Wines from a Busy Winter: New World (and Some Quickies from the Old)
Martin Ray “Angeline” Pinot Noir 2004 (Russian River Valley)
Clear, light-medium garnet with a tan tinge. On the nose, there’s earth and a cherry-bark-cola-tea mélange that brings to mind sarsaparilla. Or, if you prefer, Dr. Pepper with a touch of soy. Light-bodied and lightly flavored, relatively simple red berry with soft acids and iced coffee on the finish. The lightest Cal Pinot I’ve ever had, and not the worst $13 I’ve spent. It’s limited charm goes AWOL on day two. 13.9% alcohol.
Marietta Cellars Zinfandel 2002 (Sonoma County)
Rich, bluish purple, dark and semi-opaque. Initially dusty-musty, the nose quickly evolves: sunny ripe raspberry, then plum and spice and blackberry, finally joined by some black licorise. Full-bodied and spicy, with warm mixed-berry fruit and more licorise (red this time). Soft acids, light tannins, and a lingering spice note on the finish. A very yummy Zin. $15. 14.9% alcohol.
Shingleback Shiraz 2002 (McLaren Vale)
Inky bluish purple. Mocha and cashew with ripe blackberry on the nose. Some licorise and menthol notes come into focus. Sweet-tart black and red fruit, with moderate cedar and vanilla oakiness. A nice level of acidity keeps the flavors sharp, not cloying. Very mild tannins and a pleasant strawberry note on the slightly short finish. Grilled steak nearly overpowers this wine. $20. 14.5% alcohol.
Catena Malbec 2002 (Mendoza)
Nearly opaque, velvety red-purple. Ripe blackberry and a distinct smell of smoke, with a streak of earthy mineral. Flavors follow the nose, with extra notes of blueberry, plum, and loam. Medium- to full-bodied, but citric acidity keeps it exceptionally light on its feet. A bit short. $18. 13.8% alcohol.
For various reasons (dinner with non-geek friends, general illegibility, laziness), I don’t have full WTNs for the following wines, but I offer these quick impressions.
Morgante “Don Antonio” Nero d’Avola Riserva 2002 (Sicilia IGT)
Horribly over-oaked. Horribly over-priced. Run away. $32. 14% alcohol.
Einaudi Barolo 1995
Pleasantly framed by acid and fine tannin, with whatever cherries there may have been gently fading. Quite nice, especially for “fruit-optional” crowd. $36 (on closeout, but generally inexpensive).
Chateau Canon Canon-Fronsac 2000
Surprisingly (to me, at least) green and vegetal, especially for the vintage. Developed into something a bit nicer over three days. $16. 12.5% alcohol.
Quinta de Ventozelo "Vinzelo" 2000 (Duoro)
Clear, light-medium ruby, with fresh red raspberries and strawberries and a hint of leather and aerosol. Light. $7. 12.5% alcohol.
2004 Falesco Vitiano vs. Banfi Centine: Battle of the former house reds
For now, the Vitiano has a little more depth and character going for it. The grapey Centine is what I think what I think would be called extremely “primary,” and it may well become the better wine in the mid- to long term, for anyone inclined to wait. Truth be told, neither of these $10 Cab Sauv-Merlot-Sangio blends rings my bell this year, though both are better than last year’s versions. I’m holding out hope for another old stand-by, the Lucignano Chianti Colle Fiorentine. A bottle of the ’04 is in queue.