Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Tale of Two Wines

So I know it's been like a long long long time since my last post, and I'm sorry. I have three excuses that I hope you'll buy.

1) New baby
My son, Rowan, was born three months ago and basically any free time I had before after work to write blog posts has gone out the window. As soon as I walk in the door, I quickly change into shorts and a T-shirt (god I love the weather out here in Oakland) and then am handed a warm, squirmy, drooling infant while Rhonda takes a break. Then I make dinner, give my daughter a bath, put her down, do whatever chores I'm assigned that night, and take the baby back until he needs to feed. And then I burp him. So you see, less free time.

2) Writing about wine for work
For the past few months I've been writing about wine for work, and have been receiving review samples and drinking a lot on the corporate dime, so I can't discuss those things here, unfortunately.

3) I'm lazy/procrastinate

Moving along swiftly to wine reviews....

I headed over to's shop in Berkeley a few weeks ago because they had a $50 Cote Rotie for sale, half off. Cote Rotie, which means "roasted slope," (named because of the hills the sun bakes) is located in the northern most portion of France's Rhone region. Wines are primarily made from syrah and can include some viognier, but are known for some of the Rhone's best wines, having a spicy, full berry flavor and can age incredibly well.

The wine in question was the 2004 Domaine Duclaux. Now, I figured it was on sale for a reason - the distributor needed to move bottles being the most common reason today why things go on sale like this. So I took a chance, hoping for a winning lottery ticket. Well like all lottery tickets I buy, I lost. This wine was a poor example of what the syrah grape can produce. On the nose I got currants, steel, and musty cellar. In the glass, I got a cocktail of red berries with a varying degree of ripeness, with an overall sensation of too ripe fruit, bordering on raisiny. The wine was thin on the mid-palate, and finished with a tart acidity.

Checking out what Robert Parker had to say about the vintage explained what went wrong. Apparently 2004 was a very productive year with mixed weather, so chateaux that didn't prune a lot before harvest ended up with too many grapes. This is a problem because the vines spread out it's growing efforts and produce thin tasting fruit. If a grower cuts back the amount of fruit on a vine during the growing season, the vine will concentrate its efforts on the remaining grapes, producing more flavorful fruit. Of course, if you're livelihood depends on selling fruit by the ton, or selling more bottles, cutting back a lot of your fruit can hurt the wallet. So I totally feel for the farmers...

Even at $25, this was overpriced.

But my trip to wasn't a total waste. One of the workers there (red hair and beard, very talkative, very knowledgeable about French wines) suggested a 2007 Marcel Lapierre Morgon (gamay) for $25. The producer is biodynamic, and the wine was made with little intervention. Overall I loved this wine - it had an intreguing nose of christmas spice, varnish and black peppercorn. In the mouth I got rose petals, dust, dried cherries and a racy acidity with stealthy tannins that appear at the end without you really noticing at first. This is a nervy wine that would be great for a Thanksgiving meal.

I'm hoping to write more from now on, but as I'm typing this, the baby is crying hysterically and Rhonda is giving me evil until next time....

No comments: