Friday, August 29, 2008

2003 Arger-Martucci Pinot Noir

I was surprised to see a Pinot Noir offered for $18.99, especially one from the Carneros region of the Napa Valley so I snapped this one up from Garagiste.

This one had nice, easily identifiable aromas of a Pinot Noir (easy for me to say since I knew what it was): cherry, strawberry, rose petals and spice. It was spicy on the palate with loads of smooth, viscous, ripe mouth-filling fruit and a bit of alcoholic heat. The aftertaste was lengthly.

This one in fact seemed a bit too viscous and full-bodied. It was tasty but lacked the silky finesse of a really good pinot noir and instead seemed on the weighty side. It tasted darker than the lightish color would suggest.

Was this just a ripe year? If so, the wine certainly reflected that. Ripe but still clean and not overripe. I liked it and am giving it two thumbs up especially for the price. It has the concentration and essence of pure fruit of a Burgundy from a good vintage, but can't match that silky, seemingly contradictory weightless texture and finesse that makes Burgundies so wonderful. However, we're talking $18.99 instead of $189.99 so I would say this wine delivers great QPR.

Here's the matching YouTube video. Click here if you don't see it below.

And the link to the Amazon CD product page: Spill the Wine

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

2006 Twisted Oak %@#$!

Not that long ago I had the 2005 version of this wine. It was a big, bold, mouthfilling experience. Good, but to tell you the truth, I thought I would try the 2006 relatively earlier in its life because I wanted something a little leaner, crisper and more youthful.

I think I caught this one just at the right time, although on the first night I wasn't sure. There were more of the bold, rich flavors of chocolate, caramel, sourish peach/apricot and relatively low acidity. It was similar to the 2005.

On subsequent nights, however, this wine really evolved into something very nice. The initial flavors from the 1st night were still there but blended in with apple, peach, melon, spice, brown sugar and minerals. And the acidity came more to the forefront to balance things out.

This was a really good wine - very flavorful and complex, never tiring to drink. The only negative was some heat from the alcohol but it was offset by all the flavors.

$19.20 directly from Twisted Oak, this one gets two thumbs way up. I thought this was a great bottle of wine. I may also be wrong about drinking it so young as it did keep evolving in the glass. Whatever.. it tastes great now.

Here's the matching YouTube video, which I think is particularly fitting. Click here if you can't see the video below.

And the usual link to the CD page: Allman Brothers - Elizabeth Reed

Monday, August 25, 2008

MonkuWino / One Wine Per Week Being Sued!

Breaking news: MonkuWino and his One Wine Per Week empire were notified yesterday that they have been named joint co-defendants in a suit brought by Consumers For Honesty Is The Best Policy (aka "CHIP") who claim the title of the blog is fraudulent and misleading.

Richard Owens, attorney for the plaintiff CHIP had this to say: "Look at the title of MonkuWino's blog. It clearly says "One Wine Per Week" yet, we have been tracking it for some time now and have noticed that he has been writing about more than one wine during any given seven day period. To call a blog 'One Wine Per Week' when actually writing about two, three or more is clearly misrepresentation and we want it stopped."

Along with CHIP, this reporter has learned that bandwagon similar suits have been filed by PETA and Ralph Nadar.

When pressed for comment, MonkuWino responded: "This is an egregious act of overkill on the part of some overzealous people who have nothing better to do. Look at their own name: how can Consumers For Honesty Is The Best Policy" be shortened to an acronym like 'CHIP' when they leave out letters? Sounds pretty dishonest to me."

Mr. Owens stated that CHIP will be satisfied if MonkuWino agrees to change the name of the blog to 'Some Wine(s) Per Week' or, 'One Wine Per Time Period.' "That would be entirely accurate," said Owens, "rather than this terrible way of misleading the public."

MonkuWino replied that the first amendment guarantees his right to lie and cited the entire population of politicians and attorneys, and said he intends to have the ACLU represent him in this matter. "At least the ACLU has an accurate acronym," said MonkuWino, LOL.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Weekend Wine Break - Homegirl Cafe Review

Today's post is wine-free. The Mrs. and I ate lunch at a place that I felt was worth mentioning on the blog so here's a special weekend edition of One Wine Per Week.

Homegirl Cafe is a part of Homeboy Industries. Their Mission Statement explains them very well:

Jobs not Jails: Homeboy Industries assists at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education.

The t-shirts worn by the servers adds to that with the motto displayed on the back: Nothing stops a bullet like a job.

The staff of Homegirl is, as you might expect, exclusively women. Young women, presumably of the type addressed by the mission statement, i.e., at risk and formerly gang-involved youth. They all seem to enjoy what they're doing and were working hard at it when we visited.

The place serves breakfast and lunch. We got there around noon, too late for breakfast. There's a lot of interesting things on the menu, far from your ordinary, run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant. Perhaps some of the combination of ingredients are a bit stretched but hey, it shows that someone is thinking beyond the taco/enchilada paradigm and you have to give them kudos for that. Rather than post a picture of the menu, you can click here for a link to the menu page on their web site.

The restaurant is housed in a new building, occupying part of the first floor of the Homeboy Industries headquarters. Both the exterior and interior are attractive. The interior feels comforable and is decorated in a modern, clean style with lots of artwork adorning the walls. The tables are spaced far enough apart and there is abundant window space to give it an airy feeling.

A complimentary basket of black and white corn tortilla chips and mild salsa comes to the table first. The chips and salsa were good but nothing extraordinary. They were fresh and warm, though.

My wife ordered the half-sandwich and half-salad combo. The sandwich was "YuYu's" turkey with mango and chipotle; the salad had a lot of ingredients in it, including mango and jicama. She liked it and it was filling.

I opted to order a couple of tacos. One had salmon with jalapeno pesto and pico de gallo. The other had tofu chorizo with potatoes and a creamy salsa. Our server said she personally liked the tofu chorizo so I went ahead and ordered it and was glad I did. It actually tasted like and had the consistency of chorizo and I'm sure it was a lot healthier for me than the real thing. The salmon taco was also pretty tasty. Along with this I ordered a side of arroz verde (green rice) that was good as well.

I would suggest viewing the online menu so you can see for yourself what an interesting variety they have. Homegirl is located at 130 West Bruno Street, Los Angeles 90012. It's at the corner of Bruno and Alameda, near Chinatown and just a couple of blocks north of the more famous Phillipes.

As we sat in the half-full room, I kept thnking what a shame it was that Phillipes was overflowing with people while this deserving place had so many empty tables. I know they are two different types of cuisine but if you ask me, Homegirl has the more interesting menu and the decor beats Phillipes by a mile. I just feel that what Homegirl, and the parent Homeboy are trying to accomplish is very admirable and I wish them the best of success. I give the restaurant two thumbs up (they're only open for breakfast and lunch, by the way).

Here's some pictures:

If you happen to be anywhere near that part of town, by all means stop in!

Friday, August 22, 2008

2006 Château Courtinat Tradition

The Gamay grapes that went into this wine hail from the St. Porcain region of France.

In the glass, it had a lighter, translucent color. Light in body as well, it had natural, slightly tart berry fruit backed by lemony acidity. Although light, it didn't lack for purity or concentration. I also got a sense of oregano and savory meatloaf in the finish, which might sound weird but I'm just the messenger here. There was also a nice mineral component.

Overall, this $12.84 bottle of wine from Garagiste is ready to drink now and is something to choose when looking for a lighter, primarily berry fruit style that tastes natural.

It gets two thumbs up for a good QPR.

Here's the matching YouTube music video, which, as always, you can click here if you don't see it below.

Link to the web page for the CD: Pablo Cruise - A Place in the Sun

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Medals and Points

One of the controversies at this year's Olympics is over medal counts. Are the medal rankings by country supposed to be based on total medals won (gold, silver and bronze) or solely on gold medals?

If you go by total medals, then the United States is in the lead but if you go by gold medals only, then that puts China into the lead.

It seems like most of the world is leaning towards emphasizing the gold. Winning is all-important and the also-rans, well, they're merely also-rans. Go for the gold because anything less doesn't count.

Is this Olympic competition situation any different from the wine world?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wine Scandal at the Summer Olympics

First it was the lip-synching incident that marred the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. It was revealed that the 9-year-old girl who apparently sang a patriotic song during the ceremonies was in fact lip synching the vocals that really were done by a 7-year-old. Because the 9-year-old was deemed more attractive and a "better actress," she got the exposure while her counterpart stood backstage.

Now another investigation has disclosed that the magnificent wine served to members of the ruling party and foreign dignitaries at the opening banquet (shown pictured above), whose label translates as "Most Auspicious Good Fortune Wine of Character Vintage 1888," was really 1958 Chateau Latour (pictured below).

Chinese officials explained it as follows:

As you can see, the Chateau Latour comes in a very plain bottle. The wine inside is most magnificent but the bottle is not. Therefore we presented the wine in a container more fitting of its regal status and that way the outside is as magnificent as the inside. Because we have more gold medals than anyone, I believe we are justified in doing this, am I correct?

The British media has been especially critical of Chinese practices during the events, slamming them for the switch of the girl singers, use of fake digitized fireworks, and now the wine switcheroo. A prominent journalist, under condition of anonymity, disclosed to this reporter that the Chinese have discovered a way to transfer the soul of a 22 year old girl into the body of a 10 year old to achieve the most efficient combination of experience and physical agility for their women gymnastics team. A Chinese official defended this practice as well, saying that the average of the two ages equals 16 years, which meets the requirements of the Olympic rules and regulations.

Friday, August 15, 2008

2005 Domaine Grand Veneur Côtes du Rhône Reserve

First of all those little white spheres in the picture are not planets or satellites orbiting the wine bottle, they're little styrofoam balls that stuck to the label and I was too lazy to pick them off.

My streak of thumbs-up wines resumes today after getting derailed by the WBW #48 White Zin a couple of days ago.

I drank this wine over the course of four evenings. The first evening it had fruit aromas on top of background barnyard, vegetable and manure-like scents. The palate had steely, slightly tart berry fruit mixed with a mineral element but seemed hollow in the middle.

The 2nd and 3rd evenings were similar but on the 4th the wine seemed to come together. The hollow middle had closed up.
The barnyard element had also receded but remained just enough to add complexity and interest. What I liked about it was the steeliness of the ripe fruit and the mineral element in the wine.

This bottle set me back $9.99 from Garagiste. Initially I wasn't two thumbs-up on it because of that mid-palate but on the 4th evening the wine had really developed a nice balance of flavors and texture. So it does get two thumbs up and a compliment for a very nice price, as well.

Here is the YouTube video to pair with the wine. Click here if you can't see it below.

The link to the CD page at Amazon: Linda Ronstadt - Tumblin' Dice

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

WBW #48 - 2006 Sutter Home White Zinfandel

Today marks the 4th anniversary of Wine Blogging Wednesday, a monthly event launched by Lenndevours and, in honor of it being the anniversary, also hosted by him this month.

The theme he chose for the 48th WBW is to go back to your roots. Your "wine drinking roots." As he says in his announcement for this particular WBW,
I just want you to pick one of the wines from the beginning of your journey, taste it again for the first time in a while, and tell us about it.

Well, I was going to go out and get a bottle of Mateus Rose, since that's really the first bottle of wine I tried that I liked. I would happily have that with pizza that I took out from this place called Compari's, in Inglewood (to this day that my memory tells me made the best pizza I have ever eaten). Or a bottle of Gallo Pink Chablis that I remember drinking at Lawry's The Prime Rib, thinking it went swell with the meat.

But then last weekend during lunch at my sister's place, she opened a bottle of 2006 Sutter Home White Zinfandel. Now, the first sip I ever took of a white zin was a while after my Mateus and Pink Chablis days, but I figured what the heck, they are practically interchangeable! And it would save me the trouble of having to go looking around for one of those other two wines.

And so... how was it? Sweet. Sweet, sweet, sweet. Orange/pink sugared strawberry water. Like drinking monotonous candy. Were my Mateus and Pink Chablis this bad but time has sanded away the edges? Was Compari's really not the best pizza I've ever eaten but it has attained living legend status in my mind?

I really can't say, but what I can say is I would not drink this Sutter Home White Zin on my dime, that's for sure. It is best described by saying it was sugared water. Regrettably, after a lengthy string of thumbs up wines, I've got to turn the thumbs down for this one. You're better off with Two Buck Chuck.

Here's the matching YouTube video for this wine. Click here if you can't see it below (or don't click if you don't want to see it).

I'm not even going to post a link to the Amazon CD page..

Monday, August 11, 2008

2002 Mill Creek Vineyards Merlot Estate

On Friday I reported to you about the nice Laughing Raven Barbera that was received as a sample from My Wines Direct, and here's my report about the other bottle they sent me.

Unlike the Laughing Raven, there are more tasting notes about Mill Creek on Cellar Tracker, including notes about this particular wine. It's listed for $17.99 on the My Wines Direct web site, while the average purchase price for all bottles registered on Cellar Tracker is $19.57.

The first thing I noticed about this wine was how smooth and rich it was. There was lots of plum and berry fruit on the palate with balanced acidity and tannins. The acidity kept the ripe fruit from being flabby.

This one tasted like a Merlot, not the type made famous by Miles in the movie Sideways, but like a Merlot ought to taste (at least to me). The rich fruit and smooth texture dominated but it didn't get tiring to drink. Comparing this to Friday's Barbera, I would go for the Barbera, however. That one was more complex. This Merlot makes for easy drinking but is more straightforward.

This is a nicely made wine that's ready to drink and it gets two thumbs up.

Here's my matching YouTube video for this wine. Click here if you don't see it below.

Note: these YouTubes are meant to match the MUSIC to the wine... I have no control over some of the video portions people add to them! Here's the link to the CD page at Classics IV

Sigh.. I must be getting old. I don't know who 80% of the women are that are in the video!

Friday, August 8, 2008

2003 Laughing Raven Reserva Barbera

Todays wine was received as a sample from My Wines Direct. I'd never heard of them before one of their reps contacted me about sending the sample.

I checked out their website and found a lot of wines that I had never heard of before - but then that's not saying much! I did notice that the site appears very user-friendly and has a good selection of varieties available.

I received two sample bottles; I'll review this first one today so as to stretch out my blog and give me two posts instead of one. I have to say that I was rather skeptical of this wine since there is nothing on Cellar Tracker about it, and only one wine, a Sauvignon Blanc, is listed for the winery.

Well, I was very pleasantly surprised. Here's my notes:

It had a nice dark color. The nose was initially minerals and fruit and with extended air developed a bit of earth and barnyard character that I felt added to the wine since it was subtle rather than prominent. On the palate there were more minerals and bright fruit with a slight citrus and peach quality as well. Maybe it was the juicy acidity? Along with this were tastes of cedar and powdered chocolate and the texture also made me think of sand on the beach.

I liked this wine for its balance, good fruit and also the juicy mouthfeel that would make it a good food wine. It is listed for $21.99 on the website and is comparable to other good wines I've had at that price point. This one gets two thumbs up and continues my string of drinking some really nice wines.

Here's the matching YouTube video (click here if you don't see it below):

Here's the link to the CD at Skylark

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

2006 Bodega Renacer Malbec Punto Final

Am I sounding like a broken record? Here's another winner that I want to report to you.

I've been pondering that - how it seems like I've had a long string of wines that get the thumbs up from me, that I would recommend to you. Am I not discerning enough? Are my tastebuds in disarray?

No, I think it is a matter of there being plenty of good wines out there, and my good fortune of having excellent sources of obtaining them.

One such source is Domaine 547. Jill stocks some great stuff and today's wine is no exception. This one, that you see in a picture I stole from Cellar Tracker's page for this wine, set me back $13.99. Well worth it.

In the nose and palate I found smoky cedar, lots of dark berry fruit, leather, some spice, all held together by a refreshing acidity and balanced tannins. There's good concentration and as I rolled this wine around in my mouth I really liked how flavorful it was. I think it will hold for a while but it's very enjoyable to drink right now for its bright fruit and mix of flavors. Here's another one that gets two thumbs up, especially for the reasonable price.

And here's my choice for the matching YouTube music video for the wine (click here if you can't see it below):

Link to the Amazon CD page: Steely Dan - My Old School

Monday, August 4, 2008

2006 Tablas Creek Viognier

So far I've had nothing but good experiences with Tablas Creek wines and this one continues the string.

Light in color, it smelled and tasted like a Viognier with ripe and natural apricot, peach and flowery aromas and flavors. Richly mouthfilling and creamy at first, buoyant acidity emerged to balance it all out.

I liked this wine because of the pure, flavorful fruit and its balance. I would suggest consuming it now or in the near future to make the most of the fresh fruit.

$21.60 direct from the winery, this is another two-thumbs up winner from Tablas Creek.

Here's the YouTube matching music video for the wine. Click here if you can't see it below.

Here is the link to the CD page at Laura Nyro

Friday, August 1, 2008

Wine Taste and Tasting

I've been reflecting more on the conversation I had with my buddy Mike at dinner last Monday, and that I wrote about in my previous post.

He's recently become a wine enthusiast (I use that because I can't spell afficianado correctly) and is very excited about trying different wines. He was most enthused about the 2005 Caronne Ste. Gemme he tried, and he told me very clearly why he thought it was so good.

I thought about the wine reviews I've posted on this blog. I mentioned before how I feel they are pretty boring (although at least you get to see what music video I think pairs up with the wine), and they still seem that way.

Mike asked me if I am able to discern details about the wine I am drinking, like what year it is, what winery, etc., and I said no, not at all. I can often tell the grape variety but even then, the way so much wine is blended or handled or adulterated or just plain abused, along with all the other variables involved, that I am not always sure.

Somehow I had the notion in my head that just because I publish a wine blog and have been drinking wines for a relatively long period of time, that I ought to be able to identify wines and provide expert tasting notes, etc., and to admit to not being able to do so, or to not do so with the grace and ease of an "expert," is shameful.

Can I discern the difference between two varietals? I dunno, maybe. Can I tell you what I like and don't like? Most definitely. Can I tell you why I like or don't like a wine? Most definitely. Can I tell you if a wine is of good quality? Perhaps, especially if it is of poor quality, like watery or has off flavors, etc. I can also at least tell you what my opinion is for the other ones that aren't so obvious.

So what the heck am I getting at? Get to the point, MonkuWino!

The point is, I think my reviews should be geared more towards if I liked a wine and why or why not, instead of trying to be so dryly descriptive. That's what the reader deserves to know. If you simply give a rating to a wine or say you liked or hated it but don't say why, then it is pointless. Two people can both eat the same taco (mine from Tito's in Culver City, please), and one can rave about how good it is and the other can say it tastes like garbage (which describes common reactions to Tito's tacos). The exact same tastes, but different opinions. So you need to know why a person says what they say.

It's fine to be objective about the smells and tastes one finds in a wine but the fun is in the subjectivity. Just say why, though. So that's what I am going to try and do.. stop being so, so, uh, stiff and generic.