myself with the following original material.


2011 Pewsey Vale Riesling, Eden Valley, Australia $13. The nose and palate both have very nice lemon notes with a floral edge. The palate is rich (so many dry(er) Rieslings are a bit thin), clean and has just right acid – bright but not tart, and the finish is barely off-dry. There is no “kerosene” which is a typical aging characteristic in Australian Riesling. Very appealing indeed. Available here, not just in Oz.

2011 Chateau Haut Mayne Blanc, Graves $12. This wine has a nice apricot and citrus nose and palate. It is light and fresh, clean and with bright acidity. The wine is dry and there is a pleasing richness.

2011 Mohua Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough NZ $13. Another in a long line of really tasty NZSB’s. Distinctive herbal gooseberry on the nose and palate, with some passionfruit as it airs in the glass. Not too tart or acidic, it is rich and enjoyable alone or with sea food. Very good length and balance. I thank Connie Hsia for showing me this one in Dallas last week.

2011 Opolo Roussanne, Central Coast CA $18. Should you be looking for a heavier white that has a touch of sweetness (residual sugar)--and it is Christmas--this one works, although it is a bit expensive. Roussanne is a classical Rhone region white grape. The wine is quite varietal (ie it tastes like it oughta), with pear and citrus on the nose and palate, medium acid, a lush viscous mouthfeel and good length and balance.


Wish I could run through the several hundred very nice reds we tasted in Oz, or even the 40 or so top class wines from among them, but a) no room b) no USA availability so c) no reason to write them up.

2011 Garnacha de Fuego, old vines, Calatayud, Spain $7. aka Grenache, a Rhone red grape. Grenache has the following stereotypical features: A color that is often lighter than most reds, sometimes like Pinot Noir. A nose of candied red fruit, usually raspberry, coming across as ripe, even sweet. A palate that is similar, and which often displays heat (ie, you can actually taste the sweet burn of ethanol on the extreme sides of your tongue, usually at the finish), consistent with the commonly seen high alcohol level (15% or more). Soft tannins and very good acid make for a ripe, almost sweet but bright flavor that is too easy to drink. The alcohol adds to the sweet sense. Count this example as among that stereotype. 15.5% alcohol. Note absence of a listed winemaker. Someone made it, it did not get there unassisted. It was bottled for Bodegas Breca; selected by Jorge Ordonez and imported by Henry wine group. And despite this chain of middle men, and non-name maker, what a deal for $7.

2011 Evodia old vine Grenache, Calatayud, Spain $7. yes, a double take, and almost the identical wine in appearance (deeper than many Grenache); nose –as above; palate – as above; and price - as above. There is a little bit of black pepper on the nose and palate and a slight stemminess that sharpens the wine in a good way. 15% alcohol.

2009 Artesa Pinot Noir, Carneros, CA $14. Artesa does good stuff relatively inexpensively. This one has a nose with more coffee grounds and oak char than fruit, but the palate is the total reverse – Really good, strong, bright cherry fruit, cola, earth, real Pinot varietal flavors, some oak char, very good length, good acid, medium tannin and good length. This is very good, very serious Pinot at a decent price.

My best holiday season wishes to you all, and may you have enough good wine that you remember none of it.



Slurping Around with P.D.W. November 2012

Hi all –

Between travel and work, opportunities for tasting have become less and less, so I cannot offer you a report of the usual quality you have come to expect. For this I apologize. While I expect to compensate in November when Harrieth and I will be taking a couple of weeks "off" in Barossa and McLaren Vale (South Australia), I am not sure I can provide a useful column in November since the wines we will see in Oz are likely not available in the United States, plus with the equality between US and AUS dollars, they will have outgrown my budget anyway. But I will try. Just don't hold your breath. Not worth it.

White / Rose wines

2010 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc "private bin”,  Marlborough, New Zealand $10. Villa Maria is very dependable. Despite the moniker "private bin," this is their lowest tier effort. Nonetheless, it is great stuff. Typical NZSB with all the ripe gooseberry/lime/citrus flavors, very clean palate, acidity softer than most NZSB but quite enough, viscosity and length we have come to expect from Marlborough. You can pay more, but you probably won't get more.

2011 Chateau Routas Rose, France $10. Not sure from just where this hails, but that does not matter. You look at this and are not encouraged – just a shimmer of pink, there cannot be much to this wine. The nose has rose petal and some caramel and is stronger than the wine's pallor predicted. So, too, the fruit intensity on the palate is surprisingly good with clean citrusy red cherry and raspberry. It is dry, balanced, and has good length.

Red wines

2010 Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma County, CA $19. While this wine is their "lowest tier" zin, it is just as good this year as in past years, and a bit better than the 2009, which I recommended October 2011. It has a young, fresh, and forward grapey/raspberry nose, with a touch of oak char. It has excellent red cherry and raspberry fruit, with soft tannin and good acidity. There is no sweetness, but a nice touch of dry herbs. It is very clean, balanced, and has good length. It is not an over-extracted wine at all, and has elegance. This is a wine to serve your boss, assuming you like her.

2009 Bitch Grenache, Spain. $9. Truly, that is the name. Don't shoot the messenger. It has a forward floral red raspberry nose with some black pepper. The same features on the palate, and the mouthfeel is very ripe and almost sweet, with intense fruit. Acidity and tannin are balanced, length is reasonable. This is a wine to serve your boss, assuming you do not like her.

2009 Bogle Petite Sirah, CA $8.50. Great value for the price, no question. The nose has blueberries and dark cherries. The palate has very rich, ripe dark fruit flavors, which easily cope with the medium-high tannins. This is a big, solid, extracted wine. Interesting element of sage and honey can be identified. There is a freshness to the wine. Needs good red meat, to be sure. Note: I said the preceding in the October 2011 column. The 2009 is still on the shelves, I tried it again last week, and the description has not changed, nor has the price. Go for it.

2010 Van Ruitan Zinfandel, Lodi "old vine" $7. 14.8% alcohol, so drive carefully. This is a steal. Floral red berry nose with a touch of oak char; light oak and good red berry fruit on the palate. It not extracted, tannic, overdone or sweet. Just nice and tasty.

2010 Wine Guerrilla Zinfandel, Sonoma County $12. 14.5% alcohol. There is a nice red berry nose followed by a medium weight wine on the palate, with juicy red berries that are ripe and very slightly sweet. It is not tannic or extracted, has very good acidity to balance the ripeness, making it bright and lively.

2009 Point Concepcion Pinot Noir, "Salsipuedes", Santa Barbara, CA $16. This is a big wine, 14.7% alcohol, with a nose of cherry, vanilla, and anise. The palate is very forward and rich with dark cherry and plum, spice, modest oak, good acid, light tannin, and a bit of heat at the finish.

Enjoy! It may all you get from me until December.


Slurping Around with P.D.W. October 2012

Hi all - I am sorry I am late. The excuse is as expected -travel such that no real wine-tasting chances appeared until just now. But the wines are worth waiting for in my opinion.

White Wines

2008 Wiltinger Hoelle Kabinett, $14. This is an off-dry Riesling from Germany, the label saying "Feinherb Mosel". The nose is floral/sweet with citrus, dried apricots and some kerosene (a positive in Riesling - very unique). The palate does have some residual sweetness, but this is balanced by nice citrus and acidity, especially at the finish.

2011 Picpoul de Pinet, Caves de Pomerol, Hugues, $8. This well-priced wine has grapefruit and peaches on the nose and palate. While a bit simple, it is very refreshing and bight with excellent acid. It is clean, rich and viscous. Great summer white drunk cold.

Just as for last year at this time, there seems to be a paucity of white wines to recommend. But let me reassure you there are some very tasty Zinfandels as discussed below.

Reds Wines

2010 Klinker Brick Zinfandel, Lodi old vine, 15.8% ethanol. $14. This is Mae West on steroids in a bottle, if that appeals to you. It does to me. It began with a slight stemmy green nose with some anise, and some dark berry fruit. Ho hum. Then on the palate you experience very voluptuous, remarkable, velvety rich dark jammy fruit with dry herbs and anise. Tannis are soft, acidity is sufficient and there is very slight residual sugar. Very clean, no heat. Wow.

2010 Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma, $19. Year after year I recommend this one, and the 2010 follows nicely on its predecessors. In contrast to the above, this wine is elegant with a purity of dark fruit, very clean flavors, light oak and medium tannin and good acidity. Not as big and in your face as Mae, but still with power and excellent fruit, balance and length. No residual sugar - quite dry. 14.8% ethanol.

2010 Force of Nature Zinfandel, Paso Robles, Moss Fire ranch, $16. This is in between the above two - 15.4% ethanol; forward nose with dark fruit, slight tarand stemminess and a clean, rich dark fruit palate. The tannins are soft, the acid is bright, and the length is excellent. It is a medium-weight wine with very slight residual sugar.

2010 Van Ruitan Zinfandel, Lodi, $7. The nose has nice dark berry fruit with some earthiness, almost barnyard, but interesting. The palate has bright red fruit, with slight tobacco and dry herbs and earth. The finish is refreshingly tart and does not have residual sugar. An excellent BBQ/party red. 14.8% ethanol.

2010 "Z" Zinfandel, Amador, Massoni Ranch $19. this is a Jeff Runquist wine. The nose is clean with raspberry fruit. The palate is lighter in mouth-feel with nice floral raspberry flavors. There is slight residual sugar, good acid, and evident American oak (dill).

2010 Dunning Vineyard Zinfandel, Paso Robles West side, $18. I will say just this: some folks like a sweet, port-like, late-harvest style Zin. Welcome. This is your drop. There is hay, dry herbs, and sweetness on the nose and palate. It is soft, spicy, sweet, but not too tannic or tart.

2009 Trentadue Petite Sirah "La Storia" $18. The prior release was 2005 and I loved it. No idea what happened to 06, 07, or 08 versions, but the current 09 is very interesting. If it has a flaw, it is in noticeable residual sugar. With dark meats that will actually work very well. The bottle opens with a heavy dose of coconut and dill from the American oak (leading to "uh-oh"), but a few minutes in the glass and that is muted and balanced. There is real power to this wine with rich blueberry fruit throughout, medium soft tannins, good acid, a hint of tobacco, and excellent depth, structure and length. There is finesse - the power is not there by brute force. There is a bit of earth, but this is a quality wine with structure, size, and interest.

2009 Tridente Tempranillo, "Castilla y Leon" Spain, $16. Parker liked it. There is gamey sausage on the nose (more typical of syrah), and lots of dark berry fruit. The palate has rich dark fruit, slight oak char, slight gaminess, with good length and balance and soft tannins. Good, but I would take the La Storia above any day.


Slurping Around with P.D.W. July 2012

Hi all: Apologies for being so late – as if anyone of you even noticed. Blame it on a wild June and July working hard on two continents, in two houses and with two families. Don’t ask.

White Wines

2010 14 Hands white blend, Washington State $9. grapes: Chardonnay, Piniot Gris, Roussanne. Heaven only knows what inspired the winemaker to invent this blend, I don’t. The nose has tropical fruit and pear and was slightly dirty for a few minutes before cleaning up. The palate was rich, clean, tasty and viscous with lots of citrus flavors and pear as well. It is on the borderline of tasting sweet, and for me it could have used a bit more acid. I would accordingly drink it quite cold – right out of the cooler.

2010 Pratsch Gruner Veltliner, Austria, $15. Gone are the bad old days of spiking Austrian wine with antifreeze. GV is the most common Austrian wine export and seems not to be grown elsewhere. The nose and palate almost have gooseberry with some citrus and sharp acidity. It is clean and viscous with good length, as it should be at this price. Great summer poolside wine, nice and cool.

2011 Elk Cove Pinot Gris, Oregon $14. Each year this one rises to the top, and the new vintage is no exception. This is really first rate wine, and that is high praise coming from a Californian. The nose has pear and lemon; the palate has rich pear and lemon and stone fruit too. It is viscous, and has very good acid balance and length. Just think of it with grilled salmon.

2009 MacMurray Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, CA $13. Interesting style: the nose has very little oak, and is mostly quince/pear fruit. While the palate is rich and viscous, it is not buttery or oaky at all. Acidity is medium, the flavors are of baked apple and pear.

Red wines

2010 Columbia Crest red blend, Washington State “Horse Heaven Hills” $10. Is Horse Heaven Hills a good thing or a bad thing? Yes. It has mostly (83%) Merlot with splashes of Cabernet and Syrah. This stuff is easy to drink. And it does not appear to suffer from the implied equine cohabitation. It has lots of dill (American oak) on the nose with nice dark fruit to balance, and the palate is similar, while being soft, integrated and rich. It is not tannic or over-extracted. It almost tastes sweet due to ripe fruit and sweet oak.

NV Bookwalter red wine, Columbia Valley, Washington State $10. Dunno exactly what’s in this blend, but It too has Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah. FYI, “NV” means non-vintage which in turn means a blend across at least two growing years. The nose has toasty oak, some red fruits and a slight gamey character. The palate is ripe and rich with lots of red fruit, slight stemminess, some toasty oak, soft tannins, and good acid and length.

2009 Eos Estates red blend “French Connection”, Paso Robles CA $10. This is a classical Bordeaux blend: Merlot/Cabernet/Petite Verdot/Malbec/Cabernet Franc. It has a clean, forward red and dark cherry nose. The palate is lush with red/dark cherrysoft tannin, good acid, obvious but not too much vanilla oak, and while ripe and hinting at a trace of sweetness, very tasty.

2009 Yorkville Merlot, Mendocino, CA $12. this is classic merlot with a nose and palate of forward red and dark cherry fruit, clear green pepper notes (not too much) with some spice and oak (not too much). It has a nice richness and mouth-feel.

2007 Bradford Mountain Zinfandel, Dry Creek, CA $13. I am always wary of older zinfandels, as many do not age well (sound familiar?). The nose and palate are surprisingly fresh and do not appear too aged. It is in a lighter style with straightforward red berry flavors and nothing bad lurking in the background.


Slurping Around with P.D.W. June 2012

June 2012

Hi all: Here is what I said June 2011 in introducing the column

"This is the time of year to sniff out backyard BBQ (should I say grill?) type wines, defined thusly: Cheap but not nasty. To go with burnt sausages & mustard, burnt chicken & potato salad, burnt ribs & BBQ sauce, burnt corn dripping with saturated fat, burnt apple pie & ice cream, you get the picture. Impossible. Naaagh, as the goat in the TV ad is prone to say: Anything’s possible with enough ethanol."


White Wines

2011 Salneval Albarino, Valle del Salnes, Spain $9. Good, cheap albarino is scarce. This one fits the bill. The nose is very clean with peach and lemon. The palate is medium weight but forward with stone fruit and lime. It is clean, with bright acid and good length. Great sipping wine, when chilled, on a warm afternoon by the pool, BBQ….sigh.

2011 Tilia Torrontes, Salta, Argentina $8. The only thing slightly off with this one is a faint wet wool nose and taste, but this kinda blows off with time in the glass. Otherwise, great nose of lychee, stonefruit and cashew; palate of rich apricot/citrus flavors and bright acid with a dry finish. The mouthfeel is viscous, and the wine has good length.

2010 St. George Chardonnay, California, $5. Here is a tasty party wine. It has simple, clean, tropical fruit and low oak on the nose. The palate is quite viscous and rich with tropical fruit, very low oak, but a clear touch of residual sugar (ie, sweetness) is there

2010 Heron Chardonnay California $9. This has a lively green apple nose. The palate is fresh and clean with very good acid, and flavors of apple, citrus and a hint of passionfruit. There is very little oak to taste, it is clean and has good length. Tasty but not complex.

2010 14 Hands White blend, "Hot to Trot" Columbia Valley, Washington $9. I guess these guys like burros. This is a chardonnay/pinot gris blend with a nose of citrus and apricot. The palate is tart but yet almost sweet and viscous with tropical and lemon flavors, and a dry lemony kick at the end.

Reds Wines

2008 SXS (say that ten times quickly) Shiraz, South Australia $9. This wine has a nose of plums, blueberry and a little eucalyptus. The palate is ripe but not overextracted, with floral raspberry/blueberry flavors. It is medium bodied, clean, not tannic, and has decent length and acid. Party on.

2010 Columbia Crest Red wine "Les Chevaux", Horse Heaven Hills, Washington $10. More horses. This has a slightly piney, cherry nose and a very lush palate with ripe red cherries. The tannins are soft, and there is spice (cinnamon/cardamom). It is a bit simple, but easy to drink and a good party red.

2009 Lincourt Pinot Noir, California $17. This wine has some dill (American oak) and lots of floral red berries on the nose. The mouthfeel is a bit thin/light but the fruit flavors are very good with cherries, and a bit of earth and cola. There is slight spice, good acidity, and soft tannins. Does it cost too much? Yes.

2010 Bodegas Atalaya Laya, Grenache (70%)/Monastrell (30%), Almansa, Spain $6. This is a great everyday and/or party wine you do party every day, so what’s to lose? The color is inky; the nose is quite intense with grapey dark berry characters, some black pepper and here’s the rub various other features depending on random bottle selection. I have now tried this three times. Once it was clean, a second time it had a touch of oak char (that’s OK), and the third bottle had clear rubber-glove sulphur that was not overwhelming, but still slightly detracting. They all had the same great young intense fruit on the palate, soft tannins, a touch of black pepper, and very good acid and length. I guess quality control is tough when you are selling the wine for $6.

Just what the burnt this-and-that on the grill calls for. Or is it BBQ?