Killibinbin 2004 Blend #2 Cabernet Shiraz

Yum, yum yum.

Perhaps that doesn’t pass as a review of this wine, but really, that’s all you need to know. It’s an Aussie blend, it has a screw-top, and it tastes great. If I had to provide a down side, I would say that the name isn’t as amusing as that of some of its competitors. But for all of you who won’t take my word, here is what I think.

It’s a dark purple, thick-looking wine, with a nice nose of mild spices, maybe some smoke (or cedar…I can’t be sure) and a hint of fruit. It has a great, thick mouth feel, almost velvety smooth. There is plenty of fruit, but it is subtle, with a nice backbone of tannins and more of that smoke. I’m not sure how it will age, but why bother, when it tastes so damned good right now. And for $16 at deep discount, it is a steal.

How Long Does Opened Wine Last?

My wife likes white wine. Specifically: buttery, oaky Chardonnays. And I like them too. Just not every day. So we usually have two bottles of wine with dinner. That is not to say that we drink two bottles with dinner. As much as I would like to drink a bottle of wine, my head and waistline can’t tolerate it. Oh, sure, occasionally with dinner guests we will drink lots of wine, but that is usually with a long meal, on a weekend. A more typical meal includes a glass or two of wine. And that is the challenge. Many every-day reds are tough enough to handle 24-48 hours before they begin to decay Continue reading “How Long Does Opened Wine Last?”

Williams Selyem 1997 Russian River Valley Olivet Lane Pinot Noir

This was my last bottle of Williams Selyem, and I am very pleased that it was not completely over the hill. I waited a few years too long to drink this wine, but it has retained a fair amount of fruit without being overwhelmed by that unpleasant, lean structure that I find in older California Pinot Noirs. This was, obviously, a fully mature wine with nicely integrated tanins. That sounds stupid and pompous, but what it really means is that the tanins blended nicely with the other flavors of the wine. It threw just a bit of sediment, and was a surprisingly dark and thick looking red. The finish was nice, although not particularly long. The fruit was disappearing, but there was enough to make this a very nice wine Continue reading “Williams Selyem 1997 Russian River Valley Olivet Lane Pinot Noir”

Robert Mondavi: R.I.P.

I was never a big fan of his wines, but Robert Mondavi’s relentless enthusiasm for Northern California wines was an important driver in the region’s rise to the ranks of wine-making greats, on par with Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barossa Valley, Barolo and a few other places on earth.

I remember going wine tasting at his beautiful facility in the Napa Valley and being whisked off to a private tasting by a friend of a friend who happened to work there. We tasted some very nice wines (and one great one), were treated like royalty, and even went skinny-dipping in a local lake.

He will be missed by the wine-making and drinking world, and by the many charities that he supported. But most of all his drive and boundless energy, all focused on making the Napa Valley the best wine-making region in the world, will be difficult to replace.

Turley 2002 Dusi Ranch Zinfandel

Just in case you weren’t confident that wine writers are detached from reality, here are two quotations from reviews of a wine that we drank on Saturday evening. Actually, I drank it. The wife sneered at me when I offered a taste.

“…aromas of black cherry, plum and licorice, with liqueur-like ripeness. Sweet, thick and velvety, with an impressive core of raspberry fruit. Very large-scaled, concentrated…distinctly syrupy
ripeness but firm supporting acidity. ”
— Steven Tanzer

“…reveals dark earthy fruits along with hints of figs, raisins, plums, and prunes, abundant sweetness from high glycerin, excellent density, and tremendous purity for such a dry table wine…”
— Robert Parker

To be fair, Tanzer’s comments are not completely insane. They make a bit of sense, but with detail that simply doesn’t fly. Parker just sounds like a loon. I defy anyone who doesn’t live on Planet Parker to discern the difference between plum, prune (a dried plum) and raisin in a single wine.

Here is my review: It was really, really good. Buy some if you can. Or better yet, buy me some.

Seriously, it was a beautiful example of a fully-aged Zinfandel. The tannins had smoothed out, and the fruit was powerful without being too sweet or cloying. There was plenty of structure, and the finish went on and on. If I were to grade it, a “B+” or “A-” seems about right.

Fetish The Watcher 2005 Barossa Valley

This is one of those typical Aussie Shirazes that is getting more and more of my wine dollar. I paid $15 for this wine at The Wine Library. What I got for my money is an extremely well-made wine, tasting of dark fruits and hints of something spicy. There is ample structure, so I am going to hold on to a few bottles (if I can) to see how it ages. Once again, great weather that allows full development of the fruit beats centuries of practice at making wine from unripe grapes (France, if you weren’t sure). Just in case you weren’t sure that this is a keeper; the bottle and label are gorgeous, so if you don’t want to drink it, you can give it as a gift (to me). And I won’t even mention the name.

A Corked Wine

I have been fairly lucky. I drink a lot of wine, and I have doing it since about 1980 (yes, I was legal). So the odds are that I would have come across dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of corked bottles. The industry assumes that about 3%-5% of all bottles have detectable TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole) contamination. Through a combination of luck and a relatively insensitive palate, at least when it comes to TCA, I have had to discard just a few bottles. I usually will cook with bottles that are mildly corked, and many bottles have such a low concentration of TCA that only some people can detect —  and be offended by — the chemical. It has been described as the smell of wet dog, soggy cardboard,  or just plain musty. It is also suspected of subduing the flavors of wine, so even if you can’t taste it, it will change the drinking experience.

I opened a Dutton-Goldfield, 2004 Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir a few nights ago. I had high expectations for this wine, and when I first tasted it, it didn’t occur to me that it was corked. I was just really, really disappointed that a wine from a good winery and from an excellent vineyard would be so…crappy. Then I realized what had happened, and I immediately forgave Mr. Dutton and Mr. Goldfield their transgressions. The best news is that I e-mailed the wine store where I purchased this wine, and they promptly responded that they would be happy to replace the wine, or give me credit. They even offered to pick up the bottle. I was impressed.

Mauritson 2002 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

I am usually happy with zinfandels, at least at some level. Oh, sometimes they are over the hill and have lost their fruit, or they are too soft and unstructured. But there is almost always something interesting going on in the glass. Not last night though! Yes, it was probably too old to expect much from a five year old zinfandel, but there just wasn’t anything there. The fruit, whatever may have existed when this wine actually tasted like something, was gone, and I mean completely gone. To be fair, it wasn’t overwhelmed by any particular flavor. Obviously it was (a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away)  a well balanced wine. The tannins were soft, and there was a bit of acid, but not much else. I missed that distinctive peppery flavor that many zinfandels exhibit, and it didn’t even have the telltale clove flavor that some badly made zinfandels will sometimes have.

This wine came well recommended by a reputable wine merchant, and it even has a nice, understated label. How could this be a bad wine? Where did I go wrong? I feel so…betrayed.

Hot Or Cold? Wine, That Is!

I store our wine, both red and white, at 56°F. But what temperature is appropriate for drinking? I think that for reds, cellar temperature is just about perfect. All too often I have been served red wines at temperatures that I normally reserve for hot chocolate. The wines, and the waiter’s tip, have suffered. Wine Library TV has an excellent segment about the effects of heat on red wine. It is interesting, amusing, and well worth watching. For me, warm wine all tastes pretty much the same. It loses depth and complexity, and tastes flat.

White wine temperature is a more complicated issue. My wife likes her wine straight out of the refrigerator. And for most of the whites we drink that seems to work pretty well. As the wine warms slightly, whatever complex flavors are present begin to emerge. Of course, some of the wines aren’t complicated at all, just straightforward fruit and oak bombs. But that is fine too. They survive the cold very well. It is the more complex wines that may suffer from low temperatures. Those complexities that we pay so much for? They just don’t exist at 38
°F. That Kongsgaard 2005 Chardonnay I just bought with the kid’s college fund? She better not drink it straight from the refrigerator!