Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Recent Sips - July 2007

Some interesting wines from July that did not get individual posts:

Loire Valley

2006 Olga Raffault Chinon Rose, $15 (Chambers Street Wines).

I'm not taking sides in the rose debate. Instead I will just say that this is my favorite rose this summer. A rose of Cabernet Franc, this wine is more pink than salmon colored, but its a muted and classy pink. Very floral in the nose, fruity but dry with snappy acidity, this wine is a pleasure.

2005 Francois Cazin Cour-Cheverny Vendanges Manuelles, $13.50 (Chambers Street Wines). Cour-Cheverny is a tiny appellation in the north-west part of the Loire Valley. It is the home of Romorantin, the highly acidic grape beloved by acid-freaks and wine geeks everywhere. I usually love this wine, but oddly, I have tried the '05 version a couple of times now and I am not inspired. I prefer the 04. Again, strange - '05 was supposed to have been perfect growing conditions. I have high hopes for Cazin's Cuvee Renaissance, the late harvest wine with lots more residual sugar. You know, the one that ages like a great Riesling, but costs about $18?

2005 Champalou Vouvray, $16 (Big Nose Full Body).
In my pantheon of Vouvray producers, Foreau and Huet are both Zeus. There are lesser gods - gods yes, but not Foreau or Huet. Champalou is one of those producers. Champalou puts out small quanitites of highly prized moelleux (sweet wine), and also several cuvees of dry Vouvray. This is the entry level bottling. I very much enjoyed the crystalline and incredibly drinkable 2004 Vouvray, so how would the "vintage to end all vintages" 2005 be? Not as good, as it turned out. Too big for its britches. Lemon curd and meringue on the nose and palate, with lots of fat. Even on day two, and there is not enough acidity to balance things out. This is good wine, with fresh flavors, but it is in the end, not all that drinkable. Too much meringue. Was this just too ripe, or did the wine maker indulge too much, and not rein things in?

2005 Chateau de Hureau Saumur-Champigny, $14 (Chambers Street Wines).
You know, between Roches Neuves, Filliatreau, and Hureau, Saumur-Champigny has become my go-to appellation for food friendly, delicious, but inexpensive Loire reds. This wine is just fantastic at this price. A nice nose of dark fruit, some flowers, and a bit of tobacco, and a juicy and lush palate that mingles dark berries with some earth and a bit of cocoa. This is not a very complicated wine, but it's SO good, guaranteed to make you smile. This is absolutely a $15 Beauty.

2005 Chateau de Hureau Saumur-Champigny Les Fevettes, $22 (Chambers Street Wines). Hureau makes three reds, this being their version of a 1er Cru, if you will. In a vintage as wonderful as '05, I'm not sure why this wine was so uninspiring, but I prefer the basic Saumur. I don't think it's a drunk too young thing - '05 was plenty ripe and this wine is not tight and tannic, its just not as flavorful as the entry level wine. Strange...


2004 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Goldschmidt Vineyard, $40 (Winery). A venerable Willamette Valley producer, Adelsheim has been putting out quality wine since the early '90s. I must say, though, that I have not been as impressed by their recent offerings as I was by wines from 2002 and earlier. I heard they replaced the wine maker, but I'm not sure. I have yet to really enjoy one of their 2004 Pinots, and that is really sad because I was on the mailing list for their entire (expensive) Pinot lineup. I first tasted this wine in the company of a few phenomenal Burgundies, and it was clearly the inferior wine. But with another 18 months of bottle age, what about now?

No better. Here were my notes from our dinner that night: Nice blueberry and earth smells right out of the bottle, but they drift away rather quickly, leaving not much in its place. Good wine, but so uninteresting, and at $40, incredibly overpriced.

What's interesting, is that this wine received 92 points from Tanzer. Would he have liked it less with dinner? Am I missing something? Who knows. Points are a bit silly anyway, no?

2004 Sineann Pinot Noir Resonance, $46 (Avalon Wines).
Sineann makes several Pinots, a Zinfindel, Syrah, a Cabernet, and plenty of white wine too. The fruit is sourced from all over Oregon and Washington State, Peter Rosback the wine maker is a bit of a cult figure, and the wines get consistently high scores. I figured out a little while ago that although I recognize the quality, the style is not my favorite in Pinot Noir.

I paid a load of money for this wine about two years ago when I didn't understand what I could could get for the same $. Can't hold onto the bottle forever, and a recent good review by Dr. Debs made me think that it's time to open mine.

I don't know - everyone on CellarTracker who tasted this wine LOVED it - 95 points, 94 points, etc. Not this Brooklynguy. I thought it was huge and hot, with little Pinot character, and with nothing to think about. A mishmash of bigness, if you will. My favorite Pinots are elegant, with several, often conflicting aroma and flavor characteristics. This was dull and uninspiring, and honestly for my $45, I could buy almost two bottles of far superior Pinot today. Sorry for the rant, but it's really against myself and my proclivity for spending way too much on sub-par wine a few years ago (and probably today too but the jury is still out).

My notes from that night: Fine fresh cherry smells and flavors, velvety texture. But simple and unidimensional, and a poor value at this price.


Dr. Debs said...

Hi, Neil. Just for the record, I didn't review the wine on my site, just put my tasting notes on CellarTracker. I suspect that you drank your bottle too soon, but I don't think any amount of waiting would make you like it, given your flavor preferences. I'm not sure I agree that because it isn't to your taste this is a sub-par wine. It is extremely well made, it's just not for you, yes?

As for me, I think it's just starting to show its stuff, and if anyone else out there reading has a bottle I'd put it away for another year or two.

Just goes to show you how different palates can be. I definitely didn't find it dull and uninspiring, that's for sure. But then again, I wouldn't spend $46 for it either. With few exceptions, however, I wouldn't spend $46 on any wine unless I'd tasted it first!

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Debs - you're right, it was CellarTracker. I scrolled around looking for it on your Pinot Days round-up too, but got couldn't find it there either.

I don't know about aging this wine. If you don't like a wine when it's young, you're not going to like it with bottle age, in my experience. And based on the low acidity in the wine, I would guess that cellaring might not do much to improve this wine. Guessing only though, of course.

And as for the sub-par question...there are times when I don't like something and I recognize that it is a style thing. This isn't one of them. I actually think that this is sub-par wine. I think this is a sub-par example of any style of wine, big new world style included. Par being a wine that offers Pinot characteristic aromas and flavors, offers some sort of balance and drinkability, brings pleasure, and at the over $40 price point it should also offer something to ponder. This wine didn't really do any of that. Only my opinion...

David McDuff said...

Great notes, Neil. I'm not sure where to begin.... Let's see, points are indeed silly. On a more thoughtful topic, you've discovered quite clearly that vintage is only one of the major influencing factors as to a wine's overall character. Even in the face of the hype over 2005 throughout most of France, I'm a staunch believer that shopping by vintage is one of the worst and least educational ways to select what to buy.

As to the thread from Debs above, I've never purchased any of Sineann's Pinots but I have tried several via the generosity of a friend who visited the winery last year. I can't say I have notes as to the specific bottlings but I can say that I found only one of the three at all interesting. The main problem with the other two: high alcohol. No, make that ridiculously high alcohol. One of them clocked in at 16.1 or 16.2%. This sweet, hot, gooped-up style obviously appeals to many but it renders Pinot Noir a voiceless vehicle in a glass of hedonism.

Brooklynguy said...

Hi David - Good to see you. I hear you on the vintage thing. I'll take wine from a trusted producer from any vintage over an untried wine from a heralded vintage. There must be certain areas that got better weather in 04 for example, than in 05. Although the Burgundy region did well in 05, there are probably climats that did better in 04. So what are your thoughts on the most educational way to select what to buy?

The Sineann I drank was over 15%. What was the interesting one, just in case I'm in Portland again and see it on a list?
See you-

Anonymous said...

I tasted some Sineann Pinots recently and found them hot as well. I reviewed a blend for the WA WBW a few months back and had some issues with it. But I do like the Sineann Red Table wine a lot, and I love the whites.

For some reason I have a Hureau that's been sitting around for ages. I think I'll open that up tonight, alongside the Lang and Reed Red Shed. Old world, new world Cab Franc showdown! Come to think of it, we have an Owen Roe too. CA, WA and France tasting is in our very near future.

Marcus said...

Wow lots of bang for buck in these posts lately Neil.

Your review of the Romorantin from Cour-Cheverny (where else really?) struck me because I opened one such bottle from Huards this week. I remember being cautiously intrigued the first time I tried this varietal a couple of years ago -- steely and strong with an odd flavour for a white wine.

And acidic as you say, perhaps too acidic for me, which is pretty tough for someone who used to drink vinegar for fun.

This Huards ended being all sharp lime with a predominant waxy note that rubs me the wrong way. Iffy at best. I'm passing because like you it's not inspiring. And it was the 2001, still going strong.

David McDuff said...


You seem to have figured it out pretty well -- the most educational way to select wine, that is. Go to shops and restaurants with thoughtful, interesting selections and put yourself in the hands of the staff. That obviously requires either some blind trust or, better, some prior relationship building. Try new things. Don't worry about vintage, about reviews, about points.

Though there's nothing intrinsically better about a small producer than a large one, I do find that small growers tend to produce wines with more character, with more to say and teach, than do their larger peers.

As to the Sineann PN, I wish I could remember the details.... I do remember it being in the 14% range and, methinks, sealed with a screwcap but that doesn't help too much.

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Jill - Never tasted their whites. Curious now. Your Cab Franc tasting sounds good - will we be able to read about the results? What is the Hureau you have?

Hi Dok - Romorantin is indeed tough, but really rewarding too, I think. Before you give up completely, you might taste Cazin's Cuvee Renaissance, a late harvest wine that is like a demi-sec. It's delicious young and it ages beautifully, and at about$17, hard to beat. I reviewed one in detail a few months ago...

Hey david - thanks for the encouragement, and I agree with you re small producers, for whatever that's worth. I need to challenge that belief though, to make sure it's my own opinion, as I keep noticing respected reviewers of Burgundy (Meadows, Nanson, etc) really like wines by Bouchard, Jadot, Potel, and others. Must be something there too..

Anonymous said...

Neil, only ended up opening the red shed. was too lazy to get Hureau out of fridge in garage. maybe today? also tasted chinon (chiens chiens) today. could not have been more different from the red shed...will taste more before writing anything up.

and definitely try the sineann gewurz if you come across any.

Brooklynguy said...

Jill - Is your garage fridge a long walk from the house or something?!? what year is the Hureau? C'mon, i'm chomping at the bit over here...

Anonymous said...

okay, okay. It's the '03 Hureau Saumur-Champigny. No further designation.

hope I haven't waited too long to drink it. I assume it will be good for a couple of years to come. But I don't think I'll wait that long...

Anonymous said...

Sineann is known for a big style pinot. This Resonance vineyard, which is bioD, is going to start doing their own wines from either 05 or 06. It could be interesting for you to try one of these future bottlings to judge the role of the vineyard vs the winemaker...

Brooklynguy said...

Jill - i bet it will be delicious if you drink it this fall with a roast chicken or something like that.

hey Doc V - that's right, its BioD - you reviewed the wine for Jack's WBW BioD month, right? you liked it a lot too. i will definitey give it another try by another producer - a good idea.