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.