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Lower East Side Gem: Barrio Chino

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the September 20th, 2006

In the past two weeks my wife and I have had a chance to explore the Lower East Side. Our good friend, Lauren lives below Houston and she and August gave us a great tour of some bars and clubs down there. But what really got me is where the four of us had dinner before hoppin. We met them on Broome between Ludlow and Orchard. They couldn’t remember the name of the place so I when we got there, a rush of excitement ran through me. It was Barrio Chino. I had heard about this place a month or so before. There was mention of the best margaritas around and I remember telling myself that we had to give it a go before summer came to a close. Then my running a restaurant took over and I completely forgot.
Well, thanks to Lauren and August we were able to experience it just in time. Fall is right around the corner and all I will be thinking about is red wine and winter whites…oh, and scotch. Barrio Chino is a very small place with a rough-around-the-edges yet sexy look that fits perfectly into the Lower East Side. It has decorative Chinese flare hanging on the walls and from the ceiling to give props to the Chinatown border on which they reside, yet it focuses on Latin cuisine, hence, the name Barrio (neighborhood) Chino (Chinese). The menu is simple yet thorough within their theme, offering a wide range of traditional dishes with little nuances to make the items unique. The drink list that I had heard about is offered at the tables and written in sharpie on cut up pieces of produce or beer box cardboard. I had the grapefruit margarita and I must say it was spectacular. My wife had sangria, which was actually really good. I wasn’t daring enough because of the night ahead of us but next time (there will many next times here) I am going to go for the jalapeno infused margarita.
The food is excellent. The portions are a bit tiny but when you bite into them that don’t matter anymore. The steak in my soft-shell tacos was absolutely amazing. The reason I say this is because the meat in these types of dishes can sometimes be dried out. Whoever they get their meat from knows how to take care of it. And, actually, in the end I was diggin’ the fact that everything was bite sized. I think that when you have ingredients this fresh and with so much flavor you don’t need to pile it onto a plate and compensate for compromised taste. Also when you see the menu initially and notice the prices you think it is going to be a huge New York sized portion. This is soooo not the case, and I welcome it. I would rather pay more for smaller portions of quality ingredients than less for less.
Barrio Chino is a great place. The food is excellent, the drinks are fantastic and the service is right on par with a good time. Thank you Lauren and August. My wife and I recently went back but instead had the brunch. I had another one of those grapefruit margaritas (I couldn’t help it, they are so damn good) and the huevos con chorizo. Get it. It is amazing. They serve the little tacos separate in a warm napkin with a side of salsa verde and its do-it-yourself from there.

The Trader Joe’s Experiment (Part I)

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the September 18th, 2006

Mondavi.jpgTrader Joe’s has been open for a couple of months now and my wife and I have been going there as often as needed to stock up on anything we need. The reason I say as often as needed is because that place is AMAZING! The price you pay for a week’s worth of food whether you’re buying ingredients or quick, precooked or frozen food is ridiculously lower than Key Food or the corner super deli. The quality of their products is outstanding and they pretty much have everything you need. I could go on and on about the beauty that is Trader Joe’s but I must move on to my point.
Trader Joe’s also has a wine shop and being a wine geek I had to check this place out. I always see it when we are there; I am just too busy trying to weed through the crowd just to get items in the cool, little red cart and then waiting fifteen to twenty minutes in line that usually wraps around to the entrance of the store (I am not complaining I can dig why we are all there) that when we get out we just want to go home and start cooking. We figure we’ll just pop one from the old “wine cellar” I carefully wedged into the kitchen when we moved in. On our last trip, however, I told my wife I would meet her in the organized chaos after I checked out this Trader Joe’s wine shop thing.
The shop was packed with people. I had never seen a wine shop that small with that many people in it at one time. I browsed among the masses ogling at the prices. It was like the whole store was a bargain bin. Awesome. As I moseyed around I kept on coming back to an extreme yet potential bargain. It was a 2005 malbec from Argentina (Mendoza) for…drum roll please…. four bucks. I am a sucker for malbec and other Argentinean blends so I had to grab it. I was embarking on a journey, an experiment if you will, on whether the cheapest of the cheap can hold up to the rest. This was really fun, I thought to myself and wondered how my wife was doing over in the other throng. Ah…she can handle it.
I clutched my new four-dollar bottle with unexpected excitement and I walked another round just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I was pretty tight on cash that day so I didn’t want to go crazy and get a case or something. I just wanted one or two bottles to go home with and try with my wife over dinner. I wanted to take baby steps with this newfound bargain place. I wanted to be a bit selective. On the last round I came across a wine that Eric Asimov had reviewed and enjoyed in a recent $10 and under piece. It was a Mondavi Private Selection 2004 merlot…or was it the pinot noir? I turned around and behind me was the pinot noir Private Selection. I couldn’t remember which one it was that he had written about. After some consideration I decided to go with the one I had seen first, the merlot.
Sure enough when we got home I went online, found the article and it was not the merlot it was the pinot (oh, well…next trip). No stress here man, I was going to pop that Trader Joe’s pre-made pizza in the oven, break out the Trader Joe’s pre-made arugula salad with walnuts, raisins and gorgonzola, uncork both the four dollar malbec and the nine dollar merlot and just go for it.
The pizza was great. The salad was really good for a pre-made item. The wine was…well…not…too…bad. We started with the malbec. It wasn’t too bad. Keeping in mind that it was a 2005 I was not blown away but definitely pleasantly surprised. It was soft and full of berries with hints of smokiness that came out a bit more in the glass as it breathed. It was quite approachable with no insipid characteristics that would make one cringe and a nice roundness to it that I found went well with the salad. There was a bit of heat from the alcohol and the acidity was a little strong but all in all it was a pretty enjoyable four-dollar bottle of wine.
The pizza was ready and we poured a glass of the Robert Mondavi Private Selection 2004 merlot. It was immediately hard to find the subtleties of mild vegetal notes and interwoven fruit that I am used to with merlot. The nose was a bit mute and difficult to gauge. The color was nice though, so it was bound to have something going on on the palate. Sure enough it did. The palate was a bit lean but at least more impressive than the initial nose. We each had a glass of the merlot with the pizza and I guess it went well together. It had a sort of pinot noir quality when matched with the sauce that brought out the acidity and added some character to the wine. After the pizza we ended up going back to the malbec and corking the merlot for the night. I purposefully didn’t finish either bottle to see what twenty-four hours did to them. If nothing came of it I would cook with them or make nice sangria.
The next day I hit the farmer’s market in my hood and grabbed a bunch of fresh, seasonal produce and planned a nice, simple dinner for my wife and I. When all was said and done I had made baked acorn squash with a honey-Dijon mustard-butter sauce and a side of freshly shaved corn and couscous salad with pimentos. For dessert, fresh apples from the market (the only apples worth buying) with salted natural peanut butter from Trader Joe’s.
I decided to revisit the merlot while I was cooking. I poured a taste and gave it a swirl. It had actually improved some. I let it sit for a bit and continued to cook checking back on the glass every five minutes or so. It continued to improve. I wasn’t about to decant it but I was definitely enjoying much more than the night before. This was an interesting twist in my Trader Joe’s wine shop “experiment.” I kept it uncorked for the duration of the recipe and waited to polish it off with my wife.
When we sat down to eat she asked me which wine this was. When I told her it was the merlot from the night before she was kind of taken back. The wine had filled out more and the structure had come more into focus. The fruit was quite prominent and the tannins had shown up to say hi, subtly but definitely present. It went really well with both dishes soaking up the couscous and matching the sweetness of the corn with smooth fruit and mingling well with the acorn squash giving a lean flavor to the creamy-sweetness of the dish. Good stuff.
As for the malbec, don’t buy this wine unless you pop it and finish it in one sitting. All the nuances of this decent four dollar Mendoza were gone leaving nothing but the reminiscence of fruit and body. It was actually a bit salty with watered down candy on the palate. It was a complete reversal of preference in a twenty-four hour period. I would say the experiment was a mild success. Both wines were pretty damn decent. If the malbec is consumed in full the day it is opened it can be quite enjoyable. Also, because of the price, it has a structure for nice sangria. The merlot needs some time open up but it isn’t half bad. I know I was supposed to get the pinot but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. The experiment is not yet over. I am not done with finding decent wine in the crazy little shop. I have since gone back and purchased the private selection pinot, which is in the queue for the next blog.

Foppiano Part II

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the September 8th, 2006

label_02_drycreekzin.pngI thought I would add a little something today. If anyone read my 4th of July post they will remember (or not) a wine that was thoroughly enjoyed. It was the Foppiano 2004 Pinot Noir and it gave me hope for the pinots of Cali. I have since had a couple more that were great, especially a Merry Edwards from the Russian River Valley. I had it with my wife on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina at this amazing restaurant, which is another post all together.
Well, last night our good friends had us over to check another bottle august had picked up at Foppiano when visiting Cali, the 2002 Zin. We had just had dinner and went back to Lauren’s apartment to check this sucker out. We popped it and sat around talking about everything except wine. Lauren has some great wine glasses that allow you to really get a feel for what you are drinking.
As we were talking and drinking I kept wanting the Zin to open up some. It was giving me alcohol and ripe fruit on the nose with none of that welcome spice and thickness. It wasn’t bad it was just different from what I was used to. I haven’t had too many zins but the ones I had were a bit tougher on tannin and structure. I have had a good amount of primitivo which is very similar to zin (some people actually think it is zin or a clone of it) and primitivo generally tends to be a bit lighter than Cali Zin but this one was almost on par with a medium bodied primitivo. Also I thought in the end that it was lacking the acidity needed to bring the body into balance. As these thoughts were going through my head August mentioned to me his thoughts on the wine that thankfully reflected mine. He said he much more enjoyed the pinot from them.
In the literature that August gave me about the vineyard it says they have been around since the 1800’s and their flagship wine is petit sirah. This would make sense as the zin vines may be a bit too young and are more susceptible to varying weather conditions, affecting the ripening process of the grapes, which add to the body and flavor of a wine. The pinot was great and whether they are young or old vines of all the varietals out there pinot reflects the soil in which it was grown more than the majority of the grapes out there (tempranillo is another). So it seems that 2004 was a better year for the “terrior” of Foppiano. I would like to try a 04 Zin and compare but with these Cali wines costing an arm and a leg it’s hard to justify the risk. But then again what’s life without a little risk. When I find one I will be calling on August and Lauren event.
What was more important than the wine was the company. I am posting these tasting notes from recesses of my memory. I was not hanging out with my pad and pen. My wife and I were just kicking back on a Saturday night with good friends and enjoying each other’s company. I am a wine geek and it’s hard for me to not analyze wine but when it comes down to it wine was being made long before tasting notes came around so was the communal aspect of wine. In the end this is my favorite part. Thank You August for bringing back wines to share from your jaunt to the Russian River Valley. The next one is on me.

Tasing Provence and The Loire

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the September 8th, 2006

rose.jpgSo it was time to explore France via the east village. One night last week Gal, Mr. Wolf and myself popped two bottles of French wine. First up was a rose form Provence. The producers name is Chateau Rouet and it was a blend of 60% granache and 40% syrah and had a beautiful pink color and a wacky curvaceous bottle. It was also a reserve (for rose…pretty cool). Next was a bottle of 1990 chinon 100% cab franc from the Loire region of France. The Loire is mostly known for their whites but who can pass up a $40 1990 from France. It was worth the risk.
The rose came first and we were pleasantly surprised. It was a well balanced and had all of its parts in place. The way I drink and think about rose is that it should be drank and not thought about. I believe people know right away whether a rose is right for them or not. With reds (especially) and whites it could take a bit of contemplation and verbalization before giving it a definitive yeah or nay. This rose was also not only from two of my favorite grapes but also from Provence; an area of France known for it’s wonderful rose. And at $13 it is so worth it. I wanted to keep the bottle and do something with it like a decoration or something because it was so unique.
Next up was the mystery wine. I had tried Cab francs from Italy, Cali and New York State but not from where it was born, France. Of course I had tried it in Bordeaux blends but that is another story altogether. The rose was familiar because it was summer and I had tried a lot of rose form all over the wine regions of the world. They are, for the most part, inexpensive so I went into the chateau Rouet with some fresh knowledge. We popped that puppy and poured a tasting amount. I was struck by the lightness. The color wasn’t too light per se it was just that I could tell that it was light in body just by swirling it and coating the sides of the glass before taking in the aromas.
Speaking of aromas on the first nose I was confused. I smelled the vegetal cab franc signature note but it was much more pronounced than I was used to. And we had just opened the bottle. It stayed that way for a while and we sat back waiting for more to happen as oxygen played with the wine. Gal was torn. He liked it because it was what it was but his face just as perplexed as mine. Mr. Wolf was enjoying the journey of this wine picking off tasting notes as Gal and sat and thought whether we liked it or not.
I wish there was more to say about this wine but there really isn’t. I was not too impressed with it. There is a reason this wine was $40 as a 1990. It wasn’t horrible but I wouldn’t go back to it again. I thin Gal came around to Mr. Wolf’s side in the end. I can say something about cab franc in the Loire though. I was reading a great article in The Saturday Financial Times a couple of weeks ago about the state of Loire cab Franc today. The article mentioned that the Loire, because it is known mostly for its Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc wines cab franc has seen a decline on an already low export rate. Well, this apparently troubled the Loire producers and the board of producers in the region got together and hired an expert (I believe his name is Sam Harrop) to come in and help them acclimate better to their terrior. And apparently it is working.
The article stated that before 2003 the general rule with cab franc in the Loire was to pick when the grapes were quite green and press them to within and inch of their lives. This I believe added to the vegetal notes in the wine that we tried. The piece is very informative and if you can get it online I highly recommend reading it but to maker a long story short, This expert convinced the producers of cab in the Loire to lower there yields and pick according to the weather and pay attention to the heat and sun and as a result, apparently the 03, 04 and 05 vintages are showing quite well. I am curious and will be rummaging around for one of those vintages.

The Crooked Tree…A Must To Do!

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the August 30th, 2006

snuff.jpgOkay let’s get down to business…you’re hungry. It’s brunch time and plan A has a 45-minute wait and plan B has a 20-minute wait. You had fiddled around for too long in the apartment and when the hunger pangs started pangin’ it was almost two in the afternoon. Man, I feel ya. I have been there. It’s a tough spot to be in especially if the night before was “jovial.” Well, if this situation sounds way too familiar and you find yourself trekking up and down St. Marks place in The East Village then I have the perfect solution for you. This remedy. This solution goes by the name of The Crooked Tree. After you go to this little gem of a creperie it will cease to be a remedy and be morph into a necessity. Well, at least for my wife and myself it did.
We were caught in the dilemma explained above (as we always are) when, as we worked our way towards Ave. A heading for an impromptu plan C, there it was. It is a small place (about ten tables or so) with comfy surroundings including a framed photograph of what looks like Mr. Snuffleupagus mysteriously caped in some sort of foliage and the music is great. That day they were chillin’ with the Buena Vista Social Club in which case you just can’t go wrong. The menu id pretty extensive for a small place like this but it works. The thing is though, you can’t ignore the over a dozen or so different kinds of crepes they have. This is their specialty. I will eventually get to the other items on the menu (some good looking sandwiches and salads are on there) but not until I have tasted all the crepes which have two sections, sweet and savory. We both split two savory crepes and after went for a couple sweet ones.
They know how to make it man. These guys are good. The service is friendly and the food comes out at a good pace. I am sorry about the vagueness in the details of the food but it was a little while ago that we had this brunch. But we have since been back for dinner and walked away just as happy. The wines they have there are simple and good with the food. I would suggest going with a party of four some night and getting a bottle of red or white or both (they are both burgundies) and just go nuts on the savory crepes. When the wine is done and the plates are clean (and they will be) order the one bottle of port that they have for like $16 and go nuts on the sweet crepes. After all that they have good espresso and your evening is complete.
So if you’re stuck looking for a good brunch when every spot is crowded keep the crooked tree in mind. If you’re looking to have a fun dinner with wine and crepes and port and…fun keep the Crooked Tree in mind. I myself can’t wait to go back.

AHHHHHHHHH….the summer comes to an end…………

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the August 21st, 2006

I must post this apology. I have not babbled on my blog in a little while and I must say I am not too happy about it. I do, however, have a great excuse. My wife is a NYC public school teacher and when the summer hits and she has time on her hands I like to spend the days I am not managing a restaurant with her. We have done some fun stuff this summer, tried some great wines and ate at some great places here in the city. When my time shifts from lazy summer days with my wife rambling through our great town and traveling to hot spots for fun and food to me texting her when I wake up hoping her day is going well and that she got to work on time then all of it will come spilling out onto the page (and this will be soon). There are cool things to talk about and cool places to check out when traveling that I just gotta tell ya. ATL!

Freinds, 4th and Foppiano!

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the July 14th, 2006

july4.jpgI have not entered a post in awhile and for this I am sorry. But here we are, back on track. Sometimes life becomes a to do list that won’t let up. Time to step back for a second and take it all in by writing a bit about what I love; life, wine and our town. So… July 4th in The East Village of beautiful hot and sticky New York City. My wife and I had a low-key day with a couple very close friends. We spent it by just sucking down Hoegartens and enjoying the air-conditioning in our jr one bedroom and then attempting to journey outside, only to find ourselves back inside, this time in a comfy lower east side bar (more air-conditioning) that our friend Lauren recommended. They had some of the best sangria I have experienced in NYC so far. I will be picking her brain about it soon and give a full report. I don’t remember the name of the place and but…wow. As the sun began to fall we headed back to the apartment to pop a bottle of wine (this where I was going with this) and hit the roof for the festivities. August had just returned from California where he had attended a friends wedding and while there he picked up a couple of bottles of wine recommended by the locals, one of which he was nice enough to bring by, knowing that I would probably start taking notes even though the sangria from before had made us a bit “lightheaded.”
When my father used go away on business trips he would always bring back a present. Sometimes it was a matchbox car, sometimes a book. I don’t know how the tradition started but it was something I always looked forward to while waiting for his plane to land. I can remember the excitement of, one, seeing my father and two, waiting for him to give me that smile as he reached into his briefcase and pulled out the surprise. I recalled this anticipation as we sat in the apartment waiting for nightfall. August gave us all a smirk as he reached into his bag and pulled out a bottle of Russian River Valley, Foppiano, Estate bottled 2004 pinot noir. Little did I know what lay in the depths of this excellent bottle of wine. Now, this was a different experience than I am used to writing about in that it was not a concentrated wine tasting. I wasn’t with my fellow geek squad. This was a wonderful night with a couple of good friends that had an amazing bottle of wine that I must speak of. I am going to geek out here but what is most important is the social aspect of the experience. Wine should be enjoyed first and foremost. And to enjoy it with friends makes the wine that much more pleasurable.
I ran to the cabinet to grab the wine glasses and the decanter (just in case) while Lauren ordered pizza from Nino’s. Pizza and Pinot…hell yeah. I set out the glasses and popped the cork and was immediately impressed just by smelling the cork. It had that signature spicy, earthy smell pinot is supposed to have. I poured a bit out into everyone’s glass with August’s permission of course (this was his wine after all) and we all took the the first sip. I was in heaven before I even drank any of it. The color of the wine was beautiful, thick, inky, deep and ruby red. I have seen pinot range from opaque to ruby-ish and see-through. With this one you could just tell there was going to be some serious flavor. I swirled and coated the glass and felt like I was the only one in the room for a second. It was just me, myself and the pinot. I put my nose to the rim and took in the aroma. WOW. I hadn’t even sipped it yet and was already in heaven. The nose was full of rich earth and spice that intermingled with dark fruit, which together brought out that signature pinot aromatic character. You could just smell the balance. I was still alone in the room and I don’t know how long it had been. A second. A minute. Five minutes. I took the first sip. The palate was very smooth and thick for a pinot noir. The tannins were soft and silky which intertwined wonderfully with the fruit. There was a low amount of acidity but, hey, if you are going to have low acidity, this is the kind of balance you want. The people at Foppinao know what they are doing (with pinot at least. I haven’t tried any of their other wines). They take the strengths of the area (soil, climate….terrior) and balance it with a good work in the production…it seems.
And suddenly I was back in the room with my friends. The bell rang and Nino’s arrived. Ah…Nino’s. We all grabbed a slice scarffed it down with the great pinot and the four of us headed to the roof. Now that is an awesome combination. Good pizza, good wine, good friends, decent roof and 4th of July in NYC. Bellissimo!

Sorry

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the June 20th, 2006

For anyone who actually reads this blog besides some supportive friends and myself I would like to apologize for not posting anything in a couple of days. I have been quite busy here in the wine and food world of the east village and haven’t had a chance to share some of my recent experiences. I will be posting some good stuff in a day or so and hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I enjoy writing it. See you soon.

Boraso Tres Picos 2004: Oh What A Wine

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the June 14th, 2006

Trespicos.jpgWell it was time to branch out. I was in a wine shop the other day looking for a good deal. Trying to find that wine or those wines that are reasonably priced and good in quality. I went to the Union Square Wine shop’s new location. I hadn’t been to the older one in a couple of years so I was pretty stoked to check it out. I will talk about shop it self later in another post. I need to go back again. This time I was not so impressed. Not sure if it was just that day or what. I will have to go back and figure it out. It has potential to be a great source of wine experimentation. I digress. Wandering around the store for about 25-30 minutes I picked wine up and put wine down and picked wine up and put wine down. It was a very indecisive moment in time. I settled upon two Spanish wines. I had been going crazy with the Argentinean and was initially looking for a blend from there but I got to thinking, I have tried some good stuff from Argentina. Let’s go to another intriguing region. Spain is a place I am still learning about. It has a very interesting wine history and is the land of sherry and the grapes tempranillo and granacha. There are plenty more grapes to explore from here but these are the most well known.
So I bought a granacha 100% and a more unique wine from a varietal called monastrell, which I believe is Spanish for mouverde. The second one I am saving for another time. I could not wait however to open the granacha. This grape originated in Spain and was later made famous in the Rhone valley of France. It became so popular there that the french pretty much claimed the grape as their own. But nonetheless this is a Spanish original and I wanted to see what it offered in its native environment. The producer of this wine is Boraso and it is a 100% granacha from the Campo de Borja area of Spain. Something else I found interesting is that is aged in stainless steel. No oak to add vanilla flavors. Good move. This was pretty exciting. For me it always is. I just had a good feeling about this wine. I don’t know why. I bought it on a gut feeling. Of course it was only $15 but so were others in the store. It had a shelf talker saying something about Robert parker but I don’t realty listen to him too much. I just picked it up and moment I had it in my hand I had to put down the other wines. Just did. And I am very glad.

Gal (the nose) was not available for this one but Mr. Wolf was present as well as my wife and another of our tasting team with well-rounded opinions Angus. We popped the cork and right away could tell it had some muscle to it just by looking at the darkly stained cork. You could smell the wine before it was even out of the bottle. The cork itself had spice on the nose. I poured tastes in our glasses and marveled at the inkiness of this wine. Swirling and coating the glass was very easy as the wine just clung to the walls of the glass. The first nose was quite intense. The alcohol was definitely prominent and the pepper was a bit overwhelming yet pleasant at the same time. I could tell that it was only a matter of time before that intensity would mellow. It was even happening as we sipped. Mr. Wolf was in heaven because he has an affinity for the wines from Spain so I knew just by looking at him that he was digging the wine. My wife seemed a little put off at first because of the intense nature of the nose but after awhile she warmed up to it as it evened out.
Angus mentioned as we took the first sip that the pepper was going up his nose and as he was saying it I felt the same thing. Upon the first sip the pepper was so strong it rushed up my nasal passage with a full on attack. This wine was fooling us all. Why, you may ask, because through all of this intensity there was a good acidity mingling with fruit. This is the rundown. At fist there is in tense pepper, which masks the fruit. The fruit is detectable because there is a soft tannin structure cutting through the pepper letting you experience a taste of what’s to come. On the palate, in the beginning the pepper and spice is all over the place but that acidity and fruit with the tannin are also there working together as you sip to meld into something great. It is very rich and rounded with dark fruit as it starts to open up.
As it opened the spice and pepper softened and the fruit began to come out and soften the wine even more. There was still some muscle and the wine went form spicy to chewy and jammy with tannins detectable on the finish. This is a wine that changes wonderfully as it breathes but not a wine that you would want to decant. After about a half hour of talking and tasting, this wine was in its perfect place. It was where it wanted to be from the beginning. All of its components were in harmony. Not decanting it allowed us to fully enjoy the subtleties of this great granacha. In the end the wine was mellow with a good amount of dark cherry on the nose and palate with a soft tannin structure and mildly prominent spice.
My wife, Mr. Wolf, Angus and myself were quite pleased with the experience. I personally loved this wine and want to somehow buy a case and just have it around. I wasn’t able to eat with it but I could imagine some sort of marinated chicken dish with sautéed spinach and a tomato salad of some sort. What I really liked about this wine was that it sees no oak whatsoever. It is aged in only stainless steel. It sees a long maceration period, which would explain the deep rich dark color. Man…this wine was enjoyable. At $15 you just can’t go wrong. Buy a couple of them and just have them around for a night with friends or a dinner with your significant other. Both scenarios go well with this wine.

Malbec: Compare and Contrast (Nieto Senetiner reserva 2004)

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the June 8th, 2006

Nieto.jpgSince the experience with the Los Hormigas Malbec reserva I have been keeping my eyes on Argentinean wines. There is a little discount wine shop on Ave A between 12 and 13th that looks like a serious place until you walk in and look around. The décor is nice with hardwood floors and a clean atmosphere. But when you begin to assess the wine situation you immediately find that it’s just another discount wine shop with the usual Cali wines for too much and sub par French labels. But that’s not to say that the place is bad. The help is not informative but…helpful. The guys in there are there to make money not talk about their passion for wine. That being said, these types of shops are great for southern American wine exploration since the owner probably buys his inventory focusing on price more than quality. And it just so happens that South American wine is usually a great value for good quality.
I walked into this place and quickly passed all other regions and headed straight to the South American section. It wasn’t actually the South American section; there were two sign headings one that said Chile and one that said Spain. I am almost ready to start going nuts with the Spanish wines and still thinking about how to approach Chile but right now I want to delve further into the Argentinean juice. I looked around this small five or six shelf selection and found that of these shelves only one was Argentinean. They had lumped the Chilean and the Argentinean together and labeled the section Chile. Oh well, no big deal (it is a discount wine shop by the way) I wasn’t expecting much anyway.
Then I saw it. Of the eight Argentinean wines offered there was one that was the same vintage as the Los Hormigas (2004) and, like the Los Hormigas was a reserva. It was also a 100% malbec. But what got me all worked up is that it was $9.99. Cool! I can buy this here wine and compare and contrast with the Los Hormigas and if it is horrible I’m only out ten bucks. No prob. So I grabbed it and off I went to taste it with myself, Gal and (ladies and gentleman…introducing) Mr. Wolf.
The wine is a 2004 Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Malbec Reserva and it just so happens that Mr. Wolf was familiar with it. He had had a bottle of the 2003 reserva and said it was a monster with the tannins and needed to be decanted for a while. We were all about the decantation but we wanted to investigate the first pour before jumping to any desicions of that matter. Pop went the cork and the beautiful sound of wine splashing out of a bottle and into a glass at good temperature followed.
Right off the bat Wolf was a bit surprised. The wine was softer than he remembered and alcohol had replaced the tannin in the monster department. That alcohol really needed to burn off but still, we were not ready to decant. The tannin structure of this wine was definitely softer than the Los Hormigas but it had all the spice I remembered. The difference was that the balance between the two was opposite. In the Los Hormigas the tannin structure was mature with a good strength, which kept the spice or pepper at bay. This wine, the Nieto, has the same amount of spice but because the tannin structure is softer the spicy pepper is more prominent, in a pleasant way though. Also, once the spice mellowed a bit, which was a result, in part of the alcohol evaporating a plumminess started rising to the surface from the center of the wine that was picked up by Gal and Mr. Wolf.
So all in all when the bottle was finished (always a good sign) the verdict was in. This was a great wine for the price. We never decanted it by the way. It was smooth enough that we could just enjoy it as we poured it from the bottle. If it was to have been a couple of dollars more maybe not so much but where it was at was just fine. Yet another example of where Argentinean wine is headed. I can’t wait to taste more of these wines and dissect them with the dudes. Next I want to check out some of the blends. By the way I know the pic of this wine says 2003 but it was the only pic I could find. The 2003 Is much harsher according to Mr. Wolf. So if you happen to pick up this vintage instead of the 2004 if you can, decant for a while.

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