Monday, December 28, 2009


There's something so cute about this I should have posted before Christmas. Wine tasting samples by mail. Who knows if the wine is any good, but it's called tryvertising for a reason. Try it before you buy it. Love this idea!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

S. Africa Sparkler.

Pongrácz, Western Cape, South Africa, NV.

60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay.

This was a fun little sample I received from Fresh & Easy, a new small scale (though multiple) market in LA and surrounding areas that I believe is an offshoot of Tesco in the UK. Well you know the Brits love their S. African wines, and me, well, I haven't been the biggest fan of wines from this region, but this sparkler was really a nice little surprise.

Restrained aromatics, lemon, apple fruit on the palate, a clean simple, easy drinking wine, great for the holidays when you have a lot of people to pour for. Two years lees aging, which adds a light biscuity quality, and it has a fairly high dosage at 11 g/l which balances the acidity.

What's great is the price, $14.99 and you can pick it when you get your holiday ham!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Valpo or Cab Franc?

Corte Sant'Alda, Valpolicella, Ca' Fiui, 2007.

This wine tortured me. Translucent ruby color, moderate plus tannin, moderate alcohol, muted aromatics and red berry fruit on the palate. Could be anything. I guessed Cabernet Franc, Loire. But what's funny is that there was something on the finish that I just couldn't pinpoint, like what the hell is that doing in Cabernet Franc?

It was a slightly bittersweet chocolate note, and I even wrote "dusty minerality" which to me always always always goes back to Italy. Love the dusty Italian thing. But even with that note I took a left turn and ended at Cab Franc because I just couldn't think what else it could be. Well, now I know. A very nice little Valpo, not super complex, really just an everyday drinking wine.

$21.99 at the Wine House.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Roagna Dolcetto

Roagna, Dolcetto, 2007.

I think this wine is just outstanding quality for the price. Super delicious - NOT too tanky and primary like so many really bad Dolcettos - it must be done in neutral barrel. No new oak, that would kill the soft blueberry fruit, but definitely has some complexity that occurs in neutral barrel.

Peter and I often pour off a little wine into an air tight 187ml bottle so that I can use it for blind tasting. So I got home from Tavern Monday night (which incidentally just has some of the best take home food in LA from the Larder) and drank it from my little 187ml bottle. I didn't know what it was. I thought Grenache. Why am I always thinking Grenache? But it was totally delicious 2 weeks later and much needed after a night at work.

Domaine LA, $18.99.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Ijalba, Graciano, Rioja, 2005.

I just couldn't figure out what this wine was. I tasted it blind of course and it had moderate acid, moderate to low tannin, was super fruity, like jammy strawberry and raspberry fruit and the color super dark. And so I thought maybe Grenache - but where would Grenache like that be from in the Old World? Priorat? But it didn't have the alcohol of Priorat.

I got frustrated, Peter said, just guess the region, not the grape and I said, how in the hell can I guess the region without knowing the grape? And the winemaking didn't help either. No oak, all tank, making it primary fruit central, so it could be from anywhere! Finally I settled on Grenache / Syrah blend from Languedoc.

Regardless it was lovely little wine, perfect for holiday cheer (it looks like it's been gift wrapped already) and I shouldn't hold my failures at blind tasting against it.

Domaine LA around $20.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Arianna Occhipinti, Il Frappato, Sicilia, IGT, 2007.

I will admit I did not taste this wine, but my friend Marcel bought it at Domaine LA ($35), and he was supposed to share it with me, but he got a little wine happy and drank it himself. I asked him for a tasting note and this is what he sent to me (see below). it's biodynamic and the grape variety is Frappato, can't say I've ever had a Frappato! And a very nice 12.5% alcohol level. Its-a-nicea.

"it was quite good. my memory was it was very pinot-ish upon opening, and then settled into a little zing, some light pepper."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Torbreck, Cuvee Juveniles

Torbreck, Barossa Valley, Cuvee Juveniles, 2008.

This was a sample that was sent to me some time ago, my lack of blogging (this MW stuff takes up A LOT if time people, that and the full time job and the winemaking and the sommeliering) means it may or may not still be available, but I assume it is. We wanted to review this on DrinkThisTV, but we kinda ran out of money for taping and so I just blind tasted on my own last week over Thanksgiving.

This is ripe, rich with stewed strawberry fruit which immediately led me to the New World. High alcohol, low acid to warm climate. Assuming it was a grenache / syrah blend (primary strawberry fruit, moderate tannins, smoky undertones) at a mid-market price point (moderate persistence on the finish, lack of oak) I considered Chile, California and Australia. It didn't have the herbal qualities of Chile and the "tanky" lack of oak use is far more prevalent in Australia than CA for this blend, and that there isn't a lot of blended Grenache at this quality level in Ca anyway, led me to Australia. I was in SE Australia, not specifically Barossa because of the primary fruit quality. I might have expected Barossa to have some new French or American oak and this wine absolutely did not have oak.

One thing that I really liked about it is that it didn't ahve that high alcohol, high acid thing that seems to be totally unnatural and that I find in so many inexpensive Australian wines. High acid and high alcohol means super ripe fruit from a warm climate that's been acidified. High acid and high alcohol are really only prevalent in Italian varieties, like Nebbiolo from Barolo. Because I didn't sense acidulation I rated this wine of higher quality, it just felt more honest to me, for whatever that means!!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

La Rioja Alta, Reserva

La Rioja Alta, Vina Ardanza, Rioja, Reserva, 2000.

I will confess, I struggle with identifying Spanish wine. In particular Rioja, but if you can find that dill component on the nose, and I say this realizing that in the last post I said NOT to give any significant weight to aromatics, that you too can learn to identify Rioja. Now that I know its there it's impossible to mistake. I say that, of course, knowing that I probably will not identify it correctly next time I taste it. One thing you can't be in the blind tasting game is cocky. You have to assume everyone is out to get you.

The thing about Tempranillo if it gets French oak treatment, as many do in Navarra and Ribera del Duero is that it tastes like just about anything. It's moderate across the board, moderate tannin, moderate acid ("they say" it's on the lower side of acidity, but I frequently do not find that to be true), moderate fruit concentration. And the fruit profile is both red and black just to complicate matters. Some aromatics that might help pin point the wine are leather and tobacco leaves, if anyone knows what tobacco leaves smell like. I guess I don't. Maybe our smokers out there can fill us in.

This was a great wine, and I don't say that very often, at $34.99 it's a perfect wine for the holidays because its savory with dried herbs and fruit and the time in barrel has created a slightly oxidized, but lovely flavor profile. You should grab a bottle for you and ONE OTHER PERSON. No need to share. Get it at the Wine House.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Volpe Pasi, GriVo, Pinot Grigio, 2008.

One could say that I am not the greatest Pinot Grigio fan. I think to be a fan, that is one's preferred style, of Pinot Grigio means that one has not indulged in the other great wines of the world.

However, Peter gave me this a blind tasting and if I were to drink a Pinot Grigio, it would likely be this one. My quick notes were as follows:

Color: straw-gold
Acid: moderate plus
Alcohol: moderate plus (14%)?
Tannin / Phenolic: yes, points to less gentle handling, harder pressing technique
Fruit: baked apple, juicy pear, lemon / lime notes
Oak / WM: no, possible MLF due to lower than expected acidity, but cool ferm temps by fruit preservation and tank ferm for temperature control
Quality: good mid-market, moderate persistence on finish

My point being this note could be for any innocuous white Italian wine. Chardonnay, Trebbiano, Gargenega, Greco di Tufo, etc. etc. Est! Est!! Est!!!????

I actually thought it was Pinot Grigio in the end, but only after agonizing on why it couldn't be these other varieties. lacks richer texture of Chardonnay, but lemon / lime notes and apple easily can be Soave, Greco. That's why aromatics cannot be relied upon. What ultimately took me to Pinot Grigio was the phenolic quality on the finish. It's often that with PInot Gris / Grigio I get this quality, a slight bitterness. I was perhaps wrong on the alcohol too, though this was a fairly rich style PG.

At any $16.99 at Domaine LA. You will like it me thinks.