The theme of last night's neighborhood tasting had the boring title: Summer Whites, with the caveat that all wines would be in the $15-20 price range. As usual, we had two cheap wines to snack on while things were getting set up and 6 serious wines, and this time I threw in a mystery wine and a dessert wine that fit the theme just for the heck of it. 38 neighbors attended.
For a game, instead of serving six wines blind and giving participants a list of the wines along with descriptions from critics, winemakers or whatever we can find as we usually do, we gave everyone a list of about 12 grape variety descriptions and asked them to try to associate each with the wines on the table. Bad idea: even I only got four right, and I bought the wines!
2004 Pazo Serantellos Albarino, Rias Baixas $8
Mineral nose with bright lemon and green notes that could almost have caused one to mistake it for a gruner veltliner. Really tasty.
2004 Vall Major Garnacha Blanca, Terra Alta $6Soft white peach and melon with a hint of maple in the low-acid finish.
Interesting for it's unusual grape variety but no contest against the albarino.
The mystery wine: 2005 Charles Shaw Chardonnay
Instantly dubbed "Cold Duct" for the wrap I used to hide the label, forward, extremely ripe chardonnay and oak flavors without enough acidity to carry the fruit. I've tasted CS chard a couple times over the years and this was positively the worst yet. It was depressing how many people preferred this to the albarino. Unfortunately, I think it just tastes closer to what they're used to.
The tasting wines:
2002 Treanna White, Central Coast $18
61% viognier and 39% marsanne with pineapple, honeysuckle, and orange notes. Dark yellow, extracted color and very ripe with a 14.9% alcohol that basically shoved it's boobs in your face, so the majority of the room pegged this as the chardonnay. I recognized the old-lady perfume of the viognier, the canned peach flavors of the marsanne, and the alcoholic heat of the hot climate.
2003 Mount Eden Vineyards "Wolff" Chardonnay, Edna Valley, CA $17I know this winery more from reputation than experience, and I knew that the Wolff vineyard meant 30 year old vines. So I expected a completely Californicated tropical style that most of my Californicated neighbors would be gaga over, and it was there but not in the way I expected. Light straw color. No pineapple or banana flavors; but softer and more subdued in the apple range. Still rather over-accessorized for my personal taste with buttered popcorn flavors from lightly toasted oak and full malolactic fermentation, but objectively speaking I have to admit that for that style of wine and geographical area it was not at all over the top; actually, quite fetching.
2004 Eagle Haven Winery Madeline Angevine/Siegerrebe blend, Puget Sound, Washington $16Here's one I got wrong: I was certain it was the Oregon Pinot Gris. And I was equally certain that the Oregon Pinot Gris was the Siegerrebe wine--I questioned some of my other picks but these two I was confident of. OOOPS. I love to feature local product when I can, and this is pretty darned local. Located in Skagit County off of highway 20, the most northern road you can take over the Cascades but only in summer--in winter it's closed--just beyond the town of Sedro Woolley (I love this name) and just before the town of Concrete (named for the product that put it on the map), is a little winery called Eagle Haven. Winemaker Chuck Jackson labors in telecommunications for Boeing during the week and makes wine here on weekends. Many of the wines are fruit wines--they have 40 acres of apple orchard--but four of the acres grow grapes and this wine is made from estate grapes. AND IT'S GOOD. Excellent, even. It was, in fact, my second place wine. I wrote: "light straw color, very light oak on the nose, precise acidity, herbs, musky perfume, pear, white pepper, clean and crisp." Which is why I thought it was the pinot gris.
2003 Cullen Ephraim Clarke white blend, Margaret River $23 54% Semillon and 46% Sauvignon Blanc, and a wine Steve Tanzer gave 90 pts to. Pale straw color and initial nose of biscuits and lemon. With a little time the semillon stepped forward and the wine gave off a lot of floral perfume, citrus, and some flint. At the biscuit stage, before the semillon took over, I was convinced it was the chardonnay. Very good, but it needs time. Should age ten years, according to the label.
2005 Solena Pinot Gris, McMinneville, Oregon, $20
The French winemaker who used to make WillaKenzie wines and a few others, Laurent M-something, and his wife (maiden name Andrus, which makes me wonder if she's of the Pine Ridge Andruses) have started their own winery called Solena. The 80 acres they've planted aren't ready yet so they're making wine from purchased grapes for now, and this be one. Almost transparent color. Floral nose, spicy, light acidity and too much RS marred an otherwise clean, crisp wine. Sad, especially at $20. My last place wine.
2004 Yellow Hawk Cellar "Champoux Vineyard" Dry Muscat Canelli, Columbia Valley, Washington $12.49
Another one of my favorites for the night. Unlike the boring and usually more off-dry 'dry' muscats I've had in the past, this exciting little light yellow number smells sweeter than it finishes, with kaffir lime, lemongrass, loquat and white grapefruit rind with a little shake of nutmeg. Excellent.
2005 Colli Euganei Fior d'Arancio (Orange Muscat), Marlunghe Italy, $15
From the Veneto region, lightly sweet with orange, clove and citrus rind, and really fine, pin-prick little bubbles. Refreshing and delightful.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov