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