Two Dudes Seven Wines: A Quiet, Sensible Weekend in Hoboken 03/02/11
As enjoyable as my last visit to Hoboken, New Jersey was, I couldn’t help but notice that the city seemed to suffer from a disappointing paucity of actual hobos. This time, though, I breathed a sigh of relief: not two minutes after my arrival, I was approached by an obviously homeless gentleman who, while insisting he wasn’t homeless, asked me for 50 cents. I gave him a quarter instead, for although it’s a matter of common courtesy to patronize the local arts when you travel, it’s important not to let the talent get complacent or lazy, lest they lose their passion for the job.
The second hobo I spotted was actually at the Newark Train Station, so not technically Hoboken, but I’m counting him anyway because hey, same trip. I gave this one a dollar because even though he approached me in McDonalds, I was pretty sure he planned to use my money at the liquor store a few yards over. And I respect that.
Of course, I could go on talking about hobos all day, but I suppose you’re here to read about wine, aren’t you? Well fine, be that way…
The wine that coaxed me up to my friend’s in the first place was the Terrunyo 2007 Carmenere, a $35-40 offering from the Chilean megawinery Concha y Toro, blended with 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. You may remember my rave review of their more affordable Marques de Casa Concha, but what’s really important is that I remembered it, and what with this wine’s being one rung higher than that one, I was more than a little titilated. Here are some pictures to get you going – I do apologize for the blurriness, but not the sexiness:
Anyway, Ben and I did get around to drinking it eventually. Right away I saw that it was lighter-hued than the Marques: a deep, cloudy red with a hint of maroon on the edges. At first the nose was earthy and herbaceous, with notes of cocoa and eucalyptus (the latter suggested by yours truly, and confirmed by the lovely Katie, Ben’s girlfriend who, incidentally, departed after taking a single sip. I don’t blame her though – who wouldn’t feel threatened by Terrunyo?) In time, the wine opened to a nose of tobacco and cherries, but there wasn’t much left of it by then, for reasons of deliciousness.
The palate was focused and concentrated, with something like blackberry but a bit redder that I’m just going to call boysenberry despite not really knowing what those taste like. I am, however, pretty sure I tasted some pomegranate, too, along with spicy cinnamon and perhaps a touch of anise. As for balance, let’s just say all those earthquakes seem to have given Chile a knack for building sturdy wines.
I award the Terrunyo Carmenere my first-ever thumbs up, despite its annoying price tag. And I just dare the Carmin de Peumo to be any better.
The old adage “all good things must come to an end” may be true of wine bottles, but it’s absolutely false when it comes to wine benders. And so to cheer us up after our Terrunyo was tapped, we decided to move onto an old favorite: the Crossing Vineyards 2008 Pinot Noir ($23), which I have actually previously reviewed, and which was donated to our cause by the most generous Zeidler family.
A translucent scarlet in the glass, the wine smelled of smokey goodness, with a pronounced scent of strawberry stems. Smokey and fruity with more strawberries on the palate, the wine was light-bodied with a caramel finish. This lightness stood out especially against the heavier-set Terrunyo, but the wine was still nicely balanced, in part thanks to the strong oak influence.
I award the Crossing Pinot Noir thumbs up – same score as last time, but with added confidence now that I had more than 10 seconds’ worth of insight.
Okay, so now we’ve hit Chile and Philly. Can you guess where we went next? I’d wager you can’t, because Spain rhymes with neither one of those places. The Ondarre Rioja 2004 Reserva a blend of Tempranillo and Mazuelo which goes for around $15, followed the Pinot. In the glass it poured a deep, semi-clear crimson: a bit darker than the Pinot Noir, but lighter than the Carmenere.
The wine was full-bodied with soft tannins, and gave off aromas of raspberry and, after breathing, strawberry and vanilla (along with a touch of excess alcohol), while the palate presented a fruity attack and oaky finish. The impression I ultimately walked (or rather, slumped) away with was one of berries and cream.
I give the Ondarre Reserva thumbs up. A solid entry, but it was following some tough acts.
At this point we decided to eat something, and that something was sushi, so out of necessity we swallowed our pride, cleaned out our glasses and switched over to white. The selection was Aresti 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, another offering from Chile, but from the Curico valley, rather than Rapel.
This poured virtually clear, with a very slight straw/green tinge. The aromas were true to the varietal, with lemon at first, then starfruit and honey after it breathed a bit. My descriptors for the palate, which I jotted as I drank, were as follows: light, sharp, tart, light, thin, and light. Notes of ripe nectarine emerged eventually, and the wine had a good balance of fruit and acidity, to emphasize the positive.
The Aresti Sauvignon Blanc earns thumbs up, in part for being such a good sport as Ben and I quaffed and calumniated it.
Then things got serious again. My favorite grape varietal (even though it’s taken me forever to review one) is Nebbiolo, the noblest grape of Italy, which is especially regal in its most famous forms of Barolo and Barbaresco. So when I saw the Pelissero 2006 Barbaresco on sale for a mere $30 at Sparrow Wine and Liquor, I snatched it up at once.
In the glass this wine was a semi-transparent medium ruby color, with brick edges. The nose was a cornucopia of orange peel, roses and strawberry licorice – Nebbiolo is a grape with an extremely distinctive profile, and that uniqueness is indeed one of the reasons I love it so much.
On the palate, though, the youth of this wine came through. I described it with a word never before used in my wine vocabulary: brash. A bittersweet orange peel attack gave way to a cannon-blast of tannins, which latched on and didn’t let go. Floral notes and red fruit completed the experience, with an impossibly long finish that made me feel as though this wine were trying to tell us something.
Be that as it may, I give the Pelissero Barbaresco thumbs up. He’s got some growing up to do.
The next wine on the agenda was another great find from Sparrow: the Azienda Agricola Sant’Elena 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. A 10-year-old Cab isn’t something I have the chance to drink every day, so when I saw this for a mere $18, my decision was pretty much made.
In the glass this was medium-dark ruby, but much lighter around the edges, which had passed the brick/orange stage and were now verging on brown. There was also some visible sediment. On the nose, this smelled of honey: intense, dark honey so fresh I could practically feel the bees stinging me as I sniffed. After breathing, another, earthier note emerged, which was undeniably Indian (I’m thinking garam masala, perhaps?), but the honey never subsided.
The wine was full-bodied on the palate, but the tannins were almost entirely gone. The steadily-accumulating grit in our glasses made us wish we’d decanted first, but still only underscored sweet notes of honey and dried dates. This was quite a Cab.
I award the Sant’Elena 2001 Cabernet thumbs up. Drink it now, because it’s definitely at the end of its life – but it’s going out with a bang. And a buzz.
The final wine of our weekend was the Schild Estates 2007 Shiraz, a bottle in the $20 range from Barossa Valley, Australia. Unlike the last Aussie Shiraz I reviewed, which was so generic it came in a juice box labeled with the exceedingly vague “Southeastern Australia” superregion, this one actually exhibited the traits I look for in a good Australian wine.
On the eyes this was dark, almost opaque crimson, with some slight oranging at the edges. The nose was an array of black cherry and vanilla, with a hint of smoke and some raspberry notes after breathing. Extremely fruit forward, the wine had soft tannins, bright acidity and a full body, with intense cherry and berry flavors.
The Schild Estates Shiraz earns thumbs up, solidifying this weekend as even more oenologically successful than the last. Here’s a group shot!
I’m not even gonna mention the stuff I got at Carlo’s Bakery; that would probably just hurt your feelings.