Another Cellar Treasure from 2010

Napa Cab

Here is another of the older bottles I pulled from the cellar over the holidays, a 2010 Napa Cab from Cameron Hughes. Like the Merlot I enjoyed with Xmas dinner, it was a “pretty good” drinker back when it was young, but has really come into its own after a few years of chilling in the basement… er… aging in the cellar. Oddly, it wasn’t as spectacular as the Lot 344 Merlot, but it was pretty damn good.

So, like putting money in that 401k or IRA account, stash a few bottles under your mattress, or better yet in a cool spot, and pull it out years later to enjoy.

Cellar Treasure: Cameron Hughes Lot 344 – 2010 Oakville Merlot

Cellar Treasure

Good things sometimes come to those that wait. In this case it has been a few years of waiting, but it was all worth it. Around the holidays I went rummaging around in the cellar, which honestly sounds better than it is because in reality it is just my basement. Thankfully my house is built into a hillside and the back of the basement is dark and cool all year round. Mostly because I’m cheap, and keep the thermostat at 55°F all winter, and supplement the living spaces with a wood stove. It keeps the upstairs cozy, while the basement stays a perfect “cellar temperature” of 55°F. So while rummaging I started to pull older CH Wine lots from the bottom of the pile of bottles in the corner of the basement and carried a few upstairs to accompany my holiday meals. This one was opened with a nice black pepper and garlic encrusted prime rib roast I made for xmas dinner. It was spectacular. I recall this one drinking “pretty good” back in 2011/12 when I first purchased it… or more accurately when it arrived on my doorstep as part of my quarterly shipment of reds from Cameron Hughes. As always, I have near zero clue where my favorite negociant sourced this Merlot, and then sold it for $10-15 a bottle, but I’d be willing to bet that from the OEM it was sold at a far higher price. It really benefitted from time lying about in my basement!

You’ll never know unless you try…. and wait.

2011 Royal Crest Red

The penultimate cheap wine… free.

I grabbed a bottle off the shelf the other night to just have something cheap and red with dinner. I honestly can not recall when this bottle showed up, but I do recall that it was a freebie. It was part of a gift basket at work over the holidays, either this past year, or maybe even a year before. Who knows. All I know is that much like the fastest cars in the world are rentals, the second best wine in the world has to be free.

I had zero expectations, as this one had nothing externally that says it would be awesome. It is a private label, with zero data as to its origins beyond “southern Oregon”… no varietals listed. Nothing beyond “red wine blend”.

Count me as pleasantly surprised. While this is not a 100 pt Parker, it is pretty damn awesome for a freebie. Rich. Pleasant. Mellow. Flavorful. I consumed it over three nights, and it seemed to get better over time. Again, nothing to celebrate a special occasion with, but certainly a great table wine for washing down your chow.

If one shows up at your office in a gift basket next Xmas, grab it and bring it home. Because FREE.

Cellar Dregs: 2006 Cameron Hughes Lot 102.

It was good while it lasted, then it went bad.

I love Cameron Hughes wines. In fact they represent likely 80% of our nightly consumption here at Chez Vinagoth. I buy several cases of mixed reds from CHwines per year to keep the cellar stocked. So by no means am I going to slag on the fine reputation of Mr. Hughes and his products. I just had a problem with THIS PARTICULAR bottle of Cabernet last night.

I had come home from work early and had happily set fire to my front yard.

What? OK, let me explain – You see in mid-2010 Mr. & Mrs Barbarian moved. We moved from a mild coastal area bathed in cool mists and temperate weather, to a high desert plateau, where ponderosa pines shed needles and cones at an alarming rate, into the cheatgrass and sagebrush below – creating huge piles of fuel that can feed raging late summer and autumn wildfires. So it is every homeowner’s duty around here to clear their property of fuel in the winters when the threat of wildfires is low. Not wanting my abode to be consumed by a potential conflagration I’ve been raking and piling fuel and burning it in bits over the past few weeks. You rake, pile, burn, and then put it all out with rakes, shovels, and your garden hose. All this work leaves a man with great hunger. And thirst!

Tired, thirsty, and covered in carbon – I ventured inside to cook up some steaks, a salad, some sauteed broccoli, and some baked leeks. Only a big Napa Cab would do!

I glanced at the rack and spotted this lonely bottle, the very last of a long-ago bought mixed case. I can recall that when first purchased, this was a good wine. Not great, but certainly good. Best of all it was a really good value at $10! But time, and possibly travel, had not served this wine well. I’m pretty sure I bought this in 2008 or so, and likely drank its twins between 2009 and 2010. This bottle must have been lost in the cellar, or perhaps I set it aside hoping to maximize its flavor with some time laying down.

I don’t know what happened to it, but when I opened the bottle last night the taste was almost entirely “straw”… Very harsh. All hard on the nose, weird mouth feel, and astringent finish. Undrinkable. That’s a shame. It went down the sink.

A younger Cameron Hughes Napa Cab took its place at the table.

Cellar Treasures: 2002 Parducci Petite Sirah.

An impending move has me clearing out my cellar. I’m starting a new job son in another state that has Mr. & Mrs. Barbarian moving to a new home very soon. As a result I haven’t bought very many wines of late, and have been very busy doing life-related things are not updating this blog much, if at all. Sorry.

However I’m tasting wines that I laid down for some reason or another a few years ago, one of which is this Parducci Petite Sirah from 2002. I suspect I purchased this about five years ago, likely for around ten bucks. I suspect this is the oldest Petite Sirah I’ve tasted in a long while and the time in the bottle had an unusual impact on the flavor of the wine. It settled down quite a bit from it’s bombastic youth, though still remains Dourif’s big fruit bomb. The bomb however had lost a few megatons and gained a bit of subtlety. I paired it with some boneless beef rib meat which Mrs. Barbarian had marinated with a bit too much red pepper in the mix, so it was hard to get a good fix on the wine due to the capsaicin overload. I really need to chase Mrs. Barbarian out of the kitchen with a butcher knife… or maybe a tape loop of Mel Gibson rants. Just about any other varietal would have been obliterated, but the Petite Sirah stood up to the spicy heat pretty well. Even a Zinfandel would have had trouble here, but the Parducci held its own. Still, it would have been better with something less incendiary on the Scoville Scale. Oh well.

Cellar Treasure: 2002 “K” Syrah

K Syrah

Apologies for the dearth of reviews of late, but I have basically limited my intake to the same Chilean wines I’ve been reviewing over the past year already. I figured you didn’t want to experience deja vu all over again. This has been my contribution to bolster the Chilean economy after the magnitude 8.8 Maule Earthquake in February that so devastated the central region of Chile. Figuring that I could single-handedly contribute to Chile’s recovery by drowning myself in Carmenère, and a few select Chilean Cabs, Merlots, and Malbecs, I have made a serious effort over the past few months to assist Chile. I think I’ve made a dent, so I’m ready to sample some other wines now.

When I met the woman who eventually became Mrs. Barbarian, she was a recent escapee from Alaska. The Last Frontier is an odd place. Filled with big burly men who outnumber both fish and women by a factor of at least ten. As a result of this, the fish are frightened and the women over confident. This might explain a lot. Mrs. Barbarian does like to eat salmon and brought a small one home for dinner tonight. She asked me to make some Aioli, as I am the house Sous Chef when she steps up to make fish. You see, I don’t cook fish. Being a barbarian I prefer my fish so fresh that it has yet to see any heat, much less a flame. Sushi and sashimi? Fine with me. But I would never actually cook a fish. I would sooner have my salmon reposed upon a bed of vinegared rice. Mrs. Barbarian gets her face all contorted at the mere mention of sushi, so I have to find my raw seafood outside the confines of our marriage.

I had garlic roasting in the oven, along with some bread, and aioli prepared and chilling in the fridge before she arrived home. Unfortunately I had no wine that really went with salmon, but I did have a treasure resting in my cellar that could at least stand up to the wave of garlic this fillet of salmon would ride onto our table…
K Vintners’ 2002 Syrah.

I have a long standing habit of buying pairs of bottles, and if I taste some promise in the first I cellar the second. Saving it for a day at some point in the future when it will come in handy and prove me a savvy swiller of the grape. This bottle was purchased back in 2004 or 2005 and laid down in my “cellar” (I’ve mentioned before that while sounding snooty, this is merely some unfinished basement at the northern end of our home, but which thankfully stays very cool all year round) after I consumed its twin. The original purchase price was $24.99.

The label identifies our wine thusly:
K Syrah
Wahluke Slope
Columbia Valley

K Vintners
Walla Walla, Washington

Unlike so many reds that assault you when the bottle is uncorked this Syrah had mellowed. Exchanging structure for force it now displayed a subtle earthy nose much like a French wine. In the glass it remains impenetrably dark, and the bottle itself was stained with the years of close contact with the dark and vital fruit. Surprisingly no sediment appeared in our glasses. Our mouths however were bathed in wonderful, yet subtle fruit flavors. The wine had mellowed considerably over its time in the bottle and had become quite mature and sophisticated. Still energetic enough to withstand the waves of garlic on our plates, but in no way overpowering.

I love salmon, but in a way wish we had some steak to go with this wine. Oh well. Still good as it was.

As a cellar treasure it is unlikely that you can find this wine to buy today, certainly not at the price I paid. However this does serve as a lesson for low-lifes like me – that is that cellar time is good for some wines. Try putting some down and leaving them be for a few years yourself. Even cheap reds like I usually drink can benefit from a few years of rest. It is a low risk proposition, give it a try!

Odd label, good wine.

While stalking cheap Chileans at my grocer’s wine section recently I noted a new label I’d never seen before. It features a large, long silver chile shape (which sort of looks like the shape of the country of Chile.) I found this odd, as what I know about Chilean cuisine is that they are not fond of spicy foods. In my mind “Chile” and “chile” are never things that get confused, but I imagine most humans haven’t put as much thought into it and one chile is just the same as any other.

The other thing I noted about this bottle is that the name of the wine is “P.K.N.T.”, but nowhere is this acronym/initials explained.

Of course the most important thing for me, and what drew my eye and eventually hand to grasp the odd bottle was the price tag…

At six ninety-nine how could you go wrong? Viva Chile!

This Carmenère was served up to a houseguest, right after a bottle of the Cono Sur Carmenère I had reviewed earlier. It allowed us to see and taste some differences in this wonderful Chilean (by way of Bordeaux) grape. The PKNT Carmenère was more prototypical in its “carmenère-ness”… that is, it was light-bendingly dark, even at the edges of the glass it showed very little red coloring, looking almost black. It tasted good, though possessed a sort of flavor that seemed more like Merlot than Carmenère to me. Go figure. Maybe this is how Carmenère stayed in hiding for 100+ years, though to be honest this is the first time I’ve noted a Merlot flavor in a Carmenère.

I liked it as much, if not more than the Cono Sur Carmenère.

Silver collection
Carmenère 2008
Rapel Valley, Chile


Cono Sur 2008 Carmenère. Toughest wine review, ever.

Last week, in fact a few days before the 8.8RS earthquake struck Chile, I saw this Carmenère on sale at my local grocer. I remember it well because I often shoot cell-cam photos like these:

I do this to make a note of the price, so I can quote it correctly for you dear reader, when I finally sit down – either in an inebriated state, or perhaps even months afterwards, using notes and making sense on a second tasting of what I said while inebriated… right after the first tasting!

You see I often write up the review, then not hit “publish” because my writing just doesn’t make sense. Shocking, I know.

But little photographic nuggets like this are helpful in more ways than one. You see as I was at the check-out counter this particular bottle for some reason did not scan at the register. The cashier was about to call the wine dept when I said “It’s $9.99″ and held up the photo on my phone’s screen. She looked at me like I was an alien. I also noted that she also moved as far away from me as she could within her little cashier’s pen… “Why do you take pictures of things like that?” she inquired, in a tone reserved for subjects such as Furries (really, do NOT google that term. I mean it. Seriously!) I sighed, put my phone in my pocket and, fully expecting her to call security any second, admitted I wrote wine reviews. Suddenly her demeanor changed, she no longer cringed at the far reaches of her workspace, but visibly relaxed and said “oh, that’s interesting!” and carried on checking and bagging my groceries.

What she couldn’t see in that photo, but you can as I’ve blown it up for you, is a strange faux pas committed by the wine dept:

I love a good Cabernet Sauvignon. It is indeed a fine Bordeaux grape, but so is Carmenère, which is a completely different varietal! Sure, Carmenère has often, and even famously, been confused with Merlot, but Cabernet Sauvignon? C’mon! The rest of that paragraph is just so much wine jargon bullshit that when combined with the goofy grape gaffe it nearly sent me into a rage. If I had my battle axe on me I might have gone berserk right there. A barbaric pillaging and burning of the grocery store. Instead I bid the cashier good-bye with a monosyllabic grunt and pushed my shopping cart menacingly out to my car.

I planned to open up the Carmenère in a few days when we expected an old friend of Mrs. Barbarian to come by for dinner. That dinner was postponed though, and I failed at securing this bottle from pillage by Mrs. Barbarian. Sure enough she plundered the cabinet where I keep bottles for imminent consumption, opened it, and drank a glass. To add injury to insult, she then put the bottle into the refrigerator! That is where I found it one morning when I went to make my breakfast… a bottle of Carmenère in the fridge door!


I pulled it out and set it upon the counter. It was a good thing that Mrs. Barbarian wan’t in the house at the time.

We drank the rest of the bottle at dinner, but given that it had been opened, and then refrigerated, I felt that any impressions I had of the wine may have been tainted by the poor treatment torture inflicted upon it by Mrs. Barbarian.

So I went back to the store a few days later. This was after the quake had rocked Chile, and I returned with the goal of buying nothing but Chilean wines. They’re going to need all the help thy can get, since wine is likely their second largest export item after copper, and while the copper mines are all located in the desert north which was largely unaffected by the quake, the vineyards are mostly located in the hardest hit regions of Chile. I bought four bottles of Cono Sur 2008 Carmenère, and once again the cash register didn’t ring it up properly and I said ‘It costs $9.99.” The cashier called the wine department who walked over with the tag for the cashier to scan and it came up $10.99. They had raised the price on me by a buck in under a week! I certainly hope they are not profiting on the tragedy in Chile. I felt like an heel for claiming a dollar discount per-bottle. The cashier eyed me suspiciously while I muttered about having bought the same bottle for $9.99 the week before.

This is not a great wine, but it certainly is a great value wine. Very much like most Chileans, in that you get good quality for a very low price. A wine of this level from here in California would set you back $30—$45, but coming from Chile it is around ten bucks. Viva Chile!

I heartily recommend this wine as a “nightly drinker” value wine. Great with dinners at home, or no particular special occasion. As a Carmenère it doesn’t stand up to many of the samples I’ve tried, but it is certainly a reasonable representation of the grape. Lots of flavor, and stands up to spicy foods well.

Given how hard I worked to get to this point I would have loved to uncovered a gem, but this one wasn’t that amazing. Good, but not great.

Cono Sur 2008 Carmenère
About $10.00

Calcu Redux

Enjoyed a “Calcu Super Chilean” tonight with dinner. Drank it before, seemed even better this time.

Above is a photo taken at dessert at our favorite restaurant. Yes, I made a mess of the tablecloth!

Old Review:

Support Chile, drink some wine.

As some of you know, I love Chilean wines. They are right in my sweet spot of “Cheap & Red” while also usually being quite good. As you also no doubt know, Chile was struck by a huge, and I mean HUGE earthquake over the weekend. 8.8 on the Richter scale is mind-bogglingly huge. Over 100 times the size of the quake that essentially destroyed the country of Haiti a few weeks ago. The epicenter of the quake in Chile was just west of the critical wine producing regions of Chile, most especially the Colchagua Valley. It is too soon to know what extent the quake will have on wine production

What you may not know is that your author shares a closer to connection to Chile beyond just a love of wine. Though I’ve never been there some in my family have lived there in the past and I have friends in that wonderful country. While the news media keeps heaping praise on Chile for being prepared and not experiencing total Hatian-levels of collapse, the reality is that this earthquake was VERY strong and has caused a significant amount of damage. It will take Chile a while to recover and we should all do our parts. While copper is the leading export, wine and fresh fruit come in close behind, and have the benefit of being consumer goods. (I don’t know about you, but the only copper I collect is in 1¢ increments in a jar on my dresser.) We can help Chile now by purchasing and consuming Chilean goods. I’m doing my part by only buying Chilean wine for the next two months. Sure, I have other stuff cellared and may drink them over the next sixty days, but my dollars at the wine merchant, and grocery store are going solely towards Chilean vintages.

You can help too! Buy Chilean!. Discover the “lost grape of Bordeaux“, some great Cabs, bargain Merlots, and wonderful blends. Chilean wines are every bit as good as what California produces, at usually less than one-third the price. Great value. Great wines. Viva Chile!