Monday, June 21, 2010

Updated Cayuse website offers a plethora of info...

The gentlemen over at Cayuse (I use that term loosely...except for Trevor, of course!) have redesigned and updated their website. The new site offers info on their philosophy, wines, reviews, geology, vineyards, pics, and even a video. If you get a chance...Check it out!

Seattle: Grenache Blind Tasting

Got together with some friends at Wild Ginger last Saturday night for a tasting of grenache, blind. All of the wine was provided by our generous friend, Steven Maxood, who put on quite a show. We drank a white (grenache blanc) and a rose (of grenache) to wet the ole whistle and then had four flights of the world's best grenache. Very eye opening tasting as every region displayed the ability to make world class grenache, except Australia! This is part 1 of the tasting. I'll post part 2 later today, hopefully.

2008 Tablas Creek Grenache Blanc
Have not had many bottles of grenache blanc. Rhone whites have always been a problem for me as I can never seem to get enough acid for my liking. This bottle, while pretty good, was no exception. Fairly muted on the nose. Slight aromas of ripe Japanese pear and yellow plums. More of the same on the palate with that oily texture you can get from roussanne. More creaminess than lively. Still, an enjoyable wine. 87pts.

2008 Cayuse Edith Rose Grenache
This vintage is much better than the 07 which I found to be almost viognier like. Very pale salmon color with crisp acid. Spiced watermelon and dehydrated strawberries were the main ingredients. This may make my rose rotation if the 09 improves on the 08. 88pts.

Flight One
Wine #1 – Ruby red with a musky and bright cherry nose. Very lush with concentrated fruit. Layers of spicy oak interwoven with fruit and even some tannin left. This wine still has 10 years to go. Damn good start to the tasting. 95pts (My #1 of the flight, groups #1) 1998 Alvaro Palacios L’Ermita Priorat

Wine #2 – Purple with bricking edges. This wine seemed a little tight at first. After a few minutes, some espresso and chocolate notes appeared. First thing I noticed and was surprised by was the tannins. They were still very apparent. Blackberry liqueur and pepper were the main components to me. Lots of structure but the fruit may be fading. 92pts (My #3, groups #2) 1998 Pegau Cuvee da Capo

Wine #3 – This was certainly the most fruit forward of the bunch. Ruby red with sweet dark fruit on the nose with some chocolate. Nice lush texture with some oak still present. A freshness still present. Very close to wine #1 for me. 94pts (My #2, groups #3) 1998 Clos Erasmus

Flight Two (A)
Wine #1 – Wow, this hit me hard. Gorgeous purple with bright red edges. Knockout nose of blood, minerals, and chocolate. Nice core of dark blueberries and raspberries rounded out with meat covered in spice. Healthy dose of cherry liqueur on the finish along with good structure. This wine is hitting its stride. 97pts (My #1 and WOTN, groups #2) 2001 Clos du Caillou Reserve

Wine #2 – Another dynamite wine. Dark and concentrated with hints of spicy oak and roasted fruit. Dark cherries dominate the palate with some coffee and pepper rounding out the edges. Big finish with tight fruit and tannin. This wine seemed to have a feeling of some aristocratic pedigree. 95pts (My #2, groups #1) 2001 Pierre Usseglio & Fils Deux Freres

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sorry for another Cayuse post...What's a guy to do?

Spent an unbelievable day with friends a week or so ago touring and tasting with Christophe and Trevor at Cayuse. Suffice it to say, this was the single best wine experience of my life. Of course there are several reasons I'm obsessed with the wines produced by Christophe...the 3x3 vineyard spacing, the extraction of every morsel of flavor from the grapes, the maniacal fanaticism of his wine making process, the firm belief in estate grapes...but the most important reason I'm obsessed is that the wines just do it for me and do it for me in a big way. The 09's from barrel and the 08's that were recently bottled just reinforced my obsession.

Before we besieged the wine studio for a tasting, Christophe and Trevor took us on an extremely educational tour of the Armada Vineyard, the Horsepower Vineyard, and his new vineyard, Tribe. He explained to us how he started with 10x4 spacing and then moved to 6x4 spacing and how the Horsepower and Tribe vineyards are 3x3. The first wines produced commercially by the Horsepower Vineyard with be this year, 2010. When asked how he thought the wines will turn out (grenache and syrah), he replied, "I don't know, we'll see!" He talked about how important it was to him to always push the envelope. That becoming complacent as a winemaker is something that he wouldn't be able to live with, so he is constantly experimenting. He then went on to tell us about a few acres of land he purchased on a hillside where he is going to plant his next vineyard.

At this time, we had worked up quite a thirst so on to the wines...I forgot to mention that we started with the 08 Edith Grenache Rose. This wine has started to come around for me. I thought the first vintage to be a bit light and creamy but this wine was darker with some nice strawberries and bright acidity. I enjoyed it.

09 Barrel Samples

Impulsivo -- Deep and dark. Already exhibiting bright fruit, smoke, pork, minerals. So primary and is going to be a bruiser.

Widowmaker -- Nice cab flavors of cassis and concentrated black fruit. Definite herbal and mineral nuances in the background. Another winner.

God Only Knows Grenache Barrel #4 -- Christophe's face just lit up when he talked about this wine. He told us this was his favorite barrel and that he was going to bottle it in magnums and keep them for himself! Beautiful red color. Herbs, wild strawberries, huge dose of minerality. Killer wine.

I'm fairly certain we tried another wine but for the life of me, I can't recall it! At this point, Christophe started pulling some 08's that they had just bottled. The concern about bottle shock was immediately laughed out of the building as we made an impressive run through the bottles.

08 En Cerise -- The one syrah that I don't have a ton of experience with (probably only drank 4 or 5 bottles). This exhibited the trademark dark cherry fruit with grilled meat. Balanced and pretty polished. These wines are just getting better.

08 Bionic Frog -- Holy shit. This puppy is surprisingly open for business and it's 24/7. First whiff was of blood and iron. Concentrated dark fruit and wild game meat laced with minerals and stone. Has the potential to rival the 03 and 05 as the best Frog ever.

07 GOK Grenache -- The third vintage of this wine and it keeps getting better. Christophe seems to be most proud of this wine. So delicate but possessing so much intensity. Think of a pot of wild strawberries, cherries, and raspberries with a bouquet garni. Can't wait to receive my 6 of these!

05 Cailloux Neutral Barrel -- My third experience with this wine. You've got to be kidding me. The 2nd time I had this wine I bestowed upon it my first ever 100 points. Maybe I need to adopt Parker's new scoring system and give it 102 points this time as it was that good. Funkdified on the nose with herbs, sour fruit, bacon wrapped pork (double pig, baby!), and that dried pineapple thing that is so intriguing. Layers and layers of syrah goodness on the palate. This is essentially, for me, syrah as its best.

I know I'm missing a couple other wines but my notes can't seem to find them! After this, we had an incredible dinner at the Fat Duck Inn with some tasty vino. I'll try and get some notes up for that as well.

Thanks for turning 40, Darren!!!!!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cayuse garners top scores again from Wine Spectator

Harvey Steinman, the Washington wine reviewer for the Wine Spectator, was one of the first reviewers to champion Cayuse way back in the early 2000's. It was actually his review of the 2001 Bionic Frog that got me curious about a frenchman making wine in Walla Walla. Thousands of dollars later, I'm obsessed. Harvey, my wife holds you personally responsible for my unhealthy passion for what she calls, "Just a winery." Just a winery? Who the hell does she think she is? Doesn't she know Christophe makes the most unique wines in the universe? That if it wasn't for Cayuse, I may still be drinking overpriced Cali cab? She is my wife, so apparently I'm supposed to give her a pass. Don't mess with my Cayuse!

Back to the blog post already in progress...Every Wednesday afternoon, the Wine Spectator emails out this "Insider" list of just reviewed wines to their online subscribers. These are usually more well-known wineries or hot wines. Harvey usually publishes his Cayuse reviews sometime in April so I've been sitting on the proverbial pins and needls since April 1st. Yesterday, that day finally came. Six Cayuse wines were included in the report and here were the results (all wines were from the 07 vintage axcept the Armada which was the 06)...

06 Armada -- 97
07 Bionic Frog -- 95
07 Cailloux -- 95
07 En Cerise -- 95
07 En Chamberlin -- 94
07 Widowmaker -- 91

Great scores for yet another terrific vintage of wines from Christophe and the gang. Nice to see the Armada start to get its proper due. While the Frog has long been my favorite Cayuse wine, the 06 Armada practically knocked me on my ass. Here is my tasting note on it...

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!

If you have never had the opoortunity to taste a wine from Cayuse, what is your problem? Go out and get one, drink it, and report back!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dynamite $20 Cali syrah and a WA State right banker...

2008 Carlisle Sonoma County Syrah
Holy hell, Batman! This is one dark, focused, and intense $19.50 wine. Who doesn't just get giddy when a new pile of Carlisle syrahs land at your doorstep? The only other $19.50 New World wine that can even step onto the mat with this baby is the 07 Carlisle RRV and while that was my QPR of the Year last year, I don't think it's as complex as this wine. This reminded me of a baby James Berry with its tightly focused concentrated fruit, bacon-ness, and touch of heat on the finish. Of course this wine is young and could use a year to integrate the alcohol, but for $19.50, it's perfect to me. Sorry my note isn't more detailed but I was enjoying this too much on a Tuesday night to be bothered! 92pts.

2005 Delille D2
Popped and poured and then left in the glass for about an hour. Deep, dark ruby color with aromas of toasty oak, vanilla, baked plums, cassis, and cream. Much to the delight of my wife and two friends but not for me. The same flavors showed up on the palate with a medium weight and nice plush mouthfeel. This is a very well-made wine and I can certainly see how someone would love it, but at this point, the oak is just too prominent for me. I had a 2002 D2 some months ago that was delicious, but it was just beginning to absorb and balance out the oak. Nice throat coating finish and went well with the beef being served. Give it some time to mellow. 89pts.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2009 Buty Beast Semillon Sphinx

Major disappointment here. Have been a fan of Buty wines sine the 01 vintage and usually enjoy the Beast wines but this was not for me. Hopefully, the Hartebeest cab will make up for it. I'll report back...

2009 Buty Beast Semillon Sphinx
Was excited when I saw this on the store shelf. I'm always on the lookout for good $10-$15 whites for easy summer drinking. This was a nice pale yellow and had initial aromas of pear, baked apple, spice, and toast. I was a bit confused as the one major thing that enticed me to puchase this wine was the blurb that stated this was 100% oak free and I'm not sure that's correct. Creamy and custard-y in the mouth, but not overly so. Nice layers of grapefruit and fig but I just couldn't get past the cream and lack of acid. Maybe 100% semillon is not my thing. I run into the same problem with most viognier, not enough acid for me. The finish had an unpleasant bitterness, so I didn't even finish the bottle. Technically a well-made wine, but not in my wheelhouse. 84pts

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Value night...

Decided it was time to get back to my early wine roots with a value wine night. I picked a $9 white (South African chenin blanc) that had been recommended by a friend and a $12 Spanish garnacha. As a general rule, I've found it much more easy to find $10 whites I enjoy than $15 and under reds. The reds in this price range tend to be one dimensional and either too sweet and candied, or oaky and harsh, for my liking. The spanish red certainly lived up to that! I'll keep up the good fight trying to find value reds that rock...

2008 Kanu Chenin Blanc
This was recommended to me by a good friend as a very nice weekday white for $9. He may be wrong when it comes to politics and sports, but he was not wrong about this wine. Nice dose of citrus and stones on the nose. Tart and lively on the palate with saliva inducing acidity, which I dig. This wine just seemed to wake up your taste buds which was the antithesis of the other white I drank this past weekend. Fine South African effort and one that will find its way in my summer lineup. 88pts

2007 Bodegas San Alejandro Garnacha Las Rocas
The red wine component of my self imposed "Saturday Value Wine Night." To be honest, this wine was disappointing. Much too sweet and candied. Reminded me of several 07 cotes-du-rhones that I was geeked to drink but ended up possessing too much sweetness for me. Gorgeous magenta and fairly closed at the outset, but eventually released its candied pop rock flavor that just didn't jive with my taste buds. No real depth or layered personality. Have I mentioned that it was way grandma sweet? 84pts

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Oh how the wine world has changed

I just received my daily wine offer from Garagiste and this one made me do a double take. 2006 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet for $59.99. Wow! That's a $120 wine retail and I imagine that was easily fetched a couple of years ago. Not only was the wine essentially 1/2 off, but Garagiste was allowing orders up to 25 cases. 25 cases? Having a hard time selling that over-priced Cali cab, Beringer?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Something for posterity...

Thought I'd regale you with a couple pictures of little ole' me ten years apart (okay, really 8 years apart). The first one is me in Italy during the summer of 2000. Bleach blonde hair and drinking out of the bottle...doesn't get any better! The second picture is me at the Cayuse Dinner. Two glasses are always better than one! What do you think 2020 will look like?

Can't forget this puppy...

The six or seven 07 vintage Cayuse wines I've drank thus far seem to be a bit more restrained with hints of elegance creeping in. I'm diggin' on these!

2007 Cayuse Impulsivo
Decanted for an hour...and boy did it need that hour to strut its stuff. Fairly closed at first so we decided to leave it in the decanter for an hour with aggressive swirling about every ten minutes. When it finally decided to reveal itself, boy did it ever in a hurry (kind of like when you get home from a date and you are sitting on the couch chatting with your fine lady, you excuse yourself to the bathroom, return and find her laid out in all her glory on the couch--from zero to shablam in about 30 seconds!). A pleasantly restrained funky nose gave way to ripe fruit, dark chocolate goodness, and noticeable woodsmoke. Much more on the elegant side than the primal side. More ripe fruit on the palate, specifically blackberries and plums, interwoven nicely with polished tannins and dare I say, judicious oak. All the components seemed to be very well harmonized. Much more lush and forward than the carnivorous and savory 06. This wine was a lithe, sexy, sultry, seamless beauty. 95 pts.

I am back!!

Sorry everyone for the 2 1/2 month sabbatical (I'm sure a collective "phew" spread through the audience as you realized I'm not dead! maybe even some "damns!). I am feeling frisky again and plan on writing much more than just notes on the wines I drink. Maybe even a 'wine thought of the day' may be in order or just musings upon the subject we hold dear. Enough emoting...on to the wines.

2004 Mon Aieul
Splash decanted and then let sit for about an hour. This was easily the least impressive of the MA's I've had, although still a terrific wine. Fairly closed nose but some nice red raspberry, chocolate, and fig notes eventually came out to play. Seems to have some serious structure with robust tannins and a nice dose of acid. Tight, so maybe it just wasn't ready to open as this junction. Palate loaded with herbs de provence, chocolate covered cherries, raspberries, and bits of garrigue. No alcohol on the finish, which was a good thing, but did have some strict tannins. I'd say maybe hold for another 3-5 years. 92 pts.

2007 Carlisle James Berry Vineyard Syrah
Again, splash decanted and let sit for an hour or so. This beast was deep, dark, teeth staining purple. Everything you'd want from a James Berry Vineyard wine. Ripe, concentrated blue and black fruits on the nose followed by hints of heat on the periphery. Major focused dark fruit on the palate. Hefty and in your face as you would expect it to be but very well made with a deft hand by Mr. Officer. Pepper, spice, and a little pork. A finish that lasts minutes with its only detraction being a touch of heat that will easily integrate in a year or so. I know I opened this way too early but in contradiction to James Bond, I'm only going to live once. 94pts.

2007 Cayuse En Chamberlin Syrah
Pleasure is drinking another man's Cayuse! My main man, Rico, was generous enough to bring this by to polish off one Friday night. As usual, it didn't disappoint. A little lighter in color than normal, but no less punch. Tamed down aromas of red cabbage, sour pickles, beef jerky, meat, and even some blackberries and raspberries. Not tamed down in a normal person's sense but tamed down for a typical En Chamberlin syrah. Dare I say a tad more refined than its beastly predecessors? Surprisingly lush in the mouth with layers of concentrated dark fruit and chocolate. The gaminess and savory qualities were pushed toward the edges, which made for a seamless transition to the lip smacking finish. While approachable and fantastic now, this wine will certainly get better with a few years of lay down time. 95pts.

2005 K Vintners Wells Vineyard Syrah
Well 2 out of 3 ain't bad for K Vintners! I seem to have more Jekyll and Hyde wines from Charles and K Vintners than from any other producer. The first bottle I had of this was spectacular, the second was terrible, and now the third was down right tasty. Back to aromas of gingerbread, Chinese 5-spice, huckleberries, and onion skins. More fruit on the palate than on the nose but the cinnamon and herbs keep it in check. A very distinctive wine that most likely won't ever get made again as the vineyard ownership changed hands and Charles didn't release the 06 version. Worth seeking out if you can find it. 93pts.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A wine induced Wednesday night with friends...

Spent a fun Wednesday night drinking with friends. Thanks to Travis and Mario for hosting as usual and a big thanks to Mike for moving to Australia so when he comes back we get a good excuse to drink damn fine wine on a school night!! These are more a combo of notes and observations versus just technical notes.

1976 Huet Vouvray -- Not sure exactly which bottlling this was. Beautiful golden honey color. A bit too sweet to drink a whole glass for my taste but certainly good for 5 or 6 drinks. Honey, apple, touch of sherry. The oldest white I've ever drank. 87pts.

2007 M. Chapoutier Condrieu Invitare -- We put this up against the Cayuse viognier and it beat it like a red-headed stepchild. Cream, bit of custard, glyceral mouthfeel. Notes of lemon, white flowers, and honey. Not quite enough acid for me to be totally blown away. Easily outclassed the Cayuse. 92pts.

2006 Cayuse Viognier -- Disappointed with this bottle. Kind of harsh with a bit of a bitter aftertaste. I really think these need minimum of 5-7 years to balance out. Disjointed with not much fruit but had more acid than the Condrieu, which I liked. 87pts.

2007 Dageuneau Silex -- This was the shiznit. Easily the best sauvignon blanc I've ever had. Light yellow in color, the nose just bursts of limestone, chalk, citrus. Touch of sweet butter on the palate with freshly cut green grass, unripe pear, fuji apple, and a nice balance of acid to cut the sweet butter. Absolutely loved it! 94pts.

2007 J.J. Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese -- Very nice reisling. Golden hued with lively nose of minerals, apples, honey. Just enough acid to keep me interested. Nice bottle. 90pts.

2007 Donnhoff Kabinett -- Not sure which bottling this was. As always, golden and delicious. Used it as my palate cleanser all night. Donnhoff's always seem to wake up my mouth. Not terribly complex but the mix of minerality, acid, and fruit was enough to satiate me. 90pts.

1970 Mouton -- The oldest red wine I've had. Totally cool experience to get to drink this. Dark bricking on the edges with the faintest color red in the middle. Nose of cedar, tobacco, mint. Not much fruit on the palate except bits of cassis and cherries. Loved every sip for the experience. 91pts.

2003 Thomas Pinot Noir Dundee Hills -- Not a huge fan of Oregon pinot but the was a standout bottle. Nicely balanced oak with cherries, bit of underbrush, raspberries. Understated but the nose kept me coming back. 90pts.

2005 Lillian Syrah -- Wowza! This baby has settled down and integrated nicely since the last time I drank it over a year ago (and I liked it then). Seamless tannins, oak, and fruit. Big bursting blueberries, bacon, asphalt, blackberries, baking spice. Wish I had more than one left. 95pts.

2007 Saxum James Berry -- Very closed nose. Took forever to coax anything out of it. My first half-glass the wine was just to warm (tannic and harsh) so I put it in the fridge to bring it down to 64-66 degrees. Wow, much better at the cooler temp. This is by far the most understated Saxum I have drank. Fairly balanced tannin and fruit. Certainly not an in your face wine and built for the long haul. Perfectly ripe raspberries and blackberries with nice integration of spices and smoke. Needs time and then will be dynamite. 93pts.

2005 Pavie -- Talk about tannic. Holy shit this was loaded with tannin and acid. Tons of fruit as well but needs minimum 10 years to marry. Structure, structure. With this backbone and concentrated fruit, it just may reach that 100 points given time. 93pts.

1994 Quilceda Creek Cab -- My oldest Quilceda. Kick ass bottle. Now I personally know the difference between pre-2000 Quilceda and post-2000 Quilceda. Nice ruby red color with strong aromas of cedar, tobacco, eucalyptus, chocolate. Balanced tannins, oak , and fruit. Touch creamy on the palate with cassis liqueur. Really nice bottle. 93pts.

2004 Cayuse Armada -- I know this is going to get a "No shit" from the peanut gallery, but it was the wine of the night for me. Medium ruby-purple, it just awakened your taste buds. Most of the funk has blown off (just enough to satisfy my funk love) and what is left is a gorgeous example of syrah. Concentrated, ripe black raspberries, asian spice, and hints of pork cover the inside of your mouth. Thick but with a nice vibrant lift. Really concentrated but not overly so because of a nice rusticity. Cayuse syrah has the stuffing to age well, I think. 96pts.

There were 6 or 7 other red wines that I will add to my notes when I get a chance later today. Great wine and ever better company!