I’m going to try something new. Maybe it will start a conversation. Maybe it will only happen once. Maybe it will alleviate some boredom…
The purpose of The State of Distraction is to throw out some things that may be of interest that may not get their own posts or that I may not get around to posting about.
We will see how it goes.
I just got done with Ghost in the Wires the autobiography / memoir of Kevin Mitnick. I liked it as much as The Art of Deception and The Art of Intrusion (both are must-reads on the 5GW bookshelf). I might get around to doing a more complete post about this one but in short I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in security or cyber-security.
I’m currently reading Storm Front by Jim Butcher. I’ve heard a lot about how good The Dresden Files are but never picked up the novels. So far I am enjoying it quite a bit and I will probably end up reading the series, though I probably won’t post reviews about them. Storm Front came out in 2000 after all so there isn’t much new there to talk about. My local library seems to have all of the books available and I already have Fool Moon waiting on deck. I might have to make it a point to go back and read up on series that I didn’t read because they were already a couple of books in before I noticed them. Suggestions would be great.
Of the wines I’ve been sampling lately a couple have stood out from the rest. One is the S.I.P. certified (a classification that goes beyond the organic tag) 2009 Carmel Road Pinot Noir from Monterey California. It has a nice, rich cherry / plum flavor and a beautiful black tea-like character. It also has very nice structure and balance and is worth looking for.
Another winner is a Spanish Rioja, the 2005 Marques de Murrieta Reserva. This is a wine at its peak right now showing a wonderful glowing garnet (going brickish) color, and a nice fruit / earth / wood balance with a delicious finish.
Most recently I’ve been drinking (rī)¹ and it is delicious. I have lately been kind of developing a taste for high-rye bourbon and straight rye whiskey. I guess something about that extra spicy character and extra touch of heat appeals to my palate. This one is exceptionally complex with layers of nuanced flavor. My preferred way to enjoy this one is in a Glencairn glass with no ice.
Who couldn’t be diverted by the Presidential primaries right now. It looks like it is coming down to Mit and Newt (though Mit has the upper hand I would say). As an independent moderate (if I can be called anything except cynical) I really should like Mit, but he seems like a weaksauce politician to me who will do anything to get a vote. Newt appeals to me (I hate to admit) because he seems more like a political animal rather than a politician. I acknowledge his strategic ability but I have doubts about his ability to lead. I guess if you show me a real leader with the ability to deliberately improve the position domestic and international position of my country beyond the next election’s time frame, then I’ll vote for that candidate. It’s pretty much that simple for me, I just don’t see that guy on the ticket.
Thea’s Selection Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon
The Lemlson Vineyards Thea’s Selection Pinot Noir is one of the better Pinots I have had the pleasure to sample lately. Usually I prefer wines with a bit more weight than Pinot but the Thea’s Selection is certainly bulky enough to please my palate.
The nose is typical Pinot. Bright and heavy on the fruit. The taste is an entirely different story as it is much more fuller in body than most Pinots while remaining exceptionally well balanced. I am especially impressed by the winemaking skill it took to coax this much weight from a Pinot Noir grape while maintaining this seamless an integration of bright and dark fruit, bright acidity and firm grippy tannin. I have to wonder if there is a good measure of Syrah or something else dark and spicy blended here. Whatever it is it is a style I can really appreciate and get used to.
Delicious. Pair it with beef tenderloin or BBQ chicken.
On really slow days this is what I threaten my employees with.
It has sort of become a running joke but someday I think I will follow through on this. Someday…
Mollydooker “Two Left Feet”
2009: South Australia
68% Shiraz, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon,
Before the reviewing festivities commence we need to do some preparation. Why, you ask? Well, this is a Mollydooker wine and that means we get to have a little fun before we drink.
Let’s get to shaking!
The video will explain:
Fo those of you who didn’t watch the video; yes, you actually do need to shake up this wine before you drink it. You could also decant it, but that wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining. It really, really does taste completely different before and after the shake.
Yes, I tried it before I shook it up. I’m that kind of guy. Curiosity might be ultimately unpleasant for cats, but I’ve never heard a similar cliché about wine drinkers. Anyway, the flavors were dark, heavy and tight, with tarry, cocoa overtones and an edgy harshness. It wasn’t terrible at all, but then again it wasn’t really great either.
The better question is what is it like afterward. The answer is absolutely delicious. Bright flavors came out to balance the darker notes with nice roundness and chewy goodness. Acids and tannins achieved a harmony. The alcohol, though pretty high at 16% abv, didn’t overpower in its harshness. The finish was long and smooth, begging for food, any food, to accompany it. Personally speaking, the blend for this wine is right in the sweet-spot of my wine-drinking wheelhouse and Mollydooker just went yard like a left-handed all-star against a right-handed fastball pitcher who just got called up from the farm team. What I liked most about “Two Left Feet” was its balance and sheer drinkability. Mollydooker “Two Left Feet” is the kind of wine that makes wine fun and interesting because it has a great story, great wine makers, and flat-out great bottles to enjoy.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
2008, North Coast, California
Pinot Noir is not typically a wine that tends to be in my personal wheelhouse. My palate tends to favor big, jammy, spicy and bold Zinfandels and Syrahs/Shiraz. On the other hand, I’ll take good wine wherever I can find it and this Pinot Noir qualifies.
In the glass this wine is very, very pale to point of appearing watery. I think I’ve actually had a rosé wine or two that were actually a touch darker. The nose is also light, but spicy with hints of dark cherry and plums. The taste is light, but round and very well-balanced. The flavor, lightly filled with strawberry and cherry notes, doesn’t exactly make a bold statement but its earthy spiciness does linger with a bright acidity and not much tannin.
This is the kind of dry red that I would tend to recommend for those family gatherings where tastes are greatly varied. I also think that this would be a pretty good pairing with turkey, so I bet you can tell where I am going with that. I also would recommend this as a nice party starter, something to prime the palate before moving on to larger, dryer and more robust wines.
Barossa Valley, Australia
by Hently Farms
“You might be thinking Dusty’s Desire Shiraz is named after an Aussie bloke who desires a lifestyle of heavy drinking and promiscuity! Though we have a bloke working on the farm who fits this description, it’s not about him. Dusty is our loyal farm dog. Affectionate, mischievous but a damn hard worker to boot. All he desires is a good pat and a dip in the water trough at the end of a hot day.”
(From the label)
I was such a big fan of another Hently Farms offering, the 2008 Boxhead Shiraz, that I had to try out a couple of their other wines. Fools Bay “Dusty’s Desire” Shiraz is another wine produced in partnership with TGIC Importers. They haven’t updated their website as of this writing for the 2008 vintage of “Dusty’s Desire” but it gives a general overview.
The wine itself is very tasty and a very nice representative for Barossa Valley Shiraz. It is, at the same time, bold and balanced. Strong dark fruit flavors; blackberry, raspberry and lots of plums dominate, backed up by a solidly earthy foundation laden with vanilla and wood-spice notes. Soft-edged tannins ensure that the finish is long and silky smooth.
For a pairing suggestion I’m going meat and potatoes, literally. Specifically, prime rib and a loaded baked potato. Can’t go too far wrong there.
2007 Santa Maria Valley California
The first thing that hits you about Cambria’s Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay is the smell. Yes there are citrus and tropical fruit aromas but even before you taste the wine you can tell it is going to have a creamy, butteryness. Indeed, wine mouthfeel is smooth, rich and creamy, malolatic fermentation anyone, bringing out the flavors of pear, apple, apricot, vanilla and white peach with a solid yet subtle and balanced undertone of wood and just enough acid to maintain a bright finish.
This wine would be excellent paired with herb-roasted poultry or lightly smoked mild cheeses.
60% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petite Verdot, 6% Malbec
How do I compress the deliciousness that is the Spring Valley Vineyards “Uriah” into short, coherent sentences? Know what? I probably shouldn’t even try.
Much like the 2006 vintage of “Uriah”‘s brother wine “Frederick” from Spring Valley Vineyards, the 2007 vintage of Uriah steps up from a previous outstanding vintage and raises the bar on quality. I am typically not a huge fan of Merlot based wines, I’m sure I’ve mentioned that before, but when done right (and “Uriah” is so done right) they can be fantastic examples of the winemaking art.
The fruit for “Uriah” is sourced entirely from Spring Valley’s own Walla Walla Washington vineyards (land purchased by the namesake himself, Uriah Corkrum, and tended by his descendants), no doubt with an attention to quality that borders on the obsessive. The winemaking is also, no doubt, equally as attentive with lots of literal hand-holding, to yield one of the best Merlots I’ve had the pleasure to taste in a very long time.
“Uriah” deals in layers of complexity, the nose is dark, very slightly rasiny, and just a little bit smoky, not of char-smoke but more like some sort of really rich herb-perfumed tobacco. The taste is beyond rich with notes of dark cherry and blackberry and a taste that I can only describe as dried blueberry which are kind of like raisins but entirely not. All of this complexity is backed by very agreeable tannin and a lasting finish that evolves toward chocolate and vanilla.
“Uriah” is altogether too delicious to pass up and Spring Valley Vineyard, being a part of the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, means wine drinkers should be able to find it in whatever state they reside in, though perhaps in limited quantity. I recommend the effort involved and the price of admission, which is not small, but considering other comparable (and many inferior) wines have much higher price tags it is worth the effort and expense.
From the TGIC Importers Website:
“Boxhead winemakers is a collaboration between world renowned winery Hentley Farms and their American Importer Vine Street Imports. Their aim is to produce a range of wines from South Australia that display all of the flavors that South Australia can deliver at a price that won’t break the bank. These are hand crafted wines made at Hentley Farm from some of the best vineyard sites across South Australia.”
The 2008 Boxhead Shiraz is a whole lot of wine for around $10. It has a great balance of bright and dark fruit, tannin and acid, spice and pepper. Bluntly, it is one of the best wines I’ve had in a long time in that price range, and better than many I’ve had that cost a whole lot more. If you still have some barbeque plans to cap off the summer, or are planning to keep the grill fires burning until Old Man Winter makes you hang up your tongs, this is a great wine to pair with anything flame-kissed. Very impressive and easy on the bankroll.
Creekbend Vineyard isn’t in California or Oregon or Washington. It isn’t on the East Coast either. Creekbend is Indiana wine, and don’t let your preconceptions of the Hoosier state fool you, this is really good wine.
Creekbend Vineyard is a premium label from the Oliver Winery located in Monroe county Indiana , near Bloomington which is probably best known as the home of Indiana University. It features wines made from grapes that have been specifically selected or hybridized to suit the Indiana climate which, honestly, tends to greatly favor sweet and fruity wines over their dry and complex brethren. However, Creekbend Vineyard has a selection of great wines of all styles to show for their effort.
The Chambourcin grape is one of the few varietals capable of producing a dry red wine in the relatively cool, wet and cloudy Indiana climate. Even then some wine makers who attempt to use it “try too hard” and make wines that are overly bitter and tannic. When done well Chambourcin produces a lightly off-dry red wine that is in many way similar to the German Dornfelder but with some darker fruit notes. Previous vintages of the Creekbend Chambourcin have been very much along this path, but the 2008 vintage takes it another step higher.
The 2008 Creekbend Vineyard Chambourcin enters into the weight class of California Pinot Noir. It has both dark (currant, blackberry) and bright (cherry, raspberry, strawberry) fruit as well as a nice balance of soft tannin and acid. It is in all ways a superior dry red wine and, oh yeah, it’s from Indiana.
In addition to the Chambourcin, Creekbend also has a great lineup of other quality wines that are worth the effort to track down. The Creekbend Chardonel, made from a hybrid of Chardonnay and Seyval adapted for Indiana weather, is easily as good as its West Coast counterparts. The Vidal Blanc sparkling wine and Chambourcin Rosé are outstanding as are the sweeter Traminette (the state wine of Indiana) and Catawba wines. To top it all off, they offer an Icewine made from Vidal Blanc that is absolutely world-class.
Dry Creek Vineyards Fumé Blanc
2007 Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California
In 1968 Robert Mondavi, in a fantastic marketing move, wood aged some Sauvignon Blanc and re-named it Fumé Blanc. Nowadays the oak aging is optional, but the name Fumé Blanc is here to stay.
Dry Creek Vineyards is located in the Dry Creek Valley AVA of Sonoma County California. Their Fumé Blanc is of the non-oak aged variety has all the bright grassy, lemon/lime and passion fruit notes that implies. In the glass the wine is almost perfectly crystal clear, showing only a faint golden tint. It has well balanced acidity and is a natural fit for most seafood including sushi.
Bodegas Beronia Crianza
2006 Rioja, Spain
Spanish wines are quickly becoming some of my favorite new finds (I’ve noticed that a disproportionate amount of wines I’ve written about have been Spanish). Not only are they becoming increasingly available in my area but many of them show great quality for their price. This particular wine is from the region of Rioja and is a blend of three grapes: Tempranillo, Ganarcha (a.k.a. Grenache), and Mazuelo (a.k.a. Carignan). Crianza, a Spanish term meaning “upbringing” is an age classification meaning that the wine was aged for a minimum of two years in tank, barrel or bottle. I might be mistaken but I believe that in the Rioja region at least one of those years of aging must be in oak.
The aroma of the wine promises dark fruit backed by toasty vanilla flavors and the wine delivers with cherry, blackberry notes on a nicely spicy background thanks to the oak aging. The finish is nicely balanced with gradually fading fruit and tannins.
Many things to be thankful for this year so roast up your turkey (or your ham, or your manicotti or whatever your Thanksgiving tradition is), and celebrate with your family and friends.
Oh yeah, don’t forget the wine!
Today I have a trio of Malbecs from Argentina on the tasting. In Argentina, Malbec is quickly becoming the signature red grape varietal of the country and is most often bottled by itself instead of being blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as it is in France, where it is originally from.
The great thing about Malbec is that it is a great example that shows what a versatile and varied flavor profile a single kind of grape can yield. Each of these three Malbecs, while united by a similar basic taste, display variations on that theme that are very educational to the palate.
Altosur Malbec 2007
Of the three Malbecs the Altosur is the lightest and fruitiest and boasts the bright spiciness and soft tannins that will please the palate of a Zinfandel or Syrah/Shiraz drinker. Flavors of cherries, plums and light cloves create a round and balanced flavor profile ideal for barbeque.
Altos Las Hormigas Malbec 2008
(not 2007, but a 2008 picture I liked was not to be found)
The most immediate difference between the Altos Las Hormigas and the other wines in this Malbec tasting is the almost charcoal-like smokiness in the aroma. The fruit flavors are also darker and sharper dark cherries and ripe plums giving way to licorice, black pepper and blackberry notes with a bit of extra tannin to balance the darkness of the fruit. The finish also seems a bit shorter and softer yet still very pleasant.
Punto Final Malbec 2007
Punto Final is the heaviest of these three Malbecs yet still retains the bright fruitniess of the Malbec grape. Think of it as a Malbec doing a Cabernet Sauvignon impersonation. Raspberries and blackberries accompanied by dark cherries and mocha chocolate notes fill the mouth, backed by firm tannins and wood spices that fade toward a smooth finish.
This Sauvignon Blanc falls into the grassy / lemony category. It is nicely acidic in a way that makes it very refreshing. Lots of bright flavors would pair well with fish dishes or a nice summer day. This is a good wine to keep in the fridge for those spur-of-the-moment “I need a glass of wine” occasions.
2006 Reserve Chardonnay
While not in a style that is my personal preference for Chardonnay, the Raymond Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay has a substantial oaky and creamy character that is robust enough to tolerate being paired with hearty foods it still has the acidity to cut through heavier cream sauces like a good garlicky Alfredo.
I found this Merlot to be a tasty gem with a good balance of dark and bright fruit, tannin and a nice spicy finish. It retails for somewhere around $20 (local prices may vary), but is a really good all around value for that price range. Don’t believe the propaganda. Merlot grapes make really good wine when they are treated in the right way. I’d put this one with that leg of lamb or Easter ham that might be on the table this weekend in a heartbeat. Better get two or three bottles, everyone will probably want another glass.
Merryvale Merlot – Beckstoffer Las Amigas Vineyard
1999 Carneros, Napa Valley, California
A ‘from the cellar’ edition of Vino Veritas, this 100% Merlot was bottled, unfiltered, in August of 2001 and released in June of 2002. Merryvale has been buying grapes from the world-class Beckstoffer Vineyards since 1992 and continues in partnership with them to produce great single vineyard offerings. The grapes from the Las Amigas vineyard can be found in bottles representing a who’s-who of California wine excellence.
While I will most often save a good bottle of wine for about five years past the vintage year, ten years past the vintage year is usually the upper limit I put on a typical bottle of red, unless I’m sure it will last longer without supervision. With that in mind this Merryvale Merlot is due for an evaluation.
Color: Garnet red starting to show signs of brickishness. (A good sign the wine is showing its age.)
Nose: Light, dry and earthy.
Taste: Medium to light bodied with raisiny fruit. Earthy and woody flavors dominate but still maintains a nice long and balanced finish.
I’m afraid this wine is close to, or has already, hit its peak and is on the downward swing. It is still good but I would guess it will deteriorate fairly quickly so don’t hold on to it for too much longer. In fact, use it to celebrate a Tuesday night sometime in the next month or two. It will go well with veal parmesan (or stuffed mushrooms if you are into fungus) and a bit of candlelight, or a porch swing and one of those cool spring evenings before the mosquitoes arrive.
Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel
2006 Lodi, California
Harvested from Zinfandel vines older than fifty years, old vine Zinfandel wines tend to have a deeper richness and complexity.
Color: Deep rich red with a hint of purple.
Nose: Light and fruity.
Taste: Lots of bright cherry-berry goodness with very little tannin (it is almost sweet) and a long, long lingering finish.
Made from 100% blackberry fruit.
Color: Pale reddish-brown.
Nose: Sweet and very slightly spicy blackberry.
Taste: Like blackberry cobbler in a glass. It is almost as rich as a ruby port without the alcohol heat of a fortified wine.
Normally this is the part where I offer food pairings to go with the wines being tasted. I usually base that on what I am tasting at the moment from the wine and what I think would go nicely with it. However, this time around I’ve specifically chosen these wines to accompany a specific food, in this case chocolate cake. Now, before somebody thinks they misread that, yes, dry red wine (Zinfandel) and chocolate cake (brownies too!). Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel in previous vintages had a darker fruit and almost cocoa-like quality that made it a phenomenal match for chocolates (shared flavors between foods and wines make great pairings). The bad news is that the 2006 vintage seems to be lighter and fruitier without the cocoa darkness. The good news is that the almost sweet character of the 2006 vintage is still a great match for chocolates, specifically dark chocolates. The bitterness of the dark chocolate in contrast to the brightness of the wine will create a flavor profile that is unique and very tasty (sometimes contrast in flavor is a good thing too).
Trust me, you will not be disappointed.
Tomasello’s blackberry wine is a bit more utilitarian. This port-like fruit bomb is also great with dark and milk chocolate pieces, cheesecake, angel food cake (really almost any cake), and when mixed with vodka makes a really great martini. If your Valentine’s Day tradition includes a bottle of bubbly (and if it doesn’t it should), a splash of blackberry wine in your flute makes it something extra special.
Torres Gran Coronas Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva
2004 Penedes, Spain
85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Tempranillo
Color: Deep reddish purple
Nose: Earthy with oak and pepper notes.
Taste: Not very fruity, though there is a nice cherry note, but featuring plenty of complex spicy/oaky flavor. Hints of tobacco and vanilla.
Like most Cabernet Sauvignons this wine would pair well with virtually any cut of beef you feel like putting next to it. However, I’m thinking of something like a plate of beef chimichangas or almost any lamb dish.
Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva – Tempranillo
2003 Rioja, Spain
Color: Deep garnet.
Nose: Dark fruit and cedar wood with hints of tobacco smoke.
Taste: Dark plums and cherries with a pretty tannic black tea and herbal, oak spice finish.
Certainly a meat and potatoes kind of wine though it will probably do well with any rich and hearty dish. This is the kind of wine you think of to pair with a big pot of chili.
A ) I don’t really condone this level of wine snobbery (although if your excitement about wine leads you to talk at it in such passionate terms, and to not only have a spitoon, but a spitoon cam, more power to you).
Update 1/31/09: The complete interview/story may be found here:
“‘Some people might shy away from drinking wine because they think it’s “foofy-foofy, it’s serious, you have to learn a lot,’ Vaynerchuk says. His advice? Trust your own palate and don’t focus so much on what the experts recommend.”
This quote is from the full story and I really can’t argue with it. His advice is spot on (See ‘B’ below). Knowledge is always a good thing to have but I still think this guy is a too aggressive and intimidating with his knowledge. Wine ‘experts’ should never intimidate, that’s snobbery. People should be able to feel comfortable with what knowledge they do have and gradually expand their horizons (and palate). Wine should never be intimidating.
B ) Drink the kind of wine that you like, with the kind of things that you like. Experiment at every opportunity because there are no wrong answers.
C ) In my (oh so humble) opinion the best kind of wine for a good red chili is a nice Spanish Tempranillo or a spicy dry red like a Shiraz/Syrah, Petite Sirah or Zinfandel. The key is to match flavors. Spicy chili and spicy wine is a great combination.
Steele Vineyards Writer’s Block Zinfandel
2005 Lake County, California
Jed Steele is a heck of a winemaker (as well as being an all-around really nice guy according to friends of mine). The Zinfandel grape seems to be one of his very favorites and the Writer’s Block wines show his very considerable talents.
Color: A nice brickish ruby.
Nose: Dark fruit with woody/spicy notes.
Taste: Plenty of jammy dark cherry and plum flavors with a nice herbal/clove/cedar spiciness.
If you have a couple of racks of ribs on the grill, or a nice roast in the oven (heck, a roast beef sandwich would work), I’d be thinking of opening up a bottle of this Zinfandel. However, it isn’t too tannic for a smoked, grilled and/or stuffed pork chop.