Monday, May 30, 2011

Washington Barbera v. Italy

The Giro d' Italia wrapped up this week with some grueling mountain passes and mountain top finishes in Nothern Italy.  The overall race lead has been squarely in the pocket of Alberto Contador for the past 2 weeks.  The riders have still been battling for second and third place and stage victories so the racing has still been exciting.  Following the Giro route to the North, this week's match pits a Washington state Barbera against Italy.

Washington State Barbera from the Wahluke Slope  v. Piedmont

Tranche Cellars 2006 Barbera v.  2007 Azienda Agricol Reverdito Michele Barbera D'Alba Butti

Tale of the tape

2006 Tranche Cellars Barbera

Barbera from the Northridge and Sagemoor vineyards in Wahluke Slope AVA.  Tranche Cellars is one of Mike Corliss' wineries.  Their website is nice enough to tell you Tranche means "slice" or "share."  Unfortunately, it might as well mean mystery since they do not share any more information about their wines.  Corliss implies a top notch pedigree, but this Luchador goes into the match as a bit of a mystery.  Purchased from Full Pull wines for 17.99

2007 Michele Reverdito Barbera

100% Barbera from Piedmont D'Alba Butti D.O.C.  If you can read Italian you will be able to unravel the mystery of our Italian combatant.
Purchased for $27.50 at Bin 41 - Thanks for helping me make the Luchador selections again this week.

This is certainly a week for mystery.  Let the Barbera Battle begin!

Round 1.  First Opening:

On first opening the Tranche Cellars has a nose of warm red fruit, coffee and a hint of pepper.  The palate has red fruit, tart cedar and coffee bean with a dry finish that repeats the notes of coffee bean.

The Michele Reverdito has a nose of sweet and sour cherry with a bit of spiciness.  The palate is dry with lots of red brambly fruit and a tart bramble berry finish.

These luchadors are very closely matched, both showing promise right from the beginning. 

Round 1 is too close to call.  Half a point to each of these mysterious foes.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The Tranche is really building some power - the nose is showing rich dark fruit and currant character with a palate of currant, black cherry and coffee with a bit of menthol that ushers in a big finish of cocoa and spice intermingled with dark stone fruit.

The Reverdito is stepping up, but not quite to the level of the Tranche.  The nose is developing floral notes with big bright cherry.  The palate is showing similar notes of big chewy cherry and cedar baking spice that leads into a finish that is just slightly tart with cinnamon and clove spices.

Round 2 is another close one.  Both luchadors are showing their strength.  Reverdito is big and bright.  Tranche is big and bold.  A very slight edge to Tranche winning round 2 for bringing a bigger and bolder attack into the ring for this round.

Round 3. One day later

The Tranche Cellars entrant is still going strong with a nose that is now showing leather, coffee, peat, currant and spice box.  The palate is lush and velvety with currant the dominant characteristic that still shows the bit of menthol before moving on to a dry tart cedar red fruit finish.

The Reverdito has added some more power to its repertoire.  The nose is bolder with currant and logan berry spice and a bit of mineral.  The palate is displaying similar notes of currant and dark berries with some cocoa that finishes with notes of semi-sweet chocolate.

These combatants have both held up under pressure and their form is showing one day later.  Both have continued to develop and are showing some new skillz in the final round.

Round 3 is another close call and goes to the Italian challenger for upping the ante.  It wasn't by much, but enough to finish with a flourish and leave us with a dead even bout.  Each luchador having earned 1 1/2 points. 

Wrap up and over all observations

I'm not sure how I feel about having a bout end in a draw.  I can't find anything to fault either one of this week's contestants.  With a nod to Italian style, Mario Cipollini and the Giro d'Italia I am awarding 1/2 a point for style to the Reverdito for their label which easily outdistances the Tranche Cellars label in the style department.

After exercising my rights as the event organizer to apply arbitrary rules the Reverdito finishes this bout on top by the slimmest of margins having gained the edge with an additional point awarded for style.  Final score: Reverdito 2, Tranche 1 1/2

I rate both of these wines an 88. 

This match was frustrating from an informational perspective.  Much like a Lucha Libre match, both combatants stepped into the wrestling ring with an air of mystery.  Hiding their true character behind their wrestling masks.  Unraveling the mystery of these wines as they evolved over time was fun.  It was also a great introduction to the Barbera grape for me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Washington Primitivo v. Italy

The Giro d' Italia is still happening in Italy.  The riders are just finishing up the second week and have one more to go.  They went through Southern Italy early in the week so this week's match features the Primitivo grape.

Washington State Primitivo from the Wahluke Slope v. Puglia

Forgeron 2007 Primitivo v. Prima-Amano Primitivo Puglia 2006

Tale of the tape

2007 Forgeron Primitivo

100% Primitivo from Stone Tree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope. Aged in American Oak 40% new.
Purchased for $30.00 at Bin 41 at a tasting with the wine maker - Thanks for helping me make the Luchador selections this week.

2006 Prima-Amana Primitivo Puglia

100% Primitivo aged for seven months in a mixture of 75% French oak, 20% one year old American oak and 5% chestnut, cherry and Slovenian oak.
Purchased for $7.99 from Garagiste.

Whoa.  I didn't look at these Luchadors credentials before the selection.  This could get ugly in a hury based on the price difference...

Round 1.  First Opening:

Right from the beginning is was clear that these two luchadors have very different styles.  The WA State Primitivo is big and bold - perhaps honoring Randy Macho Man Savage with an Atomic Elbow Drop off the top rope.  The french oponent is taking a different tactic - Cat Woman style, she is gaining your trust and confidence through sweetness.  Yet, seems to be waiting to pounce when you let your guard down.

The Forgeron is showing toasty earth, barnyard and red fruit on the nose with a rich toasted red fruit palate with a slightly dry cedar spice finish

The Prima-Amano is showing a dusty sweet plum nose with tart plum and figs on the palate with a tart cedar finish.

The Forgeron did pay homage to the Macho Man, coming into the ring draped in sequined robes showing plenty of flash and flexing some serious Wahluke slope muscle.

Round 1 goes to Forgeron, our WA State Luchador.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The Forgeron has developed a nose of dark fruit, espresso, leather and cedar spice with a similar palate that also includes a touch of menthol and a nice semi-chocolate cinnamon spice finish.

The Prima-Amano has developed a nose of fig and black licorice and similar palate with a somewhat watery finish.

Round 2 is dominated by the Forgeron which continues to get stronger.  The Prima-Amano has taken on a richer black licorice character, but this chameleon cannot withstand the power of Forgeron.

Round 3. One day later

Forgeron is showing a nose that is toasty dark red fruit and cedar spice box with some light white pepper.  The palate is dry dark red fruit, spice cinnomon & light white pepper especially on the finish.

The  Prima-Amano has a nose of herbs, forest floor and black licorice with sweet black fruit, fig and licorice palate that fades to a sweetly acidic finish.

Both Luchadors have held their Round 2 form.  That is the good news for Prma-Amano.  The bad news is that the Forgeron is still a fearsome foe.

Round 3 goes to Forgeron for a clean sweep of all three rounds. 

Wrap up and over all observations

Another match totally dominated by the Luchador from Washington state.  Both wines transformed with air and held their ground into round three.  The Forgeron showed a very different style than the Prima-Amano even though they are both made from the same grape.  The WA State Primitivo definitely pummeled the Puglia Primitivo in this bout.

I would rate the Prima-Amano an 85 and the Forgeron an 88.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Washington Cabernet Sauvignon v. Napa

The Giro d' Italia continues for another two weeks in Italy.  In the mean time, The Tour of California started this weekend in Lake Tahoe.  Well, tried to start this weekend as the first stage was snowed out.  Yes!  Snow in May.  In honor of the Tour of California this week's match features Washington v. Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon v. Napa

2007 Phillip Leigh Cabernet Sauvignon v. 2007 Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon

Tale of the tape

2007 Phillip Leigh Cabernet Sauvignon
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Klipsun and Stillwater Creek Vineyards. Aged in one new barrel, one year-old barrel. 50 cases.
Purchased for $29.00 at Esquin as part of a tasting with the wine maker.

2007 Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon
6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Malbect from the Carneros AVA.  Aged for 16 months in French and American oak 29% new.  130,310 cases.
Purchased for $21.99 at Esquin (thanks for helping me make the Luchador selection again this week). 

Round 1.  First Opening:

Our Luchador from Washington State steps up big right from the bell.  The Phillip Leigh has a nose of mocha, black cherry and baking spices with a palate of black cherry, currant, semi-sweet chocolate, espresso and cedar spice.  The finish is slightly tart baking spice.

The Franciscan has a nose of sour mineral, earth, peat and currant with a bit of cocoa and spice in the background.  The palate is sour currant and tart cedar with a similar tart cedar finish.

Round 1 is dominated by Phillip Leigh.  Stomping into the ring with a take no prisoners attitude.  This cab is big, bold and sassy right from the gun.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The Phillip Leigh is getting bolder with a nose of lively currant, espresso and spiced cocoa.  The palate is similar with a bit more semi-sweet chocolate that trails off in a tart bitter sweet chocolate finish.

The Franciscan is showing a nose of currant and baking spice with the palate dominated by cedar tart tones on top of cranberry and currant.  The finish is quite tart & dry with notes of bitter dry cocoa.

Round 2 is easily taken by Phillip Leigh.  The Franciscan is showing some potential, but is still no match for the bigger, bolder Washington State Luchador.  The unusually dry finish on the Franciscan has me worried that this Luchador may snap like a fossil.

Round 3. One day later

The Phillip Leigh has stamina to spare.  The nose is dark currant, black cherry sandal wood and a bit of semi-sweet chocolate and spice.  The palate is rich currant, black cherry spice box and chocolate that leads to a nice semi-sweet and tart cedar finish

The Franciscan is hanging in there, but still not bold enough to stand up to the Phillip Leigh.  The nose is peat bog, seaweed and currant with a palate of currant a bit of cedar spice and some green pepper with a real dry finish.

Round 3 goes to Phillip Leigh for a clean sweep of all three rounds. 

Wrap up and over all observations

Another match totally dominated by the Luchador from Washington state.  Both wines grew bolder with air and held their character over to the final round.  Overall, the Franciscan was just not able to step up to the same bold, bad and sassy level of Phillip Leigh.

Both wines were good representatives of the Cabernet Sauvignon from their respective regions.  The Phillip Leigh grapes were from the Klipsun vineyard in Red Mountain and the Stillwater Vineyards which is about 60 miles North of Klipsun.  This area of Washington really seems to bring the power with a non-compromising attitude.

I would rate the Franciscan an 86 and the Phillip Leigh an 88.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Washington Sangiovese v. Italy

The Giro d' Italia started on Saturday with a Team Time Trial in the North of Italy and is heading South down the West Coast.  The stage on Tuesday will finish in Livorno, the home town for a friend of mine's family.  The selection for this week is based out of Tuscany - Walla Walla Sangiovese vs. the defacto standard for this grape - Tuscany.  Let the battle begin! 

Washington State Sangiovese v. Italian Sangiovese from Tusscany

2007 5 Star Cellar Sangiovese v. 2007 Felsina Chianti Classico Reserva

Tale of the tape

2007 5 Star Cellar Sangiovese
100% Sangiovese from the Blue Mountain, Pepperbridge and Seven Hills vineyards aged in 2 and 3 year old barrels.
Purchased for $25.50 at Corky Cellars.

2007 Felsina Chiati Classico Resrva
100% Sangiovese barrel aged for 12 months then 3-6 months in the bottle.

Purchased for $25.99 at Esquin (thanks for helping me make the Luchador selection this week). 

Round 1.  First Opening:

Our Luchador from Washington State has quite the swagger due to a close Super Tuscan match back in April and a bottle signed by the wine maker at 5 Star Cellars.  He has even requested a nick name of simply Wx2.  Let's see if Wx2 can deliver on the swagger...

Wx2 is big right from the start with a nose of smoke, toast and bright cherry with some hints of sour peat bog.  The palate is dark cherry and cedar spice with a nice spicy tannic finish that tails off with lots of sweet cherry character.

Felsina is showing lots of oaky character, dark cherry fruit and a bit of baking spice on the nose with a very dry palate that is predominantly light cherry.  The finish is like dry-z-air in your mouth, sucking out most of the moisture.

Round 1 is close, but goes to 5 Star Cellars aka Wx2 

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Wx2 has built up some more character to match its swagger.  The nose is big black fruit and cherry with lots of oak dominated spice.  The palate is black cherry, baking spice and a bit of toast that leads to a slightly pepper and spicy bold finish.

Felsina develops some more cedar, leather and cinnamon spice on the nose.  The palate is floral, slightly bitter cherry with a slightly spicy finish.

The Felisna Luchador is nimble, light and agile, but no match for the bigger bruising Wx2.

Round 2 is a bit more decisive and goes to 5 Star again.

Round 3. One day later

Wx2 one day later has lost a bit of power, but is still showing significant strength.  The nose is cherry, currant and a bit of leather.  The palate is cherry, slightly sour currants and a long tart pie cherry finish.

Felsina has also mellowed a bit and is showing a nose of cherry, dust and some cedar.  The palate is pretty dry, showing mostly cherry with a finish that has a bit of tart cedar mingled with the cherry.

Round 3 goes to 5 Star Cellars.

Wrap up and over all observations

Another match totally dominated by the Luchador from Washington state.  The Italian Chianti Classico tried to step up, but was no match for the bigger, bolder Luchador from Walla Walla.

Both wines were good representatives of the Sangiovese grape.  The Walla Walla entrant proved to be slightly bigger, much bolder and also had the staying power to follow through on a dominating 3 round performance.

I would rate the Felsina an 86 and the 5 Star Cellars an 88.

A Final Thought

Keep the pro racers, friends and families in your prayers.  Wouter Weylandt died after a fatal crash in Monday's stage of the Giro d' Italia.  Wouter was a very close friend of Tyler Farrar.  Tyler is a pro racer from Wenatchee WA and is one of the top sprinters in the world today.  Tyler is racing in the Giro d' Italia for the Garmin Cervelo team.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Washington Malbec v. France

This week is the lead in to the Giro d' Italia which starts on Saturday.  We have a smaller 5 day race known as the Four Days of Dunkirk happening in Northern France at the beginning of the week and that is how I chose this week's luchadors.  Why is a 5 day race known as the Four Days of Dunkirk?  Good question.  I hear the race organizer is not very good at math.  Now on to the match.

Washington State Malbec v. France Loire Valley Cot

2008 Tildio Columbia Valley Malbec v. 2007 Domaine Ricard Touraine Le Vilain P'tit Rouge 

Tale of the tape

2007 Domaine Ricard

From the Touraine AOC in the Loire Valley of France.  90% Cot and 10% Cabernet Franc
Purchased for $11.99 from Garagiste.

2008 Tildio Columbia Valley Malbec
Mysterious, the winery's website is not displaying any details about the 2008 Malbec.
Purchased for $21 through the Tildio Wine Club.

Round 1.  First Opening:

The Domaine Ricard is showing some bright dark berry with a bit of leather and must on the nose with a slightly chewy tannin dark fruit body that leads to an acidic tart cedar finish.

The Tildio is demonstrating a nose of black cherry. logan berry. currant, some creamy spice and a bit of peat bog and smoke.  The palate is dark currant and a slightly dry acidic finish that blows off pretty quickly with air.

Stepping into the ring the Tildio is already threatening to dominate the competition.  Tildio is big and round.  Our French Luchador appears to be very uptight.  Perphaps there will be more to the Domaine Ricard in the later rounds.  In round one it is Pretty small and slightly frail.

Round 1 goes to Tildio.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening:

The Domaine Ricard has a nose of dark fruit, sour mineral and a bit of leather with similarly tart palate that is still pretty tight with some interesting notes of grapefruit on the palate and finish.

The Tildio has a nose of currant and cedar spice with some semi sweet chocolate.  The palate is black cherry, bitter cocoa and a tart cedar finish with some vanilla and light caramel.

The Domaine Ricard is still cowering not showing much depth of character.  The Tildio is building toward something that hints at a total body slam in the third round.  Let's see what happens.

Round 2 goes to Tildio.

Round 3. One day later

The Domaine Ricard has turned away from the challenge.  The nose is red fruit with some berry and floral notes.  The palate is watery red berry and tart current with the strange grapefruit character showing on the palate and finish.

The Tildio is still building, stepping into the ring flexing its muscles, with a nose of rich dark currant, some spice and cocoa.  The palate is similar with current and hints of cocoa

Round 3 goes to Tildio.

Wrap up and over all observations

This match was totally dominated by the Tildio Malbec from the Columbia Valley in Washington state.  The Domaine Ricard never opened up.  It remained small and really seemed to be intimated by the larger Luchador from Washington.

To be fair to our French contestant, this might have just been an off day (or off bottle).  My tasting notes from a previous bottle showed very different character.  Prior notes: Nose of blueberry, raspberry and currant with undertones of smoke, peat and hints of pepper.  The palate is dark red fruit accented by cedar and leather that leads to a long finish.

On this day, I would rate the Domaine Ricard an 84 and the Tildio an 87.

Oh well, C'est la vie...