I’ve been back here in LA for a few weeks now and it’s great. We’ve been having a long spell of overcast, mild weather–perfect light sweater weather. That’s fine with me, especially since I escaped the heat and humidity of the East Coast so recently (as well as the steaming crucible of law school).
Thus, I’ve been able to go to Mission Wines, my favorite local wine spot here in little South Pasadena. I rounded up a crew of the usuals–William, his friend Sam, Chris M. and his gf, Sasha and his gf, and Jack M. from days yore–and we hit up the wine tasting this past Saturday. Manning the bar were the always dependable Dave and Matthew; Kirk from the Rose Bowl committee was there along with a spate of regulars.
The tasting started off with a 2008 Pierre-Marie Chermette “Les Griottes” Beaujolais rosé, made from gamay. A Beaujolais rosé? I mean, much Beaujolais is darn close to rosé, anyway. Nonetheless, this was a nice wine with a vibrant pink color and an austere, slightly coppery taste. It wasn’t sweet and not overtly fruity. It was my first Beaujolais rosé, so I was delighted to have it be a positive experience.
We moved on to a real winner–the 2008 Jorge Ordonez Botani moscatel seco. Botani is owned and operated by that magnate of Spanish wine, Jorge Ordonez, who also imports the excellent Vinicola Onix blend from Priorat and the intense, brooding Juan Gil. Although the Botani vineyard usually produces sweet white wines made from the moscatel grape, the wine I tried on Saturday was off-dry, surprisingly viscous with a huge nose of very ripe muscat grapes. (Have you ever had the Korean drink Sac Sac? It’s grape juice in a can with whole peeled muscat grapes. The Botani reminded me of that.)
The next was the Tantara T. Solomon Wellborn pinot noir from Santa Barbara, a multi-vintage pinot that I honestly found uninspiring and a little too… unfocused? I was glad to move onto the 2007 Bistro Grenache from Epicurean, that Washington-based importer of fine Australian wines. Apparently they have started to dabble in producing their own wines–so far, so good. Sourced from vineyards in the McLaren Vale, this is a straightforward wine: dusky color, dusty plum full of umami, overlaid by a cloying sweetness. I sensed some clove and, I don’t know why or how, some red lipstick–perhaps from the one or two women I’ve kissed in my day? 😉 Pretty good, with a cool hip label:
We strayed off the tasting menu for a pour of a 2006 Essenza di Negroamaro from Italy. This was a bit closed at first but opened up gradually in the glass–well-balanced tannins and a cedar box nose. It sort of reminded me of a fruit rollup, but not in a bad way.
Ah–here was a great one–a truly unique wine. After having tried it at Lou on Vine, I had been looking everywhere for a bottle of a Lacrima di Morro. I wrote about it before, so I’ll just quote from my previous post:
Tears of Morro (Morro being the commune of Morro d’Alba in the Italian province of Ancona, which is on the Adriatic coast).
Lacrima di Morro is a wine whose grape (Lacrima di Morro d’Alba) is of an ancient and confusing origin–so ancient and so confusing, in fact, that its precise genealogy may never be determined.
This wine blew me away because it was like no other wine I’ve ever tasted. Sure, there are other wines whose nose may approximate flowers, but the Lacrima di Morro actually SMELLS like violets. It’s unmistakable. It’s incredible. And when you take a sip, those violets morph on your tongue into petals of rose. The aftertaste is evocative of rosewater–Turkish Delights, anyone? Light body, low-to-medium tannins, and medium acidity make for a playful, idiosyncratic wine.
I don’t remember the producer of that previous version, but this one was the 2007 Lacrima di Morro from Quercia Antica Velenosi. The one I tried last week had the unmistakable violets on the nose, yes, but the first sniff actually reminded me more of fresh blueberry pie than violets. Oh well, a wonderful wine–though not everyone’s favorite, just to be fair.
I scored a pour of the 2007 Domaine Alary “La Brunote” from Cairanne, France: primarily grenache, this was round with just enough tannins to keep things interesting. I found it better than the Bistro Grenache from Australia, but at around $24 or so it was also about $10 more expensive.
We finished off with the 2007 Domaine les Grands Bois “Cuvee Gabrielle” Cotes-du-Rhone Villages, the last pour of the official tasting. This one had pepper and herbs on the nose, a big entry rounding out to a smooth mouthfeel, raisins and the hint of spice. Very good.
My favorite of the day? I had a few actually, for different occasions. The Botani would be a great summer white and probably popular with the ladies. The Domaine Alary would be a great bottle for a cooler day–maybe in the autumn. The Lacrima di Morro would edge out both, however, just for sheer idiosyncrasy. It was extremely satisfying to finally find it; I bought a bottle for my friends to try and bought the last bottle at the store to bring home (my mom and sister loved it, by the way).
Along with the Lacrima di Morro, I bought a bottle of the 2008 Le Bastide Blanche Bandol rosé and, to celebrate my new Riedel Burgundy glasses, I purchased a bottle of the 2007 Cristom “Mt. Jefferson Cuvee” pinot noir from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The Bandol was very VERY austere–dry and permeated with minerals–a pale rust color, and better the second day than the first (especially with some Moroccan-style quail and cous cous!). The pinot was billed as more in the Burgundy style–it was more like a Burgundy than the pinots that so many Californians love, but still more on the opulent than restrained side. It was good, but I’d still take the Kermit Lynch selection from Domaine A. Et. P. De Villaine any day. And, in somewhat of an irony, the Burgundy is cheaper than the Oregon pinot!
Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of great wine lately, and a lot of great people to share it with.