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TBIFOM #05: Que Syrah, Syrah…

(The Bottle In Front Of Me is a series of regular, brief tasting notes from the Rogue Estate’s resident wine guy, Ian.) Que Syrah, Syrah... Lost Canyon Syrah had such promise. I recall several years ago when Syrah came to the attention of Cab drinkers as both an exotic being heavily marketed by Australia (AKA Shiraz) and as a funky Californian upstart (Syrah). It's always been a capable blending grape, good for adding some ripe dark fruit and syrupy mouthfeel to its sometimes more austere vinifera cousins. On its own, it yields a relatively simple but potentially very deep crowd-pleaser. The battle continues, Cali VS Aussie, MegaCorp VS rebel producer, to this day. I have few preconceived notions about the grape, or the wine it gives up. In my experience it's good with meat, sweet, and smoke. BBQ AKA the barbie. But I was sad to hear that we lost Lost Canyon (in its original incarnation) as a contender. 2007 Lost Canyon Russian River Syrah (About $15) Learn more about the winery: http://www.princeofpinot.com/winery/205/ Learn more about the bottle in front of me: http://buyingguide.winemag.com/catalog/lost-canyon-2007-trenton-station-vineyard-syrah-russian-river-valley SEE: Dark, deep brilliant red through and through SWIRL: A nice heavy coating of the glass, with quick, striking legs SMELL: Rich blackberry and black cherry fruit, leaves, leather, vanilla, plums, and even smoked bacon, heat from the alcohol. SIP: Tart and tannic, black fruits, and vanilla from fairly new oak SAVOR: Chewy/meaty but not as syrupy as more common new world versions Final impression: All The classic brambly fruit notes, a bit tight, rough and young. Yet it's as good as any Syrah I've had at the price and a nicer alternative to cheap Aussie Shiraz. Next week I plan to test a comparable Barossa Valley Shiraz to compare. Pair with: BBQ with sauce, or any meats with grilled onions.

TBIFOM #04: The Stiff Upper Lip

(The Bottle In Front Of Me is a series of regular, brief tasting notes from the Rogue Estate’s resident wine guy, Ian.) The stiff upper lip. Imagine an Italian immigrant living in New York during prohibition, buying grapes from California to make wine in his basement. From these passionate beginnings we finally arrive at a flagship French-inspired wine favored by the British early in the 20th century. Kind of make you dizzy, doesn't it? But the wine in question stands on its own, albeit supported by a sinfully large marketing budget. It's a strong wine, but reserved - an even blend between old and new world style. It's a serious step above plonk, relatively risk-free, and wisely priced for the nervous buyer (plus, wrapped in a gold wire net!). That being said, the Coppola Claret will never give you that funky, unique love-it-or-hate-it "Wow" factor, but it's a great doorway into better class of wine for a lot of curious drinkers. 2009 Coppola Claret (About $17) Learn more about the winery: http://www.franciscoppolawinery.com/ Learn more about the bottle in front of me: http://ffcp.s3.amazonaws.com/fcw/wine/diamond/claret/09_DiaClaret_FS.pdf SEE: Rich deep ruby, fading to a slight rose at the rim. SWIRL: A medium body coats the glass with prominent legs. SMELL: A tight nose at first. As the alcohol burns off, aromas of wood, leather, plums and a hint of salted licorice. There are familiar Cabernet scents but in a more reserved style than California usually delivers. SIP: Quiet blackberry and cassis slowly open to reveal faint woody spices. Coriander, allspice, clove and orange peel in careful amounts. SAVOR: A moderately long finish adds bitter vanilla, and faint tobacco smoke. As the wine opens caramel, apple skins, and even Concord grapes emerge. Final impression: This Claret take a long time before you can even think about unbuttoning its blouse. Patience and attention pays with a balanced and very nuanced flavor. Dependable. Pair with: Nice with the Sunday roast, stews, and most British versions of French winter classics.

TBIFOM #02: The M Word

(The Bottle In Front Of Me is a series of regular, brief tasting notes from the Rogue Estate’s resident wine guy, Ian.) The M word. Seven years after it's release, the most notorious quote from "Sideways" still rings in most Americans' ears: (Miles Raymond) "If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!" The bottle in front of me is not Miles' Merlot. It's Massive. Macho. Murderous. Aside from the few decent Bordeaux's I've splurged on, my Merlot experience is limited mostly to high volume, low-flavor Californian juice of little note. I typically associate strawberry aromas and flavors with these young bottles, rushed to market. At $10-15 a pop, there has been little encouragement to search deeper. M. Cosentino has given me that encouragement. I found their 2005 Napa County Merlot lurking behind the more current 2006 at a local shop. I got wine-jacked. 2005 M. Cosentino Napa County Merlot (About $16) Learn more about the winery: http://www.cosentinowinery.com/index/page/static/subpage/cosentino_winery Learn more about the bottle in front of me: http://www.cosentinowinery.com/common/downloads/cosentino/THEwines_factsheet_MER_2006.pdf SEE: A very deep, rich ruby color, with nice clarity. Consistent color through to the rim, showing little signs of age. SWIRL: The wine clings stubbornly to the sides of the glass, resulting in extremely slow legs. SMELL: Very ripe (almost overripe) aromas of black stone fruits, cherry and plum. Some deep floral and herb scents - mild lilies and sweet annie. Wood shows through with faint tar, cedar, and vanilla. SIP: Powerful, dense, chewy fruit on the tongue, with cassis, black plum, and black cherry upfront. An initial sweet attack is followed with a wash of tartness. The concentration and plum flavors combine to give an impression of prunes (in a good way). SAVOR: The fruit resolves to a mildly sweet tobacco finish, which stretches into a lingering smoky espresso flavor. Final impression: This is defiantly Californian, new world, and BIG. A great value for the price, and a wine to be be savored over a few hours. Pair with: Man food. Grilled hanger steak, lamb burgers, and strong, funky, salty cheeses. P.S. Mafioso Maduros for the bonus.