Monday, June 20, 2016

Issue XLIV: Château Damase Bordeaux Supérieur Edition

Château Damase Bordeaux Supérieur [Merlot] Edition

It is said that you never drift too far from your first loves. I’m not going to debate whether they mean it in a strictly physical or metaphorical sense, as I have always believed the intent that it is a matter of the heart and it to this, I speak, leaving off actual people, of course. For me, some of these first loves were for Mopar muscle cars, which later extended into trucks (and which finally manifested itself in me coming full circle when it came time to get a truck – I do, however, prefer Japanese cars for day-to-day driving as they’re considerably more practical), it was science fiction, a genre of literature I’ve never left entirely for any period of time, it was heavy metal music, another one which I’ve never been tempted to so much as lessen, let alone leave. For wine, for better or worse, it was vineyards of France and so we now come back around to those hallowed and much beloved shores once again. Yes, I know it is probably overly priced and it has equals elsewhere, such as some of the Italian and domestic blends that have shown up in these pages, but they will always have a special spot with me. No use denying it, but rather, as I do with all my other loves, to turn and embrace it as a good and timeless friend.

With this particular wine, it really goes back nearly full circle, as one of the first types I really latched onto was Bordeaux. This was well before I knew anything about bottle shapes having distinctive meanings in French regions (which the world kinda sorta also adopted). For whatever reason, I naturally gravitated to those and this, while perhaps not the best example, is a very worthy example. Before I get into things proper, I did want to note that while this technically is a blend, it is a blend of mainly Merlot grapes and doesn’t really, therefore drift much from Merlot territory. It is not a single varietal, however. I have thus chosen to consider it a Merlot moreso than a Blend.

This is a good example, however, of when they call something fruit forward. This one is very, very fruity and once it airs out, becomes a very nicely bouncy wine, full of flavor and brightness. It does, however, take significant airtime (well over 30 minutes) before this really starts to take hold, though, so this may be another one to consider using an aeration device or decanter. Merlots tends to be very medium-bodied and this one continues that. It does carry a pervasive astringent note to it, again very indicative of Merlots, though this one will smooth out and become quite enjoyable.

It’s not one for which I’ve the greatest love for from this country – that particular one is too expensive to make it on this list, actually, unless I revamp pricing – but it is a very solid choice and has tons of distinct character, which I do admire. At its price point, it trends towards the higher side of things and I’ve never seen it on SPA. I don’t like it enough to be a Standard, more a happy change of pace, so Mixed it is.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Issue XLIII: E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge Edition

E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge [Blend] Edition

Here is one that finally grew on me. This is unusual because it is usually love within a bottle or two, but this one definitely took much longer to gel and for me to appreciate it. While hailed, at least in some circles, as “one of the world’s greatest wine values”, if you’re a regular readers of these hallowed HSC pages, you already know that much of the French preponderance in those circles is because of the Great Hype Machine. Given my experience, I would have to include this among that number, but it is also a fairly fine wine, though not to an extent where I would lump it in any great category, even restricting it solely categorically to French origin. Guigal, it should be noted, is given much responsibility by those same persons for setting the standards for the appellation for the Côtes du Rhône region. While I don’t know enough to comment on the veracity of that, it does bear mentioning.

The first few times I had it, I thought it was excessively astringent and as it turns out, I was not wrong. It never really loses that astringency. However, after a good hour of air time, it does mellow out to be a delightfully complex wine. The majority here is Syrah, which is still holding fairly fast as my all-around favorite varietal. The rest is Grenache and a very small percentage of Mourvedre. I suspect this is where a lot of the astringency is coming in with the Syrah giving it a very characteristic dark hue and the full body that it exceeds so well at. Mouth feel is pretty solid, though I’d say it tends a bit towards the medium heft side of things. Great gulps can quickly become unpleasant, though.

So, while this one can be a very solid wine to drink now, I’d say it would be a good choice for cellaring as well, since even a modest 5 – 10 years would result in a smoother and eminently drinkable potion. Having finally “gotten” this wine, I was almost distracted by discovering all the various aspects I was able to derive from it, which continues its dual aspect. Not only will wine aficionados find much to enjoy with it, but even those new to it can use this as a platform, a stepping stone, perhaps, in finding not only various flavor notes, but also observing how a wine can open up, both with temperature (see first HSC post for more on my methodology there) and with air time.

Now, while this can be an enjoyable wine, it does take significant time to get to that point, which I don’t always have patience for. I find it delightful, but not necessary enough to be a Standard and I’ve never seen it on SPA (though I’m guessing it has been at some point) and thus, we call this one a Mixed.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Issue XLII: Waterbrook Melange Red Edition

Waterbrook Melange Red [Blend]

What we have is another in an increasingly long series that demonstrates rather notably my fondness for blends and another example that the state of Washington is really truly starting to come into its own as a wine-producing region. It’s not going to overtake California in hearts and minds anytime soon, but there are some very strong entries coming out of there, particularly the Columbia Valley, which is, if not already, soon to be a very recognizable name and they deserve the recognition for making some very fine wines.

This is a very complex and somewhat busy blend, with no less than 8 different varietals making their way into concoction, which is then aged for slightly over a year. This barrel-aging imparts a very nice degree of smoothness to things, though there is a very distinctive note of bitterness and a definite bite, just to keep things from being too cozy. It all works together very nicely in this well-balanced act, though any of the elements less than 10%, perhaps even higher, are going to be difficult to pick out as individual elements.

This is also another on the slightly heavier side and the slightly fruitier side, particularly aimed at the berry side of things, but more on the darker, so blackberry (this is also a very dark wine), currant and plum. It is quite good-tasting and has a pleasant mouth feel, but the finish is truly wondrous, at once all of the grace notes, but still retaining a very high degree of sippability. It’s definitely not a slugging wine, though. The fairly high tannins will make that a somewhat unpleasant proposition.

Where this comes in at price point makes it a very good choice for a backup wine. While not as budget-friendly as Dark Horse or as tasty as some of the HSC’s other favorites, it will do very well for almost any occasion, such as house-warming or pairing nicely with a very wide variety of foods. For me, it’s not enough to break into my usual stable, but I could see bottles showing up here and there. I’ve never seen it on SPA, so I’m going to leave this as a Mixed.