Early Peak. CH Lot 530

I don’t drink a lot of Syrah these days. It seems to be at the same place where Merlot was in the late 90s. Overproduced.

That said, I seem to have a lot in my cellar. Most via wine clubs I belong to that send me bottles every year. This one isn’t just a Syrah, it has some Grenache in the (Rhône) blend.

Home alone last night I had a steak and some veggies in the pan as the sun approaches the horizon and I figure I should grab a bottle to round out the meal. This one is resting atop a rack within easy reach in the cellar… that’s the extent of thought that goes into my choice.

Upon opening, the wine is terrific. Softer and more subtle than I expect it to be. I enjoy a half glass as I cook, and a full glass along with dinner. I put a good quality stopper into the bottle and leave the half or so overnight…

This is where something goes terribly wrong. Today around mid-afternoon it is unseasonably warm and sunny and I think “wow, it would be great to sip a glass on the deck…”

The first sip is a shock. Harsh. Sour. Undrinkable. I never make it to the door; instead a swift U-turn to dump the remaining wine down the sink.

Some wines take a day or three to get to this stage. Not this one.

Aged Bordeaux Bargain! Chateau Thieuley 2001 Reserve

Intelligence is more than a capability you’re born with, it also accumulates with experience, which is how the word is used in military and governmental parlance. One “gathers intelligence” about a subject through inquiry and study. Rather than applying all that I have learned to, say… better my financial standing in the world, I have largely wasted my meager gifts on finding good, cheap wines. Since humans learn from their mistakes, and remarkably intelligent humans learn from other’s mistakes, you can be smarter and more wise than me by taking my intel gathered at not-so great cost and use it to your advantage, while focusing your brain on your retirement funds. That way you can drink well once you’re rich.

I first learned of the magic of Europe’s amazing 2001 vintage about a decade ago. I heard about some “recently released” 2001s around 2008 that seemed to turn the vintage’s early, disappointing reviews around. From that information I was able to find what I believe is the best, cheap wine I have ever tasted, a 2001 Viña Olabarri Rioja. I managed to snap up a case and a half of this amazing wine before it vanished into every smart persons cellar around 2013. I also picked up a few 2001 Burgundy and Bordeaux bargains from premier cru producers along the way.

To this day, I still troll online retailers for 2001s from Spain & France. A few months ago this one popped up: 2001 Chateaux Thieuley Reserve Courselle. It isn’t a 1er Cru, but a “Bordeaux Superieur”. No matter, because at under twenty bucks it is delightful.

Plenty of that funky forest floor & barnyard nose you expect from a French wine when you open it. Nice depth of color in the glass. Wonderful leatherish flavor. I drank this one over two nights and it never lost a step along the way. If anything it got better.

Grab a few bottles. You can thank me later by flipping me a few bucks when I’m living in a cardboard box.

The sweet, sweet taste of the Blood of Judas…

I don’t know what it is, but I love it.

Label says “2015 Conte Vistarino Sangue di Giuda Costiolo”. Google translate can only make out “Sangue di Giuda” to “Blood of Judas.” I’m totally Okay with this form of cannibalism.

On a whim I bought three bottles of this wine from The Accidental Wine Company. Accidental Wine started as a clearinghouse for wine with damaged labels, but has grown into a great little online wine shop. They often have unusual finds like this one from Italy. So I bought three bottles many months ago, and they’ve been sitting in the cellar since.

Had I known they were this delightful I would have opened them up a long time ago!

This wine is nothing like I’ve ever tasted before. Light for an Italian red, with just a *slight* amount of fizz, and a whiff of sweetness. Very low alcohol. Just delightfully different in every way. In fact I went back to TAWC and bought a few more bottles. They only have a few left. Move fast.

Yet Another Amazing Napa Cab…

Cameron Hughes Lot 601 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

This one weighs in at $32, so trending above were we usually talk about wines here on Vinagoth. But this one is a bargain as without the obfuscation by the Negociant, it would likely be an $80+ wine.

Typical of what Cameron Hughes sources out of Napa, this one is pretty amazing, with a lot of aging potential. Two bottles of this wine arrived in one of my CHWine Club shipments in the past year or two and opened one up earlier this week. It was a tad harsh upon opening, and took quite a while to open up. But once it did? Pretty damn good!

In fact this wine lasted several days after being opened (with a simple liquor bottle cork stopped in the opening) and at least three days after opening it was still amazingly good.

Highly recommend!

Worth what I paid…

This is a wine that I was served for “free” on a recent flight on a small, regional airline. The kind that uses propellers on its planes. It was worth exactly what I paid, which says a lot. I usually love red blends from Washington state. Perhaps it was the plastic cup? Maybe the drinking of the turboprops? Maybe the turbulence? No matter, I could barely finish the cup of wine. Thankfully the flight was short enough that they only made one pass through the cabin with the beverage cart.

Not sure if it was stored improperly, or it was a bad bottle, or it is just a really bad wine – but I’m going to avoid this one in the future.

Don’t want to lay out Napa money? Try Walla Walla.

Napa Valley has redefined Cabernet Sauvignon, and along the way they have also redefined what it costs to enjoy a bottle. It doesn’t seem that long ago that great Cabs could still be found for well under forty bucks, but now unless you buy from a negociant you can’t find a great Napa Cab for under seventy five dollars. Perhaps even one hundred dollars is the new normal for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend that much more than maybe once or twice a year.

So where is a Cab Lover to look? Even Paso Robles stuff has gotten expensive!

Look North(west)!

Walla Walla, Washington is your best bet for value Cabernet Sauvignon these days. About ten years ago I stopped in Walla Walla on a trip. It wasn’t a planned stop, but a mechanical issue enforced a delay and to be honest you can’t image a better place to break down. What started as a frustration finished in absolute delight. I sampled quite a bit of the local product and left quite impressed. Since then I have signed up to some wine clubs in the area and regularly enjoy some truly great reds from Walla Walla. Not only Cabernet Sauvignon, but also Cab Francs, Malbecs, Merlots, and even some Petite Verdots, Sangiovese, Syrahs, and most astoundingly Petite Sirah. It honestly would not shock me if a Zinfandel vine or three are growing as we speak in southeast Washington state.

One of those wine clubs I joined is from Walla Walla Vintners. I first tried their Cab Franc which I found at one of my favorite local steakhouses as I preused my usual haunt… the “Interesting Reds” section of their wine list. One bottle and I fell in love, and eventually joined their list. For years now I have been receiving a mixed cases a year of their wonderful wines. Tonight I pulled out a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with a wonderfully thick prime strip steak from Costco.

If you’ve been tasting Napa Cabs for a long time (like I have, starting at my father’s table as a teenager in the late 70s) you’ll know they have evolved over time, from attempts to be like Bordeaux, to today’s enormous “bombs”. Somewhere in the middle they really hit their stride and became… just damn good. Now they’ve sort of gone overboard, espcially in price. While a few Walla Walla Valley winemakers are producing, big, Napa-style cabs, at big, Napa-style price points (such as one that starts with an “L” and ends with an “i”) the guys at Walla Walla Vintners have stuck to their roots and have developed a solid, consistent Cabernet style of their own. I’m happy to say it is absolutely delightful and delicious. Well worth you seeking it out for yourself.

This is a Cab you can buy for half the price (and often less) than a Napa, and to be honest it is a far better choice for almost every occasion.

I’m planning to go back to the Walla Walla Valley very soon, this time with the sole purpose of enjoying the wine. Grab a bottle or two and come along for the ride with me.

Total Eclipse of the Sun: Vasco Urbano Brunswick Petite Sirah 2013

On sale!

Last summer the USA experienced a total solar eclipse, and for those of us who were able to get into the totality it was an amazing experience.

The wine I enjoyed tonight served as a reminder, as when I held it up to the sun to check the color… it was a replay of the total eclipse from last summer:

Total Eclipse

I can’t recall where I bought this bottle, but true to form it was on sale and marked down from $30 to $19.98. In my cellar-tracking app I see that it was purchased about a year ago, but no note on where. It’s a prototypical Livermore, California region Petite Sirah; DARK, barely there nose, but big, bold fruit in the mouth, long dry finish. It stains the glass as it sits. I can’t imagine what it is doing to my teeth.

I guess if I ever need a sun shade, I just need to pour a big glass and hold it up between me and our nearest star. Eclipse!

Peppery Carm! 2014 Casa Silva Los Lingues Vineyard Carmenérè

Casa Silva Los Lingues Vineyard Carm

I love Carmenere. It has always been a go-to varietal for me. Consistently yummy. Great food wine. Almost always an exceptional value. For example, this single-vineyard example cost me less that $15. I popped the cork on it as I was rummaging around the kitchen last night making a small dinner for just myself. Warming up some leftover lamb stew, and chopping from veggies for roasting in the oven… I thought, “cooking with wine is better…” so I went to the cellar and grabbed this Carm. I have no recollection of buying it, but thankfully the pricetag remains affixed to the bottle.

A strong aroma of black pepper wafted from the bottle as soon as it was uncorked!

I’ve had peppery Syrahs before. Plenty of them. I’ve also enjoyed a peppery Cabernet Franc once or twice. But a Carm? Mild pepper, yes. But never this strong. In the glass it was by far the dominant force on the nose. PEPPER!!!

Likewise on the palette. Quite unique in my experience.

It also had a long, strong, dry finish. Stayed lingering in the mouth long after the liquid was down the gullet.

Dinner slowly warming & roasting, I partook in my favorite evening pastime… the sunset glass:

Sunset Glass

In the summer and autumn months this is usually done out on the deck, but here in winter and spring it is usually too cold for that sort of thing. I have a nice comfy chair setup inside a west-facing window and just plopped down there and savored this glass.

Well, technically TWO glasses.

Later it paired perfectly with the lamb stew and roast vegetables. By then the peppery notes were fading. By three hours after being uncorked, the pepper was gone, the fruit was up front, and four hours later I couldn’t even finish the last of my glass… it had faded that swiftly. Short-lived, but lovely.

Best of 2017: Cameron Hughes Lot 606 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

Sure, it’s only October, but I’ve found the best budget wine of the year, hands down. It is still available, and if you’re smart, you’ll go buy some now. It sells for $29/bottle, but I have to tell you, this is a easily a $75 wine. I received two bottle via my usual wine club shipment several months ago. But as per my habit, I put it down in the cellar to let it rest and recover from bottle shock and shipping… and promptly forgot about it.

Until two nights ago. It was a pleasant, “indian summer” evening and I decided to eat out on the deck and watch the sun go down. I was eating leftovers from a big dinner with guests… just warmed up some roasted veggies and what was left of a giant pan-seared steak with an amazing reduction sauce I made from a bottle of Cabernet Franc. So the food was leftovers, but I decided to open a fresh bottle of wine. Somehow I knew I had to savor some of that “Rutherford Dust” so I went down to the cellar to search out this specific wine.

Wow. Just wow.

This wine is GOOD.

No, actually this wine is GREAT.

No question, the best wine I have drank this year under $100. Even better it is $71 less than $100.

After I drank it I went online and ordered a few bottles more. You should too.

Finally, an actual, damn good Pinot Noir, for under $20.

Pinot Noir by Joe

I’ve often said “Pinots are like Porsches. Good ones are expensive, and bad ones are also expensive.” A truly great Pinot Noir is a treasure, but they are elusive, and usually expensive. In my experience “cheap” Pinot Noirs are often terrible. As the years roll by, I’ve pretty much given up on trying to buy Pinots. I’m supplied with a regular amount of passable Pinots from my Cameron Hughes wine club, which satisfies the cravings of “Testa Rossa” my red-headed Pinot-loving dining companion, and nothing goes better with a grilled/planked salmon that a light Pinot on a summer’s evening.

Beyond those offerings from Mr. Hughes, I have snagged a dozen or so great Oregon Pinot Noirs from some winery tours we have had the pleasure of doing on some long weekends in the Willamette Valley. Testa Rossa is from that part of the world and both of us have kids that have gone all hipster and live in Portland. Visiting the grown-up kids makes for a nice grown-up excuse to tour some wineries. Oregon has some amazing Pinot producers, all within a very short drive of Portland. None of their products fall within the scope of this blog however. The bottles I’ve bought on these tours range in price from $40, to well over $100. Are they great? Certaily. But not cheap. It is damn near impossible to find a great value Pinot Noir from Oregon.

Until now.

I didn’t buy this bottle, but some poking around online pegs the price well below twenty bucks (Vivino app says avg price is $15.99). It was a gift to us from a guest. I opened it a few nights ago. I honestly expected something dismal, and girded my loins in preparation. Nose into the glass… “ah” Take the first sip… “oooh” “Not bad!”

I would never call this a “great Pinot” but it certainly isn’t a bad one. In fact I’m giving it the grade of “damn good”

So if you’re looking to find a damn good cheap Pinot, go to Joe.