Wine Reviews


    Continuing with our new format for reviewing wines, the protocol involves a dinner among friends who enjoy cooking and regularly drink wine, and appreciate wine with their culinary creations.  The friends vary for each edition’s new review, and the “tasters” may or may not have professional wine experience.   Once we consume the wine with our appetizers and meal, we conduct a round table discussion of the various wines and offer our opinions.  At the conclusion of that discussion, I will write about the crowd favorites on that particular evening.  There will typically be 8-10 different wines tasted, and from that, I will select the 4-5 that most pleased the guests on that night.  The net result will that the wines will be tasted by ordinary people, and their opinions will be incorporated into the results of the wines highlighted, or reviewed, in each new edition of the site....

                            The Dinner & Wine Tasting of December 27, 2013

    Six guests sat for this particular dining and wine tasting event. We termed this dinner “Que Syrah, Syrah Night,” because we opened up some very notable bottles of that varietal for the meal.  For this edition’s tasting event we served Santa Maria Tri-Tip as an entrée and home made spicy/smoky seafood paella as a side dish, along with grilled asparagus and an Italian style butter leaf lettuce salad with sun dried tomatoes, fava beans and balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  Based upon that dinner and those wines, the favorite wines selected for review for this edition include the following:

    2009 Siduri Pinot Noir Cargasacchi Vineyard, from the Santa Rita Hills wine AVA of California:  Comments on this wine included very smooth drinking with a velvety texture. Nose was nice but not overly remarkable, and one taster noted some presence of spice. Deep, dark color for a Pinot Noir.  Fruit, especially over-ripe cherries, dominated the flavor profile, with darker red fruit overtones than one might expect from a Burgundy style Pinot Noir.  Very full bodied for a Pinot and a good wine for pairing with a myriad foods, even with heartier fare, such as the Tri-Tip we served for dinner.  It went wonderfully with the paella. Not tremendously complex, but a general crowd pleaser.  This wine garnered a score of 93 from Wine Advocate.  Not sure if our crowd would have given it such high marks.  Siduri wines have an excellent reputation, and may be purchased locally at Marche´ Bacchus and most likely at Total Wine.  Certainly Issa at Khoury’s Wine and Spirits could order some bottles for a customer.  Bottles of vineyard specific Siduri Pinot Noirs usually cost between $45.00-$60.00.

    1997 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle, from the Northern Rhone Valley of France, Hermitage Appellation.  Made from 100 percent Syrah, this wine is often considered one of the world’s great Syrahs, and though much appreciated by our guests, this particular bottle could not stand up to that high acclaim.  Having said that, it was still very nice wine.  Perhaps owing to its age, the bottle made for a very different drinking experience. Color had gone noticeably lighter with age, and it appeared as an almost brick red color as opposed to the deep garnet of a younger Syrah.  There appeared a slight browning at the edges of the wine in the glass.  Sweetness of red fruit, such as cherries and raspberries, permeated the nose and the flavor of this very mature Syrah.   While the fruit had certainly stood up to the test of time, I believe the wine had probably lost some of its original complexity.  There was some diminished wood notes on the nose and the flavor. With an alcohol level of just 13.4 percent, the wine seemed very drinkable and went well with the dinner.  I was most struck by the overall sweetness of the wine. Not nearly as sweet as a dessert wine but could serve as an after dinner sipper all by itself without the food.   I would describe it as a delicate wine with finesse, although probably more so about three years ago.  Wine Advocate gave this wine a score of 93.  That reviewer also noted, in the year 2000, that it could last another 30 years.  Personally, I think that’s really optimistic, as I would say while it’s still quite tasty, based on its color and relative lack of complexity, it was slowly but surely on the decline.   Interestingly, Wine Spectator reviewed the same bottle in 1999, gave it a score of 89, and predicted it would be drinkable only through 2005. I love it when the experts can’t come within the same ballpark in describing the characteristics of the same wine! In my very humble opinion, I disagree with both assessments.  It remains a very interesting and unique wine, but drink it now. Marché Bachhus would be most likely to carry this wine locally, although sometimes better Costco stores  carry it in very limited quantities.  It usually sells for a bit over $100.00 per bottle upon release.  The price often depends on the quality of the vintage.

       2007 Alban Syrah Reva Vineyard from the Edna Valley in the Central Coast region of California.  This Syrah has a reputation as one of the new world’s great Syrahs.  We probably opened this one too early.  There were some tannins present that might still settle down a bit with the passage of time.  One taster felt that the wood flavor would be more balanced with the fruit in a few years.  Still, it was very enjoyable. It had an inky purple, almost black color, that emanated freshness and youth on the nose. It had a great, but not overpowering, complex nose of charred oak and very ripe red fruit, such as plums.  One taster thought its had flavors resembling an over-ripe raspberry desert.  A very full-bodied wine, with an alcohol level of 15.8 percent, this is a wine that screamed for food, and paired marvelously with the Tri-Tip and smokey paella.  The wine had some complex flavors that our tasters could not readily identify, but there was a lot going on in the glass besides dark red fruit and wood flavors.  Perhaps some leather notes, or even some dark chocolate.  While we struggled identifying all the flavors emanating from the glass, our group certainly appreciated it, and it proved one of the crowd favorites for the evening.  This wine usually garners high scores from the pros, and this bottle is no exception, receiving scores of 94 and 96 from Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate, respectively.  This time both critics agreed that the wine would be best in a few years.  At least we realized our mistake, although a bit too late!  Lesson learned.  The Reva vineyard has become one of Alban’s most consistent for excellence.  Most Alban wines prove difficult to find, and Marché Bacchus is probably your best bet locally.  It usually retails for about $100 per bottle, if you can find it.  As an aside, and not that anyone should be seduced by the aesthetics of a wine bottle, but the Alban label, with its sprawling green oak tree, makes for one of the more attractive bottles in the industry.

    2005 Mollydooker Carnival of Love from McLaren Vale, South Australia.  One of Australia’s foremost Shiraz, or Syrah as its referred to in the rest of the world.  Like the Alban, this wine really needed more time to reach its full potential.  As it stood on this night, the nose contained an almost overpowering essence of ripe fruits and wood.  You could almost smell the alcohol wafting up from the glass, which tipped the scales at a hefty 16.5 percent.   Definitely a very full bodied wine.  Some tasters felt it was a bit over the top from an over ripe red fruit standpoint; even to a point where it was a bit unbalanced.  Big flavors of very ripe plums and perhaps figs.  But for those who enjoy fruit, it could qualify as wine nirvana!  I thought it almost port-like in its flavor.  It possessed a lingering finish and had some tannins, which, given more time, could add more balance to the wine.  For me, it definitely required food, but paired very well with both the Tri-Tip and the paella.  The professional critics found it a lot more complex than our group.  Wine Advocate awarded it a whopping 97 points, and Wine Spectator countered with a score of 94 points.  We all enjoyed it, but not as much as some of the other wines opened on this night.  This is one of Mollydooker’s top notch offerings, and may be purchased at fine wine stores around town at a cost of about $100.00.  Some of Mollydooker’s lessor wines, although still quite good, such as the Boxer, or Blue Eyed Boy, can be regularly found at Costco stores for around $20.00 and $40.00 respectively.

    2009 Poggio La Noce Gigio, from Tuscany, Italy.  Made in the style of a Super Tuscan, this nice Italian wine represents a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot grapes.  Bright garnet in color, with a nose full of young cherries.  It had some nice complexity too, with young red fruit mixed with minerality and crushed rocks.  One taster described it favorably as resembling “cherries in the dust.”  It did not have the depth or weight of a more traditional Super Tuscan.  It seemed more feminine and finesse-like than one would ordinarily associate with a more full-bodied Super Tuscan.  A very food friendly wine that would go well with many dishes, including pastas, pizza, meat and even a tomato based salad, such as a caprese.  Definitely new world in style.  Three of the six tasters chose it as one of their top two wines, and it probably finished in third place overall in popularity behind the Alban and the La Chapelle.  A relatively small production wine, it might prove difficult to find locally, but retails in the neighborhood of $75.00.  It regularly receives scores from wine critics in the low 90s, but I could not find any reviews for the 2009 vintage.