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Enlisted my brother and I for this wine adventure the moment I saw the promotion from Fleming’s Steakhouse–the August showing of the “100 Wines One Summer” series. We did the Uber thing to and from this tasting so that we could relax and enjoy new wines without having to figure out who had to be the designated driver. That being said, here’s how the evening unfolded for this guy:
- JCB by Jean-Francois Boisset
Some whites (this one is a 100% Chardonnay) have more of that oak smell or flowers to them, while others–like this JCB–carry more fruit notes. This sparkling, produced in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or region, was served to us after signing in at the registration desk. Nice apply start to the tasting.
- Pinot Grigio, Maso Canali
My last white tasting this night, a blend of 95% Pinot Grigio and 5% Chardonnay, jumped out when described by the hostess. She was tending to an array of whites, and her notes zeroed me in on this Italian wine…I know someone (you know who you are!) who would have really liked this white. The Grigio lead the way in terms of taste, and I am not sure I could have determined the Chardonnay in the mix if I had not been told of its inclusion.
- Pinot Noir, Wine by Joe
Jumped softly into the pool of reds with this raspberry-scented Pinot, produced by Joe Dobbs in the Willamette Valley region of Oregon. I eschewed Mark West and Meiomi offerings in order to try something new in the Joe. Little bit of cherry in this gentle Pinot, which was quite delicious and a welcome shift from the whites.
- Pinot Noir, Rodney Strong
I’ve sampled the Strong previously, and both the vineyard and any Russian River Valley Pinot Noir make a compelling argument to repeat a tasting (despite what I literally JUST said about the West and Meiomi). I was not disappointed at all. It’s beautiful cherry, soft, and aromatic in the glass…even the vanilla notes I enjoyed in the Rodney tasting. One of the evening’s highlights to be sure.
- Malbec, Pascual Toso
We soon thereafter moved to table 3, some international reds, and my first and only selection from this grouping was this Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina. Sadly my notes are sparse on this offering, other than to say “lush fruits.”
- 2012 Liberated Cabernet Sauvignon
Table four consisted of California reds, and those who read Notes with any frequency can imagine we drifted quickly to this area and stayed here the longest. This Sonoma County Cab was superb; expresso and dark cherry and mocha all wrapped into one dark, delicious beauty. Even had a little smokey hint to it…in many ways this red had all the nuances that I like about California Cabernet.
- 2014 Round Pond Cabernet Sauvignon
The McDonnell family in Napa Valley (the Rutherford AVA as I read later) is responsible for this peppery and blackberry-tasting Cab. Some of this wine reminded me of good Syrah–perhaps its spice notes and the generous mouthfeel? In another year or two this one is going to be spectacular, and I was sort of picturing myself with a whole glass of this bad boy instead of just the sampler.
- Chateau St. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon
Definitely familiar with this winery, but usually for their whites instead of reds. This one is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Syrah, 5% Merlot, and 4% Other (whatever that means). This one was pretty complex too, and I detected earthy tones, spices, and tobacco in this jammy red. Of all the reds we tasted tonight, this one was closest to the Michael David or Caymus wines of which I’ve written from time to time. Did you know this winery is the oldest in Washington State? I just learned that myself…
This is another Bordeaux-style blend, this one 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, and 2% Other. It was okay but suffered a disadvantage by following the fruit-forward Michelle and Round Pond gems. This Napa Valley offering had a peppery finish but my vocabulary (or perhaps my inexact notes) doesn’t stretch far enough with the Hall. Really enjoyed the wine, but I’d prefer another glass of many others if pressed.
Who names these thing? Such an unenviable task…and my notes from this one read (no joke) “Smells like feet. Very cherry.” I was only so so on the Paradox, but I’ll offer you the following from Flemings in case ‘feet’ as a tasting note left you in the lurch: “Offering a heady mix of blueberry and cherry aromas its lingering berry and cherry flavors, this velvety lush blend is [Dan Duckhorn’s] gift to all of us.” I’m not buying…
- Yardstick Cabernet Sauvignon
Much better change of pace here. This too is a Napa Valley Cab, made of grapes sourced from Atlas Peak (from where I’ve had some enjoyable wine to be sure). It had a fantastic scent in the glass, red and black fruits that I’d say were black cherry and blackberry. You get a sense of the pepper here too, one of those soft layers that sneaks into a good wine, subtly reminding you of a presence of something greater. Nice flavor in the Yardstick–which is a GREAT bit of branding btw.
- Greg Norman Cabernet-Merlot
Um, yes, not a California red but I understand its inclusion in this table. It’s got that Bordeaux vibe to it for sure, with raspberry notes and dark fruits mixing together. I was kind of interested in this one (not sure I’ve had a Norman ever before) but it was only okay.
- Gundlach-Bundschu Mountain Cuvee
I know. You’re saying three more still? Steve and I said much the same this Saturday night as we sampled our way from Europe to North America, South America, and Australia all in one sitting. From the name I bet you’re thinking this one is international in origin, but it’s actually a Sonoma County blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Zinfandel. If you think that sounds like inelegant science you’re mistaken. This red blend was luscious in dark fruits and had an easy finish. A surprising pleasure and I’d like another glass on a night when my palate was not being so bombarded by so many flavors just so I could share more details with you on the Gundlach-Bundschu.
- Double T Trefethen Red Blend
This one too is a combination (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec) red, Bordeaux in style. We got talking to some friendly patrons while sampling this round, and I’m afraid I have nothing of consequence to relay about the Trefethen. Wine & Spirits describes its “…plummy, jammy nose, its cherry-berry flavor profile, and its smooth, chocolate-covered finish” but I cannot recall from firsthand experience.
- Hills Hope
Not sure if I should include this one or not. I am unsure of the winemaker or region for this one, or candidly the label or grape. Is very likely a red blend in the Bordeaux style, simply by its grouping at this particular table. A Google search yields too many “hills” to narrow the field, so this is definitely a clunky last entry. I wrote, “Easy finish. Dark cherry and raspberry with small tannins” but cannot be any more helpful than that. Disappointing and may even edit this one out in the future…sort of weighing the journalistic integrity either way.
I’m a little regretful that I didn’t take better stock of the vintage in the above. Most were assuredly ’13s and ’14s but I am pretty sure there were a few ’12s in the mix too. Sorry about that, fans.
That said, fifteen samples made for a great night and a great experience to share. If you like any of the above be sure to share some yourself and spread the love. -RMG
The 2014 Gascon Malbec, originating from the Mendoza region of Argentina, was exactly the kick of spice and dark fruits that I wanted tonight to accompany my steak. I opted for London Broil and a side salad, and the pepper seasoning of the meat and the onions in the mixed greens needed something substantive in terms of wine pairings. The Gascon lived up to the task.
This isn’t my first bottle of Gascon but first of the vintage. The Notes review of the 2009 you can read here. What of the Mendoza region?
- Mendoza is responsible for nearly two thirds of all Argentinian wine production.
- It is located in the foothills of the Andes mountains, which is one of the highest elevations for grape growing worldwide.
- Mendoza soil is predominantly loose sand over clay, which means less to this reviewer but is perhaps relevant to you, reader, so I include nevertheless.
- The region has only a few centimeters of rain all year, which means its vineyards depend on irrigation, but with four seasons and no extreme temperature swings Mendoza sounds highly conducive to grape growing.
The result of all this environment? A rich, layered Malbec that has blackberry and pepper spices to offer. It pours dark and luscious in the glass, and has great aromas that I can’t quite define for you. It’s full. It’s got a really nice, even finish. The 2014 Gascon is readily available at your local grocery store or wine distributor, and it is very affordable at less than $15 per bottle. Needless to say it complemented the meal effectively.
Of the 2014 Gascon Malbec, the winemaker says, “Dark fruit flavors intertwine with notes of spice, licorice, and chocolate to create a magnificent, full-bodied Malbec.”
I recently enjoyed “high altitude” wine in the form of the 2005 Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva, which is too small a sample size to know if the altitude is an influence on my tastes or merely coincidence. A good hypothesis to explore, though, right? The journey is sometimes even better than the destination.
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Let’s not overthink this one. This is the 2012 Pannunzio GV Giovanni Vincenzo Malbec, which I’m sipping on the patio of Tony P’s Dockside Grill in Marina Del Rey. I went out questing for the Pacific and ended up in this casual joint. That’s the California Yacht Club over which the day’s dying light appears.
Enjoyed the wine–perhaps for the ambiance, perhaps for its red ruby color and balanced taste–and a better end to the work day.
At least once previously I’ve been treated with this wine of the three winds – the Polar, Zonda, and Sudestada – courtesy of the God of Winds Eolo. I’m achy all over, tired, and am going to cheat just a little, offering you this link to Notes‘ previous tasting notes rather than coming up with a new profile for you this evening. Hopefully you’ve read enough of this column to forgive my brevity tonight–you know I’ll make it up with some interesting nuggets in the future.
It’s a weeknight and football is on in the background. Finished this red with a grilled New York strip steak, a mixed green salad, and some yellow beans. Some good portion control all around means I enjoyed the inky, red goodness of the Malbec–its mouthfeel, its plum taste–and might even have room for dessert. Hoping you are readying for a good weekend and good beverages too.