Friday, August 12, 2011

Bodegas El Porvenir De Los Andes "Amauta" Red Blend 2005, Cafayate/Salta (Argentina)

Today we are enjoying a delightful Argentine red blend hailing from the Cafayate Valley in Salta, one of the country's northernmost viticultural areas, at the foot of the Andes mountain range. The label depicts ancestral Inca designs, which relates to it's closeness to the areas of their great millenarian empire. The wine itself is what I would consider a quintessential New World blend. Mainly Malbec, with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah. A practice that perhaps was first capitalized around in Italy by the savvy Tuscans and their monster blends (aptly named Super Tuscans) based on the local Sangiovese, to which they would beef up with red Bordeaux or Rhone varietals in order to create amazing complexity and of course, to sell to a wider range of consumers.

The wine is a dark ruby color with almost Port-like deep violet hues, minimal rim variation. The nose is concentrated and balanced albeit displaying more ripe fruit up front than anything else, namely cassis and blackberry; not a lot of minerality, but there are some dark chocolate and even slight black truffle nuances. The palate is rich, beyond supple and with a long lasting finish. A superb wine, more so considering the QPR or pricepoint at under 30 USD. This wine would definitely shine brighter paired with a hearty dinner : a lamb leg roast, a rich osso bucco or better yet, a braised onglet/hanger steak with a porcini demi-glace. Fuck, I'm hungry.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Drew Vineyards Syrah 2006 Anderson Valley, California (USA)

So you probably think I'm some fucking snob on an exclusively imported wine agenda here, but truth is I'm not. I love American wine, I really do. In front of me is a glass of said wine. Hailing from Anderson Valley in Mendocino, California. The wine was again found at the local Sigel's, I am rather familiar with the vineyard from my days as a Sommelier. I had sampled and sold various vintages of their Pinot Noir, but never their Syrah, and apparently I've been missing out. 28 USD, this bottling is from the fruit grown at their Broken Leg vineyard (love that name), visually it has a very nice deep sanguine color and signs of rim variation, with a concentrated nose of cassis, vanilla, pepper, allspice and some espresso. Rich is an understatement, this could literally pass as a Syrah preserve. The mouth feel however is quite gentle and silky with medium tannic character. The cassis/blackcurrant makes a second appearance as does the allspice, leading to a nice full finish that simply beckons another sip. Yeah, I can (and will!) totally down this bottle in one sitting. Go buy yourself a bottle now, this is a GREAT example of the kind of seriousness that California can produce with Rhone varietals (See also : Saxum, Lillian, Ojai and if you're willing to pay the price, Sine Qua Non).

Until next time, friends.

A Cru Beajoulais at Patriarchs / Dinner at Little Sichuan Cuisine

Château des Capitans 2007 Juliénas, Beaujolais (France)

Beaujolais, forever the object of undeserved infamy in the world of wine. The reason? The vagueness of misunderstanding. There are three major levels of Beaujolais, the basic Beaujolais or Beaujolais Noveau, which reign as the largest in terms of market and which are quite decent, inexpensive reds, but nothing to write a poem about. Followed by the more respected Beaujolais-Villages, which is an intermediate step and one which I recommend to anyone just getting into wine. Then there are the Cru, a word simply meaning growth; These are the crown's jewel of the AOC and yet a class apart, starting with labels that will often confuse consumers with something they've never heard of, since the Cru labels will almost always read the village name (Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, etc.) instead of the BEAUJOLAIS letterheads one would expect. The grape varietal in these wines is the Gamay, a frankenstein'd Pinot Noir clone which unlike Pinot, is not a high-maintenance monster bitch, speaking strictly in viticultural terms.Ok, so with that little lesson covered, let's move onto the wine, shall we?
My friend, fellow oenophile/sommelier/mixologist/foodie/bon vivant Paul at Patriarchs (an amazing bar/cigar purveyor literally across the street from where I live) invited me to sample this lovely Cru Beaujolais with him. This is one in particular is produced by one of the domaines of G. Duboeuf (the area's #1 négociant) and donning the Juliénas village nomenclature, known to be one of the most structured and cellar-worthy spawns of the aforementioned appellation. The initial nose was balanced and a bit shy yet beautifully floral and expressive. The palate was super smooth, medium-bodied and certainly richer than any Beaujolais even a lush like me has ever tried. At once, I heralded it as having Burgundian qualities enough to match a mid-tier Gevrey-Chambertin or the like. About half an hour into it, the bouquet started to REALLY open up to some gorgeous degree of unexpected bliss with juicy ripe raspberry, nutmeg, and a hint of incense. The palate and the finish both became more pronounced. This my friends, is fucking serious, downright classy wine. Impressive stuff out of a bottle fetching a little under 30 USD. Furthermore, enjoying an evening of pure degustation with someone like Paul, is simply priceless. We shall gather later this month with his favorite wine companion, Rhone superstar Château de Beaucastel! (Coincidentally, one of my favorites as well.)


I love food. All kinds of foods. French, Spanish, Latin American, Arabic, Greek, African, Micronesian, Neptunian, Hyrulian, whatever! Yet one of my ULTIMATE favourite cuisines is Chinese (and I'm not talking fucking orange chicken and fried rice here) and to me, the mecca of such is Sichuan/Szechuan province, known so well for their spicy and savory offerings. So, we found this wonderful spot called Little Sichuan Cuisine in Plano, and holy fuck! This place is superb, traditional and incredibly cheap Sichuanese/Chinese food. We ordered the Chengdu dumplings, an order of baby bok choy and tea-smoked duck. TEA-SMOKED MOTHERFUCKING DUCK. The dumplings were rich, spicy yet sweet and blessed by the magical animal (pork) as a filling, served in a bowl, bathing in hot-oil goodness and topped with scallions and minced garlic. The bok choy was delightful and spicy (this is Sichuan food, after all) and the duck? Well, fuck, it was DUCK. Fatty, crispy, well-seasoned, amazing, orgasmic, etc..
Can't wait to come back here and try some of the other items we wanted to try like the ox tongue and tripe with roasted chili-peanut or the quintessential fiery mapo doufu.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Toro, The Noble Beast Of Spain

El Albar (de J. & F. Lurton) 2005, Toro (España)

The bull, by definition is NON-CASTRATED adult male of the species Bos Taurus. Toro is the spanish namesake of this beast, and one shared with a blooming wine D.O. (Denominación de Origen/Designation of Origin) that fully lives up to the name. This wine is ALL BALLS, 100% Tinto de Toro. A fine example of the heavy influence that terroir/terrain soil can have over a grape varietal. In Rioja and other parts of Spain, where this exact same grape is mostly known as Tempranillo, and instead produces very palatable reds with soft tannins and lovely mineral character (which rank amongst Spain's very best). When I say this is all balls, I do not imply that it lacks balance, structure or otherwise class. No fucking way, José! This is a fine and very cellar-worthy bottling, just as most good Toro wines are in my opinion. As of the last 15 years, this has become quite the exportable grape as well : Australia, USA, Chile and other wine-producing countries have cultivated and successfully produced wine with it, varying in quality and character.
The wine is bright, with a dark sanguine complexity, on the nose is quite rich, it fully expresses it's origin with notes of ripe plum, star anise and some vanilla. In mouth, it reassures the Tempranillo/Tinta de Toro stamp with pleasant tart cherry and medium tannins, highlighted by a very velvet-like and lengthy finish. This would pair up divinely with a diversity of roasted meats, steak & frites and even better, with a serving of chistorras and some olives. At 30 USD, I consider this is a solid choice. This fantastic find was one selected by my wife, who tends to rely heavily on Spain for her choices. Wise girl.

Earlier this week, we visited Sauce (On The Square) in downtown McKinney for lunch, a quaint little restaurant with an affordable and delightful array of Italo-American selections. We each had a salad and shared (they have family-sized choices, meant for sharing) a tasty fettuccine with veal, crimini mushrooms, spinach, onion and parmigiano-reggiano. To accompany it, we had a bottle of AgroArgento 2005 "Carrivali" Nero D'Avola (Italy) red. Nero D'Avola (literally black of Avola) is the quintessentially indigenous red varietal of Sicily, and as such, it is regarded as a great accompaniment to Sicilian-style dishes in general. The wine was a pleasant, fruit-forward with medium structure. Nice, dry, very truffleish and with a slightly bitter finish, which is trademark in Italian reds in general. Trivia : This grape is also commonly known as Negroamaro, meaning black bitter. Overall, a great spot with a solid menu, a fantastic wine list (arranged by a fellow Somm who managed to keep all of the great choices under 50 USD!) and great service.

Arrivederci readers!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Día de San Valentín

Pardon the change of plans, dear readers. I mentioned following with a review of the J & F Lurton "El Albar" red from Toro DO (Spain) , but as it turns instead I felt compelled to compliment the dinner my wife so lovingly prepared for us tonight and that dinner consisted of lobster tail, swordfish kebab and asparagus. I went to Sigel's in Legacy and picked up two bottles, one was meant as the classic food pairing and the second was just my whim to revisit one of my favorite reds.

Xavier Monnot "Les Chevaliers" 2007 Meursault, Burgundy (France)

Chardonnay was subjected to years of disdain in my book, so much that I find it entirely ridiculous that the first review of a white wine is indeed one pertaining to a fucking Chardonnay. I've sold out in a way, but it doesn't bother me to admit that I can now spend extended amounts of time in the Burgundy section at wine shops. Life is too short to misunderstand wine. So this little girl is a Grand Cru wine, a fact I acknowledged while only looking at the 50 USD price tag, regardless, the wine was pleasant, with a delightfully balanced nose of baked apple, citrus and almost ghostlike oak notes. Clean and buttery, a powerful example of the Meursault AOC, with a pleasant finish. It highlighted the lobster for sure, and made the asparagus taste all the greener. I was entirely pleased.

Château L'Evangile 1999 Pomerol, Bordeaux (France)

It's been less than a week, and I'm back in Pomerol. If you recall/revisit my last entry, I made mention of this particular Château and it's wonders. Belonging to the spiderweb of quality estates under the Rothschild roster, these wines have a reputation that in my opinion far succeed that of their first growth Ch. Mouton/Ch. Lafite brothers in the left-bank of the Bordeaux. About 75% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc. 150 USD. Lovely color, enough rim variation to easily denote the 11 plus years in the bottle, the nose is enticing, deep and intriguing : licorice abounds, subtle notes of  raspberries and minerals. In the mouth it is classic right-bank, but shows little to no signs of mellowing, you'd expect a wine as old as this to bring about some delicacy but instead this godly elixir has aged the way Keith Richards has, amazing but quite fucking far from graceful. This is not a matter of maturing, this is just how L'Evangile drinks. I'd put this up against any bullshit "boutique" California Merlot anyday, because unlike it's counterparts, this is a Merlot that can and will gladly kick your ass, especially if your neophyte-ass ever mentions that stupid line from the movie Sideways. "I'm NOT drinking any fucking Merlot... Blah blah blah", come get your silly asses kicked!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Château Grange-Neuve 2005 Pomerol, Bordeaux (France)

Pomerol. Magical place for viticultural adventures, yet where do you start? If you have the means, then you can walk the red carpet and uncork a shit vintage of the ever whored-out Ch. Petrus for a grand+ or if your resources are truly endless, an '82 of the unattainably expensive Le Pin. I'm not saying I wouldn't drink either, but I don't make nearly enough money to warrant such dickery. When I'm in the mood for a Merlot-based blend from Bordeaux, my go-to options include many value/quality labels from either the delightfully fruit-forward Saint-Émilion, the lesser known Fronsac or the aforementioned velvet-roped, 7 square Kilometre Shangri-La known as Pomerol, which is treacherous as it is heavenly. Despite this, Pomerol is also home to my favorite right-bank red wine : Ch. L'Evangile.
Ok, so we know the soil and climate equal solid results, when speaking wine, as does a vintage. A 2005 Pomerol, from whichever angle you look at it, is bound to be decent at the very damn least. And as we also know, no good wine is complete without a meal. So while the bottle was sleeping in my cellar, I headed to Matador Meat & Wine Market and picked up a gorgeous skirt steak, which I broiled with a minimal amount of seasoning, mainly extra-virgin olive oil and crushed peppercorns, and the result was a flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth steak that was as immaculate as one could ever wish for. I also made a quick chimichurri and cut some fresh avocado to accompany it. Quick, simple and FUCKING DELICIOUS! Who said weeknight meals have to be lame, right?
Now to the wine : 2005 Château Grange-Neuve, about 40 USD, this bottle was a pick which required minimal hesitation (if any) considering the vintage and appellation. I decanted it for nearly an hour, I was greeted by a medium ruby color and a tiny bit of sediment trace left in the bottle, the bouquet at first was shy and quite bright, later opening up to more clean, complex, feminine and very enticing aromas. Dark berries, licorice, minerals (mainly pencil lead) and undertones of cedar and oak. Giveaway Bordeaux at this point, yet the mouth feel was the real highlight as it took me completely by surprise : equal parts elegance and structure followed by a good, lengthy finish. I dare say, the wine and food paired really fucking nicely! And now, I'm enjoying my dessert as I write, a Fonseca Ruby Oporto (or Port, for you Anglo-Saxons).

Stay tuned, the next review will feature a 100% Tempranillo from the bullish Toro (no pun intended) D.O. made with a bit of Bordeaux knowhow (bears the Lurton family name).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Clarendon Hills Syrah 2005 Moritz (Australia)

I promised a certain Australian sweetheart that I'd begin my journal with an entry about an Aussie wine and I am above all my flaws, a man of my word!


Hello friends.

Starting this bitch finally.

Clarendon Hills Syrah (notice the spelling, Clarendon avoids the Shiraz nomenclature that is so regional to Australia). Priced kindly under a hundred USD, this heavyweight is nothing short of excellent. RP 96 points. Ha! just kidding. I will not subject any of you would-be-readers to the fucking point system, because to me it is all just some systematical fuckery that is poor in diversity and downright biased. Moving on. I was always intrigued by Clarendon Hills after reading so many great reviews of their releases. The wine is inky and dark in the glass, the nose is powerful, truffled, not for the faint of heart. Ripe fruit abounds, some crème de cassis and notes of rotisserie'd awesomeness. The mouth feel is pure fucking fireworks! Heavy, dominating and further highlights the fact that it might have been a sin to open such a cellar-worthy bottle so early, but I like to give in to sin (Because I like to practice what I preach ~ DM). The finish is spectacular, very velvet-like. It's easy for me to understand now how a bottle of Astralis (Clarendon's megastar) could fetch for such elevated kinds of currency. This is pure class, an elixir of the gods if allowed a little more time in the bottle to mature fully, although don't get me wrong, this is pretty amazing now. Another solid example of why I love Australia. Sure they churn out a gazillion hectoliters of decent supermarket-shelf wine (What's up, Chile?), but when they craft middle-to-top drawer bombshells like these, you know they are all business. IOW, when they put on their dancing shoes and hit the dance floor, other countries KNOW they must step the fuck back and RESPECT.

Thanks to Bordeaux Wine Facebook Page for my gift L'Atelier du Vin winekey (and cheese knife), I am going to use the fuck out of this opener, y'all.