Web Accidental Wine

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Friday Wines - Mea Culpa Edition

Well, I had three days off this week and headed down to Houston for one reason - to lounge. So I did. And as you can tell, I didn't do any work at all on the blog. Here are wines to make up for it.

White wine under $20

2004 Senibus Blanc Friuli Grave ($14.99)
This wine just came in this week. It's great summer drinking. A blend of three grapes, two you know - Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc - and one you possibly don't, Verduzzo. At the tip of your tongue, the Chard and Sauvignon Blanc show citrus and lime and mineral. You think the wine is going to be light bodied and acidic, but then the Verduzzo washes over your midpalate and the back of your mouth. This is when the wine kicks into hyperdrive. You'll get tropical fruit flavors that melt into a honeyed thang and a touch of almond on the finish. Watch the finish on this one - it lasts much longer than you'd think. No sugar here. Just ripe, luscious fruit.

Red wine under $20

2004 Bitch Grenache Barossa ($13.99)
OK, I'm puzzled here. This wine is called Bitch, but I couldn't find anything malicious, capricious or spiteful in this wine. It's a sweet (from ripeness, not sugar) little Grenache that has aromas of strawberry, raspberry, peach and white flowers. The flavors are decidedly strawberry, with flourishes of lime, white pepper and a twist of licorice. It's got a silky texture, medium body and nice underlying acidity. The only thing I wish it had more of was finish. Maybe a better name for this wine would be Tease.

Remember Marquis Philips, the partnership between importer Dan Philips and Aussie winemakers Sarah and Sparky Marquis? That partnership has gone the way of the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Sonny and Cher and Samson and Delilah. Bitch is the first wine in Dan Philips' new venture with RBJ winemaker Chris Ringland. Interesting wines are coming, that's for sure.

White wine over $20

2004 Kistler Chardonnay Sonoma Coast ($54.99)
Kistler is an example of what Chardonnay should be, what other grapes dream of being, what God has in his mind when he thinks of Chardonnay. Mind you, this is coming from a guy who thinks White Burgundy is the zenith of Chardonnay winemaking. Kistler is good stuff.

The nose is all butter, honey, oak, pears, apples and creme brulee. The flavors are intense, fruit driven and ripe, ripe ripe. Pear is the first note, with ripe baked apples, turning to lemon oil and finally creme anglaise. The texture is luxuriant, languid and lustrous, but the acidity shines through, keeping the wine from weighing itself down. The structure buttresses the wine's full body here, with lots of smoky oak present, but layered and interlaced throughout the wine. As big as Kistler is, there's still balance here.

Oh yeah, there's one other thing you should know -

The trouble with Kistler is how hard it is to find. I've only tasted two Kistler Chardonnays and only one Pinot Noir. The actress Sarah Michelle Gellar was once asked if she'd ever consider doing a nude scene in a movie. Her reply was that audiences would sooner see a live dinosaur.

How hard is it to find Kistler Chardonnay? Start looking for a naked Sarah Michelle Gellar riding a live dinosaur.

Red wine over $20

2004 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($31.99)
You all know that if I'm going to drink American Pinot Noir, chances are I'll choose an Oregon wine first. Bethel Heights demonstrates why.

The nose here is black fruit galore - blackberry, boysenberry and black plums. There's a little underbrushy thing going on here, and a faint Christmas spice character. The flavors are still black fruit, with black currant and plum dominating. The oak reveals itself here, but don't look for aggressive, sawdusty oak. It's a warmer, subtler French oak you might miss if you don't pay attention. The underbrush is here, too and I like the flavor better than the aroma. It gives the wine an added dimension of wildness. Nice balance and lifted fruit make this a great excursion into Oregon Pinot.

I first ran into Bethel Heights when I attended Pinot Camp in 2004, when the grapes in this wine were still berries on the vine. Pinot Camp is a trade only program that lasted 3 days and included visits to 9 wineries where we took 11 workshops and tasted close to 300 wines. Bethel Heights was one of the producers that really stood out among that horde of wines. That says a lot.

Because this entry was late, I'm going to try and make up for it by posting 3 times this week. Be on the lookout for more words. Until then, enjoy the week!


At 8:37 PM, July 10, 2006, Anonymous Andras said...

The Bethel vanished in less than 10 minutes when my wife and I opened it to wash down a big platter of olive oil/rosemary cured mozzarella, Paprika salami, Ossau Iraty and crusty bread - it handled all of that famously. Need I say more?
I would love to see a comparative tasting of a few Oregon Pinots!

At 9:55 PM, July 10, 2006, Blogger Mark said...

Andras -

I'm delighted to hear I got it right. Bethel Heights makes wine the way it ought to be made. Small quantities at the highest level of quality. I'd love to do a blind of several Oregon wines, but right now, it's beyond my budget.

At 5:36 PM, July 11, 2006, Anonymous andras said...

If you can organize a winery sponsored tasting, or a fee-for -taste in store tasting, sign us up. We are both interested, and could get another 4-6 customers.



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