Friday, December 28, 2012

Battle in Seattle II:Washington v. Rioja

This is the second installment in my End of the World Battle in Seattle series.  The battles were interrupted as my world almost ended on 12/12/12 when a car hit me riding my bike to work.  I'm really lucky to have "only" sustained a cracked rib along with some cuts.  The worst issue is a disk pressing on a nerve in my back.  That nerve pain is like nothing I have ever felt and hope to never experience again once I recover.

In this week's match a Washington Tempranillo works on bringing the pain down on a Spanish challenger from Rioja.

2009 Bartholomew Tempranillo v. 2007 Vina Eguia Rioja Reserva

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Battle in Seattle I: Washington v. Australia

According to the Mayan calendar the world will end on December 21st.  Or, perhaps, the calendar just starts over again at the beginning.  Or...

A lot of people have jumped on the end of the world band wagon so I figured I might as well hop on for the ride and see where it takes me.

Three of my favorite Seattle Urban Wineries are hosting an End of the World party on December 21st.  As a lead up to their event, I will feature each of their wines in a series of matches I am calling The Battle in Seattle.

Match number 1 features a Washington Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon blend taking on an Australian blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.  These bruisers go toe to toe in a match that could shake the Earth to its core.

2008 Laurelhurst Cellars Azorica v. 2002 Taltarni Cephas

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Walla Walla Cab vs. Argentina

This is the time of year when the pros are searching for warm training environs so they can get back to the ABCs of bike racing.  All the contracts are signed and the team rosters are set.  Some of the teams are holding training camps and team building experiences like swimming with dolphins, playing war games or pretending to be mountain climbers.

Whatever the activity may be, it is all about getting on the same page, building some comaraderie and getting the ABCs for their season dialed in

This week's Lucha Vino challenge features the ABC (and Ws) of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Argentina Crios 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon v. 2009 Brand Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tempranillo Tag Team

Still looking for wine inspiration at Thanksgiving?  Why not go with something a bit different... let's say something like Tempranillo?  This Spanish grape provides some nice tannins and spices that would go nicely with that Turkey, Goose or Duck that is about to be cooked.  It would be equally at home paired up against a pork roast, lamb or ham.

You get the idea.  This is one versatile Luchador.  And to prove that point this week's matchup features a Washington Tempranillo taking on a Tag Team duo of Killer V Tempranillos from Spain.

Tildio 2008 Estate Tempranillo v. Vina Vilano Ribera del duero 2005 and Valsacro 2005 Rioja

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Washington Malbec v. Argentina

This is the time of year that the pro riders are looking for warmer places to ride.  Like the Malbec grape, many riders are heading South.

Malbec has migrated South from France and setup shop in Argentina in the last half-century.  At the present time many people associate Malbec with Argentina rather than its original home in France.  While Malbec is typically a blending grape in most parts of the world, it is often seen as a single varietal in Argentina and more recently in Washington.

This week's matchup features a Washington Malbec taking on a Southern Hemisphere challenger from Argentina.

2008 Gamache Estate Malbec v. 2006 Rutini Malbec

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Washington Cabernet Sauvignon v. Napa Valley

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series in four straight games.  I don't need any better reason to choose one of the giants of the grape world for this week's challenge.

This week's matchup features a Washington Cabernet Sauvignon taking on a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley.

2008 Powers Cabernet Sauvignon Sheridan Reserve v. 2008 Rombauer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Washington Syrah v. Sonoma

Lance Armstrong's sponsors were dropping him faster than a sommelier drops a corked bottle of wine last week.  Not only did he lose his 7 Tour de France victories (the UCI agreed with the USADA lifetime ban and removal of all results from 1996 forward), Lance also lost his sponsor deals with Trek, Nike, Oakley, Anheuser-Busch and others.  He also stepped down as CEO of Livestrong.

The biggest heroes definitely make the biggest thud when they fall.

Personally, I am tired of the whole thing.  I have two hopes for all of this:  Pro Cycling can focus on what is happening now and in the future.  That focus needs to include deterants that will eliminate doping from the cyclists "preparation" and training "programs."  My other hope is that Livestrong can continue to provide resources to people fighting cancer and cancer survivors despite the damage that Lance has done to his personal reputation.

The pro road race season is done.  Cyclocross is the focus for the elite racers from now until February.  So, this is the time of the year where I start exploring other parts of the world.

First up is Major League Baseball's World Series featuring the San Francisco Giants v. the Detroit Tigers.

Now, on to the bay area and this week's battle.

2006 Saint Laurent Estate Syrah v.  2004 Arrowood Russian River Valley Syrah

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Washington Mourvedre v. Southern Rhone

This last week has been explosive for pro cycling.  The covers were blown off and the mystery of doping was laid bare with the USADA's reasoned decision against Lance Armstrong.  Most people wanted to believe that the majority of the pro peloton was racing clean.  Sadly, it turns out that most continued to use banned substances even after the Festina Affair blew up at the 1998 Tour de France.

This week's challenge keeps up with the Mystery theme matching up a Garagiste Mystery Wine from the Southern Rhone against a Mystery Wine from Walla Walla.

2010 Renegade Wine Co. Mourvedre v. 2008 Calendal  Plan de Dieu

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Washington Dolcetto v. Dolcetto d'Alba

The pro cycling season is winding down with a number of one day races in Italy and France and a final stage race in China.  Last week featured three one day races in Northern Italy.  The biggest race of the three was the Giro d Lombardia. Also known as the Race of the Falling Leaves, the race represents the changing seasons as well as the traditional end of road racing in Europe.

This week's matchup features a Dolcetto Double Down.

2010 Wind Rose Dolcetto v. 2010 Socre' Dolcetto

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Washington GSM v. Cotes du Rhone

This past weekend featured the World Championship Time Trial and Road Races for men and women.  This is a time of year where you might discover some up and coming talent. It is also a time to see if any of the old guard still have anything left in the tank to push for the coveted rainbow stripes that represent the World Champion.

The racing is a bit different than usual since the teams are all based on nations rather than the usual trade teams in the pro tour.  You get some unusual pairings working to set one another up to win the road race and wear the World Champion Jersey for the next 12 months.  This year's winner, Philippe Gilbert, was supported by one of his primary rivals in the one day classics - Tom Boonen.  Their strategy worked to perfection and Gilbert dropped all his rivals on the final climb up the famous Cauberg and taking the victory and bringing the World Championship home to Belgium for the 26th time.

This past Friday was Grenache day, an up and coming red grape variety found around the world.  In honor of Grenache Day and the surprises that can be found in the World Championship Road Races I opened a Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend from Washington to take on a Cotes du Rhone.

This matchup featured very little Southern Hospitality and a whole lot of Dirty South.

2008 Nota Bene Una Note v. 2007 Ch. Simian Jocandez Cotes du Rhone

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Washington Sangiovese v. Emilia Romagna

With all the recent doping controversies you have to wonder at the UCI sanctioning a memorial race for Marco Pantani, aka Il Pirata.  Pantani was extremely popular (and successful) as a professional bike racer in the 90s and the early 2000s.  His career was shadowed by rumors and allegations of performance enhancing drug use.  He was suspended several times and made a number of comebacks.  Unfortunately, he was personally tormented by the accusations and fell in to recreational drug abuse.  Il Pirata died of a cocaine overdose in 2004.

The memorial Marco Pantani road race began the same year of Pantani's death and the latest edition was held this weekend in central Italy covering 183 km from Pantani's hometown of Cesenatico to Cesena, his birthplace.

2007 Tulpen Sangiovese v. Drei Dona 2007 Notturno Sangiovese

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Washington Tempranillo v. Ribera Del Duero

The Vuelta a Espana wrapped up this weekend in Madrid.  The race was going along smoothly for Joaquim Rodriguez who was able to maintain his overall lead through the Stage 13 Individual Time Trial (hills are his forte' not turning a big gear).  Maybe Rodriguez got over confident.  Or maybe Alberto Contador was just waiting for the right moment.  No matter the reason, Alberto Contador launched a massive attack, and took control of the race, on stage17 to Fuente De.

Rodriguez lost over two minutes to Contador, along with the race lead, on the way to the Fuente De mountain top finish.  Alberto Contador grabbed hold of the race lead and never let go leading the race all the way in to Madrid (his home town).  You could say that Contador stormed the race like a bull storming a matador.  And that would be fitting for the racer from Madrid where bull fighting is still on Spain's entertainment menu.

This week's matchup honors a bull that defied the odds.  The name of that bull is Idilico.

2009 Idilico Tempranillo v. 2010 Frontaura y Victoria Nexus Cosecho

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Washington Albarino v Rias Baixas

The Vuelta a Espana doesn't get as much attention as the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France, but it packs a lot of action into three weeks of racing.  And, to keep things interesting the racers had to transfer from Barcelona to the North Western regions of Spain starting the second week of racing in the Rias Baixas region.

The racers have been testing their legs, and lungs, in the high mountains of NW Spain in the past week.  Joaquim Rodriguez has held onto the leader's Red Jersey responding to every move made by Alberto Contador so far.

I break out the Albarino this week as I enjoy the continued warm weather in the Pacific North West and the racing in the North West of Spain.

2011 Castillo de Feleciana Albarino v. 2011 Carballal Sete Cepas

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Washington Grenache v. Montsant

The Vuelta a Espana started a week ago in North Central Spain and began following the race route to the East through the Navarra, Aragon and Catalunya DOs heading toward Barcelona.  The first week of the race featured a variety of terrain with a couple of uphill finishes forcing the favorites to actually race their bikes in the early part of this grand tour.

The Spanish racers are always motivated to make a good showing at their home race.  So, it is not surprising to see Joaquim Rodriguez in the leader's red jersey at the end of the first week of racing.

The Vuelta also features the return of Alberto Contador from his ban for testing positive for Clenbuterol (or as his story goes ingesting the illegal drug via a tainted piece of Spanish beef, sure...).  Contador's form is a mystery.  He has been near the top of the field for the first week of the race, but has not shown the dominating style he flashed prior to his ban.  Is he faking?  Was he doping? And now a "clean" Alberto Contador cannot match the doped up Contador performance?  Who knows?

Regardless of the Contador mystery, the racing has been compelling so far.  Continuing the mystery theme the Lucha Vino matchup features a mystery Grenache from Walla Walla this week.

2009 Renegade Wine Co. Grenache v. 2007 Celler de Capcanes Mas Donis Barrica

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gold Medal Part II: Washington Cab Franc

Week 2 of the Olympics and another Gold Medal matchup is on tap.  Just how do these Olympians feel about not winning Gold?  Here is what Gregory Bauge, the World Champion Track Cyclist from France, said about winning Silver in the Men's Sprint finals

"I don't like losing. This is a defeat in a big event, it angers me. This is a failure for me personally," Baugé said. "It is four years that I've dominated in my discipline. I wanted gold, it's a disappointment. I do not train twice a day for this disappointment." (courtesy of cyclingnews).

Now you know how it feels to be the "first loser."

Track cyclists can be a fiesty lot.  In their honor this week's matchup features Cabernet Franc - a grape with a spicy personality of its own.

2007 Vin du Lac Barrel Select Cabernet Franc v. 2009 cloudlift Ascent

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gold Medal Washington Cabs

The Summer Olympics started this weekend in London and that got me inspired to think about medal winners. 

Here is a test.  Pick your favorite Olympics event.  Do you remember who came in 4th in the 2008 Olympics?  Do you remember who won the Silver medal?  How about the Gold?  If you are like me, you probably only remember the Gold medalist.  Most people are so focused on Gold they call everybody except the Gold medal winner a "loser."  Seriously?  If you won the Silver or Bronze you were still the 2nd or 3rd best person in the world on that day.  It might not have been gold, but Silver and Bronze doesn't seem like "losing" to me.

After all that philosophy, I am going with a Gold Medal matchup between two Washington State Cabernet Sauvignons this week.

2009 Cedar River Ava's Crush Cabernet Sauvignon v. 2009 JB Neufeld Artz Cabernet Sauvignon

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Washington BDX Cab Blend v. Left Bank Bordeaux

The Tour de France wrapped up on Sunday with the traditional "parade" on to the Champs-Elysees.  The race for the overall victory is usually determined on the preceding Saturday's stage.  This year, it seems, that the overall victory was decided on stage 7 when Bradley Wiggins took over the yellow jersey.  His Team Sky executed with so much precision and determination it left the other teams in the race wondering what hit them.

So, with the race pretty much "in the bag" could you blame any of the racers for daydreaming about a side trip to Bordeaux when the race reached the finishing town for stage 18 in Brive-la-Gaillarde?  The wine would have been tempting especially considering the 200+ mile bus ride they all had to take to Bonneval for the stage 19 Individual Time Trial.  

In honor of the daydreamers, this week's challenge features a Washington Bordeaux style blend taking on a Left Bank Bordeaux from an Old School producer.

2008 Soos Creek Champoux v. 2009 Lafite Baron's de Rothschild Reserve Speciale Medoc

Tale of the Tape

2008 Soos Creek Champoux

77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Merlot all from the Champoux vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Purchased from Full Pull Wines for $31.49.

2009 Lafite Baron's de Rothschild Collection Medoc Reserve Speciale

70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot from the Medoc

Aged for 3 - 9 months in 20% new oak barrels.

Purchased from Esquin for $25.99.

Round 1. First opening

The Soos Creek Champoux is ready and raring to go.  Wasting little time and taking the fight straight at the old school Luchador from Bordeaux.  The Soos Creek is showing a nose of red berries, toasted oats and candle wax.  The palate is featuring rich red berries, dark cherries, licorice, clove and menthol that lingers on to the slightly tart spice filled finish. 

Lafite doesn't seem to be taking this New World challenger too seriously.  Getting off to a slow start the Baron has a dark brooding nose of dark berries, cherries, toast and roasted meat with a hint of pepper.  The palate is primarily pie cherry with a tart cedar finish.

The Soos Creek is much more active and lively in the first round taking the first point of the match.

Round 2. One hour after opening

The Soos Creek Luchador is building confidence and spicy swagger.  The nose has character of dark cherry, licorice and dusty semisweet chocolate.  The palate features dark cherry and tart cocoa mixed with notes of coffee bean along with clove and menthol cedar spices that flow on to the finish.

The Baron's corner is trying to stir this mighty giant into action.  Their exhortations seem to be in vain.  The Baron is showing a nose of dark cherry and roasted meats.  The palate features cherries and tart cedar that resolves to the finish.

If the Baron can get its hands on the sprightly Soos Creek Luchador it could mean trouble.  This giant Bordeaux Luchador is packing some damaging dark power.  So far, Soos Creek is using speed and quickness to its advantage taking another round and going up 2-0 on the Baron.

Round 3. One day after opening

This is the last chance for the Baron from Bordeaux.  Can the French Luchador land a devasting knock out punch to the Soos Creek Luchador?  A single body slam from this giant could be enough to end the match in a hurry.

The Soos Creek is clearly aware of the potential disaster that could result from standing still.  Bobbing and weaving this Washington State Luchador is remaining elusive.  The nose is featuring black cherry, licorice and clove spices with hints of wintergreen & coconut.  The palate is big and lush with black cherry, spices, coconut and semisweet chocolate that lingers to the finish along with a bit of eucolyotus.

The Baron is beginning to come alive.  The nose is showing dark cherries, earthy spices and light toast.  The palate is getting spicy with black cherry, all spice and a nice slightly cedar spice tart finish.

Sadly for the Baron, it was too little too late.  Soos Creek takes the final round and the match 3-0.

Wrap up and overall observations.

This match was a study in two different styles.

The Washington Luchador featured plenty of spices, cocoa and lush dark fruit.  Characteristics that seem to be the calling card of many Horse Heaven Hills grapes.  The Champoux fruit definitely proves that this is one of Washington state's top notch vineyards.  Of course, you still need some skill to take quality ingredients and build them into a quality product.  Dave Larson's (the Soos Creek winemaker) skills show through in this fine Bordeaux style blend.

The Baron from Bordeaux was slow to get going.  Brooding and dark on day one.  Then beginning to lighten up a bit on day two.  This wine seems to support the belief that Old World wines need some time to rest in the cellar before enjoying.  This wine was good now, but I could see it being even better in the future.

I give the Soos Creek a solid 90 and the Lafite an 87.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Washington Rose v. Provence

This week the Tour de France route continued South and then took a right turn as the racers brushed by Provence and traced through the Rhone.  There has been plenty of action through le Alpes and then on to some "flatter" stages that still included some leg breaking climbs.  Bradley Wiggins is leading the Tour and his Team Sky domestiques have been controlling the race for the past week.  There are many conclusions after the first two weeks of racing and many believe that Wiggins will wear the Yellow Jersey onto the streets of the Champs-Elysees.

It is summer time and Provence is a region well known for Rose' wines.  The Lucha Vino challenge for this week features a Rose' Rumble.

2011 Tranche Cellars Pink Pape v. 2011 Aix en Provence Rose'

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Washington Riesling v. Alsace

This year the first leg of le Tour visited the Alsace wine region in North Eastern france.  This region primarily grows grapes that are also found in Germany and Switzerland due to the proximity.

The racers finish stage 7 on La Planche Des Belles Filles. A Mountain top finish that has never been visited by the tour in its 99 year history.  Team Sky dropped a serious bomb on this stage doing a fine imitation of an Atomic Drop.

To honor the tour boldly going where it has not gone before, the Luchavino challenge features a pair of Rieslings facing off in the ring.  The first time this grape variety has appeared in a match.

Washington Riesling has been garnering quite a bit of attention lately.  Let's see how it fairs against this Old World challenger from Alsace.

Nefarious 2011 Stone's Throw Vineyard Riesling v. Trimbach 2007 Riesling.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Washington Cabernet Franc v. Bordeaux

This Saturday was the Grand Depart for the Tour de France.  This year starts with the traditional prologue, a short intense individual time trial.  Many people call the time trial the "race of truth."  It is the rider versus the clock with nowhere to hide.  Your result is all on you, no help from your teammates, no hiding in the peleton out of the wind waiting to pounce at the last moment.  It is you, and only you, against the sands of time.

The racing begins in Belgium this year and does not land on French roads until Stage 3 on Tuesday.  The Lucha Vino challenge will feature a Cab Franc battle while we wait for the riders to hit France.  Cabernet Franc is a great compliment to the short, intense, all out effort that will be required to win the prologue in Liege.

2008 Hard Row to Hoe Burning Desire Cabernet Franc v. 2010 Ch. Le Pre de La Lande Grand Vin

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Red Mountain Tempranillo v. Ribera del Duero

This past weekend featured the National Championship races for the majority of the cycling world.  Naturally, the big three wine countries were all featured over the weekend - France, Italy and Spain.  This left me with a difficult choice, which country to visit this final weekend before the start of the Tour de France.

My choice landed me in Spain.  With the Spanish National Championship Road Race taking place in Salamanca located in Castilla y Leon I selected the King D.O. - Ribera del Duero to represent the challenger.

2010 8 Bells Tempranillo v. 2008 Finca Villacreces Ribera del Duero Pruno

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Red Mountain Rivalry

Have you ever witnessed an internal struggle for control of a team?  There have been many famous instances of in-fighting in the pro peloton.  Young Turk v. Old Veteran, American v. French etc. etc.

Two of the more famous battles in the Tour de France included the same protagonists: Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault.

In 1985 Hinault played some wicked tricks on Lemond in order to win le Tour. After winning, he promised to support Lemond's bid for victory in 1986.  That promise did not last long, but Hinault's lack of integrity did not pay off with a French victory.  In fact, it was Lemond that pulled through with the victory despite Hinault's efforts to win the Grand Boucle himself.

Another classic internal team battle raged in 2009 between Lance Armstrong and Alberto Cantador, both riding for Astana and both demanding to be the Astana team leader.

With just a little over two weeks to go until the start of the 2012 Tour de France the Lucha Vino challenge reflects on internal rivalries featuring a Battle Royale between two Laurelhurst Cabernet Sauvignons from Red Mountain.

2008 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon v. 2008 Klipsun Cabernet Sauvignon  Both from Laurelhurst Cellars.

These wines are made from grapes grown on Red Mountain.  The only thing that separates the two vineyards is a dirt road.  These two Luchadors are ready to throw down in a battle to see who will own the road and claim the family's Red Mountain supremacy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Washington Syrah v. Crozes Hermitage

The start of the Tour de France is just three weeks away.  The pros will be putting the finishing touches on their preparation for the "biggest bike race in the world" in one of two upcoming week long stage races.

The Criterium du Dauphine takes place this week in the Central/Eastern regions of France.  The racers will cover parts of the Rhone and Savoie regions.

The other option is the Tour de Suise which begins June 9th.

The Dauphine began with a short Prologue Time Trial covering just 5.7 km.  This is a short powerful effort with the racers on their limit for slightly less than 7 minutes.  Syrah is a great companion to this type of powerful effort.

This week's matchup features a Washington state Syrah battling with a Syrah from the Crozes Hermitage region in the Northern Rhone.

2007 Nota Bene Columbia Valley Syrah v. 2006 A. Ogier & Fils Crozes Hermitage Syrah

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Washington Barbera v. Piedmont

The Giro d'Italia finished up in Northern Italy last weekend passing through Piedmont or Piemonte, one of the most famous Italian wine regions.  The final three days of racing were extremely demanding with two huge mountain stages on Friday and Saturday followed by an Individual Time Trial on Sunday.  The General Classification was so close that the final result was in question until the completion of the Time Trial in Milan.

This Giro was a series of firsts including the first Grand Tour win by a Canadian - Ryder Hesjedal, first Grand Tour win for Garmin Baracuda and the first Giro d'Italia put on by new race director Michele Acquarone.

This week's Lucha Vino match features its own trifecta with an Old World Barbera grappling with two New World opponents.  One from Washington the other from Oregon.  Both featuring Washington grapes.

2008 IULI Rossore Barbera v. 2007 Hard Row to Hoe Shameless Hussy Barbera And 2009 Cana's Feast Barbera

Friday, May 25, 2012

Walla Walla Cab v. Napa

This week I take a break from following the Giro and chase the pro peleton through California.

The Tour of California is an 8 stage race that starts in Northern California and traces a route South ending in Los Angeles.  This race is a new comer to the pro race scene and after 3 years of racing in February moved to May to take on one of the three Grand Tours - the Giro d' Italia.  How much tradition is this California upstart taking on?  2012 marks the 95th edition of this race through Italy while 2012 marks the 7th edition of the Tour of California.

When you want to put on a show you go BIG.  The final stage of most of the big stage races, like the Tour de France, is really just a ceremony.  A spectacle celebrating the glory of the race and place, oh and don't forget the bike racers...

Where do you go for this type of spectacle in California?  Hollywood? Beverly Hills? Los Angeles?  How about all three?!  Yes, the Tour of California ended with a race that visited all three of these California hot spots.  The stage started in Beverly Hills, passed through Hollywood and then ended on the streets of Los Angeles.  The winner of the tour had already been decided the day before on the final mountain stage.  So that left this stage for the sprinters to go for glory one final time.  And Peter Sagan from Liquigas-Cannondale flexed his muscles again,  winning his 5th stage of the ToC.  I think that was a record.

If you are going to go big with California wine you can go a variety of places.  Napa, Sonoma County, the Central Coast ...  For this week's matchup we go to Napa the AVA some people consider to be the King of US Appelations.  And while we are at it we will select a Cabernet Sauvignon, the grape many consider to be the King of grapes.

This week's matchup features a new comer from Walla Walla Washington taking on the old timer from California.

2007 Skylite Cellars v. 2007 Beringer Private Reserve

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Washington Sangiovese v. Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Once the Giro d' Italia hit Italy the racing got more interesting.  For me, one of the most exciting things is seeing North American riders spending more days in the Maglia Rosa than any other continent.  First Taylor Phinney of the USA and then Ryder Hesjedal from Canada have spent multiple days in the race leader's pink jersey.  Hesjedal is the first Canadian to ever wear the leader's jersey in the Giro and is a prime contender to win the overall when the race finishes up in Milan in another two weeks.

The route has been heading South along the Eastern edge of Italy.  The riders have raced through Emilia Romagna, Marches, Abruzzo and Molise wine regions.

This week the Lucha Vino challenge features a Montpulciano d'Abruzzo battling with a Washington State Sangiovese.  Celebrating Ryder Hesjedal, the first Canadian to wear the Maglia Rosa, this week's matchup is the first to pit two different grape varieties against one another.

2004 Kiona Reserve Sangiovese v. 2008 Nicodemi Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oregon Amarone v. Amarone della Valpolicella

The Giro d'Italia started this weekend in Denmark.  The racers hit Italian soil in Verona on Wednesday May 9th for a Team Time Trial.  The Team Time Trial is a relatively unique event that does not occur in very many races.  The Giro d'Italia is one stage race that seems to offer up this unique race on a consistent basis.

Just like the Team Time Trial, Amarone is a unique style of wine that you do not find in very many places.  Verona, in the Veneto region, is one place that has focused on making this intense style of red wine.

This week the Lucha Vino challenge features an Italian original facing off against an Oregon new comer made from Columbia Valley grapes.

2008 Tre Nova Seccopassa v. 2007 Musella Amarone della Valpolicella

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Walla Walla Cross Town Throw Down

The Giro d'Italia is less than a week away and there is excitement in the air. Why? There are many reasons that the Giro stirs such emotion...
  • It is the first of the three grand tours (the others being the Tour de France and Vuelta Espana).
  • The start of the race coincides with what most Northern Hemisphere countries consider to be their Spring season.
  • The pace of the race is moderated by the Italian "Capos" which means that in the old days there were casual stops along the way for food and sustanance.
  • The Italian landscape is spectacular and you get to see a lot of it! Mountains, coastal areas and metropolitan centers.
  • The race has a certain style and flair to it that seems to be unique to Italy.
  • Every Italian bike racer dreams of winning their home tour.
Just like Italy is a hotbed for cycling, Walla Walla is a hotbed for Washington wine.  This unlikely giant, located in the far South East corner of Washington State, has generated a huge following and reputation for the Washington wine industry. You cannot talk about Washington wine without mentioning Walla Walla.

This week's matchup features two Walla Walla heavyweights in a cross town throw down. There are bragging rights on the line. Like the Italian bike racers, these Luchadors are high strung and highly motivated.  There are rumors of dirty dealing, rule bending and other underhanded behavior and that is before the match has even begun!

Like Mario Cipollini, who used to pull the race guide from his pocket and point out where the peloton was allowed to "race" over the day's route, these Luchadors may stoop to trickery to win this bout...

2006 Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon v. 2006 Beresan Cabernet Sauvignon

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Washington Pinot v. Trentino

This past week featured the Giro del Trentino, a final tune up and recon mission for those pros racing the Giro d' Italia in May.  The Giro del Trentino takes place in Northern Italy and covers some wicked mountain passes.  The Giro d' Italia will visit some of the same terrain in the final week of the racing.

This past week gave the pros an opportunity to test their legs and see how their competition is stacking up for the first grand tour of the year.  It also gave me an opportunity to prepare for the Giro and explore some Pinot Nero from Trentino.

This week's Luchavino matchup features a Pinot Noir from Vashon Island Washington taking on a Pinot Nero challenger from Trentino Italy.

2009 Vashon Island Pinot Noir v. 2008 Maso Poli Pinot Nero

Tale of the Tape

2009 Vashon Island Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir from Monument Farm Vineyard on Vashon Island.

Purchased at Esquin for $27.99

Here is a great story about the vineyard and their first harvest (2009).

2008 Maso Poli Trentino Pinot Nero

100% Pinot Nero aged for 12 months in small oak barrels.

Purchased at Esquin for $24.99

Round 1. First Opening

Vashon Island is light on its feet, bounding into the ring displaying some old school Pinot kung fu style.  The nose is lively with strawberries, rhubarb and notes of slightly smoky earth.  The palate is showing sweet strawberry and light notes of saltiness with a nice tart cherry finish.

Maso Poli has some serious Italian swagger with a nose of dark salted cherries, smoke and dusty earth.  The palate is a bit lighter with notes of cherry, raspberry and tart Asian spices that transition on to a nice tart lightly spicy finish.

These Luchadors are showing different styles right off the bat.  The Vashon Island is showing some legit medium bodied and slightly spicy Pinot style while the Maso Poli is definitely showcasing some bold Italian style.

This round was close, but the Trentino took the round based on it bold swagger.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Vashon is building some complexity with sweet smoky strawberry and some salty seaweed on the nose.  The palate is full of raspberry, strawberry with some smoky saltiness that leads on to a tart lightly peppery finish.

The Maso Poli is smoothing out a bit with a nose featuring raspberry and light creamy salted hazelnut.  The palate is ripening up a bit with raspberry and tart rhubarb with a tart cedar cherry bark finish.

This round goes to Vashon as a result of the depth and complexity of its kung fu.

Round 3. One day after Opening

This match is is all tied up going into the final round and neither one of the Lucahdors is showing any signs of slowing down.

Vashon Island is changing things up again with a nose of cedar, brambles and dusty dried red berries.  The palate is also showing dried red berries with spicy menthol clove spices and a tart sweet eucalyptus finish. 

The Maso Poli isn't falling for the shift in style or any diversionary ninja tactics.  The nose is smoky funky red fruit and cracked pepper.  The palate is creamy red berries with a tart light peppery finish that includes some notes of hazelnut.

This round is really tough to call.  Once again we are going to have to go to the judges cards as the ref can't make a determination on his own.  After consulting with the judges the round goes to Vashon Island based on uniqueness of character and style.

Wrap up and over all observations

This was a great match.  Both Luchadors were strong from start to finish showing off the character of their respective regions.  I was really impressed with the Pinot grown right here on Vashon Island - who would have thunk it!

I give both of these Pinots a solid 88.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Washington Tempranillo vs. Ribera del Duero

This week features the Vuelta Castilla y Leon.  A world tour stage race in Central Spain, just to the North of Madrid.  This race is a welcome return to a (hopefully) warmer climate and stage racing for the pro cyclists that don't crave the wicked challenge of cold weather, cobblestones and long one day races.

The route for this race rolls through the Ribera del Duero region of Spain.  This week Tempranillo makes a return to the Lucha Vino challenge with a bio-dynamic Spanish challenger stepping into the ring to take on a Washington Tempranillo from the Yakima Valley.

2009 Airfield Estates Tempranillo v. 2009 Vina Sastre Tinto 

Tale of the Tape

2009 Airfield Estates Tempranillo

96% Tempranillo and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Airfield Estates Runway Vineyard in the Yakima Valley

Aged for 11 months in 25% - 35% new oak barrels: 60% French 30% American and 10% Eastern European

Purchased at Esquin for $19.99

2009 Vina Sastre Tinto

100% Tempranillo from biodynamic and organically grown estate fruit.

Aged for 7 months in 2 year old American oak barrels.

Purchased at Esquin for $19.99

Tech Sheet

Round 1. First Opening

Airfield has some sassy swagger with a nose of black berry, clove and spicy sweet pepper.  The palate also has some character of black berries with a sweet tart cracked pepper finish.

Vina Sastre is flexing some biodynamic muscle and showing some respect for Ric "Nature Boy" Flair with a nose of earth, smoke and dark fruit.  The palate is equally dark with black fruit and tart pepper that leads into similar peppery finish.

This match is getting off to an interesting start with both Luchadors showing contrasting styles.  The Vina Sastre takes the points with a display of natural power.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The Airfield is stepping up and bulking up with a nose of dark fruit, pepper and smoke.  The palate is full of dark fruit, plum, pepper and smoke that lingers on to a sweet smoky white pepper finish.

Vina Sastre, the Nature Boy, is sticking to what it does best with a nose featuring dark fruit, smoke and earth.  The palate is dark fruit, tart cracked pepper and a spicy finish.

Airfield is closing the gap, trying to go toe to toe with the Vina Sastre.  At this point the Spanish Luchador from Ribera del Duero is still in charge and takes round 2.

Round 3. One day after Opening

The Airfield has plenty of stamina and is building power into the third round.  The nose is showing black cherry, plum, balck pepper and some light spices.  The palate is similar with black cherry and spicy pepper that lingers on to a tart spicy finish.

Vina Sastre is steady, methodical, tracking down the opponent and showing no signs of weakeness.  The nose continues to build with smoke, black currant, earth and light notes of pepper.  The palate is black fruit with some notes of menthol that leads to a spicy tart pepper finish.

Round 3 is the closest of the match.  The score goes to the judges cards and the result favors Airfield by a thin margin based on its ability to build strength over the entire match. 

Wrap up and over all observations

The final score of this match was 2 to 1 in favor of the Vina Sastre.  Both of these Tempranillos demonstrated some nice style.  That match was relatively even except for the first round.  The Airfield definitely benefited from more time and exposure to air.

I would rate the Airfield an 86 and the Vina Sastre and 87.  Both of these wines are ready to drink right now.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Washington State BDX Style v. France

This past weekend featured the Paris-Roubaix one day race - the bookend on the ultimate week of spring classic racing.  It is tough to find grapes (or anything else) growing in this bleak North Western corner of France.  This part of the country was essentially destroyed in WW I & II by bombing attacks.  There is more than one reason Paris-Roubaix is known as The Hell of the North.  The region is making a comeback, but slowly like a blown out racer trying his best to avoid getting swept up by the broom wagon.

Tom Boonen continued his hot streak by winning Paris-Roubaix after winning Flanders the previous weekend.  If you like symmetry then you have go to love Boonen.  This is the second time he has won these two Spring Classics in the same year.

Since this race begins in Paris, the city of lights, you can lay your hands on virtually any kind of wine or food you want.  The city will not be denied its guilty pleasures.  The Lucha Vino challenge features a French Bordeaux blend from the Right Bank (Merlot dominant) facing off against a Washington state Bordeaux style blend.  Can this young upstart from Washington take down one of the elders of the red wine world?

2009 Desert Wind Ruah from Washington vs. 2008 Chateau Guibeau from the Right Bank

Let's get it on!!

Tale of the Tape

Desert Wind Ruah 2009 50 % Merlot, 34 % Cabernet Sauvignon,
13 % Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, 1% Barbera sourced from the Desert Wind Estate Vineyard on Red Mountain.

Aged in American oak for 12 months

2008 Chateau Guibeau Puisseguin Saint-Emilion
Merlot 75% Cab Sauv 15% Cab Franc 10%

Aged for 12 months in 30% new French oak barrels.

Purchased from Garagiste for $13.99.

Round 1. First Opening

Desert Wind blows into the ring like a dry desert, uh, wind.  This luchador is dry and not quite ready for prime time.  The nose has raspberry and some dusty dark cherry.  The palate is tart pie cherries with a tart cherry bark finish.

Chateau Guibeau appears to be equally reluctant to mix it up.  The nose has some nice cherry cinnamon and spice notes.  The palate shows light cherries and cedar spices that linger on to a tart cedar cherry finish.

Neither one of these Luchadors was ready to step into the ring.  This was close on the judges cards, but the Guibeau was seen as the aggressor so took round 1.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The crowd is anxious to see if these combatants have warmed up and are ready to grapple.

Desert Wind is showing a nose of dark currant, cherry and slightly earthy clove and cinnamon spice.  The palate is dark cherry and cedar spices that linger on to a tart spiced finish.

The Guibeau is still slumbering with a nose of cedar tart cherry stems and a palate of tart pie cherries and a tart dry finish.

The Desert Wind has loosened up while the Guibeau seems to have lost interest.  Desert Wind takes round 2 with little opposition from the French Challenger.

Round 3. One day after Opening

The match is all tied up at one round apiece.  The winner is going to be the Luchador that steps up and takes command of this final round.

Desert Wind steps into the ring with authority and the crowd roars.  The nose is showing dark cherry, cracked pepper and dusty leather.  The palate is equally robust with dark cherry, dusty tart cedar spices and a spicy cracked pepper finish.

The Guibeau is getting low attempting to find its power, but not having much success.  The nose shows cherries and melon with some herbal spices.  The palate is cherries and tart Asian spices that lead to a dry finish.

The Washington Luchador took some time to get going, but in the end found the confidence and motivation to take control and win the match in the final round.

Wrap up and over all observations

Merlot dominated the blend for both of these Luchadors so I was very surprised at how tightly wound they were.  Both of these Luchadors could benefit from a few more years of training (or laying low in the cellar).

I would rate both of these wines as an 85 with the potential to bulk up in the next 3 - 5 years.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cross State Cabernet Rivals

If you are a fan of the Classics this weekend begins the best 7 days of your life.  First up is the Tour of Flanders, also known as the Ronde van Vlaanderen or just The Ronde.  Six days later you get Paris-Roubaix or The Hell of the North.  These are two epic one day races.  Many of the most famous racers in history have etched their names on the winner's trophy.  Likewise, many of the best racers have spent their whole careers chasing the dream of winning Paris Roubaix (see Hincapie, George close in 2001 and 2005, 2006 etc, etc, etc...).

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the classic grapes and is world renowned as one of the King Grapes.  This week's Lucha Vino matchup  honors the Classic One Day races, Cabernet Sauvignon the classic grape and Washington Wine Month.

East vs. West an Intrastate Rivalry

Gramercy Cellars 2008 Lower East Side represents Walla Walla from the furthest South East corner of Washington State.

Alta Cellars 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon based in Woodinville represents the West Side.

Tale of the Tape

Gramercy Cellars 2008 Lower East Side Cabernet Sauvignon

Aged in 80% used and 20% new Oak Barrels 

Purchased from Full Pull Wines for $29.99.

80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot from the Portteus, Flying B and Gramercy estate vineyard

Alta Cellars 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

96% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Sagemoor, Weinbau and DionysusVineyards
and 4% Petit Verdot from the Meek Vineyard

Aged for 23 months in 80% new French oak barrels.

Purchased at the Alta Cellars tasting room for $25.00

Round 1. First Opening

The Gramercy Cellars comes out swinging all elbows and knees taking no prisoners.  The nose is featuring dark currant, tar, smokey brambles and cracked pepper.  The palate is dark currant, cedar and cracked pepper that lingers on to the finish with some hints of coffee.

The Alta Cellars is showing some wicked speed and agility with a nose of currant, raspberry, earth and underbrush notes.  The palate is dark cherry and cloves with a tart Asian spice finish.

These Luchadors are featuring very different styles.  The Gramercy Lower East is packing major power while Alta Cellars is spry, quick and light on its feet.

Round 1 goes to Gramercy based on some punishing body blows.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Gramercy continues to intimidate with an icy stare and a nose of dark currant, soy and sweet peppers.  The palate is big and bold with dark currants, cracked pepper and sweet Asian spices on the finish that is also slightly nutty.

Alta Cellars counters with an attack featuring some spinning leg sweeps and fists of fury.  The nose is clean and crisp with dark cherries, all spice and slight metallic and mineral notes.  The palate shows dark cherries and cloves that linger on to a finish that features tart cedar, pepper and clove spices.

This round was close and tough to judge.  Again, the styles are dramatically different with both Luchadors scoring points and causing damage.  In the end the judges gave a slight edge to Gramercy Cellars.

Round 3. One day after Opening

This has been a close match and it is do or die for Alta Cellars.  If Alta is going to win it will take a knockout of the East Side Rival.

Gramercy Cellars seems to be losing some steam, not uncommon with big bruisers that tend to lack the stamina to go long and strong.  The nose is showing green pepper, currant and asphalt with some floral notes.  The palate is somewhat one dimensional with dark smoky currants ending with a slightly tart finish.

Alta Cellars is floating like a butterfly and hoping to sting like a bee.  Launching from the top rope and dropping an atomic elbow on the slow moving East Sider.  The nose is showing dark cherries and Asian spice with some menthol.  The palate is lively with dark cherries, clove and menthol ending with a tart spiced finish.

Alta Cellars rallied to easily take round 3, but did not record the knock out it needed to take overall victory.

In the end the final score was Gramercy Cellars Lower East 2 and Alta Cellars 1.  If this match had gone another round I suspect that Alta Cellars would have scored a knockout. 

Wrap up and over all observations

It was interesting to go for an in state match up with two Cabernets made on both sides of Washington state.  While the wineries hale from different sides of the Cascade mountains the grapes are all from the East side of the state.

The styles of these Luchadors was a study in contrast.  Gramercy Cellars was living large with bold characters on the nose and palate.  As a counter point, the Alta Cellars was lively and sprite yet still packing a powerful punch.

Both wines were excellent and I would give them each a solid 88

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Washington Tempranillo v. Catalunya

This past week featured the Volta a Catalunya a 7 stage race in North East Spain.  This time of year the pros are searching for races outside of Belgium so they can race in decent weather.  Unfortunately for the racers this year the weather in Catalunya did not cooperate.  The third stage was set to finish at a ski station in Port Aine'.  The only problem was that the weather was more suited to skiing than bike racing.  The finish line was covered in snow so the stage was shortened and results were not counted toward the General Classification.

Similar to the pro racers, the Lucha Vino matchup encountered some unexpected twists.

First, locating a Tempranillo from Catalunya turned out to be more difficult than the promoters anticipated.

Second, the Tempranillo challenger from Catalunya showed up with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon as backups!

Third, after a judges ruling allowed the Tempranillo blend into the ring it went rogue!  The Luchador turned out to have gone bad.  Major disappointment.  The previous bottles from my cellar had been pretty enjoyable.  Discovering that the third bottle had gone bad was a letdown.

Scrambling for a replacement Luchador, the promoters were able to find a Tempranillo from the Penedes DO in Catalunya.

2009 Castillo de Feliciana Tempranillo vs. 2005 Castell del Remei Gotim Bru 2007 Torres Coronas Tempranillo

Tale of the Tape

2009 Castillo de Feliciana Tempranillo

75% Tempranillo from the Rosebud Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope AVA
15% Merlot from Cockburn Vineyard
5% Malbec from Cockburn Vineyard
5% Cabernet Sauvignon from Blue Mountain Vineyard

Aged in 70% Neutral and 30% New Oak Barrels

Purchased for $28.00 at the Poverty Bay Wine Festival.

The original challenger

2005 Castell del Remei Gotim Bru

65% Tempranillo, 20% Merlot & 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Aged 10 months in American and French oak.

This Luchador went rogue, whereabouts unknown....

The Replacement
2007 Torres Coronas Tempranillo

86% Tempranillo and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Penedes DO in Catalunya.

Aged for 9 months in French Oak Barrels

Purchased for $11.99 at The Spanish Table


Round 1.  First Opening

The Feliciana Tempranillo is not phased by all the turmoil surrounding the Luchadors from Catalunya.  In fact, she is dancing into the ring like she is ready to do a tap dance of death on her opponent.  The nose is showing dark red cherries, smoke, leather and cedar cigar humidor character.  The palate is dark cherries with some earthy cocoa  and tart sweetness that leads to a dry light pepper finish.

Torres Coronas, our replacement Luchador, comes from a family that boasts over 100 years of experience in the ring!  Let's see how that experience stacks up.  The nose is dark fruit, currant, smoked meats, coffee and chocolate.  The palate is dark fruit some smoke, pepper spice and coffee bean with a tart slightly sweet and nutty finish.

The first round is a close call, but the Feliciana barely edges the Torres on the judges score cards.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Everybody is wondering where this replacement Luchador came from.  It put up a very impressive showing in the first round of our match.

The Feliciana is taking notice and building a strong defense with a nose of dark red fruit, smoke and dusty pepper.  The palate shows dark fruit, smoke, leather and a dry finish featuring some coffee bean and cocoa sneaking in at the end.

The Torres continues to draw on the family pedigree with a nose of dark fruit, currants, smoke and light white pepper.  The palate is dark currants, smoke, pepper and a coffee bean tinged tart finish.

Another close round with the Feliciana barely squeaking by on points again.

Round 3. One day after Opening

The only hope for the Spanish challenger is a knock out.  The other choice is to mount a solid effort and score some points to avoid a total sweep by the Washington Tempranillo.

The Feliciana has developed an interesting style for the final round.  The nose is showing peppermint patty mint chocolate and red fruits with a palate of currant and menthol with a tart spiced finish.

The Torres is building power and looking for the knockout blow.  This Luchador is bigger and badder in round three than the preceding rounds.  The nose is dark currant, coffee and smoky cracked pepper.  The palate is dark cherry and tart cedar Asian spice with a tart dry finish that resolves to cherry and raspberry.

The Torres didn't score a knock out, but it did score enough points to take the final round earning the respect of Feliciana and the judges.

The final score of this match was Feliciana 2 and Torres 1.  The Torres proved to be a valiant warrior.  Thrown in to the ring at the last moment, this Luchador did more than hold its own!

Wrap up and over all observations

This was an interesting match that had plenty of drama before either Luchador even entered the ring.  Both of these wines are classified as Tempranillo even though they contain a healthy amount of other verietals to boost their power.

Both Luchadors proved their ability to boost their power like a street racer hitting the nitrous.   The big difference was staying power.  Both of these Luchadors hit the nitrous and then kept on delivering the goods for days following the match.  I would recommend both of these Wine Fighters with one caveat - if you walk into a dark alley, make sure you have them by your side and not in your face!

I give the Feliciana an 88 and the Torres an 87.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Singles Going Steady

1 Wine Dude has the Wine Blogging Wednesday #75 going on tonight.  The theme is single vineyard wines.  I'm taking inspiration from the Buzzcocks with a Singles Going Steady theme.  Not only am I selecting something from a single vineyard, it is also a single varietal from the Lake Chelan AVA.

So, in honor of The Buzz Cocks one of the most pop sounding punk rock bands ever...  Here is an ode to Lake Chelan set to the Buzzcock tune Orgasm Addict that fires off something like:

Well you tried it just for once and found it all right for kicks
But now you found out its a habit that sticks
And you're a "Lake Chelan Addict" a "Lake Chelan Addict" (you get the idea)

My single vineyard, single varietal, selection for WBW75 is the T'Sillan Cellars 2008 Lakeside Reserve Estate Syrah

I seem to have spent most of my time singing the praises of wines from the North side of Lake Chelan.  That changes tonight as I highlight the T'Sillan Cellars 2008 Estate Reserve Syrah that features grapes from their very own Lakeside Vineyard on the South side of Lake Chelan.

This wine starts out with a nose of dark fruit, smoked meats, pepper and light dusty and earthy spiced tannins.  The palate is showing dark creamy currants, black cherry and a cracked pepper spicy sweet finish.

After an hour of air the wine makes a surprise attack.  All the characteristics have mellowed out, with positive impact on the overall character of this wine.  The nose is smoother and lighter with dark fruit, all spice and some light pepper.  The palate is dark fruit, black cherry with some clove spices, salt-n-pepper all leading up to a slightly tart finish that includes some notes of semi-sweet chocolate.

If you are ever in Lake Chelan you should make time to stop in at the T'Sillan Cellars winery.  This is by far one of the fanciest joints you will encounter.  The place is designed like an Italian villa and has fabulous views of Lake Chelan.  Sitting on the lawn enjoying a nice full bodied red wine like the 08 Lakeside Reserve Syrah will lead you to becoming a Lake Chelan Addict too.  Don't say I didn't warn you!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Washington Nebbiolo vs. Piemonte

This week features a return to Italy with a major splash.  The Milan San-Remo one day classic is the longest professional bike race on the calendar.  In fact, it is so long that the UCI had to grant it special permission to exceed the maximum allowable distance for a world tour race.

I've said it before, and I will say it again, you cannot beat Italian style.  They like things big and expressive.  If you had any doubt all you need to do is check out the details on the Milan San-Remo classic.  Then check out this video to see the wild finish of this year's race.  You can also check out some big, bold and expressive Italian wines.  And that is what I am about to do.

This week's Lucha Vino challenge features a Washington Nebbiolo taking on the original from Piemonte.

2005 Cavatappi Maddelena Nebbiolo vs. 2008 Eugenio Bocchino Roccabella

Tale of the Tape

2005 Cavatappi Maddelena Nebbiolo

Little is known about this Luchador and it appears that he prefers to be shrouded in mystery.  100% Nebbiolo from the Red Willow Vineyard.  All other details are left to your imagination.

There are some details here on the 2005 from a Full Pull wines offering.

Purchased at Esquin for $23.99

2008 Eugenio Bocchino Roccabella

100% Nebbiolo from Langhe area of Piemonte.  Aged for 12 months in barrel.

Provided by Vinum wines.  This Nebbiolo is available for $20-ish at retail.

The Eugenio Bocchino lineup is part of the Indie Wineries team. 


Round 1.  First Opening

The Cavatappi seems to be a bit intimidated by the Italian challenger.  The nose shows cherries, cedar and stony spices.  The palate is super sour tart cranberry with an equally tart finish.  This Luchador may need some more seasoning.

The Roccabella is rocking it right from the gun.  The nose is showing currant, dark cherry, underbrush and light herbal light spices.  The palate is also showing dark cherry and Asian cedar spices with tart dry spicy finish.

The Roccabella is indeed rocking.  The name reminds me of the first Judas Priest album: Rocka-Rolla.  This tough Luchador is definitely showing the strength worthy of leather and studs.  Roccabella easily takes round one.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The officials are having trouble coaxing the Cavatappi out of its corner for round two.  The nose is still very tart with notes of cranberry and citrus grapefruit spice.  The palate is also showing cranberry and a bit of toastiness with a tart cedar finish.

No sooner than the Cavatappi left the corner than the Roccabella delivered maximum pain with a flying body slam off the top rope.  The nose is showing musty mineral, funky dark cherry fruit with a bit of savory vinegar soy and light pepper spice.  The palate shows dark cherry, clove and a tart cedar dry finish.

The Cavatappi is reeling, staggering around the ring looking dazed and confused.  Chalk up another round for the Roccabella.

Round 3. One day after Opening

Based on the first two runds things are not looking good for the Cavatappi.  Can this Washington State Luchador rise to the challenge and knock the Italian Nebbiolo out cold?

It took some time, but the Cavatappi has arrived.  The nose has bulked up with cranberry and tart soy.  The palate is showing cranberry and tart cedar pepper with a sweet spicy finish.

The Roccabella is still rocking but has lost a decibel or two.  Swaggering in to the ring for the final round the nose is dark cherry, pepper spices and light savory notes.  The palate is showing dark cherry with tart clove spices and a very dry finish.

This round was the closest of all.  The Cavatappi took this round by the slimmest of margins.

The match ended with the Roccabella winning 2 rounds to 1.

Wrap up and over all observations

The Cavatappi had 6 years of barrel and bottle age on it.  Even with this much aging the Luchador showed skills and style that reminded me of a rookie rather than a veteran.

The Rocabella was much younger, but put up a fight like a true veteran.  Strutting around the ring like Rob Halford in leather and studs this Italian Luchador put a sound whipping on the Luchador from Washington. 

The Roccabella delivered the goods in this Nebbiolo knock out!

I give the Eugenio Bocchino Roccabella an 88 and the Cavatappi an 86.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Washington Cab Franc v. Loire Valley

Paris-Nice is an early season stage races that tests Tour de France contenders.  This race is also known as the Race to the Sun since it starts in Paris and traces a route South East to Nice, finishing on the Mediterranean Sea.  At this time of year the weather is usually cold during the early stages of the race and the riders are eager to finish in Nice where they can anticipate nicer conditions. 

The second and third stages of the race passed through the Eastern reaches of the Loire Valley.  That is enough of a reason for Lucha Vino to feature a clash of Cabernet Francs.  This week features a Bartholomew Cabernet Franc v. a Cab Franc from The Loire.

2008 Bartholomew Cabernet Franc v. 2010 La Grange aux Belles Anjou 

Tale of the Tape

2008 Bartholomew Cabernet Franc

100% Cabernet Franc sourced from the Coyote Canyon vineyard located in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.

Production was two barrels - one second use and one neutral.

Purchased from the winery for $28.

2010 La Grange aux Belles Anjou Rouge 53

This French challenger is a bit of a mystery.  Garagiste says it is 100% Cab Franc.  Some other clues suggest it is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  Regardless, this fresh upstart Luchador isn't giving away very many secrets.

One thing we know for sure, this Luchador is from the Loire Valley.

Purchased from Garagiste for $16.84.

Round 1.  First Opening

Bartholomew is stomping on would be contenders and stomping into the ring with a nose of dark fruit, coffee, herbs and dusty underbrush.  The palate is dark fruit, spicy clove and hints of cocoa that linger on to the finish.

La Grange aux Belles is reminiscent of a classic ZZ Top tune singing the praises of border town girls.  This Luchador is interesting, but not in the way that Bill Gibbons made those Texas girls sound.  The nose has character of creamy currants, mineral and woodsy dry underbrush.  The palate shows medium red notes of cranberry and woody brambles with a dry finish.

These Luchadors are showing very different styles facing off in the Lucha Vino ring of doom.  In the ring of doom you need to be big and burly and in this round the Bartholomew is living up to the billing.  Round one goes to Bartholomew, our Washington State Cab Franc luchador.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Bartholomew is gaining power boasting a nose of dark currant, black cherry, menthol and cocoa.  The palate is also up to the challenge with notes of black cherry, clove spices and cola with a cedar spiced finish that ends with semisweet chocolate.

La Grange is getting more eccentric with a nose of creamy vinegar, cranberry and brambles with a palate that is also showing cranberry along with notes of tobacco and a tart cedar finish.

Eccentricity can be enticing when you are visiting the border town ladies, but not when you are trying to deal pain in the wrestling ring.  Round two goes to Bartholomew.

Round 3. One day after Opening

About the only shot that La Grange has is to angle for a knock out.

Bartholomew has already shown some significant strength through the first two rounds.  Round three leaves no doubt.  The nose is showing currant, floral earthy notes along with some chalkiness.  The palate is also showing currant, black cherry and clove with cocoa that finishes with semi sweet chocolate.

La Grange has a nose of cranberry and earthy brambles.  The palate is also showing cranberry tartness and tobacco with a tart cedar dry finish that has the tobacco coming back again at the end.

Bartholomew continued building muscle mass through all three rounds while La Grange slid from interesting to eccentric to flat out crazy perhaps the result of too many head blows delivered by Bartholomew the Bruiser.

Bartholomew takes round three and the match 3 - 0.

Wrap up and over all observations

These were two very different styles of Cab Franc.  The Loire Valley Cat Franc was full of earthiness, herbal notes and underbrush.  These characteristics held on over the course of the entire bout.  I'm going to leave my other bottle in the cellar for a couple years to see if this crazy Luchador will stop bounding off the walls of its padded cell.

The Washington Cab Franc was big and bruising the herbal notes along with some brambly notes were present but subdued.  The dominant characteristic of dark fruit, clove spices and semi-sweet chocolate carried this luchador over the top inflicting serious damage like a flying body slam off the top rope.

I give the Bartholomew a solid 88 and La Grange an 85.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Washington Sangiovese vs. Chianti

You can't argue with Italian style and this past weekend the Strade Bianche proved that point.  Italy hosted one of the coolest and most stylish one day races of the year in Tuscany last weekend.  The Strade Bianche includes 8 stretches of white gravel and dirt roads making up 70 kilometres of the 190 total km in the race, hence the name.  Depending on the weather it can be a dust storm or a mud bath for the racers.

This Saturday's race was dry and challenging (like a one day classic should be).  There were many strategic moves made by Team Radio Shack with Fabian Cancellara making the final decisive move soloing to victory from 10k to go in the race.  Cancellara won this race in 2008 and destroyed the Belgian Spring Classics in 2010.  He is also a multi-time world champion in the Time Trial discipline, so it is no surprise when he tears the legs off the rest of the field like he did in this year's Strade Bianche.

This week's Lucha Vino Challenge features a Sangiovese from Washington taking on a Chianti Challenger from Tuscany.  Let's see if one of these Luchadors tears apart its opponent!

2008 Covington Cellars Sangiovese v. 2006 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico

Tale of the Tape

2008 Covington Cellars Sangiovese

100% Sangiovese with the majority from Seven Hills rounded out with fruit from Kiona and Kestrel Vineyards.

Aged in 20% new oak

Purchased at the winery for $25.00

2006 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico

100% Sangiovese barrel aged for 12 months

Purchased from Garagiste for $16.99

Round 1.  First Opening

The Covington Cellars Sangiovese makes an early introduction with a nose of pie cherry, toasty earth and spices.  The palate is showing tart pie cherry with a super tart finish that includes hints of cedar and spices.  This Washington Sangio seems to be mocking the Italian Challenger by imitating the Chianti's style.

The Castello di Bossi is not amused showing a nose of wet earth, mineral, leather and pie cherries.  The palate fires off with ripe tart red fruit and raspberry with a tart leather finish.

These Luchadors are pretty evenly matched with the Castello di Bossi taking the first round based on complexity in its character and that unmistakable Italian style.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Covington has changed styles like a boxer switching form righty to south paw.  Bulking up and getting burly the Covington Crusher is showing a nose of dark red berries, cedar spices and earthy leather.  The palate is full of dark rich fruit finishing with spicy tart cedar character.

The di Bossi has warmed up a bit with a nose featuring pie cherry and Asian spices.  The palate is primarily tart pie cherries with a very dry tart cedar finish.

Covington Cellars overpowered di Bossi leaving no doubt as to the winner of round two.  This round was so decisive there are shout outs in the arena calling for the "Covington Chianti Crusher."

Round 3. One day after Opening

Heading in to the final round the match is even at 1-1.  Who will rise to the occasion?

The Chianti Crusher is working to live up to its new name continuing to build power with a nose of earthy dark red fruit, leather, a bit of menthol and some shoe polish (in a good way).  The palate is dark currants, clove and eucalyptus spices that really reach out and grab you on the finish with some tart cocoa and espresso notes added for good measure.

The di Bossi is looking slightly dazed and certainly confused.  Staying true to its heritage the di Bossi remains consistent with a nose of dark red cherries and asian cedar spices.  The palate is juicy red cherries full of tartness that ends with a very dry finish.

Style will carry you only so far in the wrestling ring.  Sadly, the di Bossi has learned this lesson the hard way taking some serious punishment from the Covington Chianti Crusher.

Covington Cellars takes the final round winning the match 2 - 1.

Wrap up and over all observations

The young upstart from Washington showed little respect for the Italian challenger in this bout.  The real difference showed up in round two and three.  In round one both of these Luchadors showed very similar styles.  With time (and air) the Sangiovese from Washington developed into a bigger, richer and fuller wine. 

The Castello di Bossi did blossom, but not as dramatically as the Convington Cellars.  You could hear some muted cries from the di Bossi for some food assistance.  The character of the Chianti from Italy makes me think it would make a great partner for a big plate of pasta smothered in marinara sauce.

I give the Covington Cellars Sangiovese an 88 and the Castello di Bossi an 86.