Dehlinger “Goldridge Vineyard” Pinot Noir 1998

I am not sure that reviewing this wine is of any use, other than possibly demonstrating that I am a pompous ass. It is almost impossible to find any of it, and I bought it from the mailing list when it was released. But, damn it was good!

I’ll give you the downside first. The wine lost a lot after being open for less than one hour. The upside is that we were just about finished with it by then. If I had to use one word to describe this wine, it would be “elegant.” It wasn’t particularly powerful, but everything came together in a gentle, seamless way. It had a lovely nose, without any astringency or blast of alcohol. It also had plenty of fruit, which surprised me, although it was tough to identify any particular flavor. But it was also a substantial wine, with plenty of thickness and texture. I realize that I am using phrases that may seem contradictory, but I am having a tough time describing the wine. Everything worked well, so nothing stood out. What pleased me most of all was the absence of a certain “bright cherry” flavor that I find to be boring, and which is common in too many California pinot noirs.

If you can find some, and feel like spending a fair bit of money, give it a shot. But make sure that your bottle was stored correctly. I don’t think that this wine would survive to this age without impeccable storage conditions.

Marquis Philips Holly’s Blend 2006

Because my lovely wife will spit out any wine that isn’t chardonnay made in California, my opportunities for trying other white wines are limited. But we had a bunch of people over and I thought I could sneak one into the mix. Shocking as it may seem, not everyone is enamored of oaky, buttery chardonnays. So this wine was a perfect foil, almost the opposite of the typical California chard. But not quite…it had a few of the characteristics that make those typical chardonnays very popular, such as abundant fruit and a lush mouth feel. But unlike many of those cookie-cutter chards, this Verdelho based wine had just enough structure to make it easy to drink. The fruit seemed to me to be sort of appley (is that a word?), but not sour, just crisp. And since it is Australian, it has a screw top, which makes me very happy. It wasn’t overwhelming, just nice and fruity, with a touch of richness. And even a bit of acid and structure to make you feel like you were getting your money’s worth — a whopping $8 a bottle!

I have never had a bad or even mediocre bottle of wine from Marquis Philips. Everything they make is at least good, with the high-end stuff verging on great. Oh, and I was shocked when I offered my wife a taste and she said, “I could drink this.” High praise indeed!

Chateau Montelena 2005 Napa Chardonnay

My wife is a Chardonnay addict. If I open an amazing Zinfandel that knocks my socks off, or an incredibly perfumed and complex Pinot Noir, she will say “that’s nice dear. Give me a glass of Chardonnay.” After opening two mediocre (okay, one was mediocre, and one was horrible) Chardonnays for her, I had to make amends. And last night, I did a very good job of it. The 2005 Chardonnay vintage in California is shaping up to be excellent, and maybe even great, and the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay fits right in. It’s not particularly oaky; in fact, I was surprised at how little oak there was, but there was so much of everything else that it didn’t need it. This is not a typical California Chardonnay with oak and vanilla and butter flavors that predominate. It is wonderfully balanced, with incredible layers of fruit and very interesting mineral hints that are a perfect counterpoint to the acid. But what is amazing is the richness that comes from the intensity of the flavors, rather than a hefty dose of new oak.

Unfortunately, this is not an inexpensive wine ($30 at deep discount), but if you are interested in an atypical California Chardonnay from an excellent vintage, you can’t go wrong with this beautiful example of some of Napa’s best Chardonnay.

Turley 2003 Old Vines Zinfandel

Every now and then, I open a bottle of wine that is so much fun to drink and gives such pleasure that before I know it, the bottle is empty. This is one of those wines. We opened this wine at a dinner of mostly leftovers (but good leftovers). It was smooth and rounded, with incredible fruit, but with enough backbone to give it complexity. I don’t have the palate or the arrogance to divine what kind of fruit it tastes like, but trust me, there is plenty of it. This wine also packs a wallop, with more than 16% alcohol. But it is so well made that it doesn’t taste hot or out of balance. There is a bit of sweetness too, almost candy-like. I think that is the alcohol and the glycerin, not any residual sugar.

Unfortunately it is difficult to find, and expensive to boot. I am on the Winery mailing list and paid retail for this wine when it was released. I think most of Turley’s wines are overpriced, but not this one!

Too Much Turley

Turley Zinfandels are still great, but I think they are declining. Not declining enough to stop me from drinking too much of them, but…

Obviously I am on vacation. I will provide a brilliant and pithy review of the 2003 Old Vines when I return.

Tait: The Ball Buster 2005

I bought a bottle of this Aussie shiraz blend on the recommendation of a friend. Wow! He was right. I have been drinking it over the past few months and it’s getting better and better. This is not a sissy wine. Lots of alcohol balanced by a ton of fruit and licorice and a hint of sweetness (maybe that is a touch of oak) that is not cloying at all. There is a bit of tannin and acid for structure, but the wine is so well balanced that it goes down a bit too well. It is incredibly rich, but because of its balance it is a pleasure to drink, and drink and drink. I am paying for that this morning however.

I realize that I am babbling, but this is the kind of wine that will put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. I have tasted a lot of wine over the years and much has been forgettable. Not this one. Oh, I wouldn’t call it a great wine; it doesn’t have the complexity and aging possibilities to be great. On a warm night, sitting outside with good friends, eating grilled pork chops (brined, of course), Caesar salad and molten chocolate cake? Perfect. And for $16 it is a steal.

75 Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

This is a fine example of a very well made, pleasant California cab that is thoroughly forgettable. There is nothing wrong with this wine, in fact it is very well made, with nice balance between the fruit and tannins. But it tastes like every other well made cab. There just isn’t anything interesting in the bottle. I paid about $15, so I am certainly not upset about the purchase. And if I needed a bottle of wine as a gift for someone who might not be thrilled by interesting  and different wines, or was just starting down the wine road, this might be it. The label is pretty cool too, so that is a bonus. Don’t get me wrong; this is a good wine. I didn’t pour it down the sink or into the spaghetti sauce. I might not be a chef, but I’m not an idiot.

The grapes are from Lake county, which is why I bought the wine in the first place. I thought that the winemaker might be able to reveal something interesting or different. Many California cabernets are made from grapes grown in Napa county, and many of them taste like they were made by the same winemaker.

This wine represents all that I find boring about wine. I think of these wines as “corporate.” They taste like they have been made by committee, without any personality or individuality. Are they made well? Absolutely! Will you remember them? Nope.

Wine By Joe Pinot Noir

I have never heard of this winemaker, but his 2005 pinot noir is a very nice example of an Oregon pinot. There was a bit too much of that typical bright cherry flavor, but it was a nicely balanced and pleasant wine. It has some structure that is offset by good fruit. At $18 retail it seems to be a good deal. If you can find it at discount, even better!