Tuesday, September 11, 2007

RSVP Tasting: L'Affaire petit-dejeuner du chien, Deuxiem Partie

Wine Painter Bridge California Zinfandel 2005
From California
Price $13.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol Content 13.0%
Sometimes, you can see why California winemakers rebel against the idea of Zinfandel being declared the state grape: This is a bubblegum wine that would be dismissed as an embarrassment by the serious-minded Cabernet grower---“what, you're going to drink it with a milkshake dinner, maybe?” Plenty of cherry kool-aid nose and a candy-floss palate (as opposed to the serious candy you get with some of the better California Pinots) almost makes you want to blow bubbles; but a herbaceous finish suggests that you could leave this in the cupboard for another year or two. Kid stuff, but then, in Sam Peckenpah's The Wild Bunch a sage observes that “we all wish to become a child again---even the worst of us. Perhaps the worst of us most of all.”

Wine Dr. Zensen Riesling Spatlese 2005
From Germany
Price $17.01 (MLCC, Manitoba)
Alcohol Content 9.0%
Immediately attractive: Classic, sweet Riesling nose; hints of apple on the palate; sweet without being cloying to start with. But subsequent sips lead you to backpedal: should this have more acid? Should this have been made as a Kabinett? Actually, the acid balance is OK; the body just isn't up to the sweetness---perhaps another casualty of the curious German wine-law where the only thing that matters to a wine's grade is sugar. This example is the equivalent of a redheaded wine bleaching its hair blonde---is it true all Spatleses have more fun? Not this time.

Wine Pierre Sparr Pinot Noir Reserve 2005
From Alsace, France
Price $18.95 (LCBO, Ontario)
Alcohol Content 13.5%
Enigmatic but emphatic nose tests the crowd's spot-the-flavor skills, (and more tellingly, individuals' powers of suggestion), with the most persuasive personalities arm-twisting a judgment of “notes of dark chocolate”. Otherwise, the wine manages to come off as subtle and unique---both recognizably Pinot and recognizably Alsace. Perhaps a bit pricey, although it should be remembered that the true Pinot-fancier generally has a pretty masochistic sense of relative value, and is willing to pay twice as much for a wine that may well prove only half as good. On the other hand, when asked why he kept returning to this particular bottle when there were 6 other wines on the table and work still to be done, the group's philosophical type replied after a profundity-inducing pause, “because I like it.”

Wine Chateau Grossombre 2003
From Bordeaux AC, France
Price $17.95 (LCBO, Ontario)
Alcohol Content 12.5%
A Lurton wine with 67% Cabernet and 33% Merlot which has had one year in oak. Not surprisingly, it tastes like a Cab-driven Bordeaux, with the tannins still a bit green on the finish. A few alarmed tasters noticed the middle dropping out of it, although a couple of more persistent souls who put their glasses aside a few minutes found on returning that it had developed a meaty nose and a stable profile all the way through. On the whole, pleasant, but at close to $20, no big deal. At $14.- it would be a steal.

Wine Chateau Carabon 2003
From Bordeaux AC, France
Price $22.95 (LCBO, Ontario)
Alcohol Content 14.0%
For some, a 14% alcohol content in a Bordeaux that's also 90% Merlot is a warning flag: either some Aussie winemaker has been brought in as a consultant, or yet another traditionalist has caved in to the International Style. The wine displays a potent Bordeaux nose and rich fruit kept from flabbiness by the presence of lots of tannin---which unsurprisingly leads to a lingering finish. Debate thereafter centered on: Is the alcohol a tiny bit too present? Would it be a bigger winner at 13%? Is it too ripe and too fat? Too Parkerish? Would a bit more Cabernet have firmed things up a little? The consensus that emerged was that it was a largely successful compromise between a new and old-world style. In the words of an up-till-then cranky taster: “A winner.”

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