Thursday, December 31, 2009

The long awaited non-Cayuse 2009 Top Ten!

Here it is...the long awaited (by few!) Top Ten wines of 2009 that weren't Cayuse. A couple of these were included on the list not due to their score, but because the excited me or moved me in some way. Enjoy...

10. 2007 Sleight of Hand Chardonnay The Enchantress
Popped and poured. This wine has certainly grown and become more integrated even in the four short months since the last time I drank one. Bright yellow, accented with a slight green hue, this wine begs for you to take a sniff. Once that occurs--you are hit with apples, unripe pears, hints of spicy oak, cinnamon, stones, and citrus. Brighter acidity than I remember, as the weight of the oak has dissipated for the most part leaving behind a fresher palate characterized by lemon/lime, white flowers, steel, and a nice dose of minerality. The freshness continues on the finish as a heathly acidic cut plays well with the baked apple. Sadly, I only have one bottle of this left. Time for Trey to dip into the personal stash! 92pts

9. 2007 Carlisle RRV Syrah
As I stared longingly at this bottle of inky purple goodness, a tear trickled down my cheek as I realized it was my final bottle. Someone once said, "All good things must come to an end." F#@k that person as he had never had a $19.50 bottle of wine this good. I always secretly hope my bottles of Carlisle are crap (well, not really) since everyone and their mother gush about this winery, but alas, they are always freakin' tasty. A tip of my sweaty University of Washington golf cap to you, Mr. Officer. Oh yeah, the wine...Dark and brooding purple, accented by ruby edges, this wine gets all up in your nostrils and invades your personal space. Smoked bacon, violets, berry jam, blackberries, pepper, and asian spice announce that you are about to enjoy yourself. Full bodied (not in an 18th century rubenesque sort of way but in a 21st century healthy Jennifer Connelly sort of way) but not overly dense, this wine has a certain lift that's hard to explain. It just simply awakens your taste buds. Bright blue and black fruit fill your mouth to the rim and you actually fight swallowing (insert proverbial wife joke here), but when you do, the sticky tannins and hints of receding oak balance the ripe fruit perfectly and what you are left with is the feeling of pure drinking pleasure. When I was 19, pure drinking pleasure was MGD and Cuervo Gold and now, it's 2007 Carlisle RRV Syrah! 93pts

8. 2006 Saxum Bone Rock JBV
It was cool to bring this as a couple people had never drank a Saxum before, so I figured why not bring out a big gun. Decanted for around two hours, this puppy was rockin' from the get go. Big nose of blackberries, blueberries, jam, meat, and spice. Waves of ripe dark berry fruit in the mouth along with chocolate and even some spicy oak. As usual, everything is seamless so there's no hint of heat or tannin. This was so good now but will get even better with a few years under its belt. 95pts

7. 2007 Reynvaan The Contender Syrah
A contender it is! Nose was a bit muted but coaxed out some blackberries, dark cherry, and even a bit of bacon. The mouthfeel was pure elegance (co-fermented w/ marsanne). A heft again without the weight revealing a lushness I haven't had in such a young wine. Concentrated ripe fruit, stones, smoked pork. This was fantastic. Dale even remarked to our friend, Randy, that is was going to be all downhill from there! 94pts

6. 2004 Boudreaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
Opened about 30 minutes before gulping it down. I was shocked at how blood red this wine is, not blue/purple at all like Quilceda. Buttloads of red fruit on the nose--pomegranate, cassis, and cherries along with camphor, red licorice, and my favorite of all, sweat. That's right, sweat. Not in a SEC 300lb. defensive lineman kind of way but in a Megan Fox kind of way. Lush and smooth in the mouth without ever being fleshy. Loaded with red fruits and raspberry liqueur showing great mouth density but never venturing toward excess weight. This wine was so balanced with lip smacking acidity paired with the red fruit sweetness with no signs of tannin, tartness, or oak. It was so suave and polished that I'm surprised the label isn't in the shape of an Armani tuxedo. Damn good. 95pts

5. 2007 Dauvissat Chablis La Forest
Popped and let sit for 30 mins. This baby possessed such a vibrant yellow color that it furthered my already high expectations. After about 5 minutes of swirling, I think I resigned myself to the fact that I opened this too early (it was fairly open two months ago). It was so tight that my wrist hadn't been this sore since the first time I laid my eyes on the gorgeous Heather Thomas in an episode of the Fall Guy. After tons of coaxing, I finally could distinguish some Meyer Lemon and granite on the nose. Muscular, with enough acid to provide a backbone that would make a T Rex proud, hints of spicy apple, and enough stones to put African blood diamonds out business...this is built for the long haul. This may be the first time that I've felt guilty popping the cork too early but it was so good in February. Still a 92 point wine, with the stuffing to be a 95 pointer in 5-10 years. 92+ pts

4. 2007 Domaine Pierre Usseglio Cuvee de Mon Aieul
I have been anticipating this wine for a couple of years now. I can't imagine it could ever have lived up to expectations. It wasn't as accessible as the 2006 out of the gate but has tons more potential. A little darker than I expected with a nose of cherry liqueur, black currants, spice, and garrigue. Never hot but just jam-packed with ripe fruit, glycerine, and tons of chocolate. This wine is just so big but never close to approaching over the top with its sweetness and structure. If you're lucky enough to own multiple bottles, drink one now for the experience, but let the rest sleep for awhile as this is going to only get better. 95+++++pts

3. 2006 Donnhoff Norheimer Dellchen Riesling Grobes Gewachs Trocken
OMFG. That is all I could say after my first smell of this goldilocked beauty. Sit in my chair, eat my porridge, and sleep in my bed antyime you little vixen. Gorgeous bright straw yellow color that when swirled made you dream of that blonde 20 year old Swede you saw in Nice when you were 18. Immediate aromas of stones, white peaches, Japanese pears, and starfruit syrup keep you bottled up in that dream. Once it hits your lips, concentrated quince, citrus, and minerality pummel your taste buds into submission. The interplay between restrained sweetness and mouth shocking dryness bob and weave over your tongue as deftly as the Champ himself, Muhammad Ali. Layer upon layer of riesling complexity, density, and lusciousness made me furious for only buying 2 bottles of this Teutonic beauty. 94pts

2. 2004 Kongsgaard Syrah Hudson Vineyard
My WOTN! You could just tell from the first smell that this was going to kick ass. Nose of mocha, ripe blue fruit, pepper, funky animal fur (similar to a certain WA State winery whose wines I've occasionally liked ). Huge in the mouth with blueberries and blackberries that had every bit of life squeezed out of them. Lush and silky but radiant and enlivened your taste buds. Century long finish. Ridonkulous. Thanks Steven! 97pts

1. 2005 Saxum Bone Rock JBV
Popped this herculean wine Saturday night to celebrate my Dawgs' Pac-10 Championship. After several bottle of Saxum, one cannot imagine that these wines can get any better or top the previous bottle but that would be wrong. Just plain wrong, my friend. This was a powerhouse from the get go. Resisting my natural urge to pop and pour, I opened this beauty and let it sit for over an hour. Immediate aromas are intoxicating with the likes of black cherry, kirsch, a little gaminess, five spice, tobacco, and a smack of pure blue fruit. Massively dense on the palate but somehow surprisingly seems light on its feet. Gushes of concentrated black raspberries and boysenberries balance out the heat to give you a delectable sweetness without ever losing its laser focused, even scary elegance. Bacon, some smoky oak, and hints of gaminess further harmonize the scale of sweet and savory. A lingering and thought provoking finish leads me to the belief that Saxum is easily one of the top three of four Rhone Rangers in the US. Monumental stuff! 97pts

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top Ten Cayuse Wines of 2009

I decided to follow end of the year protocol and publish a Top Ten Wines of 2009 list, but when I started to compile my list it was dominated by a certain winery that loves the rocks. I don't mean Joker vs. Batman domination where each guy gets their licks in. I mean USA vs. Germany (you're welcome England) where we kicked their ass twice in 30 years kind of domination. So, I decided to put together two top ten lists...One completely of the best Cayuse wines I drank in 2009 and a second list comprised of the best of the rest...

10. 2006 Cayuse Cailloux Vineyard Syrah
New World, overhyped, love it or hate it, lightning rod syrah...oh, how I've missed you. Typical Cailloux aromas of freshly cracked peppercorns, blue fruit, minerals, flowers, and something I've never noticed before from this vineyard, black tea. As with most bottles of Cayuse, I could sit and smell it for hours and be content but with my friend Rico present, I needed to imbibe prematurely or else risk him bogarting the entire bottle. I know most of you consider me a blind promoter or shill for Cayuse but there just aren't many wines that can wake up your mouth the way these can. Immediate taste of ripe macerated blackberries followed by tart cherries, pepperoncini, pork, and spiciness fill you mouth. Kind of get that sweet vs. savory thing going on that chefs love. No tannins and no oak allow the densly packed fruit to take you to that faraway place we all nirvana. 94pts

9. 2006 Cayuse Flying Pig
Drank this puppy on NYE after a 2006 Saxum Broken Stones and was blown away with the complexity and uniqueness this displayed. It shouldn't have surprised me as Christophe's bordeaux varietals just keep getting better with each successive vintage as they develop the typical Cayuse personality of being like no other wine on the planet. Darkly red, the initial aroma on this baby flared your nostrils like smelling salts. Dominated by smoke roasted poblano peppers, it felt like I was strolling through an old town Mexican outdoor market. It took some time for the fruit to show up for the party as juicy plums and a bit of almost ripe strawberries made a cameo appearance. Spicy oak enlivened the mid-palate and a lengthy finish with hints of menthol left my homeys and me scrambling to beat the others to the bottle for the last glass. Poblanos, plums, smoke, and menthol...hard to beat in a cab franc! 94 pts

8. 2006 Cayuse Impulsivo
Popped the cork and set aside for about 45 minutes while we drank the Donnhoff. The color out of the bottle was a deep, dark blue accented by blood red edges. Your nose is immediately blasted with the blackest of black cherries, crushed blackberries, olive, woodsmoke, sandalwood, and some sort of rare grilled game meat. The savory qualitites are all Cayuse trademarks and when paired with the ripe fruit, your nose becomes the Valhalla of convergence zones. The palate mirrors the nose as superconcentrated dark fruit fills your mouth eventually yielding to the carnal pleasures of blackened lamb, blood, and a distinctly saline minerality. An impressively heavy finish with Manute Bol like length had my tongue scouring the inside of my mouth for the next hour. 95 pts

7. 2005 Cayuse God Only Knows Grenache
If there ever could be a wine that can overwhelm yet be so restrained and understated, this is that wine. The best analogy I can come up with is this...You have just scored general admission seats to your all-time favorite band's gig (for me that would be Pearl Jam or Alice 'n Chains or Iron Maiden). You camp out a couple days in advance so you'll be one of the first people in and secure your rightful spot in front of the stage. The anticipation from everyone in the arena is palpable--we are about to have our ears drums blown out! The band finally saunters on stage without electric guitars and a huge drum kit but with acoustic guitars and a single drum. They announce tonight will be a special "unplugged" concert. You can tell everyone in the crowd is a bit shocked but once the show begins they are blown away by how powerful, amazing, and moving a stripped down "unplugged" show can be. That's how this wine made me feel.
A gorgeous meduim-dark red out of the bottle. Initial aromas of enriched red fruits, an ever so hint of smoke, rocks, and a floral component that I could never quite pin down. So lush and smooth in the mouth with crushed strawberries, raspberry ganache, and a little tobacco to leaven out the sweetness. All components seemed to be in perfect harmony. I can't mention enough how luxurious yet understated the mouth feel was, simply intriguing. It finishes very strong with some cocoa notes and sweet spice. I think this wine will continue to develop more complex flavors and undertones as it ages. 95 pts

6. 2006 Cayuse Armada Vineyard Syrah
Splash decanted this beast for about 15 mintues and then poured it back into the bottle. Before pouring it back into the bottle I decided some sniffs were in order. Boy am I glad my right hand was firmly planted on the counter as the smell of this wine literally almost knocked me on my ass. 100 point nose for me. Stinky animal fur, rare game meat, cabbage, sour pickles, and even a little raspberry. I showed amazing restraint (generally not a word that describes me) and did not pour myself a glass, instead waiting until dinner. After a Donnhoff and an aged CdP, I was salivating as my glass was filled. Ruby red with flecks of purple, the nose continued its display of perfection. More meat, cabbage, fur, and bacon. I finally took a taste and realized this wine possesses some kind of crazed intensity that reminded me of Mike Singletary, eyes wide, circa 1985 and I was the trembling quarterback across the line of scrimmage. Every note and nuance seems to be magnified in this wine. The fruit and game meat, especially. The length leads me to believe this wine will age for years. As good as this wine is now, it needs some time to settle down but when it does--lookout! 96 pts

5. 2006 Cayuse En Chamberlin Vineyard Syrah
Wow, another over-oaked, over-extracted, manipulated Aussie bomb from Cayuse. Hardly (that was just a quick shout out to the haters!). Hamburgers are to Wimpy as Cayuse En Chamberlin is to me. Except I'll pay you any day of the week not just Tuesday. Pop and pour was the serving style du jour for this beast. The anticipation is palpable as you know exactly what this wine will smell like, but then it delivers an even stronger Mike Tyson Punch-Out styled KO. Immediate aromas of animal fur, blood sausage, pepperoncini, herbs, pulverized black raspberries and blackberries, and a surprise of violets. 100 point nose for me, all the way. Unctuous and dense in the mouth at first, leading the way to huge, extracted (not over, mind you) dark fruit. I felt like Chaka on Land of the Lost sitting around with black cherries and blackberries the size of Drew Carey's head. Luckily, the savory components never let this fruit get out of control as sauvage, rare beef, iron, and stony minerality keep it in check. Everything is in balance. No presence of oak with seamless and plush tannins. As any great wine should, it finishes as it begins with length and an aftertaste that I could chew on for days. This wine was a 5 course-dinner and then some. 97pts

4. 2004 Cayuse En Chamberlin Vineyard Syrah
Essentially popped and poured. There was a time when I thought the odd number years of the En Chamberlin were kickin' ass and taking names and now after drinking both the 06 and 04 recently, we seem to have a legitimate fight on our hands. Grimace purple (yes, as in the Mickey D's dude), this wine needs no introducion. The aromas of this wine I've chronicled numerous times in the past so I won't bore you with the details other than to say if you enjoy sticking your nose deep into a pot of provencal stew, then you will certainly love the smell of this wine. When you finally gather the nerve to take a taste, your mouth is reminded why one aspect of being a human is so great--the thirst for blood and meat. You feel like a caveman squating on a boulder digging into a nicely cooked leg of some animal. An Ivy League educated caveman, mind you, as this wine gives you plenty to think about. Not for the wine drinker who just enjoys plush, ripe fruit but for the adventurous wine drinker who searches out both the savory qualities of meat, blood, and vegetables as well as the sweet-tooth satisfying berries. When you finally swallow this beast, then hunt is on for a piece of wood to pick all of the meat out of your teeth as this wine builds a fire and plans on staying the entire night. 97pts

3. 2006 Cayuse Bionic Frog
Ah, the liquid nectar of the gods. One of the true pleasures in this world is drinking someone else's Bionic Frog so you don't have to lessen your own personal stash by one. Thanks Dad, and thanks to the sucker who let this go for $85 at silent auction! Deep purple with ruby red edges, this wine exuded Cayuse class from the get go. Now Cayuse class may be different from the dictionary definition of class, i.e. Sophia Loren or Jackie O. Cayuse class is down and dirty. Intial aromas of crumbled earth, smoked meat, picked fennel, some black raspberry, and a heavy dose of minerality. Christophe's wines are starting to show such a depth of minerality that I now believe we need to add another element to the periodic table--Cayusium--with the symbol Fg for f*@king good. Not quite as intense as the 03 I had recently, but maybe a touch more complex. Sweet layers of dark fruit interwoven with briny olives, soy, umami, pepper, and even more minerality. The balance this wine achieves with sweet vs. savory is bordering on genius. No noticeable oak or tannin on the back end allows the finish of brown spices and blueberries to linger on your palate for minutes. Free Bionic Frog rocks. Dad, let's open that 05 this weekend! 97pts

2. 2003 Cayuse Bionic Frog
Sh#t. This was the three D's...dark, dense, and dominating. For me, most of the funk has blown off this wine and a lean, mean fighting machine is left. Tons of iron, blood, soy, and game accented by concentrated blue fruits. Hefty and lengthy finish. So close to perfection. 99pts

1. 2005 Cayuse Cailloux Vineyard Wallah Wallah Syrah Neutral Barrel
This is when the party really got started. Christophe was generous enough last year to send us a mag of this mythical beauty but decided we needed three mags this year. Thank you! As much as I liked this wine last year, it is in another league this year. The first whiff buckled my knees like a Dwight Gooden curveball circa 1986. It possessed every smell I love. Herbs, seaweed, dried pineapple, roasted berries, rare meat, sausage, blood, soy, violets. I literally sat there and smelled it for an hour. At this point, people were threatening to kick my ass if I didn't finally take a drink. I acquiesced and was blown away. Layers of flavors. Pineapple, smoke, dark fruit/berries, black pepper. Makes you think it's massive but conveys no excess baggage. Seamless and silky tannins along with the layered flavor and aromatics make the finish last for what seems to be hours. Otherworldly. 100pts

Tomorrow I'll post my top ten wines other than Cayuse...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A German, a Frenchie, and two Washingtonians walk into a bar...

Decided it was high time for a dudes night out with three friends and wine. Remember when you were 25 and dudes night out involved nachos and beer? Now, it involves bistro fare and wine geekery. Can't decide which is better!! On this night, it certainly was the wine guantlet we threw down. Dudes night needs to happen more often.

2007 Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese
This blonde beauty was opened a full 24 hours in advance for a slow oxy. I always get nervous when my friend Dale tells me he is going to open or decant early. One previous decant too long later and he's still hearing it from me! No need to fret with the Donnhoff, as it was predictably brilliant. I say predictably because every Donnhoff I've drank has been terrific. Golden-hued with aromas of white peaches, honey, crushed rock, and a hint of marjoram. I didn't get any sweat, like Dale, but he once smelled sweat in a candy cane so what does he know! Kind of a sleeper on the palate as the wine initially has trouble delivering, but as it warmed up the flavor bomb was dropped laced with an acidic residue. Orchard fruits galore, chalk, and a healthy dose of minerality. A satisfyingly long, gripping finish had me wondering aloud why I don't drink riesling everyday. A touch dryer and this would have been 95 points easily. 93pts

1998 Pegau Cuvee Laurence
Popped and poured this 11 year old CdP. Ruby red with a slightly purple core. Gorgeous nose of cherry liqueur, underbrush (sous bois for you fancy shmancy boys), herbs, red licorice, and hints of game. Really chocolatey in the mouth. Think chocolate covered cherry liqueur rolled in roasted herbs. Medium in weight with notes of black cherries, asphalt, and coffee as well. A nice underlying structure and minerality give the wine nice length. I can see how some would consider the finish drying, but that didn't bother me. A beautifully aged CdP. 92pts

2006 Cayuse Syrah Armada Vineyard
Splash decanted this beast for about 15 mintues and then poured it back into the bottle. Before pouring it back into the bottle, I decided some sniffs were in order. Boy am I glad my right hand was firmly planted on the counter as the smell of this wine literally almost knocked me on my ass. 100 point nose for me. Stinky animal fur, rare game meat, cabbage, sour pickles, and even a little raspberry. I showed amazing restraint (generally not a word that describes me) and did not pour myself a glass, instead waiting until dinner. After a Donnhoff and an aged CdP, I was salivating as my glass was filled. Ruby red with flecks of purple, the nose continued its display of perfection. More meat, cabbage, fur, and bacon. I finally took a taste and realized this wine possesses some kind of crazed intensity that reminded me of Mike Singletary, eyes wide, circa 1985 and I was the trembling quarterback across the line of scrimmage. Every note and nuance seems to be magnified in this wine. The fruit and game meat, especially. The length leads me to believe this wine will age for years. As good as this wine is now, it needs some time to settle down but when it does--lookout! 96 pts

2007 Reynvaan Syrah In the Rocks Vineyard
Popped and poured. Dark purple exhibiting intoxicating aromas of blue and black fruit, bacon, violets, a smokiness, and an ever so small touch of funk. Some may consider this wine "Cayuse light" but I really think that is doing a disservice to Reynvaan. Yes, Christophe may be their wine consultant and the vineyards are close in proximity to Cayuses' but their wines are distinctly different. Super-concentrated ripe fruit and not as much carnivorality (Did I just add a new world to the Urban Dictionary?), plus a little more elegance. Full bodied with gobs of blackberries, black raspberries, meat, and a lushness that happily coats your mouth. A relatively big wine that basks in its ability to balance itself out with sticky tannins and a nice undercurrent of deftly applied woodsmoke. I can certainly see this wine getting better and that is scary. 94pts

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Terrific 07 Cayuse Cailloux!!

A friend popped our first 07 Cayuse and we were not disappointed. Dark ruby color with initial aromas of cracked pepper (barrel sample last year had this as well), dark blue fruit, a little underbrush, and a nice dose of flowers. Surprised to taste candied/sweet fruit in the first 30 minutes or so. Luckily, this wasn't overpowering and slowly dissipated over time revealing some rare meat, pepper, tart cherries, and a hint of mushroom. Decently long finish leaving blackberries and cherries lingering. A fairly seamless and pleasurable wine possessing no overt oak or tannin. Give it 3 years and it will be dynamite but delicious now, nonetheless. 93pts.