2008 14 Hands Riesling: Flat apple, too smooth

feb. 27, 2011: it's oscar night, and i've usurped ashby's and shelby's spots on the couch to plant myself in front of the tv. to pair with the brats we cooked up, we opened up this 14 hands riesling, which was recommended by dennis at winetree. i'm starting to realize i'm not a fan of two types of rieslings: ones that have too much apple, and others that have too much honey.

for me, this washingtonian was in the too-much-apple category. it's very smooth, but that's almost a bad thing, in that it's too simplistic. there's hardly any crispness, no acidity. it went well with the apple brats from the newburgh butcher shop, though, and it's easy to drink. 11.5 percent alcohol.

2005 Waters Interlude Walla Walla Red Blend: Bursting with flavors, yet feels light

feb. 26, 2011: occasionally you meet a wine that bursts from the bottle like an 18-year-old who's just found his freedom. which is to say, this washingtonian throws its punches wildly, slamming down cherries and blackberries like a frat boy downing shots at the bar.

but when paired with my entree, this bordeaux blend was almost too light to fit the bill. first, consider the Type A guest who'd arrived at the table just minutes before. this composed number took the form of a prime beef filet topped with horseradish glaze, asparagus, morel mushroom gravy, and mashed potatoes infused with maytag blue cheese. it was a filet so flush with flavor that the other entrees in the restaurant were likely trembling with fear. as for the wine, it became more and more apparent that this walla walla just wasn't going to cut it. think jabbering college student who's bragging about a long slew of escapades ... while his stern father sits there unimpressed. 

that said, this wine did get more serious once we'd finished our plates, leading me to think it just seemed light compared to steak. or it could have been because the waitress opened the bottle and served it right away, not giving it time to breathe. so don't get me wrong. this is a very good wine, and i'm really glad we were able to try waters, since i've seen the label around and have been wondering about it.

also, greg's entree was sirloin steak with cantonese sauce. while he said his meal was excellent, he didn't think the spicy cantonese sauce paired well with the wine.

as for the details, this is a blend of 55 percent merlot, 38 percent cabernet sauvignon, and 17 percent cabernet franc, aged in 25 percent new french oak for 14 months, according to robert parker.

2007 Brazin Old Vine Zinfandel: Greg liked it

feb. 26, 2011: my only sip of this glass of zin gave me the impression that it was acidic and dry. but greg liked this zin, which he said had a fruity nose. the texture, he said, was relatively smooth, and the flavor had some cherries. he paired it with sweet breads. they were so tender and rich ... delicious!

2007 Patz and Hall (Possibly Napa Valley?) Chardonnay: Eh.

feb. 26, 2011: greg and i were trying to maximize our wine exposure at madeleine's fusion restaurant on saturday. it was a much-belated birthday celebration for me, but we were also toasting greg's new job and another bit of happy news that i'm not ready to reveal yet. this glass of chardonnay from what i think was napa valley (wish i had taken better notes) was slightly peachy with some light lemon. by itself i wasn't that impressed with it, and i think it could have been chilled a bit more.

it wasn't our waitress' fault -- there was some sort of problem in the kitchen -- but we ended up waiting for about 35 minutes for our first course. as a result, the wine ended up warming up a bit. as for our appetizers, they were both worth the wait. greg had sweet breads (paired with a 2007 brazin old vine zinfandel that i'll talk about in an above post), and i had breaded goat cheese on top of cubed beets. this was fantastic and went wonderfully with the chardonnay. the peach flavors i identified in the wine made it trend toward sweet, and i was very impressed by the pairing with the beets and goat cheese. i think this is a better wine to pair with food than to drink on its own.


2008 Tamas Double Decker Red: It's good we know Tim

feb. 23, 2011: winetree is awesome. it's not just that it's a few blocks from our house. this is just a good store, filled with wines that seem to fit our tastes more often than not. and this latest "like" is a 2008 tamas double decker red from the central coast of california that tim recommended. i'm not sure on the cost (it's been a while since we held the receipt), but i know this blend of cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah and barbera is definitely less than $20. the nose is an indistinguishable red fruit, while the texture is light, with some tannins. this is an easy wine to drink, and to like. 13.5 percent alcohol.


2005 Rosenblum Cellars St. Peters Church Zinfandel: There wasn't enough of this to last the evening

feb. 18, 2011: rob williamson was visiting us this weekend. he's a zin fan, and he was the one who first introduced us to rosenblum cellars. so i decided we'd have the st. peters church zin, which was new to all of us, and that we'd pair it with braised lamb with rosemary and garlic. here's the recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Braised-Lamb-Shanks-with-Garlic-and-Rosemary-100843

i used two lamb shanks and two lamb steaks and heated them on high in the crockpot for about 4.5 hours. i added two cans of beef broth to make sure the meat would remain moist. i also made mashed potatoes with butter, buttermilk and milk. it all turned out pretty well, but i think i should have browned the lamb with the garlic and onions before i put them in the crock pot, as the comments on the recipe recommended, to add more flavor.

as for the wine, his californian was definitely worthwhile. it was soft and round, with blackberries and menthol. a very good bottle.


2008 The Crossings Marlborough Medway Selection Unoaked Chardonnay: A bit flat, but context is everything

feb. 13, 2011: to be fair, i'll let it be known up front that we are comparing this (both consciously and unconsciously) to the 2007 zd chardonnay. greg bought the awesome zd, which is what we started with (see below post). and i had purchased the crossings as a back-up, just in case the zd was too buttery for me to take. but it turns out that the zd is quite good. and unfortunately for this "the crossings," that means it's being labeled flat and second rate.

look. i realize i've made a rather recent complete turn-around regarding chardonnay. but it's extremely interesting, to me at least, that even within the zd experience, i've had a chance to review "the crossings," a new zealand variety. and this is what i think: the closer i am to the zd, the more i think "the crossings" is something i'd walk right on by. here is the mildewy nose. here is the flatter taste. and as for greg, he thinks the texture is sharper, and more acidic, than the zd. plus, the color is not as yellow.

but. and this is a huge but: reviewing this "the crossings" is like comparing alabaster to limestone. which is to say, the farther you get from the alabaster, the more you appreciate the limestone. so. we finished the zd some time ago. and we've had enough sunflower bread from schnucks, and enough water from evansville, to now draw a completely different conclusion. and now: this "the crossings" has improved. greg: "it's smokier the more it warms up." as for me, i think the nose is more mutedly floral. not to say that we'd get it again, but this is one of those posts where context means a lot.

13.5 percent alcohol. $14.99 with 10-percent 6-bottle case discount.

2007 ZD. Chardonnay California: Very, very good

feb. 13, 2011: i take back everything i've said about chardonnay. well, not everything. i still don't like the effects of malolactic acid (butter flavoring), and i'm not a huge fan of excessive oakiness (i.e., vanilla overtones). but this zd is quite good. greg had sampled it on a winetree tasting, but i wasn't able to be there. so tonight, he opened this californian to match scallops, ocean perch and stuffed crabs, all the while being a little concerned that i might not like it (see my other anti-chardonnay comments).

(by the way, this will be known as the second night (the first was with emilie and sean) that scallops from schnucks turned out so badly, and the first that the ocean perch wasn't that impressive ... don't try the recipe found at http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Bake-Ocean-Perch&id=335455)

anyway, this zd is quite good. we'll definitely be getting it again, though at around $35, it's on the pricier side of good. greg said the nose has hints of honey, while the texture is very smooth. the flavor has honey overtones, with a little vanilla. "it's very good, an excellent chardonnay. probably one of the best chardonnays i've had." i thought this californian's nose was honey and lemonish, while the texture was smooth, silky, with a hint of acidity. this is a warm, welcoming, very yellow chardonnay. and as it warmed in the glass, it became a little more acidic (in texture), and a bit more buttery (in the nose, but it was so subtle that it didn't bother me at all). there's also more sweetness. the zd has been fermented in cold barrels, according to the label. 13.5 percent alcohol. $32.99 with a 10-percent 6-bottle case discount from winetree.

2005 Lapis Luna Shoup Vineyard Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon: Very good

feb. 12, 2011: we finished off the evening drinking the rest of this californian from winetree. this shoup vineyard cab is actually a pretty star wine for less than $20. greg said it smelled like berries. "it's not a strong, masculine cab, but it's smooth, fruity, with good tannins." i thought the nose was leathery, with some dark berries. it tasted like blackberries. it was a rich wine, soft, smooth and a very worthwhile try. it also had quite a bit of sediment (that you can see in the photo.) 13.9 percent alcohol. $16.99 with 10-percent discount.


2009 Block Nine Pinot Noir: Smooth, sleek, very good

feb. 12, 2011: i don't know what it is about valentine's day, but at the grabner household, the day seems to stretch into several. this pre-valentine's day celebration included baked salmon with this recipe http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/baked-salmon-ii/Detail.aspx and this block nine pinot noir from california. both are new to us. the pinot was about $14.59 with a six-bottle case discount at winetree that we got today as well. this californian was smooth and sleek, with a eucalyptus nose. we'd both definitely get it again. 13.1 percent alcohol.

the salmon recipe was also very tasty and we'll make this again ... probably when rob williamson visits us next weekend. the seasoning goes well with the natural flavor of the salmon. i also used three garlic cloves instead of two. (i crushed two of the cloves and then diced the third.) i also added more than a tablespoon of freshly squeeze lemon juice and marinated this for more than an hour. i then baked it for about 30 minutes, which might have been a bit too much. but salmon is such a fatty fish that it's very forgiving. i think i might bake it for about 2-3 minutes less next time. we also had steamed broccoli and carrots, and freshly baked multi-grain bread from schnucks. anyway, it was a very good meal all around.


2005 Rosenblum Cellars Maggie's Reserve Zinfandel: Sweet, smooth, blackberry

feb. 6, 2011: i had bought this sonoma valley wine saturday night at winetree on a whim. i was just hoping to add some table wines to our collection, but i got distracted by this californian's significant price markdown (from somewhere around $48 to around $21, if i remember right.) on superbowl sunday, we decided to pair it with grilled steaks and steamed carrots and broccoli. greg's impression, at first, was that it was a bit acidic, but then he said he thought his sense of taste was off. as for me, i really liked this wine. it was richer in flavor, and softer and rounder, than other wines we've had lately. i asked tim at winetree, when i bought it, why the price had been so reduced, and he said that ron just got a good deal on it. i'm thinking i might get this for my dad. it's above our price range to be an everyday wine, but it's still a good vintage. 14.8 percent alcohol.

also, i didn't realize this until a few days later, but we'd already had this wine back in 2009. rob williamson had shared it with me at one of our new year's parties. here's the blog link: http://growingthegrabners.blogspot.com/2010/01/2005-rosenblum-cellars-maggies-reserve.html

2008 Volteo Tempranillo Shiraz: A decent secondary wine

feb. 4, 2011: i'm a bit late posting this, hence the delayed time stamp. we first had this wine at a wine tasting at winetree, where we had a very interesting hour-long talk with ron hull. of the four wines we sampled that wednesday night, this was the best one. but when we opened this spaniard this past weekend, our views were split. greg liked the nose and said the texture was tannic, while the flavor was both sweet and neutral. i thought it had a quixotically aromatic nose, while the texture was definitely dry. i was surprised by the shiraz that's been infused into this bottle (i think ron said it was a 60-40 blend, with the majority going toward tempranillo). because of the shiraz, i thought it would have more flavor. i'm not sure i'd get it again.

2008 Don Ramon Campo de Borja: Smooth, fruity, fun

feb. 9, 2011: you're a good man, don ramon -- especially on cold, snowy nights where you just want to curl up on the couch with a good book. we first got wind of this spaniard from dennis at winetree some time ago, and since greg had encouraged me to start developing a collection of inexpensive, good wines to have around the house whenever we felt like opening a bottle, this campo de borja was a no-brainer. this 12.5 percent alcohol spaniard is much less potent than other reds we usually have. plus, it's easy to drink, smooth, fruity, a bit black pepperish, and pretty fun ... definitely a good buy.