Over the holidays in southern California, I had the chance to savor some fine wines and taste some real oddities. We didn’t have wine at every meal, clearly. And wine wasn’t the focus. But you always end up with something to report.
I greatly enjoyed the 2002 Produtorri di Barbaresco Barbaresco normale bottling from the rainy, much maligned vintage. This wine is terrific, with a typcially ruby color, floral and tar perfume, and a tannic but ripe flavor. Unlike most ‘02s I’ve had, you could hold this for a few years. It’s not overly soft or even dilute, though I wouldn’t keep it too long and I’d watch it closely. But for $20 it’s a deal.
A half bottle of 1999 Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage Port was better than I even expected. Softer as an LBV tends to be, traditionally bottled at four years, this is classic fragrant with peppery flavors, nice texture and length. Terrific value at $10
A 2004 Donnhoff Riesling QBA was good enough but not as precise as I was looking for, more spatlese sweet without the higher acid quality of that pradikat. Still a nice drink, with light earthy petrol notes and fat lemony mineral flavors.
At Christmas we had some NV Korbel sparkling wine, still labelled “Champagne” which seems hard to understand at this point. But the wine is not horrible, actually just not memorable. I did enjoy the oft-maligned NV Moet et Chandon Champagne White Star, more yeasty and firm, not bad at all. A 2005 Zaca Mesa Viognier Santa Ynez Valley was too soft and fruity to make much of an impression, but it was ok. More soda pop like.
For reds, the 2005 Evesham Wood Pinot Noir Willamette Valley was good and fruity, more gushing then past vintages but nice for a crowd. The 1994 Leoville Barton St. Julien was nicely fragrant maturing Bordeaux but less yielding in the mouth. That’s code for tannic. Hold forever. Of course everyone preferred the 2004 Rombauer Zindanfel from various California counties. It’s hugely ripe, oaky, alcoholic, and sweet. I struggled to understand it. I also tried the 2003 Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon “Starmont” Napa Valley that was a pretty good value at $20, even if the same money would buy you more wine in another category.
Later on in the trip I happened upon two different Screw Kappa Napa wines, both the wine equivalent of Velveeta. They seem to have jammy sheen to them, with “dialed in” oak flavors, yet momentarily they have some appeal. The 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon was perfectly inoffensive, though it didn’t taste much like cabernet. The 2003 (I think) Merlot was more merlot-like, with typcial herbal scents and flavors that tasted manufactured..
Finally, in a restaurant with old friends, a bottle of 2004 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon “Artemis” Napa Valley. This was ripe and richly fruity like Napa cabs tend to be, but not overly so. Finely tannic but built for drinking younger, perfect nice restaurant cabernet.