Life is better on the corner, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The 2006 Naiara Malbec Reserve, great juice at a great price!

Hey wine fans if you love a great Malbec at an amazing price you’re going to enjoy this review and when you see the price point you’ll be even happier. The wine for this review is the 2006 Naiara Reserve Malbec from Argentina and distributed by ARGCA IMPORTS - NAIARA WINES. Pablo Lastorta, President/Owner enjoyed a previous review of a different label from Argentina so much he asked me to review the 2006 Naiara Reserve Malbec. Naiara wines offers two approaches to the traditional varietal of Malbec. The Malbec Traditional (Gold Cap) and the Malbec Reserva (Silver Cap) demonstrate the true ability of producing quality wines from Argentina. While we evaluated both wines, collectively as a group the Silver Cap took top honors. I think the 2007 may have needed a little more bottle aging before it will be ready for review again.

That said, so I and @EveSiminskie and @RobertaMurphy(their Twitter handle) enjoyed evaluating this wonderful wine while dining at Barolo in La Jolla, who has a standard $18 corkage fee (which I think is outrageous) but after some conversation with the owner he reduced the fee to just $4 per bottle as we brought the 2007 Shenandoah Valley Rezerve Zinfandel and another Malbec for review.
Mean while back at the restaurant which was experiencing AC failure that (which was a very humid) evening, while me and the other reviewers suffered through the swelter during dinner as the owner had no other contingency plan, we later moved to the patio for some relief after dinner. Let’s just say we were all less than pleased with our collective dining experience.
I really wanted to write and get this review posted last week, but between work and getting ready for the 2nd annual Wine Blogger Conference and having no Internet connection while we were at the Flamingo this review is at the top of my to-do list for today. So now it's Tuesday morning and it's is time to get some reviews completed. Yep reviews plural because I have a stack of reviews to write, after a tsunami of wine washed over our palate this past week.
First Swirl: A medium to dark ruby red core, surrounded by a cerise colored rim and medium body and viscosity.
First Sniff: Putting my Irish American nose deep in the glass, aromas of dark cherry, vanilla and sumptuous spice box envelope my senses, which was coaxed out after an hour of decanting.
First Sip: Generous flavors of raspberries and blueberry match this wine’s sweet spice, which co-mingle nicely upon the palate. French oak ageing brings hints of vanilla and smoke as the wine develops with excellent balance and persistence. The tannins are soft and round, with delicate roasted notes of coffee and its supple richness continues on the lithe chocolate finish.
Pricing and Alcohol percentage: This wine weighed in at a meager 13.4%, which means they extracted a lot of fruit character without having to make what some would call a "cocktail" wine all the while keeping this wine at an extremely value oriented price point. This wine is sold in San Diego Costco stores for $8.99 each.
Vineyards and aging: The wine matured in 9 months in French barrels and the fruit was sourced from 60 to 70 year old vines located in Medrano and Pedriel in Mendoza, Argentina. Imagine if this wine was allowed to age 12 months how much better it would have been.
Other Voices: Rated by Parker & Wine & Spirits Magazine as Argentina's Best Buy for Malbec and the other reviewers with me were so impressed they all sought this wine out and grabbed a few for themselves!
My Recommendation: This wine is what I would call an everyday drinker, worthy of a case purchase. This wine will compliment many types of food, as we ordered pizza and other Italian dishes which paired nicely, this wine is smart and sophisticated for a small price point!

Friday, July 17, 2009

About San Diego: The La Costa Wine Company

For the many folks who live in or around La Costa one things comes to mind, like golf. According to Ravi Patel, "Playing from behind and winning, or being in the lead and finishing first in golf requires unique strategies by pro golfers. It is fascinating to watch these plans unfold as someone like Tiger is playing on the final day." He says further, "Similarly in business, Entrepreneurs need to develop unique strategies for either playing from behind in the competitive marketplace or constantly maintaining the lead." It appears golf and business have lots in common.

After with speaking with Chris Garrett the owner I can see there's now another equally important strategy changing the La Costa wine scene and what is that you may be asking, well one to keep in mind is the La Costa Wine Company, formerly known as Wine Street (and the old sign is still there in the parking lot) which can be found in San Diego’s North County. The LCWC is what I would call a full-service wine shop, which caters to many different levels and types of palates and offers a broad spectrum of wines from around the world. 

I asked Chris how he would characterize the wine inventory carried at LCWC and he said, “We offer everything from the biggest names in Napa to the up-and-coming producers from Spain, Italy and beyond”. There were quite a few labels which caught my eye, like Marcassin Wine, Sine Qua Non Ventriloquist 2001 and some labels from Scarecrow Wines. LCWC does have a Reserve Room which you see pictured here where they keep most of their top labels. I think this is a good practice, as you can pay over $500.00 for some labels. I don't think you want it just laying around a semi-cool store, where it could be damaged. 

There has been a wine shop in this location for some 16 years, but in 2008 the store changed hands and hearts. The business took on a new energy, a renewed vibe if you will. I asked Chris about where the name came from and why he decided to re-name the store to La Costa Wine Company. 

He said, “To give it a sense of place”, to reflect the community of which the store would become and to let everyone know that there have been big changes.” Kris further stated, “As part of our "new direction" we decided to completely remodel the back of the store to include a full wine bar where you can purchase wines by the glass as well or for hosting special tasting events.” LCWC offers wine tasting each weekend, where you can taste through 6 different wines for $15.00. Speaking of wines by the glass their bar has a Enomatic like wine beverage system. 

The machine can be programmed to dispense 1 ounce up to 5 ½ ounce pours, where the price ranges anywhere from .50 to $5.00 depending on the pour size and the caliber of the wine, where they do not have self serve/credit card option, but you can buy a debit type card and drop some money on it and your hostess will serve the wine you request. Not to worry that if you don't use the entire balance it will be kept on your card until you return next time.

As part of the new direction for LCWC, Chris also had a full service Cheese Shop built, complete with pairing suggestions, where cheeses from around the world are available to sample or try before you buy. For those of you who love to have a nice cigar to go with that Tawny Port LCWC still has a walk in Cigar humidor, with a nice selection of cigars available.
What I liked: Not too far off the freeway if your coming down from Carlsbad or driving up from Del Mar and their store was not to difficult to spot from the road (The GPS will have you turn to early). They will ship out to their customers if requested. There is a 10% case discount on all wines (except highly allocated or hard to find wines). 

LCWC is competitively priced, as an example Chris pointed out the Pahlmeyer 2005 Napa Valley Red Wine Jayson which he's selling for $39.99 a full ten bucks cheaper than the online stores. They have a website presence and you can sign up for their email newsletter, thus saving a tree or two. The store is typically kept at an appropriate temperature (but the day I was there, the doors were open and it was a little warm). If Chris tastes a wine he doesn't like he won't bring it into the store, why try to convince folks to buy something he can't stand behind. He if doesn't have the wine you are looking for, he will order it for you (providing you want 6 bottles or more).

What didn't work for me: There was not too much parking and the front curbs were painted with those, "you have 20 minutes or else" warnings. I typically will take more than 20 minutes to choose my wine, as I like to do a little browsing. It was somewhat dark in the store and a little disorganized, didn't really seem to have a flow. There were no shopping carts. I can usually juggle about 5 bottles, but that's my limit. Only three of the five folks who for the LCWC have a good wine knowledge and to me that is not good, when I go to a "wine-shop" I expect everyone there to be a cork-dork like myself when compared to shopping at my local grocery store.

Overall Recommendation: A great place to shop for wine. You will be able to find many wines you can't else where because the owner is on many allocation lists, which often takes years to get an allotment. They are competitively priced and you can try some before you buy. They have a very comfortable wine bar area and gracious hosts. Remember when you stop by, please tell that the San Diego Wine Shopping Examiner set you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Paso Robles is one area of California that yields quality wine at an affordable price

Are you looking for value oriented wines in our current economic downturn? While many folks are seeking value-oriented labels from Argentina, Chile, Italy and Australia many can find what they are looking for right here in California. Paso Robles is one areas of California which yields quality wine at an affordable price. According to Jennifer Waters who reports for WSJ, "First, you have to find it." She means find Paso Robles which seems to suffer from a bit of an identity crisis.

Paso does indeed suffer from a bit of an identity crisis. Everyone knows about many of the major California wine hot spots like Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbra. Folks Paso is fast becoming a vibrant and happening wine scene worthy of your time, attention and a vote with your wallet. Because they don't have the visibility of other wine hot spots, many wineries have taken to the strategy of appropriate pricing and smart tasting room policies. The city leaders of Paso also recognize that if they want a piece of the revenue pie from the thriving (even in this economy) wine industry then they need to also be business friendly, meaning get out of the wineries way (read that reduce regulation). If everyone is rowing in the same direction than everyone has a much better opportunity to move ahead.

Please check out the video below on the Paso Wine Scene. The reporter Ms. Waters keeps on saying Peso, Peso, "that's how the locals pronounce it!" But check her interviewee's from Eberle and Four Vines who contradict what she is saying and they the "natives" call it Paso, too funny! But the main focus of the video is right on point, good quality wines, low prices and very consistent quality! But it's not about the just land prices, it's also about "perceived value"! Perception is in the eye of the beholder!
Ever since my week long odyssey in Paso Robles I can now say, "Man I love Paso and my experience there could have not been better." The people, the wine and the scenery are all equally wonderful. Now of course
before I sound like too much of a cheerleader here, there are in my opinion some wineries in the Paso area who are long on history orcreating a great enviornment, but have lost their main focus, which is of course making great wines. Folks due your self a favor and do a weekend escape to Paso, you'll not be disappointed.

Other voices: Steve Heimoff the West Coast Editor of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, "But the direction of my reviews, for years, has been heading away from a blind devotion to cult wines and a growing receptivity to newer producers, from newer regions. (Paso Robles comes foremost to mind.)"

If you have not read my four part series on the Paso Wine Scene I invite you to check it out! Paso Robles, a tale of two cities! Part 4 "Rhone Rangers" . The Paso wine scene is yielding some amazing deals on high caliber wines. The quality is going up but the prices are not rising in equal porportion, what does that mean to you the average wine shopper? It means some smoking hot deals (the QPR) on premium wines, that if made else where like Napa or Sonoma would cost you far more!
So you say well give me some examples of what you are talking about, okay sure here you go. The J. Lohr Old Vines Zinfandel is always a good buy selling under $14.99 in many places, this wine is consistently well made and delivers on all aspects the aspects of QPR (quality price ratio).
How about another example, Silver Stone 2004 Syrah at $20.00 brings quality and price to a wine glass near you in amazing fashion, big bold and brawny with full extraction and flavor. Another QPR label I am reminded of comes from Four Vines, their Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel selling many places for under $15.00 is a great "everyday drinker" and the majority of their other labels can be acquired for under $40.00. A few other places I really like and who have very good QPR are, Justin, RN Estate, L'Adventure, Tablas Creek and Tolo!
I am sure there are many others who could be added to this list so please feel free to comment so your favorite can be added to the conversation here. Until next time Cheers everyone and remember a day without wine is just another day!

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