During my recent time off from this blog, I did manage to drink some wine. Here's a run down of random things I managed to sample.
First, two QPR wine (quality/price ratio for the ungeeky) that I bought in quantity from the Wine House in LA for a family event. The white was the 2008 Maipe Sauvignon Blanc from the Mendoza region of Argentina. For $9, this was a steal. Lively and fresh smelling with nice crispness and varietal character, without excessive grassy or herbal notes. This was a hit. I will admit I bought this purely on the "shelf talker" that compared it to Sancerre. I wouldn't go that far, but indeed this was a no brainer at the price.
Then a red, the 2007 Antinori Santa Cristina Toscana Rosso, mostly sangiovese blended with some merlot and also $9. Call it internationalized and industrial, I find this wine to be a safe bet in lots of places where the pickings are slim. The Wine House has a nice selection, but I needed multiple cases on short notice and interestingly enough, there wasn't much to pick from in this price range. Sweet fruit aromas, but clearly Italian with savory flavors and good acidity. This was another crowd pleaser and is nice on its own and with food.
With lots of family in an LA restaurant, I went with what my dad would have ordered - barbera. Not the 2004 Castello Verduno on the wine list, but the 2007 Damilano Barbera d'Alba was a fine substitute. Again, terrific on its own and with dinner, this was prototypcial barbera with dark color, earthy fruit aroma, and clean, crisp but ripe fruit and spice flavors in the mouth. Nothing fancy, but this was a great pick.
The other highlight in LA was a glass of Yellow Tail Shiraz (vintage irrelevant). It's sweet, syrupy red wine that tastes more like alcoholic fruit punch. But people dig it. What are you going to do?
Then back in Portland, some drinks around the house. The 2004 Lafond Lirac Roc-Epine Blanc was a bit long in the tooth. I guess more viognier or grenache blanc than marsanne or roussane? Some mild walnut smells with dry honey and some gain alcohol, this was more together in the mouth but nothing to write home, or here, about.
2003 Lorinon Rioja Reserva was a bit of a revelation. I bought it on a whim to try something maybe Alice Fiering would decry as modern, horrible Rioja. Lopez y Heredia this wasn't, but neither was it glossy and processed. Some dill notes suggest traditional American oak, with pretty tobacco and plum flavors that seemed medium bodied even in this hot vintage. Not bad at all.
Another bottle of 2002 Cray Cremant de Loire sparkling rose was delicious, just as in the past. I don't care what Marshall Manning says, this is good stuff and worth your time and liver even if it's not as earthmoving as something more fancy. Take that Marshall Manning.
Finally, something I found for $5 on the back table at Pastaworks one Sunday afternoon, a lone half bottle of 2001 Fattoria le Pupille Sol Alto dessert wine from Tuscany. Once in a blue moon Peter di Garmo simply gives something away. Once I found a full bottle of terrific Jurancon. This is a top rate Sauternes clone, with a light gold color, intense but delicate figgy, pineapple, and honey aroma, and a classically balanced sweet fig and pleasantly bitter pith flavors. I have no idea of the blend, but if it's not sauvignon, semillon, and/or muscadelle I'd be shocked. Put a label of Rieussec or Sudiuraut on it and people would pay out the nose for it. The regular price is $20 or $25, not cheap but worth it. For a fiver? Ridiculous. Keep your eyes open. Bargains abound.