Creative Juices Wine Blog

Pinot Noir Tasting

What better way to start a week than with a Pinot Noir tasting? You nailed it…there is no better way to start a week!
Last night we went out to Billy Crews’ for his weekly Monday night tasting. They were tasting 12 different Pinots, which they had arranged by price. Maybe not the best tasting order, but it worked nevertheless.

These are the tasting notes from our Pinot Tasting at Billy Crews Monday evening. Sorry for the delay, but without further adieu, here we go. For your sake, we’ve kept our notes to a minimum. Cheers!

First up was Wild Rock Cupid’s Arrow Pinot Noir 2008 from Central Otago, New Zealand. This wine had solid acidity, and a nice distribution of cherry, mineral, vanilla, pepper, and currants. It was lacking on a finish, and left us high and dry overall. This was not the best representation from Central Otago in our opinion, and we gave it 84 points. At $16.45, this was a disappointment, and a pass.

Pinot #2 was Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2007 from Oregon. This wine was a bit over-oaked, and had a big vanilla nose, but then fizzled out, and was rather thin in the end. This was another 84 point wine. $$18.81 price tag, and a pass.

Pinot #3 was the 2007Acacia Pinot Noir from Carneros. This wine had a little bit more going on, and exhibited nice strawberry aromas and flavors in combination with a well-distributed balance of oak, and smokiness. At $19.99, this wasn’t a terrible wine. We gave it 87 points, but it didn’t overly impress us.

Pinot #4 was the 2005 Galante Almond Felt Pinot Noir From California. This was pretty acidic, and had a bit of fruit, though none of it really stood out. As the price stands, this wine is not worth it. Galante is a miss at $22.34. This wine was kind of meh, and we waived 83 points at it, and moved on.

Pinot #5 was the Willamette Valley Vineyards Founders Pinot Noir from 2007 (Oregon). This wine felt a little bit more put together, and represented Oregon Pinot fairly well. The one thing that stood out most about this wine was a peculiar pickled peppers aspect that we couldn’t quite get passed. If not peppers, it was definitely something pickled. That being said, we enjoyed this wine enough to score it 88 points. At $24.69, this fits a price point that a lot of people can be happy with. There may be better Oregon Pinot Noirs out there, but this one isn’t stinking up the joint, and is probably worth a quarter Benjamin.

Pinot #6 was from a familiar label, Roessler. This was the Roessler Laurelwood Pinot Noir 2007 out of Willamette Valley. Almost sweet on the attack, this Pinot leads into a smoked meat and red fruit collision on the palate. Very interesting stuff. We scored this wine 89 points, and would probably pick this up at $27. Oregon Pinots are just worth a little bit of extra jingle.

Pinot #7 was the 2007 Craggy Range Pinot Noir from Central Otago, New Zealand. This was a nice spicy, peppery pinot with plenty of fruit, and wood backing it up. This pinot has been on our to taste list for a while now, and we weren’t disappointed upon finally getting around to it. This is a pretty solid pinot, and we rated it 90 points. There are probably better $34 pinots out there, but the Craggy Range is worth giving a try if you’re in the market for a big Central Otago Pinot.

Pinot #8 was from Caymus in Santa Barbara, CA. It was the Caymus Belle Gloss 2007 Clark & Telephone Vineyard Pinot Noir, and really represented the brand well. This wine had a lot of fruit, and exploded with strawberry and cherry flavors that lasted for days. This wine is very tasty, and worth every penny at $39 per 750ml. We rated this pinot 92 points, and would love to revisit this wine in the future. We settled for a second taste, which we definitely didn’t spit.

Pinot #9 Was the 2007 Cakebread Pinot Noir. There’s not much to say about this wine. The Caymus was a tough act to follow, but come on! The Cakebread didn’t even make a showing on this one. This wine has a very confused, awkward palate, and a $50 price tag that makes it an easy pass. This wine, although not having anything going for it, caused the biggest separation in scoring of the evening. So much so that we will give you both scores from Olena (87 points) and Zak (81-83 points). No thanks.

Pinot #10 had the coolest name of the night: Hartford Court Fog Dance Pinot Noir 2006 from Russian River Valley. It had rugged tannins (which we didn’t see coming), a lot of pepper, and strawberry on the nose (which were also evident on the palate). We liked this wine, but didn’t love it. This was an 88 point wine, but at $50, is a pass. There are better bottles out there for $25-40.

Pinot #11 was the Ponzi RSV 2007 Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley. This has well integrated vanilla flavors, but then picks up a sour, pickled aspect–which was unexpected, but not unwelcomed. It was a kind of watery on the palate, and overall left us hanging. Once again, the big price tag ($53) hurts the value of the wine. We gave this pinot 86 points, and obviously, a pass. It’s just not worth that kind of dough.

Pinot #12 was La Crema 9 Barrel Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. We’ve had La Crema before, but not the 9 Barrel, so this was a bottle we were looking forward to at the beginning of the tasting. We were not impressed. It was over-oaked, and lacked in complexity. You won’t find us spending $59 on an 87 point bottle that should be wrapped in a $18 package. Cool label though.

So that’s it. 12 Pinot Noirs. This wasn’t the best showing of Pinot we’ve seen, but there were definitely some highlights. We wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of them again. Thank for reading. Cheers!!!

Thanks for reading. Cheers!!!
Zak & Olena

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Tasting Results

As promised, we attended a tasting put on by Billy Crews with Jessie Griego of Fiasco Fine Wine out of Santa Fe, NM. This proved to be a very worthwhile event, as the wines we very good. We tasted 12 different wines from around the World, and each brought something interesting to the palate. Overall, the wines were quite good, although as with any tasting, there were a couple that may not have been the winemaker’s best effort.

That being said, let’s get into our tasting notes, shall we? We will list, and talk about the wines in the order that we tasted them, which Jessie Greigo did a great job organizing.

The first wine was the Nino Franco ‘Rustico’ Prosecco di Valdobbiandene, Italy (Non-Vintage). This was a great way to start off the night, and had a great nose, full of floral aspects with a bit of citrus. There is a nice transition into a calm minerality that gives way to a green apple, and a little fresh pear (that was actually mentioned in the tasting notes provided by the distributor). Overall, we enjoyed this wine quite a bit, and gave it 89+ points. It was quite pleasant to have a sparkling wine to start the night, since we realistically don’t taste nearly enough of it on a regular basis.

Wine #2 was Honig Sauvignon Blanc from California. This is a wine we have tasted before, and enjoyed it then as well. The nose was unmistakable, and exploded with grapefruit, and grassy notes that really shine when flavors of lime make an appearance. This is a wine with great crispness that we gave 88 points, and had it not been for the next wine, would have come home with us.

Our third wine was Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes, from Argentina. The nose on this wine stole the show, and was exactly what a textbook Torrontes should be. Susana Balbo is also known as the “Queen of Torrontes” according to our tasting sheet, and this is the reason why. Although it is considered an ‘entry-level’ wine, this drinks with much more authority. There’s not much left to say besides the fact that we scored it 93 points, and there is currently a bottle of it in our wine fridge. We should note that Wine Advocate awarded this wine 90 points, but sold it short in our opinion. Great wine!

In case you’re tired of reading, don’t worry, we only have 9 more wines to go!!

That being said, let’s move on to #4. This wine is yet another selection from Crios de Susana Balbo, and is her Chardonnay. 89 points from Wine Advocate. This wine has good color, which is a straw-canary yellow that gives away at least one detail about this wine that we soon found out about upon giving it a sniffy-sniff. Oak Monster! (Sorry Gary V.) We had to borrow some terminology on this one. This is a big oaky chard that one would expect from Cali, but it came as a bit of a surprise coming from Argentina. Let’s put it this way…there was nothing wrong with this wine, and we’re sure that this is the kind of wine that will appeal to a wide array of palates, but there’s a little too much tree bark on this one. We came up a couple points apart on this one, so we’ll average our scores to give it an 86.

The fifth wine broke the white wine run, and sent us to Italy. we had a Fontanafredda Barbera that received 88 points and a Best Value award from Spectator. This wine has a very pleasant mouthfeel that gives way to round, soft tannins. There is a lot of vanilla on this one, but it’s not offensive in any way. There is good dark fruit on the nose, but not quite as much on the palate. Overall, this is a pretty tasty wine, and we agree with the 88 points Spectator gave it.

Wine numero seis was Lang and Reed Cabernet Franc, from Cali. This one ranked pretty highly for us, and had a good distribution of pepper and currant flavors. The balance of acidity and soft (friendly) tannins left us thirsting for more. This wine, although tasted in the middle (normally a forgotten spot in the line-up) demanded a certain degree of respect, and wasn’t one to easily forget about. We went 89+ points on this Cab Franc, and appreciated the New World approach to this wine.

Number 7! Hey Mambo “Sultry Red” (or as a few of our fellow tasters referred to it “Slutty Red”) from California was another star from the night. This is a wine made by the “Other Guys” from Sebastiani (who are wine gurus). This blend of Syrah, Barbera, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Alicante Bouchet had a very smoky nose that right away lead us right into it’s meaty body and explosive flavor. During the tasting we said that this wine would go great with pizza. Later, after the tasting, we shared a bottle of Hey Mambo with Chef Rulis over a Pepperoni, Sausage, and Jalapeño pepper Pizza. ‘Twas delish. Furthermore, we drank it out of paper cups (because sometimes it’s worth the sacrifice) and it still scored 89 points. Very good wine.

8: Marietta Celars Zinfandel, Cali. Awesome! Very nice nose. We pulled clove, violets, peppers, and a bit of cedar from this big Zin which weighs in at 15.2% abv. Marietta Zin is full of blackberry flavor, and coats the entirety of your mouth. This, for the record, is the other bottle that made it back to our wine fridge. 91 points.

Number 9 was another selection form Marietta Cellars, the Petite Sirah. 2006 vintage made from 76% Petite Sirah, 22% Syrah, and 2% Viognier. There was a lot going on with this wine, and for the most part, that was a good thing. After a bit of initial confusion that left one of us tasting grape cough medicine, a re-visit cleared things up, and smoothed things over. It has a very candied finish, and tannins that will leave your mouth able to sand down the side of a barn. We gave this one 87 points, but will say that this was popular amongst the vast majority of tasters tonight.

La Posta Cocina Blend from Argentina was our next wine. The nose on this wine is absolutely fantastic, and we could smell it for hours. This is a blend of 60% Malbec, 20% Syrah, and 20% Bonarda. They all seem to work in perfect unison for this wine, but we were not surprised in the least. La Posta put out pretty amazing wines consistently, and always for affordable prices. We think this is an 89-91 point wine, and highly recommend that you go out and find either this bottle, or something with a similar blend. Tikal Patriota is a similar style wine from the same region, and more or less, grapes that would be worth picking up if you’re in the market.

The last two wines are from Susana Balbo. Remember her from earlier? Both are Malbecs, however the first is from her Crios line (which is more introductory). That being said, this was not by any means our favorite wine of the night. We’re sure that Susana Balbo is the nicest lady in the whole World, and it would be great to have half of the winemaking talent she possesses, but the Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec is just not good. We wanted to like it, especially since her white wines that we tasted were so well put together, but we didn’t. The nose is a little bit like wet leaves, and there is a distinct cow pie smell that rips through this wine. Fortunately, the flavor isn’t quite as pungent, however it doesn’t really make up for it, as a lot of the flavor is masked by the off-putting aromas. We would love to have tasted the same bottle that Wine Advocate dropped 90 points on, but we did not have that opportunity. We will pass on this one, and give it 78 points. The second malbec was definitely a refreshing bounce back from the first, but wasn’t anything special. Again, Wine Advocate gave up 91 points that we weren’t able to see. The oak really masks the fruit on this one, which leaves it a little bland overall. We’re going to go with 84 points, and a pass.

In closing, we had a great time tonight. This is what wine tastings are supposed to be like. Jessie Griego from Fiasco Fine Wines was very knowledgeable, and passionate about wine, which we always appreciate. We had a great conversation with her, and were impressed with the presentation. We look forward to her next visit, as well as the selections that make the trip with her.

All of the wines we tasted tonight retail for under $25, and with the exception of the last two are definite purchases at this low price point. We’re not sure which of these wines will be available at Billy Crews, but it is certainly worth looking into. We will absolutely be checking back on a few of these labels. Cheers!!!

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Gamba Cellars Russian River Zinfandel 2005

Posted in California, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Wine Reviews, Zinfandel by CreativeJuicesWine on December 2, 2009

Wow. Ok…

This bottle was given to us by our friend, and wine maker, Vic Poulos of Zin Valle Vineyards in Canutillo,TX. He asked us to let him know what we think of wine, and here we go.

Let us begin by saying that this wine has 15.9% alcohol. That’s freakishly high for most wines, even Zinfandel, which is synonymous with staggering alcohol contents. That being said, one would not know it.

Gamba Cellars has created a monster. Taken from old vines in the Russian River Valley of California, these Zinfandel grapes have been developed into amazing juice that we are clearly pretty excited about.

This wine exhibits nice peppery notes, with a bit of currant, smooth vanilla, and a touch of dirt or clay on the nose. It has a very pleasant bouquet that invites one into the first sip like the sly seductress it is.

Gamba Zin is a well-rounded, full-bodied wine that has rich tannins, and generous alcohol. In the mouth, powerful flavors of vanilla, rose pedal, cotton candy, plum, a pleasant dirtiness or earthiness, that rounds off with subtle cocoa and blueberry flavors as it finishes. We were also very impressed that we got as much sediment from this wine as we did given its age.

This is a very good wine, and if you see it anywhere, pick it up. It was a gift to us, so we aren’t going to disclose a price, however, it’s worth it. This is a 92 point wine. Delicious.

Thank you, Vic. This was a truly amazing gift, and we enjoyed it thoroughly. Cheers!

Dashe Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2007

Posted in California, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, Wine Reviews, Zinfandel by CreativeJuicesWine on November 28, 2009

This surprisingly low-alcohol Zinfandel from California was one of the bottles we opened on Thanksgiving, and are just now getting to finish up.

This 2007 vintage of Dashe Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is a straightforward wine that exhibits a respectable amount of character in its youth. Dashe Zin exhibits a clear ruby coloration that leads through a few variations in color before it fades out towards the edge.

There isn’t a lot on the nose of this wine, but there is enough complexity on the palate to make this medium-full bodied wine worth talking about. With notes of black pepper, prune, blackberry, leather and oak, Dashe came through with this Zin. Overall, it’s rather pleasant, and finishes at a medium length.

At $25 retail, Dashe offers a reasonably priced option to take home, and drink with barbeque pork, or maybe even a pizza. We rate this wine 88 points, and recommend it. Cheers!

Thanksgiving Dinner with Wine

Posted in Austria, Beaujolais, Champagne, France, Gamay, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Noir, Red Burgundy, Sonoma County, Wine Reviews, Zinfandel by CreativeJuicesWine on November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving is this Thursday! Time to spend 7 hours making a meal that gets consumed in 20 minutes. Yay! Thanksgiving is the official kickoff of the holiday season, which means that we’re all going to eat and drink too much from now until 2010.  That being said, let’s talk a little about Thursday’s meal.

From a traditional standpoint, families all across the country are going to be preparing a turkey. There are a number of preparations that we could get into, but, we’re not going to. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask. Popular sides for Thanksgiving include potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, etc.

A lot of people have been asking us lately what to pair with their dinner on the 26th. We are happy to give our advice, and are actually really looking forward to doing some pairing experiments of our own. However, to be safe, here is a brief list of wines that we recommend with your Thanksgiving dinner this year. We have shared some amazing bottles of wine this year that we feel would be appropriate on Thursday afternoon.

Classically we would like to recommend Champagne.
This bottle of Chartogne-Talliet was a bottle given to us on our wedding night by a friend that we enjoyed a great deal. ($42)

Secondly, we would recommend drinking a nice Pinot Noir with your dinner this year. This bottle of  2006 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir from Sonoma County is one of our fondest wine drinking memories together, and we would like you to make your own special memories with this bottle. ($68)

Beaujolais Nouveau is a traditional pairing which is released on the third Thursday of every November right before Thanksgiving. We have never paired it, but we will tell you that we will be this year, just to see how it goes. This wine separates wine snobs from wine lovers. It’s about $8 a bottle, and easy to find.

Might we also recommend an Austrian Gruner Veltliner. This is a bottle that was on our by-the-glass list at the wine bar where we met, and eventually worked together in New York. Our decision to pair a Gruner is primarily based on its compatibility, but also in honor of our friends in NY who we miss. ($18)

Finally, we would like to offer up another twist on tradition, and recommend a Zinfandel blend that we were given as a gift from another friend back in March of this year. We are recommending the 2006 vintage (for nostalgic value), though the 2007 vintage is equally as impressive. Ridge 2006 California Geyserville- Zinfandel Blend. ($42)

These are our recommendations this year. Being that this is our first Thanksgiving as a family, we are thankful that we have a lot of wine at our fingertips in case dinner doesn’t turn out like we hope it does. Happy Thanksgiving! Cheers!

DeLoach Russian River Pinot Noir 2007

Posted in California, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Wine Reviews by CreativeJuicesWine on October 26, 2009

This evening we enjoyed a bottle of DeLoach Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with our meals at Mesa Street Grill here in El Paso. This was most likely an effort to make up for last night’s debacle. In the end, it proved worth it.

The following is a description directly from the DeLoach website:
The cool, foggy Russian River Valley climate allows for slow ripening, enabling grapes to develop full flavor maturation over an extended time. The fruit for our 2007 blend was hand-harvested from select vineyards around the valley and crafted using traditional Burgundian techniques: fermentation in small, wooden, open-top vats; hand punch-downs; basket-pressing; and French oak barrel aging.
Ripe raspberries lift from the glass and mingle with tempting aromas of strawberry-rhubarb tart and cola.  Delicate notes of anise, cardamom and gingerbread spice lace the fruit to unfold a rich palate of black cherries supported by medium-fine-grained tannins. The finish lingers with attractive, subtle, toasty undertones, fine acid and excellent balance.  Pairs beautifully with barbecued leg of lamb or braised pork tenderloin.

We ordered the bottle, and our waiter Marc, decanted it for us. By this point, we had ordered our meals, and as per usual, there was a distance between them.
Olena’s Order: An unorthodox one that included Salmon, Chilean Sea Bass, Big Eyed Tuna, Shrimp and Scallops. She’s more adventurous in her pairings.
Zak’s Order: Rack of Lamb served over mashed potatoes with asparagus (An obviously more traditional order).
Although neither of the pairings were perfect, Zak’s was the safe choice that proved to be a friendlier match.
The only thing that really stood out about this wine was that it was spicier than most Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley in California. This can’t be said of all domestic Pinots, but in this case, it was definitely a factor. By no means does this insinuate the wine that was substandard, or varietally inaccurate. This was an excellent pinot that we ranked a 91.
We highly recommend this bottle that we bought at a restaurant for $40. At retail, you should be able to find it for around $19. Go out, and try this wine. Cheers!

Zak & Olena