Archive for September, 2011

Wine and Dinner at Delancey’s

September 30, 2011 3 comments

It was natural that we try our three red blends at Delancey’s.  The food is great, the atmosphere is comfortable, and everyone is enthusiastic when we show up with either bags or boxes of wine.  More importantly, through the constant patronage of Julia and Clark, they have become strong friends with both Brandon and Rachel.  Their warmth spreads to all and if it were not for the necessity of sleep, I would easily stayed there all night chatting, drinking, and dancing.  Brandon is a supporter of local beers and European wine which is reflected in his highly edited drinks list.  But he is also willing to try whatever it is that we bring so both Brandon and Rachel stopped by to taste the wines.

A Take on Buffalo Chicken


We brown bagged the wines to make the evening more fun.  The Memaloose is a screw-capped, Rhone-shaped bottle so even brown bagged, it was a bit of a standout from the other corked, Bordeaux-shaped bottles.  But we had no clue about the  varietal make-up of the wines so we were quite happy.  I have included my tasting notes in the order that we marked the wines.  The Memaloose changed the most over the first house.  It started off closed, acidic, and tart but then became quite drinkable and interesting.  The Beast was heavy-handed and completely different from the few Buty wines that I have drunk.  The Fidelitas quickly became everyone’s favorite.  Slow to change and drinkable now, I believe it will be an even better wine in two years time.  While we finished off the Memaloose and Fidelitas bottles, at least half of the Beast was left untouched.

2008 Memaloose, Idiot’s Grace, Estate Cabernet Franc, Columbia Gorge
This wine is 89% Cabernet Franc, 7% Sangiovese, and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Idiots Grace Vineyard, Oregon and Parker’s Vineyard, Washington.  It was aged for 16 months in two to five-year old barrels.  Young, primary flavors of black/red fruit, a tart nature, and plenty of acidity.  With air the nose became more scented with floral notes.  Clark found “brambleberry” and “rhubarb.”  This cost $22. **(*) Now-2015.

2009 Beast, Wildebeast, Columbia Valley
This is made by Buty Winery and is made from barrels not used under the Buty label.  This wine is a blend of 45% Syrah, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Malbec with 90% of the fruit sourced from Phinny Hill Estate, and 10% from the stones in Walla Walla.  This wine had gobs of cocoa, overt wood influences, confected, sweet fruit, and vanilla flavors in the mouth.  It was quite showy and left an overall coarse nature.  There was not enough acidity or depth to the fruit.  Clark commented, “I know what you are trying to do to me.”  This cost $23. * Now.

2009 Fidelitas, M 100, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 48% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot that was aged for 14 months in American and French oak.  Black/red fruits are racy in flavor with fine-grained wood influences, supple fruit mid palate, inkiness, and structure in this well made wine.  A contemporary wine that is a strong value and will develop for a few years to come. This cost $14.44 making it a great buy! ***(*) 2014-2019.


It was natural that after eating Buffalo rillettes, two salads, and three pizzas that we would order two different deserts.  With none of us willing to finish the Beast Rachel brought out wine for Julia and I along with a pint for Clark.  The night then turned celebratory as it was the last evening at Delancey’s for Rachel.  She has worked hard on Rachel’s Ginger Beer  and is now stepping it up by opening the dive bar Montana with her investors.

Brandon, Julia, Rachel, and the Author

Buying and Drinking at Wine World

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Villa Maria and 509 Wine Company Tasting

I met up with Julia after work so that we could go shopping for wine.  She suggested we go to Wine World Warehouse which is a relatively new store located on 45th St near I-5.  The website states they have over 500 northwest wines and 6,000 other wines and after a walk around the store, I am convinced!  In the middle of the store is a giant two-sided tasting bar.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they were tasting the wines of Villa Maria and 509 Wine Company.  You might be familiar with Villa Maria because it has a well-marketed national presence.  But you have probably not heard of 509 Wine Company because it is the only winery in Fremont!  Julia and I were game to start tasting so we signed onto a computer then we each received eight tasting tickets.  Without the ticket system we might taste the 9th bottle of wine which would put us afoul of the law.

Julia, Nick, and the Author

Nick Picone, a Senior Auckland Winemaker, was on hand from Villa Maria to discuss the wines.  We chatted with him for quite a while.  Nick is quite friendly and I suspect it would be great fun to drink some wine with him over dinner.  Villa Maria has four levels of wine: Private Bin, Cellar Selection, Reserve, and Single Vineyard.  The Private Bin wines are styled to have “clean, fresh and lively flavours”.  The Cellar Selection and Reserve are identically made and only separated after maturation.  The Cellar Selection wines are capable of medium term aging with the Reserve wines showing “ample weight, concentration and intensity of flavour.”  At Wine World the Private Bin and Cellar Selection wines were priced between $14 and $18 with the Reserve Pinot at $47.  Before reading about the intent of the different levels, I felt that the Private Bin wines had clean, fresh, properly made, flavors for mass appeal.  I found them less interesting whereas the Cellar Selections started to interest me.  Even then the Cellar Selection still has large appeal, I suspect the interesting stuff lies in the Reserve and Single Vineyard wines.  In the end I preferred the Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc and the Reserve Pinot Noir.  I did not take any notes so you will find my impressions below.

2010 Villa Maria, Private Bin, Sauvignon Blanc
Ample waves of fresh citrus, lots of juicy acidity, clean flavors in an attention getter of a wine. Not Rated.

2009 Villa Maria, Cellar Selection, Sauvignon Blanc
Julia and I preferred this Sauvignon Blanc with its more restrained character of cantaloupe balanced by citrus and less overt acidity.  The extra year of age has made it interesting.  Good texture with more weight to the fruit.  Almost savory. Not Rated.

2009 Villa Maria, Private Bin, Pinot Gris
This was quite different from the Sauvignon Blancs with green fruit (not as in underripe) and precise, narrow core of ripe flavor.  Softer with less acidity. Not Rated.

2008 Villa Maria, Private Bin, Pinot Noir
This has red fruit, raspberries, and a clean balance between fruit, acidity, and tannins. Not Rated.

2007 Villa Maria, Reserve, Pinot Noir
This showed darker red fruit in a dense, supple style.  There is some spice to this young wine.  While readily drinkable it comes across as needing several years of age.  The 25% new oak is well-integrated. Not Rated.

2008 Villa Maria, Cellar Selection, Bordeaux Blend
A more complex blend of red fruits than the Private Bin Pinot Noir.  Starts off with red fruits then an underlying blue, spicy quality comes out.  Medium bodied but feels light in the mouth. Enjoyable now,  I am not sure how this will turn out with age.  Has anyone cellared this? Not Rated.

Just Part of the Washington Blends

After the tasting we picked up three bottles to try with our dinner at Delancey. They were priced between $14 and $22.

  • 2008 Memaloose, Idiot’s Grace, Estate Cabernet Franc, Columbia Gorge
  • 2009 Beast, Wildebeast, Columbia Valley
  • 2009 Fidelitas, M 100, Columbia Valley

Some Pictures From Seattle and the 2008 Bench Mark, Cabernet Sauvignon

September 28, 2011 2 comments

My plan for dinner was to walk The Local Vine located in Capitol Hill on 12th Street between Madison and Pine.  As I walked up Union Street I was reminded how gritty this part of Capitol Hill is with its mixture of turn of the century warehouses just one block from the popular Pike Street.  A friend once lived in this area, in an old warehouse filled with junk including a mid-century dust-covered Mercedes.  12th Avenue is flanked by new buildings that contain The Local Vine, Barrio, Tavern Law, La Spiga, and oh yes, Maserati.  This is the transition line from Capitol Hill to First Hill.

Front of Apartments Built in 1900

Back of Apartments Built in 1900

Brick Warehouse

There were only three or four customers at The Local Vine so I opted to walk some more so I could dine at Quinn’s Pub.  I ate fish & chips which I washed down with an Oktoberfest beer. On my way down Pike Street I walked past Sun Liquor Distillery.

Sun Liquor Distillery

Turning right on to Melrose Street the Melrose Market is immediatrely visible, sitting just past Rain Shadow Meats.  It is a converted warehouse space with a butcher, cheesemonger, wine store and bar, florist, and the Sitka & Spruce restaurant in the back.  The restaurant was crowded, a few people milled about the marker, and two friends drank wine at the bar.  I checked out the store side of Bar Ferd’nand and found some interesting selection from Willi Schaeffer and other producers imported by Kermit Lynch and Peter Weygandt.  An example is the 2008 Domaine Faury, Saint Joseph Vieilles Vignes which will set you back $37.  The 2007 Morgues du Gres, Capitalles du Mourgues was also on hand.  The wine bar, strange enough, was selling 2002 Domaine Usseglio, Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc.  It was not specified whether it was Pierre or Raymond.  Now 2002 is not a good vintage, I once drank a sale priced 2002 Domaine Janasse, Chateuneuf du Pape and felt it was boring and over priced at $15.  In any event, I looked around some more and took a few pictures.

The Melrose Market

Inside the Market

Bar Ferd'nand

As you leave the market you cannot help but notice the black four-square house that looks down upon you.  I want to go inside there!


Being a big fan of Baer Winery I decided to try a $20 bottle of wine produced by the Good Taste Wine Co the I had purchased at Whole Foods.  Leroy Radford is the wine-maker at Baer Winery and also has other projects including this one where he is co-president along with Jocelyn Ungar.

2008 Good Taste Wine Co., Bench Mark, Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington
This wine is 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot.  This medium+ bodied wine has ripe red fruit, that has a powdery texture to it.  Though this wine is quite easy to drink, there is a sense of depth to the fruit.  Barrels notes mix with balanced acidity and tannins.  I suspect this will develop with air so I will update my tasting note tonight. **(*) Now-2015.

2008 Pendulum, Red Blend, Columbia Valley

September 27, 2011 1 comment

I have drunk a few bottles of the 2006 Pendulum, Red Wine over the course of my Seattle visits.  Priced around $16-$18 it was a tasty, easy to drink, somewhat alcoholic wine that drank well out of hotel tumblers.  Last night I saw the 2008 vintage so I grabbed a bottle to try.  This wine is $16 at Whole Foods and $14 at Pete’s Wine.  Pendulum is just one of several dozen brands produced by Precept Wine.  I suspect the size of the company allows them to produce this tasty bottle of wine at a very competitive price point.  This is definitely worth a go.

2008 Pendulum, Red Blend, Columbia Valley
This is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Malbec sourced from Canoe Ridge, Willard, Oasis, and Hyatt vineyards.  It was aged for 32 months in 25% new American oak and 75% second and third use oak.  This was more approachable than the 2006 with less alcohol.  This medium+ bodied wine has flavors of black cherry, blackberry, licorice notes, and some herbs.  The acidity is towards the back of the mouth with some tannins developing on the finish.  There are dark flavors in the aftertaste.  There is a soft, vanilla consistency throughout the wine, that while overtly from the barrels, is still harmonious with the rest of the wine. *** Now-2015.

Four Wines Between $12 and $15

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

During the early weeks of this blog, I once took a break from posting for two days.  This prompted my friend Lou to check in on me, to make sure I was healthy and still drinking wine.  I am currently flying to Seattle and have recently passed over Fargo.  I was too busy having fun with my daughter to write a post for today.  Fortunately, Alaska Air has excellent inflight wi-fi as I demonstrated from this post.  So here I am once again blogging from the air.  Jenn and I have drunk some excellent wines from Washington and Oregon this summer but the majority of these bottles comfortably cost over $25 per bottle.    For this trip I plan on tasting and buying wines under that price point.  In this vein, this post includes notes on four different bottles all $15 or less.

The Thorn-Clarke was purchased for $13, the Alpha Box & Dice for $12, the Quinta da Rosa for $15, and the Plungerhead for $15.  All of these should be currently available at MacArthur’s.  My favorites were the Thorn-Clarke and the Quinta de la Rosa.  The Thorn-Clarke strongly delivers on value and the Quinta de la Rosa is at a decent price.  The Alpha Box & Dice and the Plungerhead were both too soft, jammy, and too sweet for my preferences.  If you are craving a zinfandel blend then spend an extra $2-$3 to buy a 2009 Ridge Zinfandel.

2008 Thorn-Clarke, Shotfire, Quartage, Barossa
This is a blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Malbec, 18% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, and 3% Merlot that was aged for 18 months in 85% French and 15% American oak. I first tried this at the Fran Kysela tasting held at MacArthur’s. We recently tried a full bottle that I had purchased that day. This wine has savory, soft, dark fruit with notes of olive. It is smooth, easy to drink with textured tannins, and supporting acidity. It is definitely an Australian wine and one that Jenn quite enjoyed. On the second night there were more blue fruits and the wine gave the impression of maturity beyond its age. *** Now-2015.

2008 Alpha Box & Dice, Tarot, Grenache, McLaren Vale
This wine is 100% Grenache from 10-year-old vines grown on hard red clay over limestone.This is very youthful and fruity with ample flavors of raspberry. A bit jammy in the sense of sweeter fruit, some blue notes, and plenty of acidity. Pleasant but not the most interesting. Drink with in a couple of years. * Now-2014.

2009 Quinta da Rosa Vinhos, Dou Rosa, Douro
This wine is a blend of 30% Touriga Nacional, 35% Touriga Franca, and 35% Tinta Roriz that was aged in French barriques. The nose was light with floral and fruity notes. There were flavors of youthful, purple fruit that immediately left the impression of being an easy to drink wine. With air a gentle, berry, ripeness develops with an enjoyable perfumed violet and lavender quality. The fruit becomes a mixture of red and blue flavors as tannins come out in the finish. *** Now-2017.

2009 Plungerhead, Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi
This wine is 98% Zinfandel and 2% Syrah sourced from mostly 30-60 year old vines. There are ample flavors of jammy, soft raspberries and strawberries. The flavors are a bit sweet, with unobtrusive acidity, and some spice.  Sealed with a Zork, which is actually quite handy for resealing the bottle. * Now.

2006 Mourgues du Gres, Les Galets Rouge, Nimes

September 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Les Galet Roules, Image from Ch Mourgues du Gres

Chateau Mourgues du Gres is imported by Weygandt Wines and this bottle was purchased about three years ago from MacArthur’s.  I opened our last bottle of the 2006 because we drank two cases of it and I always remembered it as a fresh, energetic red wine.  When the 2007 vintage was released two years ago we purchased two cases at $13 per bottle.  For the last two years, despite the massive score, it always paled compared to the 2006 and I never actually liked it.  If you are lucky to have the 2006 enjoy it now or later for it has plenty of life to live.  If I see the 2009 vintage I will give it a go!

2006 Chateau Mourgues du Gres, Les Galets Rouge, Costieres de Nimes
This wine is approximately three-quarts Syrah with the rest Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignan that was aged for 7 to 12 months in concrete tanks.  There are flavors of black cherry punctuated by tart cranberry brightness.  The fruit is gritty with fine+, sweet grape tannins that coat the lips and acidity on the side of the tongue.  There is a supple, minerally midpalate then some sweet spice before the aftertaste shows a bit of heat at the back of the throat.  This still seems very youthful and has barely budged over the last two years.  *** Now-2017.

The Cellar, Image from Ch Mourgues du Gres

2007 Bisceglia, Terre di Vulcano, Aglianico del Vulture DOC

September 23, 2011 1 comment

Monte Vulture, Basilicata, Image by 0000007 (flickr)

Aglianico del Vulture is a DOC located around Monte Vulture which is located in the northern portion of Basilicata.  Basilicata is the southern region located between the heel of Puglia and the toe of Campania.  The vineyards lie on volcanic soils at high altitudes of 1500-2200 feet.  As a result of the cool temperature the Aglianico is often harvested in October and November.

Geologic Map of Monte Vulture, Image from La Volpe & Pricipe, 1991

The Bisceglia is imported by Winebow and was recently available at MacArthurs for $11.  There was a stack of this wine quietly sitting at the back of MacArthur’s but now it is gone.  It is currently available at Calvert Woodley for $14.  This is a wine that Jenn and I have been drinking throughout the summer.  It was an interesting wine that developed in the glass, so drinkable, and incredibly affordable that I only wrote down my tasting notes last week!  At $11 it was a mind-blowing deal but at $14 it is still a good value wine.  I really enjoy the volcanic wines of Italy and recommend that you give them a try. *** Now-2017.

2007 Bisceglia, Terre di Vulcano, Aglianico del Vulture DOC
This wine is 100% Aglianico sourced from the Toppo di Viola vineyard.  This vineyard is located at 1250 feet on volcanic, limestone, clay, and loam soils and was recently planted in 2001.  The grapes were fermented then aged in stainless steel.  There is a dark nose of cherries.  In the mouth this medium to full-bodied wine has textured fruit, minerals, and good power.  The tart red fruit is supported by salivating acidity and textured tannins that coat the inside of the mouth.  While this wine is quite open and easy to drink due to its forwardness, it will clearly last for years to come.