Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Red Redux

This has been a good Thanksgiving weekend. There's been some relaxation, some socializing, and of course some eating and drinking (made all the better by the fact that we weren't hosting).

Here's a run down of the red wines from the weekend tasted at various junctures. The nice thing about a big get together, wine-wise, is you can sample an open bottle, then pour a full glass if you like it. As the day goes on, even the less interesting wines are finished off by those who are less picky or just are "thirstier."

Abadal 2006 Cabernet Franc-Tempranillo: A blend of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Tempranillo from Catalunya in northeastern Spain. This was a "real" wine as evidenced by the ample precipitate in the bottle. The bouquet was dominated by the Cab Franc giving it more of an herbal and wet forest character. The palate was very dry, and the finish was firmly tannic. Not a wine that I loved, but definitely one with a sense of purpose and identity that probably would have been better in a few years.

Score : 85-89 out of 100

Carmody McKnight 2005 duets: This was a stunner with prime rib at Thanksgiving. This wasn't a wine I picked out, but it might as well have been. It's a Bordeaux blend of about 2/3 Merlot and 1/3 Cabernet Franc from a small winery in western Paso Robles on the Central Coast. Once again Cab Franc did the heavy lifting on the aromatics, while a healthy dose of barrel aging enhanced the structure of the wine. This was a rare wine where the oak complemented ripe fruit instead of masking it. Not over-oaked, not overripe, just an immense wine that nonetheless was true to the varietals in the blend.

Score : 91-94

Lafond 2006 Pinot Noir SRH: Lafond Winery, somewhat surprisingly, is not some gimmicky attempt at putting a famous name on a mediocre bottle of wine. Lafond is a serious winery based in the Santa Rita Hills (SRH) appellation of Santa Barbara County that focuses primarily upon Chardonnay, Syrah and Pinot Noir. The 2006 SRH Pinot is a balanced, elegant expression of the grape. The acidity, tannins, oak influence, and alcohol (13.8%) are all harmoniously balanced, making this a wine that pairs well with food or can hold its own for sipping. The nose provides a little cinnamon, mint and strawberry. It's fruit-forward, yet not made in the bruising style of many Santa Barbara Pinots. I'm not a huge Pinot fan largely because of the exorbitant prices it demands, but this one was worth the $24 price for a special occasion.

Score : 87-90

Red Diamond 2005 (?) Cabernet Sauvignon: I'm actually not 100% sure on the vintage. But odds are it wouldn't really matter. This is a mass produced Cab that aims to be likable instead of interesting. It doesn't smell or taste like Cab and it has a definite burst of sweetness suggesting human intervention before S. Cerevisiae has finished the fermentation. Non-descript, not bad, not good.

Score : 75-79

Santa Barbara Winery 2005 ZCS: Santa Barbara Winery is the second label of Lafond. The 2005 ZCS is a promising blend of Zinfandel, Carignan and Sangiovese. An almost effervescent peppery quality punctuates the finish, which is supposedly a hallmark of Zinfandels. This was a first for me picking this up in a Zin. However the bouquet was sort of half rubbery and half rotten. Interesting, but not great. Maybe some decanting would have given the funk a chance to dissipate or develop.

Score : 80-84

Bodegas Primicia 2001 Rioja Reserva: This is 100% Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain's most historically respected appellation. The Reserva designation requires at least a year of barrel aging and three years aging total before release (though the reserve label is used more liberally outside of Spain). This wine was a big winner. The vanilla of the oak comes through in the bouquet but is complemented by spice, a little barnyard/Brett, coffee and rose. The mature tannins are mellow and the finish is smooth. Although this is not a big wine, it is a sophisticated and complex one. This is definitely a wine with its own identity that scores on every level.

Score : 89-91

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