Battle of the Pinot Noirs: 2007 Cloudline versus 2006 Frei Brothers Reserve. Both are good.

june 30, 2009: victoria had the day off, and after a day of mostly removing wallpaper, she decided to prepare a balsamic/garlic reduction that served as a glaze for broiled chicken. see recipe here: http://www.circleoffood.com/blog/2007/04/20/chickenrecipes-winepairing/ she bought the frei brothers, russian river valley, at schnucks on washington to go with this specific recipe. another russian river valley pinot noir was suggested but that one was not sold at the store. the meal turned out well, and it was paired with broken rice and steamed broccoli. greg suggested we open up the oregon cloudline just to compare the two.

greg thinks the frei brothers has a nose of carmel and raisin. the flavor is acidic, a 3 on the 1-5 acidity scale (5 being so acidic it's undrinkable). he added that it's a little fruity.

as for the cloudline, he says the nose is very aromatic, almost fruity and flowery. it is hard for him to determine exactly what the fruit is. it doesn't have any tannic scent. he thinks this pinot has the scent of fabric softener (!), it's very smooth to drink. he thinks it's a 2 on the 1-5 acidity scale. it's slightly tannic in the mouth feel. he said he doesn't taste any fruitiness when he drinks it.

victoria's first impression of the frei brothers (which greg suggested we decant) was that it had a raisin nose and slight chalkiness to the mouth feel. that was a first for victoria. after it had been decanted, greg and victoria agreed that it seemed to mellow out a little. victoria can smell the alcohol in the nose, which is less raisiny. the flavor is still slightly chalky. it's unclear whether that puts it in the flabby category (i.e., opposite of acidic), since there is an element of acid to the flavor. she agrees it's a 3 on the 1-5 acidity scale.

as for the cloudline, it has a fruity nose, and she agrees there is a minor scent of fabric softener (odd, we know). this cloudline is also acidic, though it's not overwhelming. it feels like a lighter wine. paired with the chicken dish, it seems to enhance and sublimize the flavor of the balsamic/garlic glaze. she thinks it's a good pairing with this particular dish, probably because the acidity of the glaze is offset by the fruitiness of the cloudline. the cloudline is the one she'd get again. it seems to drink well on its own after the meal. the acidity is there, but it doesn't overshadow the evening.

the frei brothers is also good on its own. victoria had wanted to give the frei brothers another try since we had one of their russian river valley chardonnays back in february (which she didn't like, though she doesn't really like chards in general). now she can cross this particular pinot off her list. not sure she'd get it again.

cloudline: part of the joseph drouhin company, grapes were grown in oregon but not all of them necessarily came from the willamette valley, which is the state's best-known growing area, according to winevoice.blogspot.com. that site goes on to say that cloudline only exists on paper and is in fact owned by dreyfus, ashby and co., which is actually joseph drouhin's wholly owned u.s. distributor. for a really interesting read on the cloudline name, see: http://winevoice.blogspot.com/2008/10/cloudline-pinot-2007-versus-2006.html
13.5 percent alcohol. $13.49 with 10-percent case discount at big red liquors.
frei brothers: sonoma county, gallo-owned. 13.5 percent alcohol. $27.99 at schnucks on washington.


2007 Ancient Vines Zinfandel: Sweeter compared to the Alluvium, but still good.

june 28, 2009: this is a second-bottle after our alluvium (we're celebrating greg's return from canada tonight.) victoria thinks that compared to the alluvium, the cline is sweet and earthy. but greg contests this point, saying he's actually tasted dirt before and doesn't really agree. but victoria says there's something really musty about the cline; it makes her think of how it would smell to be encased in soil, or to be once again in her family's wine cellar in st. jacut, brittany. while greg thinks the alluvium is smoother and a little more developed than the cline, he's still holding off on agreeing about the earthy quality. 14.5 percent alcohol. $13.49 with 10-percent case discount at big red liquors.

2005 Beringer Knights Valley Alluvium: Two votes for good!

june 28, 2009: we had this with grilled chicago-style steak, potatoes and asparagus to celebrate greg's return from a week-long fishing trip in canada. we both agree it has a silky consistency. greg thinks it's very smooth, though he cautioned that his taste buds are burnt from the trip. but he can feel the tannins. he added that it's a well-balanced wine that went very well with the steak. victoria thinks the nose is slightly musty, almost like a red zin, but it doesn't have the same finish. the tannins are there, but they aren't overwhelming. she's missed red wine since greg's been gone (emilie and victoria focused a lot on sauvignon blancs during his trip up north). we'd both get it again. greg said if he could buy a case of it, he would. "i really enjoyed that wine," he said. 14.2 percent alcohol. $29.99 at friar tuck in st. louis.


2007 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc: Victoria and Emilie really like this!

june 23, 2009: victoria prepared this meal for emilie as a sort of going-away dinner since emilie will be leaving for baltimore on wednesday. the chicken has been marinating in lemon juice/zest, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano. it will be grilled and then served with asparagus and red potatoes. it turned out very well. we both agreed that it was honeysuckle on the nose, with a little bit of lemon. the flavor was a bit sweeter than most sauvignon blancs, to the point where emilie said it reminded her a little of a reisling. it matched very well with the chicken, and we'd both get this one again. 13 percent alcohol. $22.99 at schnucks on washington.

2007 Kris Pinot Grigio: Victoria: eh; Emilie said it's better when not sipped on the same night as a sauvignon blanc.

june 20, 2009: this wine was suggested by a salesman who works at varsity liquors, a new wine store in evansville. victoria had wanted to find a good pinot noir to go with our grilled salmon dish (marinated in soy sauce and brown sugar), but this man thought a pinot grigio would go better. for that reason we are a bit doubtful of his experience level; he seems a bit too traditional and unimaginative. (we were actually looking for the a to z pinot noir, but they didn't have it. that was a very good match with this salmon the first time victoria made it for greg, and she bought that at winetree.) after a taste test, victoria thinks this pinot grigio is silky, but it doesn't add much flavor to the meal. emilie said she's had this wine before and that it hasn't been that bad in the past. 12.5 percent alcohol. $13.90.

2007 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc: Emilie and I agree: This is good!

june 20, 2009: emilie was home for a few days before she left for baltimore, and we decided to prepare a meal of grilled salmon, grilled fresh sweet corn and red potatoes. we had had this spy valley at a seafood restaurant in st. louis and really loved it. this time, it was crisp but also fruity. the nose was effusively sweet, and the flavor just as good. victoria tasted a little apple. 13 percent alcohol. $13.49 at schnucks on north green river.


2005 Old Ghost Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel: Victoria is disappointed; Greg likes it.

june 17, 2009: victoria thinks this wasn't the best pairing with sirloin burgers with sharp chedder, horseradish, garlic salt, salt and pepper. that was a meal she had found on allrecipes.com after a thorough search for the best pairing with a red zin. it was either that or barbecue, and her french background disqualified barbecue ;) this is somewhat disappointing. first of all, it was the most expensive bottle we purchased at big red over the memorial day weekend, so there was a lot of built-up anticipation. the burgers were relatively decent by themselves, but it felt like a travesty to pair them with a $35.09 bottle (with 10 percent case discount purchased at big red liquors.) but no other options presented themselves. by itself, this old ghost -- victoria shrugs her shoulders -- seems to be a typical red zin, with that mustiness she's come to associate with the entire type of grape. it is gentle on her mouth, with a slight peppery-ness that isn't entirely uniform. but she was expecting more complexity for the price. greg said he liked it and that it was a good example of a red zin. 15.5 percent alcohol. price already stated.


2008 Gascon Mablec: This particular bottle is acidic, making it unusual. Normally this is more dependable.

june 16, 2009: we had this with grilled chicken marinated in tomato-pesto sauce (which worked out very well), broccoli and pasta with sour cream. the pairing wasn't totally ideal. victoria thinks it's the most acidic bottle of gascon we've had, but greg said that's bound to happen occasionally. other than the acidity, he said it's about the same as the first time we had it ... though with a little more distance from its uncorking, he agrees that something is off: it has more bitterness at the end of it. 13.9 percent alcohol. $12.99 at schnucks.


2005 Bogle Phantom: Good second wine, and not a disappointment.

june 14, 2009: a second-bottle wine couldn't be much better than bogle's phantom, the type of shadowy figure that only appears in wine stores briefly, if at all (in the midwest, anyway). victoria thought it was musty, with excellent qualities ... like a really nice find in an old attic (from 2005). greg really likes it; he said it's very similar to the earthquake petite sirah, but it's not as effusively carmel/raisin, yet he smells the cat food odor (this is a positive thing, we promise.) he says it's very mellow, very smooth, hardly acidic ... a 1 on the 1-5 acidity scale (5 being so acidic it's undrinkable); it has a little bit of cherry to it, a little bit, it's just mellow, though a bit sour at the end. he's glad we bought it. victoria thinks it's earthy like the earthquake petite sirah, with a very similar nose. we had bought a case of it in bloomington, ind., over the memorial day weekend, and it's as good as we remember it being at the big red wine fest in late march. it's funny: victoria had spotted just one bottle of this at whole foods in st. louis (which was quickly snapped up by her father.) the employees there assured her and her father that that was the only bottle they had left (curses alan marty!). anyway. now it's a good, light-yet-substantial red. we had debated going with the santa ema reserve cab or the montebuena rioja (both of which are rob williamson's suggestions that we have yet to try), but we ended up with the phantom since we knew it was a guaranteed positive. 14.5 percent alcohol. $219.44 divided by 12= $18.25 per bottle (case discount through big red liquors).

2005 Earthquake Petite Sirah: Earthy, gentle, excellent.

june 14, 2009: we had this lodi appelation with lamb chops marinated in balsamic vinegar, shallots, chicken stock, dried thyme, dried rosemary and dried basil. the meal by itself was eat-off-the-bone fantastic. try it yourself at http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Lamb-Chops-with-Balsamic-Reduction/Detail.aspx. but paired with the wine it was even better. greg thought the earthquake was delicious. "geology has scored another ace in the hole," he said. it has a carmel/raisin scent, with an alcohol vapor (it's at 15.5 percent alcohol). the flavor is cherry but not overly sweet, overly tart or acidic. it went very well with the balsamic vinegar lamb chops. he said it's slightly tannic (a 2 on the 1-5 scale, with 5 being so intense that it's undrinkable). victoria thinks the nose is effusively fruity. oddly enough, it reminds her of very ripe peaches. the flavor is earthy ... almost as if it's in the red zin category, without the mustiness that often goes with it. it's also gentle, easy on the mouth and the tongue, as clear and creamy and smooth as a pee wee russell tune playing in the background. $29.99 at friar tuck in st. louis.
NOTE: we had this with homemade mashed red potatoes with milk, sea salt and brittany butter. wonderful.


our favorites so far ...

june 12, 2009: after about five months of studies, discussion led to our favorites so far.

greg said his favorite cab is the knights valley beringer, and as for malbecs, it's the gascon, montes or the crios. the bogle red zin was meatier than the cline red zin, but he also liked the cline. of what he can remember, he said he liked the kim crawford pinot noir.

his intense dislikes are any sauvignon blancs. he promises that as of today's date, he hates s.b.'s (spitting sound is almost audible even on here). and he's not a big fan of chardonnays, either. he also loathes the oliver winery white zin.

victoria said her favorite cabs so far are the bennett family, the louis m. martini napa valley and the beringer knights valley. malbecs: gascon, crios. red zin: cline. pinot noir: la crema, mueller. sauvignon blanc: vavasour, spy valley.

her intense dislikes are chards. she hasn't had any that she's liked so far, other than a white burgundy from 1990.

2007 Cline Cashmere California: Silky, but slightly acidic.Wouldn't get it again.

june 12, 2009: we bought this bottle at the new varsity liquors store that we happened to notice after a movie ("up": excellent!) and chinese food (jimmy jengs, also fantastic) in evansville. the store had a unique collection of wines compared to the other stores here. we chose this bottle because we've had good experiences with two other clines (the mourvedre and the ancient vines zin). this cashmere is a mix of grenache, syrah and mourvedre. victoria thinks the first impression lends itself to a tiny bit of acidity, though on the flip side, it is silky. there is a slight sweetness at the start of the sip, but it subsides relatively quickly. she'd say it's a 3 on the 1 to 5 acidity scale (5 being so acidic it's undrinkable), with slight tannins. the acidity pulls at the tip of her tongue. as it warms up/aerates in the glass, it seems to break apart a bit, as if it's becoming a little more comfortable in its new surroundings. victoria thinks this wine would do well to be opened a while before it finds itself in her glass again ... and a while later, the nose is fruitier. greg thinks it has a carmel/raisin nose. he agrees it's a little acidic; he thinks it would go very well with a steak. with a little bit of time on the clock, greg said it has gotten better. he said it's lost that raisin scent, and that it's definitely a more complex wine in that it leans toward an evolution of sorts. now we both agree that it's become a little tart. 14.5 percent alcohol. $13.99.
UPDATE: we had what was left of this a couple days later, in preparation for an earthquake petite sirah and lamb dish. greg thinks it's a good wine, his impressions were the same two nights later as they were the first time we tried it. victoria thought it was definitely more mellow on a second try ... still silky, but less acidic and tart. we had a balsamic vinegar lamb recipe reducing on the stove in the kitchen the whole time she was drinking it, so she thinks that affected her sense of the flavor of the wine. it seemed better this time than the first time.


2008 Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec Medoza: A good, low-tannin malbec. We'd get it again.

june 11, 2009: victoria picked this up at wine tree a week ago. it was highly recommended there, and purchasing it was partly a test of those "highly recommended" slips that are placed below certain wines. we both like it. victoria thinks it's light, very fruity, with a somewhat musty nose but a blueberry flavor that isn't overpowering. the tannin is mild. greg thinks it has that cat food smell to it, but it's fruity; the scent reminds him a little of cotton candy. we matched it with grilled turkey burgers mixed with carrots and green peppers, gorgonzola cheese and mushrooms. this pairing mellows out the wine, pushing the tannins off the palate to make room for a softer, creamier flavor -- from both the wine and the burgers. it reminds victoria of the gascon malbec. it's very drinkable, the type of wine you'd want to accompany you to an uninhibited place. 13.8 percent alcohol. $13.99 at wine tree.


2006 Guenoc Petite Sirah: Not perfectly matched with this meal, but still good.

june 10, 2009: greg grilled up some pork loins with chicago-style seasoning and prepared a side of rice, mushrooms and broccoli. it wasn't the best pairing, probably because of the garlic and salt on the pork. but: this wine is still good, especially with distance from the meal. victoria says it has a slight chocolate and coffee nose, and a blackberry flavor. heavy on the tannins, this is a good i'm-in-air-conditioning-now wine. it's still a bit creamy, but not in an overly flabby way. greg says the wine doesn't go well with the pork, but he thinks it's carmely, and not much different from earlier tastings of the same wine. it just didn't go well with the dinner. 13.5 percent alcohol. $12.59 with 10-percent big red liquors case discount.


2007 Ancient Vines Zinfandel California: The good earth.

june 9, 2010: alright. this is one of those wines that makes you really sense the earth from which it came. real, substantial, with layers of complexity ... subtle cherry nose, with an immediate sweetness followed by thick, heavy strawberries and even more cherry. our second try. it didn't go as well with the sirloin burgers with gorganzola, shaved onions, sage and balsamic vinegar. neither, greg said, did it go very well with his andouille brats. but on its own, which it is now, this is pretty darn good. but an hour later, greg is changing his mind. he says it has a funky aftertaste which he does not like. victoria agrees that it's not as complicated as the first time we had it; but that first time was after it had been opened for a while. 14.5 percent alcohol. $13.49 with 10-percent big red liquors discount.


2007 La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: Slightly sweet, low acidity, mellow. Victoria would get it again. Greg said it was hard to tell.

june 7, 2009: we had this with salmon marinated in soy sauce and brown sugar, and a side of red potatoes. this wasn't the best pairing, surprisingly. we think it was because of the wine's minimal sweetness, because together, the wine came off a bit raisin-y, probably because of the brown sugar in the marinade. but by itself, and distanced from the salmon, victoria said this is a good, low-acid drinking wine, a bit creamy and smooth, and not acidically harsh like some other pinot noirs we've had (victoria is thinking of the boxcar in particular). she says it's a 1 on the 1-5 acidity scale (with 5 being so acidic it's undrinkable). victoria says she would get this wine again, though preferably not paired with this particular salmon marinade. greg is not commenting since he had a good amount of scotch the night before, and that is affecting his impression of the flavor of the pinot. 13.9 percent alcohol. about $21 with big red's 10 percent mixed-case discount.


2008 Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc: Honey on the nose, and better chilled.

june 5, 2009: victoria had a couple of glasses of this while greg was gone. from the not-quite-cool basement, an immediate tasting showed a nose that emitted a mixture of honey and freshly cut grass. the flavor was light, slightly acidic ... *time out to create a mock-ice bucket* ... and about 20 minutes later, she sees the development in the glass. the chill calms it down, makes it seem more composed. but as it warms up and aerates in the glass, it becomes clear that this is a mild, playful summer wine ... not as crisp as the spy valley we had in st. louis, and not as effusive in the nose, either ... though the flavor is more substantial than the dry creek we had recently. but still a good sauvignon blanc that balances nicely with the humidity of indiana's early june nights. 13 percent alcohol. $17.09 with big red mixed-case discount.


2006 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County: Greg liked it, Victoria not so much.

june 3, 2009: we had this with chicago-style seasoned pork loins and fresh broccoli. greg likes it. the nose is slightly tannic and cherry. he can taste the tannins, the flavor is low acidity, some cherry, very smooth, it's drinkable. victoria thinks it's got a warmly cherry nose, with slight alcohol vapors. it has tannins and acidity without being particularly distinctive; as far as the finish, it's all at once, like the final exclamation of a street firecracker, without the long-term definition, color and style that comes from a far more precise production. she was happy to try the sonoma valley since we really enjoyed the napa valley version from the same vineyard. 13.9 alcohol. $12.59 with a 10-percent big red liquors case discount.