I’ve taken a bit of grief for moving to a “flyover” state since I left DC, but that decision paid off this week as I enjoyed a nice boat ride on Lake Michigan while many of my Terroirist comrades dealt with the effects of Hurricane Irene. Thankfully, every Terroirist emerged unscathed and we hope the same can be said for our readers. Check out what each of us paired with the weather below.
On Sunday night, I got together with a handful of friends to sample some 2006 California Cabernets — and also see how an inexpensive bottle that often fares well in blind tests would hold up.
Before opening the Cabs, we started with two whites — a 2009 Peay Vineyards Chardonnay Hirsch Vineyard and a 2007 Rivers-Marie Chardonnay B. Thieriot Vineyard. They were a study in contrasts. While the Peay could pass for a (very, very expensive) Burgundy, the Rivers-Marie screamed California — and had the acidity to balance it out. We then moved onto a Pinot — the 2007 Peay Vineyards Pinot Noir Scallop Shelf.
The Cabs were an embarrassment of riches. Only two wines were disappointing – the 2006 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Bottled (which was thin, disjointed, and quite hot) and the 2007 Roots Run Deep Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Educated Guess (overripe and hot). The rest – a 2006 Ghost Horse Cabernet Sauvignon Shadow; a 2006 Neal Family Cabernet Sauvignon; a 2006 Maybach Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Materium; a 2006 Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon; and a 2006 Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon Highland Estates Raptor Peak — were delicious.
On Tuesday night, I popped open a 2006 Cabot Vineyards Syrah Kimberly’s, which paired wonderfully with some bison burgers. And on Saturday night, while Hurricane Irene was sprinkling some rain outside, I opened (for the second time in one week!) the 2006 Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.
I was completely consumed with business school orientation all week, but I did manage to open one bottle Saturday night as I was stuck inside to brave the Hurricane Irene. I picked up a 2006 Roshambo Pinot Noir Frank Johnson Vineyards from Dry Creek Valley. It had a pretty nose with lots of cherry and rose. A bit mellow on the palate and dominated by sweet cherries. Enjoyable and completely non-offensive. Good wine for casual sipping in a big group (i.e., a hurricane party).
The wife and I spent Sunday night with an extraordinary example of progressive Pinot Noir, Roessler Cellars’ 2006 Griffin’s Lair Pinot Noir. This was loaded with fresh flavors of cola, spearmint, raspberry, morello and a mysterious, meaty pork rind undertow–in a good way; great, even. This avoided the more characteristic sous bois nature of true Burgundy, but contextually it was still self-assured and rooted, full of rich Cali fruit without the exaggerated textural elements of higher alcohol and over-extracted tannin. This really seems to be Pinot at its California best: filigree fruit expression, restraint without sacrificing concentration, focus and nuance, and resolute acid in the finish that begs for gulp after gulp.
Throughout the week we also explored two whites, the 2005 Domaene Wachau Terrassen Gruener Veltliner Federspiel and the 2007 Sonoma Vineyards Chardonnay Unoaked. The ’05 Gruvey had started its decline, having probably succumbed to the lack of amplitude that accompanies the more ripe and inflected expressions of Wachau Gruener. It was still interesting to explore what nuance was left in this–to see how a lighter style of Gruener ages–but the finish is frankly too abrupt, raspy and metallic now. The unoaked Chardonnay was quite interesting: a keen expression of citrus, a silver lining of limoncello and kiwi, with a flinty streak I get from many of these unoaked Chardonnays. I liked it a lot. This is poor man’s Viognier, with even a more-than-slight nod toward the gunpowder-and-lead riesling of the Pfalz’s renowned basalt vineyards (ala Pechstein or the monopole Odinstal of Wachenheim).
The highlight of my week, which was filled primarily with easy-drinking summer sippers, was drinking my first Rhys Alesia pinot noir. The 2006 Rhys Alesia Pinot Noir had an awesome nose of raspberries and cinnamon bark. I enjoy fuller-bodied pinots so was skeptical as to whether the Alesia would hit my sweet spot. While certainly not a big wine, it was so flavorful and well made that I couldn’t put it down. After some cola that dissisated pretty quickly, there was plenty of raspberry that faded to tart cherry and musty earthiness. Unlike many new world efforts, the acidity in this wine was perfectly complementary and held everything together through the long finish of baking chocolate, black cherries, and soil. Awesome wine!
The other wines I drank this week were enjoyed on the back of a friend’s boat overlooking the Chicago skyline on Saturday night. We enjoyed a 2010 Domaine de Figueirasse Vin de Pays des Sables du Golfe du Lion Gris de Gris and a 2007 Schug Pinot Noir Rouge de Noirs. Both of these wines were very light and simple. Neither would make for good food matches, but both were nice bottles to cool down in the summer sun. We also opened a 2008 Raptor Ridge Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The most interesting part of this wine was that it was off-dry. Lots of honeydew and pineapple but lacking a bit of acidity to keep everything in line.
We enjoyed a 2007 Crushpad Vayniac Cabernet Sauvignon with steaks on the grill when we returned to Diversey harbor. This wine smelled exactly like a blueberry Nutrigrain bar and was full of spicy blue fruits in the mouth. While enjoyable, especially with steaks, it could have used a decant or more time on its side. We finished off the evening with some N.V. Heitz Cellar Ink Grade Port. Lots of dark berry cobbler and chocolate, but still pretty hot. This was the first night open for this bottle and I hope the heat dies down and lets the other flavors shine through.
Mike and I just moved to Costa Rica in Central America last week and are still getting used to our new surroundings. However, we had to investigate the wine scene right away. What we have found is a limited selection due to the high import tax, some have said around 50 percent! Coupled with being in a beach town filled with surfers, where the choice is usually between cerveza or rum, the supply is limited. Yet, we have found an interesting South American selection, most likely due to the proximity to Chile and Argentina.Last night we picked up some beef from the Maxi Bodega, our local supermarket, to make grilled burgers and paired them with a 2008 San Medin Cabernet Sauvignon. It smelled as if someone had lit a used wine barrel on fire and then threw in some cherries and paprika. The smokiness matched perfectly and the structure and backbone were more than enough to stand up to the grilled burgers. And at the price point we thought it was an absolute steal.
I started the week off with a 2010 Vina Tarapaca Sauvignon Blanc Gran Tarapaca from the Central Valley in Chile that I paired with quiche. It was pale yellow in the glass, with greenish hues. Lemon and lime notes on the nose, along with tropical fruits, some stone, and some tart nectarine. Lively and extremely pleasant on the palate. Lemon and lime flavors dominated, along with some stone — very complementary to the nose. Some nice acidity, and a finish that lingers. A top-notch summer quaffer. Tasty. The only thing really missing is some tang at the very front.
Next up was a 2007 William Knuttel Meritage from Sonoma County that I drank with pasta. Translucent, deep red color. Very tight nose and palate initially. Even after a while in the glass, not terribly fragrant. Subtle cherries on the nose, along with a little bit of orange peel, some berry cobbler, and some heat. Maybe some hints of olive and forest floor. Could definitely benefit from a decant, as the aromas improved over time. Some heft on the palate. The fruits are dark, soft and a little bit in the background. Smooth across the palate, with mild to medium tannins. Notes of semisweet chocolate to accompany the berry. Overall, quite good. I might have preferred a bit more action at the front of the palate as well as a bigger nose. But this one had some great stuff going on.
One other bottle of note this week: a 2006 Macrae Family Pinot Noir from the Bacigalupi Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. I believe that my bottle of this wine was flawed, which is a real shame, because the elements of a great wine were present. The cork broke in the bottle, and I had to push it into the juice to get the wine out. Tremendous variation on the nose among glasses. Cooked fruit aromas abounded, but each glass we poured smelled different. The second one in particular smelled way off, like rubbing alcohol. But across glasses, the palate was actually quite nice. Very light in color with pleasant light cherry flavors. The texture of the wine implied that it was unfiltered. I really liked this wine, setting aside the variations among glasses and the problems with the nose. That may sound ridiculous, but it’s clear that this was a top-flight wine. I’d definitely seek out this bottle again.