Gabe's View

Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for October, 2007

Patti Scialfa – Play It As It Lays

Posted by Gabe on October 30, 2007

Play It as It Laysis Patti Scialfa’s third album. It’s also her best.

More than her previous releases this one shows her musical roots are deeply embedded in the Asbury Park sound.

Soulful, bluesy music, delivered with grit.

Amongst her musical collaborators in the studio were Steve Jordan, Nils Lofgren, Soozie Tyrell and her husband, Bruce Springsteen.

None of them overshadow the terrific songs she wrote for this album or her passionate vocals. They all play with fire though, especially Nils whose trademark guitar sound is on full display through several tracks.

More fully realized than her previous efforts “Play It Where It Lays” also begs and rewards repeated listening. Layers of sound become more apparent with each subsequent listen.

Hopefully during a break from her touring duties with the E Street Band she’ll get the chance to take these songs on the road with her own show, they would surely flourish in that setting.

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Culley – Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on October 29, 2007

For years now wine lovers have recognized New Zealand as the home of unique, well made Sauvignon Blanc. In the last few years they have also emerged as producers of well made Pinot Noir.

Culley’s 2006 Pinot Noir is made in a Burgundian style.

Classic Pinot characteristics of sour cherry and cola are balanced by firm but not overwhelming acidity.  This Pinot has a nice finish that lingers on the tongue for quite awhile.

This is a medium bodied wine that will marry well with a wide range of cuisine and is also incredibly easy to drink on it’s own.

It will likely drink well for a couple of years if cellared properly.  However I wouldn’t expect it to improve much if at all. 

Pinot Noir is amongst the most difficult wines to find a true bargain on. Coming in at around $12 a bottle the Culley certainly qualifies.

Posted in Pinot Noir, Wine | 2 Comments »

Caparone – Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on October 25, 2007

Caparone Winery  in Paso Robles, California has been turning out world class, ageworthy wine since 1979.

Amazingly they do it for $14.00 a bottle.

They make six wines. Sangiovese, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Zinfandel, Merlot, Aglianico & Cabernet Sauvignon. All are 100 % varietal.

Their 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Ben Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley is an impressive expression of the heralded grape.

At four years old this Cabernet, while very enjoyable now, is just a baby. Caparone makes their wines for the long haul. There is intensity upfront, a solid mid palate with lots of dark fruit and a hint of spiciness followed by a long finish.

Both oak and tannins are present in this wine but neither overwhelm the purity of fruit that explodes on your palate. Time will most certainly see some of the upfront fruit replaced by earthiness, additional complexity and the elegance only a fine aged Cabernet can provide.

This wine is a perfect candidate to lay a case of down. Drink a bottle every year or so and watch it evolve.

Finding wines of this quality with Caparone’s track record of success year after year is a near impossibility. Kudos to Caparone for the wonderful job they do.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine | 1 Comment »

Morrissey – New York City

Posted by Gabe on October 23, 2007

Last night at the Hammerstein Ballroom Morrissey and his band tore through a 22 song set with fervor.

His backing band was tight and played powerfully with zeal and joy. Their sound had a ferocious bite that kept the SRO crowd happy all night. His rhythm section is comprised of two brothers. No surprise once you hear them, as they sound so good together, they’ve probably been doing so since they were in diapers.

Morrissey’s vocals soared over the wall of sound his band provided no matter how loud they rocked the joint. For his part, he worked the room like the seasoned alternative rock statesman that he has become. He conveys a charm and charisma from the stage that keeps the audience engaged every second he’s out there.

Two songs in the middle of the set leaned towards the mid-tempo side. Outside of that coupling Morrissey and his band kept up a furious pace. Briefly between some songs he addressed the crowd. Mostly, he sang his ass off.

The set list was made up of both solo tunes as well as Smiths songs. Both Morrissey and the band treated each and every song equally, wringing every note and emotion possible out of them.

Some performers exude a joy onstage that makes it clear how much they enjoy what they’re doing. Last night in New York City, Morrissey had a blast. It was my pleasure to share his good time.

Posted in Music | 3 Comments »

Benessere Sangiovese

Posted by Gabe on October 22, 2007

I can count on one had the number of California Wineries that make consistent Sangiovese that is also true to the Varietal.

Include Benessere Vineyards amongst their number.Their 2002 Sangiovese is 100% varietal and 100% Napa fruit.

It’s also made in a classic old world style. In Italy sangiovese is a work horse. Chianti and Brunello are two examples that use sangiovese as the primary grape.

This sangiovese seems to fall between those two wine styles in weight and substance.  The upfront fruit reminds me of a young Brunello. The classic cherry, spice and cola notes are reminiscent of Chianti.

At five years of age this sangiovese still seems like it has plenty of life left. A couple of years on the cellar will likely benefit it. I’d expect it to pick up additional earthiness as some of the fruit recedes a bit.

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Ben Harper – Lifeline

Posted by Gabe on October 20, 2007

Ben Harper has regularly released albums since 1994

Lifeline is his latest. Coming in at just over 40 minutes it’s a concise effort. However it never sounds rushed.

His best work tends towards a sultry soulfulness and this is no exception.

Recorded right after his last tour ended the songs have a warmth that come both from his band, The Innocent Criminals, being so tight, and recording to analog tape.

The songs are terrific, but more than that the entire project has a feel. It’s comfortable, like an old pair of jeans but continually surprises with musical flourishes.

Guitar riffs, organ grooves and Ben Harper’s incredibly pleasing voice are amongst trademark sounds that embellish song after song and give them life.

“In The Colors” and the title track are a couple of the highlights. The penultimate track “Paris Sunrise #7” is an instrumental and rocks with a harder bite than the rest of the album.

The people who influenced Ben Harper shine through his songs sometimes. Listen close and a couple of the songs will recall Marvin Gaye. Still another brings to mind Terence Trent D’Arby. Through it all though, the music is uniquely Ben Harper

Next Sunday morning, brew a pot of coffee, cook some eggs and have some friends over for Brunch. Crank up “Lifeline” while you’re at it, everyone will be glad you did.

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Casa Julia Merlot

Posted by Gabe on October 16, 2007

It’s a funny thing about Chilean wines. People seem to either rave about them or revile them.

Along with a lot of other Southern Hemisphere wines they’ve been bandied about as bargains for years by the Wine Press. Truth is, sometimes they are are sometimes they’re not.

The 2003 Casa Julia Merlot is definitely in the bargain camp.

Coming in under $8 it offers plenty for that money.

Dark fruit rules the day with a bit of a peppery undertone.

It’s medium to full bodied with a nice finish. Certainly more finish than you usually get for $8.

Significantly more true varietal character than you’ll generally find in this price range

It likely won’t evolve much but I’ll bet it holds up for another few years if properly stored.

If you’re looking for a house wine or something to go to with a large crowd when you don’t want to break into your higher end bottles, the Casa Julia is a safe bet. 

Posted in Merlot, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Raul Midon – A World Within A World

Posted by Gabe on October 16, 2007

A couple of years ago I first saw Raul Midon when he was on Letterman. I had no idea who he was. But that night he exploded out of my TV. The musicianship on display that evening more than impressed. I bought his CD “State of Mind” the next day.

State of Mind was terrific, what a powerful first impression. Sometimes though first impressions leave such an indelible mark that anything subsequent has a hard time living up to the standard they set.

Raul Midon’s new release not only lives up to the expectations and promises setup by his last album, it surpasses them.

A World Within A World is jazzier, funkier, smoother and more soulful than it’s predecessor. It’s also a bit more polished in a manner that causes it to feel more fully fleshed out.

His guitar playing is in a word, stellar. A handful of people can consistently delight the senses with an acoustic guitar the way Raul does. On a couple of tunes his playing puts one in a mind of Django Reinhardt.

The playing and singing is enchanting. You want to become hypnotized by it’s charm and drift off into space. However the intricacy of the playing and the songs demand attention. What at first might seem simple unwinds and reveals itself more and more with repeated listening.

“A World Within a World.” makes good on the promise of “State of Mind,” perhaps tenfold.  One can only hope that he continues down this path and creates wonderful music we can enjoy for many years to come.

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Old Vine Zin

Posted by Gabe on October 16, 2007

I love good Old Vine Zinfandel. The ones from Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma seem to be particularly tasty. 

I had the 2002 Manzanita Creek Carreras Ranch last night, it didn’t dissapoint.

Jammy, White Pepper, Long Finish.

A Touch Raisiny with some Late Harvest Characteristics.

In Short: Classic Zinfandel. If You like your Zins BIG, checkout Manzanita Creek .

Posted in Wine, Zinfandel | 1 Comment »

Into The Wild

Posted by Gabe on October 15, 2007

The soundtrack to the Sean Penn film Into the Wild acts equally well as Eddie Vedder’s solo debut.

Most of it veers towards the softer acoustic sounds we have become accustomed to in a portion of Pearl Jams work. There is something inherently powerful about the strength of Vedder’s voice against a minimal musical backdrop.

“Hard Sun” is one of the most fully fleshed out songs on the disc. It’s an obscure cover from a 1989 album by the group Indio. On it Vedder wails a bit more forcefully than on most of the other tracks.

Unlike most Pearl Jam albums the accompanying booklet has lyrics printed that are easy to read. It’s kind of ironic since Eddie’s words are fairly easy to understand on this one.

A very enjoyable listen and a no-brainer for Pearl Jam fans as well as those who specifically appreciate the softer side they sometimes offer.

It strikes me that this will be a good one to press play on, late at night, right before bed.

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