Some customers are amazed that we can remember the aromatic and flavor profiles of so many different bottles of wine. “How do you guys know so much about so many different wines?” they ask us. The short answer is: we taste...a lot. Every Tuesday is staff tasting day and we have a cyclical schedule that goes by region. We hit the tasting bar in shifts and take as many notes as we can in the allotted time given to us. We make an effort to remember what we like and we pass that information on to our customers. For those of you who are not able to visit us locally, or who prefer to shop online, you can find many of those notes on the Staff Review page. I also thought blogging about these tastings to help highlight some of the wines that we are currently excited about. I hope I will be able to convey the excitement that I usually exude in person.
Our last tasting was a test in endurance as our domestic buyers delivered a flight of nearly 50 different products. Here are some of the standouts:
2007 Cesar Toxqui Cellars North Coast Pinot Noir ($14.99) Rich aromas with hints of wood and earth. A smooth, medium-bodied palate with vanilla notes. Supple and silky. A very good deal for the price.
2007 Joseph Swan “Cuvee de Trois” Russian River Pinot Noir ($26.99) A smooth entry, far less gritty and rustic than Swan’s other pinots, with soft cherry fruit and very subtle earthy flavors. This should be a slam dunk favorite with just about everyone.
2007 Willowbrook Mendocino Pinot Noir ($16.99) Soft, juicy, cherried-wine with depth and complexity. It really opens up on the palate after some time. A real bargain that gives the under-$20 Pinot category another great bottle to offer.
2007 Morgan “Twelve Clones” Santa Lucia Pinot Noir ($26.99) Always a great wine and this vintage is no different. Cherry and strawberry aromas are followed by more red fruit on the palate that balances with perfect acidity, weight, and structure. One of the best California Pinots from the vintage I have yet tasted.
2006 Thorne “Rio Vista” Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($29.9930) My new favorite Pinot that we carry. It has a classic Burgundian nose with red berries, clove, baking spices and earth, with juicy cherry fruit on the palate. Firm acidity and a long, long finish. I can’t decide if I want to drink it all now or save some for later. What to do?
2007 Lang & Reed North Coast Cabernet Franc ($19.99) Bell pepper aromas let you know that this is real Cab Franc. Supple red berry fruit on the palate with black pepper notes and tannins that grip. More Loire-like in style but with riper fruit. Very nice.
2006 Tamarack Cellars Columbia Valley Merlot ($23.99) This is the bottle that will help to revive Merlot’s tarnished reputation. Toasty aromas, juicy fruit, a luscious full-bodied palate and a restrained use of oak. Structured, but showing beautifully. I can’t wait to tell everyone how good it is.
1999 Mayacamas Napa Merlot ($49.99) The most interesting bottle I’ve tasted in some time, and maybe the best older pure Merlot I’ve ever had. Tangy, earthy, but still showing some fruit. Perfectly balanced and wonderfully aged. This should impress the hell out of Old World drinkers.
2007 Waters “Interlude” Walla Walla Red Blend ($26.99) Washington is the source of practically every great red blend I have tasted recently. The Waters displays rich black fruit with that classic violet tinge on the palate. Structured, but still very smooth and graceful. This wine is outstanding and should please just about anyone who likes anything red.
2006 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Red ($34.99) I would buy this wine every year without tasting it because it has never failed me. The 2006 is more tightly wound, however, than the ’05 and should be decanted for a few hours or stored away for a few years. All the flavor is still there - the black currant, the earth and the chewy tannins. It just needs a little air to reveal itself.
2005 Mount Eden “Saratoga Cuvee” Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.99) Like the Ridge, I’ve found that this wine is 100% dependable, even though the vintages are very different from one another. This year’s offering is more earthy and mineral, but it tastes exactly like Mt. Eden made it. It’s that classic gravel and earth that I tasted in the 1995 Estate bottle I had last week. Delicious.
2002 Joseph Swan “Lone Redwood” Russian River Zinfandel ($15.99) Rustic, gritty and tangy with underlying earth. Just what you expect from Swan’s unfiltered Zins. Delicious. Always a deal.
2007 Mauritson Dry Creek Zinfandel ($22.99) Big, thick and tannic Zinfandel that’s still showing plenty of rich red fruit. I was expecting a big Port-like monster and instead I got really well-made wine. This is the most interesting Zin I’ve had in some time and I will make sure to point it out to everyone.
2008 Palmina Pinot Gris ($14.99) Solid wine with firm acidity and citrus fruit that is perfectly balanced. Crisp, clean and refreshing with depth and complexity. A very good domestic option for PG.
2007 Mount Eden “Wolff Vineyard” Chardonnay ($17.99) Once again, Mount Eden makes great wine. A wonderful balance of barrel aging, honeyed fruit, and crisp acidity makes for tasty Chardonnay that doesn’t overpower or bore. This is the California style that I want to show out-of-towners. Don’t miss out.
2008 Seven Hills Columbia Valley Riesling ($11.99) Bursting with apricot, this off-dry Riesling is fresh with crisp acidity and more cocktail fruit on the palate. Perfect for Asian dishes or other spicy foods. Load up. At this price it rivals its German counterparts.