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

December 2009: Sparkling Wines

Very interesting results … non-Champagne sparkling wines did just as well in this blind tasting as the real deal. See what your local professional panel had to say and which ones sound interesting for your upcoming New Year’s Eve celebration.  I, for one, want to try the Graham Beck from South Africa which was repeatedly described as having notes of seaweed & sea salt in combination with a pronounced fruitiness.  Aren’t you curious?!

EXCELLENT (90-94 points)

Boizel NV Champagne Brut Reserve
(92 points)
Region: Champagne, France; Varietals: Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier/Chardonnay; Retail: $49.50
Tasting Notes: Beautiful yellow color. Aromas of toast, brioche and biscuit. Fuller-bodied, excellent acidity and complexity, elegant and classy. Fantastic flavors of apples, with some citrus and lime and some mousse. Again brioche and biscuit. Must be Champagne! (Jens)
Tasting Notes: Lovely nose of toast and biscuits – would definitely say Champagne … full of apples, tea biscuits, ginger. A lovely balance and a finish that lingers on and on … superb! (Theresa)
Tasting Notes: Nose: bubble bath (in a good way), exotic cocnut milk creaminess, orange creamsicle. Palate: exciting balance of ginger, graham crackers, white pepper & fennel, pink grapefruit. (Ken)

Graham Beck 2007 Brut Rosé
(92 points)
Region: Stellenbosch, SA; Varietals: Pinot Noir/Chardonnay; Retail: $19.50
Tasting Notes: Blush pink – don’t let the color fool you. Nose has intense sea salt, light rose & watermelon. Wonderful acidity – juicy red fruit and perfect balanced bubbles. Finish is moderate, but delightful all the way there. (Gina)
Tasting Notes: Wonderful light ink color. Very floral on the nose. Aromas of wild flowers, strawberries and notes of seaweed. Well-balanced, complex and elegant. Beautiful flavors of strawberries with elmon and lime. Hints of mousse and biscuit with a touch of sea salt. Wonderful long finish. (Jens)

Paul Ginglinger NV Cremant d’Alsace (92 points)
Region: Alsace, France; Varietals: Riesling/Pinot Blanc; Retail: $24
Tasting Notes: Doughy on the nose, with scone & candied lemon peel. Palate: meaty with green fig, cantaloupe, & a mysterious bright starfruit beam riding the bubbles all the way down. (Ken)
Tasting Notes: Subtle notes of toast, yeast & underlying brioche. Palate much more expressive than the nose – moussey, small bubbles. Fills your mouth and keeps expanding – citrus & mineral focused. (Theresa)
Tasting Notes: Nose is a little more subtle – light apples, light spice, light minerality. Maybe a little vanilla. Great bubbly! Really well-balanced mouthfeel. This one is screaming for oysters (or caviar, if you swing that way!). I like it! It finished dry & perfect. (Michael)

Schoenheitz NV Crement d’Alsace
(92 points)
Region: Alsace, France; Varietals: Auxerois/Pinot Blanc ; Retail: $22
Tasting Notes: Shimmery golden hues – mmm – toasty aromas, a little hazelnut, cooked pears. Very elegant mouthfeel, bubbles are very light , but wow, flavor and finish makes up for it. This is easy like Sunday morning … creamy, vanilla-y, more pears. (Gina)
Tasting Notes: This one really smells like “champagne” – yeasty – like bread rising. Super light notes of apple, maybe some white peach in there. Tons of minerality on the palate but great fruit too. This is a party wine. The wine will have everyone looking forward to food! (Michael)

Bernard Bremont Champagne Grand Cru (91 points)
Region: Champagne, France; Varietals: Pinot Noir/Chardonnay; Retail: $46
Tasting Notes: Again [followed Boizel in tasting lineup], beautiful pale yellow color. Very complex aromas of toast and biscuit with some baked apples. Very complex and elegant. Fantastic acidity going all the way. Wonderful flavors of mousse, apples, citrus and lime with brioche and biscuit notes. (Jens)
Tasting Notes: Mineral and slate in the nose with a dusting of graham cracker. Rich and round then followed by racy acidity that cleans the palate – in wait for the next taste. (Theresa)

GOOD (85-89 points)
Alvise Langien NV Prosecco
(89 points)
Region: Prosecco, Italy; Varietals: Prosecco ; Retail: $14
Tasting Notes: Nose is all green apple, a little yeasty, but in a pleasant way. Palate is still all apple, but there is a little overlying sweetness, almost like more of a demi-sec, but great. This would rock with some spicy apps. (Michael)
Tasting Notes: Lemon zest and ginger in the nose. Flavors of lemon custard, touch of honey dew melon, small frothy bubbles, good structure and acidity, great long finish (Theresa)

Antech NV Blanquette de Limoux (88 points)
Region: Limoux, France; Varietals: Mauzac/Chardonnay; Retail: $15
Tasting Notes: Great pale straw color. Nose is super subtle, light apple, light everything. Great apple/peachy on the palate. Great airy finish with just a hint of floral/fuity happiness left “hanging around” to make you want more. (Michael)
Tasting Notes: Very eggy notes on the nose, ripe fruits, lots of verve and cut on the finish, wild honey, violets & rose. (Catherine)

Mountain Dome NV Brut Rosé (87 points)
Region: WA State; Varietals: Pinot Noir/Chardonnay; Retail: $25
Tasting Notes: Nose – White flowers x ripe strawberries. Light bubbles, very delightful, soft creaminess. Flavors of juicy strawberry. Finish is short and delicate. (Gina)
Tasting Notes: Hints of strawberry, citrus and stone in the nose. The strawberry extends to the palate with some fresh green herbs. Finishes with a rich creaminess that makes for a long finish. (Theresa)

Bisol NV Crede Prosecco (86 points)
Region: Veneto, Italy; Varietals: Prosecco; Retail: $23
Tasting Notes: Fun bubbles! Nose has prominent minerality, banana peel and a little forest. Flavors of walnuts and Asian pear, finish is a little short, but the mid-palate explodes. (Gina)
Tasting Notes: Nose: bananas, cotton candy. Palate: pez candies, fruit stripes, good & plenties, lime starburst. (Ken)

December Tasting Panel:  Jens Strecker, Gina Gregory, Ken O’Hara, Catherine Reynolds, Theresa Slechta, and guest taster: Michael Friesen.

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

December 23, 2009 at 9:54 pm Leave a comment

November 2009: Holiday Wines ~ $30-$50

Every wine in this lineup would make a stellar holiday gift; it just depends on what you’re looking for:  a more medium-bodied Pinot Noir from California?  a full-bodied, Cab blend from South Africa? We won’t pretend that this is an across the board representation of what’s available in Seattle in this price range (as the reps drop off their candidate bagged and so we don’t know what we’ve got for a price point tasting like this until the unveiling) but the fun thing about this tasting was the level of oohing and aahing going on in that back room! The lineup was superior as you can see from the scores and notes. And, with a wink at last November’s Holiday Wine Tasting, where the overall winner was the El Quintanal 2005 Ribera del Duero (95 points) … the Spaniards are kicking butt! Happy Holidays and happy reading:

EXCELLENT (90-94 points)
Arzuaga 2005 Ribera del Duero Crianza
(94 points)
Region: Ribera del Duero, Spain; Varietals: Tempranillo/Cab Sauv/Merlot; Retail: $35
Notes: N: cherry candy, gamey, cola, vanilla, high toned – so much going on here – I feel I need night vision goggles just to capture all the elements I am missing. P: nose follows through on palate with big flavors, leather, blackberry, cherry, smooth oak, perfect balance. (Ken)
Notes: Dark, dark ruby color. Powerful, but delicate aromas of dark fruit, saddle leather and herbs. Lots going on here – layers over layers of dark fruit, leathers, with herbal and spicy notes. Wonderful. Full-bodied but elegant and complex. Great acidity and long finish. Tastes like high-end Spanish. (Jens)

Mas Doix 2005 Salangues Priorat (94 points)
Region: Priorat, Spain; Varietals: Garnacha/Carenena/Syrah/Merlot/Cab Sauv; Retail: $51
Notes: Wonderful, dark ruby color. Beautiful, powerful aromas of wild berries, dark fruits and wild flowers. Big, full-bodied, great concentration and depth. Wonderful acidity. Lots of dark fruit, boysenberries, blackberries with herbal notes and some spice. Long, long finish. Needs to age. (Jens)
Notes: N: still coy, closed on nose, needs to open yet, blueberries & spice, cloves & cardamom, French perfumes. P: taut still but good firm tannins, balanced flavors of candied black cherries, espresso mocha, spiced sugar plums, worn leather. (Ken)

De Toren 2006 Fusion V (93 points)
Region: Stellenbosch, South Africa; Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot; Retail: $50
Notes: N: roasted game meat, bacon, smoked spices, with a bright beam of blackberries & black pepper P: meaty wine with pomegranate, espresso, plum jam (Ken) Notes: Mature notes of prunes, almond and wet feather, very elegant on the palate delivering everything in the nose plus smoke, tobacco and leather on the finish. (A Pinotage style.) Rustic but yet smooth. Very good. (Giuseppe)

Capanna 2006 Rosso Di Montalcino (92 points)
Region: Tuscany, Italy; Varietals: Sangiovese Grosso; Retail: $32
Notes: Little lighter on the nose – more red fruit – cherry/plum/raspberry. Great finish. Great balance of fruit/acid/oak/alcohol! This wine is awesome! (Mike) Notes: Framboise, black raspberries, has a sweet punch, gentle and feminine upfront yet juicy and firm. (Catherine)

Freeman 2005 Pinot Noir (92 points)
Region: Sonoma Coast, CA; Varietals: Pinot Noir; Retail: $47
Notes: N: Pinot Noir! Nutty huckleberries, forest twigs, pine, savory cherry sauce P: very perfumed plalate of butter simmered plums, fennel, pepper & roses (Ken)
Notes: Love the nose, bursting with berries on the vine, classy, violets, minerals strike through it, has intrigue, flinty finish, pine & fir needles. (Catherine)

Andeluna 2003 Grande Reserve Passionado (91 points)
Region: Mendoza, Argentina; Varietals: Cab Sauv, Merlot, Malbec, Cab Franc; Retail $50
Notes: Dark intense red. Sweet aromas of stewed fruit and dried blueberries. Delicious. Truly sexy.Old world smell with new World finish. Very polished. Well done. (Giuseppe)
Notes: Beautiful, dark ruby color. Powerful aromas of ripe blackberries and cassis. Dense, complex, good concentration and elegance. Lots of dark fruit, boysenberries and black berries. Very good mouthfeel. Long finish with fine tannins. (Jens)

DeLille Cellars 2007 D2 (91 points)
Region: Yakima Valley, WA; Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot; Retail: $41
Notes: Dark ruby. Bright bouquet of sour cherries, dried apricots and peaches. Sexy but elgant. Powerful note of tobacco leaf. Superb red with strong blue cheeses. (Giuseppe)
Notes: Beautiful, dark ruby color. Fantastic nose of dark fruit, black currants. Very complex, well-balanced with great acidity which lifts the dark fruit flavors. Coffee, espresso, mocha notes. Beautiful long finish with fine tannins. (Jens)

Terra Valentine 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (91 points)
Region: Napa Valley, CA; Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon; Retail: $45
Notes: Great Old World/New World mix – all fruit up front, but the finish has this smoky/earthy thing going on – great wine. (Mike)
Notes: Beautiful bright ruby red. Very elegant. Silky long finish, mouthfeel. Well-balanced. Sexy, velvety red. A cross between Cabernet and Syrah? Great present. Friendly but a blockbuster! (Giuseppe)

November Tasting Panel:  Jens Strecker, Ken O’Hara, Catherine Reynolds, Giuseppe Carraturo, and guest taster: Michael Friesen.

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 27, 2009 at 9:06 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

August 2009: German & Austrian Riesling

TC_Aug 09_German Riesling_50%
I don’t know why this comes as a surprise, but what is clear from this tasting is that the professional tasters represent a similar spectrum of responses to this very special grape as does the American wine drinking public … and that is:  you love it or you don’t care for it at all. Most of the wines ended up in the 89/90 points range, but that doesn’t represent how the tasters felt about them.

We had some pretty amazing Riesling in this blind line-up, and the tasters who dig Riesling dug it … ranking them 96, 97 even 98 points. The flip side, though, is that these same wines had knowledgeable, experienced tasters who thought they were cloying, sweet, lacking acidity, one noting “Is this a morning drink?” To some degree, the bar for professional tasters is to evaluate any given wine based on its merits as a varietal, region, style etc. Clearly, though, human nature and personal preference come into play (and shouldn’t it??) and if you don’t personally find the wine pleasant, interesting and recommendable, then you aren’t going to give it 97 points. It’s also worth noting that half of the tasters had strong reactions within the lineup, giving scores ranging from 75 to 97 & another from 71 to 95. Again, reflecting that Riesling walks a fine line between being delicious and undesirable.

That said, we are going to try to give our readers some idea of the tasters’ various reactions to these wines. When you see notes close to the average, it means there wasn’t great variation on that particular wine. Enjoy the read, as this month it’s pretty entertaining:

EXCELLENT (90-94 points)
Leth 2006 Riesling Felser Weinberge (90 points)
Region: Wagram, Austria; Varietals: Riesling; Retail: $23
Notes: Nose: caramelized apricot nose, slight botrytis, apple pie, limestone minerality, toast. Palate: roasted chestnut, peach pie (Ken, 95 points)
Notes: Color: straw. Aroma with notes of diesel fuel and some other untoward quality not readily drinkable. Acid low, alcohol high, generic in flavor (Matt, 80 points)

S.A. Prüm 2007 Essence (90 points)
Region: Mosel, Germany; Varietals: Riesling; Retail: $14
Notes: Ahh …! Great balance, classic reflection of Old World charm, elegant and playful nose. Hints of tropical fruit, green apple and petrol, slight sparkle, long finish (Jerred, 98 points)
Notes: Very pale straw but brilliant color. Completely clean aroma of fresh melons and slight hints of brown spice, perhaps nutmeg. Tangy and balanced. Elegant (Matt, 97 points)
Notes: A reserved nose with a shy mouthfeel … this wine needs to grow something. (How do you say balls in German??) (Arnaud, 83 points)

VERY GOOD (85-89 points)
Carl Graff 2008 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese
(89 points)
Region: Mosel-Saar-Ruver, Germany; Varietals: Riesling; Retail: $18.50
Notes: A little shy in the nose, but what an explosion in the mouth. A bit like a mini fireworks. Great flavors, plenty of acid. Note – a heavy hitter, but very pleasant (Arnaud, 91 points)
Notes: Pale yellow color. Subdued aromas of ripe apricots and peaches. Flavors are more dominant. Citrus fruit with peaches and apricots. Pretty sweet on the mid palate. Still good acidity on the finish. (Jens, 87 points)

Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler 2007 Bernkasteler Alte Badstube Riesling Kabinett (89 points)
Region: Mosel, Germany; Varietals: Riesling; Retail: $31
Notes: Pale yellow color. Aromas of wet stone mixed with peaches and apricot. Very good complexity and concentration. Beautiful acidity integrated in the fruit. Main flavors are peach pie, apricots, pink grapefruit with some honey notes. Excellent, long finish. (Jens, 93 points)
Notes: Petroleum nose, another easy drinker. Plenty of fruits with good acid. Good aftertaste with apricot in the background. (Arnaud, 91 points)
Notes: Pale yellow, very intense petroleum and wild flowers. Rich and intense on the palate. Good finish though very sweet. (Giuseppe, 80 points)

Louis Guntrum 2006 Niersteiner Bergkirche Riesling Kabinett (89 points)
Region: Rheinhessen, Germany; Varietals: Riesling; Retail: $25
Notes: Great balance between petrol and fruit. Guessing this producer is putting a foot in new world. Warm vintage as the honey is showing with dried apricot. Soft mineral notes. Lingering finish. (Jerred, 95 points)
Notes: A nice combination of petrol, caramel honey and grapefruit – the palate is lushly textured with the citrus fruit coming in on the finish with great acidity. (Theresa, 88 points)
Notes: Color: straw. Aroma: Diesel again! But also fruity hints. Acid low, finish bitter. (Matt, 80 points)

Schloss Reinhartshausen 2005 Erbach Schlossberg Riesling (89 points)
Region: Rheingau, Germany; Varietals: Riesling; Retail: $45
Notes: Pale yellow color. Intense yet pleasant aromas of quince, pears and flint. Wonderful mouthfeel. Delicious and elegant. Superb acidity and fruit. Subdued citrus and lime flavors upfront followed by ripe peaches, apricots and pink grapefruit. Beautiful, long finish. (Jens, 94 points)
Notes: Notes of flowers, honey, ever so slight petrol. From the nose you would expect a rich and dense mouthfeel … just the opposite, quite lean with citrus, lime zest & zingy acidity. (Theresa, 86 points)

Schlosskellerei-Gobelsburg 2008 Riesling (89 points)
Region: Kamptal, Germany; Varietals: Riesling; Retail: $18.50
Notes: Pale straw color. Aromas: mineral, floral, vegetal & fruity. Complex & enjoyable. Tangy & tart but balanced. (Matt, points 92)
Notes: Fresh & Clean – bright lemon oil, freshly picked oranges. Racy acidity makes all the citrus pop on the palate, especially the flavor of orange peel. (Theresa, 90 points)
Notes: Pale yellow color. Aromas of tart lime and citrus. Flavors of green apple, grapefruit with hints of bitter almonds. Good acidity, but fruit can’t keep up. (Jens, 86 points)

Weingut P.J.-Valckenberg 2006 Riesling Kabinett (89 points)
Region: Rheinhessen, Germany; Varietals: Riesling; Retail: $23
Notes: What a pretty color, and yes, it tastes as good as it looks (beautiful yellow hue). Things are getting sweeter. Million of peaches, Peaches for me. [Surrounded by musical notes] Nice long finish. (Arnaud, 95 points)
Notes: Lush nose of honeysuckle, orange blossom. Beautiful texture, slight oiliness that holds together flavors of tangerine, honeycomb and an ever so slight bit of butterscotch. Would like a bit more acid. (Theresa, 91 points)
Notes: Bright gold yellow color. Sugar coated stewed fruit. Scent of pineapple juice. Very rich. Sweet, very sweet!!! Not necessarily a bad thing. Might be great paired with fruits and nuts. (Giuseppe, 79 points)

Bart 2006 Charter Riesling (87 points)
Region: Rheingau, Germany; Varietals: Riesling; Retail: $28
Notes: Petrol & acidity, clean fruit and balance, very very young. Teeth gripping acidity, wow! The only hold back is the hing of SO2. Lingering long finish. The SO2 will age out. (Jerred, 97 points)
Notes: Straw color. Diesel aroma, mixed with fruits. Bitter grapefruit flavors. Is this blended with Sauvignon Blanc? (Matt, 73 points)

S.A. Prüm 2003 Bernkasteler Lay Riesling (86 points)
Region: Mosel-Saar-Ruver, Germany; Varietals: Riesling; Retail: $48
Notes: Petrol and a bit of heat, vintage related, hot vintage. Fruit comes through on the palate but this wine should age another 7-8 years. Low tannin on the finish and back is a bit edgy. Could fatten up with age. This wine is harmed a bit by vintage. Tastes like Bernkasteler. (Jerred, 94 points)
Notes: Pale yellow to yellow color. Intense aromas of petrol, green apples and wet stone. Medium-bodied, complex and elegant. Beautiful acidity integrated in the fruits. Flavors of baked apples, wet stone, schist with a touch of sweetness. Racy and refreshing finish. Smoked trout comes to my mind. (Jens, 93 points)
Notes: Nose: aged, skunky, oily, tar, smells like apples cooking on an old Fiat engine. Palate: flat, flabby, aged too long, some old fruit trying to shine through – a pig with no bones in a glass – (Ken, 76 points)

Weingut Blees Ferber 2007 Riesling Spätlese (86 points) R
egion: Mosel, Germany; Varietals: Riesling; Retail: $14
Notes: Delicious as soon as it hits the tongue … again more peaches and nectarines (a bit mangoish!!!) … sweet and easy like a Fraulein … (Arnaud, 93 points)
Notes: Nose: Smells like it’s snowing. Palate: clean, pear sorbet, lingering sweetness, green olives, orange zest, fennel. (Ken, 93 points) Notes: Pale yellow with some funky aromas of hay mixed in with the apples. Flavors are much more pleasant. Peach and apricot pie with some citrus notes. Pleasant finish. (Jens, 86 points)
Notes: A bit of composted trash, ouch. Lacking acidity to carry the residual sugar. Tumbling finish. (Jerred, 75 points)

GOOD (80-84 points)
Weinmann & Würtz 2007 Riesling
(83 points)
Region: Rheinhessen, Germany; Varietals: Riesling; Retail: $18.50
Notes: Wake up, wake up … Did someone say tart? Dry and dry … (Arnaud, 86 points)
Notes: Nose: wet river stones, pine needles, cantaloupe, orange zest, body odor. Palate: tart, piercing acidity, razor sharp, young stone fruit flavors, celery/sour (Ken, 71 points)

August 2009 – Tasting Panel Members Jens Strecker, Theresa Shlechta, Ken O’Hara, Matt Gubitosa, Giuseppe Caraturro, Arnaud Guerin, Jerred Wolff

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

August 20, 2009 at 11:05 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)

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

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