Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Winter Hibernation Report: West Coast Reds From the Cellar

I think it’s finally Spring. The Washington Nationals are out there cracking home runs and the cherry blossoms are about to bloom here in DC. I’m so stoked for the season I can barely stand to be indoors.

But it’s been a damn long winter, and I’ve endured many a frozen, snowy night. I’ve spent a lot of the winter hibernating at my desk with my laptop. I cooked from home even more than usual, and slow-cooked plenty of meats and stews.

Naturally, I uncorked some hearty red wines.

I post a lot of reviews of samples, but all of these bottles came from my personal cellar. When it’s just me, a friend or two, a cold night and a slow cooked meat dish, this is what I go for. I want something warm and complex, something you can sip and contemplate. 

Here are a few diverse reds that got me through the long, gray winter.

2004 Copain Syrah Cailloux & Coccinelle - Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
Medium purple color with ruby rims. Aromas of plums, blueberries, cooked bacon, earth, sweet roses and barbecue sauce. Lovely aromas that open and evolve with time. Fine tannins, some medium acid. Pure blueberry and black currant fruit mixes with rich BBQ sauce, tons of black olives, smoke and meat. I also get some sweet caramel, roses and fig paste. A bit of baked, reduced aspects, but just a hint, and not enough to throw the wine off. Fun, unique, and showing some interesting aged characteristics. A bit hot on the finish. Not sure how much longer this will hold. A blend from two of my favorite Washington State vineyards, Cailloux and Coccinelle. (90 points)

2005 Armagh Syrah - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Meaty and saucy on the nose, like figs and black cherries cooked down with bacon and salami. The palate shows fleshy black and red fruit. Lots of smoky, black pepper sauce, earth, duck fat. Fine tannins, fresh acid, it all works out. Rich black fruit, a bit jammy at times, but also showing restraint. Love the black and kalamata olive notes. Still dense and rich, with wintergreen notes on the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Threw a ton of sediment, so definitely one to decant. Still going strong. Gonna hold onto my other bottle for another year or two. (88 points)

2005 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Kanzler Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast)
Aromas of bright cherries, raspberries, rhubarb, some cola and sweet pickle relish (seriously). Like velvet on the palate, with fine tannins and surprisingly fresh acid. The fruit is rich but elegant, like wild strawberries and black cherries. Notes of root beer, sweet pickle, cola and white pepper add complexity. Rich, but believe it or not, this shows some elegance. Undeniably viscous and rich, but the 15.3% alcohol is somewhat kept in check by the intensity of the other elements. Pepper and earth notes on the finish. Most of the Kosta-Browne’s I’ve tasted with 6+ years on them can develop baked fruit and evident alcohol, but this one doesn't show as much. It’s smoothed out wonderfully. Big and beautiful stuff. I rarely pair Pinot with steak, but I tried it this time and I loved it. (92 points)

2007 Tsillan Cellars Syrah Estate Barrel Select - Washington, Columbia Valley, Lake Chelan
Deep purple colored, a bit of bricking at the rims. Aromas of raspberry and blueberry jam, violets, cola and caramel. On the palate, the tannins are medium-grained, providing good structure. The acid is a bit low for my palate, keeping me from getting too thrilled about this wine. The blueberry and blackberry fruit is rich, showing some balsamic accents. Still, I like what this wine is doing, and I like the sweet BBQ sauce, black pepper, earth and Portobello mushroom notes. Seems to be drinking very well now, and I’m not sure how much longer I’d hold onto a bottle, as I worry those baked-balsamic notes will just get stronger. All that said, well-made and tasty stuff. For $15, this is a bargain. (87 points)

2009 Copain Pinot Noir Les Voisins - California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
A clear plum and black cherry color in the glass. Cool raspberries, strawberries and black cherries on the nose, some pipe tobacco, rose petals, subtle fountain cola notes. The strawberries and raspberries show great balance between tartness and ripeness. Crisp and clean, with earthy, licorice and white pepper tones. Just a hint of mocha and fountain soda on the finish. Juicy and cool (13.3% alcohol), pure and sexy, wow. Structure for cellaring if you’re interested in seeing some secondary flavors coaxed out, but I was perfectly happy drinking this now. Seems to be in near-perfect balance with itself. (92 points)

2009 Carol Shelton Wines Zinfandel “Karma Zin” Bastoni Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Aromas of black cherries and sweet cola, floral, bright and juicy, just damn sexy. Rich but juicy on the palate, full of black cherry and sweet cola. Dusty tannins, fresh acid. Flavors of roasted chestnut, sweet lavender, root beer, plum cake. Rich but not port-like. I actually sipped this with some friends after surfing 39 degree waves in New Jersey, and it absolutely hit the spot. Pure cold weather goodness. (91 points)

2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Sonoma Coast - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Wow, what a beauty. Plum, blackberry, violets and charcoal on the nose. Juicy on the palate, with chewy tannins, lively acid. Crunching blackberry and plum fruit, which mixes in with all sorts of complex non-fruit flavors: mesquite, black pepper, tobacco and bell pepper. Long and creamy on the finish, with notes of braised beef and bacon. Just a hint of coconut and mocha, but so subtle. Wild yeasts, up to half of the fruit is whole-cluster fermented, aged in oak, a “minimal” amount of new. Pure and inspiring, this is why I love about Sonoma Coast Syrah. My advice: drink over two days or cellar for 1-2 years, but I could see this evolving over the next 3-5 easily. (92 points)

2010 Bedrock Wine Co. The Bedrock Heirloom - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
Medium purple-violet color. Initially quite closed on the nose, with dusty earth and cement, but it opens up to show tangy berries, flowers and dried herbs. Juicy on the palate, full of crisp berry fruit. Fine tannins, some refreshing-lively aspects from the acid. Shows elegance and depth, and I love the floral and earthy tones. Some bay leaf and pepper. Full of flavor, but maintains mystique. Beautiful stuff from 100+ year-old vines. About 55% Zinfandel, 25% Carignane, 11% Mourvedre, and 9% Syrah. picked and vinified separately, and a dash of some other varieties. (91 points)

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