1999 Table Rock merlot, Rogue Valley, Oregon, $12
This came from Avalon Wine, Oregon's biggest mail order wine shop. They're all the way down in Corvallis, which sucks 'cuz what I'm really hoping to find in 2004 is a wine shop in Portland that's as good as Pete's of Bellevue - I occasionally fantasize about going down to Portland doing my wine shopping without the 8.8% sales tax you pay in Washington, or the inevitable $20/case shipping charge that everyone seems to charge.
Anyhow. Yes, I said merlot. I'm sure that certain of you will be surprised at this; after all, this purchase brought the total number of bottles of merlot in my wine cellar to, like, four. Heck, I've got more bottles of ciliegiolo and ruché than I do merlot. But sometimes I figure it's instructive to try the things you wouldn't ordinarily think to do. So how was it?
This was well worth the $12 it cost. If you swirled it around in the glass long enough [I was too impatient to decant it and wait for hours on end], it eventually stopped smelling like a bunch of dumb French oak and started smelling like a lovely bunch of forest fruits, or something. I guess this is what Merlot is supposed to smell like; I will say that it was a pleasant detour from the usual barnyard-funky, gamey stuff I've been drinking a lot of lately. There was a lot of sediment in the bottle, which I take as a good sign, but that's neither here nor there. Ultimately, the bottle disappeared in about an hour, and it was thankfully not over-alcoholic. I wouldn't go out of my way to buy this wine again, but it was fun while it lasted.
2000 Hogue semillon, $3
I went by the Washington state liquor control board shop in Mercer Island last weekend just to see if it was any fancier than their other shops [being located in a ritzy part of town]. The simple answer: nope. In fact, Mercer Island's shopping precinct looked suspiciously like the Miracle Mile in Stockton, CA - generic early 1960s glass storefronts that looked pretty seedy. The inventory was as weird as any other LCB shop I've seen; however, they do have the 2002 Eroica riesling for $14.40, which is a phenomenal deal. [It's $20 anywhere else in town.] I only bought this one bottle 'cuz it was so cheap and... well, you never know.
It kind of sucked, but not completely. Way better than Charles Shaw, though, and the same price [at least here in Washington]. Vague lemon flavors, smooth, alcoholic (slightly), not particularly intense but a very standard Semillon with good typicité.
1999 Perrini semillon, $4 [Barossa]
This was oxidised but still almost drinkable. It seemed like it must have been a lovely wine at some point, but this bottle was definitely over the hill. I've got five more of these... will have to investigate further this summer.
1996 Beringer port of cabernet sauvignon, $12 [? - this was an eVineyard.com purchase from 2000]
What a letdown. Sure, it tastes very definitely of cabernet, but it's frankly boring as hell. Costs about $18 in most wine shops these days; avoid. Stick to something better like the Yalumba Clocktower port or even real Portuguese port. This bottle's been open for a week at Salmonberg and no one's finished it. That should tell you all you need to know.
2001 Don Miguel Gascon malbec, Mendoza, $11
This bottle is also still open and was only about half-drunk after a week. This came from Cost Plus, and joins the list of bad Argentine malbec that's accidentally found its way into our house. Here's the current version of this list:
Good malbec: Mariposa [discontinued], Ben Marco, Alto Las Hormigas [best buy], Alamos
Bad malbec: Tapiz [discontinued], El Felino, anything from Oddlots in Albany, this bottle
Like the other bad malbecs, this was sour, dull, boring, nasty. Cork taint? Nah, probably just bad wine.
2002 The Wishing Tree shiraz, Western Australia, $8
Oh, man, was this ever good. Very typical of cooler climate Western Australian syrah, this was dark and lovely, with a really peppery essence coming through the fruit haze. Subtle oak if any at all, and no barnyard funk á la some French syrahs. Still, everything was in absolutely perfect balance - this was miles away from your typical 'raspberry motor oil' Aussie shiraz. A bargain at twice the price.