Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tasting, Tasting, Tasting, Tasting Notes........

This past Saturday, Wendy and I hosted our annual Holiday Party, which has morphed from a traditional family Chanukkah party into a Family, Friends & Neighbors Holiday Party. At our party, each child has gifts to open and I usually call all the kids into the room and play a quasi-Santa/Chanukkah Harry and call each kid up by name and hand them their gifts (wrapped of course) and once each kid has a gift to open.....mass chaos as 12-15 kids rip open wrapping paper and packaging to get to their gifts. We also do an Adult Gift Swap which is often entertaining and always controversial (this year, we had a penalty flag which was thrown when someone broke a rule.) During this part of the party, I am often referred to as Chanukkah Czar for my inflexible rules which are often neatly typed and are always read aloud before the exchange begins. Hopefully, everyone has a buzz going and the ribbing is good-natured and fun for all.
To get everyone buzzed, we have a full bar. However, most of my family and friends opt for the wines I have selected for the night. This night was no exception. This post to Oenophobia: A Fear Of Wine is dedicated to the tasting notes from each of the wines opened and drank. Feel free to peruse the list or click the links to the wineries websites. Remember, unless otherwise mentioned, all of these wines are available at Tinton Falls Buy-Rite on Asbury Ave. in the Tinton Falls Plaza. Please ask for Kevin or Sean Flanagan for help. You can even print out this posting and bring it with you. They can help with suggestions if something from this list is not available. FYI- in case you didn't know this (Mom) wine is ALWAYS less-expensive at your local shop than direct from the winery. When you factor in shipping, the cost is significantly less. However, many of a winery's reserve or single vineyard wines are NOT distributed and therefore you HAVE to buy them from the winery direct.

Here's The List........

2005 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($22) - From one of the best known wineries in the world, Robert Mondavi consistently produces high-quality varietally correct wines. Their 2005 Napa Valley Cab is no exception. A blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), with 5% each of Cab. Franc and Merlot and 2% each of Petit Verdot and Malbec and 1% Syrah this wine rocks! Mondavi produces high-rating single vineyard wines that often reach triple-digits in price and score in the mid 9o's consistently. The 2005 Napa Valley Cab is a little cousin to those wines and this wine is deep and dense and full of strong fruit extraction. The wine has oak and supple tannins and brings a bright vibrancy to the glass of wine. I loved this wine for its class and flavor. In this price range, it is the best wine I can recommend. I personally score the wine 91+ and have seen it getting amazing reviews. Buy a case because this wine will age to improve.
2005 Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon - Sonoma - ($25) - Another really excellent example of the varietal of Cabernet Sauvignon, the FC Cabernet is really well-crafted and flavorful wine. The wine is a product of Sonoma County, where the warmer climates and low-lying morning fog shroud the grapes and vines allowing maximum concentration of the fruit. The wine is mountain-grown and full of complex flavors of black cherry, blackberries, toffee, caramel and dirt, yes, dirt. Its an amazing combination and at the price, a BIG QPR scorer. In future years, we're all going to remember the 2005 vintage of wines like these the way 1997 and 1982 are often remembered as perfect for the varietal of Cabernet. The FC cab is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cab. Franc and Petit Verdot. I give it a 90+ score, just below the Mondavi, almost its equal, but not as complex. Still a wine to ABSOLUTELY own. If you go out to eat at a decent restaurant, you will find this bottle of wine at a shocking $50+ on the wine list. I say shocking because this wine is in a category of wines that you MUST have at home in at least 3 bottle quantity to open when you have company or when you want a special accompaniment to dinner. At home, its a $22-$25 do the math.

2004 Rusden "Christine's Vineyard" Grenache - South Australia ($38) -The Rusden vineyard in Barrossa are among some of the best varietal-designated vineyards in the area. In 1979, Christine and Dennis Canute purchase 40 acres in which this Grenache is grown. This wine is deep red in color with a bright, red berry nose, with complicating notes of tobacco, anise and subtle mint. Sweet and luscious, the raspberry and wild strawberry flavors appear providing a silky texture to the wine. There's a boatload of sweet, almost jammy red berry fruit, as well as lingering notes of musky earth and mocha. More than simply a fruit bomb, and long on the aftertaste. This wine scored 92 pts. from Josh Reynolds of Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar in July 2006. This is a stunning example of how Grenache is supposed to be made, without the excessive heat and alcohol that occurs when chasing the elusive balance between the sweetness and the luxurious flavor of well-integrated alcohol content.

2003 Ken Wright Cellars Freedom Hill Pinot Noir - Oregon ($55) This wine, from one of the best producers of Pinot Noir that I have ever had the pleasure to taste, is big on flavor, mouthfeel and finish. The wine was recommended by Kevin Flanagan as a $22 bottle and was so highly recommended, it is selling for more than double that today at auction. The wine is sourced from the Freedom Hill Vineyard which is located in Dallas, Oregon from a Pommard grape clone, planted in 1980. This wine had an amazing 2003 vintage and 2006 has been projected as a comparable year to the 2003. The wine has a medium-deep ruby color; earthy, black fruits on nose; big full and toasty on palate with balance and black cherry flavors. This wine scored big with our guests, most likely because the wine's flavor profile is similar to some of the wines we had already opened which were Cabernets. I'm looking forward to trying the 2006 vintage of this great Pinot producer. FYI- Ken Wright's Pinots need cellar ageing before they are ready to drink. If you purchase any of the several Pinots he makes, go to their website at where they have a chart of when to drink each of their wines. COOL!!!

2005 Jardin Bradgate Syrah - Stellenbosch, South Africa ($10) At a recent industry tasting, Kevin and I stopped in at the South Africa table where we met Gary Jordan from Jordan Winery in Stellenbosch, SA. I previously wrote about Gary and his wines, but tonight, I opened a Bradgate Syrah of his. Gary's wines are marketed under the JARDIN label here in the US. The wine was subtle when appropriate and big in flavor and mouth-feel as expected....not a lot of heat or too much extracted fruit. A really nice wine with a light approach to Syrah but a long finish of rich flavor. However, this night, Bradgate did not appeal to many in the crowd. In fact, it was the only bottle that was opened that was NOT FINISHED. I asked around, and was told that it was not as full-flavored as some of the bigger Cabs that were opened. BUT, I also got RAVE reviews for the Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Noir. So my thought is that the Bradgate just didn't appeal to the crowd's palate, which is what wine tasting is ALL ABOUT! I personally still like the Bradgate Syrah when tasted alone, and I can see how the subtle tastes of this wine can get lost in the big, tannic, extracted-fruit of the Cabernets.

2005 Caravan Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa ($35) I almost DON'T want to tell you about this wine, for fear that word will get out and it will become more expensive and harder to get. As it is now, I have to reserve a six-pack as soon as it is released because it sells out quickly and once its gotta wait till next year. Here's why it is so scarce: The wine is made from Cabernet Powerhouse, Darioush who makes one of the premiere Cabernets in the Napa Valley. The same fruit that goes into their Signature Cabernet goes into the Caravan, at a fraction of the price. The wine's profile is as good as its pedigree, with big ripe black fruits and currant on the front and mid palate and a long finish with tobacco, dirt and blackberries on the finish. The nose is ripe and filthy and the wine has NEVER disappointed. Now, $35 is NOT cheap for a bottle of wine. But I have had wines that are more than twice this price that would never hold water in a blind tasting. I love Caravan, and have made converts of many, many friends who have also enjoyed the nectar of Caravan....right Patty???? This is a 93 pt. wine, compared to 94 pts. for the Darioush Signature Cabernet.

2005 Peltier Station Petite Syrah ($17) This wine is produced in the Lodi appellation in California, near Elk Grove. This region benefits from a cooler climate, which allows the grapes to stay on the vine longer, allowing for better concentration of flavors, without the fear of over-exposure of the fruit. The only bottle I have had by this producer is the Petite Syrah, which was recently awarded "Best in Class" and "Best of Region" at the 2006 California State Fair. Their website has some particulars about this and their other offerings. check it out to read about their lineup. The wine we tasted has a LOT of fruit-forward flavors. The nose on the wine was not as forward as the flavor in the mouth. We got chocolate, plum and spice during tasting, with a healthy bit of oak and astringency. The tannins were not overly impressive in their integration to the flavor, but also not intolerable. With aging, this wine will probably taste even better than it did at our party. If we drink it again, and I'm sure we will, I'll decant for a few hours to get the flavor out. A good wine at a great price point.
At the end of the night, we bid adieu to our loved ones and discarded the bottles in the recycling bin and counted our blessings as another year begins for us and for the special people in our lives who are there in good times and bad. We look forward to continuing our trek in the world of wine, with you as our faithful co-pilots.

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