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Slurping Around with P.D.W. October, 2011

Hi all,

I had a great time teaching in Australia, followed by research on the Tibetan Plateau, but all wineless—hence my silence. Now it is time for a reality check and the important stuff—i.e., tasting wine. To ease back into the saddle, I thought I’d first skewer the seven varieties of Charles Shaw wines for you this month (you know, “two-buck-chuck” from Trader Joe’s). Yes, these bottles are still $1.99 in California. But I could not leave you with such a paltry offering, so there are some real wines to go with them.


2009 Pinot Grigio, California ($2). Actually recognizable PG! Stone fruit and some citrus on the nose and palate. A bit simple, but clean (i.e., no sulfur). It is a bit thin, but for $2, I would serve this to a large crowd. Actually worth a try. It has some residual sugar (RS).

2009 Chardonnay, California ($2). What can I say? Sort of recognizable, simple, light oak, lighter fruit, clean, barely OK to sip cold (it has RS) on a hot day when you run out of water. I don’t think I could get away with serving this at a party, at least not until everyone was already hosed.

2009 Sauvignon Blanc, California ($2). The only words to describe it are “not allowed in this column.” Dirty, generic, dull, almost sweet—I actually poured it down the drain.

2009 White Zinfandel, California ($2). Sweet cherry coolaid. This has to be drunk ice cold. It is actually clean, but the sweetness is overpowering, and it needs more acid for balance.

2010 Merlot, California ($2). One has no idea what one is tasting here. Sweet red berry of no character; thin and slightly dirty, short, almost fails the definition of wine.

2010 Cabernet, California ($2). Again, one has no idea what one is tasting here. Sweet red berry of no character; thin and slightly dirty, short, almost fails the definition of wine.

2010 Shiraz, California ($2). And yet again, one has no idea what one is tasting here. Sweet red berry of no character; thin and slightly dirty, short, almost fails the definition of wine. Then add sulfur and a bitter finish…

At least I got seven bottles of wine for $14.


2009 Vina Robles White Blend, Paso Robles, CA ($11). This is 42% Vermentino (2nd vowel is an “e,” not an “I”), 29% Verdelho, 26% Viognier, and 3% Sauvignon Blanc. With at least three, maybe four, countries represented, this defines enodiplomacy, which might just be considered when nuclear discussions break down. Especially as this unique blend is actually good stuff. The nose is complex with pear, peach and citrus. The palate is rich and viscous with excellent acidity and a hint of sweetness. There is peach, pear, apricot and lemon at various points through the palate. Very clean, very good length.

2010 Wither Hills, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand ($9). This is outstanding wine at a great price. Very varietal and clean, with grassy, herbal lime/passionfruit and gooseberry notes on both nose and palate. Acid is medium – less than in most NZSB’s, and this makes it very sippable. Rich, viscous and long, everything you want. Almost has RS (see above). And yes, I bought some. Really. Dinner party quality, but drink it young.

2009 Christom Pinot Gris Willamette Valley, Oregon ($15). This is a classy wine. The nose is forward with lots of stone fruit (peach, apricot) and a similar palate that is beautifully balanced, viscous, long, clean, rich and with strong acid and no sweetness.


2007 Columbia Crest Merlot “Grand Estates,” Columbia Valley, WA ($7). This wine does not taste old, but ya gotta love American oak (dill, sweet coconut) which dominates the wine at the start. Leave the glass to sit and the oak softens a bit. Good black cherry fruit, and some interesting green olive hints. Not a bad party wine, given the price.

Now three very good wines:

2009 Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma County, CA ($18). While their “lowest tier” zin, it is just as good this year as in past years. Has American oak on the nose and palate, but the fruit is clean and prominent with dark berries and plums. Medium tannin, very clean, balanced and with good length. It is not an over-extracted wine at all, and has elegance.

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.

2008 Penley Cabernet Sauvignon “Phoenix”, Coonawarra, South Australia ($16). In spite of the meteoric rise in value of the Oz dollar to now equal the U.S.$ (a year ago it was perhaps $1.50 Oz to the US$), this is affordable stuff of high quality and typical Coonawarra style (elegant, restrained, balanced, yet with full fruit, not too alcoholic, not too oaky, just the right acidity), with some green olive character. There is signature eucalytpus as well, which is common in Oz wines and blends well. Most wines of this quality would be twice the price.


Good drinking,

Peter, October 2011

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