BOATLOADS OF CHEAP CRAP X: SO VERY TIRED



So lately I've been slipping into one of those lulls that tend to come upon those of us who are inveterate notetakers, mostly due to long long hours at work and the corresponding exhaustion when I shuffle home late at night. When one is living with a med student doing rotations and actually outworking them by a good margin, one's enthusiasm for dinnertime wine analysis is bound to be dimmed. Staring at glasses of wine, scratching my head and scribbling suddenly seems less important than bolting food and sleeping for a few hours, possibly bathing or harrowing, sometimes brushing my hair, which takes longer than you'd think.


ONE CHEAPASS FIZZY

Thierry Puzelat Vouvray Petillant Naturel Non-dosé 1999 ($13). Pale straw-tan color, very lightly fizzy. Smells subdued but wacky, lightly flinty lemon-lime-mushroom, celery seed, chalk, more flint. Is there a touch of sugar? Not sure, but there's a certain roundness to the mouthfeel. Solid at the core, velvety skin, a firm fizz that finishes with a burst of limey chalkiness. There's a little severity here, it's not all shiny happy bubbles, but that touch of standoffishness only makes me want it more. [Buy again? Yup.]


CHEAP CRAP THAT IS NOT RED AT ALL AND IS FROM FRANCE

Domaine Lafage Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes 'Côte Est' 2005 ($9). Pineapple and light pear hints, quietly tropical with a shy underpinning of minerality. Broadbeamed white, with a touch of a burn on the finish but otherwise fairly composed and balanced. Has the feel of a good Jurancon sec, mouthfilling and vivid wine with a sense of calmness about it. Real good stuff, undervalued at $9. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Sure.]

Gaujal de Saint Bon Coteaux du Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet 2005 ($9). Bright honeysuckle-infused tart yellow apple aromatics, touch of white honey. Tastes cheerily crisp, bosc pear and yellow appleskin notes with a hint of lemon, light touch of minerality underneath, a gentle stoniness down deep. Nice balance, a bit of heat on the finish, but overall quite charming. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Yup.]

Laboure-Roi Mâcon-Villages St. Armand 'Unoaked' 2004 ($10). Quietly fruity yellow apple-bosc pear aromatics, simple and gentle smelling, plain and pleasant. Medium acidity, soft juiciness around an unassertive spine. Simple and straightforward chardonnay, very decent. [Buy again? Yup.]

Domaine de Mirail Columbard Blanc Sec Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne 2005 ($8). Lightly whiteflowery aromatics, gentle plumeria with a hint of lemon. Crisp, tangy-lemony, medium acidity, nice focus, with just a hint of heft to the midpalate. Nice wine, on the neutral side but very well built. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Oh yeah.]

Domaine Brana Irouleguy (Blanc) 2001 ($13). Pale straw-lemon color. Smells of underripe pineapple and wet stones, shy but interesting. Tastes hard and rather severe, a squeaky-stony wine. There's a flicker of lemon-pineapple fruit, but it's so tart as to be almost sour. A flash of heat on the finish and a flicker of tannins continue the theme. I sort of admire this wine, but find it hard to like in my mouth. [Buy again? Only if you're Lyle Fass.]


CHEAP CRAP THAT IS NOT RED AT ALL AND IS FROM AMERICA NORTH

Bonny Doon Vineyard Riesling America 'Pacific Rim Dry Riesling' NV ($8). Quiet lemon-vinyl-yellow apple aromatics, maybe a hint of gardenia. Crisp, just slightly off-dry, lemony-zippy acidity. Simple, balanced and straightforwardly bright, there's even a little decent finish, sort of a SaranWrap/lemonhead buzz. Decent enough baseline riesling. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Okay, yeah.]

Ruston Family Wines Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2003 ($14). Light lemoncreamy aromatics, touch of grassiness, touch of smoky funkiness, kind of a wet-socks-in-the-microwave note. Big and boozy, with a vodkalike burn on the finish. Medium acidity, a substantial wine with a lot of flavor, but hot and clumsy. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? No.]

Big House Wine Co. California 'Big House White' 2004 ($8). The label no longer says 'Ca del Solo' or 'Bonny Doon,' what's up with that? Whatever. At any rate, the wine smells perfumed, whitefloral and tropical notes over pineapple-pear yellowfruit. Medium acidity, fruit-juicy flavors, a certain glossy-waxiness to the texture. Straightforward and unsubtle, but friendly enough, in a cocktailish kind of way. SCREWCAP! {Buy again? Sure.]

Bedell Cellars North Fork of Long Island 'Main Road White' NV ($9). The usual blend of chardonnay, gewürztraminer and riesling. As ever, even a little bit of gewürztraminer in a blend dominates. Light lychee and plumeria, sweet smelling, floral and gentle. Tastes light and breezy, medium-low acidity but fresh and bright, with maybe just a hint of sugar, just enough to flesh out the middle. There's a light oiliness that gives the wine a bit of heft, but apart from that it's all plain pear-apple yellowfruit. Nice stuff, a simple sipping wine. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Yup.]


CHEAP CRAP THAT IS NOT RED AT ALL AND IS FROM GERMANY

J.J. Christoffel Erben Riesling Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese 2003 ($9, delivered by Jay Miller). Lemon oil, slightly baked yellow apple and beanbag chair aromatics. Tastes broad and moderately sweet--the first impression is of a certain flaccidity, but then some tart acidity wells up from deep in the depths and surprises me. Not terribly cohesive, but puppyish and friendly, a nice sort of apertif style riesling. [Buy again? Sure.]

Kette Riesling Rheinessen Halbtrocken 2004 ($8). Lemon-lime citricity and calm SaranWrap-sheathed minerality underneath. Straightforwardly tritonal, just a whisper of sugar, soft but with tangy limey acidity. Nice enough, decent baseline riesling. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Sure.]


CHEAP CRAP THAT IS NOT RED AT ALL AND IS FROM ITALY

Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio (White) 2002 ($10). Medium-pale straw color. Lightly oxidative, smells of straw and a touch of honey, hint of lemon tea. Quiet, minerally wine, rather neutral-tasting. Stern right at first, then vague in the middle. Not bad, but somewhat anonymous. [Buy again? No.]

Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone 2005 ($7). Pale straw-lemon color. Quiet stonycitric aromatics, touch of lemon, touch of mineral, maybe a hint of honeydew melonosity. Tastes rather solid and broad, tangycitric acidity has a bit of a SweeTart taste to it, but does keep things bright. Rather neutral and uncomplicated, but straightforward and bright, with pleasant lemony flavors. For seven bucks you could do a lot worse. [Buy again? Yup.]

Cantina Santa Maria la Palma Vermentino di Sardegna 2005 ($7). Smells like icy lemonlime-infused mineral water, pure and bright, with just a hint of underlying minerality. Tastes lean and similarly bright, just bright, neutral and citric, with puckery acidity. Rather neutral but quite vivid as well, bright and clear as a mountain popsicle. [Buy again? Sure.]


CHEAP CRAP THAT IS NOT RED AT ALL AND IS FROM IBERIA

Quinta Hinojal Viura Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y LeŚn 2005 ($8). Lemoncitric-yellow appleskin aromatics, touch of gardenia whiteflorality, simple and straighforward. Tastes crisp and bright, lemon-lime flavors mingle with a light rainwatery stoniness. Happily tart and lean, a very nice little uncomplicated wine that has a future meeting with some sautéed scallops. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Sure.]

Lost Vineyards Vinho de Mesa Branco NV ($2). Medium lemon-straw color. Quiet vinyl-lemon-tangerine hints over a lemon-pear yellowfruit base, touch of cinnamon. Tastes vague and smooth, mediumweight with some gently tart grapefruity acidity. There's a hint of beanbag chair in the middle and not much of a finish, but this is really quite drinkable, which would make it the best of the ultra-cheap Lost Vineyards wines. My standards for $2 wine aren't terribly rigorous, but this exceeds them all by leaps and bounds. [Buy again? Yes, six.]


CHEAP CRAP THAT IS NOT RED AT ALL AND IS FROM SOUTH AFRICA, ETC.

Le Bonheur Sauvignon Blanc Simonsberg-Stellenbosch 2005 ($10). Lemon-lime accented mineral aromatics, light green chile herbaceousness, not extravagant, kind of lean and bright-smelling. Tastes crisp and lemony, lightly creamy. Lean and zippy, simple and friendly-bright. Has a bit of a Fresca feel to it, and there's nothing terribly distinctive, but Lisa likes it so it's okay with me. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Sure.]

Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 'New Dog' 2004 ($14). Smells of quiet white grapefruit and lemon, touch of cream. Zippily crisp, grapefruity and pleasantly straightforward, with a sense of containment and calm that you don't always see in young Marlborough sauvignon. Still, there are better values out there. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? At $14 it's just a couple bucks too high, so no, unless it's on sale.]

Oyster Bay Chardonnay Marlborough 2005 ($8). Calm pear-apple yellowfruit laced with a light figginess. Seems leaner until it warms up a bit, turning rather bland, lightly creamy and limp. Serve cold. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Nah.]

Gnangara Sauvignon Blanc Western Australia 2004 ($7). Light grassy-jalapeľo aromatics over lemon-lime. Crisp and bright, a good imitation of the Kiwi style done in three colors. Remarkably unremarkable and Frescalike. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? No.] Giesen Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2005 ($8). White grapefruit and green chile pepper aromatics, duotonal but cheerful. Tastes simple, bright and tart, with grassycitric flavors, medium acidity, gentle fleshiness. Pleasantly bright and sunny wine beverage product, tastes like a pair of yellow and green highlight markers, in a happy shiny way. The finish tastes like grapefruit pith. [Buy again? For eight bucks? Why not.]


CHEAP CRAP THAT IS SEMI-RED

Domaine des Terres Dorées/Jean-Paul Brun Beaujolais Rosé Brun d'Folie 2005 ($10). Maybe a shade or two paler than the Ancien. Smells cheerfully fruity--strawberry and cherry juice with a quiet stoniness underneath. Uncomplicatedly charming wine, happily crisp and racy, juicily tart, nice stuff. [Buy again? Yes, quickly, three more.]


CHEAP RED CRAP FROM FRANCE

Christian Bernard Gamay Fleurie 'Norton Ridge Block 17' 2004 ($8). Is there really a Norton Ridge in Fleurie? Cool, who knew? Anyhoo, it's a shy little grapey-strawberry-smelling Fleurie, simple and fruitbowlish. Medium lightbodied, calm and loose and pleasantly insubstantial. It's a simple fruity quaffer with some gently tangy acidity. It's not great Fleurie by any means, but the bottle is drained before we know it. Utterly inconsequential, very easy to drink. [Buy again? Hmmm, yeah, I guess for eight bucks I'd give it another go.]

Château Tour de Goupin Bordeaux 2003 ($8). Herbal, cedary aromatics--pencil shavings, plum-cassis, oregano. Smells Bordeauxish, all right. Tastes rather foursquare, ripe and darkly cassised, mediumweight, fleshy but not flabby. There's a hint of ponderousness, but all in all it's a pretty decent daily Bordeaux for eight bucks. [Buy again? Sure.]

Château la Grange Clinet Premières Côtes de Bordeaux 2004 ($7). Quiet gravelly-smoky-cassis aromatics, sort of generic. A bit thin, quite tannic, touch of bitterness on the finish. Not much here. [Buy again? Nope.]

Château la Grace du Ciel Bordeaux Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2005 ($8). Corked.

Château la Grace du Ciel Bordeaux Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2005 ($8). Corked.

Château Lastours Gaillac 2003 ($8). Sasparilla-laced blackberry aromatics, crushed brick and plumskin. hint of mint. Soft and fleshy, loose and light and blackfruity wine that takes a turn towards tartness in the middle and finishes with a buzz of tannins. Gently layered, there's some awkwardness, some blowsiness, but it has a good amount of character for and eight buck wine. [Buy again? Yup.]


CHEAP RED CRAP FROM ITALY

Ferralle Chianti 'Voluttł' 2004 ($8). I'd sworn an oath never to buy another bottle of Italian wine with Arlecchino on the label, but this was ordered online, so I consider my oath still unbroken. Technically speaking. Smells volatile, acetone over cherryleather. Watery & tannic, lean, tart & hollow. No fun. [Buy again? No.]

Il Conti Fossalta Nero d'Avola Sicilia 'Caleo' 2004 ($8). Smells dark and grapey-raspberried, veins of tree bark and parking lot peelout. Medium acidity, bit of a tarry-licorice tang on the finish. Simple, grapey and, despite the rough edges, rather generic. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Nah.]


CHEAP RED CRAP FROM THE IBERIAN PENINSULA

Artiga Fustel Vino de Mesa España 'Mirone' NV ($5). Medium-dark garnet color. Smoky raspberry, smells dark and candy-edged, bit of tree bark, bit of sod. Tastes fleshy and simply ripe, a smooth fruity wine with medium-low acidity and not much in the way of tannic structure, sort of a soft squishy thing, but because it's fairly loose and light it manages to avoid seeming ponderous. Dark berry fruitpunch, quite amiable quaffiing wine if you don't mind ripeness. [Buy again? Five bucks? Sure.]

Bodegas Luzon Jumilla 'Luzon' 2005 ($7). Dark garnet color. Smells ripe and in the mold of a generic big red--candied raspberry, vanilla, touch of smokiness, just a bit of mossy-mushroomy earthiness. Tastes round and soft and meaty, a little bruiser of a wine, concentrated and plush, ripe red-black fruit, some treebarkiness in the middle, more ripe red-black fruit, finishes with a bit of licorice. Some rather aggressive tannins on the finish give it a bit of mouthgrab in lieu of acidity. It's very internationally ripe in style, but there's a surprising amount of oomph and enough richness and character to win me over despite some initial doubt (probably spurred by the heavy bottle and overdesigned label). Frankly, a lot of wine for seven bucks if you're a fan of the style. [Buy again? Yup.]

Bodegas Ramon Bilbao Rioja 'Ramon Cordova' 2003 ($12). Medium dead center red color. Smells ripe and black cherried, light balsamic notes above, quiet stony underpinnings below. Tastes ripe and soft, blowsy and loose, a fleshy zin-styled Rioja with a hint of laurel on the finish. Odd, not what I want when I buy Rioja. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and call it another vintage victim. [Buy again? Nope.]


CHEAP RED CRAP FROM SOUTH AFRICA & OTHER PLACES

The Goats Do Roam Wine Company/Fairview South Africa 'Goat-Roti' 2003 ($15). Medium dark garnet color. Smells sweetly raspberry-blackberry-spicy, hints of toast and sod. Ripe and smooth right up front, with some spiky acidity arising in the middle, with hints of smokiness woven into the candied dark red-black fruit. Pretty decent stuff, I'd probably buy more if it was $10. [Buy again? No.]

Hardy's Pinot Noir South Eastern Australia 'Nottage Hill' 2005 ($6). Lightly plum-grapey smelling. Watery, soft wine, medium-lightbodied and pallid. Only for those who favor the bland. [Buy again? No.]


CHEAP RED CRAP FROM AMERICA (NORTH)

McManis Family Vineyards Syrah California 2004 ($10). I remember liking this winery's petite sirah, so I had semi-high expectations for their syrah. Set up thus, I was astonished to find that their syrah smells like a woodshop. Circular sawdust, bandsaw dust, table sawdust, all blend to form a smooth vibrant sawdust medley, along with a waxy vanilla candle streak. There may be some fruit, but this is just about the most wood-dominated wine I've had since my last Elderton Command Shiraz, which at least had some dark plum-purpliness. Wood wood wood, wood wood, wood fruit wood. Appalling, really quite surprisingly undrinkable. [Buy again? Perhaps were I to be waterboarded, otherwise no.]

Wayward Pilgrims of the Vine Syrah California 'The Shadow' 2002 ($10). Amazingly, the price on this stunning value has dropped from a silly $12 to a ridiculous $10. But this bottle is still corked, and badly so.

Brander Vineyard Merlot Santa Ynez Valley 'The Explorers Club Centennial Reserve 1904-2004' 2003 ($10). Medium dark garnet color. Smells cocoaberried, baker's chocolate and black raspberry, light pencil-shaving accents. Ripe, but also quite startlingly crisp. There's a candied gloss to the ripe redfruit, but underneath that the overall mouthfeel is matte. Decent balance, firm at the center, bland but decently balanced and juicily flavorful in a compact way. Modest, decent merlot. Good on the Super Adventure Club! [Buy again? Sure.]


CHEAP RED CRAP FROM AMERICA (SOUTH)

Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley (Chile) Estate Grown Reserva 2004 ($8). Light cassis-plum aromatics, generous splash of bell pepper/oregano herbaceousness. Lowish acidity, fleshy but fairly lightbodied. Not much finish, some sandy tannins. Simple and straightforward cabernet sauvignon, rather bland but flavorful and correct enough to warrant a buy again. [Buy again? Weren't you listening?]

Navarro Correas Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Collecion Privada Limited Release 2004 ($10). This bottle comes in a big black and silver can, which is strange but kind of cool. Inside the bottle inside the can is a foursquare medium-bodied cabernet sauvignon, smelling lightly smoky and stonyfruity, gravel and cassis. Crisp, with moderate focus and pure, if slightly sterile cassis-redfruit flavors. Quite pleasant, really. CAN! [Buy again? Sure.]

Errazuriz Estate Merlot Curicó Valley (Chile) 2005 ($8). Ripe red berry, smoke and dark chocolate hints, maybe just a touch of graphite. Internationally-styled and rather by-the-numbersish. Dark, ripe and choco-rich, with a certain compactness and decent focus, despite a general fleshy-meaty texture. Medium-firm acidity and some quiet tannins give it a bit of structure, I find it rather likeable despite my initial anti-merlot bias and the basic lack of anything distinctive. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Sure.]

Porteño Red Wine Mendoza 2005 ($5). Nice roughish blackberry-raspberry-tar aromatics. Tastes the same as it smells, a bit watery but rustic and full-flavored, softish and grapey-coffeed. No cepage is indicated, but it seems malbecky, malbecky sharpe, or perhaps malbecky thatcher. Simple and broad, ripe and kind of bland, but at five bucks it's worth it. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Sure.]


SWEET CRAP & CHEAP

Domaine Philippe Delesvaux Coteaux du Layon 2002 ($15). Medium gold color. Kind of not too smellish, shy quince jam, touch of apricot, light woolly funkiness. Medium sweet, a few clicks past demisec. Watery and vague in the middle, short on the finish. The rare singularly uninteresting '02 Loire chenin. [Buy again? Nope.]

Quinta do Noval Porto Special Reserve 'Raven' NV ($15/.500 ml). Smells of red clay and berries, warm and fruity-smelling with earthy undertones. Tastes plush and smooth and red, quite sweet but with firm acidity at the center. Very fresh-tasting and eager to please, this comes off as a kind of ruby on steroids. Nice enough user-friendly starter port despite the overdesigned packaging; I'd probably buy more if it was $15 for a whole bottle instead of a .500. [Buy again? Not quite.]

Warre's Tawny Port Ten Year Old 'Otima' NV ($15/.500 ml). Yet another entry in the flashy .500 ml. bottle sweepstakes, this tawny is a brown-amber color, shot through with red. Smells happily spicy, like a pomander dipped in molasses--orange rind, fig and raisin, butterscotch, warm and complex. Quite sweet, with some bright acidity, but there's a lot of sugar here, take in small doses. Nice enough user-friendly starter port despite the overdesigned packaging; I'd probably buy more if it was $15 for a whole bottle instead of a .500. [Buy again? Not quite.]


That's all for now, kiddies. More when I've recuperated a little.




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