Monday, March 24, 2008

Bitten By Condrieu

A white wine from Spain or Italy with the octopus...had been suggested. Spanish white in my cellar..and I am not going to open my last bottle of my favourite Sauvignon Blanc from Italy... Vie di Romans 'Pierre Sauvignon' 2004....yet.

Say Condrieu to the 'normal' wine drinker..and he may not know what you are talking about.It is a small area in the Northern Rhone that produces some of the most exotic wines of the world...but..I should add..the wines are never cheap. On my visits to Portugal..a stop in Condrieu at the Hotel-Restaurant 'Le Beau Rivage'..was part of the ordeal I had to endure passing through France..a wonderful view over the mighty Rhône..the sun shining..a one-star restaurant..and a wine-list full of Condrieu from all the top growers.

That was my first experience of the grape known as Viognier. You never got to taste it anywhere else back then...not in any quality that is...and..once bitten..nothing would ever be the same again.

Calera Viognier Mount Harlan 2006
California, U.S.A.
This wine was once described as '
Dolly Parton Viognier'...but I believe they are trying to tone it down over recent vintages. Ripe, exotic fruits...melon and orange-peel......on the palate..citrus fruit...and nice balance of acidity at the finish. Sounds OK..well.. yes it is..but here is where we started out.This costs 25 will impress new wine drinkers..but if you wanna treat yourself....splash double...and get the real thing.You'll be bitten as well.
Points 16

Sunday, March 23, 2008


The first photo was taken 200 metres below the ocean..with my Polaroid camera... I just held my breath long enough( what! don't believe me..OK..prove it ain't true!!!)..the second photo is in our sink after matter how we arranged still looked like a bad hair-do!

Photo number three is showing in the
and a half hours......and the last click of the camera..was after it had been marinated...
Hans Christian Andersen wrote a story about an ugly duckling turning into a lovely swan...almost applies here.

French Pinot From Baden

I have tried this wine a couple of times..and have given it high marks...even though friends thought I had overdone it. So..after the successful Pinot Tasting still in my mind..I decided to try it again.
Fritz Waßmer Spätburgunder 'R' 2004
Baden, Germany
This is the most 'French Burgundy' German wine I have ever tasted..reminds me of the old days..and this grower learned his trade over the border..lovely ripe, smoky aroma..perfect balance..sweet heavyweight....just strawberry heaven..what else would a lover of the grape wish for?...
Points 18.....and I'm
sticking by it.

Easter means...coloured eggs!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ambiente Italiano

A new venture..the owner, Riccardo Re, had been 'maître d' at another Italian restaurant we used to frequent...but the atmosphere and the food on our last visits left a lot to be desired.
This was annoying as Riccardo Re was the star...perfect service..and had a love for wines.
He recently took over a restaurant and has renamed it 'Ristorante Ambiente Italiano' the birthday boy(me)..took the family along. It was an excellent choice Barry!

Lovely open restaurant..light and friendly...excellent service...super food..and a young wine-list that will be expanded...we had a really enjoyable evening.

Lageder Pinot Grigio 2006
Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

I would order Pinot Grigio when visiting restaurants that had, maybe, only 5 wines on the list..without vintage and grower details. We have all been there.It would
never knock me out..but saved me drinking the other four on offer!

However...from a top is definitely worth trying..and as I didn't want a 'heavyweight' to start the evening..this fitted nicely into the plans.

Straw yellow with a green shimmer... flowery aroma..peaches and somewhat spicy notes..
complex fruit flavors..with the usually mierally crispness.

Points 15.5

The two reds were recommended by Riccardo.....and were excellent choices.
Fratelli Molino Langhe Nebbiolo 2005
Piedmont, Italy

This is a young version of Barolo..made entirely from the Nebbiolo offers red and black cherries..some oak..smoky..lovely balance..has style..and the chalky tannins that tell you it is Italian...earthy..and sweet fruits..drinking nicely now..and a good food wine(as are most Italians)

Points 16

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cerviolo 2003
Toscana, Italy
This is a 'Super Tuscan'
40% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot & 30% Cabernet Sauvignon
A wine to work with..complex aromas of spices, tobacco & coffee...and vanilla popping it's head round the door....then a whiff of blackberries..all this led to a well-balanced wine with rounded tannins....there is a freshness...really enjoyable..
Points 17

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bratwürst & Pinot

Holger Koch Pinot Noir 'R' Special Selection,
Baden, Germany

My guess is...everyone in the you German
speaker or not..knows what Bratwürst is
(you only get the dots over the ü.. on a German's called an Umlaut..end of lesson).
Simply fried in the pan...some toasted dark bread...and..well..usually a normal mustard..but I have a secret..I use the Bavarian mustard only used when eating Weisswürst(white sausage..eaten by the Bavarians BEFORE midday..end of second lesson).
The mustard is a touch sweet..gorgeous with good Bratwürst!..
What better 'marriage'..than something soft and that is...a Pinot matches perfectly.
This one is from Holger Koch..and is a special selection for the merchant..

Pale colour...what else..docile at first..needed a good whiff of air..quite a complex aroma of black berries..this follows on to the palate..spicy...see..perfect Würst wine...minerals hover in the background..this is still young..and is in the mid-price it gets a

Points 16 +

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Douro From Germany

A vineyard founded in 1990. Albrecht Schwengler only does RED wines! The grapes grown are: Zweigelt, Lemberger, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah.

These cuvees are produced.
'Beryll' which consists of Zweigelt & Lemberger
'Granat'..Zweigelt, Merlot & Cabernet Franc which spend 24 months in new oak..
'Saphir'..Zweigelt, Merlot &
and used barrels.
Albrecht Schwegler Saphir 2004
Württemberg, Germany

Deep dense colour...animal aromas..sweet, treacle..Syrah..almost port-like..and this follows into the flavour..dry opening..bold tannins..power wine....if I had tasted blind..I would have said..

Douro Portugal..never Germany..
and certainly not Württemberg...
it needs food...which it got..
although maybe a steak would have
been better (I wasn't sure what
was in the bottle).

I tried it again the next day..the nose has lost some of it's fullness..but the tannins had softened...and it was more forthcoming. My tip now..decant at least 3 hours before drinking..or lay it down. It is not cheap( 35 Euros)...but as you'll never get to buy it
(very little produced) can only dream folks.

Points 17 ...
but this will be marked higher in 3-4 years...

PS..Food..Chicken in thyme with tomatoes & potatoes..all from the oven..looks good..tastes good..and by golly..does you good.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Memorable Pinot Tasting

This is gonna hurt you dear weren't there..but I hope to make you more envious with the following post...

Three friends round to dinner..and the chance to offer them some great Pinots.

I hoped they would show well..but they were better than that...

Au Bon Climat 'Santa Barbara' Chardonnay 2006
California, U.S.A.
The guys were all over the place with this starter...and were dumbfounded to be told it was from California..and a Chardonnay. I guess the main reason is the 'old' days of over-oaked Chardonnays...and it's also been a while since I last ventured into that territory.
This was fresh..oak is used...but from used barrels..flinty..creamy..pears and peaches..stylish wine.....bright, heavyweight is subtle and had a good finish...and was mouth-filling.
This was decanted 2 hours beforehand..and benefited from this. It still needs a year for it to gell..
Points 16+

I had decided on the order we would try the three Pinots...and luckily it worked out..
All were decanted 2 hours before we got our hands on them!! The wines were served blind.

We each had a large Burgundy glass...rather than a separate glass for each wine..and kept going back to the one that appealed to check again.
That works fine if the grape is the same....

Domaine Marie-Thérèse Chappaz à Fully
Grain Pinot Les Esserts 2004
Wallis, Switzerland
What a start! My first thought..oh.oh...
you have begun with the winner...
Creamy, vanilla, roasted aromas...
a bowl of red juicy..a fruit-driven wine..smooth on the palate..
just a delight to drink..
perfect from start to finish.
Points 17.5+

Fürst Bürgstadter Centgrafenberg Spätburgunder 'R' 2005
Franken, Germany
Nose of raspberries and cherries..and that
'marzipan' feeling I get when drinking fine Pinot..
meatier than the Swiss wine..but still with an
elegance and first it seemed 'flat' after
the juiciness of the first wine..but with
every sip it opened..a dense palate..tannins
sweet and ripe..and a classy long finish.
Points 18.5

Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir 'Isabelle Morgan'
Blue Label 2005
Santa Barbara County, California, U.S.A.
Darker colour...very intense nose..thick..
not 'typical' Pinot..this is a complex wine...
I was reminded of eucalyptus..
a mix of flavours bounced on the tongue..
ripe, sweet thick Pinot...
a real pleasure now..
but a sleeping giant.
Points 18+

As you can see..not much between them....
Volker gave them all 18 for various reasons..and Robert..marking in the 100 Points system(didn't realise he could count that high)..he gave them all mid 90's..with the Swiss wine in front. I mentioned..the white wine was decanted....and on the evening I commented how good RED wines look in a decanter..and whites..well...not so good.

Maybe my choice of decanter didn't help.!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Glass Stopper Pinot Goodie!!!

On my dedicated search for the beautiful grape (Pinot)..I ordered a mixed case..which contained a few wines from the U.S. of America.
Calera Wine Company Pinot Noir 2006
Central Coast, California, U.S.A.

Pale 'Pinot' colour..all you Cabernet Sauvignon lovers close your eyes...and a pale rim...aroma..well..can't remember the last that was so strong on fresh strawberries(although others get raspberries)...some black cherries..but it's the red fruit that dominates as you first sip this one....
a fruit driven wine, soft..creamy texture...
well-balanced, with fine-grained tannins that will assure a good future. Most of the grapes come from the cool slopes of Santa Clara and Santa Barbara..and that is the style here..14% alcohol..but just so nicely put together..I almost finished the bottle...
Points 17+

But..I have a question...the bottle had a glass stopper..
do you stand it up when you want to 'lay it down'?

Daft Bird

We recently had part of our garden dug was wood stumps..and it was breaking up..and dangerous to walk on when wet.
It was a bird's paradise towards the end..plenty of juicy worms etc...
Now there is stone..and this daft bird can't figure it it sits on my bike..and thinks...and think..and thinks. In desperation he tries between the stones in the other part of the yard..which means I have to brush up the mess every few days. Maybe I should hang a sign out....

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sommelier Faux Pas

As the previous post was short and to the point.I thought I would add this short anecdote...

A top sommelier in London was asked about the biggest faux pas he'd ever made.

'A table of 6 ordered a bottle of Petrus 1978( at
£600). After the host's approval I started pouring for the other guests. Once the fifth glass was poured the bottle was finished. I said 'this one has run out, shall I bring another?'. The guest wasn't happy.'

The obvious solution would be for the other guests to each pour a drop into the 6th glass..but as my humour is well reply would have been...'bring him a glass of the House Red!!'

Laroche Chablis 2003

Michel Laroche Chablis 2003,
Burgundy, France
Ripe smell of mushrooms..
even truffles...
led to a rather flat flavour...
a touch acidity

would have helped..
but the hot vintage 2003
has left this wine one-dimensional.
No idea of the price as it was a present...
so no plus points for being good value..
mark it as it tastes.

Points 14.5

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sour Cabbage Matching

My guess is..those of you outside of
Germany..and Alsace..know nothing..
or very little..about Sauerkraut.
I have grown to like it..after the initial
shock 30 years ago. Served with mashed 'sour cabbage' is
accompanied by boiled pork, some blutwürst
(you can guess at the translation)..
and some liver sausages(my favourite).

The perfect match, bar none, is a Riesling.
I had ordered this odd a mixed make up the numbers really.

Lieser Niederberg Helden Riesling Auslese** 2003
Mosel, Germany
Tropical fruits..intense...some honey..creamy and perfect balance..this is an Auslese..which doesn't mean 'sweet' is the quality of the grapes.

This is not a trocken..which would have been a better pairing...this is the type of wine that some drinkers would sip at 11am with a biscuit...but that's not my style..and this was not a perfect match with my 'kraut'..not the wine's was just a touch too much weight..although the acidity held it together...

So..drink this maybe alone...I should have had Joe's wine..which is the perfect match.

Points 17

Sunday, March 09, 2008

No Doubting Dautel

I re-ordered some of the good wines tasted recently
from Württemberg..unfortunately..after paying the invoice..
the shop informed me 2 bottles were out-of-stock.
I told them to surprise me with 2 of their choice.
The wine below is one of them.
At first I thought it was the 'S' version which had been
enjoyable but not one I had planned to try again.
Double checking I realised this was the 'simple' version...
about Euros 8 less in price.
As often happens..the lesser wine can show better in it's youth..
and here is an example.

Dautel Spätburgunder **** trocken 2005 Wurttemberg, Germany
Pulled the cork and smiled..I was paid back immediately..
Pale colour, this is for now..sweet, juicy,
smoky, bowl of forest fruits...easy on the palate, slim-line style...almost gulpable..(would I gulp......noooooooooo)..but it is real easy to drink..and a good finish.

Points 16+

Friday, March 07, 2008

New Zealand Pinot Noir # 5

Te Kairanga Pinot Noir Runholder 2004 Martinborough,New Zeeland

Tight,full sweet fruit aromas, dark cherries...delicious mouthful of
soft fruit, spices and soft tannins...
fuller style..not as elegant as the Isabel..
a little more jammy..but reined in and has
the potential to age for 5 years.
Very enjoyable.
Points 16.5

Well..that's 5 of the 6 from my mixed case of New Zeeland Pinot Noir...the simple bottle of Sunshine Bay left I will taste at a later date..I want to retire on a high note!
To summarise...some you win..some you don't..two bottles were was a badly stored bottle..the Isabel was lovely..and the
Te 8 Euros less..probably the better value..but what the heck....the Isabel wins!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

New Zealand Pinot Noir # 4

Bump! Bump! Bump!

Back to earth with a bump...although this may have been badly stored somewhere..has that feel and we go...

Felton Road, Pinot Noir 2002
Central Otago, New Zeeland

What did I expect..well..a soft, riper wine than the previous ones...some cherries maybe...probably at it's peak..with a touch of age..a serious contender for wine of the 6.
What I got was..burnt, meaty Pinot attractive sweetness..just a dry winey smell..on the palate..about the same..some tannins..and the acidity was left on it's own..cos there is no fruit..a little medicinal...a one-off bad bottle? can only hope so.

Points 13.5

Best part of the evening were the duck liver and mushrooms....

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

New Zealand Pinot Noir # 3

A sinner is saved!...or maybe I wasn't that bad after all..otherwise the run of 'ordinary' Pinot from New Zeeland would have maybe continued..

Joking aside...I am glad that finally something visited my palate that made my grin wider.

Isabel Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2004
Marlborough, New Zeeland

Two rules that usually mean a good wine

1.Even when it is should still be able to see the basis for a good wine

2.Any wine that starts..has a middle.. and finishes with the same feel and balance...has never disappointed.

Both true with this wine..although it is very drinkable should fill worth laying down..or maybe it should be standing it is a screw cap.

Point 2 is even more applicable..this smells, tastes and finishes without any waves or hurdles that deter from it's pleasure.

A real sweet strawberry smell...spicy and even a touch seductive..constant throughout...exotic flavour, marzipan thick fruit...with fine soft tannins...and a very pleasant fruit driven finish..

This reminded me in style of Dr Heger's Spätburgunder from Baden which is indeed a compliment.
Points 17+

Monday, March 03, 2008

New Zealand Pinot Noir # 2

Pinot Noir is Sexy! is to me...

A top Burgundy in the glass does more for me
than images of Britney Spears or Amy Winehouse (mind you..a glass of house wine at the local Pizzeria would do that as well).

Over the last few years my 'turn-on' has been German and still more affordable than Burgundy... I suppose living in Germany helps...some of the prices I have seen for them abroad have been on a par with the French...can't understand that..same distance!

Always looking for new exotic experiences (still talking wine here)..I purchased the 6 pack of New Zeeland is number 2..

Lindis River Pinot Noir 2004
Central Otago, New Zeeland

Cedar I thought..but it developed a reserved, elegant, light raspberry but dry aroma..NOT SEXY... can develope...let's check the palate..pretty much the same...medium weight..fruit was a little velvety..but...NOT SEXY....not sure where the winemakers want this to go..if they say leave it a few is over three years old now and..ugly ducklings don't turn into pretty swans just like's a good glass..of wine...not a SEXY one..of Pinot.

Help....4 more bottles to go.....

Points 15.5