Saturday, May 23, 1998
Results from a red varietal tasting at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA. Billed as their "aisle 6 - anything but cabernet" tasting, 15 red wines were poured for a tasting fee of $12. Prices listed are Wine Exchange prices. Probably due to the holiday weekend, the usual tasting crowd must have been running late. So, for the first hour, I basically had a private showing of the wines. Alcohol percentages are offered where they may be of some value.
The wines, in the order tasted:
'92 Brandborg Charbono -Napa Valley $9.99. Garnet color. Nose of smoky, stemmy, anise, tar, and shoe polish. Crisp and semi-lean mouthfeel. Stemmy fruit, with hint of bitterness. Aroma score: B+; Taste score: B; Overall score: B.
'95 Swanson Sangiovese - Napa Valley. $16.99 Ruby garnet color. Sweet spicy black cherry and vanilla. Violets, lavender, sweet grass, clover. Nice sweet spices. Lush and smoky. Spicy cherry fruit, slightly hot mouthfeel, but jammed with fruit. Nice balance and long finish. Nearly flawless, except for the heat noted on the palate. 14.1% alcohol. Aroma score: A-; Taste score: A-; Overall score A-.
'94 Clos du Val Sangiovese, Tres Granzie - Napa Valley. $18.99. Bricky garnet color. Light extraction. Nose of smoky newsprint or matchstick, stems and pips, and mushroom and meat. Soft and slightly thin mouthfeel. Good balance. Soft fruit and tannins that melt away gradually to a long finish. 13.5% alcohol. Aroma score: B; Taste score: B+; Overall score: B.
'96 Forchini Zinfandel, Papa Nono - Napa Valley. $15.99. Ruby garnet color. Nose of blackberry, shoe polish, spices, tar, leather, celery root, and root beer. I'm sure this seems odd, but the nose all comes together quite well. Pomegranate, raspberry, cinnamon. Soft tannins, yet young mouthfeel. Full, rich, and spicy. Very nice sweet finish. Very tasty, if a bit hot on the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Aroma score: B+; Taste score A-; Overall score: B+.
'96 Nalle Zinfandel - Dry Creek. $17.99. Purple garnet color, with medium extraction. Absolutely stunning nose of blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, vanilla, and anise. This thing just jumps out of the glass. The flavors in the mouth just mirror the nose, with just a touch more vanilla. Young, but tannins are just overwhelmed by the fruit. This is a massive zin, without being the least bit ponderous. 13.5% alcohol. Aroma score: A; Taste score: A; Overall score: A.
'96 Rosenblum Zinfandel - Alexander Valley, Harris Kratka Vnyd. $18.99. Purple garnet color, with light extraction. Nose of blackberry, vanilla, shoe polish, cinnamon, nutmeg, stems. Huge, rich, mouthful of luscious fruit. Very chewy. Slightly sweet and thick feel and finish. Wow! Considering the extraction, this mouthfeel and taste is exceptional. . 14.6% alcohol. Aroma score: B+; Taste score: A-; Overall score: A-
'96 Peachy Canyon Zinfandel - Eastside, Paso Robles. $12.99. Ruby garnet color. Nose of Raspberry, spices, cinnamon, with hints of garden and floral qualities. Fruit seems a bit under-ripe or stemmy, but not overly so. Raspberry, spice, with a hint of tang and heat on the palate. Though nosing a bit green, this wine's spicy taste lies a bit on the cough medicine side of ripeness. Not for the faint of heart. 14.8% alcohol. Aroma score: B+; Taste score: B+; Overall score: B+.
'95 Tablas Hills, Cuvee Rouge - Paso Robles. $15.99. Ruby garnet purple color. Nose of blackberry, blueberry, ink, and shoe polish. Spicy, with a hint of leaf. Tight, but nice full mouthfeel. Sweet, even seeming soft, with no bitterness and a good blend of flavors. Smooth, very satisfactory long finish. Blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. This is Beaucastle's entry in the California Rhone sweepstakes. Last year's label, Adelaida Hills, was made from local fruit. But, this is presumably the first made with their own grapes. Aroma score: B; Taste score: B+; Overall score: B.
'95 Preston Syrah - Vnyd Select, Dry Creek Valley. $16.99. Dark garnet purple color. Nose of blackberry, boysenberry, and spice. Slightly bitter mouthfeel initially, but the flavors sweeten up nicely about mid-palate. Very spicy, and a bit stemmy and fleshy. 13.7% alcohol. Aroma score: B+; Taste score: B+; Overall score: B+.
'96 Ojai Syrah - California. $15.99. Nearly impenetrable purple color. Massive nose of blackberry jam and vanilla. It would be impossible for this nose to be any deeper. Mouth has a 10W-50W feel. Very chewy and thick. Not at all over bearing, the fruit has a soft sweetness to it, with a long fruity finish, and no trace of heat. 14.0% alcohol. Aroma score: A; Taste score: A-; Overall score: A-.
'95 Terre Rouge Syrah - Amador County. $19.99. Exceedingly dark ruby-purple color. Nose is a mass of blackberry, shoe polish, tar, anise and chocolate. Very large framework, big mouthfeel, and nice tannins. Slightly young, yet sweet finish of fruit that goes on forever. Chewy fruit, with hint of cocoa. This was some brawny and killer stuff. 14.5% alcohol. Aroma score: A-; Taste score: A; Overall score: A
'96 Secret House Pinot Noir Reserve - Willamette Valley, Oregon. $17.99. Bricky ruby color, with very light extraction. Nose of strawberry, with stemmy and meaty overtones. Seems a bit volatile. Light mouthfeel of warm strawberry fruit, cinnamon, and black cherry. Sweet fruit, good balance. Lighter style of Pinot. Aroma score: B+; Taste score: B+; Overall score: B+.
'96 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, La Bauge Au-dessus - Santa Barbara County. $21.99. Light ruby color, with light-medium extraction. Nose of strawberry fruit, cola, cinnamon, and sweet wood. Light mouthfeel, but big on flavor and fruit. Tastes ready for consumption right now, but ought to get better with time. Hint of heat noted on otherwise long finish. Aroma score: B+; Taste score: B+; Overall score: B+.
'96 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir - Oregon. $26.99. Light ruby color, with light-medium extraction. Solid core of fruit apparent in the nose. Notes of hamburger and even a bit of floral quality. Smooth and slightly soft fruit in the mouth. Very integrated flavors, and satisfying finish. Aroma score: B+; Taste score: B+; Overall score: B+.
'94 King Estate Pinot Noir Reserve - Oregon. $27.99. Ruby color, with a hint of purple. Medium-dark extraction. Very Burgundian nose. Warm meats, strawberry fruit, and flavors of cola and cinnamon. Slightly more defined fruit than the other Pinots in flight. Big mouthfeel, slightly warm and sweet. Floral, spicy and strawberry flavors. Aroma score: B+; Taste score: B+; Overall score: B+.
Anyway, there were some fine wines here, if no flat-out bargains. The Nalle Zin was nothing less than sensational, and my top 5 wines were all absolute winners in my book. Stylistically, the 2 Sangioveses were worlds apart, with the Clos du Val seeming more like a weak Chianti. The Pinots were a little ho-hum in this tasting. But, I'm not convinced that the tasting order didn't do them an injustice. The odd attendee in the flight was the Charbono. Charbon? Charbono? Sounded more like 1/2 of a 60s duet. (Add groans or hisses here.) Actually, to me, this wine offered more aroma interest than the Clos du Val Sangiovese - and at nearly half the price.
Here is my relative ranking, by tier and in order of preference, of the wines tasted.
'96 Nalle Zinfandel - Dry Creek. $17.99
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