Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I Choose to Swirl!

Physics of Wine Swirling
Twenty or so words added to every Tasting Note published in this blog are devoted to the results of swirling.  And I call it a 'discipline' as the steps involved, the dynamics, the angle of the glass start to finish and the conclusions drawn from the reaction of the wine throughout this physical act are an essential part of my tastings. The steps are deliberate, observations are interpreted and simple descriptors record the event.

Professionals can deduce many incidentals just by tasting and some believe swirling is not essential. An unstated factor may be the time it takes to swirl. The number of wines in tasting events may prohibit the seconds it takes to do a respectable swirl including recording observations. If there are upwards of 300 samples in a tasting period swirling and observing could take an additional 6000 seconds - over an hour and a half. Why bother? Nobody else is doing it? Wouldn't the taster look pretentious if he/she were the only swirler. So it's not done!!  The explanation is... "Why Swirl? It's not needed!"

This attitude/approach carries over to everyday tastings: a sommelier performing a pre-dinner sampling, a sip with tour guests, tasting a distributor's newly received stock or doing a perfunctory tasting of a winery's barrels. "Why Swirl? It's not needed!"

None of these professional venues match my solitary tastings of the glass sitting in front of my computer keyboard. Swirling fits between sniffing and sipping which fits between viewing colour (another 'questionable' parameter) and imagining how the finish contributes to a social savouring and/or suitable pairing. Swirling predicts several aspects of a wine: viscosity or visible showing of a liquid's, wine in this case, adhesiveness or sticking power to a micro-polished sampling glass, from initial release of a rotational spin to its return however determined to the main mass. Patterns are formed betraying the liquid's density, its alcohol and sugar level, its clarity. For instance, patterns of a low alcohol, dry Riesling vary substantially from a hot, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Swirling accomplishes something else: Surface airing or mixing a small portion of wine with air and the release of aromas into the glass bowl. That initial pour from the bottle can be quite different from the sniff and mouthful following a swirling which is more characteristic of the wine when it's served.

I'm not suggesting you adopt swirling as a practice... it's something that adds interest and to a certain extent enjoyment to my tasting experience. However, I suggest you are cautious if you hear a 'professional' say  "Why Swirl? It's not needed!"  You're not on a timetable to get your records into the judges. Relax! Enjoy each sip! Take the time to swirl. See how it adds to your wine experience rather than dismissing it by accepting a misleading view.

My opinion, Ww


Thursday, August 01, 2013

August 2013 Wines - 10 Tasted of 10

My August tasting selections.

Salut, Ww


  • Hahn Winery Pinot Noir Monterey 2011, 92-2  --  G, Monterey County, California, #226555 $18.95 
  • Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, 91-2  --  G, Napa, California, #055517 $14.95
  • Quintay Pinot Noir Grand Reserve Q 2011, 91-2  --  V, Casablanca Valley, Chile, #325449 $16.95 
  • Aquinas Pinot Noir Napa Valley 2010, 91-2  --  G, Napa Valley, California, #277657 $17.95*
  • Oveja Negra Single Vineyard Carmenère 2011, 90a-2  --  V, Valle de Maul, Chile, #302646  $15.95  
  • Smoking Loon Old Vine Zinfandel 2011,  88-1  --  G,  Napa, California, #272393  $14.95
  • J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, 86  --  V,  Paso Robles, California, #313817 (375 mL) $11.95 
  • Domaine de Rochebin Clos St. Germain Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne 2011,  84 --  V,   Macon, France, #264549 $18.95 
  • Juan Benegas Malbec 2010, 82a  --  V, Mendoza, Argentina, #222273 $14.95
  • Lionel Osmin & Cie Villa la Réserve Malbec 2010, 80a --  V, Cenac, France, #328641 $14.95 
(V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v  - Rating-Value, a - aerated, NR - Not Rated)


SMOKING LOON OLD VINE ZINFANDEL 2011, Napa, California, 14.0%  D  9g/L, #272393
$14.95  (Tasted August 1, 2013)  CS

A General listing produced by Don Sebastiani & Sons as was Pepperwood Grove OV Zinfandel (#308163, $13.85) tasted in July.  My notes:  A rich ruby colour and having ripe aromas of crushed black cherry and black berry bright with an acid edge. A swirl leaves a light film sufficiently viscous to show a smooth rim gradually draining through long tears. Bright also is the first sip of a fresh black cherry/berry blend with a touch of sweet softened by a delicate bramble ending. Would have wide appeal as a medium-bodied sipper as well as a complement with lasagna, meat eaters pizzas and beef dishes. Was great with bbq'd beef burgers with tomato, onion slice, mustard and grilled cremini mushrooms. A drink now that should keep for a year. 88 

SMOKING LOON CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011, Napa, California, 13.5%  D  7g/L, #055517  $14.95  (Tasted August 3, 2013) 

A General listing produced by Don Sebastiani & Sons.  My notes: A regal dense rich ruby is an inviting call to sniff and sip. A firm film forms a fragmenting rim leading to snail paced tears then a sniff finds aromas of purple plum, blackberry influenced by a smoky campfire. Velvety smooth, nicely balanced tannin, acid and a flavour matching the nose while adding a hint of dark chocolate is sipper friendly. Sniff and sip this with a good book or friends or pair with anything beefy: steaks, ribs and stews. There's noticeable sweetness in the nose and the long finish although nearer dry. Cellaring several years could bring out more of the process which, if you prefer, could add elegance. Aerating softened a tad but not needed. 91

OVEJA NEGRA SINGLE VINEYARD CARMENÈRE 2011, Valle de Maul, Chile, 13.5%  XD  4g/L, #302646  $15.95  (Tasted August 24, 2013) CS

Released by Vintages on August 3, 2013.  My notes:  A charcoal tinted deep ruby colour and a swirl leaves a firm film with a full rim slowly dropping long slow legs. Air twenty minutes minimum or aerate (preferable). There's an aroma of blackberry, red currant, smoke and dark chocolate that sets up flavours of the same while adding distinct acid and a velvet coating. The finish is long, full and ending on remnants of fur, smoke and fruit. Pair with grilled, bbq'd or roasted beef or game. This may become smoother with five years cellaring. If you prefer a full-bodied old world red still with some dark fruit and a good value this is it.  90a
QUINTAY PINOT NOIR GRAND RESERVE Q 2011, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14.0%  XD  5g/L, #325449  $16.95  (Tasted August 19, 2013) 

Released by Vintages on August 3, 2013.  My notes:  Winner of a Silver Medal (Decanter Asia Wine Awards) in 2012.  A deep ruby with a charcoal cast, regal to view, and a dusty nose of black- and blueberry wrapped in smoke. The film is viscous with full, long legs setting up quickly. A bold first impression with smooth black fruit following an acid that cleanses and lays a dry coating on the palate - a long finish. Is full-bodied with a good fruit presence  accompanying the oak ageing brightening what would have been a solemn treatment. Let air for twenty minutes - seems to lose nose with aerating. Should cellar many years well. Have with anything grilled and beefy. 91

DOMAINE DE ROCHEBIN CLOS ST. GERMAIN VIEILLES VIGNES BOURGOGNE 2011,  Macon, France, 12.5% XD 3g/L, #264549  $18.95  (Tasted August 16, 2013)

Released by Vintages on August 3, 2013.   My notes: The colour is a charcoal hued ruby and there's a fragrance of red currant and blackberry soft yet penetrating. A swirl shows a thin film and a rim that fragments leaving a clean surface. A smoky dark fruit with a clean metallic edge makes this a bracing sipper - closes woody and extra dry.  Pair with planked salmon or baked cod with Italian salsa verde. Keep a few on hand for guests preferring less fruit and more process - plan to consume over a year.  84

LIONEL OSMIN & CIE VILLA LA RÉSERVE MALBEC 2010, Cenac, France, 13.0%  XD  4g/L,  #328641 $14.95  (Tasted August 21, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on August 3, 2013. 00% Malbec and rated 89 by Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast, (June 2012).  My notes:  Let this sit for twenty minutes on first pouring to lessen a bracing salty aspect to the nose then its a bright blackberry jam aroma. The colour is a deep ruby and a swirl lays a firm film that runs slow tears from a continuous rim. An astringent first sip with raspberry flavour and a metallic bite is interesting but not pleasing as fruit declines leaving an extra dry acerbic end. A meal red to pair with grilled or roasted meats: beef, bison, buffalo, bear.... or use in savoury sauces. Don't see any improvement if cellared. No significant change with aerating. 80a

J. LOHR SEVEN OAKS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, Paso Robles, California, 13.5% XD 6g/L,  #313817  (375 mL) $11.95  (Tasted August 22, 2013) 

Released by Vintages on July 20, 2013. Rated 90 by Natalie MacLean  (March 7, 2013).  My notes: A 750mL bottle is $21.95 (#656561).  The colour is a clean dark ruby and the nose has a smoky blackberry politely acidic at the edges and growing with each sniff. The film sticks at first showing no interruption in the continuous rim until several long legs break free. A nip with the first sip brings freshly squeezed blackberry initially with a silky texture then fine tannins. The finish is moderate, extra dry with a touch of jam. A sipper if a heavy red is preferred. A partner to sausage in a blanket, stuffed mushrooms or buffet style short ribs. Pair with anything substantially seasoned and beefy. A commercial drink now. 86

JUAN BENEGAS MALBEC 2010, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.5%  XD  5g/L, #222273  $14.95  (Tasted August 20, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on Jun 22, 2013. Rated 89 by Tony Aspler (November 7, 2012).  My notes: 100% Malbec grapes from La Encerrada vineyard in the Valle de Uco, elevation of 1450 metres. There's a charcoal cast to the deep ruby colour and the nose has a warm earthy scent of blackberry jam and sharp red currant. The film is evenly distributed forming a smooth rim that runs long fast legs. The first reaction is 'pungent and hot' followed by a flavour of woody blackberry going into a long extra dry finish with a hard edge. For me, not a sipper. Pair with seasoned back ribs or T-bone with Chimichurri sauce. Cellaring many years may mellow but may also lose fruit. Aerating reduces 'pungency' and is recommended. 82a

HAHN WINERY PINOT NOIR MONTEREY 2011, Monterey County, California, 14.5%  D  6g/L,  #226555  $18.95  (Tasted August 15, 2013)  CS

A General release.  My notes: 100% Pinot Noir priced at $14US at the winery. A vibrant ruby with a viscous film sticking to the glass leaving a smooth rim shedding long legs followed by clusters of slow tears. A sip confirms a silky smoothness with a penetrating taste of black cherry, red currant going into a dry, light bramble finish. The nose has the same black cherry softness with a red currant streak. An elegant sipper showing some reserve at the start then quickly unfolding full flavour for a long finish. A sociable sipper to be enjoyed by all around a buffet table or between tastes of grilled salmon, rabbit in a rich sauce or with roasted turkey with cranberries and spiced stuffing. Cellaring for two plus years is likely possibly adding but not losing current enjoyment level.   (Paired a bottle at Piatto's on Dundas with grilled Swordfish and Black Olive Tapenade - wonderful before, during & after!) 92

AQUINAS PINOT NOIR NAPA VALLEY 2010 , Napa Valley, California, 13.5%  D  2.9g/L, #277657  $17.95*  (Tasted August 14, 2013)  CS

A General listing and a wine made by Don Sebastiani & Sons.  My notes: *Reduced to $15.95 until Nov. 10th. I couldn't find the price for this on the Aquinas website... however, other varietals from Don Sebastiani labelled 'Aquinas' were above $20US. This has a balanced aroma of chocolate, blueberry, a touch of earth and faint cinnamon with a see-through ruby, a plus for sipping interest. The film is moderate flowing fast legs from a continuous rim and the first sip, following a twenty minute airing, is medium-bodied, silky and dry with a background of mild acid and a flavour blend following the nose. Finishes long on the palate with a dry ending. Uniquely pinot noir, very pleasing to sip and would complement a tuna steak, planked salmon or breast of grouse/partridge roasted in a rich red wine sauce.  May cellar four years or so.   91