Monday, December 26, 2011

Washington BDX Blend v. Tuscany

Why should French Bordeaux get to have a stranglehold on this particular style of blended red wines?

Giorgia Bronzini, the UCI Women's Road Racing World Champion, is making a similar statement this week.  Why isn't her World Champion Jersey considered the equal of Mark Cavendish's World Champion Jersey.  She has a legit claim and points out a fundamental inequity in professional sports.  Men get paid more than Women in the same sport.  Why?  Advertising and sponsor dollars seem to be at the root of most answers.

That brings me back to my original question.  Why do the French get to lay claim to a particular style of wine making?  Much like Bronzini, the Italians have been showing their disdain for the French by making the very same style of wine in Tuscany.  The Super Tuscan wines are double rebels, striking out against the restrictive Italian DOC wine making requirements AND flaunting their style at the French.  And just like a professional wrestler, the Super Tuscans have proven their ability to take the authorities to task applying wine making skill that equals the power of a Suplex.

This week's Lucha Vino matchup features Bordeaux style blends with Cabernet Franc supplying the bulk of the muscle.

Fall Line 2007 Exhibition v. Tenuta di Trinoro 2007 le Cupole

Tale of the Tape

2007 Tenuta di Trinoro 2007 le Cupole

40 % Cabernet Franc
22% Cabernet Sauvignon
30% Merlot
8% Petit Verdot

Aged for 8 months in 2nd, 3rd and 4th use French oak barrels and an additional 10 months in cement.

Purchased from Garagiste for $19.99

2007 Fall Line Exhibition

46% Cabernet Franc
22% Merlot
18% Cabernet Sauvignon
14% Petit Verdot

The grapes were sourced from the Aldercreek (Horse Heaven Hills), Artz (Red Mountain) and Boushey (Yakima Valley) vineyards.

Aged for 18 months in 42% new French oak barrels.

Purchased at the winery for $20.00

Round 1.  First Opening

Le Cupole seems to be lacking interest in this confrontation.  Like a jaded actor, this Luchador seems to be asking "What's my motivation?"  The nose shows notes of medium red berries, clove and dusty brambles.  The palate is unusually dry, showing dry red berries and a tart cherry bark finish.

The Exhibition is well named putting on an exhibition of strength with a nose of currants, logan berry, clove and hints of buttery cocoa.  The palate also shows juicy currant and logan berry with a finish that features some coffee bean and light notes of semisweet chocolate.  The longer you hang around you start to notice some buttered popcorn character.  (Is the Exhibition kicking back and enjoying some popcorn while waiting for the Tuscan to remember its lines?)

The Le Cupole definitely did not live up to expectations for a blend with Cab Franc as the dominant grape.  The Exhibition rose to the occasion and took the first round with relative ease.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

What's this?  Le Cupole has awakened!  Rising from the mat le Cupole is showing some interest with a nose of herbal spices, dusty brambles and dark berries.  The palate is brooding with dark logan berries and a brambly dark tart spiced finish.

The Exhibition is going toe to toe with the revitalized Tuscan.  The nose has dark smokey fruit and cracked pepper character with a palate of dark fruit and a tart finish that features coffee bean and light notes of cocoa.

The judges had to go to the review booth on this round as the action in the ring was nearly dead even.  Le Cupole takes the round as a result of new found motivation and points awarded by the judges for coming back from the land of the lost.

Two rounds into the match this fight is even up with both Luchadors having earned one point.  On to the third and decisive round.  The winner will take all!

Round 3. One day later

Le Cupole is showing remarkable stamina with a nose that features dusty raspberries, logan berries and a slight brambly funkiness.  The palate is similar with juicy red berries, brambles and light cedar spices that trail off into a tart sweet cherry bark finish.

The Exhibition is leaving nothing to chance muscling up for the final round with a nose that has evolved to feature earthy notes of dark fruit and buttery leather.  The palate is also showing earthy dark fruit and cracked pepper that continues on to the finish rounding out with some buttery savoriness.

This round was close with the Exhibition showing greater muscle and strength, thus taking the final round and the match.

Wrap up and over all observations

The le Cupole from Tuscany didn't deliver on my expectations for a Bordeaux style blend dominated by Cabernet Franc out of the gate.  As the match heated up the le Cupole began to rise to the challenge.

On the flip side.  The Fall Line Exhibition hit the ring ready to rumble.  It left no doubt as to the strength and character of the Cabernet Franc in the mix.  In the end this strength and stamina carried the Exhibition to the top step of the podium and victory.

The le Cupole shows promise and I will check back with my other bottle in about a year to see how it has evolved in the cellar.

I give the le Cupole an 87 based on potential for the future and the Exhibition an 88 for the here and now.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Washington Syrah/Cab Blend v. Australia

The end of the year is coming and I can't help myself, the new year brings the start of road racing.  Don't get me wrong,  I love cyclocross.  But, so many of those races happen in Belgium, a great country for bike racing and beer, but not much for inspiring Lucha Vino wine match ups.

So, I am already looking toward the new year.  The Aussies kick off the pro road season with a series of criteriums called the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic January 1 - 4.   The Lucha Vino matchup looks toward the future with inspiration from Australia (and the past).  This week's featured challenger is the Penfold's Koonunga Hill Seventy Six - an homage to the first vintage from this estate that features a blend of 72% Shiraz and 28% Cabernet.  Taking on the challenger is a Rulo Syrca from Walla Walla.  A giant killer that consistently delivers quality while staying out of the limelight. 

2008 Rulo Syrca v. Australia's 2006 Penfold's Koonunga Hill 76

Tale of the Tape

2006 Penfold's Koonunga Hill 76

70% Shiraz
30% Cabernet Sauvignon

Sourced from premium vineyards across South Australia, including parcels from McLaren Vale, Barossa and the Limestone Coast.

Purchased from Garagiste for $11.76

Note the link is to notes on the regular Koonunga Hill Shiraz/Cabernet blend.

2008 Rulo Syrca

72% Syrah sourced from the River Rock Vineyard
28% Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the Red Mountain AVA.

The Syrah was aged for 22 months in 30% new French Oak barrels from Billon, Cadus and Francois Freres.  The remaining 70% was aged in 1-3 year old French Oak.

The Cab was also aged for 22 months in 100% new French Oak barrels from Seguin Moreau and Taransaud.

Purchased by a friend at the winery for $15.00.
Special thanks to Kurt and Vicki Schlicker for sending me the details for the tale of the tape.

Round 1.  First Opening

Penfolds Seventy Six appears to be showing the wear and tear of being in the wrestling ring for 30 years.  The nose has character of dusty floral perfume, brambles and dark fruit.  The palate is also showing dark fruit with a tart cedar toned finish.

The Rulo Syrca is rocking right from the bell.  This Syrah/Cab blend is a bruiser.  Showing a nose of currant, dust and light pepper funkiness.  There are also subtle floral notes intended to distract the opponent from a barrage of body blows that are about to follow on the palate which shows currant, clove spices and black cherry cola that persists on to the finish.

Round 1 goes to Rulo nearly knocking the Penfolds back to the 1970's.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The Penfolds is showing some inspiration fighting back developing a nose of barnyard funk, clove, all spice and dark fruit.  The palate is similar with a tart sandal wood finish.

The Rulo Syrca fights fire with fire showing a nose of smoke, barnyard funk, dark fruit, coffee bean and leather.  The palate also shows dark fruit with cocoa and a sweet tart and spicy finish.

A major comeback by the Penfolds in round 2 is not enough to fend off the Helicopter Karate moves of the Rulo Syrca.  The judges award another round to Rulo.

Round 3. One day later

The Penfolds Seventy Six is reaching into its bag of tricks.  Some say that old age and treachery will defeat youth and skill.  Let's see what happens.  The Penfolds has a nose of dark fruit, light pepper and sandal wood.  The palate is dark fruit, tobacco, sandal wood, olives and pepper especially on the finish with a bit of clove and menthol on the finish as well.

I'm not sure it is possible, but the Rulo is continuing to bring the power.  The nose has developed rich cocoa, espresso and dark fruit with a palate of dark currant, menthol and clove spices with a tart dry cedar pepper finish.

Style points to the Penfolds for continuing to add to its attack with a variety of grappling moves that have not been witnessed since the late 70's.  Unfortunately, the late show of style is not enough to overtake the Rulo which continued to build a massive attack.

The final round is close, but ultimately Rulo prevails taking the match three rounds to nil.

Wrap up and over all observations

The Penfolds Seventy Six seems to have lost a step.  Despite a valiant effort it was not able to overcome the youth and power of the Rulo Syrca.  The Rulo is truly a giant lurking in the shadows.  The 2008 is sold out so you may need to wait until the 2009 is released to experience the power of this wine from Walla Walla that shows an exceptional QPR.

Both of these Luchadors are worthy of seeking out for further fights to be conducted in your own homes.  Warning, any damage incurred is not the responsibility of Lucha Vino!

I give the Rulo Syrca an 89 and the Penfold's Seventy Six an 87.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Washington Bordeaux Style Blend v. California

Things are getting down right silly with the pro cycling teams.  Some are pretending to be Israeli Commandos.  Others are jumping out of airplanes.  Why?  To develop the bonds that will make them feel like a team?  More like, to prove that they will do whatever their Directeur Sportif tells them to do.  And that they are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes for "the Capo."

Whatever the reason, it is safe to say that things are in deed pretty silly.  To honor the strange, unusual and the silly this week's Lucha Vino matchup features a Bordeaux style blend from Washington taking on a California Borudeax style blend with a twist.

Washington 2007 High Tower Red Mountain Red v. California 2007 Audelssa Tephra

Tale of the Tape

2007 Audelssa Tephra

Sonoma Valley AVA

55% Cabernet Sauvignon
30% Syrah
10% Merlot
5% Zinfandel

Aged in 40% new French oak barrels and an additional 12 months in bottle.

Purchased at Bin 41 for $27.99

 2007 High Tower Red Mountain Red

Just like the name says from the Red Mountain AVA
53% from Shaw Vineyard and 47% from Out of Line Estate Vineyard

63% Cabernet Sauvignon
11% Merlot
16% Cabernet Franc
5% Petit Verdot
5% Malbec

Aged for 20 months in oak barrels.

Purchased from Garagiste as a Mystery Wine.

With relatively equal parts of the two boss grapes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot this battle could come down to how the California Syrah and Zinfandel matchup against the Washington Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Let's get it on!

Round 1.  First Opening

The Audelssa springs from the top rope with a signature half gainer with a twist.  The nose is medium red berries, earth, leather and light hints of spice.  The palate is medium red berries and clove spices that continue on to a slightly tart and spicy finish.

When will you learn not to mess with Officer High Tower?  This luchador has a spicy temperament showing a nose of dark fruit, currant, earth and some funky forest floor.  The palate is equally evil with dark stone fruit and a serious spicy clove finish.

The battle is fierce between these two red blends with High Tower taking the first round with a slight edge on points.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Audelssa still has a spring in its step showing a nose of medium red fruit and light cedar spices with a touch of hot alcohol.  The palate is also showing medium red fruit and spicy tart cedar notes that carry on to the finish.

High Tower is demonstrating strength and power with a nose that is deep dark and brooding with earthy spiciness.  The palate is dark fruit, bitter sweet chocolate and tart spiced finish.

Another close round with Audelssa dancing around the ring and playing some rope-a-dope working to avoid the the High Tower thunder.  A good survival tactic, but not one for winning.  High Tower is the aggressor and earns the points for round 2 from the judges.

Round 3. One day later

Audelssa made it to the third round and is looking for some late match fireworks.  The nose is bright red berries, raspberry, loganberry, earth, leather and light pepper.  The palate shows off the same red berry character with earthy brambles and a slightly tart and spicy finish.

High Tower stomps into the ring showing this luchador still has plenty of power in the tank.  The nose is dark fruit, earth and candle wax with some savory soy sauce notes.  The palate is big as well showing dark fruit and some pepper and menthol spices finishing off with a bit of cloves and cedar tartness.

Audelssa made it to round three and launched a gallant attack on High Tower.  In the end, the strategy was not enough to topple the giant from Red Mountain.  High Tower takes round three and the match 3-0.

Wrap up and over all observations

This was a closer match than the score would indicate.  Audelssa narrowly missed taking the points in all three rounds.  The Syrah + Zinfandel duo added more medium bodied brightness to the battle while the Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec really brought out some serious bruising character in the Red Mountain Red.

I give the High Tower Red Mountain Red aan 89 and the Audelssa an 88.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Washington Tempranillo v. Navarra Tempranillo

Well would you look at this!  The UCI Cyclocross World Cup made a trip to Spain this past weekend.  That means it is time to bust out a little Tempranillo Tornado.  The World Cup race was in Igorre which is in the Northern Basque region of Spain.  The winner of the race gets to wear a crazy hat with three points called a txapela.  Not exactly what you might call stylish.  Hopefully, our challenger from the Navarra wine region will look better after this match than Kevin Pauwels or Chris Horner did in that lid...

This week features Washington Tempranillo v. Spanish Tempranillo from the Navarra DO.

Fall Line 2009 Tampranillo v. Ochoa Tempranillo Crianza 2006

Tale of the Tape

Ochoa Tempranillo Crianza 2006

100% single vineyard Tempranillo

Aged for 12 months in American Oak Barrels.

Purchased at the Spanish Table for $16.99

 Fall Line 2009 Tempranillo

This is the first vintage for Fall Line's Tempranillo, 100% Tempranillo from the Boushey Vineyard in the Yakima Valley.

Aged for 18 months in 14% new French Oak Barrels

Purchased at the Fall Line winery's release party for $25.00.

Round 1.  First Opening

The Ochoa has a nose of dusty leather and cherries with a palate that is showing lots of tart cherry with some light notes of spice in the background.  The finish is dry and slightly acidic at the end.

El Otro oozes confidence even though this is its first trip into the ring.  The nose shows character of dust, earth, light smoke and ripe red raspberry and cherry notes.  The palate is dark rich currant, cherry and clove spices on a nice tart finish.

El Otro has a name made for Lucha Libre and doesn't disappoint easily taking round one over an opponent that is already showing signs of being over matched.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The Ochoa is doing its best to bulk up and take the fight to El Otro.  Ochoa is showing a nose with more character including some barnyard funk, musty forest floor and mushroom with dark fruit and a hint of spice.  The palate is dark fruit with cedar cigar box spices and a dry tart finish.

El Otro storms into the ring with some brute force showing a nose that is driven by savory, smokey dark fruit with some notes of mineral.  The palate is equally bold with dark currant and smoked meats with a dry cedar finish.

Props to Ochoa for stepping up its game, but it is still no match for our Washington State Luchador.  El Otro takes round 2 for a 2-0 lead.

Round 3. One day later

The Ochoa has lost some of the spring in its step.  The nose has notes of earthy cranberry and the palate is predominantly cranberry tartness with a tart cherry bark finish.

El Otro is unveiling some sinister intentions.  The nose shows smoke, sandal wood and dark cherry along with some floral and cocoa notes.  The palate has dark cherry, leather and earthy clove and bitter sweet chocolate notes that linger on to a tart Asian cedar spice finish

Well played El Otro.  You may be called "The Other One" but in this competition you were Number One!

Wrap up and over all observations

This contest was really no contest from the opening bell.  I did not perform a background check on the Ochoa.  Selecting it as the challenger on first sight.  The only qualification I considered was being from the Navarra region of Spain.  Navarra may be close to Rioja, but based on this single sample I would say that Navarra has a lot of catching up to do with its more famous neighbor. 

El Otro showed no mercy and kicked some serious sand in the face of the challenger from Navarra.  The Washington State luchador showed an interesting evolution over the match gaining character and strength throughout.

I give the Fall Line El Otro a solid 89 and the Ochoa a generous 85.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Washington State Cabernet Cage Match

This week is affectionately referred to as "rivalry week" and we're talking College Football not Jeff Novitzky v Lance Armstrong.  Since the pro cyclists are taking a break right now I will honor Rivalry Week by hosting my own version of the Apple Cup.

Last weekend was Apple Cup weekend in Washington featuring the 104th rivalry football game between the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State University Cougars.  In honor of this battle for state supremacy the Lucha Vino challenge features a wine maker from Walla Walla v. a wine maker from Vashon Island in an East v. West fued.

You might be protesting right about now, saying "Hey!  All the grapes are from the East side of the state.  How can you call this a true East v. West rivalry?"  To this I say "Good question, but I make up the rules and my rules say winery location determines what side of the state you are from."

Dunham Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon v. Andrew Will 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Tale of the Tape

Dunham Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Lewis Estate Vineyard, Frenchtown Estate Vineyard,
Double River Estate Vineyard and Phinny Hill Vineyard.

Aged in 80% French Oak and 20% American Oak barrels.

Purchased for $28.00 at Corky Cellars.

Andrew Will 2007 Mays Discovery Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Discovery Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Aged in 30% new French Oak barrels for 21 months.

Purchased for $28.99 from Full Pull Wines.

Round 1.  First Opening

Andrew Will fires off with a nose of rich plum, currant and dusty light spices.  The palate is dark sweet currant with a sweet cedar spice box finish.

Dunham counter attacks with a nose featuring currant, peat and mineral notes.  The palate is big rich dark currants,  chocolate and clove spices that linger on to the finish.

Andrew Will is showing some style and finesse.  Dunham does not really notice barging into the fray dropping elbows and knees taking round one and putting Andrew in a spot of bother.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Andrew Will is recovering and bringing some power to the fight with a nose showing dark currant, smoke and a little spice.  The palate is equally bold with currant, cocoa and spices that go on to finish.

Dunham raises an eyebrow as if to say "OK tough guy.  Game on."  The nose has character of sour peat, currant and cedar spices.  The palate is building strength with currants  and some toffee & espresso bean tartness with clove spices on the finish.

Round 2 is closer with Andrew Will showing some great resilience.  Dunham rises to the challenge squeaking out the points to take the second round.

Round 3. One day later

Andrew Will is not intimidated adding some kung fu to its bag of tricks.  The nose has developed currant, clove spices, menthol and bitter chocolate with some subtle hints of lemon in the background.  The palate is showing currant, black cherry, clove and cinnamon spices with a tart dry finish.

Dunham rises to the challenge sending Andrew Will to the brink of elimination with a nose of currant, dark fruit, peat, cinnamon and hints of coffee.  The palate is also showing currant, black cherry, clove and espresso bean spices with a tart cedar spiced clove finish.

This has been a close, impressive clash of Cabernet titans.  Dunham was dominant winning all three rounds after taking some extreme heat from Andrew Will, especially in round 2 and 3.

Wrap up and over all observations

What else could you expect from Washington Cabernet Sauvignon?  Bruising heavy weights dukeing it out in the ring, both with a "take no prisoners" attitude.  In the end the Dunham Cellars brought more to the fight and barely hung on to take all three rounds.

Both of these Luchadors continued to build character and power over the duration of the match.  For this demonstration of strength and cunning I give each wine an 89.  The Dunham earned this score based on power and intimidation.  The Andrew Will earned the same score based on character, finesse and strength.  Showing the ability to build over time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Washington Garnacha v. Spain

There is a lot of early season racing in Spain as the pro peloton tries to stay dry and warm.  An interesting early season race series takes place in Mallorca.  There are 5 one day races that are run like a race series, yet no overall winner is declared by the race organizers.

Searching for some warm weather the Lucha Vino challenge opened a bottle of Garnacha from Monsant throwing down a big challenge to Washington state.  Idilico Garnacha stepped up to the challenge.  Let's see how this match turns out.

2008 Vespres v. 2009 Idilico Garnacha

Tale of the Tape

2008 Vespres

80% Garnacha and 20% Samso' (Carignan)

Aged for 8 - 10 months in French Oak Barrels

Purchased for $20 at Bottle House during tasting with Classical Wines.

2009 Idilico

100% Garnacha from Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain

Aged for 12 months in neutral French oak barrels. 

Purchased for $18.99 from Full Pull Wines.

Round 1.  First Opening

The Vespres jumps into the ring with a nose of rich red fruit, currant, savory toasty spices and hints of leather.  The palate shows tart red berries, leather and light spices with a dry finish.

Idilico starts out with a subtle attack featuring a nose of strawberries and some light toasty character.  The palate is showing slightly tart red berries with some hints of pepper and a bit of hazelnut on the finish.

Vespres wasted little time taking the fight to Idilico and earning the points for the first round.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Vespres isn't slowing down with a nose of rich dark fruit, leather and floral notes.  The palate is dark fruit. cedar spices and a long tart spiced and slightly nutty finish.

Idilico is trying a myriad of styles to counter attack the Vespres.  This round Idilico is showing a nose of toasted red fruits and dark Asian spices.  The palate is dark currant, spices and a tart toffee, espresso bean and clove finish.

Idilico takes round two bobbing and weaving and stealing points when Vespres isn't looking.

Round 3. One day later

Vespres continues to step up its game with a nose of savory licorice, spices and cocoa.  The palate is also showing dark fruti, chocolate and spices that linger on to the toffee infused finish.

The legendary bull, Idilico,  may have defied the odds by surviving the bull fighting ring in Spain, but suffers a less glamorous fate in the final round of our match.  Showing a nose of barnyard, earth, red fruit and Asian spices with a palate of medium red fruit, clove and a finish of light nutty cedar. 

Idilico continues to put up an attack of varied and interesting styles, but has no retort for the power displayed by Vespres.

Wrap up and over all observations

Two great Luchador warriors entered the ring in this match.  Both displayed skill and stamina, building from one round to the next with the Vespres from Montsant taking the final round and the victory.

I give each of these wines a solid 89 for longevity and character.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Washington Syrah v. France

The anticipation is starting to build for the 2012 Tour de France already.  The favorites are denying that they have a chance to win.  The teams are re-forming after a number of team mergers and sponsor drop outs that have left teams scrambling to make their financial commitment to the UCI.

This past week included Languedoc Day and the 2012 Tour will traverse this French wine region once again.  France and Languedoc provided the inspiration for this week's Lucha Vino matchup.  A Washington Syrah takes on a Syrah from Languedoc Roussillon

2007 Guilhem-Durand Syrah ViellesVignes Les Genets v. 2007 Vin Du Lac Barrel Select Syrah
Tale of the Tape

2007 Guilhem-Durand Syrah Vielles Vignes Les Genets

100% Syrah from the Languedoc Roussillon region in France.  Information is spotty, at best, on this mysterious Luchador. 

Purchased from Garagiste for $9.86.

2007 Vin du Lac Barrel Select Syrah

95% Syrah and 5% Petite Sirah from the Columbia Valley AVA sourced from the following vineyards:

Weinbau Vineyard – Wahluke Slope
Windy Ridge Vineyard – HorseHeaven Hills
Upland Vineyards – Snipes Mtn
Fallon Vineyard – Lake Chelan

Aged for 11 months in 1/3 new French and American Oak Barrels.

Purchased from the winery for $22.99

Round 1.  First Opening

Le Genets came out firing with a nose of smoked meat, pepper and dark fruit.  The palate was equally bold with notes of dark fruit and pepper with a slightly dry finish.

Vin du Lac was not phased by the French Challenger kicking sand all over Le Genets with a nose of smoke, pepper, dark fruit and hints of cocoa.  The palate is big and bruising with dark fruit and buttery toffee notes that linger on into a smokey finish.

Vin du Lac takes the opening round after trading some serious body slams with Le Genets, finishing up with a figure 4 leg bar on the French Challenger.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Le Genets will not be intimidated stepping into the ring with a nose showing smoke fueled notes of soy, menthol and dark red fruit.  The palate has plenty of dark fruit, pepper, smoke and cedar spices that lead to a finish that has smoothed out featuring bold ripe fruit.

Vin du Lac is feeling bold showing a nose of pepper and smokey dark fruit with a bit of buttery character lingering in the background.  The palate has more notes of buttered popcorn and dark peppery fruit trailing off with a smooth finish dominated by notes of salt-n-pepper.

Once again Vin du Lac is putting the hurt on Le Genets taking round 2 leaving Genets in a spot of bother. 

Round 3. One day later

Can somebody put out a missing Luchador report? Le Genets was harder to find than a French Tour de France winner..  The nose has dissipated to minimal hints of cedar and pepper.  Likewise, the palate has turned unusually sweet with notes of plum and blackberry that persist all the way through the finish.

Vin du Lac takes full advantage of Le Genets weakness finishing the French challenger with a flying suplex off the top ropes.  Vin du Lac is maintaining its strength with a nose of rich dark fruit and dusty cedar spices with a bit of barnyard funk.  The palate is full of currant, clove and pepper with a toffee & cinnamon spiced finish.

Down goes Le Genets losing 3 to 0.  As the score reflects, this match was extremely one-sided in favor of our Washington State Luchador.

Wrap up and over all observations

This match was pretty lopsided.  The Syrah from Languedoc was best in the first couple of hours.  It lost most of its character on day two.  The Vin du Lac from Washington maintained its character throughout the bout showing some solid Washington Syrah character.

I give the Guilhem-Durand Syrah Vielles Vignes Les Genets an 85 and the Vin du Lac Barrel Select Syrah an 88.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Washington Merlot v. California

It is November and to raise awareness to men's health issues the month has been renamed to "Movember."  Last year Robbie McEwan grew a mullet in honor of Movember.  I'm not sure it turned out as good the mullet that Vladimir Karpets rocks, but who could?

We are in the thick of Cyclocross season and that means the pro road racers are already dreaming of the next UCI Stage race in Australia.  Meanwhile, the cross racers are working into top form in preparation for their world championships in January.  Where would you rather race your bike in January?  Australia in the sun, or Koksidje in North West Belgium?

Merlot sounds a bit like Movember, so this week's challenge features a Washington Merlot vs a California Merlot.

Olsen Estates 2008 Merlot v. Kunde Family Estate 2006 Sonoma Valley Merlot

Tale of the Tape

Kunde Family Estate 2006 Sonoma Valley Merlot

100% Sonoma Valley Merlot

Aged for 18 months in 30% new French, Hungarian and American oak barrels.

Aged for an additional 20 months in bottle prior to release in Spring 2010.

Purchased at Corky Cellars for $15.99

Olsen Estates 2008 Merlot

100% estate grown merlot from the Yakima Valley AVA

Aged for 16 months in 100% new French Oak barrels.

Olsen estates has been in the vineyard business for more than 25 years.  The timing of their decision in 2006 to enter the wine business ended up being "not so good."  (More details from Paul Gregutt here) As a result, they have returned to focus on their vineyards, shutting down their winery.  Unfortunate for them, but good fortune for us wine drinkers that like to find a great wine at a great price.

Purchased at Bin 41 for $20

Round 1.  First Opening

The Kunde Family Estates was a bit timid, choosing to crawl under the ring ropes modestly showing a nose of cherries and toasty oats.  The palate features dried cherry and cocoa with a tart semisweet finish.

The Olsen estates was a bit more flamboyant, but nearly tripped as it attempted to leap off the top rope.  The nose features dark cherry, soy and wet asphalt with a palate of dark cherry, semisweet chocolate and a dry finish with some notes of sweet tea.

Both Luchadors seem to be slow starters.  Neither one is doing much in round 1, seemingly waiting for their opponent to make a mistake.  Round 1 goes to Olsen Estates by the slimmest of margins,  gaining an edge by demonstrating a bit more complexity. 

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Some say imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  If that is true then the Kunde is paying major props to Olsen Estates by gathering up a nose of cherries and soy sauce with a palate of cherries and tart semi-sweet chocolate that leads into a tart tea finish.

The Olsen Estate won't fall for the flattery and continues on its mission of dominance with a nose of dark cherry, light clove, soy sauce and smoked meats.  The palate is robust with dark cherry, cocoa and notes of tart cedar.  The finish is sweet with dry cherry bark and green tea.

Another round to the Olsen Estates.

Round 3. One day later

The Kunde has moved into some type of altered state with a nose showing some funky dark cherries and bitter cocoa.  The palate is dark cherries with a tart cherry bark finish.  The tannins are out front - loud and proud  This Luchador appears to be disoriented and may have taken one too many blows to the head.

The Olsen has carried its round two performance on to the final round with a nose of dark cherry, soy and a hint of chocolate.  The palate is showing strong notes of dark cherry backed by clove, menthol and some tart spices on the finish.  Also not as integrated as I would have expected with the tannins playing a dominant role in Olsen's ring presence.

Round three goes to Olsen estates for a clean sweep in what turned out to be a slightly uninspiring contest.

Wrap up and over all observations

Both of these Merlots would benefit from some more time training before getting in the ring (or more time in the cellar) with the tannins being more forward than I expected.  Overall the comparison was interesting, although I was expecting a bigger bruising Merlot from Sonoma.  If you have recommendations for California Merlot let me know.

I give the Olsen Estates an 87 and the Kunde an 86.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Washington Malbec v. Cahors

It is Halloween weekend and all the spooky All Hallows Eve inspired wines are hitting the store shelves.  Searching through the Lucha Vino caves I discovered a sufficiently scary wine to represent Washington this weekend - Ash Hollow Reserve Malbec.

The route for the Tour de France has been announced so that lead me back to Malbec's origins to search for a worthy challenger.  This week's challenger hails from the Cahors AOC.

2007 Ash Hollow Reserve Malbec v. 2008 Clos la Coutale Cahors

 Tale of the Tape

2007 Ash Hollow Reserve Malbec

100% Malbec from the Bella Terra Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley AVA

Aged for 10 months in French oak barrels - 20% New and 80% Neutral

Purchased from Esquin for $17.99.

2008 Clos la Coutale Cahors

80% Malbec and 20% Merlot from the Cahors AOC

Aged in oak barrels.

Purchased from Bottle House for $17.99.  Special thanks to Chip McGlaughlin for assisting with the selection.

Round 1.  First Opening

Stepping into the ring the Ash Hollow is looking to put the Cahors Challenger in the pain cave immediately.  The Ash Hollow has a nose of ripe black cherry and plum with some earthiness.  The palate is also dark and menacing with a mouthful of black fruit and a slightly dry peppery finish trailing off with a bit of vanilla.

The Clos la Coutale is focused on self preservation, showing a floral nose of rose petals, medium red berries and a bit of wood and mineral.  The palate is more ripe red fruit with a fairly dry finish that includes some interesting notes of toasty oak that is reminiscent of Cheerios.

Ash Hollow takes the first round with a startling display of power similar to a dragster accelerating off the start line.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The Ash Hollow has beefed up its game in between rounds showing a nose of dark fruit, licorice and dusty earth spices.  The palate is equally bold with black fruit, plum, licorice and a sweet peppery spiced finish.

The Clos la Coutale Cahors Challenger hits out with a series of complex ninja moves.  The nose is rich sweet black fruit, currant and green tea macha.  The palate has gained similar strength with black fruit, pomegranate and green tea leading into a tart finish.

This round ends in a draw with both Luchadors scoring equal points with two very different styles.  Bruising brashness from Ash Hollow up against the stealthy ninja moves from Cahors.

Round 3. One day later

One day later and the Ash Hollow is showing no sign of power loss.  The nose is dark and brooding with notes of licorice and black Stoney fruit.  The palate is equally domineering with black fruit, licorice and coffee with some semi-sweet espresso and cocoa bean finish.

The Clos la Coutale isn't backing down and maintains the complexity that says now you see me, now you don't.  Spinning back kicks and a ninja smoke bomb brings out a complex nose of rich medium red fruit and earthy spices of clove and white pepper.  The palate mimics the nose with rich tart red berries, cedar spices and a tart coffee bean finish.  With more air the spices keep building, remaining in the background, but lurking and waiting for when you least expect it.

Another close round with the Cahors Challenger winning on style points.

Wrap up and over all observations

These two Luchadors put on quite the battle.  Each with their own unique take on the Malbec grape.  Either one could have won the match and the final result came down to a call on style.  Big, brash and in your face vs. sleek, subtle and slightly sinister.  With this match celebrating Halloween, it is only fitting that the Luchador demonstrating some sinister character is the winner.

I give the Ash Hollow an 87 and the Clos la Coutale an 88.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

PNW Pinot Supremacy Battle Royale

Wine is an unusual drink.  It gets better with age and as it maintains contact with air.  Most other beverages get worse, not better, under these conditions.  Over and over again I am surprised by the evolution of a wine over hours or even days.  Lucha Vino materialized early in 2011 as I considered a way to combine exploring wine from around the globe and cycling.  Comparing wine as it evolves over time reminds me of a wrestling match.  Check out The Rules (Most have been broken.  What did you expect?  Wrestling - Lucha Libre - is more spectacle than sport.)

Each week I select a Washington State wine and compare it to the same varietal from another part of the globe.  The challengers are selected based on where the pro cycling peloton is racing.  Since the pro tour just wrapped up with the Giro d Lombardia, I am taking the opportunity to explore wines from regions the pro racers do not typically visit.

This week the Lucha Vino matchup features a tag team bout for the Pacific North West Pinot Noir Heavy Weight Championship Belt.

Syncline 2009 Pinot Noir teams up with Tunnel Hill 2009 Pinot Noir to take on Oregon and British Columbia represented by Cristom 2007 Sommers and Blue Mountain 2009.

Tale of the Tape

Team BC Oregon:

Blue Mountain 2009 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir from the Okanogan Valley Appelation

Aged in French Oak for 10 months.

Purchased for $25.99 in Vancouver BC wine shop.

Cristom 2007 Sommers Reserve Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir from the following vineyards:
87% Eola -Amity Hills, 7% Willamette Foothills, 5% Dundee Hills, 1% Yamhill-Carlton District (65% Estate fruit)

Aged for 17 months in Burgudian cooperage, 53% new oak.

Purchased for $24.99 at Esquin.

Team Washington:

Syncline 2009 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir from the Celilo Vineyard (51%) and Underwood Mountain Vineyard (49%) and aged in neutral oak for 11 months.

Purchased for $28.99 at Esquin.

Tunnel Hill 2009 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir all estate grown on the South shores of Lake Chelan.

Purchased at the winery for $24.95.

Round 1.  First Opening:
The Blue Mountain Pinot is the first into the ring for Team BC/Oregon and is showing a nose featuring salt-n-pepper, blue berry and some funky smokiness.  The palate is buttery with blue berries and a tart cedar and pepper spice finish.

Tunnel Hill checks in for Washington with a nose showing light smoke, salt, pepper and strawberries. The palate has strawberry notes with sweet Asian spices and a finish that tails off into dry tart cherry bark.

This matchup is close with a slight edge going to Tunnel Hill, but before Team Washington can start celebrating the Cristom from Oregon tags into the ring and brings down the hammer with a nose of red berries, all spice and pepper with some peat bog and sea breeze wafting in the background.  The palate is full of smokey red berries and mineral with a tart fresh finish.

Tunnel Hill is struggling on the ropes but manages to get a hand out to Syncline and that spells doom for Team BC/Oregon.  The Syncline has a nose of sour currants, smoke and underbrush.  The palate shows some floral notes along with dark berries and a sweet finish.

The Syncline is definitely the most well balanced of the four luchadors and it shows by finishing off the round in Team Washington's favor.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The battle rages on with Syncline throwing down some spicy in your face attitude with a nose of sour stone mineral red fruit and cranberry bog.  The palate is sweet, tart and spicy showing strawberry, rhubarb and cedar spice box that trails on to the finish.

Trying hard to match up, the Blue Mountain has a nose that mingles cranberry, strawberry and smokey peat bog character.  The palate is similar and trails off into a tart cherry pit finish.  Nice try but you better tag in your partner.

Cristolm gets a bit tangled in the ropes but recovers to show a nose of dark fruit, earth and light pepper.  The palate shows similar character of earth, dark fruit and light cracked pepper that ends with a light tart finish.

Syncline doesn't really need any help against these two challengers, but tags Tunnel Hill in for the fans.  Tunnel hill slides into the ring with a nose showing smoky strawberries and brambles with a palate of strawberr and light tart Asian spices that continue on into a tart dry finish.

Round two is dominated by the Washington Pinot Pair.  Pinot may be hard to find in Washington, but this team is certainly showing some machismo.

Round 3. One day later

About all that team BC/Oregon can hope for now is a knock out, or at least some points to maintain some street cred.

The Tunnel Hill is skipping around the ring with a nose of strawberry and smokey pepper.  The palate is strawberries and cedar spices with a dry cedar finish.  Lightening up a bit, but tough to bring down.

Blue Mountain is trying to land some body blows with attempts at a full throttle attack on the senses with a nose showing funky,peat bog, smoke and sandal wood intermixed with notes of dark red berries.  The palate is darker with currant and cedar cigar box spices that end in a tart finish.  This Canadian Luchador is definitely showing some stamina.

What's this?  Syncline has dropped into the match without a legit tag in taking Blue Mountain by surprise.  Syncline unleashes some sinister kung fu with a nose of raspberry, brambles, leather and hints of spice.  The palate is similarly complex with raspberry and cloves that lead into a spicy clove finish.

Not to be out maneuvered, Cristolm joins forces with Blue Mountain in the ring going two on one.  Cristolm still has some oomph left in the tank, but not much.  The nose is red berries, with some barnyard funk and peat bog overtones.  The palate is showing dry tart dark fruit character that leads to a similar finish.

Even when Cristolm and Blue Mountain join forces they are finding this Washington team to be formidable foes.

Final tally - Washington 3, Team BC/Oregon nil.  Better luck next time.

Wrap up and over all observations

It ain't easy to find a Washington Pinot.  There seem to be several wineries in the Lake Chelan AVA that are having success with this finicky grape.  Tunnel Hill is one of those wineries.  Syncline is also doing good things in the Columbia Gorge. 

All four of these Luchadors presented solid variations on Pinot Noir.  All were worthy combatants earning the following scores: Blue Mountain 86, Cristolm 87, Tunnell Hill and Syncline each with an 88.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Washington Cabernet Sauvignon v. Argentina

After the World Championships the pro cyclists start to wind down their seasons with some R-n-R.  There are still a few select one day races on the calendar and there is a stage race coming up in Australia later in the month.

For now I am going to continue to explore parts of the world that the UCI Pro Tour does not typically visit.  This week features a matchup between a Washington Cabernet Sauvignon and a Cab from Argentina.

 2008 J Bookwalter Foreshadow Cabernet Sauvigon v. 2008 Vina Cobos Felino

Tale of the Tape

2008 J Bookwalter Foreshadow Cabernet Sauvignon

75% Cabernet Sauvignon 12% Malbec 12% Petit Verdot 1% Cabernet Franc

  • Columbia Valley 41% Dionysus 26% Conner-Lee 15%
  • Red Mountain 28%Klipsun 18% Ciel du Cheval 10%
  • Horse Heaven Hills 27% McKinley Springs 27%
  • Yakima Valley 4% Elephant Mountain 4%
Aged for 20 months in new and one & two year old French oak barrels. Most if not all of the barrels were three year air dried, thin stave, medium toast with toasted heads.

Purchased from Garagiste for $26.99.

2008 Vina Cobos Felino

92% cab 4% merlot 4% cab franc

Mendoza, Argentina. Vineyards in Luján de Cuyo and Maipú

Aged for 8 months in American and French oak barrels 19% new

Purchased from Corky Cellars for 17.99

Round 1.  First Opening:

The Bookwalter is showing a nose of dark currant, dried grasses and tobacco with some dusty spices of  clove & cinnamon.  The palate is rich dark currant, black cherry, menthol and clove with a cedar spice box finish.

The Vina Cobos has a nose of currant, peat bog and spiced cherry pie.  The palate is showing similar cherry and cinnamon spices with a tart cedar finish that is slightly rimiscent of McDonald's cherry pie in a good way

The Vina Cobos is light on it's feet prancing around the ring floating like a butterfly will it sting like a bee?

The judges had a hard time with this round giving a slight edge to the Vina Cobos for being more active - hopping and skipping around the ring like a ballerina with her hair on fire.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The Bookwalter steps into the ring ready to take no prisoners showing a nose of currant, black cherry, cocoa, espresso bean and baking spices.  The palate is super dark cherries and spicy! The finish is tart with cinnamon and pepper spices bashing around the ring like pop rocks.

The Vina Cobos is consistent showing a nose of pie cherry, cinnamon and cherry pie crust.  The palate shows more pie cherry, sweet spices and a sweet green tea finish.

The Bookwalter wasted no time, bulked up and inflicted some major damage on the Vina Cobos in this round evening things up at 1 round for each Luchador.

Round 3. One day later

The Vina Cobos has lost a bit, showing a nose that is a bit lighter with red fruit, cherry pie and some  tropical spices, perhaps a bit of coconut?  The palate is still flaunting notes of pie cherry and cedar spices with a really dry finish that includes some hints of spice in the background.

The Bookwalter is still standing tall, dark and brooding with a nose featuring black cherry, currants, licorice and some barnyard funkiness.  The palate is black cherries and clove spices with a slightly tart finish.

Another close round.  The Vina Cobos continued with a spicy assault on the bruiser from Washington.  In the end the Bookwalter had more in the tank and wore down the Vina Cobos, putting it in a sleeper hold and squeezing until the Luchador from Argentina cried Uncle.  The last round goes to the Bookwalter

Wrap up and over all observations

The Bookwalter was big and intimidating stalking the ring like the Playboy Buddy Rose showing some flash along with the mass.  The Vina Cobos was light on its feet floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.  Unfortunately, the bee stings weren't enough to bring down the big, bad, Bookwalter. 

I have to give the Vina Cobos some props.  The style was very interesting and much more than I had anticipated from a Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina.  Well played my friend and better luck next time!

I give the Bookwalter an 88 and the Vina Cobos an 88 too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Washington Carmenere v. Chile

The UCI season is winding down and many of the pros are starting to head out on vacation or to warmer climates for some relaxation.  Between now and the end of the year I will be taking some time to explore wines from parts of the world the pro peleton does not hit during their racing season.

First up we will feature a match between a Washington State Carmenere and a Carmenere from Chile.  2007 Otis Kenyon Carmenere v. 2009 Terra Noble Gran Reserva Carmenere

Tale of the Tape

2007 Otis Kenyon Carmenere

92% Carmenere and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Phinney Hill and Pepperbridge Vineyards in the Horse Heavan Hills AVA

Purchased from the winery for $36.

2009 Terra Noble Gran Reserva Carmenere

96% Carmenere and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Maule Valley in the San Clemente appelation.  Aged for 12 months in French and American barrels.

Sample provided by the winery.

Round 1.  First Opening:

The Terra Noble is showing a nose of dark berries, mineral earthiness, pepper and spices.  The palate shows big dark berries, with some dusty sweet spices and a finish of cherries mixed with some spice.

The Otis Kenyon has an interesting nose of dark fruit, pencil lead and pepper with a palate of tart black fruit and a cracked pepper finish.

Terra Noble comes out firing from the gun with a bigger complex character taking the first round with relative ease.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The Terra Noble is really spicy with a nose that is dominated by pepper.  There is also a significant amount of black sweet fruit on the nose and palate that leads into a sweet peppery finish.

Otis Kenyon is not a competitor that you want to get riled up.  Family history says that Otis literally burned down his competition.  Otis comes into the ring flaunting a nose of black fruits with some floral notes and plenty of pepper.  The palate is similar with a sweet cedar and Asian spiced finish.

Mounting a comeback, Otis Kenyon takes round two evening the match up at 1-1.

Round 3. One day later

Which one of these Luchadors has the stamina to make a difference in round 3?

The Terra Noble isn't backing down with a nose of dark sweet fruit and coffee.  The palate has lots of pepper, spice and black cherry with a tart finish that includes a bit of coffee bean and menthol.

Could the Chilean Luchador be playing with fire?  What does Otis "Pyromania" Kenyon have to say?

Otis Kenyon is firing like a pinwheel on Ace Frehley's guitar with a nose of earthy dark berries. pepper and coffee.  The palate is also showing dark berries, pepper and some Asian spices leading to a tart finish of pepper and toffee.

The Terra Noble proved to be a formidable matchup for the Washington State Carmenere.  In the end, the Otis Kenyon proved to be bigger, badder and spicier taking the final round and the match 2-1.

Wrap up and over all observations

Carmenere is one of Chile's most well known and famous grapes.  After experimenting with several different wineries this one from Terra Noble proved to be the best I have tried (so far).  That wasn't enough to knock off the Otis Kenyon Washington state take on this spicy grape.

Both of these wines were solid and earned marks of an 87 for the Terra Noble and an 88 for the Otis Kenyon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Washington Syrah v. Australian Shiraz

The UCI Cycling World Championship races were held this past week. Australia made a solid showing early in the week and wound up winning the second most medals to Great Britain.  It is hard to consider a Silver Medal as your highlight of the races, but Australia's finish in the Men's road race just might be the exception.

Matt Goss finished a half wheel length behind Mark Cavendish (arguably the best sprinter in the world right now).  Second place ain't bad.  Especially when you consider that Great Britain assembled a team of some of the world's top Time Trial specialists to control the race and keep the pace high throughout the 250+ km race.

Lucha Vino honors Australia with a matchup that features a Washington state Syrah from Laurelhurst Cellars against a Henry's Drive Shiraz from Padthaway Australia.

Tale of the Tape

2006 Henry's Drive Reserve Shiraz

The link above is to the 2007 vintage, you can download a pdf with the 2006 details from the same page.

100% Shiraz (Syrah) aged in oak barrels - 65% American and 35% French 80% new and 20% one year old.

Purchased from Garagiste for $19.86.

2008 Laurelhurst Cellars Syrah

100% Syrah from Red Mountain (Kiona Ranch at the end of the road and Songbird vineyards) aged in French Oak (80% new).

Purchased at the Winery for $25.

Round 1.  First Opening:

The Henry's Drive has a nose showing smoke, dust, cedar and dark fruit with a palate of spicy currants, pepper and more dark fruit with a slightly dry tart finish.

The Laurelhurst has a nose of clove, peppers, toffee, cinnamon and deep red fruit with a palate of red fruit, menthol, cocoa, espresso and and a dry cherry bark finish that lingers for a long time.

Henry attempts to pile drive the Laurelhurst boasting loads of power from down under.  But, the Laurelhurst is crafty demonstrating a more complex attack that comes at you in layers.

Laurelhurst takes a close first round.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Henry's Drive is piling on the muscle showing a nose that is sweet spicy dark cherries and berries with toffee and toasted smoky bacon fat.  The palate is showing black cherry, spices and toffee with a sweet Asian cedar spice finish.

Laurelhurst is not intimidated showing a nose of dark red berries some creamy cinnamon, menthol and clove spices.  There are hints of smoked meats lurking in background.  The palate is dark berries, spices and toffee with a super spicy menthol finish.  A raw showing of spicy, sassy, power.  The laurelhurst is taunting the Australian as if to say "is that all you've got?  Bring it on!"

Both Luchadors are showing more power in round two with the Laurelhurst really stepping up its game to take the second round.

Round 3. One day later

The Henry's Drive is continuing to evolve, looking for new ways to attack.  The nose is licorice, dark fruit and salt & pepper with a similar palate that includes some cedar and spices on the finish.

The Laurelhurst is stepping up too with a nose showing dark fruit and asian spices with a palate that also includes some black licorice. clove and tofee and a long cedar spice box finish.

A close finishing round with Laurelhurst taking the third round of the match too.  That makes it a clean sweep for the Washington Syrah!

Wrap up and over all observations

Both of these wines were very good and demonstrated some distinct differences in style and character.  Even though the Laurelhurst took the match 3 - nil, this was a close battle just like Cavendish winning the World Championships over Matt Goss by less than the width of a bicycle wheel!

I give the Laurelhurst an 89 and the Henry's Drive an 88.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Washington State Tempranillo v. La Mancha

The Vuelta Espana barely gets Miss Congeniality respect when people talk about the Grand Tours of Cycling.  The Tour de France v. the Giro d' Italia v. the Vuelta Espana is like Andre the Giant v. Ric Flair v. Cyndi Lauper.

So, a funny thing happened this year when the Vuelta offered up the best racing of all three Grand Tours.  There was excitement, intrigue and plenty of action right down to the final stages of the race.  Le Tour and the Giro both wish they had racing as interesting and compelling as the Vuelta.  Three cheers for Juan Jose Cobo who won his country's grand tour.

This week Lucha Vino offers up a final tribute to the Vuelta Espana featuring a matchup of Tempranillo temptations.  Representing Spain was the 2007 Ercavio Tempranillo roble v. Washington State's 2007 Tildio Tempranillo.

Tale of the Tape

2007 Ercavio Tempranillo Roble

100% Tempranillo aged for tive months in French and American oak barrels.

Purchased from Esquin for $12.99.

2007 Tildio Tempranillo

100% estate grown Tempranillo aged in American and French Oak (50% new).

Purchased at the Winery for $20.

Round 1.  First Opening:

You would be hard pressed to confuse the Ercavio for the Man of La Mancha.  Perhaps the really old man of La Mancha.  It seems like Spain sent out an imposter for the opening round of this match.  This Tempranillo was dominated by the essence of sour oak and over ripe prunes and raisins.  Something was not right.

The Tildio was showing some brute force right out of the gate.  The nose shows currant, black fruit, cedar and light pepper with a slight funky mineral quality.  The palate is rich with currants and smoked meats with spicy cracked pepper and a slightly dry finish.

Tildio takes round one while the Ercavio seeks refuge and searches for its walker.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Tildio comes out of the dressing room ready to lay down the law.  The nose is showing some funk along with currant, dark fruit and some espresso bean and spices.  The palate is equally complex with currant, black cherry and clove with slightly dry cedar spice box finish and some tobacco leaf.

The Ercavio is still searching for its lost machismo.  The character of prunes, figs and raisins continue to dominate.  This Luchador is being kicked back to the training center and a fresh Ercavio was retrieved from Esquin to continue the match.

The new / real Ercavio is showing better.  The replacement does show some more character and tart cedar tannins along with a bit of cracked pepper.

The Ercavio is still no match for the Tildio Terror.  Tildio takes a semi-controversial round 2 with the La Mancha calling for backup.

Round 3. One day later

The Ercavio backup has found some overnight mojo demonstrating a nose that is toasty and dusty with notes of currant, leather and slightly sour mineral tones.  The palate is deep, dark fruit with some sweet tart cedar and a cherry bark finish.

The Tildio nose is showing plenty of body with currants, dark fruit, espresso bean, cinnamon and semi-sweet chocolate.  The palate is big, dark cherries, cola, coffee and features a tart spicy Asian spice finish.

Ercavio tried to save face, but could not muster enough strength to topple Tildio.  Round 3 goes to Tildio for a clean sweep.

Wrap up and over all observations

This match was never really in question.  The Tildio Tempranillo took the victory easily.  After opening what seems to have been a bad bottle, the Ercavio got back on track after Esquin replaced the original Luchador for me.

Ercavio, the Old Man of La Mancha continued to return days after the match was over evolving and developing.  Somewhat confused and delusional the old Luchador wanted to continue fighting.  I could not help but notice he was growing more interesting as he shadow boxed and taunted unseen opponents.  There may be better days ahead for the Ercavio perhaps, perhaps...

I give the Tildio an 88 and the Ercavio an 82.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Guest Post: California Mourvedre v. Spanish Monastrell

This week Lucha Vino features a guest post from his tag team partner, Foxall, from down South in California.  So the matchup features California v. Spain.  This is a great match read on!

The Vuelta a Espana closed today with a relative unknown—Juan Jose Cobo—winning the race.  He was expected to ride in support of two other, more famous riders: Denis Menchov, who has finished on the podium at the Tour de France a couple times, and Carlos Sastre, who actually won the Tour in 2006.  Further, he’s a native Spaniard, who wasn’t even the “favored” Spaniard in the race.  Here’s a good article about his road to the win:

In that spirit, we have our competitors in my guest appearance on LuchaVino.  The grape in question is a relative unknown compared to its better known teammates in Southern Rhone blends, where it appears in elite Chateauneuf  du Pape, but rarely steps out on its own, unlike Grenache and Syrah.  It’s a native of Spain, although not the more famous of the native varieties—in fact, it’s not even well-known by its Spanish name, and people aren’t always sure what to call it. In Australia, the “M” in GSM blends is usually called “mataro,” although it’s the same grape.  Most people think of it as mourvedre, but its origin lies in Spain, near the town of Murviedra.

Stepping into the ring, fraternal twins, one going by Monastrell, and one going by Mourvedre. 

First luchador is Juan Gil Monastrell, from the Spanish D.O. of Jumilla.  In the other corner, Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre, from Contra Costa County, California.

(Sorry, Washingtonians, but it’s not easy getting your wines down here, and the Spanish varietals that you grow pretty well?  Forget it.  The best publicity that Washington Tempranillo gets comes courtesy of this blog.  Believe me, I tried.  I can get wine from the Canary Islands more easily.  Now, back to the match!)

Tale of the Tape:

Juan Gil Jumilla Red Wine 2008.  100% Monastrell estate grown from 40 year old vines, aged 12 months in French Oak Barrels.  15% ABV. $14 at WineMine in Oakland, CA, but widely available in the US after getting plaudits from Wine Spectator a while back.

Cline Cellars, Ancient Vines Mourvedre, Contra Costa County 2010. All Mourvedre from a vineyard they have sourced for many years, although Cline’s holdings are mostly in Sonoma County. 14.5% ABV.  $14 at K&L Wines, can also be purchased at CostPlus World Market for the same.

Round 1: First Opening:

The Cline has notes of leather in its aroma, and tastes of the same.  There’s hints of dry wood (not a good sign), black tea, and sour cherry.  The finish isn’t long at all. 

The Juan Gil, never mind the French Oak, smells of violets.  The taste is leathery, in a good way, but it’s not showing much.  Not a long finish here, either.

Neither wine is showing the barnyard-y, bretty, odors or tastes that can mar or enhance mourvedre/monastrell/mataro depending on your tastes and the intensity of that brettiness.

Almost too close to call, but the slightly bigger character of the Cline gives it an edge.  But just.

Round Two, one hour after opening:

Now the Cline is showing a hint of coffee—this wine definitely has a bitter edge.  There’s still that hint of dry wood, a taste and smell I remember from replacing some floor joists that suffered dry rot.  The leather notes are still there.  This wine isn’t improving greatly and any arguments about fruit bombs can end right here:  Although it’s the younger of the two wines, almost nothing except the earlier sour cherry said anything remotely about fruit.  The label says it will age for five to seven years, but maybe that’s because it won’t lose any fruit.  There is more than a bit of tannin, but possibly from stems or seeds, and it’s a little clumsy.

Meanwhile, the Gil has opened up, with a richer mouthfeel, a little savory edge, and just a whole bed of floral notes.  My wife is all over this, like Brett Ashley on the bullfighter in “The Sun Also Rises.” I’m enjoying the velvety notes, the taste of sloes, the warm blackberries.   I’ve had this wine before in other vintages and am enjoying watching it unfold again. 

Huge advantage this round to the Gil.

Round Three, Three hours after opening:

No change to the aroma of the Cline, but it’s gained a little umami in the flavor, that savory, mushroomy taste.  The  Gil has developed a little menthol or camphor in the nose and the mid-palate.  It’s pleasant, not overwhelmingly medicinal as that can get, and a little minty in that vein.  But it tastes a little hot, and the flavor is going flat.

Slight edge to the Cline.

Wrap Up and Overall Conclusions:

The middle round was decisive for the Gil, and I would recommend that any purchaser NOT decant it.  Drink it in a group big enough to finish it off within a couple hours.  Both were competent, this version of the Gil not as good as some other vintages.  Cline offers some solid wines, including a GSM blend called “Cashmere” that raises money for breast cancer research, and a Syrah that is good for the money from Sonoma County.  I’m guessing neither is a long ager, but at these prices, you buy it now.  I give the Gil 87 points (my wife would give it more, but she only tasted it at the peak), and the Cline 85.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Washington Tempranillo blend v. Spanish Rioja

The Vuelta Espana finally made it up North and is headed toward the Rioja region.  There has been lots of great racing as the course headed into the mountains.  The latest action saw JJ Cobo take the race leader's Red Jersey and then defend it on the last up hill finish of the race.  Cobo has a slim 13 second lead, but should be able to protect that as the race speeds toward Madrid.

This week's Vuelta Espana Lucha Vino matchup features a 2005 R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Cubillo Crianza v. Washington State Spanish Style blend from Brian Carter Cellars 2008 Corrida.

Tale of the Tape

R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Cubillo Crianza 2005

65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha with the remainder Mazuelo and Graciano all estate grown.  Aged for 3 years in barrel.

Purchased from Bin 41 for $23.

Brian Carter Cellars 2008 Corrida

66% Tempranillo, 17% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Garnacha.  The grapes were sourced from Stone Tree Vineyards on the Wahluke Slope and Olsen Brothers Vineyards, Lonesome Springs Vineyards, Solstice Vineyards and Eldering Vineyard all in located in the Yakima Valley.  Aged for 22 months in monstly French Oak, 30% new and 70% used.

Purchased from Bin 41 for $30.

Round 1.  First Opening:

The R. Lopez has a nose of sandal wood and light red berries.  The palate is cherries and some licorice and anis lurking in the background ending with a sweet dry cherry finish.

The Corrida has a nose of cedar spices, cloves and currants with some light smokey toast character.  The palate is currants, Asian spices, espresso and semi-sweet chocolate lingering on to a dry finish. 

Both luchadors came into the ring showing some interesting character.  The Corrida lived up to its meaning in Spanish - "Bull Fight" with a flourish of the red cape and some fancy footwork represented in the variety of characteristics present on the nose and palate.

Round 1 goes to the Brian Carter Cellars Corrida.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The R. Lopez is showing a nose of red fruits, sour peat bog and licorice with a palate of red fruit dry cedar and notes of licorice with some cherry notes on the finish.

The Corrida is continuing to evolve with the nose showing dark currant, smoke, espresso and chocolate with a palate showing similar characteristics to the nose and wraps up with a dry toffee and spice finish.

The R. Lopez is light on its feet, bobbing and weaving.  The Corrida is stomping in to deliver some heavy handed body blows.  This round is close with a slight edge going to the Corrida for aggressiveness.

Round 3. One day later

The R. Lopez has reached into its bag of tricks and is delivering a nose of funky sandal wood. cinnamon mole, hints of chocolate and ripe red berries.  The palate is showing some light red berry, coffee and menthol with a slight dry cedar finish. 

The Corrida has really beefed up for the final round with a nose of dark currant, dusty black cherries and hints of spices, semi-sweet chocolate and espresso.  The palate has similar character with a tart cedar Asian spice finish that is slightly acidic that mellows into spiciness with more air.

Both Luchadors brought some big changes over night.  Kudos to both for reaching back and adjusting their attack in an attempt to win the match.  This was another close call, but the final round also goes to the Corrida for being bigger, badder and bolder looking a bit like Mr. T. sporting miles of gold chain.

Wrap up and over all observations

Another close match.  These matchups between Spain and Washington have all been close.  The score might show 3 rounds to none in favor of the Corrida, but the truth is this match could easily have gone to the Spanish Luchador with a bit more luck.

Solid competitors once again.  I give both an 88.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Washington Tinto v. Ribera del Duero

The Vuelta Espana worked its way through Southern Spain last week and took a right hand turn through La Mancha and is headed in the direction of the Ribera del Duero region.  There has been quite a bit of climbing for the first week of a Grand Tour.  The Spanish riders are motivated to show well, and hopefully win, their home race.  Up until today El Purito (Joaquin Rodriguez) had the leader's Red Jersey.  He is in 2nd place trailing by one second.  There should be a major shake up in the race lead with the 40 km Individual Time Trial in Salamanca on Monday.

This week's Vuelta Espana Lucha Vino matchup features a 2006 Bodegas Lopez Cristobal Ribera del Duero v. a 2008 Pomum Cellars Tinto.

Tale of the Tape

Bodegas Lopez Cristobal Ribera del Duero

90% Tempranillo, 5% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Aged for 12 months in 50% American and 50% French Oak and then another 12 months in bottle.

Purchased from Bin 41 for $30.

Pomum Cellars Tinto

77% Tempranillo, 9% Garnacha, 9% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Purchased from Full Pull wines for $21.99.

Round 1.  First Opening:

The Lopez Cristobal is showing a nose of red fruit, leather, light spices and a bit of funkiness.  The palate is full of cedar spice box and red berries with a dry spicy finish

The Pomum Cellars Tinto has a nose of deep red black fruit, mineral and funky forest floor with a palate of dark fruits and a spicy dry finish.

Both luchadors showed a dry finish of cedar and spices.  The Washington State Tinto is a bit bolder and the Spanish Ribera del Duero showed a bit more complexity on the nose.  Very close with a slight edge going to the Cristobal for showing more diversity in its attack.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The Cristobal Nose has mysteriously vanished with only a slight trace of some barnyard funk.  The palate has deepened showing currants and some cedar tannins with less spice on a finish that is still quite dry.

The Tinto is showing a nose of red fruit, pepper, asian spices and some light buttery character.  The palate is also demonstrating rich currants and pepper spices with a much smoother cedar spice box finish.

We had to send the officials down to the dressing room to see if the Cristobal was still in the building.  The Washington State Tinto takes round 2 with ease.

The crowd is wondering if the Ribera del Duero has thrown in the towel or if it will return for the final round.  Oh the drama...

Round 3. One day later

The Cristobal came raging back for round three with a nose of smoke, dusty dark fruit and cracked pepper.  The palate is showing some dusty floral notes with dark berries and a slightly acidic finish.

The Tinto has also builked up over night.  The nose is earth, leather, dark fruit and a bit of soy sauce and cedar spices.  The palate is red fruit and dry cedar spice box.  The dry finish has really mellowed over night.

With a surprise turn around the Cristobal narrowly edged out the Pomum Cellars Tinto.  Some observers may be calling for some Performance Enhancing Drug testing after this comeback by the Spanish Luchador.

Wrap up and over all observations

This was a close match with a surprise comeback for the Ribera del Duero in the third round giving the Cristobal a 2-1 victory over the Pomum Cellars Tinto.  You would almost think this match had been scripted and that wrestling isn't real!!

Both Luchadors were solid and I give them both an 87.