$30/750ml. A Bodeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petite verdot.
Decanted 2 hours prior. Served at 65F in Spiegelau Bordeaux glass.
This was a beautiful wine made by Bob Egelhoff, the winemaker of David Arthur, AXIOS, and other artisan wineries. There are conflicting reports out there, however, that the winemaker of the Worthy label is actually Constantine "Gus" Kalaris, the owner and a well known wine businessman -- he also owns the super premium Napa label Axios as well as Truth -- while Egelhoff just handles Axios' winemaking.
A focused, perfumed, Bordeaux-like "nose" of blackberries, dark cherries, cedar, with well-integrated oak. However, it's quintessentially Napa in its bigness, broadness and full body characteristics. Elegant and sexy! Tastes like an expensive Napa cabernet, so at $30 it's a very good wine for it's price! I'm glad I bought six of this. Will open another in 6-12 months to see how it progresses in the bottle.
4 stars (vg, especially considering the price!)
PS: Maybe I'm biased...my daughter's name is Sophia.
Monday, June 26, 2006
$30/750ml. A Bodeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petite verdot.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
This Yixing was purchased sometime in 1992 in Singapore, while I was still a secondary school student in that country. It is nothing to show off about, as I think the workmanship is of so-so quality. I didn't know it back then. I thought it was so cool to own a Yixing pot with etched Chinese caligraphy on its body. It is now mostly unused and just a nostalgia piece. It leaks from the top lid, it doesn't pour well, and it drools too much. A horrible performer!
As far as I can remember, I bought this teapot for around SGD $30. At today's exchange rate, it would be about USD $19. It's been abused, neglected and seen many tea varieties, from oolong to pu-erh to green as well as jasmine (gasp!). Recently I decided to re-boil and re-season the pot with dark Taiwanese oolong. I'll keep using it from time to time when I'm brewing tea just for myself.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Region: Nelson, New Zealand
Harvest: Mid-April 2004
Alcohol: 13.5 %
Residual Sugar: Completely Dry
Cellaring: 2 - 3 years
Light to medium purplish red. Sour cherries and tart cranberry nose at first, foreshadowing a tart wine. From the first sip, however, this wine is actually more brooding and earthy than fruity! An intriguing juxtaposition between nose and palate, though it lacks a pinch of acidity. As the wine reached its ideal serving temperature (~ 65F), characteristics of mushrooms, fragrant earth, black olives were amplified, layered with sour cherries, cranberry and soft oak. Medium bodied with round, plump and meaty feel. Medium length finish (10-15s). Ready to drink now.
Would pair perfectly well with a rack of lamb (wishing I had it tonight)!
3+ stars (g-vg) A pinch more acidity would have made this a 4-star wine in my book.
The Kahurangi 2004 Pinot Noir is a blend of grapes from our Moutere Vineyard and selected vineyards from the Waimea Plains. Hand plunged and lightly oaked, the finished wine is an “up front” Pinot that will further develop in the bottle.
Our modus operandi whenever my wife and I hit the Thai town on Hollywood Boulevard is to treat ourselves to some authentic home-cooked style Thai dishes at our favorite restaurant. We know a little cozy place that serves no fancy-schmancy stuff, but just good, delicious (and spicy!) Thai dishes. Then we would visit a Thai snack specialty store just right across the parking lot. It is always a better idea to come to this snack store with a full stomach, otherwise you will just get every single delicious item they carry!
So, we got some stuff that we thought would go perfectly well with a cup of tea at home. When I realized how photogenic these snacks are, I decided to snap a few pictures and blog them.
They are perfectly great with a cup of light green tea or jasmine.
Clockwise from top left: Sweet coconut shavings, caramelized sugar-coated rolled banana chips, seedless sumptuous tamarinds, black sesame toffee.
Friday, June 23, 2006
When the mind needs rest from all those oolong and pu-erh contemplations, I go green. One of my favorites after the Dragon Well tea is the Tai Ping Hou Kui [太平猴魁], a.k.a. Tai Ping1 Monkey King.
Fresh green, buttery, floral/orchid/white flowers, sweet, refreshing, energizing and light, if brewed properly. This tea, as most green teas are, is delicate and sensitive to brewing parameters. For this particular type, I usually use a gaiwan, 75'C spring water, flash rinse, then 30-45s, 45s, 1m, 1.5m. Mmmmmm...
1Tai Ping county in Anhui province, China, is the appellation of origin for this tea
Thursday, June 22, 2006
The Ban Zhang appellation in Yunnan is indeed a good place for tea. Though my experience with Ban Zhang pu-erh's is limited (I have tried 4 different pu-erh's from this area, not including the tea being reviewed here), it is fast becoming a personal favorite.
I purchased this 2005 Menghai Ban Zhang from Yunnan Sourcing LLC for US$9/250gr tuo (bird's nest-shaped).
The purpose of this tasting was to find out the quality and ageworthiness of this tea: if it was approachble young or must be kept for some years before consumption.
A tightly compressed tuo, it took quite an effort to break apart the leaves. Fresh green fragrance emanated from the tuo. Once broken, one could see that -- as expected -- the leaves within were of lower grade(s) than those on the surface.
Brewing parameter: Yixing, 100/99' C spring water, 5s rinse twice, then 5s, 10s, 15s, 30s, 45s, 1m, 1.5m, 2m...
Hot wet leaves gave focused aromas of cedar, fresh cut grass, butter and floral (orchid?). Liquor was of medium to dense amber in color with an oily appearance. The tea was amazingly weighty and full-bodied. First and foremost, it was very woody (cedar), and then followed by its smokiness and bacon-y/meaty aromas. Its greeness was felt refreshingly sweet on the sides of my throat, though it was somewhat overshadowed by the aforementioned tastes. A strong, sweet finish that lasts.
From the first few sips, I noticed its strong cha qi hitting my palate and body. I almost immediately felt a good buzz in my head, my lower back felt warm, and after only the first cup I felt a bit tea-drunk. I had to rest for 15 minutes before brewing my second cup. Subsequent brews amplified its cedary characteristic and also brought out camphor into an already layered tastes.
Another very interesting Ban Zhang pu-erh for me. I believe it has a very good potential to age well and should be consumed when it has acquired some age.
3+ stars (g-vg)
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
As a result of his list, a discussion on cha qi [茶氣] -- roughly translated as tea's energy, an elusive concept to the uninitiated as well as to experienced tea drinkers -- ensued under Marshaln's post. Interestingly, the discussion leaned towards comparing cha qi with the French winemaking philosophy of terroir.
Please click on the comments link below (or here) to read the discussion transcript.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
When I was in
According to the polite salesperson, this loose raw pu-erh had been stored for 2 decades in
The sticker price of this 21-year old pu-erh was RMB 1600 (roughly USD 200) for the 500gr package, though due to other purchases I made, they gave me a 20% discount. Relatively speaking, the price is quite alright for such a well-stored old tea, although I can never know for sure.
Brewing method: 200 ml Yixing, 99/100’ Celsius, flash rinse twice, 2m rest, then 5s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 1m… (Good for 9 brews, more or less)
Dry leaves appearance: dark red and blackish in color, small whole leaves and some stalks
Dry leaves' nose: woody and sweet
Wet leaves appearance: dark red and black mostly
Wet leaves' nose: woody and floral, with some amount of camphor quality on the 3rd infusion and thereafter
Color: Deep red/brown with oily appearance and the yellow/orange bao goang (halo) around the rim of my cup
Taste: Mellow, smooth and sweet. More “cha-qi” is to be desired. Not overly complex, making this a relaxing tea to drink in the evening after a long hard day. Sweet aftertaste that lasts a long time
Overall impression: This tea may not be the epitome of complexity and grace for an old tea, though it’s quite pleasant in casual settings. Food friendly.
3 stars (g)
Saturday, June 17, 2006
From Alexander Valley, Sonoma.
76% zinfandel, 18% carignane, 6% petite sirah (14.6% alcohol)
Deep red / garnet. Quite viscous visually when poured into the glass. Immediately a jammy layered nose of brambly raspberries and blueberries. There is a slightly singed-by-heat characteristic to this wine. Glycerin (oily) texture as well as sweetness coming from it. The singed-by-heat detected in the nose is felt more in the mouth, giving this wine a slightly roasted character, but I don't think the wine is "cooked." Ripe dusty tannin. Finishes with the classic peppery touch. Short - medium finish. A perfect BBQ wine, in my opinion.
3 stars (good)
About 2003 Ridge Geyserville by the winemaker, Mr. Paul Draper1:
"Ridge made its first Geyserville in 1966, from nineteenth century vines growing on the western edge of Alexander Valley. Over time, we have included more grapes planted along this quarter-mile-wide strip, which follows the old San Francisco & Northern Pacific Railway right-of-way. This distinctive "single site" now consists of three adjoining vineyards that share the same gravelly soils, exposure, and climate. In 2003, a period of intense heat in mid-September ripened all the zinfandel within two weeks; we harvested non-stop to hold sugars and overripeness in check. Reduced circulation during the natural-yeast fermentations moderated tannin extraction. We pressed at seven days, and a natural malolactic finished within five weeks. After a year of barrel aging in air-dried american oak, the wine was fined with fresh egg whites. This elegant Geyserville is delightful now, but will gain in complexity over the next five to eight years."
On June 14, 2006 I became an uncle! Well, an uncle-in-law if I wanted to get technical. Nevertheless, a very happy uncle-in-law! To commemorate the birth of my nephew, Anton, yesterday I brought over a 1998 Dom Perignon to the hospital room and drank with the baby's father, mother, my wife and all other immediate family members.
A perfect arrival required a decent Champagne!
TN: A way more-than-decent Champagne for a fine occasion! It tasted much better currently than the 1996 Dom Perignon I tasted a few months ago. Not because the '96 was less of a wine than its '98 sibling, but the '96 needed plenty of bottle aging to come around elegantly (crossing my fingers because I have several lying down for long-term keeping). The '98 had a lovely note of quince, citrus and minerality with fine bubbles and soft mousse. A classy wine.
Two noticable differences between the '96 and the '98 was that the former had more yeasty character and a more biting citric acidity. The latter, on the other hand, tasted rounder, softer and riper. In my opinion the '96 will age more gracefully than the '98 and will become more of a wine eventually.
As for yesterday, everybody enjoyed the '98 tremendously, and Anton would have too if he had had a sip.
4 stars (vg!)
On 1998 Perignon: "Pale yellow. An enticing blend of red berries, butter and toast on the nose; this settled down to an earthy, smoky character that reminded me of Batard-Montrachet. Full and rich, with flavors of musky yellow plum and ripe pear accented by crisp mineral notes. Really long and vibrant on the building finish, if not as precise or elegant as the 1996. Still, of the two vintages, this is the one I would prefer to drink over the next five or years or so." 93 points, Raynolds (Tanzer's IWC)
On 1996 Perignon: "I have had a lot of great vintages of Dom Perignon, but I do not remember any as impressive as the 1996. Even richer than the brilliant 1990, the 1996 is still tightly wound, but reveals tremendous aromatic intensity, offering hints of bread dough, Wheat Thins, tropical fruits, and roasted hazelnuts. Medium to full-bodied, with crisp acidity buttressing the wines wealth of fruit and intensity, it comes across as extraordinarly zesty, well-delineated, and incredibly long on the palate. Moet-Chandon deserves considerable accolades for this prodigious example of Dom Perignon. Anticipated maturity: now-2020+" 98 points, R. Parker, Wine Advocate
2004 Pieropan Soave Classico, Veneto, Tre Venezie, Italy
Golden yellow with a touch of orange. Aroma of banana, chrysanthemum/white flower, tangerine, and a hint of sweet pandan leaf. Light bodied and flat from lack of acidity. Mellow, round and goes down quite buttery. Short finish that reminds me of citrus and grapefruit, but it lacks the oomph to clearly define its citrussy characters. Not especially interesting.
2 stars (so-so) Note: This was my first soave experience. Perhaps I'm not understanding how a soave ideally supposed to taste like. I just prefer a white with more zing.
Amid a sea of dull Soave coming out of the Veneto region, Pieropan, which is a small family-owned winery in Verona is an exception and the standard bearer for making elegant and classy Soave. This vintage and this bottling, however, is not showing its class as it's supposed to. I am not about to give up hope with this winery, as I am interested in finding out the meaning of good Soave from their other bottlings and vintages.
Read more about the Pieropan winery at the Winedoctor's website.
2002 Masi Campofiorin Ripasso, Veneto, Tre Venezie, Italy
Medium purple / garnet. I poured a glass and placed the rest in a decanter. First glass: a whiff of band-aid (brett?), funky aroma, barnyard and a slight talcum smell. Pungent. A bit of cherries in the background? Medium - full bodied. Quite gamey and pungent in the mouth. Fine dusty tannin. This bottling is such a stark contrast to the wonderful previous Campofiorin vintages I've had. I've always liked Campofiorin as a wine that gives more than it costs, but this bottling makes a Charles Shaw wine seems charming. I poured the first glass down the sink. It remains to be seen how it tastes after being decanted.
No star (poor) Note: this is an exception to the usual. Masi Campofiorin has always consistently been one of my favorite affordable Italian wines.
After 5 hours in a decanter:
All the funky and unpleasant aromas have disappeared! This wine has transformed into a floral one: violet and orange peel comes to mind, with a bit of lavender, I suppose. Tannin seems to be coarser than before, though. The wine has become slightly more acidic and oxidized. Light coffee-ish aftertaste, short finish. Still disappointing.
After 12 hours in a decanter:
Somehow it turned into a mulchy, stewy prunes / plums and stewy strawberries. The wine has turned sour (oxidized). Down the sink it all went.
About Masi Campofiorin1
"Campofiorin is the name of a vineyard in the Marano Valley of Italy's Veneto region, near Verona; the wine comes from this vineyard and neighboring vineyards that share its soil and climate. This vineyard once made a wine called "Campo Fiorin" Amarone, in the days before Amarone became a restricted DOC name.
In recent vintages, Campofiorin wine has become, technically, an IGT wine because, according to Sandro Boscaini of Masi, the available DOC designation, Valpolicella, is too generic, encompassing wines of divergent quality, production method and price. But Campofiorin is a product of the Valpolicella zone, made from traditional local grapes, about 70 percent Corvina and the remainder Molinara and Rondinella.
Campofiorin is the original ripasso, a term that Masi invented and trademarked. And Masi's modern variation of that winemaking process is what accounts for the wine's unique expression.
Ripasso refers to a traditional local process of re-fermenting a dry Valpolicella wine by adding the sugar-rich skins that remain from the fermentation of Amarone (which, being made from dried grapes, ferments a few months later than Valpolicella and other wines made from fresh grapes). The double fermentation increases the body and tannins of the wine. Today, the ripasso of Campofiorin involves crushing and fermenting about 70 percent of the wine's grapes when they are fresh; the remaining grapes are semi-dried for several weeks before being employed to instigate another fermentation in the main wine. Boscaini describes the result as a wine that 'combines the complexity and spiciness of Amarone with the crispness, freshness and conviviality of Valpolicella.'"
1 Quoted from winereviewonline.com, written by Mary Ewing-Mulligan, December 6, 2005
Friday, June 16, 2006
As with many Chinese tea names, the preceding words/characters refer to the place of origin and then followed by the tea’s name or type. In this case, Jun Shan Yin Zhen simply means Silver Needle of Mount Jun, which is located near Lake Dong Ting in the Hunan Province of China.
Supposedly, Jun Shan Yin Zhen is the rarest, most famous, most valuable (read: very expensive), and the best of all yellow teas. According to Master Lam Kam Chuen in his book “The Way of Tea,” this tea was popular during the Tang Dynasty but rarely drunk nowadays. Master Lam also noted:
"One of the reasons it is so famous is because when you make the tea the leaves stand vertically: some stand at the surface catching air bubbles while others stand at the bottom of the cup. According to Japanese superstition, tea leaves that stand vertically signify good luck."Some retailers claim that this was the favorite drink of the late Chairman Mao Zedong and that it was an imperial tribute tea for the emperors back in the ancient China days. I wonder if this is entirely true or just a marketing gimmick not unlike how tabloid magazines market some products (“Julia Roberts uses this facial cream!”).
Ok, enough background. How does it taste?
Knowing that yellow tea is delicate, it is therefore sensitive to brewing method and parameters. For this session, I used a 6oz gaiwan filled with about 1/4 of dry leaves and 75-80 degree Celsius spring water. Brewing time was: 30s, 30s, 40s, 50s…
Light clear yellow with a hint of amber/orange in color. Nose is of light and delicate white flower. Quite monotonic, I must say, but this does not mean the tea itself is “bad.” This is properly a yellow tea’s taste. Quite tannic, surprisingly, for such a light tea. At first, it seemed to taste like nothing but the spring water I brewed it with. A few seconds later, however, I realized that it’s actually slightly sweet and refreshing. It leaves a long lasting aftertaste that seems to go on forever everywhere in the mouth and the back of the throat. Although it’s been about an hour since I finished my last cup, I still could taste the sweetness in my mouth and throat. The tea leaves when chewed on is bitter-sweet.
This tea is perfect for relaxation. It is a nice change of pace for me after a few days of young raw pu-erh, cooked pu-erh, dan cong, and qing xiang tie guan yin. However, I’m still not quite sure what a good yellow tea should taste like, so it’s hard to judge. Do I like this tea? Yes, I do.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Teldeschi Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma ($25).
70 cases made.
Fruits coming from 120 years-old vines. Deep purple. Much better than the first bottle tasted a few months ago! At first it seemed the wine was cooked and singed with heat. But after a while in the glass, it turns into a nice wine. Red and blue berries predominant, leather, scorched earth, a hint of burnt matchstick, and caramel-y sweetness in the nose. Almost tastes like a syrah. Medium bodied. Low acidity seems to make the wine slighly flat against the backdrop of 15.5% alcohol. Tanin is silky and smooth. Goes down like water. Good, but not quite memorable.
=== / 5 (good)
Previous tasting note from February 2006
Brickish red. Seems like an amateurish effort at what's supposed to be great raw material (120 years old Teldeschi zinfandel!). Brett-y, alcoholic and very hot in the back. Not much fruit.
= / 5 (poor) in hindsight, it must be due to bottling variance.
Wednesday, June 7, 2006
Another sample sent by Jing Tea Shop, in Guangzhou.
Dry appearance: Like dirt / soil.
Opaque red, dark brown. Nothing much to write about its taste. Earthy, woody and slighly floral in the background. As with mixed and cooked pu-erh, it's smooth in texture...and this one goes down like drinking whole milk. A very pleasant mixed pu-erh, in my opinion.
=== / 5 (g)
Sunday, June 4, 2006
This is my first "test run" for the 2005 Chang Tai Factory Pure Ancient Tree, Yiwu, Pu-erh. The purpose of this tasting is to find out if I've just bought a lemon or something nice that I can keep long term. Purchased from Yunnan Sourcing LLC (see blog dated 5/10/2006).
Dry appearance: large, long, whole leaves that are very dark green to blackish-green, many are hairy. A few leaves are silvery and hairy. Quite nice looking. When broken, the inside is filled with whole leaves too, indicating a consistent quality througout. Each beeng (cake) is 100gr small.
TN: Bright orange-yellow liquor. The most obvious characteristics of this tea is the mélange of camphor, floral, pleasant green alfalfa (?) and some yellow fruits. A very nice perfume overall. It really opened up by the 4th infusion, when all aromas became better focused. The liquor itself is quite mellow and friendly -- it does not act like an uncivilized brute with the astringency or the coarseness often found in a newly released pu-erh. Light to medium body as well as cha-chi. Fine dusty tannin. A floral aftertaste, and it hasn't developed any sweet aftertaste.
I wonder if this tea is going to age well or should be consumed when young. My feeling and evaluation from this tasting is that this tea is better consumed younger, though I plan to keep an ample amount for consumption beyond 7 years of aging. Somehow a few sips of this tea gave me an intense caffeine buzz that I usually get from 2 shots of espresso.
===+/5 (g - vg)
From the Vendor's Text:
Producer: Chang Tai Tea Factory
Process: Picked, sun-dried, blended, and Compressed.
Vintage: Spring 2005
Production area: Yi Wu Mountain
Chang Tai Factory has been producing Pu-erh tea cakes since the 1990's, most of which have been directly exported to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. A favorite among collector's of premium Pu-erhs and often voted "best of pack" in Pu-erh competitions.This cake is pure unblended ancient tree sun-dried pu-erh from the Yi Wu mountain in Xishuangbanna. In recent years the demand for pure ancient tree pu-erh (especialy from Yi Wu mountain) has grown exponentially. Consequently the price per kilo for "mao cha" (sun-dried pu-erh used for making compressed tea cakes) has risen quickly. his is an excellent cake and represents the unblended taste of Yi Wu.
From Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma.
For the past few vintages, Ridge has always been one of my favorite zinfandel bottlings among the likes of Turley, York Creek MBX, Hendry Vineyard (Block 7 and 28), Rosenblum Carla's Vineyard, Limerick Lane, and a few others. This time around, the 2004 Lytton Springs cuvee is made up of 79% zinfandel, 18% petite syrah, and 3% carignane. It clocks in at 14.5% alcohol. Sounds like a big wine, right? Right!
TN: Fresh red-purple color. Red-fruits predominant on the nose. Brambly raspberries, cranberries and blueberries come to mind immediately. This wine is quite a fruit bomb and full-bodied. Tarter and brighter than its 2001, 2002, and 2003 cousins, and lacking the peppery touch at the back-end. Ripe, sandy/dusty tannin. I prefer the 2002 and 2003. Perhaps I may change my mind when I open the second bottle next time.
Click here for more details on the 2004 Lytton Springs.
Thursday, June 1, 2006
This melon-shaped pu-erh was purchased from the Jing Tea Shop in Guangzhou via the internet ($30). Each melon is 500gr (17.5 oz) and it's very tightly compressed. At the moment of this tasting, the tea is 7 years old, which is still considered "young" by any raw pu-erh standard. At this age, the dry leaves have turned dark red and some dark brown in color already. After brewing, however, these leaves turn slightly dark green.
A very pleasant medium brownish-red liquor color that emanates a subtle green smell from its steam. The steaming wet leaves in the teapot, on the other hand, give the smell of fresh cut grasses and earth after the rain, but with a roundness and creaminess to it. Does it make any sense? There is also a sweet smell in the background which I will simply attribute to "floral" characteristic, though I can't really place what it is. Very nice!!!
Back to the liquor: the cha-chi is quite strong, and the tea is full-bodied. A bitter gourd taste at first, but later it gives way to a pleasant sweet aftertaste in the entire mouth and the back of the throat that lasts. Again, very nice! The tannin has already mellowed, leaving a smooth sateeny coat feel. This tea is already quite smooth going down.
Overall, a very enjoyable pu-erh to drink, and I would not hesitate buying more (and I will) for long term storage.
====+/5 (vg - ex)