Archive for March, 2008

Booker ‘05 Ripper vs. Saxum ‘05 Booker Vineyard

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

The venue:  Safire Grill in Camarillo www.safirebistro.com

The occasion: Dinner with friends Mark and Kathie to say “Thank you!”

Okay, so I finally broke down and opened up my bottle of Booker Ripper Grenache www.bookerwines.com  that I’ve been saving – it was not difficult as our friends Mark and Kathie opened their bottle of Saxum Booker www.saxumvineyards.com at the same time.  Both wines were decanted.  The Ripper has higher alcohol coming in at a whopping 16.8% so we poured this one first.  Hard to say anything but a completely amazing bottle of wine.  Although the alcohol is high, it’s disguised so well with the perfect balance between gorgeous ripe fruit, acidity and tannin.  A very dense and complex wine yet as smooth as they come with a terrific silky mouthfeel…superb!

The Saxum is nothing shy of spectacular itself.  This one’s a blend of Grenache and Syrah with the fruit coming from the Booker Vineyard so there’s a lot of similar characteristics.  Just read what Spectator said about this wine – James Laube gave it 95 points and wrote, “shows wonderful aromas of rich, chocolaty blackberry and boysenberry, with a touch of huckleberry.  Dense, concentrated and sharply focused, this finishes with a long, layered, persistent aftertaste.”  My sentiments exactly with an emphasis on the dense and concentrated part, we’re talking inky purple in color.  And between the two, definitely a night of purple-stained teeth that I’d do again in a heartbeat.  Dang, I wish I had another bottle of Ripper!!!

They were both fabulous with subtle differences and I wouldn’t turn down a bottle or a glass of either…ever.  I do think the Ripper was slightly more refined and elegent, but that’s about it.

Now for the food, again, a wow night all around.  Had fabulous appetizers of tuna tartar with baby beets, fresh hamachi with a sliver of jalapeno on each lovely slab (hot).  The salads consisted of cooked, but served at room temperature asparagus garnished with baby beets and a little pile of watercress – lip smackin’ good.  I had the 3-day miso marinated cod that was out of this world – a big juicy portion piled atop a corn and rice ragout (I know there was something else in here too, but I don’t recall what it was), and Rob had a giant sized, fall off the bone tender short rib – delicious.  I’d go here again in a heartbeat too.

Terry Hoage The 46

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Wow, opened a bottle of the ’04 Terry Hoage Grenache/Syrah blend last night and actually had it with pasta. This is definitely a big wine, but not jammy or overpowering so the pairing was a-ok.  This wine has a mouthful of black berry fruits and spice. Very complex with flavors of coffee, cassis and even some blueberries.  Very lush.  www.terryhoagevineyards.com

Pinotpalooza and Porcine Tasting

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

Another great tasting event hosted by Mark and Kathie Johnson.  This blind tasting consisted of 25 Pinot Noir’s all bagged and decanted.  Started out the evening with a porcine feast including asian marinated bacon with amazing flavors, a couple versions of chile verde which were great in a soft taco with onions and cilantro – stay away from the habanero salsa if you want to be able to taste any wine (I made this mistake), carnitas tacos, BBQ pork ribs, pork tamales, rye toasts with swiss cheese, bacon and other goodies, and Alabama pulled pork sandwiches on homemade biscuits with white BBQ sauce.  Everything was fantastic!

I have to say we had some incredible Pinots in the lineup and actually had less than a handful of wines that made your face squinge up – that’s pretty good since we’re talking about Pinot Noir – there’s a lot of bad Pinot to be had these days.

My top ten – in order of preference were:

#1  J. Wilkes ’05 Bien Nacido – light garnet colored, beautiful floral nose with a silky mouthfeel and elegent flavors of red berries. A very balanced wine with a super smooth texture.

#2  Kosta Browne ’05 Keefer Ranch Reserve – A complex and well balanced with fruit, acidity and tannin – an overall fabulous wine I could drink every day of the week.

#3  Kosta Brown ’05 Sonoma Coast – Another winner by KB with a great nose and big juicy fruit and again, complex, yet very well balanced.

#4  Wm. Selyem ’05 Weir Vineyard (sp?) – More fruit than most Pinot’s with bright, ripe red fruit flavors and a great nose – I like this one!

#5  Rusack ’05 Santa Rita Hills Reserve – This one was a surprise, although I think Rusack makes consistantly solid wines which I’ve always enjoyed drinking.  This one had a darker ruby color, sweet ripe fruit with a zingy mid-palate and soft tannic finish which pulls everything together very nicely.

#6  KENNETH CRAWFORD ’05 BABCOCK VINEYARD (sorry, didn’t mean to shout this out!) – Okay, so this wine was the first wine tasted and as I recall listening to comments from around the table such as “this is a good wine”, “I hope they’re all going to be this good”, “wow, great way to start”, etc, etc… I thought it had a fresh berry nose, slightly young (just think how good it will be with another year bottle age), showing nice fruit and acidity with soft tannins on the lingering finish.

#7  Benovia ’06 Sonoma County – Grenache-like sweet nose, zesty strawberry flavors made me think this is a young wine (which it is), tannins a little sharper on finish, but will mellow with some bottle age.

#8  Amisfield ’05 New Zealand – This my be the first New Zealand Pinot I’ve tried and was pleasantly surprised by the abundance of fruit showing through.  It did fall off a bit on the finish though.

#9  Alesia ’04 Sonoma Coast – Cooler region is noticeable in the earthy nose and woody flavors, higher acidity and sharper tannins on finish, but definitely a drinkable wine – not offensive whatsoever.

#10 Beaux Freres ’05 Ripon Ridge – A bit of alcohol on the nose, with big fruit showing on the front and higher acidity.  Definitely a good food wine indeed – although it seems to dissipate on the finish more then I prefer.

Top 5 Dogs of the night were:

#1  Segway ’06 – Has a nice Pinot nose, but no balance – no anything really.

#2  Koehler ’01 – High alcohol and cherries is all I get on this.

#3  Migration ’02 Anderson Valley – Sweet cassis nose with resin and alcohol – definitely old wine here.

#4  Wm Downing ’05 Yarro Valley, Australia – Barnyard nose, very tart/tangy – dumped.

#5  Drew ’06 Fogeater Anderson Valley – Alcohol nose with tart citrus notes, tastes young and bland.

Hug Wines – Paso Robles

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

Augie Hug from Hug Cellars visited the store this week with Bradford Sales Rep, Leah Coles, to taste the new releases.  Most of Augie’s wines are made in the French style to a point.  The just bottled 2007 Sauvignon Blanc is a young and vibrant wine with big guava on the nose and zesty/tangy flavors of green apple. Lots of acidity and a ever-so-slight effervescence to it which is expected to diminish soon.  The 2006 Viognier from Cedar Lane Vineyard has a nice floral and tropical fruit nose which I love about Viognier – lighter styled, less upfront fruit with a round, creamy mouthfeel – a much more smooth and delicate styled Viognier.  The 2006 Pinot Noir from Arroyo Seco is made in the burgundian-style,  light color and quite see-through, with bright fruits and mild tannins, not an overly complex wine, but a definite food-friendly Pinot.  The 2006 Casa Torres Pinot Noir from Santa Maria is a bolder version of the Arroyo Seco, which I’d expect from fruit derived from a warmer weather region, this wine is a bit more complex then the previous Pinot.  2006 El Pape` is Hug’s version of Chateauneuf de Pape Rhone blend – a fun, fruit-filled wine that’s medium-bodied, layers of bright fruit like plums and a nice smooth tannin finish.  Still a bit young, this wine has some nice acidity that makes it a good food wine.  2005 Syrah from Arroyo Seco has a dark ruby red color, yet is a lighter-styled Rhone, it possesses nice black fruit at first sip, then some peppery spice on the mid-palate followed by firm (but not gripping) tannins on the finish – this Syrah could actually pair well with many foods.  Last, but not least is the black label 2005 Bassetti Vineyard Syrah which shows deep dark ruby/purple coloring, some barnyardiness on the nose with juicy blackberry and blueberry flavors, not an in-your-face upfront overload, but pleasantly balanced with pepper, acidity, even some earth intermixed with pepper spice – a lovely wine which will retail around $40.