2011 Oso Libre Viognier, Paso Robles
Tastes like: Not unlike a piña colada. As one might imagine, eight months of aging in both French oak and stainless steel, make this wine more complex than your garden variety TGI Friday’s frozen cocktail. However, this Viognier does lack a healthy dose of rum. Rum makes piña coladas delicious. Rum is also what compelled me to play Twister with my wife’s family after we had all just been in the hot tub. One of the few times in my life where I wish the water had been cold, very, very cold. Like most middle-aged men, the Viognier is full bodied, and like most Osos (bears), the middle-aged men were hairy. There are bright bursts of pineapple and mango at the beginning and end of each sip. I have no idea what passion fruit is or what it should taste like. Much like the presence of the Lord, I’ve been told it’s fantastic, but have yet to enjoy it.
Feels like: It’s viognier. Viognier is a strange word for an even stranger grape. You don’t drink viognier because you like it; you drink viognier so you look smart amongst your friends who are all drinking Chardonnay. Just like pork and natural gas, viognier is an enjoyable departure from the norm. Unfortunately for viognier, it’s neither combustible nor edible in sausage form. Viognier is just different.
Goes with: Personally, I don’t like viognier with meals. It goes will with meat and cheese plates. I’ve also heard it goes well with rum or in rum or right after rum. Just make sure you have rum.
2012 Gaia "Thalassitis," Santorini, Greece
Tastes like: The dry, brittle bones of your deceased grandparents. This is an incredibly dry wine that nearly evaporates in your mouth. And just like the memories of your beloved Nanna and Pop-pop, there is a glimmer of sweetness. Honey, not sugar. The wine finishes with a crisp green apple flavor, that when combined with the other flavors, lingers pleasantly for several minutes (this a guess; I did not wait more than 30-seconds between drinking).
Feels like: Exactly where the wine was made. Santorini is a picturesque place filled with extremely hairy people. Assyrtiko is typical mediterranean grape, and you can literally smell the sea breeze and local plants in the glass. A slight effervescence takes your mind right to a sunny, black sand beach off the island’s eastern side. My beach requires clothing. I’ve been to European beaches and seen way too many super large nipples. Lesson and learned.
Goes with: No photos. We are a super exclusive restaurant, and we do not allow photography while dining. Not even if it’s for a blog about wizards or wine or whatever you’re in to. “SNAP.”
2006 Zaca Mesa Syrah, San Luis Obispo
Tastes like: The Zaca Mesa Syrah is what we call “tight butthole.” This is a good thing. If we journey upward towards the mouth, you get juicy grape flavors, ripe blackberry and lots of it. The finish has slight mineral and spice notes that give the wine needed complexity.
2009 Benton Lane Pinot Noir, WIlliamette Valley
The Benton Lane Pinot is what we would call “loose butthole.” This is not a good thing. This wine had nice reddish-purple color in the glass and smelled like a bushel of berries. It seems bushels are a thing of the past. People don’t talk about bushels of anything anymore. Unfortunately this Pinot tasted like a bushel mediocrity. Yes, it had all the requisite berry, cheery and cola flavors that Pinots are known for, but it just wasn’t anything special (especially at $20 on sale).
Feels like: Stealing. Like when you used to steal baseball cards from the grocery store by going to the bathroom to stuff Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine in your underwear, while flushing Mike Oquist down the toilet (I bet Tom Glavine never would have imagined his face would come so close to an 11 year old’s wiener). In this case Zaca Mesa is “The Big Hurt” and Benton Lane is a pitcher from the Baltimore Orioles who once told ESPN “I’m not Roger Clemens or Pedro Martinez. I’m not going to go out there and blow people away.” Apt analogy if I don’t say so myself.
Goes with: The tireless pursuit of drinking lots of wine. You like some and and you don’t like some. The Zaca Mesa goes with being under-rated, like most wine from San Luis Obispo county. The Benton Lane goes with being overrated, like most things from Oregon (see: Portland, euthanasia and June skiing at Mt Hood.).
2007 Domaine du Gour de Chaule, Gigondas
Tastes like: Despite having a smell reminiscent of freshly minted cow pies, this was a rather tasty beverage. Gigondas is the quiet, but equally sexy sister of Cheteauneuf. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre give this wine a great structure and spice. It’s a big, rustic wine that gives you just as much earthiness as fruitiness. As a result, it’s a bit tight and takes a while to open up. A lot like your Mom! Ayyyo.
Feels like: “I just want you to know, how I feel. Feeling good, feeling great. Feeling great, feeling good, how are you?” Thanks Outkast.
Goes with: Big meat dishes, bold flavors. Pork chops with mustard sauce comes to mind. I could also see myself eating sharp cheese and shooting a 10-gauge shotgun while sipping from this bottle. Seems like a perfect Tuesday afternoon if you ask me.
2010 Val du Vino Sangiovese, Calaveras County
Tastes like: Ripe, tart cherries and currants. A touch of tobacco (the kind real men use to roll their own cigarettes) helps mellow the wine, while menthol lingers on the palate after a few sips. This was the first wine I’ve tried from Calaveras county, and coincidentally our first Sangiovese post. It was a nice surprise. So nice in fact, I bought a bottle and then continued on to a half dozen different tasting rooms in the tiny highway town of Murphy’s, California. Suffice to say, I remember little of the wines from tasting rooms three through six.
Feels like: The spirit of a small town…from the pleasant smell to the amateur label design. This Sangiovese wasn’t sweet by any means, but it had an interesting dessert like quality. I could imagine an old, white-haired lady serving this at Sunday brunch after church. Luckily, she has a smoking hot granddaughter you can play “pocket yahtzee” with while grandma takes an afternoon nap.
Goes with: Christian Bale’s Batman voice. The man who served us at the tasting room also happened to be the winemaker. He talked. A lot. His voice was so deep and raspy, I expected him to burst into a monologue about justice and the people of Gotham. Sadly, crime fighting was not part of the $5 tasting.
2008 -2010 Alama Rosa Robert Hall Beckman Buena Vista Clos DuBois Noah’s, Pinot Noir Pinot Grigio, Syrah, Rose, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Sonoma, Santa Barabera, Napa Valley, Livermore Valley
Tastes like: A bright and cherry strawberry lemonade, with notes of grass, fig jam, ripe plum, tobacco, vanilla, red fruit, black fruit, grapefruit, tobacco, marshmallow and nutmeg.
Feels like: With this combo women were getting pregnant nine counties away. Remember going into 7-11 as a kid, grabbing a large cup and then making a “suicide.” For those born before 1975 and after 1988, a suicide is when you fill up your cup with each soda from the fountain. It tasted like complete shit, but it sure was fun. Well this is the adult version. Except we didn’t mix…at least not in the same glass at the same time. And getting drunk on wine feels a bit like getting high on 48oze of sugar water.
Goes with: Drinking. Family dinners. Backyard BBQs. Awkward family moments followed by shouting matches and weeping.
2008 Sancius Roble, Ribera del Duero
Tastes like: Warm pie and black tea. It’s intense at first, but mellows perfectly. Black fruit all the way through with a nice balance of acid (not LSD) and alcohol. I got hints of English bergamot, but that could be due to my over-consumption of the London Olympics. Mostly tempranillo, which can be a finicky grape, but this one followed the winemaker’s orders.
Feels like: The first 30 seconds of “Let’s Get it On.” Comes on strong then mellows to become smooth and rich. Unfortunately, too much red wine makes me sleepy, prohibiting me from getting anything on or off.
Goes with: Spanish food. Tapas especially. This wine does well with the diverse flavors and dishes that go with ordering from an overly expressive, Spanish speaking waiter. It does not go well with Hoobastank’s music. Nothing goes well with Hoobastank, save for idiotic band names and large quantities of Mountain Dew Code Red.
2010 Tenuta Le Quinte Syrah, Lazio
Tastes like: This was very interesting Syrah. My experience with Italian wines is limited to a vacation and the occasional poor choice of selecting Chianti at American restaurants. We did take an Italian wine class in Rome, so my knowledge is at least equal to the entire cast of Real of Housewives of New Jersey. The first few sips of this wine were spicy with very clear green and red peppercorns. There was a small note of white pepper which almost ruined it for me, because I think it smells like cow shit. After the wine had some time to breath and was subsequently accompanied by food it took on a different character completely. It became robust and jammy—the homemade syrupy kind. It was very good.
Feels like: A bit of head trip. Spicy then sweet. Peppery then jammy. Angry then pleasant.
Goes with: Coincidentally this wine went with one of the best meals we had during our trip. Pasta e faioli, slow cooked beef stew and lamb. I’m hungry just thinking about it. Meat dishes, rich sauces and dirty jokes all compliment this wine well.
2010 Valle Reale Vigne Nuove, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
We just returned from Italy so it’s no coincidence we continue our Italian wine posts. Ciao Bitches!
Tastes like: From the beginning this wine is juicy, ripe and soft. Like a baby’s bottom. Bright raspberry, sweet cherry and Red Vine licorice dance all over tongue. The fruit lingers with notes of allspice and one other sweet spice I just couldn’t place. In addition to being one of my favorites, Montepulciano is a black skinned grape widely grown in central and southern parts of the “Boot.” It’s often noted for soft flavors and gentle tannins, making the younger 2010 an excellent choice.
Feels like: Remember back to high school, waking up in the morning and taking a first look in the mirror only to notice a big festooning zit upon your face. You’d lightly press it with the tip of your index finger, feeling the pressure and subtle pain. You wince and brace yourself for the impending mission. With great precision and a tilt of your head, you lean towards the mirror, bring two fingers to the base of the small white-headed mountain and take aim. A firm and swift squeeze gives ways to the faint popping sound and the burst of white, viscus fluid across the mirror. Direct hit. Satisfaction. Time to clean up.
Goes with: This wine is balanced and juicy enough to drink on its own, but that would be doing a disservice to you, the wine and the food. We had lobster with fettuccine and a lamb ragu. The wine complimented both dishes nicely. Unrelated, but infinitely more amusing, were the two neighborhood dogs who entertained the restaurant’s al fresco diners with feverish and rape-y bouts of humping throughout the evening. Dinner AND a show.
2008 Barone Ricasoli Casalferro, Tuscany
Tastes like: Spiced, candied fruit. I picture a pot full of plums, blackberries, allspice, black pepper and sugar simmering on the stove. It’s bold but well balanced wine. You catch a touch of butter and a hint of oak in the aftertaste—probably French since I’ve never heard of Italian oak. The wine starts out a little aggressive, but mellows quickly and paired perfectly with our meal. It’s 100% Merlot, but doesn’t taste like the California or Washington styles we are used to. Why? Because it’s Italian, and it’s all about the location. Grape plays second billing.
Feels like: If this weren’t a wine it would make great jam. Jam with 14% alcohol would make toast and your morning drive much more interesting.
Goes with: Rich meat dishes. Think lasagna and bolognese vs grilled steak or pork chops. There were couples on either side of us who appeared to be in the midst of a public divorce. The wine complimented these displays of marital bliss quite nicely. We felt like we were watching a very fancy live reality show.
2007 Castle Rock Pinot Noir, Mendocino County
Yep, this is a second review…we like it that much, even a couple of years later.
Tastes Like: Tea infused cherry pie. This is not a flabby pinot, it has enough tannic structure to pitch a tent. You will never be embarrassed taking this to a Pinot Party…and not just one in your pants, a real party… assuming you get invited.
Feels Like: Your wallet isn’t bleeding cash. Probably only about 15 bucks at the duper-super mart. You can even hang out in the wine aisle and see if any other wine drinkers will invite you to their party. If not, head for home and pitch your tent.
Goes With: You to the party, if you get lucky. If you can’t find this one, then take anything from Castle Rock Winery. Vic Roberts and Greg Powers at Castle Rock have totally figured out the “tasty value wine” combination.
2008 Joel Gott Zinfandel, California
Tastes like: A black eye. Not the domestic violence variety. Just really strong black and blue fruit, specifically blackberries and blueberries. The berry flavors were so intense this wine could double as syrup. Yet somehow the flavors did not overwhelm The wine felt balanced by a bit of spice and oak.
Feels like: Smoking a pipe. There is absolutely zero tobacco flavor in the wine, but drinking it is akin to smoking a good pipe. I typically drink wine by the gulp. This Zin has a nice long finish that lingers on your tongue, so I ended up taking smaller sips and enjoying each one.
Goes with: Pancakes
2009 Alain Jaume Terrasses de Montmirail, Gigondas
Tastes like: A black fruit grenade. As I poured the wine I noticed the deep red gem-like color, a color of the glass and teeth staining variety. Similar to holding a grenade,I know what to expect yet I am excited all the same. The first sip is well-balanced and lush. 3-2-1-BOOM. Blueberry, cassis, black raspberry, and currants all come rushing forward. Unlike a grenade there are no casualties. The impact is well structured and silky with just the right amount of acidity, leaving a pleasantly surprising note of spice on the middle of your tongue.
Feels like: A dark room. It’s familiar yet foreign. It’s more sleep over dark than horror film dark. The air is dense. It’s spicy and sweet. You can taste it. You stand but then decide to sit and eventually recline. You breathe deeply. It’s pleasant. You enjoy being there, but know your time is limited. The room is dark.
Goes with: Applying the 80/20 rule (80 Grenache, 20% Syrah) makes this a big wine. It goes well with just about any meat, cheese or sauce. It also goes with discovering an awesome appellation that is right next to Châteauneuf-du-Pape…meaning great wine w/o the insane price tag. This wine will cellar for several more years.
2008 Stags’ Leap Merlot, Napa Valley
Tastes like: Cherry pie and a cup of black coffee. I’ve never understood some people’s aversion to Merlot. True, there is a lot of sub-par swill out there, but when Merlot is good it’s gooood. It is one of the five grapes allowed in Bordeaux after all. Stags’ Merlot is incredibly soft and round. Suave even. They added a tiny bot of Petite Sirah and Cabernet to the mix, which makes it a little more interesting. You can tell they aged it in oak to give the wine additional depth.
Feels like: Charles Barkley. Before you stop reading, remember Barkley’s nickname was “the Round Mound of Rebound.” Given the density and roundness of this wine, it seems appropriate. And remember, he rode a horse for a Right Guard commercial, so he’s also sophisticated.
Goes with: Proving Merlot critics wrong. Simple.
2009 Chateau de Montfaucon Baron Louis, Cotes de Rhone
Tastes like: One of my favorite wines in a long time. But it didn’t start that way. This is a complex wine, thus the complex opinion. If you have a minute, I’ll tell you why. When I picked this bottle up it had all the makings of an exceptional wine. A 90pt rating from The Nose (aka Robert Parker), rave reviews from my local wine merchant, Rhone origins, and a picture of a castle on the label. This was a drinking occasion in the making. Then I took my first sip. Tighter than a tight rope. I let it sit for a bit. The second sip was softer and more nuanced. I let it sit still. My third sip was remarkably different. The wine had transformed. It was soft, slightly sugary and balanced. The tannins were still there, but not overpowering. The stiffness was replaced with blueberries, cherries, a little black pepper and maybe even allspice. Sips and swigs 4-87 increased in deliciousness until my teeth were stained purple and the bottle was drained.
Feels like: A great double cross. This wine reminds you that first impressions are sometimes better when you’ve made them a few times. I imagine it will drink well for another 5-10 years, rounding out and perfecting even further. I tried to guess the blend, but this wine leaves your mouth feeling gang banged. I fled to the world wide web. It’s made of some heavy hitters 40% Grenache and the rest Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvedre and Counoise. All good company.
Goes with: Drinking now or cellaring for a few more years. This wine should be enjoyed over an hour two. It’s French, so eat something with it will you. Other than that, it just goes with pure enjoyment.