Posts filed under ‘Regions’

February 2011: South Africa

 
Over past several years of being on the Tasting Circle panel, Fernando has picked South African wines — blind — out of mixed country lineups, proclaiming: “This wine is from the great land of South Africa!”  How does he know? What makes wines from this part of the world special?  The three panelists this month (Ken O’Hara, A&B Imports (which began importing exclusively South African wines); Fernando Martinez; local chef (lived & worked in South Africa); Jens Strecker, Portalis Wines (who also lived & worked in South Africa back in his emergency doc days) are all big fans of South African wines & had pretty much rave reviews for this lineup of South African wines currently available in the Seattle marketplace.  Here’s a link to the 3 panelists “unveiling” their favorite wine at the tasting.  Below are rankings/tasting notes on all the wines: 


Ken O’Hara, Fernando Martinez & Jens Strecker

Boekenhoutskloof 2008 Syrah (94 points) 
Region: Frankschhoeck, South Africa;  Varietal: Syrah
$54.99 | Mixed Case $43.99
Tasting Notes: N: Northern Rhône aromas of bacon fat & garrigue, wet hair & in the distance someone is grilling meats!  P: Bold marionberry & blueberry with Eastern spices, espresso, dried bark & black tea.  Intense!  (Ken)  Tasting Notes: Dark Bordeaux style of red.  Violet & cloves.  Bacon & chocolate on the palate.  Nice perfume of blackberries.  A touch of sweetness, firm structure, great finish.  (Fernando)

Boekenhoutskloof 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (93 points) 
Region: Frankschhoeck, South Africa; Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
$54.99 | Mixed Case $43.99
Tasting Notes: N: Toasted coconut, thyme, blueberry – somewhat muted, young?  P: Rick black fruit flavors, bitter-sticks, huge herbal complexity, graphite minerality & gripped tannins. (Ken) Tasting Notes:  Beautiful nose of fresh vine, black currants, dark cherries with herbed components.  Fantastic!  Super-complex, elegant, with fantastic concentration & acidity.  Beautiful flavor profile of red & dark fruits.  Fine tannins on the long finish.  Tastes like a really good cab sauv. (Jens)

De Toren 2007 Fusion V (93 points)  $54.99 Stellenbosch
Region: Stellenbosch, South Africa; Varietal: Cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, merlot, petite verdot
$54.99 | Mixed Case $43.99
Tasting Notes:  Superb color.  Smells like you are in a flower garden with fruit trees around you.  Wonderful texture & concentration.  This is the real deal.  Well integrated acidity.  Fantastic flavors of mainly black fruit (black, blue & boysenberries), with floral notes.  Fresh, vibrant with lots to give – delicious down the years!  (Jens)  Tasting notes: Ink dark, bright beautiful color.  Cloves & Chinese spices aromas with blueberry tones.  Aromas of flowers.  Firm tannins; red meat flavors.  Delicious big red!! (Fernando)

Spice Route 2008 Chakalaka (92 points) 
Region: Swartland, South Africa; Varietal: Syrah/Carignan/Mourvedre
$22.99 | Mixed Case $18.39
Tasting Notes: Elegant nose of dark fruit, blackberries, anise & a touch of licorice.  This is very elegant & complex with very good acidity & structure.  Wonderful flavors of dark fruit, blackberries, boysenberries & a hint of smoke & herbs.  Ultra-fine tannins on the finish. (Jens)  Tasting Notes: Dark cherry color & concentrated black fruit.  Flowers on the nose.  Blackberries, cinnamon & a touch of chocolate.  Very sophisticated red; great balance, full body. (Fernando)

Badenhurst Family 2009 Secateurs Blend (91 points) 
Region: Coastal Region, South Africa; Varietal: Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cinsault
$19.99 | INSIDER $16.99 | $15.99
Tasting Notes: More delivered nose with beautiful dark fruit – Smooth, medium-bodied, elegant – Great texture and acidity.  Beautiful, dark fruit in the mid-palate.  Fine tannins on the finish. (Jens)  Tasting Notes: Dark red color, licorice and candied fruit on the nose.  Dry with some hard tannins.  Strawberries on the palate and a long finish.  Very unusual for a South African red. (Fernando)

Black Pearl Vineyards 2007 Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon (89 points) 
Region: Pearl, South Africa; Varietal: Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon
$22.99 | Mixed Case $18.39
Tasting Notes: Bright color. Black fruit of the nose, some chocolate and meat aromas; a touch of sweet raspberries and fresh grass.  Medium body with soft tannins. (Fernando)  Tasting Notes: N: Roasted meat, grilled sausages, cranberry, minty.  P: Chunky, tarry meat flavors with a tart pomegranate fruit flavor. (Ken)

De Toren 2007 Z (89 points) 
Region: Stellenbosch; Varietal: Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot
 $31.99 | Mixed Case $25.59
Tasting Notes: Superb color – lots of very inviting dark, black fruit & lots of floral notes on the nose.  Fantastic acidity, elegant & complex; well formed.  Beautiful black fruit flavors with floral, smoky & herbal notes.  Very long finish with amazing live tannins.  (Jens’ favorite with 96pts; clearly by the average score above, the other 2 weren’t that taken.)  Tasting Notes:  Opaque red color; dark aromas & a bit of South African taste.  Bouquet of red fruit & smoke as well.  Old school!!  (Fernando)

Finlaysan Family Vineyards 2009 The Pepper Pot  (86 points) 
Varietals: Syrah, mourvedre, tannat 
$16.99 | Mixed Case $13.59
Tasting Notes: Spicy red & dark fruit up front – lovely texture & acidity.  Smooth, medium-bodied with beautiful red and dark fruit (raspberries, blackberries & dark cherries).  Not very deep but very drinkable.  (Jens)  Tasting Notes: N: reductive, tarry.  P: tar & blackberry, mulberry, smoky. (Ken)

February 24, 2011 at 11:47 pm Leave a comment

February 2010: Chianti DOCG (Tuscany)


Ken O’Hara, Catherine Reynolds & Matt Gubitosa at the blind tasting

Chianti doesn’t always speak to the American market as these are classic food wines intended to be enjoyed with the acidic foods that are found in Tuscany, e.g. tomato based sauces. When Americans try this type of wine as a sipper, it can be a little tart … but with the right pairing it’s a match made in heaven. Apparently, though, the panel didn’t need food to be wowed! I don’t think we’ve ever had such across the board agreement in the scoring of the wines nor have the overall scores ever been this high. They loved these wines!  Hope you will too …

 
Ken adoring the lineup after the unveiling

EXCELLENT (90-95 points)
San Felice 2005 Chianti Classico Riserva
(93 points)
Region: Tuscany, Italy; Varietals: Sangiovese; Retail: $23
Tasting Notes: N: nice gamey nose, wet hair, spicy dark bing cherry, big fresh fennel beams on the nose. P: juicy yet firm flavors of black cherry forest cake, winter spices, game roast, fennel and good times, leathery oak. (Ken) Tasting Notes: Big nose – purple flowers, spice – it’s like smelling a bottle of Calvin Klein. The mouth? Let’s just say it reminds me of a gorgeous day in Tuscany, the kind that includes wild boar, veal meatballs, squash gratin & vin santo as a chaser. All al fresco of course! Salute – I love Italy! (Gina) Tasting Notes: Gorgeous, very inviting nose. Aromas of black cherries, licorice, wild flowers, rosemary and thyme. Fantastic weight, depth and length. Very elegant and complex. Beautiful integrated acidity and tannins. Flavors are herbal with lots of blackberries and black cherries with hints of earth. A beauty! (Jens)

Fattoria di Felsina 2007 Chianti Classico (92 points)
Region: Tuscany, Italy; Varietals: Sangiovese; Retail: $29
Tasting Notes: It can’t get better than this. Classic Chianti aromas of dark fruit, dark cherries and leather with lots of herbal components. Harmonious, elegant, well-balanced. Gorgeous texture with superb acidity. Flavors of dark black cherries, balckberries, rosemary and thyme. Long, elegant finish with fine tannins. (Jens) Tasting notes: Cherry skins, dusty, sail to the old world, violets, floral notions on palate, very supple, sprinkling of spices. (Catherine) Tasting Notes: N: warm baked plums, summer savory, Mexican farm leather, supple & round. P: Medium weight, summer herbs, beautiful dried cherries, cocoa. (Ken)

Rocce delle Macie 2003 Chianti Classico Riserva de Fizzano (91 points)
Region: Tuscany, Italy; Varietals: Sangiovese; Retail: $41
Tasting Notes: Nose – stinky mushroom, olive pits and campfire. Whoa – massive explosion of plums, tar and tannins – but I love it. I’m still licking my teeth from the viscosity. Complex and a finish that lingers. (Gina)  Tasting Notes: Beautiful color. Very inciting aromas of blackberries and black currants with floral and herbal notes. Beautiful mouthfeel. Good concentration and complexity. Wonderful length and depth, lots of layered dark fruit with some leather and tar. Fine tannin on the long finish. (Jens)  Tasting Notes: Medium red color. Cherry candy aroma but hints of yogurt and sulfur. Elegant medium body. Balanced acidity but nice lingering tannic finish. (Matt)

Viottolo 2005 Chianti Classico Riserva (91 points)
Region: Tuscany, Italy; Varietals: Sangiovese; Retail: $21
Tasting Notes: translucent, plummy, wet earth like walking into an old village, very very nice, feminine & graceful, touch of passionfruit/apricot. (Catherine)  Tasting Notes: Fresh raspberries in the nose, caramel & violets. Balanced acidity – fresh fruit follows through on the mouth. Smooth on the finish – I’m thinking salami and pecorino … Bring it! (Gina)

Borgo Scopeto 2004 Chianti Classico Riserva (90 points)
Region: Tuscany, Italy; Varietals: Sangiovese; Retail: $35
Tasting Notes: N: Cherry candies, cherry cordials, anise stewed cherry sauce with duck!, cherry cola. P: WOW! Priorat-like, more stewed cherries, cinnamon sticks, bouquet garni, mocha. (Ken)  Tasting Notes: Intoxicating, smoky, bacon, black cherry. In the mouth, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Chewy, earth, crazy good dark fruit. I’m going to help myself to another taste … “just to make sure.” (Gina)

Bibbiano 2004 Chianti Classico Riserva (90 points)
Region: Tuscany, Italy; Varietals: Sangiovese; Retail: $31
Tasting Notes: Inciting aromas of dark fruit with thyme and oregano – wonderful acidity and concentration. Elegant, comoplex with wonderful flavors of blackberries, blackcherries, violets, wildflowers and lots of herbal components. Long, long excellent finish with fine tannins. (Jens)  Tasting Notes: Animally, dark brooding fruit, cassis, liqueur-like, mouth-filling ripemess, feels modern, toast spread with jam, raspberries. (Catherine) 

Borgo Scopeto 2006 Chianti Classico (90 points)
Region: Tuscany, Italy; Varietals: Sangiovese; Retail: $18.50
Tasting Notes: N: dusty violets, dried crushed rose petals, sun-dried cherries, roasted fennel. P: super dry, yet seriously firm flavors of spicy tobacco, cherry wood, plums & herbs. (Ken)  Tasting Notes: Black currants, something funky on the palate, black licorice, serious but juicy, toasted marshmellow finish. (Catherine)

VERY GOOD (85-89 points)
Renzo Masi 2006 Chianti Riserva
(89 points)
Region: Tuscany, Italy; Varietals: Sangiovese; Retail: $16.50
Tasting Notes: Dark red wine. Very pleasant aromas of freshly cooked cherries or cherry pie with hints of clove & cinnamon, medium body but powerful cherry liquor-like flavors, with zesty, almost fracing acidity and a lingering, almost bitter tannic finish. (Matt)  Tasting Notes: Nose: dark plum spice – mushroom; luscious round black fruit, probably would be more complex with more time to breathe … breakfast tomorrow? (Gina)

February 2010 Tasting Panel:  Jens Strecker, Gina Gregory, Ken O’Hara, Catherine Reynolds, Matt Gubitosa.

A special welcome back to Catherine who has spent the last year recovering from an aneurysm.  Look at her … she looks wonderful!

The following wines are in-stock or can be ordered at the following local wine shops: Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar
email: info@portaliswines.com
phone: 206-783-2007

March 2, 2010 at 8:12 pm Leave a comment

January 2010: Southern Rhône (France)

Arnaud with Madame Guerin (his mother) visiting from Paris

There’s an art to knowing if a wine is good for that type of wine (varietal, region, etc) and not being swayed by your personal enjoyment of that wine (… is that even possible??)  This tasting had several wines where more than one taster thought the wine was “off” or even “corked” but when Arnaud showed up with his mom (pictured above), who was visiting from France, she had a sip and then said that she thought they were fine, that’s just how they taste.   In our point-driven wine world, the interesting idea to have a little think about is how much any given taster’s personal preferences determine the fate of a wine.  Okay, enough philosophizing …

This tasting focused on table wines from France’s Southern Rhône Valley, with the majority of the wines priced in the teens.  Tasters had pretty varying opinions on the wines (thus the tasters’ points are noted), but there was generally a pretty solid thread.  Note that price/subregion did not necessarily indicate success …

EXCELLENT (90-94 points)
Domaine Brusset 2007 les Travers Cairanne (91 points)
Retail: $21.99 | Case $17.59
Tasting Notes: Whoa – spice! Blackberry & clove. Definitely big fruit, ripe with dark, velvety black pepper notes. If I was a cloak wearing super hero … this is what I’d be drinking! (Gina, 93 pts) Tasting Notes: Very aromatic and attractive. Lots of dark fruit on the nose, with licorice and black olives. Fuller-bodied, but very complex and elegant. Good depth and length. Lots of dark fruit, raspberries and blackberries on the palate, with floral and herbal notes. Long, beautiful finish with fine tannins. Must be Chateauneuf or Gigondas. (Jens, 94 pts)


Chateau la Borie 2005 Côtes du Luberon
(90 points)
Retail: $17.50 | Case $14
Tasting Notes: Black fruit – all kinds, put into a pie and just starting to bake. The sweet spices peek through. The palate is lush like velvet with the perfect amount of tannin & acid. (Theresa, 94 pts) Tasting Notes: Black pepper & cooked spice in the nose. The palate is surprisingly smooth & balanced, though. Lots of ripe cherry & bold tannins. A little high in alcohol. (Gina, 84 pts) Tasting Notes: Bacon, BBQ, tasty, smoky … that’s it … (Arnaud, 91 pts)

Chateau Virgile 2007 Costieres de Nimes $15 (90 points)
Retail: $14.99 | Case $11.99
Tasting Notes: Bring some wild boar or something!! Gamey like we like them. Delicious, great potential … (Arnaud, 90 pts) Tasting Notes: Great ruby red. Layers of meat, bacon and pencil on the nose, elegant! Medium to full body. Baked prunes and a touch of cloves. (Fernando, 92 pts)

VERY GOOD (85-89 points)
Domaine de Font-Sane 2006 Gigondas (89 points)
Retail: $14.99 | Case $11.99
Tasting Notes: Ripe raspberries, strawberries, with wild flowers on the nose. Dense & deeply concentrated, but elegant and attractive. Medium- to full-bodied. Packed with dark & red fruit, dark olives & violets. Long finish with fine tannins. Will develop nicely. Gigondas or Chateauneuf? (Jens, 92 pts) Tasting Notes: Oh yes, life is good!!! This is delicious, big fruit, with serious but beautiful tannins. Nice & long aftertaste. (Arnaud, 91 pts) Tasting Notes: Black cherry cola, violets on the nose. Cedar spice with cinnamon and juicy berries on the palate. A finish with firm tannins with a grip! (Theresa, 88 pts)

Chateau de Montfaucon 2005 Baron Louis Côte du Rhône (89 points)
Retail: $14.99 | Case $11.99
Tasting Notes: Black cherries hide behind forest floor aromas. Oakiness is balanced by generous fruit and voluminous mouthfeel. (Chris, 92 pts) Tasting Notes: Very dark purple color, herbs of Provence on the nose and bread pudding, red meat and black pepper. Good acidity, long finish. (Fernando, 88 pts)

Chateau Val Joanis 2004 Côte du Luberon (88 points)
Retail: $24.99 | Case $19.99
Tasting Notes: Dark, concentrated aromas of dark fruit, dark olives, smoke and tobacco. Medium- to full-bodied. Complex, concentrated and elegant. Lots of fruit on the mid-palate. Smoke, spike, licorice, mixed with layers of dark fruit. Good tannins on the long, vibrant finish. (Jens, 93 pts) Tasting Notes: Dark inky color. Mint, tarragon & leather on the nose. Baked bread! And blackberries on the palate. Great tannins and great long finish!! (Fernando, 92 pts) Tasting Notes: I could smell this all night. The alcohol seems high on this, but I don’t care … it’s delicious! Black cherry, chewy, cinnamon & big tannins. I’d love to taste in another 5 years. (Gina, 91 pts) Tasting Notes: BBQ sauce, beef jerky, smoke & a touch of leather on the nose. Oak overwhelms fruit on the palate, though a touch of raspberries comes through. Chalky tannins come off green. (Chris, 87 pts)

Yves Cheron 2007 Côte du Rhône (87 points)
Retail: $14.99 | Case $11.99
Tasting Notes: Color medium red. Pleasant muted aromas of ocean breeze, fresh strawberries and ground white peppercorns. Medium body, flavorful & zesty. Lingering finish, slight bitterness at end. (Matt, 94 pts) Tasting Notes: Deep red color. Dark raisins and baked plums. Dry herbs on the palate, a touch of bitterness, medium body. (Fernando, 82 pts)

Domaine Le Clos des Lumieres 2007 Côte du Rhône (86 points)
Retail: $14.99 | Case $11.99
Tasting Notes: Nose – violets, caramel … the palate is rich with cooked plums, finishes easy, spices are subtle. Round mouthfeel with balanced tannins. (Gina, 93 pts) Tasting Notes: Bouquet of blueberries, plum & lavender, soft elegant palate, clipped finish. (Chris, 88 pts)

GOOD (80-85 points)
Domaine Catherine Le Goeuil 2007 Cairanne (82 points)
Retail: $22.99 | Case $18.39
Tasting Notes: Yeasty bread dough on the nose, medicinal. (Chris, 83 pts) Tasting Notes: I don’t get much fruit in the nose … a funky, earthy aroma. Fruit is a little disjointed on palate also. Some minerals & ripe cherry. (Gina, 83 pts) Tasting Notes: Compote of dry fruit. Long finish, not much on the palate. Sorry!! (Fernando, 82 pts)

January Tasting Panel:  Jens Strecker, Gina Gregory, Theresa Slechta, Matt Gubitosa, Fernando Martinez, Chris Nishiwaki, Arnaud Guerin & guest David Autrey of Westrey Wine Company (OR).

Jens (owner, Portalis Wines) & Fernando (chef, Purple Café)

Guest taster, David Autrey, Westrey Wine Company

Matt Gubitosa (winemaker, Animale) & Chris Nishiwaki (journalist)

Theresa Slechta (Vinum) & Arnaud Guerin (Elliott Bay)

The following wines are in-stock or can be ordered at:
Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar
email: info@portaliswines.com
phone: 206-783-2007

February 15, 2010 at 11:06 pm Leave a comment

October 2009: Bordeaux (France)

TC_Oct 09_Bordeaux_v2
Bordeaux is the grand-daddy of wines and is home to many of the world’s great wines. The nuances of the wines coming from Left Bank appellations versus those of the Right Bank (of the Gironde River) merit their own Tasting Circle tastings; however, for this first one, Bordeaux was tasted as a group. Traditionally, Left Bank appellations have gravelly soils, are therefore better irrigated, the vines get more water and the resulting Cab-based blends are noted for their elegance, with some of the world’s finest wines (Mouton-Rothschild, Lafitte-Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour, and more) coming from the Left Bank.  Right bank appellations have soils with more limestone & marl (kind of a limey-mudstone) creating wines with beautiful nuances of minerality, yet these Merlot-based blends are still smooth, elegant, delicious, with equally impressive producers: Cheval Blanc, Chateau Pavis, Chateau Angelus, to name a few.  All wines from Bordeaux are intended for consumption with food and the correct pairing will make the wine, but many of these wines are delicious fireside sippers to be enjoyed for the beauty of the wines themselves. With the holidays around the corner, we hope that our panel gives you some good suggestions:

TC_Oct 09_Bordeaux_Fernando

Fernando Martinez, Chef, Purple Café & Wine Bar

EXCELLENT (90-94 points)
Chateau Larose-Trintaudon 2004 Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois
(92 points)
Region: Left Bank, Bordeaux; Retail: $25
Notes:  Nose is classic Bordeaux – eucalyptic & mineral. Subtle tobacco on back palate, rich smoky berry. Starts off very fresh in the mouth, but finishes very complex with cherry spices. (Gina)
Notes: Dark blueberry color. Some fresh grass and cloves on the nose, eucalyptus as well. Palate: some blue cheese, mint. I like the finish, elegant and very long. (Fernanado)

Chateau de Candale 2005 Saint Emilion Grand Cru (91 points)
Region: Right Bank, Bordeaux; Retail: $55
Notes: Ruby color with wonderful aromas of blackberries and black currants with some sage notes. Well-balanced, concentrated. Great acidity and tannic frame. Gorgeous dark fruit flavors with cigar and tobacco notes – delicious! (Jens)
Notes:  A nose of mint & blackberries. Dark, brooding fruit (a nice savory quality to the flavor) with a velvety texture that’s lifted by nice acidity and tannin. The mint peaks back through the finish. (Theresa)

Chateau Greysac 2003 Medoc (91 points)
Region: Left Bank, Bordeaux; Retail: $25
Notes:  Ruby, brownish color. Main bouquet of black currents and cassis. Wonderful flavors of dark fruit and cassis with some hints of leather. Great acidity and balance. Fine, smooth tannins. (Jens)
Notes:  Nose has a wet frost aroma – love it! Color is black with dark red edges. When I taste, it has a wonderful rose scented flavors of pine and tobacco with red fruits. (Gina)

Larose de Giruaud 2005 Saint Julien (91 points)
Region: Left Bank, Bordeaux; Retail: $33
Notes: Nose: Lovely little stink! Baby diapers, gamey, roasted elk meat, dried marjoram & bayleaves, cherry cola. Palate: Dusty cab franc flavors in forefront, rustic, baked plums, taut & focused tannins, winter herbs, nice warming, savory finish of cherry candy in midpalate. Long bitter, yet pleasant blood orange finish. (Ken)
Notes: Dark garnet, brick color. Aromas of fresh herbs, cherries & roasted peppers. Authentic cabernet flavors. Medium body. Balanced zesty acidity and tannins. Age-worthy. (Matt)

Chateau du Glana 2004 Saint-Julien Cru Bourgeois (90 points)
Region: Left Bank, Bordeaux; Retail: $42
Notes:  Nose: boysenberry, huckleberry, tar, creosote aromas alongside lilac. Palate: nice medium weight, silky, blackberry bramble, baking spices, currants. (Ken)
Notes:  Black olive color, bright!! Nose: pencil aromas, dry twigs & coffee. Taste: anise, almonds, steak flavor. Some how not that refined, but I love the wild side of this wine. (Fernando)

VERY GOOD (85-89 points)
Chateau de Bel-Air 2006 Lalande de Pomerol
(89 points)
Region: Right Bank, Bordeaux; Retail: $30
Notes: Ruby, garnet color. Gorgeous nose of blueberries and cassis. Elegant, well-balanced, great acidity & tannins. Wonderful flavors of blackberries, blueberries, cassis and black current with notes of pencil lead and tobacco. Great finish. (Jens)
Notes:  Dark plum color. Nose: anise and some leather tones, anise seeds. Palate: red meat & black tea. Good acidity & balance. (Fernando)

Chateau Mayne-Vieil 2005 Fronsac (89 points)
Region: Right Bank, Bordeaux; Retail: $18.50
Notes:  They should bottle this as perfume! Best nose yet. [#6 in the blind lineup] Definitely get the pine and stone quality. A little cedar as well. Just enticing! A little high in alcohol. Chewy tannins – the fruit doesn’t happen until the middle – very earthy and WOW. Did I mention chewy? (Gina)
Notes: Pretty nose of fresh violets, a touch of cedar, and blackberries – nice texture – the flavor is a little overpowered by the alcohol. Out of balance right now. (Theresa)

Chateau La Croix  Chantecaille 2004 Saint Emilion Grand Cru (88 points)
Region: Right Bank, Bordeaux; Retail: $28
Notes:  Dark garnet color.  Faint citrusy hints in aroma which also includes earthy and fresh plum notes.  Nice old-school Merlot flavors but not unsubstantial finish and overall, balanced. (Matt)
Notes: Mint & blackberry nose – a little lighter weight – lacking fruit on the mid-palate but ending with good acidity. (Theresa)

Chateau Couronneau 2007 Bordeaux Superieur (87 points)
Region: Bordeaux; Retail: $19.75
Notes:  Fresh huckleberries with the leaves and vines. Nice herbaceousness. Bright red fruit on the palate. Mouth puckering acidity that makes you salivate. Just a slight bitterness on the finish. (Theresa)
Notes: bright cherry, sticks, dusty (beetroot) – like an old library, slight coffee grounds aroma, clean & pleasant, floral. Palate: violets, bitter orange pith, classic cassis, medium tannins but soft with dry, bitter finish. (Ken)

TC_Oct 09_Bordeaux_Matt&Ken

Matt Gubitosa, Winemaker, ANIMALE & Ken O'Hara, Sales Manager, A&B Imports

October Tasting Panel: Jens Strecker, Gina Gregory, Theresa Shlechta, Ken O’Hara, Matt Gubitosa, Fernando Martinez.

The following wines are in-stock or can be ordered at the following local wine shops:
Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar
email: info@portaliswines.com
phone: 206-783-2007

November 3, 2009 at 7:38 pm Leave a comment

September 2009: Wines of Rioja (Spain)

TC_Rioja_Sep 09
Rioja is an old, traditional appellation as well as one of Spain’s most famous wine regions. It’s located in north-central Spain and is noted for its mountainous landscape with four solid seasons as opposed to a long, scorching summer. Reds from Rioja are made primarily from Tempranillo, which is known for its red fruit flavors. Old-style Rioja is noted for flavors of tar, leather and stinky socks. Newer-style Rioja tends to be softer, smoother and sometimes the oak is more prominent. The top ranked wines from this month’s tasting received similar scores across the board; however, the panel was pretty strongly divided on a couple of wines, as noted by their comments/scores (see Lealtanza 2005 Crianza (87 points) $23 & Dominio de Heredia 2006 Rioja (86 points) $15). It looks like the stinkier the socks got, the more some tasters liked it, while others were turned off. And for $15, try and bottle and see how you feel about stinky socks!

EXCELLENT (90-94 points)
Campillo 2001 Reserva Selecta
(92 points)
Region: Rioja, Spain; Varietals: Tempranillo; Retail: $41
Notes: Cigar box and menthol on the nose. Nice notes of cinnamon, blackberries, blueberries – a great balance of fruit, oak and acidity. Nice long finish. (Theresa, 92 pts)
Notes: Nose: boysenberry, incense, cocoa, cedar plank. Palate: plush – nice cigar box, spice, anise, strawberry jam. (Ken, 95 pts)

Izadi 2002 Reserva (92 points)
Region: Rioja, Spain; Varietals: Tempranillo; Retail: $35
Notes: Blueberry nose, love the garrique flavor, fresh plums, spiced & dusty texture, one of my favorites. (Catherine, 93 pts)
Notes: Dark ruby color. Strong bouquet of tobacco, cigar and old, sweaty saddle leather. Medium- to full-bodied. Tannic frame around dark fruit, blackberries and boysenberries. Strong acidity overpowering the fruit. Long tannic finish. Will get better with age. (Jens, 90 pts)

Beronia 2006 Rioja (91 points)
Region: Rioja, Spain; Varietals: Tempranillo; Retail: $17
Notes: Red ruby color. Classic aromas of tobacco, saddle leather, well-balanced, smooth and medium-bodied. Just beautiful. Great texture and acidity. Excellent layers of dark fruit mixed with herbal notes. (Jens, 93 pts)
Notes: Good rich red. Beautiful nuances of fresh red plums and ripe cherries. Great mouthfeel with a very pleasant, long finish. Good wine. (Giuseppe, 91 pts)

VERY GOOD (85-89 points)
Hacienda Don Ramon 2006 Rioja
(89 points)
Region: Rioja, Spain; Varietals: Tempranillo; Retail: $16.50
Notes: Good fruit, tobacco and leather, hints of dill, solid tannin and well integrated, young and ready to age. Modern and balanced. Long finish. (Jerred, 93 pts)

Allende 2004 Rioja
(88 points)
Region: Rioja, Spain; Varietals: Tempranillo; Retail: $27
Notes: Nose: Wet dog, wet hair, hair salon (in a Northern Rhône, good way) cranberries. Palate: tight, focused and tannic, searing focused pomegranate, concentrated, sour red plums, bright with a dark side. (Ken, 91 pts)

Sierra Cantabria 2006 Rioja (88 points)
Region: Rioja, Spain; Varietals: Tempranillo; Retail: $15
Notes: Broad, voluptuous wine with firm tannins, promises rewards for the patient collector. Hints of cherries & cinnamon. (Chris, 88 pts)

Lealtanza 2005 Crianza (87 points)
Region: Rioja, Spain; Varietals: Tempranillo; Retail: $23
Notes: Red, intense smell of potato skin, freshly cut on the palate, very tight notes of red cherries and sweet wild berries. Good flavors. Big wine. This is a conversation wine. Molie Bene! (Giuseppe, 95 pts)
Notes: Ouch! Urine. Cannot get past the horrid smell. Palate is thin. Reststop. (Jerred, 67 pts)

Dominio de Heredia 2006 Rioja (86 points)
Region: Rioja, Spain; Varietals: Tempranillo; Retail: $15
Notes: Nose: cherry stinker, dung, cola espresso grounds, strawberries (fresh). Palate: sweet jammy fruit, baked strawberries, twigs and mint. (Ken, 92 pts)
Notes: Do not smell this. Again reminiscent of an Alpine urinal! Good fruit on palate. Very short finish. (Jerred, 65 pts)

Ermita d San Felices 2006 Rioja (85 points)
Region: Rioja, Spain; Varietals: Tempranillo; Retail: $14
Notes: Much more transparent, a nice summer Rioja! Light & plummy, balsam, might even be good with a chill, tickling of spices, liked this for a quaffer. (Catherine, 85 pts)
Notes: Bright black cherry with back notes of balsamic, satin-like texture, very pretty and feminine. Would never have guessed Rioja … though really like the wine. (Theresa, 90 pts)

Exopto 2006 Big Bang Rioja (85 points)
Region: Rioja, Spain; Varietals: Tempranillo; Retail: $21
Notes: Purple, ripe black cherry, a little thin on the palate, a touch of white pepper, slight acids, clipped on the finish. (Chris, 84 pts)

September Tasting Panel: Jens Strecker, Theresa Shlechta, Ken O’Hara, Catherine Reynolds, Giuseppe Caraturo, Chris Nishiwaki, Jerred Wolff.

We are pleased to welcome Catherine back for a guest appearance (to taste Tempranillo, of course!) as she has been out on a medical leave of absence since last spring.

The following wines are in-stock or can be ordered at the following local wine shops:
Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar
email: info@portaliswines.com
phone: 206-783-2007

September 22, 2009 at 8:06 pm Leave a comment

July 2009: Loire Valley Whites

Matt Gubitosa checking out the lineup (post tasting)

Matt Gubitosa checking out the lineup (post tasting)

Gina Gregory (Sommelier, Manager at Portalis Wines, and Tasting Circle Panel Member) recently posted a blog about the Loire Valley.  If you are interested in an overview of the region and its wines, have a look.  MORE>  The tasting panel blind tasted ten white wines, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc & Melon de Bourgogne, with very interesting results especially regarding price points:

EXCELLENT (90-94 points)
Domaine Laporte 2007 Cheverny

(91 points)
Region: Loire Valley, France; Varietals: Sauvignon Blanc; Retail: $24
Notes:  Beautiful pink grapefruit. Great nuances of fresh yellow peach rounded gentaly by the intense grapefruit squeezed juice. It makes me smile each time I smell it!!! Great Sauvignon Blanc (Giuseppe)
Notes: Who let the cats out?? [surrounded by musical notes] Grassy and herbaceous, great acidity. We are tasting what Sauvignon Blanc should taste like … (Arnaud, guest taster)

La Poussie 2006 Sancerre (91 points)
Region: Loire Valley, France; Varietals: Sauvignon Blanc; Retail: $45/SALE $34
Notes: Pale, yellow straw color. Very complex nose of melon and quince. Very elegant and complex. Great viscosity. Beautiful balance and acidity. Wonderful flavors of melon, Bosch pears with delicate citrus notes and just a touch of sweetness. Great minerality. Long elegant finish. High-end Sancerre ?! (Jens)
Notes: Nose has a honey dew kiss, light golden yellow. Balanced acidity that behaves and returns on the finish. Rich texture … peaches and a little lemon. Wow – finish lingers – just makes me crave shellfish. Yum. Must be Sancerre. (Gina)

Claude Lafond 2007 Reuilly (90 points)
Region: Loire Valley, France; Varietals: Sauvignon Blanc; Retail: $20
Notes: N: swimming pool, corn masa, white flowers. P: Tangerine & nectarine, balanced, crushed diamond minerality, soft. (Ken)
Notes: Centered! Good intense and very rich nuances (cat piss). I have to say it’s very good.  Great balanced fruit and acidity. Bravo Sauvignon [Blanc]. It finishes very elegantly.  Good wine. (Giuseppe)

Domaine de la Tourmaline 2007 Muscadet Sevre et Maine (90 points)
Region: Loire Valley, France; Varietal: Melon de Bourgogne; Retail: $18
Notes: Clear, pale color. Aroma of radish slice. Medium body and nicely balanced melon & tropical fruit flavors. (Matt)
Notes: Pale, yellow straw color. Beautiful aromas of fresh grass and hay. Very pleasant mouthfeel.  Good acidity and balance. Tastes like well-made Muscadet. Notes of citrus & lime. Very refreshing. Bring on the oysters, baby! (Jens)

VERY GOOD (85-89 points)
Alphonse Mellot 2007 Sancerre la Moussiere (89 points)
Region: Loire Valley, France; Varietals: Sauvignon Blanc; Retail: $45
Notes: A dry grass color. Bright looking wine. Fennel on the nose and some honey. Lovely acidity. It will go very well with some halibut sautée and a buttery sauce. (Fernando)
Notes:  Apricots on the nose. Peaches, lemon, lime on the palate. Chalky, minerally finish. (Chris)
 
Roc de Chateauvieux 2007 Vouvray (89 points)
Region: Loire Valley, France; Varietals: Chenin Blanc; Retail: $15
Notes: Pretty shimmery color. Nose has white flowers & green apples. Very interesting palate – off-dry with peach & passion fruit flavors. Good acids and nice finish. The more prominent fruit says Chenin Blanc. (Gina)
Notes: Tropical nose, a hint of strawberries, sound and easy. Nice aftertaste of ripe red apples. (Arnaud, guest taster)

Domaine de la Quilla 2007 Muscadet Sevre et Maine (88 points)
Region: Loire Valley, France; Varietals: Melon de Bourgogne; Retail: $17
Notes: Crystal clear golden color. Aroma of fresh cut radish & herbs. (Sauv Blanc?)  Beautifully balanced alcohol & acid. Flavors of walnuts & melon. (Matt)
Notes: Straw colored. Candied pineapple on mid-palate. Grapefruit & grapefruit zest on the back palate. Leads to crisp minerality. (Chris)

Chateau de la Roche 2007 Touraine (86 points)
Region: Loire Valley, France; Varietals: Sauvignon Blanc; Retail: $17
Notes:  Nose a little closed. Very light straw. Racy acidity. Prominent lemon citrus and Granny Smith apple. I could certainly see this going down easy on a hot day. (Gina)
Notes: 

Michel Bedouet 2003 Muscadet Sevre et Maine (85 points)
Region: Loire Valley, France; Varietals: Melon de Bourgogne; Retail: $19.50
Notes: A candy smell. Sweet corn & butter on the nose. A deeper yellow color. Nice minerals on the palate, some baked apples on the palate. I do like this wine. It has a touch of sweet I like. (Fernando)
Notes: N: cream soda, soapy bubbles, fennel. P: creamy, lower acidity, simple & refreshing. (Ken)
 
AVERAGE (75-79 points)
Eric Moutintin 2007 Sauvignon Blanc
(78 points)
Region: Loire Valley, France; Varietals: Sauvignon Blanc; Retail: $15
Notes: It is possible that something was wrong with this particular bottle.  Most tasters ranked it poorly and almost everyone noted that it was green and had strong flavors of bitter herbs and sulfur.

July Tasting Panel: Jens Strecker, Gina Gregory, Ken O’Hara, Matt Gubitosa, Giuseppe Carraturo, Fernando Martinez, Chris Nishiwaki, Arnaud Guerin

The following wines are in-stock or can be ordered at the following local wine shops:
Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar
email: info@portaliswines.com
phone: 206-783-2007

July 31, 2009 at 10:09 pm Leave a comment

May 2009: Argentine Malbec

TC_May 09_Argentine Malbec_bottlesArgentine Malbec is known for its rich, dark fruit flavors with hints of leather, cigar smoke, even tar and then a nice tannic finish. This tasting was requested by customer who is a big fan of Malbec and was interested in knowing what the panel thought about these wines.  This tasting was much more narrow in scope than previous tastings.  These wines are all the same grape, from the same region, and the retail prices range from $12 to $24 (except for the Catena Alta $60), so there wasn’t a vast difference in the market value of the wines.  The rankings reflect that to some degree.  The only concern that we had was the low ranking of the Catena, a jewel of a wine that consistently gets good rankings in national reviews.  During the tasting, there was some concern that the wine was slightly off.  Retasting it again at the end of the tasting, it was a different wine, having opened beautifully.  After some discussion, we left it in the lineup, but clearly, this particular bottle does not reflect its true drinking experience.  Jens Strecker, owner of Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar in Ballard, loves this wine and is going to pour it by the glass at the bar … so that you can decide for yourself.


EXCELLENT (90-94 points)

Andeluna 2006 Malbec Reserva (91 points)
Region: Mendoza, Argentina; Retail $28/Sale $23
Wonderful black currant aromas. Licorice and black cherry on the palate. Pleasant acidity and undertones of smoke with vanilla. (Gina) Rich red. Very intense nuances of blueberries and black currant. Very distinct powerful notes of stewed cherries and rhubarb. This wine reminds me of my first time with Bandol. (Giuseppe)

Catena 2005 Malbec Alta (90 points)  
Region: Mendoza, Argentina; Retail $60
Blackberry with spice of clove. Medium body. Light richness ot the palate. Tannins are bolder, making finish long-lasting. (Theresa) Is there a Bordeaux varietal(s) in this wine? Deep spicy chocolate truffle nose. Really clear and focused on the palate, great finish. (Joel)

Luigi Bosca 2006 Malbec Reserva (90 points)
Region: Mendoza, Argentina; Retail $23
Nice fruit tannin balance, tea leaf and a hint on espresso on the nose. Thick on the palate, tar, blackberries, prune/cassis. (Chris) Aromas of sweet berries and coconut. Well-balanced, elegant, round and complex. Beautiful fruit on the mid-palate. Lot of blueberries, sweet prunes with some coffee notes. Fine tannins on the finish. (Jens) [or maybe not …] Holy sulfur! Definitely can’t get past the sulfur on the nose. (Does JJ Prüm make Malbec?) Too lean on the palate, but nice mellow plum and bing cherry notes. (Joel) Cloudy red. Notes of sulfur on the nose with rosemary and mint on the end. Rich on the palate with good mouthfeel. (Giuseppe)

Xumek 2007 Malbec (90 points)  
Region: Mendoza, Argentina; Retail $18
Noticeable sulfur on the nose. Road tar and sweet blackberry cobbler on the palate. (Joel) Astringent greenness on the nose – edge of green pepper. Not green on the palate – much richer on the fruit. Velvety texture with good acidity. (Theresa)

VERY GOOD (86-89 points)
Mil Piedras 2007 Malbec (88 points)

Region: Mendoza, Argentina; Retail $14
Nose very closed. I get a little perfumy flowers (violets). Very quaffable. Smooth, silky fruit (raspberries, tart cherry). A great BBQ/party wine. Nothing too offensive except it lacks complexity. (Gina) A touch of stinky cheese on the nose, thin, simple, stemmy, a touch of fruit (blueberries) on the back palate. (Chris)

Nieto 2007 Malbec Reserva (88 points)  
Region: Mendoza, Argentina; Retail $13
Wonderful aromas of sweet blueberries and plums. Very smooth, elegant. Complex & concentrated. Good acidity. Well-balanced. Excellent flavors of blueberries with notes of coffee and espresso. Nice long finish. (Jens) Meaty nose – cured meat, blackberry. Classic tar & leather on the palate. Rich, velvety black fruits. Could you be Terrazas? (Gina)

Benegas 2005 Malbec (87 points)
Region: Mendoza, Argentina; Retail $23
Color – dark purple, black center. Aromas: ripe blackberry. Cooked fruit. Chewy berry with smoky notes on the finish. Hints of cedar & chocolate on finish. (Gina) Blue & black fruit on the nose, though aromatics are rather muted. Bits of granite and slate in the background. Boysenberry fruit on the palate with stewed plum fruit on the finish. (Theresa) Alcoholic, eucalyptus and pine needles. Huge tannins. (Chris)
 
Finca Sophenia 2006 Altosur Malbec (87 points) 
Region: Mendoza, Argentina; Retail $12
Southern Italy on the nose (like Negroamaro or Primitivo). Black fruits, soft tannins and noticeable oak on the palate. Tart fruit on the finish. (Joel) Syrupy raspberry & blackberry fruit on the nose. The sweetness does not translate to the palate which is nice, well-balanced with bright acidity. A basketful of red & blue fruit. (Theresa)

Terrazas 2006 Malbec (87 points)
Region: Mendoza, Argentina; Retail $21
Pure fruit on the nose, brambleberry, raspberry, weightier on the palate than expected, violets, acids and minerality on the finish. (Chris) Nice aromas of dark fruit, followed by bright dark fruit, blackberries and boysenberries. Good acidity. A little bit tart. (Jens) 

GOOD (80-85 points)
Catena 2006 Malbec (84 points)
 
Region: Mendoza, Argentina; Retail $24
Deep dark ruby red. Flavors of black olives, mixed berries. A bit out of balance but interesting nuances. Layers and layers of berry pie. It could use some more time in the bottle. Would like to see it how it develops in the next 5 years. (Giuseppe) Smells slightly off tone. Light cork perhaps? (Gina)

The following wines are in-stock or can be ordered at the following local wine shops:

Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar
email: info@portaliswines.com
phone: 206-783-2007

Tasting Panel:  Jens Strecker, Gina Gregory, Theresa Slechta, Giuseppe Carrauro, Chris Nishiwaki, Joel Nicholas (Guest Taster)

Joel Nicholas of K&L Wine Merchants in Los Angeles, with partner Annika Keller, at the Malbec tasting on May 12, 2009

Joel Nicholas of K&L Wine Merchants in Los Angeles, with partner Annika Keller, at the Malbec tasting on May 12, 2009

May 20, 2009 at 7:57 pm Leave a comment

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