Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Washington Grenache v. Sardinia

The Giro de Sardegna was supposed to take place this week.  Sadly, the promoters were not able to come up with the funding necessary to remain on the UCI calendar.  This is not the first time that this Italian stage race has been canceled.  The inaugural race was in 1958 running through 1983, followed by an 11 year hiatus, returning for two years before another prolonged vacation until 2009.  Now, once again this race that takes place on the island of Sardinia (Sardegna) is going on hold.

In memory of this race the Lucha Vino challenge will feature a Tenute Dettori Cannonau from Sardinia matched up with a Grenache from Novelty Hill.

Tale of the Tape

Novelty Hill 2008 Grenache

100% Grenache from Novelty Hill's estate Stillwater Creek Vineyard

Aged in 50% new and 50% one-year-old French oak barrels for 18 months.

Purchased from Bin 41 for $28.00

2006 Tenute Dettori Renosu Romangia IGT

100% Cannonau (aka Grenache) from estate vineyards.

Aged in cement vats.

The 2006 was not actually released by the winery.  The wine was sold exclusively through Garagiste since it did not live up to the standards of Alessandro Dettori.

Purchased from Garagiste for $18.90.

Round 1.  First Opening

The Novelty Hill Grenache comes out on fire with a nose of dusty red raspberry and light cracked pepper.  The palate is showing raspberry, creamy clove spices and a tart spicy finish.

The wild man from Sardinia has been released from his cage.  The audience was anticipating something like a Tasmanian Devil.  Instead, they got a cranky old hermit that doesn't have much interest in combat.  The Renosu is showing a nose of cherries,  sour mineral and earthy underbrush.  The palate is similar with notes of cherry and a tart cedar finish.

Novelty Hill easily out points the Italian challenger in round one.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The Novelty Hills Grenache is floating on air after gaining significant confidence in round 1.  The nose is showing dark berries and creamy cracked pepper with a palate of creamy dark berries and a slightly tart cracked pepper finish.

The Renosu is still struggling to find its way with a nose of sour cherry, minerals, earth and asphalt with a palate of sour cherry and a tart finish.

The Novelty Hills has a much more refined style than the Renosu.  Taking another round with relative ease.

Round 3. One day after Opening

The Novelty Hills is growing darker and bolder with a nose of creamy dark red berries and hints of all spice.  The palate is full of dark red berries and bolder spices that linger on to the finish.

The Renosu wild man of Sardinia is not taking to this structured life.  The nose is showing character of earth, brambles, underbrush, violets and red fruit.  The palate is still full of sour red berries with some light cedar spices and a tart cherry bark finish.

Novelty Hills takes round three with a flourish finishing off the Wild Man of Sardinia and easily dominating this match from start to finish.

Wrap up and over all observations

This match was not close from the start.  The promoters thought that recruiting an untamed spirit from Sardinia would make for a knock down drag out match.  Instead, they got a completely one sided match with Novelty Hill showing that a Luchador with formal training is really no match for an untamed spirit.

The Renosu never warmed up to the challenge.  I will leave this Luchador to mature in the cellar for another year and try again in 2013.  You never know, 13 could be a lucky number for this untamed spirit from the island of Sardinia.

I give the Novelty Hill an 88 and the Renosu a generous 85 in light of its rustic upbringing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Washington Port takes on Portugal

There were four different pro cycling races going on this week.  Southern France?  Been there.  Northern Italy?  Done that.  Oman?  Are you serious?!  I don' t think there is much wine making going on there.  The process of elimination, and curiousity, leads me to Portugal.

The Volta Ao Algarve took place last week in the most Southern region of Portugal.  The 5 stage race was won by Richie Porte.  If you can't have a local win the race, you might as well have somebody with an appropriate name take the honors! 

The Lucha Vino challenge features a Washington Port Style Wine taking on a Port from the homeland - Portugal.

2010 Wilridge Estate Red Dessert Wine v. Quinta De La Rosa Finest Reserve NV Port

Tale of the Tape

Wilridge 2010 Estate Red Dessert Wine

Made from Touriga Nacional (53%), Tinta Roriz (18%), Tinta Cao (18%) and Souzao (11%) grapes all sourced from the Wilridge Estate Vineyard.

Aged for six months in barrel and then bottled to complete the aging process like a traditional vintage Porto.

Purchased at Bottle House (375 ml) for $19.99.

Quinta de La Rosa Finest Reserve NV Port

Made from traditional port varieties, mainly Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz.  Percentages are not published, perhaps this is a closely guarded family secret as this Quinta has been making Port since the 1800s!

Purchased at Esquin (750 ml) for $19.99

Round 1.  First Opening

These Luchadors are both burly showing plenty of power and stamina.  The rounds for this bout are going to be adjusted to account for their strength.  Round two will be one day after opening and round three will be two days after opening.

The Wilridge is ready for action showing a nose of creamy dark cherries and a palate of dark cherry, chocolate and menthol that lingers on to the finish.

Quinta de la Rosa struts into the ring with a take no prisoners attitude.  The nose is full of dark cherries, currant, cocoa and coffee.  The palate is rich with currants, menthol, cocoa and light spices.

The first round is action packed with the Quinta de la Rosa taking the points with a bold attack.

Round 2.  One day after Opening

Wilridge is pumping up, building character, with a nose of cherries, chocolate and spices.  The palate has dark cherry, menthol, eucalyptus and chocolate with a nice dry spicy finish.

Quinta is going toe to toe with Wilridge.  The nose continue to build with dark currant, cocoa, honey, butter scotch and caramel notes.  The palate has similar character with a spicy honey tinged finish.

Score another round for the Portuguese Punisher.  The Quinta de la Rosa built complexity on top of power to blast out to a 2-0 lead.

Round 3. Two days after Opening

The Wilridge is smooth and powerful while the Quinta de la Rosa has shown more pure strength.  How is this final round going to play out.

Wilridge is changing like a chameleon trying to find a strategy that will defeat the muscular opponent from Portugal.  The Wilridge is showing a nose of currant, black cherry and cedar spices.  The palate is equally bold with dark cherry, vanilla, cocoa and eucalyptus with a smooth chocolatey finish.

The Quinta de la Rosa isn't backing down.  The nose is dark fruits, cedar bark and hazel nut.  The palate is black cherry, tart honey and hazel nut with and nutty finish.

This round was another close one with both Ports growing and building character over all three rounds.  In the end the Real Deal from Portugal was too much for our Washington Luchador.

Wrap up and over all observations

These Luchadors both showed big character.  The Wilridge showed lots of dark cherry and asian spiced character that built over the rounds to include some notes of vanilla and cocoa.  The Quinta de la Rosa was bigger and badder dealing out some serious punishment featuring black cherry, dark currants and some hazel nut with many layers of complexity.

This was a great introduction to Port for me.  I'm not sure how to score these Ports since I don't have any other experience to compare against.  I'll just say they both should score in the high 80s with the Quinta de la Rosa out pointing the Wilridge by one or two.

Want to learn more about Port?  Check out 1 Wine Dude's video dropping serious Port knowledge.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tempranillo Three Way

This week's racing in Spain and Southern France was interrupted by snow.  Yes.  Snow!  The big news of the week was the CAS ruling on Alberto Cantador's positive Clenbuterol test.  It took more than 500 days to come to the conclusion that Cantador was guilty of violating the WADA drug codes and should be suspended for 2 years.

The funny thing is Contador will actually only miss about 6 months of racing with his ban.  He was allowed to race during the first 18 months of the ban.  During that time he won the Giro d'talia and several other races.  Not any more.  All those results will be erased from the record books.  If you ask me, a two year ban should begin from the date of your last race, not when you were initially accused of violating the WADA code.

Regardless, there was big outrage from past Spanish cycling champions  coming to Cantador's defense.  With all the rage in Spain I thought it would be a good time to break out some Tempranillo.

This week we'll take an unusual twist on the Lucha Vino matchup with a three way battle for Tempranillo Supremacy.

Washington 2008 Kerloo Cellars Tempranillo v. Oregon 2007 Abacela Tempranillo v. Spain 2006 Dominio de Atauta Ribera del Duero

Tale of the Tape

2008 Kerloo Cellars Tempranillo

100% Tempranillo sourced from Stone Tree Vineyard block 17 (56%) on the Wahluke Slope and Les Collines Vineyard block 6 (44%) in the Walla Walla Valley.

Aged in 22% New Nadalie and 78% Neutral French Oak Barrels for  17 months

Purchased at Cellar 46 for $32.00

2007 Abacela Tempranillo

100% Tempranillo sourced from Abacela’s Estate Fault Line Vineyards.

Aged in French (95%), American (5%), 10% new, 45% 2-yr old Oak Barrels.

Purchased from for $26.99

2006 Dominio de Atauta Ribera del Duero

100% Tampranillo (Tinto Fino)

Aged in 100% new French Oak Barrels for 17 months.

Provided as a sample by Vinum Importing.  Thanks Gavin!

Available at retail for $30.00.

Round 1.  First Opening

Kerloo is first to step into the ring anticipating the entrance of the Abacela and Atauta.  Exuding nervous energy the nose is showing dusty dark logan berry, brambles and some light toasty notes.  The palate is dark rich currant and menthol that ends with a tart cherry bark finish.

The Spanish challenger swaggers into the arena showing a nose of smoky barnyard funk and toasty dark currant.  The palate also shows dark smoky currant with a dry tart cherry finish.

The promoters are out looking for the Oregonian.  It appears that Abacela may be protesting instead of fighting.  The nose is not showing much with only some dusty light smoke character making an appearance.  The palate is juicy cherries and a dry tart cedar finish.

This round came down to a battle between the Kerloo from Washington and the Dominio de Atauta.  The battle was close with the Kerloo taking the first round points by a narrow margin.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The Kerloo is gaining strength with a nose of dusty dark currants and some hints of cedar spices.  The palate shows dark currant, earth, clove and menthol spices that linger on to the finish.

The Atauta is stepping up to go toe to toe with Kerloo.  The nose is showing notes of leather, earth, dark fruit and some sandal wood spices.  The palate boasts dark cherries and a tart cedar spiced finish that is ultra dry.

The Abacela is still negotiating with the promoters.  The nose is still not showing much character and the palate is warming up  on the heavy bag with notes of medium dark berries, cranberry and a finish that continues to be super dry.

Another round with Kerloo and Atauta battling for the points.  Just like the first round, this one was close with Kerloo barely edging the Spanish challenger.

Round 3. Three Hours Later (Intermediate Bonus Round)

With three contenders the judges have decided to add an intermediate bonus round at the three hour mark.

The contracts are signed and the Abacela has entered the ring boasting a nose of dusty black cherries and smoke.  The palate is coming on strong with black cherry, menthol spices and a peppery tart finish.

The Kerloo scoffs at the mere suggestion that any contender may be ready to drop some show stopping moves.  The nose has developed black cherry, dusty leather and cinnamon spices with a palate that is equally bold.  The finish comes off the top rope with loads of spicyness.

Our Atauta Spanish contender showcases some complexity with a nose that is showing some peat notes along with big mineral infused dusty dark berries.  The palate is bold with dark mineral fruit and a super dry finish.

In round three the Abacela showed why it was worth the promoter's time to get the contracts in order and satisfy the Oregon Challenger's demands.

The Abacela brought the power and the Atauta brought some complex style, but Kerloo was ready for the challenge and dominated round three with an Atomic Drop off the top turnbuckle.

Round 4. One Day Later

All three Luchadors are still going strong.  With the Kerloo ahead on all the judges score cards it looks like Spain and Oregon may be forming a secret alliance.

The Atauta is showing some ring savy, changing styles and bringing the Kung Fu with a nose of dark fruit, brambles, cracked pepper and menthol spices.  The palate is also showing dark fruit  with light spices and a pepper tart finish that continues to be as dry as the bones of a retired Luchador.

The Abacela seems to be content with letting Atauta take the lead, but is still putting up a good fight when called on with a nose showing earthy darkness and notes of licorice.  The palate is loaded with dark fruits and some pepper that trails off into a tart cedar finish.

The Kerloo is momentarily stunned, but regains its composure.  Ultimately the two ganging up on Kerloo only seem to have caused the Washington Tempranillo to throw a Hulk sized temper-tantrum.  The nose has character of earth, dark berries and brambles with a palate featuring dark cherries and clove spices that move on to a spicy brambly finish. 

Wrap up and over all observations

This was an interesting match up.  The comparison of Tempranillo from Washington, Oregon and Spain showed plenty of similarities as well as differences in character and style.  Each of the Luchadors built strength over the course of the match.

In the end, the Kerloo from Washington demonstrated the boldest approach with consistency throughout the match. 

Then came the Atauta which seems like it could easily gain more power by chilling in the cellar for another couple of years. 

Getting a slow start, the Abacela did finally enter the mix in the later rounds but did not have enough to upset the pecking order that had already been established.  The Abacela handlers say that decanting is strongly recommended.  I'll say!  The character really began to shine after three hours of exposure.

I give the Kerloo an 89 and the Atauta and Abacela both an 88.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Washington Cabernet v. Italy

Last week was the first European road race of the year.  This week is the first Italian road race of the year - G.P. Costa degli Etruschi.  This race is so Italian the race's official website is only available in Italian.  The race starts in the South near San Vincenzo and heads North tracing a route along the Western coast through the Tuscan wine region toward Livorno for a big circuit before heading South for several small circuits that pass by Bolgheri.

Following the race route this week's challenger comes from Bolgheri featuring a Cabernet Sauvignon dominated Super Tuscan Luchador Greppicante Bolgheri Rosso up against a Walla Walla Stunner from Amavi Cellars.

2008 Amavi Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon v. 2008 Greppicante Bolgheri Rosso

Tale of the Tape

2008 Amavi Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 5% Syrah and 3% Cabernet Franc

Grape sources: 45% Seven Hills, 41% Pepper Bridge, 8% Les Collines, 6% Goff all in the Walla Walla AVA

Aged in 30% new oak barrels of 88% French, 6% Hungarian, 6% American

Purchased from Full Pull Wines for $24.99

2008 Greppicante Bolgheri Rosso

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from the Bolgheri DOC in Tuscany.  Said to be a Cabernet Sauvignon dominanat blend, but the percentages are a mystery.

Aged for 10 months in oak barrels with an additional 3 months of bottle aging.

Purchased from Garagiste for $17.81.

Round 1.  First Opening

The Amavi Cab floats into the ring with a nose of light red berries some floral notes and hints of Cheerios.  The palate shows medium red berries with similar notes of oats and some cheerio tartness on finish.

The Bolgheri Rosso wastes no time.  Bringing the noise from the opening bell with a nose of dark currant, dusty earth and Asian cedar spices.  The palate backs up the bravado with currant, herbal tartness and a spicy tart finish that trails off with some nice cherry bark notes.

Bolgheri brings the pain punishing the Amavi cab with a series of bruising body shots to take the first round.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

That first round was a wake up call and Amavi is answering the call of the alarm clock.  The nose has bulked up showing dark currant, black cherry and some smokey barnyard funk.  The palate is equally bold with dark currant and cola with dry tart cedar finish.

The Bolgheri is building more complexity into its attack with a nose of dark currants, leather, earth and menthol spices.  The palate also shows dark currants along with Asian spices that lead to a tingly tart pepper spiced finish.

This round was closer, but Bolgheri takes the points with an aggressive attack.  Amavi took some punishment but isn't backing down.

Round 3. One day later

Amavi is looking for an edge and an angle to land a knockout blow.  The nose is smokey and dark currants with some menthol and spices.  The palate is dark currant, cherry cola leading to a dry cherry bark finish.

Bolgheri is dropping bombs - look out below!  The nose has bold character of dark currant along with dusty, smokey cracked pepper.  The palate has notes of dark currant, black cherry cola and a tart finish.

The Amavi Cab showed big time character by not backing down from the onslaught of the brutish Bolgheri.  In the end, the Italian from Tuscany was too much to handle taking all three rounds of the match.

Wrap up and over all observations

These Luchadors were a close match in terms of make up even if the names indicated different weight classes with Washington Cabernet Sauvignon v. Italian Rosso.

The Washington Cabernet Sauvignon could just as easily have been called a Red Blend with Cab, Merlot, Syrah and Cab Franc coming together to create some fine character.

The Bolgheri Rosso was Cab, Merlot and Cab Franc.  These three grapes created a big and bad Luchador that dished out a massive amount of punishment.

I give the Bolhgeri an 88 and the Amavi an 87.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Washington Syrah v. France

The European road race season kicks off this weekend with the Grand Prix d'Ouverture la Marseillaise.  This is a one day race that takes place in the South of France making a big loop and finishing in the city of Marseille.  There is some superstition around this race that says if you win you will not win another race the rest of the season.  Samuel Dumoulin from the French team Cofidis won this year's edition.  Let's keep an eye on him and see if the hex holds true.

Moving from the Southern hemisphere to the South of France we have a matchup this week that pits a Syrah from the South of France against a Syrah from Walla Walla Washington (South East Washington).

2007 Tulpen Syrah v. 2007 Chateau Val Joanis Tradition Syrah

Tale of the Tape

2007 Tulpen Syrah

76% Syrah from Mill Creek and Dunham's estate Lewis Vineyard.  Cofermented with 4% Mill Creek Viognier and then blended with 10% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre.

Purchased from Full Pull Wines for $17.99

2007 ch Val Joanis Tradition Syrah

Majority Syrah with some Grenache.  Aged for 3 months in two year old barrels.

Purchased at Wine World for $12.99
Round 1.  First Opening

The Tulpen Tornado enters the ring with some serious fanfare.  The nose is showing dusty medium red berries and slight hints of cracked white pepper.  The palate is darker featuring dark red fruit, leather and spicy pepper that continues on to the finish turning slightly acidic at the very end.

Chateau Val Joanis is an old world veteran and it shows.  This Luchador appears to need some time to warm up showing a nose of mineral red fruit with some floral notes.  The palate is light to medium red berries with an extreme mouth drying finish.

Tulpen takes round one easily overpowering the French challenger.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Tulpen is gaining power spinning up like a tropical storm gone bad.  The nose shows deep dark fruit, blueberry, light Asian spices and some hints of barnyard funk.  The palate is equally bold with dark red buttery fruit that goes to spicy pepper on the back side of palate and then to a peppery vanilla/caramel tinged finish.

The Val Joanis is sneaky, lurking in the shadows and looking for a weakness to exploit knowing this is a match of guile vs. strength.  The nose shows dark fruit with notes of floral and slight hints of menthol.  The palate is showing medium red berries with dry cedar pepper notes.  The dry finish continues to dominate the essence of this Luchador.

Another round taken by Tulpen as the Washington State Luchador shows no respect for the old world challenger.

Round 3. One day later

Tulpen will take no prisoners demanding that you respect its authority with a nose of dark fruit, plum and soy with earthy mineral notes.  The palate is bruising with dark fruit, black pepper and a spicy tart menthol finish.

Val Joanis, come out to play!  The French Luchador continues to counter-attack, but is trying to step up its game for the final round.  The nose is dark fruit, soy and some dusty floral notes.  The palate is showing medium red fruit and light spices with a dry finish of tart cherry bark.

Down goes Val Joanis and the Tulpen Tornado celebrates with a spinning back kick.

Wrap up and over all observations

This match was dominated from the beginning by the Tulpen Tornado.  The French Luchador showed some old world character that ultimately translated into old world fragility in the ring.

The styles of these two Luchadors were distinctly different.  The Tulpen was big and bad, a powerful Syrah that reflects the strength of Walla Walla.  The Val Joanis was understated, looking for an edge, but unable to scale the mountainous Tulpen Syrah it confronted in the ring today.

I give the Tulpen an 88 and the Val Joanis an 86.