Sunday, March 27, 2011

Washington Tempranillo v. Spain

This week a Washington state Tempranillo takes on a Rioja Reserva 100% Tempranillo from Catalunya Spain.

The matchup was inspired by the Volta a Catalunya race through the North East regions of Spain that just wrapped up today.

2009 Substance Tempranillo v. 2006 Izadi Reserva Rioja 

Tale of the tape

Substance Tempranillo
100% Tempranillo from the Mars Hill Vineyard aged in 100% French Oak barrels
Purchased for 19.99 at Esquin

Izadi Rioja Reserva 2006
100% Tempranillo from the Rioja Calificada DOCa aged for 14 months in American Oak barrels
Purchased for 19.99 at Wine World

Round 1.  First Opening:
Substance on first opening the nose has character of plum, smoke and pepper with some slight floral overtones.  The palate is already featuring dark fruit, pepper smoked meat and a slightly tart cedar spice finish.

The Izadi is showing raspberry, candle wax and a bit of smokey peat bog on the nose with a palate of ripe red fruit, menthol and slightly tart cedar that continues on through the finish.

Round 1 was close and goes to Substance.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening:
The Substance is developing some leather and dusty mineral on the nose along with pepper and cedar spice box.  The palate is showing some tart cedar and continues to develop rich juicy dark berry character with some black cherry, cedar spice and pepper with nice supporting cedar tannin tartness on the finish.

Izadi is developing dark fruit, black cherry, spice and chocolate on the nose with the palate showing rich dark fruit with cedar spice and chocolate on a solid black cherry foundation.  Really rich and lush.

Round 2 is another close one, this time it goes to Izadi

Round 3. One day later

The Substance is showing much lighter on the nose and palate after one day.  The nose is light red fruit, huckleberries with a bit of tart cedar.  The palate is showing some light raspberry and a bit of citrus while the finish has become rather acidic.

The Izadi has retained its bold character from the day before.  There is black currant, cedar spice box and toffee on the nose.  With the palate showing similar dark fruit, cedar spice, cinnamon and menthol with the menthol and cinnamon flowing through the finish.

Round 3 goes to Izadi.

Wrap up and over all observations

Another close match.  The Substance started out slow and built up a full character as the first night went on.  The Izadi opened up much quicker and showed a richer, bolder nose and palate. 

The additional age and (I am assuming) time in the barrel was very noticeable in comparing the Izadi to the Substance.  Another match that goes to the European challenger.  This might be developing into a trend.  The message could be - don't mess with our Old World style.  Or maybe it is the new kid on the block issuing a warning - Hey old man!  Look out here I come...

Final tally: Izadi 2, Substance 1. 

I give Izadi an 88 and the Substance an 86.  Both were very good to excellent with the Substance taking some time to build up to its fullest character and then fading.  The Izadi continued to build a bold character that lasted over night into day number 2 and that stamina and staying power were the keys to the Spanish Luchador's success.

Haste pronto!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Washington Super Tuscan v. Italy

This match pits a Washington state Super Tuscan from Walla Walla against an Italian Super Tuscan.

The matchup was inspired by the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race which rode through the region of Tuscany last week.  I have been holding on to a bottle of Five Star Cellars Quinque Astrum waiting for the right moment to open it.  This seemed like a great reason to pop its top!

2008 Five Star Cellars Quinque Astrum v. 2008 Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso

Tale of the tape

5 Star Cellars Quinque Astrum
58% Sangiovese, 33% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 2nd use American and European Oak
Purchased for 27.99 at Corky Cellars

Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso
50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet sauvignon, 15% Syrah, 5% Sangiovese aged for 10 months in first and second use Italian oak barrels.
Purchased for 16.99 from Garagiste (compare at up to $30 on wine searcher)

Round 1.  First Opening:
5 Star on first opening the nose is mostly sour pie cherry, currant, mineral and a bit of toasty oak.  The palate is sweet clean red berries with a finish that is full of cherries with some notes of tart cedar at the end.

Le Macchiole on first opening the nose is pie cherry and currants with a hint of mineral and leather.  The palate is quite tart with pie cherries and the finish is also showing quite a bit of tannin with character of cherry pit.

The first round was very close.  Both contestants are showing very similar characteristics and there is not much to differentiate one from the other.

Round 1 goes to 5 Star for having a slightly more refined finish.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening:
5 Star is developing some black cherry, currant and toasted smoke on the nose with the palate showing toast, currant, toffee and some slight cedar tartness on the finish.

Le Macchiole develops a much richer nose of sour cherry, currant, leather peat bog and cedar spice box.  The palate has plenty of rich dark fruit and currant that trails off slowly with a bit of cedar tartness that is much mellower after an hour of air.

Round 2 goes to Le Macchiole

Round 3. One day later
5 Star is building a nose of dark fruit and plum.  The palate has black cherry fruit and leather with some cedar spice box and a bit of semi sweet chocolate.

Le Macchiole has a very similar deep dark fruit nose with hints of spice.  The palate is rich with dark currant, black cherry and a long finish that shows some slight tartness at the end.

Another really close round.  Both wines have really continued to build into large, full bodied heavy weight contenders. 

Round 3 goes to Le Macchiloe by a very slim margin.

Wrap up and over all observations

This was a very close match and it could have easily gone to either one of our luchadors.  In the end the Italian contestant edged the Washington Super Tuscan, but just barely.  Both showed very similar character during each round of the competition and this contest was very difficult to judge.

Really interesting comparison considering the difference in the blends of these two wines.  There are common elements of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but the percentages are quite different.  I was really surprised when I went back to look at the blends after completing my tasting notes.

Final tally: Le Macchiloe 2, Five Star Cellars 1. 

Le Macchiloe may have one this bout, but the margin of victory was very slim.  I give both contestants a score of 87 - excellent.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Preview: Super Tuscan Shoot Out

Inspired by the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race through Tuscany.  This week features a Super Tuscan back alley brawl between Walla Walla Washington and Bolhgeri Italy.

Five Star Cellars Quinque Astrum will represent Washington.  And La Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso will represent Itlay.

These two Super Tuscan studs should make for a heavy weight brawl featuring plenty of fireworks.  Check back after the weekend for all the details.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Washington Pinot v. Burgundy

This match pits a Washington state Pinot Noir against a Burgundy from France.

The matchup was inspired by the Paris-Nice stage race which rode through the Burgundy region of France earlier this week.  I scoured my cellar searching for likely Luchadors to represent Washington and France.  After last week's total dominance by the OS Winery Bordeaux style blend I thought this would be an opportunity for France to regain some Wine Luchador cred.

NV Hard Row to Hoe Pinot Noir v. 2006 Louis Jadot Côte de Beaune Villages

Tale of the tape

Hard Row to Hoe Pinot Noir NV - 50/50 blend of 2008/2009 Pinot Noir from the Lake Chelan AVA  Purchased at the winery for $26

2006 Louis Jadot Côte de Beaune Villages
100% Pinot Noir from the Cote de Beaune region of France.  Purchased through the Invino website for $14.99 (advertised as 50% off normal retail).

Round 1.  First Opening:
Hard Row to Hoe on first opening the nose has lots of bright cherry fruit with an earthy barnyard & peat nose.  The palate is tart cherries, strawberry and rhubarb with some notes of cedar on the finish.

Louis Jadot on first opening the nose is red berries and light pepper spice with a palate of dry red cherries and mouth drying finish.

Round 1 goes to Hard Row to Hoe

Round 2.  One hour after Opening:
Hard Row to Hoe develops a nice bold cherry tartness with notes of cedar, salt & pepper and lightly smoked meats.

Louis Jadot develops some deeper raspberry and some salt & pepper on the nose and palate.  Getting a bit rounder, but still a nice bright expression of Pinot Noir style.

Round 2 goes to Hard Row to Hoe with a body slam of boldness on the French challenger.

Round 3. One day later
Hard Row to Hoe continues to grow bigger and bolder.  There is loads of dark plum, dark cherry on the nose and palate with some spice box and light pepper. 

One day later and the Louis Jadot remained pretty consistent with the round 2 notes.

Round 3 goes to Hard Row to Hoe.

Wrap up and over all observations

The Washington Pinot was much bolder than the French contestant.  However, I will say that the Louis Jadot is a better representation of the Pinot/Burgundy style with plenty of bright red fruit on the nose and palate.  This wine would be a great sipping wine sitting out on the patio in the middle of summer.  For this I award a style point to Louis Jadot.  And after all, aren't the French all about style?

Unfortunately for our French Luchador, the Pacific NW does not see many warm sunny days.  That makes the bolder expressions of the Hard Row Pinot a much better style for our home state. 

Final tally: Hard Row to Hoe 3, Louis Jadot 1. 

The Washington wine dominated the weaker entry from France.  I give Hard Row to Hoe an 87 and the Louis Jadot an 85.  A closer matchup than last week, but still a dominating performance from the WA State entry.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Washington v. France

This match pits a Washington state Bordeaux style blend against an actual Bordeaux blend from France.

2006 OS Winery Red v. 2006 Chateau Lamery Le Defi de Lamery

Tale of the tape:
OS Winery Red - 36% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Grapes sourced from the Columbia Valley AVA.  Purchased at Costco for $13.99.

Chateau Lamery - Difficult to find many details on this wine.  It is elusive, much like a French winner of the Tour de France in the past two decades (impossible to find).  The blend is Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec.  Percentages are not disclosed.  Purchased through Garagiste for $16.93.

Round 1.  First Opening:
OS Winery Red on first opening the nose has strong vegetal and olive notes along with currants. The palate is currant, cherry and cedar spice box with a spicy finish.

Chateau Lamery on first opening the nose is very light with subtle bing cherry and a bit of cola that develops into a light pomegranate, green tea and celery.

Round 1 goes to OS Winery Red

Round 2.  One hour after Opening:
OS Winery Red develops earth, peat, black cherry and cola. The palate shows similar character along with some cocoa, cinnamon and spice finishing with cedar spice box. 

Chateau Lamery more of the same primarily showing thin pomegranate and green tea.

Round 2 goes to OS Winery Red

Round 3. One day later
OS Winery Red continues to be big and round with similar characteristics to round 2.

Chateau Lamery has lightened up a bit and is still showing pomegranate and green & black tea characteristics.

Round 3 goes to OS Winery Red

Final tally: OS Winery Red 3, Chateau Lamery 0.  This was really no contest.  The Washington wine dominated the weaker entry from France.  I give OS Winery Red an 87 and the Chateau Lamery an 83.