A blog about life, language, writing, and other trivia.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tasting Notes: Wopner Edition

In the interest of having new content more regularly on this blog, I've decided to post--if not always, then often--my notes from Stimmel's (local deli/grocery/beer/wine store) Thursday night tastings here as well as at Stimmel's blog, Grape and Grain. They usually pour seven wines--one or two whites, the rest reds, with the occasional sparkler, rosé, or dessert wine thrown in--chosen according to varietal or region ("Syrah around the world" or "Rhone wines," for example). But sometimes they offer a theme-based selection. Last Thursday's theme was "Stimmel's Court," and, res ipsa loquitur, the wines speak for themselves:

1. "The Consultant" Chardonnay 2005 (California; <$20, I think)

Perhaps enrolled in the vitis protection program, this medium-bodied Chardonnay does not show up on the tasting sheet and seems intentionally secretive of its origins. (Even a Google search only turns up the name of the Chardonnay and an "importer"--of this California wine--called Billington Wines.) What I do know is that it has aromas and flavors of apples, butter, smoke, and minerals, with a streak of bitter anise running through the finish. Not bad at all.

2. Shinas Estate "The Innocent" Viognier 2007 (Australia; $24.99/bottle)
If you're not used to drinking Viognier, you might call this wine "stinky." I prefer to call it aromatic, with notes of cantaloupe, peaches, and musk on the nose. Medium-full-bodied, this oh-so-lightly sweet white shines with flavors of sweet peach and pear and a white pepper-laced finish. Lively acidity keeps the wine seeming fresh despite its viscosity. Really nice.

3. Shinas Estate "The Guilty" Shiraz 2005 (Australia; $24.99/bottle)
Another nice wine from Shinas, this is pretty textbook Aussie Shiraz, with blueberry, pepper, spice, and tar aromas and flavors. The only departure is a hint of bramble as well, giving it a slightly wild, adventurous edge.

4. Shinas Estate "The Verdict" Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Australia; $24.99/bottle)
This full-bodied red has a lovely nose of black currants, earth, violets, and just a tiny hint of barnyard. On the palate, sweetly ripe black currant starts the show, only to give way to a disappointing greenish/woody note. After a couple sips, however, this off green wood taste morphed into a more pleasant hoisin-like quality (for me, anyway; who knows what it may do for you). An interesting wine, though the other Shinas Estate offerings in this lineup outshine it by a considerable margin.

5. Orin Swift "The Prisoner" 2005 (California/Napa Valley; $36.99/bottle)
This Zinfandel-based blend is a perennial favorite at Stimmel's tastings, and with good reason. A tantalizing nose of blackberry, black plum, bramble, and pepper gives way to a gripping, full-bodied palate, offering flavors of sweet blackberry liquer, peppery spice, mocha, and red and black licorice. "The Prisoner" is big and rich but exquisitely balanced. I love this wine.

6. Ahnfeldt "Quid Pro Quo" Blend 2003 (California/Napa Valley; $69.99/bottle)
This full-bodied, Merlot-based, Bordeaux-style blend has a nice nose of plums, flowers, earth, and leathery spice. On the palate, it shows very nice flavors of black currant, spice, licorice, and a hint of mushroom-y earth. Gripping but fine tannins and good fruit mean this wine will age gracefully for at least another five years.

7. Chateau Les Justices Sauternes 2003 (France; $52.99/bottle)
This may not be the steel trap of a Sauternes that the 2001 Chateau D'Yquem is, but it has its charms nonetheless. Aromas and flavors of pineapple, lemon curd, and smoky jasmine vibrate on a taught string of acidity, with an intriguing menthol note emerging on the long finish.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Franc the Tanc

(Cross-posted at Grape and Grain)

In the movie Old School, Frank "The Tank" Ricard is in the inner sanctum of cool, being one of the three people responsible for founding the fraternity of misfits whose antics drive the film's plot (and most of the gags). Nevertheless, Frank--who's lots of fun but lacks solidity of character (to say the least; that's like saying NW Ohio lacks mountains)--continually takes a back seat to the other two members of the inner sanctum: the staid, reliable Mitch and the boldly charismatic entrepreneur Beanie. But, by the end of the movie, Frank has been given a few chances to shine on his own. Sure, he may not always come through, shooting himself in the neck with a tranquilizer gun or setting himself on fire while dressed in a cougar suit. But every once in a while, he rises to the occasion, stunning critics with a heartfelt rhythmic ballet routine or mystically channeling his inner wonk to school James Carville in the finer points of U.S. biotech policy.

So it is with Cabernet Franc. Like Frank, Franc is also in an inner sanctum, being one of the three indispensable red grapes of Bordeaux. (We'll leave number four, Petit Verdot, for another post.) And, like Frank, Franc always takes a back seat to its two friends, the staid, reliable Merlot and the boldly charismatic Cabernet Sauvignon. After all, when's the last time you had a glass of Cab Franc? Compare that to the last Cab Sauv or Merlot you've had, and you'll likely get the point. And there's no doubt that Cab Franc, on its own, sometimes lacks solidity of character, perhaps showing flashes--or should I say streaks--of brilliance but not able to sustain a full, developed flavor arc, which is what makes it such a good blending wine. (That may also be what makes the grape insecure and prone to saying things like, "Took the restrictor plate off to give the Red Dragon a little more juice. But it's not exactly street legal, so keep it on the down low"). But every once in awhile, it truly sings on its own, with supple fruit, deep, seductive earth and leather notes, and an intriguing floral quality that places it among the most irresistable wines you're likely to come across. And when that happens, there's only one term to describe drinking such a wine. Yep, you guessed it: old school.

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