Thursday, November 29, 2012

Henschke Henry's Seven

In a similar theme to the previous post about Patz & Hall, I often roll my eyes about Australian wines, especially from Barossa.  However, some producers excel and Henschke is usually one of them, albeit for a price.  They produce wines from the higher altitude areas closer to Mount Lofty and the wines retain a fresher, brighter style because of it.
Henry's Seven is a shiraz-based Rhone-style blend from Barossa and usually receives rave reviews.  I like the wine and snagged a bottle of the 2004 and 2005 when I was wholesaling them in Oregon.  Sunday night with friends seemed a good time to open them and I was shocked by the difference between the two.  The 2005 was flat and dull.  It had little nose, only hinted at flavor and finished like a wine somehow magically muted by an unseen remote.  The wine is finished with a screwcap, so perhaps it needed time to breathe.  Nope.  Even the next night it was the same.
The 2004 shone.  Some meaty aromas mingled with juicy red fruit on the palate and the wine finished with enough complexity.  This was why I bought them both, unfortunately the 2005 was a total dud.
I have no more of the wine to try the 2005 again but it seemed to just be a weird wine, not an "off" bottle.  The point, like the Patz & Hall, is that these wines reminded me how much variety there can be in regions we assume to offer a nearly indistinguishable product from vintage to vintage.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

While I am not a huge fan of California chardonnay in general, there are notable exceptions.  Patz & Hall is one of them, especially this one.  The sprawling Sonoma Coast AVA encompasses too much geography to consistently produce a hallmark style but diligent producers like Patz & Hall showcase the region properly.
Intense, ripe, tropical citrus fruit springs forward like many other California chards but the Sonoma Coast maintains a fresh, creamy, lemony acidity that keeps the wine lively and lip-smacking.  My palate craves more of the rich wine rather than becoming tired or bored like it does with so many other California chardonnays.
I had the luxury of being able to enjoy a glass of the 2009 and 2010 versions of Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast yesterday.  The 2010 was bigger, fuller and more exotic while the 2009 showed a leaner, racier style.  The winery and AVA styles expressed themselves clearly yet the wines showed much more variety than I would have guessed.
This was a good reminder of maintaining an open mind and willing palate.  It was also a good sign from California that vintages do matter and perhaps even jaded wine geeks should pay closer attention.

Friday, November 16, 2012

2012 Harvest

As it is Beaujolais Nouveau season, it seems appropriate to quickly mention the effect the 2012 harvest will have on prices.  France had one of the smallest production years in a half century with some appellations harvesting thirty and even forty percent less than in 2011.  The quality appears good, so no panic needs to begin.
Beaujolais and Champagne were particularly hard hit and you should expect some potentially significant price increases during 2013.  I'm guessing most Champagne houses will try to hold pricing through the holiday season and then make adjustments in January.  You may want to lay in a few extra bottles or consider some great sparkling options from elsewhere: Gruet from New Mexico, Roederer Estate from California and Graham Beck from South Africa to name a few.  There are also some great buys in France outside of Champagne, like Cremant d'Alsace.
After a few short harvests in a row in California, growers finally saw an increase in tonnage, about 12% according to Shanken News Daily.  While that is happy news, don't expect any price decreases since many vintners have not reflected the higher price for grapes due to the continued lackluster economy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chateau de Lascaux Rosé, Coteaux du Languedoc 2011

A Kermit Lynch import, this producer has always been acceptable to me but lacked either the guts to be wild or the polish to be suave.  Never wrong but rarely right.  A friend at Martin Wine Cellar had similar reactions to the wine over the years and recommended I try this vintage.
Made from 40% syrah, 30% grenache, 20% cinsault and 10% mourvedre this experiences "traditional vinification" according to Kermit's website.
The color is the classic salmon hue expected from the area.  I will even go so far as to say it is the color of Atlantic salmon, not the richer, darker color of Pacific.  Almost no pink appears at all, it shows more orange.  Fruit skins on the aroma - apricot? - but not the juice, the skin.  A hint of leather, almost an earth hint and perhaps some star anise.  Sorry, I don't usually do that but the nose was so subtle I found myself searching for something to latch onto.
Decent weight, but clipped on the finish.  It is very dry, bordering on austere...even a touch metallic.  A bit of creaminess emerged but overall the wine just sat there.  The first half of the taste is good but the finish lacks.  It went well with roast chicken and is passable at $8 but I paid $13 and feel no need to find another bottle.  Sorry Kermit.