2009 Gran Sasso Montepulciano d'Abruzzo: Reminds us of a fruity malbec

march 15, 2011: beware the ides of march or, it must be said, a well-priced and tasty montepulciano d'abruzzo. because sometimes you raise your glass due to thirst, or to a well-deserved accomplishment. and other times you raise it for the things you wanted to accomplish, but couldn't -- due to red tape, poor planning, or 23 stabs heading your way.

not that we see anything admirable in the way that julius caesar fell. we're not about knives, or the stones that seem to sharpen their blades. but it's easy to acknowledge a good wine when we taste it, and this 2009 gran sasso is exactly that. ever had a fruity malbec from chile? they're different varietals, but this italian is like that malbec's lighter, more supple side, the one that makes you realize, once again, that not all wines have to be pricey. this one i bought at winestyles, where angie, the owner, said it'd be good with both a cheesy lasagna and by itself. at 13 percent alcohol, it's just light enough to make you laugh. and on the ides of march, it's possible that you might just need that.

SECOND NIGHT: this time, this gran sasso is more mellow and a bit rounder. it's a good purchase that we'll make again. incidentally, for those who are interested in montepulciano d'abruzzo, this gran sasso is a good bottle to start with. it's a DOC, meaning denominazione di origine controllata (or, "original location certified"), and it's not always purely comprised of montepulciano grapes. sangiovese grapes, which are permitted to be added to this type of wine, are also grown in this east-central portion of italy on the adriatic coast. for more information, visit http://www.intowine.com/montepulciano-d%E2%80%99abruzzo-wonderful-red-wine-region-abruzzo


2006 Rosenblum Cellars Sonoma Valley Monte Rosso Vineyard: Fruity, but thin

march 13, 2011: with 6 people to share it with, it wasn't a very good night for rosenblum. first, there was the vintner's cuvee XXXII that was fruity but sour. then there was this monte rosso, which was better but clearly in the shadow of its heftier rosenblumian brothers and sisters.

i got this at winetree as part of a case discount. at the time, they were having a substantial markdown on rosenblum zins, and the ones we had (st. peter's church and maggie's reserve) were very good, with the st. peter's church being especially luscious, fruity, soft and round. but this monte rosso was much lighter. my father thought it was too young, and maybe that was the problem: it needs to hide out in a dark, temperature-controlled cellar for a while to muscle up a bit. 14.8 percent alcohol.

Rosenblum Cellars Vintner's Cuvee XXXII Zinfandel: Fruity nose, but sour

march 13, 2011: greg needed some red wine for his venison recipe, so we uncorked this rosenblum, which i had bought at winestyles on friday. right out of the bottle, greg liked the fruity nose. but when he tasted it, he thought it was sour. i was willing to give it more time, since maybe it just needed to breathe a bit. but a couple of hours later, after my family had had two other bottles of wine, we brought this one out to get their opinions. their review? sour and acidic, but emitting a good nose.

this was my first purchase at winestyles in a long while. i had stopped in there to see their selection, and i really was impressed with their store, which is very user friendly. the wines are categorized according to their flavors and textures, so, for instance, there is a fruity section (which i pulled this rosenblum from), a crisp section, a bold section, and more. they also offer regional wines, as well as a cheese selection.

i talked with the owner briefly, and she was very helpful, giving me details about their wine tastings, which take place about once a month at area restaurants. one is actually coming up, i understand, at china bistro, and reservations are needed since the slots fill up fast. but anyway, angie keck was very gracious and i'm looking forward to trying more of their wines ... even if this particular rosenblum might have been a bad bottle.

at the cash register, angie said this rosenblum is one of that estate's lighter versions of zinfandel. that's because, she said, that (very simply described) the grape skins spent less time mixed in with the grape juice, so it's not as tannic or as fully flavored as other zins that have had more exposure to the skins. there's more to it, of course. check out rosenblum's web site here: https://www.rosenblumcellars.com/shop/item.jsp?itemid=686&catid=58 the tasting notes in a PDF at the bottom of the page, however, are for the XXXI

greg and i have had several other rosenblum zins (st. peter's church, maggie's reserve, monte rosso, contra consta county) and we've generally (except for the monte rosso, which i'll review above) found those to be richer, fuller and rounder ... more substantial, in other words. but those are also higher-priced wines (in the $20 and above range), so that might partially account for the difference. this particular rosenblum XXXII was about $15, if i remember right. 13.5 percent alcohol.

1990 Chateau Le Gay Pomerol: I always get a brown sugar nose

march 13, 2011: this was my dad's last pomerol. a magnum, this frenchman was able to serve six people at our house tonight for my dad's belated birthday celebration.

greg seared venison with thyme and blueberry gravy to create a dish that was very flavorful. i tried to reproduce a maytag blue cheese mashed potato recipe that we had had at madeline's fusion restaurant a few weeks ago, but i was clearly setting the bar too high (i forgot how sharp maytag is and added too much cheese). joanne and tom brought joanne's cheese bread and an apple upsidedown cake. and my parents brought spinach and ris d'agneau (lamb sweetbreads), which they had bought in sarasota, fla.

within minutes of their arrival, the pomerol was popped open to reveal a very cherry red and saturated cork, and my dad stood at our stove to lightly pan fry the sweetbreads. then, wine poured and ris d'agneau distributed amongst us, we sat down to enjoy the first course.

we've had several of my dad's bordeaux and i can't quite explain why, but the nose always, to me, seems to evoke brown sugar. it's not that it's overly sweet. it's just that it's both earthy and almost raisiny, with the mouth effect being, to me, a bit astringent. there was definite sediment, and aside from the slight biting feel on my tongue, the flavors were subtle and hard to distinguish. my father was pleased with this wine, saying pomerols really can develop a great bouquet with age.

as for details about the winery, he and my mom had heard from a wine sommelier at a restaurant in paris in the 1980s that chateau le gay had been owned by two sisters. i did some internet research, and that was true -- for a time. now the vineyards have been sold to catherine pere-verge, though relatives of the sisters own the la fleur estate (also once owned by the sisters) nearby.

here is a very descriptive blog posting of the history of the chateau le gay property: http://bordeaux-undiscovered.blogspot.com/2009/05/chateau-le-gay.html

13.5 percent alcohol. last of the bunch.


2008 Silver Palm Cabernet Sauvignon: Give me time, and even then, I will be light.

march 11, 2011: some wines evolve before your very eyes or, in this case, taste buds. give it an hour, and this silver palm californian sheds its acidity, gathers the strength of its fruits and begins to exude a smooth sense of confidence. but beware the hour beforehand, when you're wondering why you spent more than $20 to pop open its cork. consider the recipe that encouraged it to come into its own:  the homemade hamburgers via http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Blue-Cheese-Burgers/Detail.aspx, and then add the sweet potato chipolte fries that greg heated up in the oven to accompany them. then, and only then, did this silver palm seem to realize it had something to say. i had selected 3 pounds of lean ground beef for this recipe, but it was only when paired with the relative fat of the hamburger that this cab came alive and expressed itself, cutting through the small amounts of grease to say: i'm here. notice me. and remember that i'm something to reckon with. 13.9 percent alcohol. varsity liquors.


2008 Red Diamond Merlot: I got home just in time

march 9, 2011: i'm not good at this, at pairing wines with music. i step on rhythm's toes; i trip on its bars. and all the wine does is loosen my tongue.

but this red diamond is different. to be fair, this is a new dance partner, one that greg sampled at winetree's tasting tonight while i was at work. he said it was the best they had for show, and to prove it, he brought it home, laid it on our kitchen counter, and poured it, slowly, into his wine glass.

meanwhile, if this bottle had a voice, it would be van morrison's. or aimee mann's. or joao gilberto's. something smooth, yet not overwhelming; contained, yet expressive; cool and relaxed, yet impressive enough to earn a second look. black cherry overtones and earthy nose. 13.5 percent alcohol.


Toasted Head Untamed White: Light, slight peach, easy to drink

march 6, 2011: untamed nights come and go, i suppose. this one being our first, i had no complaints. after a weekend of heavy foods, i was itching for something light, something that wouldn't bog me down. so i thought: salad, with cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and fat-free zesty italian dressing (which i'm quite addicted to.) the pairing was good and definitely not a contrast. and this barrel-aged californian (a blend of viognier, chardonnay and moscato) was light enough, and flavorful enough, to make the salad (two helpings, and gone now) almost unnecessary. a good wine to relax to. 13.5 percent alcohol. winetree. tim's recommendation.


2009 Crios Malbec: Rough, some fruit, wouldn't get it again

march 3, 2011: it's strange. greg and i really started out exploring wine through malbec. but now all i can say about this mendoza, argentinian, is how much the roughness rubs me the wrong way. this 13.9 percent alcohol speciman contains some fruit flavors, but the overall effect is more texture than flavor. won't be getting this again. winetree.

update (10 minutes later): i needed a distraction from this dry why-did-i-buy-this, and anyway, i was hungry. so i microwaved some rigatoni with italian sausage that greg prepared last night. and what a great accidental pairing! i don't know why, but this malbec is suddenly much less tannic. it's actually quite tolerable. so now i think this might be a good food wine (if you pair it with pasta with tomato sauce.)

SECOND NIGHT: i thought i put the sandpaper i used on our cabinet back in the garage. but no, somehow it ended up right here in this crios malbec. think the voice on that lady at the gas station who's smoked too many cigs; think turbulance on an airplane leaving o'hare. this malbec is just rough, and there's no way around it. the weird thing is that on this second night, it's not as tannic, but it's retained the small amount of fruitiness it had on thursday. greg said it's acidic and definitely rough around the edges.


2007 De Bortoli Petite Sirah: An odd mixture of acidic and smooth

march 1, 2011: i bought this at varsity liquors. i hadn't been in there in months, but i decided i'd give them another chance, and it seems (to our minds at least) that their selection has improved. we saw a caiden's vineyards block nine pinot noir there, also the zd chardonnay ... for those not in the know, these are some good wines to be placed beside.

anyway, this petite sirah was only $7.99, so i figured why not? i'd had this before at winetree in october 2010 and really liked it paired with lamb stew. but right out of the bottle, this particular bottle was an odd mixture (in terms of textures) of acidic and smooth. i gave it some time, and the nose seemed to improve a bit, evoking blackberries and some earth. but still, there's that unavoidable acidicity ... maybe it's a bad bottle? 14 percent alcohol.

SECOND NIGHT: definite tannins and hardly any flavor. drinkable, but not very tasty.