Every “old world” varietal (i.e. most of the major ones) tastes significantly different when grown in the “new world,” where the climate, the winemaking practices, and the laws governing wine production are nearly always drastically different than in the old country. The Rhône grapes, however, do a better job than some other prominent varietals of maintaining their essential “old world” character when grown in warmer climes, particularly the reds; a great Grenache / Syrah / Mourvedre blend from California will ideally display a lot of the same earthy tobacco notes endemic to its French forefathers. Or will it? Perhaps our palates only perceive earth and tobacco on when Rhône-inspired reds when tasted against a backdrop of Zinfandels and Merlots. On a recent Wednesday, we decided to find out for good. (more…)
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. (more…)
This week, we asked our stalwart enophiles to go out and find a bottle of Australian wine costing between $15 and $30. By at least one account, the image of the Australian wine industry has been decimated by the flood of $10-and-under “critter bottles,” so the other rule of the night was no critters. However, a second rule apparently in effect that night was “no white wines” — although we’d mandated nothing of the sort, every bottle that showed up was red. Facing a lineup of alcohol contents ranging roughly from 14 to 15.5%, we took a collective deep breath and dove right in.
Leading things off was the 2006 d’Arenberg “The Laughing Magpie” (McLaren Vale), a blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Viognier. The nose was floral — perhaps that Viognier coming through? Sasha picked up cucumber lotion, Adam got steak and charcoal, and Jason picked up raspberry truffle chocolate. (more…)
We wanted to love the South African wines. We really did. We hadn’t tasted them exclusively since 2006, and we thought the intervening two years might have some positive effect. We were buoyed by Eric Asimov’s recent glowing endorsement of South African Cabernets, and we couldn’t wait to dig in.
Perhaps, though, we should’ve waited. Or at least bought different bottles. (more…)
We’d promised our members a lineup of festive yuletide wines for their holiday tables, and I like to think we delivered. Here’s the re-cap from our recent Portugal tasting:
Our first collective observation was the conspicuous lack of whites. There’s a place for white wines in the holiday season, I still maintain, but apparently this group tended not to agree. With nary a verbal tribute to the absent Vinho Verde, we dove right in to the 2006 Valtorto (Douro), a blend of 45% Tinta Roriz, 40% Touriga Franca, and 15% Tinta Barroca. The nose was faint, with notes of red berry drifting around; Erika also picked up some lavender. (Kristen, always the consummate hostess, was cooking something garlic-based in the kitchen, and the bouquet proved no match.)
The palate was total unripe berry and sour cherry, with a lot of pomegranate action as well. I’m a big fan of pom juice, so I wasn’t appalled, but a few other Winos were less than kind. Also at play were some chalky tannins (no acid to be found), and some smoke and ash underneath the surface. “I didn’t hate it” was about the biggest accolade this bottle received, with Jason going so far as to call it “not enjoyable at all.” At $12, this was a pass. (more…)
It’s almost Thanksgiving again, and you know what that means: time to “go Bo!” Scientists have proven that Beaujolais is the only bottle that will pair adequately with your T-day feast. Drinking any other wine would be like drinking non-green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, and may cause your taste buds to go on strike.
When we resolved last week to taste a lineup of Beaujolais bottles at our next boozy gathering, I hardly think I was alone in assuming we’d be encountering wines of a predominantly light and fruity nature. As it turns out, the five bottles we tasted were some of the biggest and heaviest expressions of the Gamay grape I’ve ever had. That said, a couple of them were among the best, too. Here’s your 2008 Thanksgiving shopping guide:
Kicking off the “bro-jolais” meeting (so-named because the guys outnumbered the girls 2-to-1) was the 2006 Pierre-Marie Chermette “Les Garants” (Fleurie), compliments of newbie Julian. The pour came out darker than would’ve anticipated from Beaujolais – unbeknownst to us at the time, this would become a recurring theme over the course of the evening. On the nose, Katie got strawberry, Dylan got floral notes, and Julian got lavender, while Mary got a hint of chocolate-covered berries. “It smells like a fruit that would be purple if it existed,” offered Andrew. John rounded off the nose with “strawberry gel fruit snack.” If only Pierre-Marie could’ve been there to hear that… (more…)
Every once in a while we visit a tasting room where all the wines are really good: there are no regrettable cheapies, no token varietals, no “bottles to nowhere.” Occasionally, a weekly Young Wino meeting also manages to beat the odds and deliver a stellar lineup with very few blemishes. Pundits seem generally to agree that Wednesday’s presidential debate was the best of the three so far. As fate would have it, Tuesday’s debate-themed tasting similarly turned out to be one of our best in recent memory. (more…)
The blind tasting is always an interesting animal, and often somehow more honest, since you truly go in there without any preconceptions. The Winos’ only prior knowledge in tonight’s blind tasting was that the bottles in question were all reds from Spain, and that they all cost less than $20. Other than that, though, we had to count on our keen senses of perception to carry the day and discover the winners… and discover the winners we did! Here’s the lineup from our latest brown-bag event.
Wine #1 was ruby red in the glass. Andrew said it smelled like a Zin: fruit-forward and Jammy. Newbie Jonathan thought it smelled more like a Syrah, and Randy picked up some plum notes. Noah said it was earthy, and pegged it early as a Tempranillo. Some heat on the nose (as well as some fruit: Jordan got orange zest, and Jonathan got apple) beckoned us into the pal. (more…)
As we continue to enjoy our post-LA Times infamy — now in its fifth month — we can sometimes tend to forget our humbler roots. Back in our slightly more obscure period, we’d occasionally have meetings with as few as eight, seven, or even six Winos in attendance. These days, we typically fill each meeting with upwards of sixteen or seventeen thirsty young critics… but every now and again, we still experience the occasional week in which interest, for whatever reason, is less pronounced. So it was at Jason’s house for our Provence meeting, which saw the arrival of only ten Winos — our lowest total in months. Unfortunately, that also meant only four bottles. Here are our thoughts on those four. (more…)
Last year we embarked on an ambitious tasting endeavor with our 2007 March Madness blind tasting tournament. The results separated the men from the boys, the women from the girls, the boys from the women, etc. This year, we didn’t get a proper March Madness tournament going on (what with all the other madness the Winos were experiencing in March), so we satisfied our blind tasting jones by gathering in Jason’s living room for a one-day, two-varietal, nine-bottle event. (more…)
Intrigued by our recent successes tasting Rhone-inspired blends at the Santa Barbara Wine Cask Futures event, we congregated in the Winos’ fortified compound in Sherman Oaks to taste some Rhone-style whites. (As an aside, we don’t mean to suggest by the use of the term “fortified compound” that the Winos are stockpiling weapons. Rather, my apartment is fortified in the same sense that some wines are fortified: there’s simply a fair amount of liquor inside.)
Lots of people brought $10 pittance, but we still had enough bottles to make an evening of it: four bottles from the Rhone Valley, one California Roussanne, and one California Viognier comprised the tasting, after which followed a Chardonnay, a Ribera del Duero, and a trip to Casa Vega. (more…)
We gathered in Leah’s living room on Wednesday to take the wine industry to task for their pandering and patronizing. While we certainly anticipated that the bottles with animals might not always be the tastiest on the shelves — as the buying patterns of certain uninformed members of our demographic might unfortunately suggest to the industry marketers — we were not prepared for the unpleasant task of discovering the very pronounced inverse relationship that seems to exist between the presence of an animal on the bottle and the quality of the wine contained therein. (more…)
We returned to Newsha’s this week for the first time in a few months, and we welcomed some newbies into the fold as well (check out Jessica’s sweet photos below). This week the Winos were asked to bring one of four zesty, herbaceous, “green” varietals: Albarino, Arneis, Gruner Veltliner, or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I was pleased that we had representations of each one on hand for the tasting.
The five of us who had tasted the Cab Franc from Chinon were about fifteen minutes late due to Wine Blogging Wednesday. The newbies were justifiably miffed. We decided to appease them with some alcohol. (more…)
So you’ll recall that last week, we were so inundated with $10 bills (and, correspondingly, so short on bottles) that we had to send Joe down to the store with some of our funds to buy more wine. In anticipation of that eventuality, I suppose, everyone and their mother brought a bottle last night. We managed to enjoy very thorough discourse on at least seven of them before the proceedings descended into utter mayhem. (more…)
Y’know how every week we tell people, “don’t forget, instead of bringing a bottle you can always bring a $10 donation so that the Winos actually have some money to keep things running, ” and no one ever does? Of course, the one week that I bring $10 instead of wine (first time ever), four other people decide to do it too — and this is in a meeting of eight. Faced with the prospect of only tasting three bottles and leaving thirsty, we gave Joe $40 of the $50 we earned and sent him out to buy more. Here’s what we ended up with:
Tenura delle Terre Nere (rosé)
Pigmentation: a really unique pink/amber look on this one, rust near the edges, looked almost like a beer
Nose: red berry notes, particularly cherry and strawberry, some cranberry, some syrupy almost Jolly Rancher character to it
Varietal: Vinho Verde
Nose: banana, mildew, baked bananas, lemon, lime
Palette: white grapefruit, grassy
Nose: pineneedle, pineapple, apricot, kiwi, cantaloupe, lemon
Palette: apple, lemon, pear, honeysuckle, sweet, nectary
Notes: not as aromatic as we would expect. 9/13 would buy again (more…)
Val Dieu Winter
Nogne O Winter Ale (Norwegian)
St. Peter’s Winter Ale
Anchor Holiday Ale
Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper
Serafijn Christmas Angel
With cameos by TJ’s Vintage 2006 and Red Stripe
Napa Valley Chardonnay
Palette: wood, tart, slight acidity, subtle
Avila Cote d’avila 2004
-grenache, syrah, mourvedre
-Santa Barbara county