Tag Archives: malbec

2006 Sedna Malbec from Flavio Senetiner

17 Apr

This is rare: a quick ‘n’ easy review of a single wine, divorced from my rants on coffee or family reminiscences or comparisons to women.

I went down to Chronicle Wine Cellar on the corner of California and Lake.  (I have a Yelp review of this place here.)  I love Chronicle Wine Cellar because it’s so small and unpretentious–it’s on the bottom floor of a rundown apartment building, for God’s sake!  They also offer a very good selection of wines at dirt-cheap prices.

I spent all of $22.47 on three wines: the one I am drinking now is the “Sedna” malbec from Flavio Senetiner.

It’s a malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina, named after the furthest planet in our solar system.

I had selected a sparkling wine (for the ladies) and a rosé (because of the heat) and wanted to get a smooth-drinking, easy red to round out my trio.  It was either between a shiraz from Australia or this malbec.  Both were at the crazy price of $5.95.

I selected the malbec for the maybe fallacious reason that Argentina wines are generally cheaper as a whole than Australian wines–thus, I had more of a chance of finding a decent, cheap Argentinean wine than a decent, cheap Australian wine.

The verdict?

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Another Reason Why My Teeth Are Getting Stained

17 Apr

I am a huge fan of coffee. It shouldn’t be surprising, given that my earliest memories of family life were those of my father driving the Cadillac with one hand on the wheel and the other gripping a precariously full cup of coffee, and my mother daintily sipping from a mocha and eating delicate pirouettes at the Farmer’s Market. Having attended Berkeley and “studied” at its myriad cafes led me further down the coffee trail, and now, years from my first small sips of coffee and milk, I found myself at Groundwork Coffee Co., gawking at a flier that stated in no uncertain terms that I could, for a mere three dollars, have a 16-ounce cup of Panama “La Esmeralda Especial”.

This coffee varietal made waves for being sold at auction last year for $130 a POUND (and you thought Starbucks was expensive!). Groundwork managed to procure some from the same farm and was selling their beans for the slightly more manageable price of around $80 a pound. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many people willing to shell out that much for their morning joe.

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What Kind of Wine Would YOU Be?

3 Mar

I’m an aspiring writer of poems (“poet” seems a bit… pretentious… at least at this point). Maybe you could make it broader and say that I’m just an aspiring writer. As such, I’m always finding the symbolism in this life. After all, what else is our consciousness except for symbols?

Philosophy and semantics aside, I’ve thought a lot about the symbolism inherent in wine. There’s a lot: the land as woman, the farmer as man (I know, I know–some might object to this rather antiquated system, but it’s there, and I’m sticking to it); the grapes as the land; the vineyard as the soul of the land. Etc., etc., etc.

Quite a few posts back I wrote about how one of my earliest experiences with wine was with an older, beautiful junior transfer of Spanish extraction. Her skin was tanned and smooth; her eyes dark, her lips full and sensual. She held a bottle of syrah and offered me a glass. It was as if she was offering me the essence of life.

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An Extremely Long, Memorable Wine Tasting: Part Two (#7-11)

1 Mar

Finally some free time in which to write about the remaining five wines from last Saturday’s Mission Wines tasting!

7 | 2004 Arzuaga Navarro Crianza | Ribera del Duero, Spain | $29.99
This was the seventh wine of the series, second round of overtime. Dave from Mission Wines was kind enough to pour the party a tasting of this really excellent tinto fino (as tempranillo is known in this region) from the dry river of Duero. Being a crianza, it was aged for thirteen months in oak. I was expecting it to be huge and powerful, expecting some forceful tannins (I’ve found tempranillo from Ribera del Duero is “stronger” or more assertive than those from Rioja), but this wine was surprisingly smooth. Plummy, a little hint of leather. I think this wine probably benefited from my having tried the tannic firebombs of the Barrel 27 and the Tejada beforehand.
I would love to compare this one to the Tinto Pesquera, which is another wonderful tinto fino from Ribera del Duero.

(95% tinto fino, 3% merlot, 2% cabernet sauvignon)

8 | Sean H. Thackrey “Pleiades XVI” | Bolinas, California | $23.99
This is a crazy wine. Dave poured this for the party and told us to try and guess what it was. I sniffed and got menthol. A lot of menthol, as in eucalyptus. I also detected a bit of anise as well as other herbs.

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This picture is from an older vintage, but you get the picture.

The taste was amazing and yet, very polarizing. No one else in my group liked it at all. Erica compared it to drinking rubbing alcohol. Someone else said it was like Listerine. I can understand: the menthol did impart a bit of a fiery element to the wine, and it did have a fair level of acid. However, it was complex and unlike any other wine I’ve ever had. Tar and citrus, earth and fruit. I don’t know quite how to describe it other than it’s probably the most interesting wine I’ve had in a while and one that every “serious” wine drinker should pick up.

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Spring in a Glass: 2006 Ampelos Rosé of Syrah

9 Feb

I am not the biggest fan of white wines. Anything lighter than, say, a pinot noir is subject to my intense scrutiny and occasional disdain. Even pinot noirs are not on safe ground: it’s the rare pinot that I like. Beaujolais and beaujolais nouveau are lighter than pinot noir but I like them for some reason–they’re whimsical, easygoing wines.

My first exposure to rosés was when I worked at Adagia Restaurant in Berkeley–specifically, we had Brander Vineyard’s Chateau Neuf de Pink and Domaine Tempier’s Bandol rosé. From what little I remember of those two wines, I liked Tempier–it had an austere quality, bone-dry. All I remember of Brander’s selection is chef Brian Beach poking fun at the name.

All in all, however, I was unimpressed. Reds–especially the brooding malbec and the sensual shiraz–were still my willing mistresses.

That changed when I tasted the Ampelos Rosé of Syrah last year. It was the late summer, hot as heck. “Teeth-staining” and “tannic” were not the qualities I was looking for in my wines, let alone any beverage. At a tasting they poured the Ampelos rosé and it was love at first taste.

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Nuevo Tango

2 Feb

I just came home from another tasting at Mission Wines. I love that place–most of all because it’s like five minutes from where I live.

So it stands to reason that I’ve had a bit to drink–actually, a lot to drink. But the alcohol has been somewhat counteracted by two soft tacos and a carne asada burrito, courtesy of the taco truck on the corner of Fair Oaks and Bellevue.

I’m at home right now, comfortably numb and full of good, hearty Mexican food. I’m listening to some nuevo tango: Pablo Ziegler & Quique Senesi. Pablo Ziegler apparently is the heir of Astor Piazzolla, that master of the bandoneón (a relative of the accordion that is especially popular in the tango music of Argentina) who originated nuevo tango, or new tango.

Nuevo tango is characterized by non-traditional elements, especially those of classical and jazz, incorporated into traditional Argentine tango. It is apparently derided by purists, but Astor Piazzolla and nuevo tango are a big reason why tango is as popular as it is outside of the Latin world.

I have a suggestion. Download “Adiós Nonino” off of the Live Lugano 13 Ottobre 1983, or Adiós Nonino album. Download “Escualo” and “Libertango” off the same album (the latter is one of Pizzaolla’s most popular pieces). Then, download “Milonga del Angel” off of Tango: Zero Hour. After you have been introduced to those singles, listen to “Los Mareados” by Pablo Ziegler.

And, if you can, listen to these with the lights off, a candle or two burning, some deep, dark malbec from Mendoza straining against its glass enclosure. Close your eyes. Smell the amber scent of her skin as she puts her cool hands over your eyes, and sink into the sensation of the bandoneón dueling with the violin for your heart against the throbbing pulse of the double bass.

Mmm Mmm, Malbec!

20 Jan

I love malbec. The best are sensual, sexy, full-bodied red wines that, at a price range between $7.99 – $11.99, are a great bargain.

It’s sort of an immigrant grape. One of the up to six grapes used in Bordeaux wines, it rarely took center stage except in other more “rustic” regions like Cahors. (One example is the really excellent Clos La Coutale from Cahors, which is a bit southeast of Bordeaux. The Clos La Coutale is 70% malbec, 15% merlot, and 15% tannat. This Kermit Lynch selection has the finesse and grace of a fine merlot but the suppleness of a Argentine malbec.) It took the importation of this grape to the New World in the mid-1800s to give malbec the home it deserved.

The growing conditions in South America–especially Argentina–were ideal for malbec, which requires more sun and heat than cabernet and merlot (its more famous compatriots). This allows for New World wines that are 100% malbec.

My favorite malbec is from Maipe, which is an intense, staining shade of deep purple. It almost pulses with an animal, sensual energy. There are dusty fruit aromas that, upon drinking, fill your mouth with an utterly satisfying, powerful explosion of plum, chocolate, earth. It’s a bronze fist covered with a silk glove. It is delicious by itself, with chocolate, with anything you can throw at it–I wouldn’t, however, pair it with fish or anything too delicate. The Maipe would destroy any gentle partner.

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Farmer’s Market and Cost Plus Market

9 Jan

So after a hiatus consisting of a few days of unremarkable wine (a bottle of [yellow tail] shiraz seduced me with its fanciful clothing, slender, sleek neck, and cheap price–much to my regret) and long, dreary days at LegalZoom.com, I managed to catch up with my college friend Will Gordon. He was in town, visiting from Berkeley, and we dropped by my perennial favorite–the Farmer’s Market on Fairfax.

Dinner was at the dependable Monsieur Marcel, which has a wonderful ambiance in the evening. A beautiful, dark brunette smiled to me from the wine bar (at least, I thought it was me!), so things were already taking a turn for the better as we were seated.

I had a glass of rosé from Chateau de L’Escarelle–in Provence–made from cinsault and grenache. It was wonderful–absolutely breathtakingly fresh, full of ripe strawberry, not in the least bit cloying. It was light but had substantial heft for a rosé. And at $6.49 a glass (one of the less expensive wines on the menu) it was nice to my wallet. This wine reminded me of another wonderful rosé, the Rosé of Syrah from Ampelos Cellars of the Santa Rita Hills in California:

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Will had a glass of the 2004 tempranillo from Bodegas Ercavio. It was fruitier than other tempranillos I’ve had–less vanilla from oak. (Maybe this is because Bodegas Ercavio is not in Rioja, which has a reputation for oakiness.) It was a light, pleasing red, and well-priced at $6.99.

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Sparkling Pinot Noir: Mission Wines Tasting

30 Dec

At Mission Wines, my friends and I are the sole representatives of the 25 and under demographic.

It’s a bit sobering to chip in five or ten bucks each for a $20 or $30 bottle of wine–nothing to shake a stick at–and watch as silver-haired gentlemen wearing well-worn L.L. Bean vests and Eddie Bauer sweaters carry out cases (CASES!) of $50 wine to their idling sports cars.

That’s why I love going to wine tastings. For $10 I can try five different wines. Nothing’s worse than spending good money on a vaunted bottle of wine and finding that it’s terrible. (I guess the same goes for first dates, eh?)

The five wines at the tasting today were:

  • Juve y Camps Brut Rosé | Sparkling Pinot Noir (Sant Sadurini D’Anoia, Spain)
  • Breggo Ferrington Vineyard | Sauvignon Blanc (Anderson Valley, California)
  • Luzon | Monastrel/Syrah (Jumilla, Spain)
  • Chateau Puygueraud Cotes de Francs | Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Malbec (Bordeaux, France)
  • Graves | Syrah (Paso Robles, California)

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