Sunday, April 24, 2011

Washington Pinot v. Italy

The final tune up for the pros getting ready for the Giro d' Italia was this week - the Giro del Trentino in North East Italy.  I had a Pinot Nero from Piedmont in my cellar and decided Piedmont was close enough to the Giro del Trentiono route to represent Italy in this week's contest.

2009 Vin du Lac Red Cafe Pinot Noir v. 2007 Icardi Pinot Nero Nej

Tale of the tape

2007 Icardi Pinot Nero Nej

From the Langhe Docg in Piedmont Italy.  100% Pinot Nero aged for 15 months in new French Oak and an additional 12 months in bottle.
Purchased for $25.80 from Garagiste.

2009 Vin du Lac Red Cafe Pinot Noir
Mysterious, the winery's website is not displaying any details about the 2009 Pinot Noir.
Purchased for $16 through the Wine Club.

Round 1.  First Opening:

The Icardi is dark purple in color with a nose of baking spice, red plum and a bit of leather.  The palate is tart bright light red huckleberries with a finish that is showing similar tart light berry character.  It seems really tight. 

The Vin du Lac is lighter in color with a nose that is showing strawberry, smoked meat and some spices.  The palate is creamy strawberry with some tart cedar notes that show more on the finish before trailing off with more creamy red berry notes.

Right out of the gate the Vin du Lac is more interesting, but the Icardi is hinting at more to come in the later rounds.

Round 1 goes to Vin du Lac.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening:

The Icardi has really opened up showing dark fruit. plum and cedar spice on the nose with black cherry, a touch of menthol on the palate rounding out with a slightly tart finish.

The Vin du Lac nose is still showing a red fruit and smokey nose that now also has some elements of peat bog.  The palate is strawberry, light smoked meats and some cedar tartness that continues on to the finish along with some salt and pepper.

This round was much closer than round 1 and the Icardi takes it due to growth in character as opposed to the Vin du Lac which remained pretty close to the same as when first opened.

Round 2 goes to Icardi. 

Round 3. One day later

The Icardi has continued to build its character.  Getting bigger and bolder, the Italian Luchador is stomping all over our Washington representative which has continued to hold on to its initial characteristics.

Icardi has a nose of dark fruit, chalk and baking spice.  The palate is rich dark fruit and cedar baking spice with a nice lightly tart cedar spice finish.

The Vin du Lac is showing a nose of smokey strawberries with a touch of salt and pepper.  The palate is lighter red berry fruit with a touch of cedar that continues on to the finish.

Round 3 goes to Icardi.

Wrap up and over all observations

A close match with the victory going to Icardi 2 rounds to 1.  I give credit to the Vin du Lac for sticking close to the original character over 2 days, but consistency does not work out well for Washington this week when compared to the Piedmont Pinot Nero which continued to build and get bigger over time.

The price point on these two Luchadors was not as close as I thought it was.  I suspect that shows in the results, although our Washington State contendor showed very well against the more expensive entrant from Italy.  I would rate the Icardi an 87 and the Vin du Lac an 86.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Luchador Tryout: WA Cabernet

I never realized there was so much racing in Spain during this time of year.  Another stage race took place in Northern Spain this week.  So, I decided to take a bit of a break and audition a new WA State representative for future Luchador service - a Cabernet Sauvignon from Horse Heaven Hills.

2005 McKinley Springs Cabernet Sauvignon

Tale of the tape

This is a blend of the McKinley Springs Vineyard's 1980-planted old block and some of the more newly-planted Block 17. It’s 92% Cab and 8% Petit Verdot, aged for just shy of two years in a combination of French (80%) and American (20%) oak, 50% new.
Round 1.  First Opening:

The nose shows currant, black cherry, mineral and leather with a palate of black cherry, toffee and cedar spice box that finishes with some nice tart tannins intermixed with notes of cedar spice box.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening:

The nose is showing some sour cherry in addition to the currant and much more rich notes of cocoa, cinnamon and spice.  The palate is getting bolder with a nice lush mouth feel and is showing similar characteristics to the nose.

Round 3. One day later

Deep dark fruit, black cherry and toffee are still showing on the nose. The palate is black cherry with some hints of cola and chocolate with a cedar spicy cocoa finish.

Wrap up and over all observations

Wow!  What a great way to start the weekend and a great bargain for $13.99 on Esquin's April newsletter deals.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

WA Grenache v. Garnacha

This week the feature race for the pros is the Queen of the Spring Classics - Paris-Roubaix.  I'm not sure why, but I think of this as a Belgian race even though it takes place in France.  The race starts in Paris and goes North to the Roubaix Velodrome.  The race is affectionately known as The Hell of the North due to the cobblestone roads, bad weather and bombed out terrain from World War II.

Instead of tracing the Paris-Roubiax route for this week's match, I have chosen to follow the Tour of the Basque Country, also known as the Vuelta ciclista Al Pais Vasco since the defending champion is Chris Horner a resident of Bend Oregon in the Pacific NW.

2005 DiStefano Grenache v. 2005 Las Pizarras del Jalon Garnacha Vinas Viejas 

Tale of the tape

2005 DiStefano Grenache
96% Grenache and 4% Malbec from the Columbia Valley
Purchased for 17.99 at Wine World

2005 Las Pizarras del Jalon Garnacha Vinas Viejas

100% Estate grown Garnacha from the Calatayud DO in Northern Spain
Purchased for 16.99 from Garagiste

Round 1.  First Opening:
DiStefano has a nose of strawberry, smoke and peat bog with a smokey toasted cherry palate that finishes with a sweet cherry cough syrup character that lingers on (unfortunately).

Las Pizarras has a nose of dry rose petals and light peat bog with a palate that features light red fruit and berries with a light berry finish.

The Pizarras is light, what some might call feminine.  I have to give round one to the Pizarra, the character might be ligher than the DiStefano, but it is more appealing and hints at better things to come later in the bout.

Round 1 goes to Pizarras.  I get the distinct feeling that both contestants have more to show.  What do they have in store?

Round 2.  One hour after Opening:

The DiStefano nose is still showing smoke, peat and now has a hint of hazelnut? along with strawberry and cherry.  The palate is strawberry and rhubarb with a sweetly tart finish and, I am happy to say, the cherry cough syrup has gone away!

The Pizarras nose is mostly strawberry with some lightly dusty dried flower character.  The palate is also showing strawberry and tart rhubarb with some cedar notes on the finish.

Round 2 was much closer than the first round.  The scoring was close, but this round goes to the DiStefano.

Round three will decide the victor in this match.  Which wine has the staying power to rise to the challenge and clinch the match in round 3?

Round 3. One day later

The DiStefano has regressed and is showing character more similar to when it was initially opened.  The nose is mostly strawberry and raspberry with light hints of cedar.  The palate is similar and sadly the tart cough syrup finish has returned.

The Pizarras is still showing dusty rose petals and raspberry on the and the palate is strawberry rhubarb with a tart and slightly sour finish.

The DiStefano didn't last over night and loses this round by tripping over its shoe laces coming out of the corner.  The Pizarras didn't have a whole lot left in the tank but was able to fall on top of the DiStefano and get the three count to win the round.

Round 3 goes to Pizarras giving Spain the victory 2 to 1.

Wrap up and over all observations

This match was relatively close.  Both the Washington Grenache and Spanish Garnacha were relatively light showing subtle character and flavors.  Neither packed much of a punch which disappointed me.  I expected more, especially from the Garnacha.  I mean, with a name that sounds so powerful you should come out and kick sand in the face of Grenache.

Final tally: Pizarras 2, DiStefano 1.

I would give the Pizarras an 85 and the Distefano an 84.

Haste Luego

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Washington Merlot v. California

This week the pros racing in Europe are in Belgium for the Tour of Flanders, one of the greatest one day spring classics there is.  The people from Belgium are fanatics for bike racing.  I don't think the same can be said for wine from this region.  So... we will follow the domestic pros to California this week in honor of The Tour of the Redlands.

Washington 2006 Canoe Ridge Vineyard Merlot v. California 2006 Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Merlot.

Tale of the tape

2006 Canoe Ridge Merlot

100% Estate grown merlot from the Canoe Ridge Vineyard in the Columbia Valley.  It is hard to find much more information about this wine due to the recent ownership change.
Purchased for 15.12 at Safeway for 30% off during Washington Wine Month

2006 Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Merlot

100% Merlot aged for 16 months in 88% French Oak and 12% American Oak
Purchased for 16.99 at QFC

Round 1.  First Opening:
Canoe Ridge has a nose of cherry, currants, dust and mineral with some slight cedar spice.  The palate is slightly tart pie cherry and an equally cedar tart finish with some hints of licorice.

The Kendall-Jackson is showing a nose of tight red berry with a bit of spice and earth.  The palate is mainly sweet cherry with some tobacco, spice and a dry finish.

The K-J seems really tight on first opening while the Canoe Ridge seems like it is ready to rumble.

Round 1 goes to Canoe Ridge.  Will K-J relax and step up in round 2?

Round 2.  One hour after Opening:

The Canoe Ridge has developed a nose of dark fruit, spice and cocoa.  The palate has lots of dark cherry, cola, hints of chocolate and spice with a finish that is dominated by cedar spice box with (again) some hints of chocolate lurking in the background.

K-J has a nose of primarily plum with a bit of dusty spice.  The palate is showing tart red berries and cedar with a dry cherry pit finish.

The K-J has closed down rather than opening up.  I'm disappointed with the lack of stamina on this luchador.

Round 2 is dominated by Canoe Ridge.

Round 3. One day later

The Canoe Ridge is standing tall, retaining and building some more power.  The nose is deep dark fruit, spice and slight semi-sweet chocolate.  The palate is full bodied and smooth showing black cherry, cola, chocolate and hints of cedar spice box on the finish.

K-J is about the same as round 2.  The nose is relatively weak showing some light red berry, dust and a bit of spice.  The palate is tart cherries with a very dry cherry pit finish.

Canoe Ridge finishes off the match and Round 3 with a huge body slam.

Wrap up and over all observations

This match was not close at all.  The Canoe Ridge came out ready for action and never let up.  The Kendall-Jackson was tight and never evolved into anything very interesting or big enough to put up a fight against the WA State Merlot.

Final tally: Canoe Ridge 3, Kendall-Jackson 0.

I would give the Canoe Ridge an 87 and the Kendall-Jackson an 84.  Maybe it is the laid back attitude of California or too much sun makes you soft.  Either way, the luchador from Washington was bigger, brawnier, bolder and easily overpowered the CA Merlot.  Unfair?  Not sure.  What do you think?  There has to be a California Merlot that would put up a better fight.

Catch ya later