An Extremely Long, Memorable Wine Tasting: Part One (#1 – 6)

24 Feb

LegalZoom = overtime. A lot of overtime. For instance, this means that once every three or four weeks we have to come in for half days on Saturday. Luckily, the time passed relatively quickly and I was able to drive down the 101 South to the 110 North, then exit Orange Grove, then make a left onto Mission Street and, two or three blocks past the Gold Line, pull into the familiar parking lot of Mission Wines and meet up with the usual motley crew of my co-workers, regulars, and newbies for an afternoon of conviviality.

Joining me in the 25-and-under group were some fellow “Zoomers”: Jonathan (not Jonathan Lewis from entries past), a film major from USC; Will, the Guatemalan martial artist who can squat-press over 1,000 pounds; Erica, of Coloradan extraction; and her boyfriend, Jack, the New Yorker accountant.

We were in for a treat: a wine broker was present for the tasting showcasing wines from his portfolio. This portends well because importers, winemakers, and brokers are pretty keen to put forth their best; Saturday was no exception. The five wines on the “official” tasting list were:

1 | 2006 Lioco Chardonnay | Sonoma, California | $19.99
I hate to admit it, but my palate’s not very refined. I sipped this chardonnay and thought I detected vanilla and oak. Hell, I was dead certain I detected vanilla and oak. The broker came over and told us some more about the wine, including the little fact that this chard had not been aged in oak. At all. It had not even touched neutral oak. All stainless steel. I did taste a lot of fruit–very tropical–and some nice acid. A bit of butter–not a big butterball like many other California chardonnays I’ve had. Overall, one of the better chardonnays I’ve had, though I would have to say that I still have never encountered a chardonnay I wanted to take home with me.

2 | 2005 Miura Pinot Noir Silacci Vineyard | Monterey, California | approx. $60.00
Leave it to a woman to say it: Erica, upon tasting this pinot, declared, “Ooh, it tastes expensive”, by which she meant this was a very good pinot noir. Black cherry. Smooth, velvety. Like sleeping on satin sheets, except instead of sleeping you are drinking and instead of satin the sheets are waves of intense fruit flavor. Pretty darn good, though it still has not usurped in my mind the supremacy of the Sea Smoke Southing.

3 | Barrel 27 Grenache | Paso Robles, California | $22.50
Grenache is a grape I feel I should like, for some reason. It originated in Spain, where it is called garnacha. It is generally spicy and berry-flavored. It is light–it is low-tannin, somewhat low in acid, and of a thin color. You can probably find a lot of wines made from grenache in the supermarket aisles, either alone or blended. Some of my favorite wines–including the Charles Cimicky Trumps–include grenache. Grenache is also the dominant part of wines from the Southern Rhone in France, including Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

And yet, I had not up to this point really encountered a good, solid wine made solely of grenache. I’ve had Little James’ Basket from Chateau de Saint Cosme, which is a blend of fruit from both new and old vines, but I wasn’t enthralled: I think the lack of heft was a bit off-putting for me. The Barrel 27, however, was substantial, with cherry or cranberry, spice. It started smooth but ended with a mouth-puckering note of tannin. This may be because 2006 marks the first vintage of this wine from Barrel 27. Nonetheless, pretty solid wine and one I would definitely purchase again.

4 | 2004 Tejada Tempranillo / Grenache | Lake County, California | approx. $40.00
I didn’t really like this one, unfortunately. I found it extremely tannic–even more so than the Barrel 27. According to the broker, the vineyard from which the grapes of the wine were picked is relatively young, leading to the high levels of tannin.

5 | 2004 Worthy “Sophia’s Cuvee” | Napa Valley, California | $29.99
The real winner of the “regular” tasting. Smooth, lush, sweet (maybe from oak?), the scent of roses and fruit wafting from the glass. I especially enjoyed the moderate level of tannin in this wine after the last two tastings.

This cuvee is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and merlot. This was probably the regulation consensus favorite among the tasters. A very powerful, yet feminine wine. Memorable. I would probably take this wine to any important romantic dinner.

Now, for the first round of overtime.

6 | 2004 Egelhoff Cabernet Sauvignon | Napa Valley, California | $75.00 +
Being an older guy at a fraternity had its perks. For instance, I hosted people in my room during any of the many parties and get-togethers thrown by the chapter. Of course, there were meek, excited undergraduates who were fresh from Cow Town or Overprotected Suburb U.S.A. and looking for fast times and free booze. At that period in my life I was a big fan of Early Times whiskey, which came in a plastic bottle, yes, but I thought was delicious and gave Jack Daniels a run for his money. (Hindsight has corrected me of that erroneous line of thought, thankfully!) Before parties I would take the plastic bottle of Early Times and pour it into a fancy glass decanter, then serve the five or six underclassmen who were lucky enough to find themselves in my IKEAd-out room. I still remember the look in their eyes as they accepted this precious liquid from a real glass decanter!

Well, same story for me, now. I’m the naive “freshman” and am thrilled to be served wine from a decanter, especially if the wine being served is the Egelhoff cab. This cabernet was brought by the wine broker and was a special “bonus”–another reason to try to go to tastings at which brokers or importers or winemakers are present.

Man. The bouquet was incredible–flowers and black fruit, a veritable cornucopia of aromas. Big, yet refined. I found that the wine started full but lightened in body once in the mouth. Double cherry, dusty, dusky cherry. Wood and spice. A long, long finish. Smooth and well-balanced tannins. The decanting probably helped a lot in this regard.

This was actually my favorite wine out of the six I had tried thus far–however, “Sophia’s Cuvee” would still probably be my choice as it’s a delicious, accessible, and sexy wine–and heck, it’s less than half the price of the Egelhoff.

I was thoroughly impressed and thankful to have been exposed to some very good wines. But, much to my delight, I wasn’t done. Our party had two more bonus tastings courtesy of Mission Wines, one more bonus from one of the regulars, and two bottles we bought to continue the buzz. We had 11 wines on Saturday, and in the interest of some semblance of brevity I will review the second five at a later time.


5 Responses to “An Extremely Long, Memorable Wine Tasting: Part One (#1 – 6)”

  1. Shea February 26, 2008 at 11:51 pm #

    Nice post – sounds like a fun tasting. As for the Grenache – I’d note that the Les Pallieres has a healthy dose of Grenache (in fact it is the major grape variety in the wine). I’ve found a decent cheap Granache from spain in Las Rocas, which is probably about $8 in the US. It’s not overly tannic and a decent flavour profile for that price level.

    You know I’ve been noticing that French wines tend to be a bit better value than Napa, and often Californian, wines. There seems to be a big marketing upsurge. Although I have to admit that drinking wines from where you live is a great experience and I just found out I’ll be exchanging at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall next year so I’ll be partaking of a ridiculous amount of cali wine next year!

  2. kat February 28, 2008 at 9:54 pm #

    where’s #2?

  3. vinicultured February 28, 2008 at 10:54 pm #

    Shea: I’ve had the Las Rocas but wasn’t too impressed. In fact, I think the low level of tannins was what did in that wine for me. =/

    I’ve noticed that French wines–outside of Bordeaux and Burgundy, of course!–are really good values, too! I especially like wines from the Languedoc, as well as those from Beaujolais.

    Berkeley is awesome. There are some great places to eat/drink there–you have to check out Kermit Lynch on San Pablo. They SPECIALIZE in small production, very high-quality and low-price French wines. Congratulations!

  4. vinicultured February 28, 2008 at 10:54 pm #

    Kat: hold your horses! I’ll write it this weekend!

  5. Shea February 29, 2008 at 11:53 am #

    Ya, I know the name through reputation. I’m really excited to get down there. I’ll have to get some recommendations of good bars/restos from you before I go!

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