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: http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/09/news/cobos-long-strange-trip-to-vuelta-lead_191090

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.