Thursday, March 09, 2006

California Wine Extravaganza

Tonight Natalie and I went to our first wine tasting event at Binny's. It was a little overwhelming (i.e. crowded), but there were a lot of great wines that we got to taste (and buy). We had to hustle to get there, getting soaked in the rain in the process.

We rated the wines with a minus for those we didn't like, one star for good, two for very good and three for excellent. I'll run down the list in order with comments.

Three Stars
2003 Mumm Cuvee "M" — $15.99 — Wonderful strawberry fruitiness on the finish, not overly dry or sweet. Perfect balance. Can't wait to sip on a warm summer night. We bought two bottles.
2004 Rosenblum San Francisco Bay Zinfandel — $15.99 — Puts the jam in jammy. Shockingly fruity on the palette, but softens to a peppery complexity. We bought two. Great value. High alcohol content, but it didn't come through at all.
2003 Rosenblum Abba Vineyard Syrah — $18.99 — Also jammy. I preferred, though Natalie liked the Zin better. Nice.
N/V Merryvale Antigua 500ml — $34.99 — Great dessert wine. Hard to avoid splurging on this one, but we held strong. Moscato that competes with some of the better Italian Vin Santo's I've had.

Two Stars
2003 Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon — $49.99 — Interesting berry/tannin relationship. A little too pricey.
2001 Katherine Kennedy Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon — $65.99 — Nice, big Cab. Opened up pretty well. A little pricey. Better buys out there.
2004 Quady Elysium 375 ml — Great dessert moscato. Reminds me of Bonny Door Vin de Glacier. Color of whiskey. Dewberry.
2003 Dashe Zinfandel — $21.99 — Jammy, peppery.
2003 Chiarello Petite Sirah — $39.99 — Exciting wine. Dark, dark purple color. Well-balanced fruit.
2003 Stolpman Hilltop Syrah— $34.99 — Good syrah, black fruit forward. Would buy under $20, but a little steep.
2003 Andretti Sangiovese — $17.99 — Bought one. Great sangiovese that is fruitier than Italian sangioveses without being cloying. Would go well with Bucatina al'Amatriciana.
2002 Bennet Lane Maximus — $27.99 — Good value wine. Meritage-style. Almost bought a bottle, but were getting too many bottles. Insignia Jr.
2005 Groth Sauvignon Blanc — $14.99 — Pineapple, citrus. As good as the best I've tasted from New Zealand. Light, but not wimpy. Bought two bottles.
2003 Duckhorn Merlot — $46.99 — Natalie liked this one a lot.
2002 Anderson Conn Valley Cab. Sauv. — $49.99 — One of the better Cabs I tasted. Priced fairly. Black fruit, pepper, tannins...nice.
2002 Stag's Leap Winery Petite Sirah — $29.99 — Almost a three-star. Dark, garnet color. Good fruit.
2003 B.R. Cohn Silver Label Cab. Sauv. — $16.99 — Great price for a pretty good, complex Cab. Hmmm.
2002 Merryvale Starmont Cab. Sauv. — $22.99 — See Cohn. Similar wines.

One Star
N/V Mumm Cuvee Napa Brut — $15.99 on sale — Solid domestic champagne. Dry.
N/V Mumm Blanc De Noir — $15.99 on sale — Solid blanc de noir. Not too memorable.
2002 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon — $19.99 — Decent Cab.
2004 Foxglove Chardonnay — $11.99 — Not overly oaked.
2003 Chariot Sangiovese — $11.99 — Good sangiovese. But not enough to unseat better, cheaper Italians like Antinori Santa Cristina.
2004 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir — $20.99 —Is it just me, or did Sideways way overhype Pinot Noir? This is fine, but it seems like there's so much of this quality out there, at prices that could buy much better bottles of other varietals.
2001 Andretti Merlot — $20.99 — one of the best merlots I tasted.
2003 Fritz Russian River Pinot Noir — $26.99 — Good, not great, pinot.
2002 Robert Craig Mt. Veeder Cab. Sauv. — $46.99 — Wasn't very opened up yet. Could be good with more aerating.
2003 Davis Family Zinfandel — $26.99 — Good, not great.
2001 Rombauer Cab. Sauv. — $32.99 — Good, not great.
2004 Wild Hog Pinot Noir — $25.99 — OK.
2001 Baldacci Cabernet Sauv. — $39.99 — Pretty good. Almost the next level. Could be priced better. Good fruit and tannin relationship.
2003 Paraduxx — $44.99 — Strong wine. Zin and Cab blend.
N/V Scharfenberger Brut — $16.99 — Pretty good, champagne style. Not overly dry.
2004 Simi Sauvignon Blanc — $9.99 — good value, but not overly exciting.
2001 Teanna Red — $34.99 — Was so crowded at this table that I couldn't find out what grapes were in this one. Pretty good.

2003 Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon — $15.99 — Not very complex. We've had their Pinot Noir and enjoyed it, but this was kind of boring and tasted like its price.
2003 Terlato Syrah — $32.99 — BLAH!
2004 Terlato Pinot Grigio — $21.99 — Color of water. Double blah says Natalie.
2003 Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon — $13.99 — Not memorable.
2003 Calera Pinot Noir — $19.99 — Bad.
2004 Foxen Pinot Noir — $22.99 — Bordering on decent, but pretty boring.
2002 Seavey Cab. Sauv. — $69.99 — Does this have to aerate for a week to be decent? At this price, this wine should buy me dinner. Tannic, tight, could hardly finish. No fruit or complexity. Disappointing.
2002 Egelhoff Cab. Sauv. — $69.99 — Is there a trend at this year/price. Same critique as above.
2004 Saintsbury Chardonnay — $19.99 — Something not right here. Not corked, but close. Newspapery.
2003 Mer Soleil Chardonnay — $34.99 — Heard others raving about this. Was not impressed.
2001 Silver Oak Napa Cab. Sauv. Limited — $95.99 — Again, was tight, not open. Didn't play nice with palette. Needed to aerate. Call me in a week and we'll talk.
2004 Franciscan Chardonnay — $14.99 — Boring, oaky, blah!
2003 Robert Mondavi Napa Cab Sauv. — $20.99 — Boring.


spn said...

Did you guys actually try all of these wines? How do you keep from being overwhelmed when you are at a wine tasting?

Jeff & Natalie said...

We did try all these. The pours were not very big for each and we shared the ones that weren't as impressive. I poured out a lot as well that wasn't great. It was a little overwhelming, but I would try and clean the palate with a sip of water or white wine after all that big red wine.

DBrooks said...

From my own experience, the Seavey Cabs benefit from a lot of aeration. I haven't had the 2002, but every Seavey I have had the pleasure to drink has been great. In addition, their Cabs have enough complexity that they really develop with cellaring. I recently had my last of their '94 Cabernet, and it was one of those memorable wine experiences. Just my two cents.

Jeff & Natalie said...

I did wonder about some of the more expensive wines that were so tight and tannic. I think that top, top wines and wines at the bottom of the spectrum don't do well in tastings like this (90+ plus wines, small pours, small tasting glass). The medium-level wines shine because they are decently complex and open right out of the bottle. For the top wines, it was hard to aerate in the glass and there was a limited amount of time to try each wine, so truly aerating each was difficult. However, I have had truly world class wines that didn't require major cellaring or aeration out of the bottle to be very drinkable and marginally complex immediately (Phelps Cab or Insignia comes to mind). That doesn't mean that they won't get a heck of a lot better with age/decanting to aerate. If the market is willing to pay fairly high prices for some of the wines we didn't particularly like, I knew that I must have been missing something. I do believe in cellaring though and have some great Brunellos and Chianti Riserva bottles squirreled away with a few california cabs for special occasions.

DBrooks said...

Thanks for responding. I agree with everything you say. I have had expensive wines(including Seaveys)that tasted great right after opening. I didn't mean to imply they required aerating. I should admit to a particular fondness for Seavey's wines. Their Cabernets are BIG wines, and that's not everyone's preference. It's possible you just got a funky bottle, but that doesn't seem likely at a tasting. I guess I am just recommending that you not dismiss their wines because of one bad experience. I think Bill Seavey makes very, very good wines, and I'm sure you would enjoy them if you gave them another shot some day. BTW, I stumbled on your site while meandering. After I commented, I read through a lot of it, and I enjoyed your thoughts and comments. I will visit regularly.