Aborigen Ácrata Portada 2006

This wine’s presumably grown somewhere near Ensenada – that’s the only address on the back of the bottle – but exactly where, I have no idea. All I know for sure is that this wine is half grenache, nearly half carignane, and a little bit durif. Period. Sorry.

Clearly unfiltered, swirling the wine leaves the glass with a sparkly coat of residue. The color is that massively purple purple that carignane seems to do so well; it still looks joyously young, even if the wine itself is a hair over five years old at this point. The wine is all sweet fruit with a backing of toasted acorn mush; there’s a savory, umami edge to the cheery/cherry Pop-Tart fruit and thankfully very little of the varnished carignane note I was expecting.

The first big surprise is the weight of the wine; although there appears to be quite a bit of alcohol judging by the legs, there’s not very much at all for a New World wine: just over thirteen percent. As a result, the fat, unctuous Rolland-esque mouthfeel the visuals suggest is absolutely nowhere to be found. Instead, you get a savory mouthful of dried grape and date pudding, with a long, dusky finish of subliminal oak and soft, gentle tannin.

On the whole, I really do like this wine. On the other hand, it’s something of a surprise to drink a carignane that is so tasteful and/or elegantly restrained. The other wine I’ve had from this winery was 100% carignane, twice the price, and was a massive sensorily overwhelming experience that was pure visceral pleasure. This wine, on the other hand, reminds me of what French wine is like when it’s very, very good: mineral, savory, elegant, and yet fruity without being trashy. It’s exceptional, and yet I almost find myself wishing it were more rambunctious.

Price: $30
Closure: Diam
Source: Retail

McPherson Grenache-Mourvedre 2005

I’m currently on a business trip to San Angelo, Texas, which is a relatively small city of about 80,000 people pretty much in the middle of nowhere, about four hours’ drive due west of President Bush’s ranch.Although there’s an airport here with daily flights to Dallas, it was far less expensive to fly into Austin, the state capital, and drive. More importantly, the Texas Hill Country AVA is about an hour and a half west of Austin, so I thought it’d be a kick to see what’s going on in Texas wine country.I did stop at one winery, which I won’t name here: it opened relatively recently, with a very good looking tasting room with a tasteful selection or merchandise, plenty of parking, and a very friendly tasting room employee who informed me that Texas was now the #2 wine producing state in the nation. (Trust me, it’s not. Washington and Oregon dwarf Texas’s wine production by far.) Tellingly, their whites were generally made from California grapes (where, I have no idea; neither did their employee), but they did have a couple of Texas red wines. The best of the bunch was a thoroughly humdrum Bordeaux blend that approaches Rawson’s Retreat quality levels, but at the amazing price of $55.That’s right. Fifty-five bucks. I think I now know what Enron executives were doing with their money!Anyhow, enough about “the #2 Wine Destination in America” (according to the tourist brochure put out by the local vintners’ co-op marketing board).Tonight, I went out and found a lovely wine shop here called In Vino Veritas. The staff were very friendly, even if they couldn’t pronounce “mourvèdre”; the place looked like a great place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine with friends, even if the owner’s humongous dog was stinking up the place and eating off of a plate of tiny cheese cubes. I don’t mean to sound rude by pointing these things out; I’m just noting that it was, ahem, a bit different than your typical snooty West Coast wine shop. They went so far as to uncork my bottle for me (no corkscrew in my hotel room!) and recork it with a Turley cork (sexy!), and now I’m enjoying it out of Hampton Inn’s finest plastic stemware.On pouring the wine, it seemed to me that the color was a bit wan; to me, this is either indicative of a marginal climate (unlikely; this appears to be from Lubbock, which is up towards Oklahoma*) or a winemaker who’s trying hard to emulate the French classics and not produce a total hedonistic fruit bomb (e.g. a Turley).The aroma of the wine is decidedly pretty, smelling very soft and sweet with a deliciously floral perfume of warm red raspberries; I don’t really smell much of the typical mataro gaminess here. There’s also just a hint of what’s probably volatile acidity; it’s almost a nail polish remover note, but it’s so subtle that I really don’t think it’s a flaw in any way; it just adds to the charm of this stuff. In the mouth, this is indeed a little bit thin compared to the stuff I’m used to from California, but the flavors are very fine indeed, with a soft, smoky undercurrent to subdued brambly fruit. There seems to me to be a hint of tobacco sheds and spice box here; there is definitely just a bit of classic Shiraz pepperiness and it’s well integrated with the fruit.All in all, this wine is A-OK by me. I’m not sure there’s anything here that tastes different enough to make me think West Texas is the next Marlborough or Mendoza, but this is a very well crafted, well-judged wine that would be ideal to drink with a first rate Texas steak. Based on this wine alone, I’d love to try more of Kim McPherson’s wines.* Not actually true (I had to check the map); Lubbock is just south of the southern border of Oklahoma. My apologies.McPherson Cellars
Price: $15
Closure: Cork

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2005

The best thing about being an unpaid blogger is that sometimes you don’t have to review the wine – you just have to drink it – and that’s what I’m about to do: put down the laptop and enjoy this bottle of wine.This is the best Cigare I’ve had yet. Rich, smooth, and yet not strictly Californian, it’s got minerality, a savory tannic edge, and is just damn good.Back to the bottle. I promise to write a real tasting note next time.Bonny Doon Vineyard
Price: $30
Closure: Stelvin

Rosemount Estate Epicurean Collection GSM Grenache – Syrah – Mourvédre 2002

Although I’ve never wandered out into Scottish bogs to cut peat for a crofter’s fire, I imagine it might smell something like this wine does: dark, loamy, and sweet at the same time. There’s definitely more than a hint of animalics here; it’s got that kind of sweetness on the nose that reminds me of more than a few perfumes [e.g. Comme des Garçons 2 Man]. There’s kind of a high-toned flare [flair?] to it as well; it isn’t all heavy, funky; there’s also an uplift to the perfume which rounds it off nicely.Color-wise, this wine looks like Bandol more than anything else; it doesn’t appear particularly old at this point, and the rim isn’t especially watery. There’s a bit of onionskin browning there, sure, but it could fool you into thinking that this wine is younger than it is.In the mouth, there’s a short burst of sweetness immediately checked by firm, dusty tannins; the flavor makes a sharp turn upwards to something like carrots or root vegetables (no kidding!), before flattening out into a fairly long, soft finish with good acidity. All in all, it feels like there’s an awful lot going on here; there are also some cedary notes as well as a Vegemite-on-raspberry effect.I’d hazard a guess that this will will still be drinking well a decade from now, but I’m far from an expert in these matters. If anything, it’s beautiful right now and highly recommended (especially at the US importer’s clearance pricing).Rosemount EstatePrice: US $9.99Closure: CorkDate tasted: April 2008Note: The label actually says GSM, but I was amused by its Web site nomenclature, reproduced above. C’mon… Epicurean Collection? Give me a break!