Sunday, October 10, 2010

5 Wines "Under $10" - Reviewed by a Range of Palettes

What: a pseudo-amateur wine tasting, focused on red and white wines under $10. The only reason I use the word pseudo is because a third of our tasters were quite expert while the other four of us are still pretty new (okay, brand new?) to the tasting game.

The setting: Friday night, screened in back porch, complete with a killer spread and complemented by perfect early fall weather.

The wines: well, here they are. I'll go into more detail below as well as share every taster's notes. Thank you to Brandon for making the tasting recommendations. (We all wrote down our notes independently/individually then shared our thoughts with the group.)

(Mmm... brussels sprouts, sundried tomato wheat pasta, prosciutto wrapped melon, salami, several cheeses, olives, brownies, purple potato salad, egg rolls, apples/hummus and more)

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Chardonnay (Australia) - 2006.
  • B.T. - "A little oily/lanolin-y, slightly oxidized. Nose: a little oak; lemon/citrust. Palate: thick mouthfeel. A little light on flavor. Slight rocks, lemon. Not much [in terms of palate]. Oily/lanolin --> oxidized. Aging too fast --> oxidized. Tasted better a year ago."
  • C.T. - "I don't smell much. Easy and light; a little apple-juicy; not a lot of maliclactic fermentation. Needs more acid - has a little on finish but would like more."
  • G.G. - "Water, mild, tasteless."
  • E.O. - I lost her card for this first wine so I don't have these notes. I'm sure they said something profound though. Sorry! :(
  • D.M. - "Smell: Pear. Taste: quick, mild flavor. Reminds me of a cool fall breeze flowing through the forest."
  • K.M. - "Good legs but I hear legs don't actually mean anything... Rainy/misty/foresty; fruity; not crisp" (funny the hubs and I both took away "forest-like")
This was the point in the evening where I learned that wine is either aged in oak, steel or concrete. Concrete is apparently somewhat common for aging white wines. Who knew?

Four Vines Naked Chardonnay (Santa Barbara County, California) - 2008
  • B.T. - "Nose: Apple peel; pear; some tropical fruits. Palate: Pineapple, kiwi (?), guava (?); freshness; some chalkiness on finish; grapefruit/orange pith; better acid [than Penfolds]. Not as good as the 2007."
  • C.T. - "Small nose - citrus, acid, fruit, a little grapefruit. Reminds me of a New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Better finish. Better acid. Persimmon or kumquat (?).
  • G.G. - "Acidic; bitter finish; semi-dry. Lingers on the tongue. Spicy."
  • E.O. - booo! I can't find these notes either. Bummer. argh!
  • D.M. - "Strong. Almost carbonated-like. Fruity but not sure what type of fruit. Earthy/rustic."
  • K.M. - "Much more crisp [than the Penfolds]. Healthy amount of acidity/sourness. Reminds me of Georgia-grown white wines."
With this wine came a little more knowledge. Brandon tells us that "naked" means this wine was aged in stainless steel. Also, it can accidentally happen that wines get a little carbonation. Note: this wine is really affordable for a U.S. wine because land here is expensive — and you need a lot of land for a vineyard.

Mark West Pinot Noir (California) - 2008.
  • B.T. - "Nose: Tobacco, dark fruit, black currant, black cherry, touch of herbaceousness. Palate: some sugar, dark chocolate. Decent Tannin. Must be some syrah added. Dark fruit, cola. Would not necessarily be able to call this a pinot noir blend. WAY better than 2007 vintage and prior"
  • C.T. - "Cherry, fruity. Very easy. Not a lot of depth — but easy and enjoyable. Strawberry."
  • G.G. - "Dry, bold, acidic." (it was at this point that Garey told the group that he sometimes can't taste foods unless they have A LOT of flavor)
  • E.O. - "Earthy, robust. Sweet, smooth finish. Hint of chocolate" (so bummed I lost Erica's earlier notes!)
  • D.M. - "Smell: oak, spice. Taste: strong, powerful, talented, up-and-coming. Nice acidity."
  • K.M. - "Some acidity. Good body. It sounds generic, but I wrote down 'I like it.' Tobacco flavors. Smells to me like the Naked Chardonnay. Blackberries (?). Reminds me of a petite syrah taste-wise."

Campo Viejo Rioja Crianza (Spain) - 2007
  • B.T. - "Nose: a little hot (alcoholic). Damp earth, slightly bretty. Bright cherries. Palate: Cherries, tannic. Good structure. A little simple. Might get better with age. Best [of the tastings] so far."
  • C.T. - "Aroma: damp, a little earthy, a little acidic. Tannic. Finish is good. Leather, cherry."
  • G.G. - "Fruity smell. Dry. Smooth."
  • E.O. - "Apples, spice. Oak barrel. Complicated" (Editor's note: this tasting card has a heart and a Christmas tree drawn on it. Symbolism? I'm not sure)
  • D.M. - "Smell: cinnamon. Taste: Smokey, rustic."
  • K.M. - "More acidic than the Mark West. Cabernet-like. Oaky. Good tannins. Simple.
I hope Brandon can correct me if I'm wrong, but I wrote down from his comments that Rioja took over in Spain when Bourdeaux grapes were ruined. Riojas are mostly tempranillo. The label saying "Crianza" means it was aged a year in oak.

Also, for some reason I have "Did you know that argonauts have the half life of a softshell crab?" written down on my card. Apparently this is where we started getting silly and making inside jokes that even now I'm on the outside of a few days later.

Bogle Petite Sirah (California) - 2007
  • B.T. - "Nose: Big! Some blue fruit, black fruit, red fruit. Bramble. Palate: Big fruit. Good structure. A little 'jammy' but excellent tannin and structure. Blueberry/blackberry jammy. Crazy finish"
  • C.T. - "Good tannins, nice finish. Smoke. Cherry. Tobacco."
  • G.G. - "Tastes exactly like the Rioja."
  • E.O. - "Extremely tannic. Great structure. Beefy. Bite. I smell chocolate."
  • D.M. - "Can't describe but I love it!"
  • K.M. - "Most acidic yet. Definitely tobacco. Good tannins. Full bodied. Favorite yet. Deep. Feels like it would hold up well to steak."
This was the group's definite favorite. I guess it worked out that we ended with the best.

FYI: Petite Sirah is sometimes added to red wines to make them more structured.

If you do a wine tasting, be forewarned... copious amounts of fermented grapes may cause you to imitate nerds you've met at industry association meetings.

And a few more photos from the evening:

(If you're an Atlanta, try Toco Hills Giant, Total Wine and Green's for these selections)

And a big "break a leg" and congrats to Garey and Erica, who will be walking down the aisle this Friday!


Traci said...

That sounds like a lot of fun! I've been saying that we need to host a wine tasting for a while now, and someone even gave us one of those wine tasting kits, so I don't even have an excuse, other than simply being lazy :)

We did a tasting at Wine Shoe in Castleberry Hill once and tasted one of the most distinctive Chardonnays I've ever had. It was so oaky that it seriously tasted just like burnt popcorn!! I should have kept the name of it to use for a tasting. I doubt anyone would want to drink it after tasting though!

Kb_Mal said...

Burnt popcorn? That's crazy! I'd want to taste it just to see what that's like!

Tell me more about this tasting kit - who makes it? Might be a good Christmas gift idea!

Traci said...

I know - it would probably be worth getting the wine just to see the expression on everyone's face when they tasted it! It was honestly the most horrible wine I've ever had and I can't imagine why anyone would actually LIKE it!!

The wine tasting kit is a neat idea and would be a good gift - ours is similar to this one, although there are many different types of kits:

Kb_Mal said...

Cool - thanks, Traci!

Brandon said...

There are a few burnt popcorn type Chards out there. Rombauer, Beringer Private Reserve, Sbragia...any over the top oaky Chard has some buttery popcorn taste. Aka Cougar Juice ;)