Monday, November 25, 2013

The Difference a Vintage Can Make

Two very different wines and two very different vintages,
both beautiful for different reasons.
Any reader of mine will know that I am a huge fan of Chianti Classico. Years of trail and error, let downs and happy surprises, have left me with some very firm opinions about Chianti and Sangiovese from Tuscany in general. For one thing, many of these wines can age, as we will see from 2010. Yet, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with young Chianti, when made in a more open style or from a more accessible vintage, like 2011.

This brings me to San Giusto a Rentennano Chianti Classico, which is traditionally styled Chianti made from Sangiovese (95%) and a small amount of Canaiolo (5%). I decided to do a little side-by-side comparison tonight of the 2010 and 2011 vintages. Two very different wines, both marked by the vintages from which they hail. However, there’s also a little something more. In 2011, portions of the grapes added to the wine were whole clusters (stems and all), a practice found often in Burgundy, but seldom in Tuscany. The difference is quite noticeable and worth tasting for exploratory purposes alone.

In the end, these are both beautiful wines, for very different reasons, and I look forward to following them throughout the years. I would hope my readers would give them a chance as well.

On To The Notes:

2010 San Giusto a Rentennano Chianti Classico – The nose was radiant and dark showing rich black cherry, hints of cedar, undergrowth and crushed fall leaves. On the palate, it was tight yet focused with tart red fruits, spice and herbs. Vibrant acidity kept the mouth watering, yet this wine needs a couple of years in the cellar to unwind. The finish showed a bitter twang with drying tannin coating the senses. This was enjoyable, but more for it’s, possible, future potential than it’s performance tonight. (90 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher! (avg. cost $20)

2011 San Giusto a Rentennano Chianti Classico – The nose was bright and vibrant, showing tart cherry, stemmed strawberries, and autumnal spice with hints of pine. On the palate, it caressed the senses with soft red fruits accompanied by textbook Sangiovese acidity. This wine practically sizzled on the palate, with notes of cedar, herbs and spice. The finish was refined, showing hints of structure, yet fully enjoyable today. (91 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher! (avg. cost $20)

The 2010 is tight and tart, a wine that I’d love to revisit in a few years. If the fruit unwinds and catches up with the absolutely beautiful bouquet, then this wine could one day be gorgeous. The 2011 is more open, yet still a stern, acid driven Sangiovese. Today, I’d reach for the 2011, without question. Yet, I have a feeling that the 2010 will improve for years to come.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Good Wine Can Suck Too!

So I was drinking a wine tonight from a producer that has become a bit of a darling of some critics I respect. The time came to give the wine a score. I thought hard about it. The nose, the palate, the finish and the overall impression came into play. In the end-- 88 points!

For a moment I felt bad. WHY? Because we are all somehow trained to feel that even in an off vintage, we should give handicap points to good producers… God forbid we hurt their egos, right?

Let's think about this for a minute. If we have a great vintage, and the wine scores 96 points, then we all feel good about it. However, we then have just a good vintage, and the wine scores 96 points. Somehow, it's glossed over. Then we have a bad vintage, and the wine sinks to a whopping 94 points, and we are then told to buy the producer, not the vintage. But what if the vintage really did affect the wine? What if it's short, diluted, uninteresting or just simply bad?

This reminds me of 2003 Barolo. How can a wine that's simply "okay" to drink today still score 93 points? I'd rather drink anything at 87-90 points, than most 2003 Barolo.

Hail Damage
I guess that in the end, this is a rant. But it's a rant because I stand in a happy place while scratching my head. A place where I know the best producers aren't giving me free wine, so I don't have to worry about them taking away their free wine. I don't have to worry about people comp’ing me plane tickets, drivers, vacations, or a case or two that fell off the back of the truck and into my trunk.

In the end, I write what I think about wine. Good or bad, I don't care. I buy 50% of what I taste, and that which is given to me receives the same treatment. If the person who submits the sample doesn't like what I have to say--I don't care.

So, yes, good producers can make bad wine.

Now, in all fairness, this is not a bad wine, but it certainly isn’t a 91-93 point wine. If I found it in a bargain bin for $20, I’d buy it. I’m sure after this post I won’t ever see any free samples from them… Oh well.

2005 Podere Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione Alta Valle della Greve IGT - The nose showed a mix of small tart berries with savory spice notes, herbal tones, animal musk and graphite. On the palate, it was silky and accessible with dark red fruits, mocha and spice. The balanced acidity kept things lively, yet this fell slightly short toward the close, finishing with tart red fruits that faded quickly.

Admittedly, my expectations were high, and so my judgment may be slightly obscured. With that said, the bouquet was amazing, but this vintage simply lacks any serious structure and staying power. At $20 this would have been a 90, but with the higher price tag, I can't buy into the hype. (88 points)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Black Cat

This time of year is always rough, my work nearly triples and it always hurts my ability to post on the blog. At first, I thought it best to let it go and post a "please forgive my absence in this busy time" sort of post. However, the more a I thought about it, the more I realized that we are beyond that, and I believe my readers would enjoy knowing what i'm drinking in the little free time I have--even if it's not the most well thought out post to the blog.

And so, here it is and I hope you enjoy, because it's totally unadulterated and exactly what's on my mind as I pull wines from my cellar at a very busy time…

The Black Cat

For years I've wondered why I haven't seen any professional tasting notes on EMH Black Cat. Are they too small? Do they refuse to submit samples? I don't know. What I do know is that this tiny wine was one of my most prized discoveries from a trip I took to Napa a few years ago. Out of all the wineries that I visited, there were only three lists that I bought wines from, and this was one of them. Coming from a single acre vineyard in Calistoga, which makes for a great study through the vintages, since it's always from the same small parcel. Tonight I revisited the 2005, and it was drop--dead--gorgeous!

2005 EMH Cabernet Sauvignon Black Cat - The nose was refined yet intense with cherry cola, minty herbs, spice, rose-infused dark chocolate and hints of sweetened lavender. On the palate, it was plush and weighty but with great finesse and brisk acidity. Never overwhelming or overdone, instead perfectly balanced. Ripe black fruit, currant, cola and holiday spice danced on the palate and gave way to juicy cherry, which lasted through the long finish. This wine has remained one of my favorites from Black Cat and is in a great place right now. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!