Archive for December, 2007

Christmas ‘07 Pupu’s and Vino

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

It’s become tradition that my family no longer cooks Christmas dinner and instead we all pitch in and make all kinds of pupu’s throughout the day.  We discontinued making Christmas dinner over 5 years ago because we would snack all day and not be hungry for the dinner we worked all day preparing so we decided we’d just snack all day instead.  This has turned out quite well as we get to try lots of different foods throughout the day.  The delectables served this year were hot artichoke dip and sourdough bread, crudites with greek dipping sauce, crab cakes, civiche, cheesey biscuit puffs, Alabama pulled pork sandwiches w/ white BBQ sauce and everyone’s favorite, Vietnamese spring rolls with a ginger soy dipping sauce and a peanut dipping sauce.  This last one took 5 of us to put together and every year we say we’ll never do them again, but we always end up making them anyway.  Of course we also have lots of cookies. 

Along with all the great food, we also had quite a bit of good wine.  We were provided with some samples of Jalama Vineyards wine from winemaker Mark Cargasacchi which we proceeded to share with our family.  The Pinot Gris was crisp and citrusy with some nice minerality, it had just a touch of bitterness on the finish which probably would have been softened by a bit more fruit.  The Pinot Noir was very light colored, almost see-through, light to medium-bodied with flavors of blueberries, herbs and earth.  The El Kapitan is a full bodied red blend with aromas of dark cherries, coffee and spice – we had this with last night’s dinner of ravioli with puttanesca sauce that matched the spiciness of the wine quite well.

We also opened a bottle of Villa Creek’s “Avenger” which is a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache – a full-bodied wine with loads of blackberry fruits.  A very concentrated and structured wine that’s terrific now, but also has some backbone to put away for a bit as well.  Robert Parker gave this ’05 vintage 93 points www.erobertparker.com

My father shared his JC Cellars ’04 Iron Hill Zinfandel which I think is a classic Zinfandel that’s not overly jammy, but has layers of dark fruits and spice well balanced with soft tannins and a long finish.  We then had a Ridge ’04 Zinfandel from the Ponzo Vineyard  from the Russian River Valley.  Parker rated this 91 points.  I thoroughly enjoyed this Zin from the cooler growing area of Northern California – a noticable difference from the overdone, hot Zins made by so many along the Central Coast these days, but still loaded with black fruits, vanilla and cassis flavors and a velvety long finish.

2004 Caymus Special Selection & 2002 Fisher Lamb

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

We had a really great dinner with Mark and Kathie last night to celebrate the holidays and to have a reason to open up some really great wine.  Dinner was at Cafe Zacks in Ventura, a small local spot with really great food.  Both wines were excellent.  The Lamb is very smooth with flavors of Chocolate and blackberry.  The Caymus is ever so slightly tighter, but with more flavors.  Cedar and blackberry at first then some peppery spice.  Really nice finish.

 We enjoyed the evening very much and look forward to doing it again soon.  :-)

Is that a bottle of SCREAMING EAGLE!!!

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Basically, these are the words Rob was quietly whispering to me while we were at a party in Encinitas this past weekend.  The story unfolds like this…

We’re celebrating my brother-in-law’s 38th birthday at the same time as his brother’s Xmas party at his home in Encinitas with a small gathering of local friends and co-workers.  Most everyone brought some kind of wine or another, most were not to our taste, such as the large format bottle of Barefoot Merlot – my god, who actually drinks that stuff?  Anyway, Rob was checking out the wine selection from new arrivals when he came across a bottle that looked somewhat familiar – I say somewhat because I think we’ve seen one of these in our lifetime – not actually been able to drink it though.  He grabbed the bottle (still corked) and brought it over to me and asked — is this really a bottle of 1998 Screaming Eagle?  Holy crap!  This was my response and I immediately went to www.wine-searcher.com to check it out.  Wow, anywhere from $1,700 for an Auction all the way to $3,400 for this bottle I was now holding in my hands – very carefully I might add.

Of course our first intention was to pop the cork and drink up, but thought we should probably check with the partier who actually brought the bottle first to make sure they realized what they brought.  Sure enough, he had no clue…said he’s not much of a wine connoisseur and wasn’t sure what to bring from the small selection of mostly French wines and then this one he received as a gift from “Dr. Dre” (rap singer) for some computer work he did for him.  He selected the Screaming Eagle www.screamingeagle.com because it wasn’t an import.  When we informed him of the value, he promptly took the bottle home and brought a nice bottle of Champagne instead.  Can’t say I blame him.

Highlights of the “Super Cab-A-Rama & Meritage Madness Tasting No. 3

Friday, December 14th, 2007

As was expected, there were some heavy hitters in the line up for the number 3 Cabernet Sauvignon tasting at Mark & Kathy Johnson’s www.commanderproducts.com a couple weeks back.  Complete blind tasting, foils removed and bagged, we ended up with a total of 24 wines.  So without further ado, following are the “stars” of the night, the “duds” and the “big surprises” as I saw them – oh yeah, Rob’s notes are included as well.

Top Scorers – “Stars”

Linda – My top scorer was the Caymus ’02 Special Selection www. caymus.com coming in at 9.5 (out of 10) – Ruby red in color, very well balanced between the fruit, acidity and tannins with a super long finish – overall an elegant and fab wine for my tastes.

Rob – Tied for first (9.5 score) was the Neal Family ’02 single vineyard from Howell Mountain www.nealvineyards.com – Big black cherry nose, good balance and the Caymus ’02 Special Selection.  My 2nd choice coming in at 9.2 was the Neal Family as well.

The next top scorers were the Schrader ’04 www.schradercellars.com from Beckstoffer to Kalon Vineyards www.beckstoffervineyards.com – this is your Syrah lovers Cab all the way with big fruit and lots of pepper.  I scored this 8.9 and Rob gave it a whopping 9.0.  Of course out of the 100 point scale, this one was given 97 points by Wine Spectator www.winespectator.com.

Others receiving scores 8.0 or more…

Rob gave the ’00 Harlan Matriarch www.harlanestate.com an 8.5 whereas I thought it showed fruity menthol nose and an unpleasant tanginess on the finish. I revisited this later in the evening and noticed the sharp edges had softened and scored a pleasant 8.0 the 2nd time around.

Both Rob and I scored the Sage Vineyard ’04 from Mt. Veeder www.sagevineyards.com  8.3 and 8.0 respectively.  I thought it might be a blend considering the nice big up front fruits showing, also had some nice spiciness with a hint of vanilla and a long finish.  Rob thought it had some eucalyptus on the nose with a sherry-like finish — interesting.

Rob gave the Ramey ’03 Jericho Canyon www.rameywine.com an 8.0 describing it as dry, but fruity with some spice and lacked a finish.  This to me sounds more like a 5.0!  I gave it 7.5 noting it was still a bit tight and needed some time to open up to help soften the tannins.

Another clash was the ’04 Paul Hobbs from Napa www.paulhobbswinery.com – Rob rated it 8.0 saying it had a big, sweet nose, good flavor, yet dry.  Me, I said 5.6 – we agreed on the sweet part (I described as candy apple) with sharp edges – not worth the $79 if you ask me.

The “Big Surprises” 

The big surprise of the night was the very first wine we tasted – I think we were all shocked by how good it was and a bit hesitant to give it too high a score for being first out of the gate.  It unveiled as 02/03/04 (not sure of the vintage) Rapture from Michael David in Lodi (also produces the 7 Deadly Zins) www.lodivineyards.com.  I gave this one a 9.0 score and Rob gave it an 8.5.

Another surprise was the ’03 Walters Clone by Columbia Crest www.columbia-crest.com – both Rob and I scoring it at 6.5 and 7.2-3/4 (okay, I guess I couldn’t decide) – describing it with a rich, fruity nose, a bit hot with some backbone – After typing this, I wonder why we rated it as high as we did?

We were also surprised (and disappointed) by the ’04 O’Shaughnessy www.oshaughnessywinery.com which was rated 91-93 by Robert Parker www.erobertparker.com.  I gave it 3.8 and Rob 5.0.  Rob said it had a pleasant nose, but tasted thin – I concur, but also said undeveloped and may simply need more time in the bottle.  I actually took the balance of this home with me and tasted it the following day and enjoyed it much more – hard to believe it needed so long to open up, but alas… 

The “duds” of the night…

Padthaway ’02 Henry’s Drive from Australia – just bad wine! I described it as an overripe Pinot with a strawberry nose (2.5), Rob basically said sh@& and gave it a whopping 2.0.

The ’00 Haut-Bages Liberal Bordeaux ($55-$60) – NOT.  You might as well just chew on a bandaid.  I gave it 2.0 and Rob 1.5

Both Rob and I gave the ’00 Bautiste Bodegas Hegry (spelling?) 3.0 – Amber in color (old?), a stinky nose of rotten currants and no finish.  And I gave the ’03 Rusden Barrossa Valley 3.0 (Rob said 1.5 – he really liked this one) – Nose of a fruity barnyard, tastes over-aged/over-ripe, with currants and a medicinal flavor I can’t define.