Wednesday, January 21, 2009

N.V. Chartogne-Taillet Champagne Brut

Type: White - Sparkling
Producer: Chartogne-Taillet
Variety: Champagne Blend (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)
Designation: Brut
Country: France
SubRegion: Champagne
Appellation: Champagne

The Wooden Guys are amazed at all the apples in this wine.

This N.V. wine got two different 89 ratings, one from Steve Tanzer on December 1, 2005, and another from Wine Spectator on October 15, 2003. Funny thing about N.V. wines, though, you get to use the 89 rating, even when it applies to something disgorged at an entirely different time. Looking at those two reviews, it's pretty clear this champagne is not consistent from year to year. Is that good or bad? I can't really say. I know the big houses strive for consistency, but isn't the fact that grower champagnes do a better job of letting the grapes and terroir do the talking one of the charms of these gems?

89 pts. Tanzer on 12/1/2005
Light gold color. Fresh aromas of orange blossom, acacia and honeysuckle, with a suggestion of grilled nuts. Round and supple, with deep, almost sweet flavors of mango, apricot and yellow plum. Frothy and suave, with ripe orchard fruit flavors and notes of pear and apple. The delicate, almost weightless finish is subtle, fine and long.

89 pts. Spectator on 10/15/2003
Starts with a yeasty, baking bread aroma. Fresh, firm and satisfying for its apple, citrus and wheat notes. Nicely balanced and textured. Drink now.

Night One

The color is pale straw, with a very slightly copper-colored tint.

The nose is apples. No, make that APPLES!! Not fresh tart green apples, but more like one of those half-baked without any sugar or spices. Once it cooks, add just a teaspoon of warm caramel, and that is what this wine smells like.

The palate is interesting. Imagine lining up every apple you ever ate, from tartest to sweetest, then back to tart again, and quickly taking a bit out of each one, and you get what happens from attack to mid-palate. It's dry, don't get me wrong, but the impression of apple is there the whole time.

Night Two

Like Night One, the nose is huge with apples, apples, apples, and a little dollop of caramel.

And like Night One, the palate runs through a bite of every apple you ever taste, though now the tart ones are more pronounced. Still, the only possible impression of this wine is APPLE. The mid-palate adds just a bit of baguette, but mostly, it's still apples.

This is also a good time to answer the obvious question- how did I make champagne last two nights? It's called a champagne saver, and a picture of mine is below. It pushes down into the bottle to make a seal, then the wings fold down over the lip of the bottle keeping it tight. The next night it opens with a "pop!" and you can't tell it had been opened the night before.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sonoma-Loeb 2006 Sonoma County Chardonnay - Private Reserve

I'm going to commit a wine faux-pas and say that I actually prefer - nay, crave - full-bodied white wine in the winter. Of course, I live in southern California, where our January temps reach August-worthy highs - but oh, those winter nights. By my romantic, gas-powered fireplace. With the patio door cracked open. 


At the wine bar I lend my talents to on Saturdays (Heritage Wine Bar, Pasadena) our pre-New Year's menu included a lovely Chardonnay by the glass - Sonoma-Loeb 2006 Chardonnay, Sonoma County. Being that it was screamingly popular with the clientele and always my first choice for an "end of shift" glass, I was surprised when a patron claimed it was "too oaky." Her feedback caused me to do a second tasting - and to see what number on the Spectator scale the wine received. 

Who'd have thunk it? 89 points. At my "re-tasting," I found caramel apples, vanilla and counter-ripened pear on the nose. The mouthfeel was creamy and dense, but with a slight tap-dance that lightened the load, ending with delicious creme brulee, butter and - there you have it - gentle oak. In fact, this time around I noticed an almost puckery note to the finish that made me think it walked a thin line between just enough and too much oak.

That must have been what swayed the Spectator away from 90.

Being that oaked-or-not is very much a Chardonnay buzz-phrase currently, and that I am quite the champion of the oak + Chardonnay relationship (faux-pas #2?), I do not agree with the 89-point badge. I think Sonoma-Loeb made a hell of a seductive Chardonnay for the price ($30), and whilst I understand some folks prefer a little less barrel action with their Chard, it works very well here. In fact, I think I'll go downstairs (yes, I live above said wine bar) and buy another bottle now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Smoking Hot and Full Bodied

Smoking Hot and Full Bodied!

Ahh can life get any better than that? It's a hot California day reaching up into the eighties! Yep you read that right the eighties! Welcome to So-Cal! Heading out to do some swimming today and catch some sun! Ahh don't be jealous, just a perk of living here. But I digress back to the task at hand.

The other night I fire up the grill and get it smoking hot! I have had this phat Tri-Tip marinating all day, along side broiled red potatoes with an EVO spice glaze and an ear of white Corn! So here's the match up a Sebastiani 2004 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 14.4% ALC, 14 months on American and French Oak before release, paired against a Grain fed Tri-Tip Steak. Talking serious perfection!

From the first splash to enter my glass to last drop from the bottle, the wine delivered an awe inspiring performance, in a word stellar. I know, I know you think that's over the top, but for $23.95 it deserved every bit of the word, stellar. In the glass this wine was an opaque brooding storm of violet hue, now that's what I call extraction baby! This cab delivered so much palate coating dark fruit flavors and aromas, with subtle mocha nuances on the long and lingering finish I had to check the price again.
The year 2004 was indeed a very good year for Cabernet in Napa and Sonoma! Looking around the web I see I picked up this wine $10.00 to $15.00 less than advertised prices, score! Another QPR winner!

Now the folks at WS thought a little less of it than I did and scored it 89 points, which is considered very good a wine with special qualities. But personally I scored this beauty a whopping 91 pt's, that's if I were in the business of scoring wines. Which I am not, but I do know what I like and I challenge anyone to grab a bottle of this wine and find giving this Cabernet any less than 90 points! I look forward to hearing back about your experiences.

Until next time Cheers Everyone!

Twitter Taste Live Tastes Blind

A few weeks ago I participated in the 89 Project's contribution to Twitter Taste Live. We all got 4 wine shipped to us wrapped in foil and numbered. Each of the wines had been given an 89 score from a major wine rating source. The purpose was to taste the wines blind as a fun exercise and determine if we agreed or not with the 89 score.

The first wine was a 2006 Jean-Marc Brocard Domaine Sainte Claire Chablis. It clocked in at 13%, had a real cork closure, and I purchased it as part of a tasting pack from Bin Ends Wine.

On the nose I found lemon, melons, something sweetish...honey, almonds, and minerals. I liked the nose on this wine, it smelled like the wine would have great acidity. In the mouth I got lemon, citrus, apple, minerals, and orange rind.

This turned out to be my favorite of the 4 wines of the evening. I guessed that it was a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion blend, but clearly I was very very wrong. I thought this one deserved better than an 89, I would buy it again.