Archive for ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’

December 29, 2010

When you just feel like paying a lot for a glass of wine: Crú Wine Bar


Do you ever go to the car dealership to get your oil changed? You figure they sell your particular car, so they should know the most about them. Right? Shouldn’t the dealer be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to maintain your car better than just a generalist mechanic? So what if it costs $20 more for an oil change. To me, going to a dealer to get my car serviced is like going to a wine bar to get a glass of wine. One would think that I go to wine bars fairly often seeing as I love wine and all, but I just don’t. I know that going to a wine bar can be a good way to try wines by the glass before committing to a full bottle. I realize that many of them have knowledgeable staff that can suggest good wine to try. There are also plenty of decent wine bars in town with a good selection of wine. So why don’t I go to them more often? I get my oil changed at Jiffy Lube because I can’t stand paying way too much at the dealer. That’s how I feel about going to a wine bar. I recently went to Crú Wine Bar in the Domain in north Austin and had the oil change at the dealer experience.

Read the full post at the new home of What are you drinking: http://whatareyoudrinking.net/2010/12/when-you-just-feel-like-paying-a-lot-for-a-glass-of-wine-cru-wine-bar/

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December 6, 2010

Is China Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon Great Wine?


When you order wine in China, be specific. You may get a glass of high alcohol distilled liquor, such as rice wine, rather than fermented noble grapes. But never fear it is possible to get a decent glass of Chinese red wine. Modern wine production has been going on in China for more than 100 years, but I took an incursion from the French in 1980 when Rémy Martin set up a joint venture for wine production to flourish. And flourish it has. Chinese grape wine sales revenues were approximately $2.8 billion in 2008, a growth of 20 percent over 2007.  Domestic consumption has grown rapidly in the past decade and it is now the fastest growing wine market in the world.

 There are now hundreds of vineyards producing wine, including Grace Vineyards, which I reviewed in September 2010. This month I went back and tried Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon. China Great Wall Wine Company, a subsidiary of COFCO Wines & Spirits Co. Ltd., is one of the top three largest wine producers in China along with Changyu Pioneer and Dynasty, and is the largest exporter. It was established in 1983 and has vineyards in the Shacheng region of China. In addition to making distilled spirits and off-dry wines, the company makes red and white table wine using state of the art wine producing equipment imported from France, Germany and Italy. Great Wall wines have gained notoriety in China and it has been named the official wine products of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and is the provider of the only designated wines for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

Does that mean the wine is any good? Here are my tasting notes.

Look Here is the first clue that this Cabernet is not going to beat premium wines from established wine regions in blind tastings. It looks more like a Pinot Noir than a Cabernet. It is bright, translucent garnet rather than inky, midnight eggplant.   
Smell Great Wall has a timid nose. I had to snort deeply to get a whiff of boysenberry, plum, hickory smoke and bacon.    
Taste It has gentle fruit musings of strawberry and cherry overlaying saline red meat on the mid pallet and then finishes quickly with charcoal and light tannins. Its light bodied and mellow: much less robust than a California Cabernet or a Cab driven Bordeaux.

 Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t readily available in the U.S. I wasn’t able to find it for sale on any of the large online retailers like Wine.com or Snooth.com. It’s certainly not worth the price of a plane ticket to go and taste it in China. But, if you find yourself in China, give it a try to get a baseline measure of where Chinese wine is today. Great Wall Cab is reasonably pleasant and drinkable. Chinese wine producers have a way to go to catch up with the established wine industry, but I don’t doubt they will. Try it again in five years and let me know if I’m right.

What are you drinking?

October 8, 2010

Oscar Worthy: Rubicon Estate CASK Cabernet Sauvignon


Translator: The general would like to know if you will drink a toast with him.

Patton: Thank the general and tell him I have no desire to drink with him or any other Russian son of a bitch.

Translator: [Nervous] I can’t tell him that!

Patton: Tell him, every word.

Translator: [In Russian] He says he will not drink with you or any Russian son of a bitch.

Russian general: [In Russian] Tell him he is a son of a bitch, too. Now!

Translator: [Very nervous] He says he thinks you are a son of a bitch, too.

Patton: [laughing] All right. All right, tell him I’ll drink to that; one son of a bitch to another.

Francis Ford Coppola has made a ton of great movies like Patton, The Godfather trilogy, Virgin Suicides, American Graffiti, etc. He also makes some kick ass wines. The Niebaum Coppola Estate Winery (they changed the name to Rubicon Estate in 2006) has been around since 1975 when Coppola bought the Inglenook winery, and makes both prestige and affordable wines.  He borrowed part of the name from Gustave Niebaum, the founder of Inglenook. I’ll drink to that.

Beautiful Wife and I visited the winery several years ago. It’s a gorgeous estate and worth a visit the next time you are in the Napa Valley. We brought along Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir that I bought with my employee discount to trade for some excellent Niebaum Coppola wines. With a trade, we were lucky enough to score a bottle of 1998 Rubicon Estate CASK Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the prestige wines.

The wine stands out with the 1800 style label printed on thin cork. Pretty cool. Coppola first made the CASK Cabernet Sauvignon in 1995 as a wink and a nod to the hearty Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon. CASK Cabernet is made from 100% organic Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in the storied Rubicon Estate vineyards, Cohn and Chateau, in Rutherford, Calif. These vineyards first started producing fat Cabs in 1871. CASK is aged for 28 months in 500-L American oak puncheons to round out the hearty fruit.

We opened the ’98 CASK to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary and drank this as the sun quietly set over our little rental house on Lake LBJ. We felt a little sentimental drinking it as this wine was bottled the same month we met, 12 years ago and we had also honeymooned in Napa. Ah love. It goes well with a great wine. Ah wine. It goes well with a great love.

Look Dark, inky purple as dark as the Nung River just after sunset in Apocalypse Now.
Smell Fragrant blackcurrant and rosehip like a Sicilian vineyard in late fall in The Godfather.
Taste Big dollops of black cherry jam, raisin, tobacco and cocoa came on as seductively as Johnny Depp in Don Juan DeMarco. It had a nice long finish with smooth tannins and gentle oak.
Price $70 (a hell of a lot cheaper if you can trade for it)

This was a fitting wine for a special occasion. While I like Coppola’s films, I’d choose this over any of them any day.

What are you drinking?

September 16, 2010

Red Wine from Red China: Grace Vineyard


Wine is made in most countries in the world that can sustain grape vines. Those gnarly creepers are pretty hardy, so there aren’t many places that can’t produce wine. I’ve never seen Chinese wine in the shops in the U.S., but in fact there are about 400 wineries there. The Chinese like their drink as much as anyone, so of course there is a market for fine wine. Some estimates suggest that China is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, with the vast majority of it consumed in the country.

I had the opportunity to go to Beijing this week and of course I had to try the local wine. I ordered a couple glasses of 2008 Grace Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany my lunch.

Grace Vineyard is a family-owned winery, based in Shanxi province, south of Beijing. It was started by Chan Chun Keung with the first plantings in 1997 in 168 acre vineyards and the first vintage was 2001. It is now run by Chun Keung’s oldest daughter, Judy Leissner, who studied at the University of Michigan – and I hold that against her. The winery produces Bordeaux style wines which are aided by its location in spirit at least as its situated approximately on the same latitude as Bordeaux.  OK, so they don’t speak French to the grapes, the climate is cold in the winter and hot and wet in the summer, and the soil is more loamy, but they at least grow some of the same grapes that are prominent in that famed French region including Cabernet Franc (24%), Merlot (30%), Cabernet Sauvignon (38%), oh and also Chardonnay (8%).   

Grace bottles nine wines categorized in three quality levels: Flower Series, aka Vineyard Series (Rosé, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon); Bronze Series (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Winemakers Selection – a Bordeaux blend); Gold Series (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot). They produce about 700,000 bottles a year. I tasted the ’08 Vineyard Series Cab, which is made to be drunk young. Hmm, young and drunk. Rings a bell.

Look Dark ruby with a tinge of age at the edge like the smoggy midnight sky in Beijing.  
Smell A box of raisins left in the sun a lunch box for a few days: warm with aged sweetness.
Taste A front of soft plum, quickly followed by prune on the mid-palette and slipping away in a fast finish with mild insinuations of oak.  
Price 45.00 RMB/ glass or about $6. Bottles go for about $28 retail.

Did I buy a few bottles to bring home with me? Nope. Would I drink it again in my next visit to China? Yep.

What are you drinking?

September 11, 2010

The Right Wine for a Tweet-Up: Arroba Winery


I’ve been hearing enough about Arroba Winery that I felt compelled to try its 2007Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sonoma Valley.  Arroba is linked with Deerfield Ranch Winery, where veteran craftsman winemaker, Robert Rex, produces delicious Zins and Syrah. The winery has a reputation for producing solid cabs and had introduced a line of affordable wines.

The first thing I noticed right away about the bottle is the ampersand featured prominently on their logo. Shrewd marketing perhaps? Using an @ just has to be a nod to the ridiculously popular social media tool, Twitter. Twitter users call out other people on it by putting an @ in front of their screen name. For example, I’m @MattMcGinnis on Twitter – adroit name huh?

Drinking this wine was just like going to a Tweet-up for me (don’t ya feel a little ridiculous saying the world tweet-up? It’s just stupid). Here is a wine that I know about by reputation, that I want to get to know better and that I have a chance to meet in person. That’s the whole concept behind Tweet-ups. They are gatherings of people that know each other online on Twitter who want to meet the real person behind the 140 character tweets. Do the people match their online personas, or is it hype? Who is that guy with the witty snark about the Austin music scene? Who is the person that posts a zillion lol catz and other memes? Who is the clever writer reviewing great cocktails and the accidents that happen after she drinks them? Who is the girl with the really hot profile photo?

There is a big Tweet-up in Austin that I go to sometimes called the Big Ass Twitter Happy Hour, or #BATHH. More than 300 people get together each month, slap their Twit name on their chest and mingle with other Twitter users. I’ve met several people that I stay in contact with off of Twitter. They are like decent wines that I’d known by online reputation that I’ve tried, like, and now buy and keep in regular rotation. I’ve met other people at BATHH that are nice enough, but aren’t nearly as interesting in person as they online. If they were wine, I wouldn’t buy them again. We’ll stick to being Twitter friends. And well, there are others that I’m getting out of the BATHH to avoid. I’m de-friending them as soon as I’m back online. I’d dump that bottle down the drain.

Let’s see how this Cab from Arroba Winery fares at a Tweet-up.

Look She carries herself well in a group setting, with rich, deep purple that could pass for opulent in a darkened bar. A great first impression at a Tweet-up.
Smell Pleasant, but not particularly well balanced with spicy raspberry, but just a little too much alcohol. On first meeting at a Tweet-up, you could see this going either way. She smells decent enough to have promise, but is that load of alcohol on her breath an indication that she doesn’t quite have it all together?  
Taste Now for the conversation. Here’s where we discover that she doesn’t measure up to the hype. Thin mouth-feel without the velvety lushness expected. The fruit is weak, unripen blackberries. She has enough alcohol to make me choke a little when I trilled the wine. She had a short finish without much to say.
Price $12

How do I break this to you Arroba Winery? It’s not you, it’s me. No, actually it’s you. You are a decent wine to serve at a Tweet-up where there is a big mix of people I don’t know all that well, some of whom don’t deserve good wine. Your snazzy packaging at least gets you in the door and your twist top makes you immediately approachable. Alas, you are not a wine that’s going to graduate from my interest in your reputation to a wine that I put in rotation at home. You’re just not that remarkable.

If I ever serve this wine to you at my house, it means that I’d prefer we stick to being just online friends. No really, you can take the rest of the wine with you in a plastic cup. There’s no reason for you to stick around any longer because you’re just not that interesting in person. See ya on Twitter.

What are you drinking?