Alas and alack. Still, think of all the free evenings I have now. Let's taste some wine(s).
2008 Miner Napa Valley chardonnay, Oakville CA
pure honey -- caramel -- banana
syrupy -- a harsh acidic burnt-ness at end
popcorn again -- burnt
thick golden color
Day 2 -- sweet -- moscato like
A common theme for my chardonnay-memory: burnt popcorn. Retail, about $22.
2008 Terra Andina Altos malbec-petit verdot, Sur Andino S.A., Valle Central, Chile
bright, light candy-cranberry color
(faint) paint -- cinnamon -- tea
equal parts acidity + tannin
barbecue -- light fruit -- cherry
A common theme for my experience of malbec: cherry. Inexpensive malbecs remind me of gooey cherry pies, like the Hostess kind that used to be sold individually in wax bags. Pricier malbecs = smokier cherries. Retail, about $14.
2007 Bogle Phantom (petite sirah, zinfandel, mourvedre)
cinnamon -- cedar
clove -- prune -- barbecue smoke
deep mulberry purple
cinnamon and prune compote
fruit bomb -- good
A common theme of the red blends I like (see Apothic red): they are heavy on the zinfandel or petite sirah or both, therefore heavy on the lush, cinnamon-and-baked fruit, and sometimes chocolate, flavors I also like. If you try this one just after having sipped something much more acidic, like the malbec blend above, the Phantom's thick, sugary texture will startle (and educate) you. But dear me, will a liking for it nonetheless always be a sign of the non-sophisticate? Ought one to admire something leaner, racier, more elegant and subtle? Retail, about $17.
2008 Ca'Momi Bianco di California
soapy -- a bit bird poopy --
thick-bodied -- doughy
a bit caramel-y -- metallic -- acidic
A southern French type blend? (viognier, marsanne, etc.)?
bubble gum, flowers
overall, sweet, honeyed, punch-like
The theme here: watch me get this one wrong. Thus far in my wine drinking experience I find that there are only two wines I don't care for. Among reds, I find the carmenere (grape) harsh and off-putting. Among whites, I don't much like the blends of France's Rhone valley. The grapes in question here are, except for the increasingly familiar viognier, little known varieties with pretty names like grenache blanc, marsanne, and bourboulenc. If you look them up in wine books you will find all these grapes described as producing "full bodied" wines. Indeed they seem to do so. To my taste, that full body makes for a mouthfeel of thick, raw doughiness or even greasiness which, combined with a promising sweet floral aroma and a finishing dry acidity, adds up to a discordant disappointment in the glass.
Viz., Ca'Momi. A white blend, and I thought I was on to something. There was the doughiness, the thick body, the sweetness and a bit of the odd, discordant funk I call "bird poop-y." (We used to own parakeets, and the smell of an unwashed cage is something you never quite forget. Neither as sharp or offensive as the straight-up evacuative odors coming from cats or dogs, it is nevertheless uniquely musty and vegetal and organic and just sort of -- old. Reptilian, almost?) All in all, might this be "a southern French type blend?"
"NOPE," as I added to my notes after doing some fact-checking. Ca'Momi's Bianco di California blend is actually chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and gewurztraminer. What a combination -- though it would explain every flavor component, from thick body and caramel (chardonnay, I think) to acid (sauvignon blanc) to bubble gum and flowers (gewurztraminer). Retail, about $10.
1998 Bodegas Montecillo Gran Riserva Rioja, Sociedad Anonima
Tawny maroon color
leaves -- brine -- smoke -- prunes
very briny -- light, acidic --
very refined -- not much fruit
brine = a sort of soured vanilla? (vanilla typical of American-oak aged Riojas, Wine for Dummies)
A final theme: some firsts. This was my first gran reserva Rioja (as opposed to either a crianza or a reserva, both Riojas made mostly from the same grape of course -- tempranillo -- but aged less before release). And yes, far from being the brawny, "massive" thing you might expect a Spanish red to be, it was, as Karen MacNeil in The Wine Bible notes of Riojas, surprisingly light and delicate, "almost fragile." Also, this is the first time I can recall having tasted a European wine whose maker merits a mention in another expert source. Bodegas Montecillo is a "consistent producer," according to Wine for Dummies. Expert sources are always chock full of firm and confident European wine recommendations that you and I have a hard time finding on local store shelves, because the wines in question are so good that they tend to jump ship in Manhattan or San Francisco and stay there, not bothering with the long journey to the interior where Franzia -- bless its heart -- is king. A cynical rule of thumb in the heartland is, if your local retailer can afford to offer it to you, even in a big suburban super store, chances are it's a fine but still yeoman product. Not so, it seems, with this wine from the cellars of Sociedad Anonima (the anonymous society? how mysterious). Retail, about $24.
One more, just for pleasure? Oh, why not. I have a niece who has just given birth to a little boy, within the hour. (She put it on Facebook. Young people nowadays.) A toast, then, to baby Austin -- why do I envision a car? -- health and long life.
2009 Terra Andina Reserva pinot noir, Sur Andino, Chile
currant jelly color -- beautiful
cherry + raspberry nose --
a little gaminess --
very gentle -- acidic but fruity --
very fine -- take care to keep it cool, otherwise very spiky
Retail, about $14.