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2006 Barboursville Vineyards Octagon Ninth Edition

Gianni Zonin, who likes to bill himself as “the biggest winegrower in Italy,” has 11 estates—10 in Italy and one in the U.S., in Barboursville, VA, not far from where that great oenophile Thomas Jefferson cultivated vines. Barboursville’s Octagon is blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc created that the winery produced only in the selected vintages. Dark red color in the glass, a nose of chocolate and blonde tobacco with nuances of eucalyptus. In mouth is silky: licorice and dark plum slip on a soft carpet of tannins. Finale is somewhat bitter; a shame that it is a little bit short. Pleasant with grilled meat.
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2007 Fairview Cellars Premier Series Cabernet Sauvignon

There’s a fair bit of oak in this premium bottling from this producer in Oliver, British Columbia, but it integrates rather nicely in a supple and ripe cabernet with fine tannins and just the tiniest herbal touch to give it an edge, along with some blackcurrant and spicy notes. Clocking in at 14.5% alcohol, it does have a tiny bit of heat on the finish, but with a lasagna at the dinner table, it drank easily and with no heaviness. My only problems with the wine are (a) the mention on the back label of “ stewed “ flavors—no need to be so hard on yourself here; maybe a bit of dried fruit, perhaps, but not stewed and, (b) that it’s defined as having “old vines” character from vines that are (at least in part) 15 years old. Let it get out of adolescence and give another 10 years before saying “old,” I say. Recommended.
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2009 Folie à Deux Napa Valley Chardonnay

Clear, vibrant yellow straw appearance. Green apple, tropical fruit, vanilla, hint of coconut on the nose. Citrus, pineapple, peach flavors. Good mid-palate and lingering acidity at finish. Restrained use of oak. Good balance. Pairing mine tonight with my seasonal favorite Dungeness crab. Try crab cakes, chicken or pasta with cream sauce. This is a very drinkable chardonnay for under $20 that will please many, not embarrass you, and will pair widely with a good variety of foods. Read the extended review on Simple Hedonisms.
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Palate Press Wine of the Week: 2009 Baptiste Cuvelier Cuvée Del Maule

In 2009 the Cauquenes region of Chile suffered a terrible earthquake, and therein lies a tale of temblors and terroir. The earthquake wrought significant destruction there, and the winery did not go untouched. Barrels were thrown everywhere. Winemaker Baptiste Cuvelier picked from surviving barrels, and made the best blend possible from what survived, producing a startlingly good wine. All the grapes are fair trade and are grown organically. The wine is very well balanced, with good tannins and bright acids dancing together, promising significant cellar time. It is spicy, rich, and minty. The spice is black pepper and a touch of cinnamon. Richness comes from a blend of black and red fruits, blackcurrant, mulberry, and raspberry together, along with a bit of tobacco leaf and coffee. It also has a very interesting touch of mint, like the inside stripe of an Andes (get it?) mint without the chocolate. Vanilla from the wood makes an appearance on the mid-palate. Tannins are very sweet, the finish quite long. This is a surprisingly good wine, carved from a tragedy, and some of the proceeds will be returned to the region for ongoing earthquake relief. And it just tastes delicious. Highly recommended.
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2006 Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

At first, you notice cherry raspberry aromas, with darker sweet fruit in the flavors—even caramelized fruit. Not much tannin apparent, when drinking the wine on its own, and an unmemorable finish. But with food, it becomes more balanced, less sweet: the wine in your glass just seems to disappear. Try it with something not too heavy, like pasta with tomato sauce. Recommended.
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Pairing Up To Get Down At Hop Woo BBQ

Eddie Lin, of Deep End Dining and NPR’s “Good Food,” recently asked a group of food bloggers to join him for a special off-the-menu “romantic dinner” hosted by Chef Lupe Liang. Each dish—prepared with love—is based on an ingredient that stimulates a certain spot on the map of human sexuality. Be it animal, vegetable, or mineral, the intention of the ingestion is to get one’s motor running.