Response to “the man’s guide to wine”

By Jesse on November 15, 2010

I’d promised the Winos an evening of manly (yet diverse) wines, and any skepticism they may have harbored that I wouldn’t be able to deliver on that promise was patently baseless; each bottle had its own perfectly reasonable justification for being included in the tasting.  Whether or not the bottles were any good, however, remained to be seen.

We started things off with the 2009 Bio-Weingut h. u. m. Hofer Gruner Veltliner (Osterreichischer Landwein), the manly-sounding title of which was a quite a mouthful.  Unfortunately, the salty, minerally nose didn’t inspire anyone to really want to try a mouthful of the wine.  “It smells like someone smeared some honey on stainless steel,” said Jason.  “Wood-chippy,” said Adam.  There was a strange creaminess around the edges, which surprised and worried me.

Upon tasting it, we quickly discovered that, despite the crown cap closure, there was something wrong: besides being fairly oxidized, the wine also had a pronounced “soggy veggies” taste.  An inauspicious beginning, to be sure, but we moved boldly forward.

Next up was the 2009 Chateau d’Épiré “Cuvée Spéciale” (Savennières), which I thought merited inclusion because it’s always seemed to me to be more of a stoic, brooding white than its cousin Vouvray — a “thinking man’s white,” if you will.  This bottle boasted a toasty, minerally nose.  Doug added that it smelled like “honey straight out of the plastic bear.”  The palate was tasty and tart, with some of that intangible white-wine earthiness that Andrew lovingly refers to as “dishwater character.”  Xander applauded the myriad flavors, and Jason loved the finish, which he said “stays around in your mouth for a while.”  Andrew agreed, but he found the initial sharp mouthfeel attack to be off-putting.  The finish, though, was indeed sensational: toasty, slightly puckering, and mouth-cleaning.  Most importantly, long — it lasted for a minute or more.  The Wine Bible mentioned chamomile, honey and cream as probable Savennières flavors, all of which we get, along with big citrus notes.  For $18, a bunch of people thought this was a great deal.

Third up was the 2009 Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rosé (Pfalz), which was manly because it was a rosé called “Wolf.”  It offered up a floral, berry-forward nose that prompted cries of “honeysuckle” and “earth.”  The palate was less complex, sadly: for a rosé, this was very fruit-forward and surprisingly full-bodied.  Jason didn’t like it at all, and said it tasted like a Jolly Rancher.  Andrew called it “very thick,” but liked the finish, which Doug thought tasted like blue cheese.  “The taste is radically different from how it smells,” said Xander.  A debate ensued on the sweetness level — some people detected a touch of residual sugar — but it was definitely a tad syrupy either way.  “This is kiddie wine,” Jason proffered.  A few people would’ve bought it for $6 or $8, but the $10 price tag seemed a little high.

wino01.jpgShifting into red territory, we led off with the 2009 Lapierre Morgon — Morgon being the manliest of the Beaujolais crus, in my opinion.  The nose featured cherry cola, black pepper, and huge currant elements.  Zach got some olives, and I even picked up some pickling spices.  Jess said it smelled “spritzy and fun,” and people also called it “grapey” and “jammy.”  Doug even got “marker.”  Really exciting nose!

The palate was tart, fresh, and impressive, with very present spice / clove elements.  That cherry juicy thing was also very apparent.  Xander called it a “dangerous wine, since I could drink a whole bottle.”  He appreciated the fruit on the front and the tobacco on the mid-palate.  Jason enjoyed it, but pointed out that the fruitiness of it made it somehow less “manly” than it should be.  He called it a “flavor wine,” rather than a “structure wine.”  Nonetheless, it was enjoyed all around, and even at $22, inspired several potential return buyers.  Another Kermit Lynch winner!

Next, we tried the 2007 Perrin & Fils “Réserve” (Côtes du Rhône), because how could we possibly do a “manly wines” tasting without throwing a bottle of Rhône in there?  This one boasted a mushroomy nose with some interesting spices: pepper, but also allspice, paprika, and mustard seed.  Some black olives were also present, and some raspberry jam was trying to poke its way through.

The palate was medium-bodied, and fairly sour, with a finish that dropped off pretty quickly.  The whole thing was somewhat tongue-numbing and bitter.  A half-assed effort on the palate, we thought, following the impressively rich nose: Jason called it “unbalanced” and “out-of-whack.”  Andrew pointed out the nice structure, but lamented the lack of flavors.  After opening up a bit, some light flavors started expressing themselves, so maybe this bottle would justify its purchase with some decanting; Jason liked it “more and more” as it opened up.  For $7, a few people thought it might be worth a second try.

Getting well into deep red territory, we reverently poured out the 2005 Reversanti Barolo, manly by virtue of its kingly position among the Italian reds.  This one featured a huge cherry nose right off the bat, also inspiring observations of Twizzlers, cherry cough drops, and menthol.  To me, it smelled like an antique store, or maybe a 17th-century ship.  Big leather, book mold — I loved how “aged” this wine smelled.  “It’s old world, except for that licorice thing,” said Jason.

Jumping the gun and tasting it early, Vanessa was heard to remark, “it’s really good.”  The wine featured great flavors up front — but we barely had time to pick them apart before the tannins exploded all over our mouths.  Massive tannins, too, which fortunately don’t totally destroy our palates.  “The tannins are so big they make my teeth dry,” said Xander.  Jason points out that, despite the hugeness of the wine, it was actually fairly light-bodied.  Doug pointed out some big leathery notes, and Zach said it was a leathery texture as well.  This meal of a wine was a real treat.  Jason and I each have a bottle left, and I’ll do my damndest to keep mine for a few more years, as it’s absolutely got the tannins to hold up; at the same time, it’s drinking beautifully now.  About half of the people would spend the $25 sale price, but the release price of $50 was a little out of everybody’s wheelhouse.

wino02.jpgSticking to the “big wine” theme was the 2008 Altos de la Hoya Monastrell (Jumilla), though it couldn’t have been more different from the Barolo.  Things started off shakily, with some skunky and synthetic notes on the nose — these breezed off quickly, leaving very little behind.  Without much to go on, we all tasted it.

The nose had been a sad surprise, but the palate was very respectable.  It was a big wine, full-bodied, with dark fruit and cedar all over the place.  It proved a really interesting juxtaposition with the Barolo, and wound up tasting quite “new world” in comparison.  “There are tannins, but they aren’t in your face like the Barolo,” said Jason.  “It’s getting juicier, but I like it, because it’s not cheap fruit,” said Xander.  Big cigar notes made themselves known as well, which I always like on a Spanish red.  For $10, this wine had a lot of takers.

What could be manlier than drying out your grapes before pressing so that it’s all ink and juice and pulp, without any of that pesky water?  Rounding off the still wines was the 2006 Luigi Righetti “Capitel de’ Roari” (Amarone), which offered up a big nose: hot, peppery, and a little metallic.  It smelled like white-board marker to some, and Adam said this was the strongest nose we’d had yet.

Surprisingly, the palate wasn’t as full-bodied as even the Jumilla, but was densely concentrated in its flavors: as juicy and concentrated as the biggest, ripest Zinfandel/Petite Sirah blend you can imagine.  “Amarone is my favorite Italian wine,” Jason said, as he sipped blissfully.  A little bit of acid made itself known, along with a light smattering of tannins, athough Jason mused that “a more noble Amarone would be a little bigger in the tannins.”  Several people pointed out the chocolate flavors, which were only slightly un-manly.  The list price was $45-ish, but Jason snagged it for $20, which several people thought was more than fair.

We ended our night with the Sherry entry, the N.V. Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso (Jerez).  Oloroso tends to be our favorite Sherry, and this one featured that tremendous solera nose: cinamonny, like tiramisu, and very nutty, like hazelnuts, with a little bit of that ocean influence as well.  Doug got some caramel, and the nose was universally applauded.  And the palate didn’t disappoint: it was very walnut-ish, with a prominent hazelnut and almond thing kicking up on the finish.  Less raisiny than the Sandeman that we had at Jason’s place, which some people preferred.  At $15 a half-bottle, several people were all about it.

Manliness aside, this was a diverse and dynamic tasting that featured more than a few winners.  It’s always fun to pick some specious topic and the see how the bottles turn out.  There might not have been much in the way of a unifying theme outside of “largely tasty” — but, then again, that’s the standard by which any good Winos meeting should be measured.

The Young Winos of LA — edutoxicating Los Angeles since 2005

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