Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wines I'm Drinking: 2003 Beni di Batasiolo "Vigneto Morino" Langhe Chardonnay

Recently I found this Chardonnay from Italy's Langhe region in the Piedmont area (the area that produces Barolo and Barbaresco and one of my favorite white wines, Roero Arneis) at my local Grocery Outlet in Santa Rosa. I'm always a little skeptical about older white wines at Grocery Outlet. Sometimes they're being cleared out at low prices because they're over the hill--flat or even oxidized--but, happily, that's not usually the case. More often, they're being cleared out simply because they didn't sell well. That can be attributable to a number of things, but usually one of two: Either the wines are from unfamiliar grapes, makers, or wine regions that buyers in the US are unsure of and not adventurous enough to try, or the wine has a flavor profile that just doesn't appeal to many people here--which is not necessarily a fault in the wine. In either case, I'm happy to benefit from good wines being let go at low prices.

Right on the edge. I'll be up-front: This wine from 2003 seems a little tired (it's likely to have been best within about four years rather than at eight years old). That said, it's by no means unattractive for immediate consumption, and it's a bargain at $3.99 a bottle ($3.59 a bottle if you buy a case). Searching the Internet, I found a wide range of prices for recent vintages--from $9 a bottle to $25 a bottle. Tasting notes follow. 

A medium yellow-gold, with an interesting nose suggestive of melons and wood, but without typical oak scents. The nose was rather hard to define, actually. It was not especially forthcoming, but attractive nevertheless. Something reminded me of fresh, raw vegetables, and white wines from this area often have a sappy sort of scent. Later, after a little air contact, I began to get suggestions of honey and chestnuts and then butterscotch. The wine has some presence on the palate. Nice fruity sweetness on the mid-palate and perhaps a hint of oxidation (sherry-like flavors) on the finish, but not at all unpleasant. Creamy, rich mouthfeel. Honey flavors. Tasty, but low in acidity, which is mainly what makes it seem to lack freshness. Still, not a bad wine at this price. Probably a wine worth looking for in younger vintages. If you buy the 2003, don't sit on it. Enjoy it immediately.

[Update: I subsequently tasted another Langhe Chardonnay from the same producer, the 2005 "Serbato" bottling.]

I have no financial connection with any producer or retailer of wine.
For more wine reviews, use the Wines I'm Drinking label.

Plants I'm Growing: First Blooms--Yarrow "Moonshine," Aloe Buhrii (2011)

First blooms of 2011 yesterday on the Yarrow called "Moonshine" and on Aloe Buhrii, one of the most successful aloes here. It shrugs off the cold (it's a native of high elevations in South Africa), blooms reliably, and has attractive yellow-green mottled leaves in a pretty rosette. Coincidentally, both plants bloomed on the same day also in 2010, on May 15. Thus, both plants calculated a botanical year--from bloom to bloom--of 369 days. "Moonshine" bloomed on May 8 in 2009, for a year of 372 days in 2010. Aloe Buhrii bloomed on May 11 in 2009, for a year of 371 days in 2010.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Plants I'm Growing: Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris) 2011

The first bloom opened today on one of the two Beavertail cacti in the garden. One is planted in a pot that sits by the driveway. The other is in the ground, recently transplanted to a a place that gets more sun than the spot I originally chose. The plant in the pot has done better. I love the look of the bright pink flowers of this plant against the blue-green stems. This plant bloomed on May 9 in 2009 and on May 29 in 2010, calculating botanical years of 385 days and 354 days, which average to 369.5 days, close to a calendar year.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wines I'm Drinking: 2008 Lockwood Vineyards Monterey County Syrah

At Trader Joe's recently I was approached by the wine buyer who asked if I needed any help. I didn't really, but I always answer that question the same way--by asking if  anything new has the buyer excited. He singled out this wine. I told him I generally wasn't a fan of California Syrah (often it's too fruity, too alcoholic, and too expensive--there are exceptions, of course; I recently had a very good 2005 Syrah from Balleto Ranch, for instance). In response, he suggested this one was atypical. I was sold when he said it was redolent (my word, not his) of violets. I'm a sucker for violets.

Well, I tried the wine. No violets that I could detect--none of that Southern Rhône velvet quality I was hoping for, and I don't think I'd buy this wine again, but I'll admit it was different and interesting--if not entirely satisfying. It was a deep purple-red, but not the inky purple-black that Syrah sometimes is. It looked appropriately young for a wine going on three years old. It had a fresh, grapey nose, but beyond that nothing I could really single out, at least at first. There was a hint of the typical Syrah pepper scent, but just a hint.

Most interesting, perhaps, was the texture of the wine. While it was fairly fruity and had a noticeable fruity sweetness on the finish, it seemed "chewy," with lingering, grainy tannins, and a low acid profile that gave the whole package something of the feel of cocoa in the mouth. I even suspected sediment, but I decanted the wine and didn't really find any. In the course of drinking a glass or two, the wine acquired a little more presence on the nose. My notes include "sandalwood," "chocolate cherries," "leather," "incense," "ladanum," and "boysenberry," but each of these words is followed by a question mark. A very difficult wine to describe. As I say, I can't exactly call the 2008 Lockwood Vineyards Syrah satisfying--it was too low in acidity to seem really vibrant to me and it somehow lacked focus--but, I think it worth tasting at least once, and, at only $5.99 a bottle at Trader Joe's, it's reasonably priced.

I have no financial or other connections with any producer or retailer of wine. For more wine reviews, use the "Wines I'm Drinking" label at top right

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rain: A Full Inch of Rain (May 15, 2011)

We got a full half inch of rain overnight and into yesterday morning, which was very good timing from the perspective of the plants in the garden. A late rain like this will allow me to keep the irrigation off for about a week, saving water. On the downside, I'll have to get out there soon to spray the grapes with sulfur again. The rain will have washed it all off. Yesterday's rain is likely to be the last of the 2010-2011 rainy season (which ends  on June 30). Our total for the season now stands at 37.1 inches, well above the historical average for Santa Rosa of 31.9 inches.

[Update: It continued to rain on the 16th and into the 17th. We got a total of 1.5 inches, which brings our 2010-2011 total to 38.1 inches.]
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