Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tasting Notes: Big Ass Reds at JavaMonkey

What is a "Big Ass" red? I'm pretty sure that's not a technical wine term, so I'll give you my definition. A "Big Ass Red" is a wine that warms you to the bone on cold days like this past week. It could be because of style -- lots of fruit -- or just straight-up alcohol content. Or maybe it tastes "hot" (high in alcohol) but really isn't. For whatever reason, these are reds you can't ignore, and you probably don't want to put them with food that relies on subtlety. For me, the quintessential BAR food is steak. Pizza works, too, which is what we ate before last Thursday's tasting at JavaMonkey.

Here are the wines:

2007 Di Arie Zinfandel (Sierra Foothills, California):
I was surprised to see a Zin leading off the list -- usually those come last -- but this one wasn't as full-bodied as I expected and had elegant balance. The bright, fruity nose literally made my mouth water, and the wine's smooth, dark fruit led to a little hot kick at the very back of my palate.
Rating: Very Good to Excellent

2006 Chasing Lions (Napa Valley, California): Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Syrah
I had high hopes for this one with its promising blend, but apparently chasing lions is a lot like herding cats: it's hard to get everything you want in the same place. There just wasn't much to this wine beyond a little insipid fruit.
Rating: Okay

2007 Bon Anno Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California):
Attack of the killer tannins, at least at first! With persistent swirling, it opened nicely to leather and fruit (but not in a kinky way).
Rating: Good

2006 Del Rio Vineyards Claret (Rogue Valley, Oregon):
The nose has anise on it, and this wine definitely qualifies as "chewy" in the beginning. It moves to nice fruit at the end with oak in the middle. This was one I kept sipping just to feel and taste the interesting chewy-oak-fruit progression.
Rating: Very Good

NV J. Bookwalter Subplot No. 23 (Columbia Valley, Washington):
Smells hot, but kind of like chocolate-covered raisins with its undertones of milk chocolate plus ripe fruit.
Rating: Good to Very Good

2006 Don David Tannat Reserve (Cafayate Valley, Argentina):
The first pour our table got of this one was from a so-so bottle. We all commented on the funky nose and concluded that it was close to corked, although not all the way. With all the bottles we go through at these tastings, it's bound to happen occasionally. I tasted a sip from a different bottle and got berries and spice.
Provisional Rating: Good, but worth a revisit

The favorite of the evening for me was the Di Arie Zinfandel with the Claret close behind. If you can't find those but want to experience big reds, try any of the reds from the Lodi region of California, especially the Cabs and Zins. They're usually pretty reasonable, too.

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