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Archive for December, 2007

Linne Calodo – The Outsider – 2004

Posted by Gabe on December 29, 2007

The OutsiderLinne Calodo has an impressive lineup of wines. Based in the Paso Robles area they focus on an array of blends. Many of them are either Zinfandel or Syrah based. At 68% The Outsider is mostly Zinfandel with 20% Syrah and 12% Mouvedre making up the rest.

Although the Linne Calodo wines tend to be big and bold, often with high alcohol content they don’t drink hot. They are in fact, incredibly well balanced wines for all their size and heft. Also impressive is their ability to age. Often wines this big and bold don’t have the stuffing to age. The tendency is for that big up front fruit to dissipate and leave not much more than the alcohol behind. This is not at all the case with the Linne Calodo wines. They are sufficiently tempered with acidity and a solid backbone to have staying power. The 2004 Outsider has at least 7 or 8 years of life ahead of it, with a decade not seeming out of the question to me.

Big spice and berries from the Zinfandel are the first notes that hit you when sipping The Outsider. The Mid palate has a touch of pepper and tons more dark fruit. The finish is long and luxurious as the wine tingles your tongue for a noticeable length of time after you swallow. While it performed well right out of the bottle, The Outsider seemed to hit it’s stride about 45 minutes after decanting.

The Linne Calodo wines are by and large impressive, memorable and worth seeking out.

Posted in Blends, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Ryan Bingham – Mescalito

Posted by Gabe on December 20, 2007

MescalitoMescalitois Ryan Bingham’s major label debut. The first thing that sticks out is his voice. He sings with a whiskey soaked, world weariness that fits in well with the southwestern themed music he’s making. There are a couple of spots where his vocals bring Tom Waits to mind. Musically there are a hodgepodge of influences that come through. Certainly Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen are amongst the hints I pick up. I was also reminded of Chris Whitley’s brilliant debut when I listened to Mescalito for the first time. Ryan Bingham takes all those influences and adds his talent to the mix. In doing so he has come up with a sound that is simultaneously pleasingly familiar, yet somehow new and fresh.

On again, off again guitarist for the Black Crowes, Marc Ford produced the album. He did a fine job as the music shines through and isn’t bogged down with any unnecessary elements. The clean production helps Bingham’s voice and music mesh together.  “Bread and Water” seems to skip along to a hand-clap beat, while guitar and banjo sizzle just below the surface.  One of the other highlights “Don’t Wait For Me” features a gentle and elegant slide guitar that never overpowers his impassioned vocal.

However, my absolute favorite track on the album is “Ghost of Travellin’ Jones.” It’s a song I could see Widespread Panic playing. In fact Bingham’s delivery (more than his voice) on this one puts me in a mind of John Bell, Panic’s leader.  It chugs along with an passionate intensity that stuck in my head after the first listen. Repeated listens underscore it’s impact.

I haven’t seen Ryan Bingham live, but the songs on Mescalito sound like they were made to be played to an audience. All fourteen tracks sound real and have a terrific rawness to them. Mescalito really breathes. It’s one of the best new albums it was my pleasure to hear this year. I look forward to seeing live him when he hits my area.

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The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Is A Joke

Posted by Gabe on December 19, 2007

 Rock Hall

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced their inductees for the 2008 ceremony a few days ago. Leading the list are Madonna and John Mellencamp. Is that really the best they can do?

Jethro Tull, Chicago, Rush, The Moody Blues and Kiss to name a few all passed the 25 year eligibility requirement years ago. Yet all of these acts have never even been on the ballot. Every one of them, had a huge hand in shaping some piece of the rock landscape over the last (roughly) 40 years.

Jethro Tull and Chicago were incredible musical innovators bringing horns or flutes to rock music while creating complex canvases with their albums. The Moody Blues also created intricate soundscapes and employed orchestras when they needed to for their vision. Rush are perhaps the best 3 musicians in any one band. No one has done more to push the envelope in progressive rock than they have, all the while making the music approachable as well. They have been doing it well for over 35 years. Kiss spearheaded an entire style of music. They revolutionized the way music is marketed and sold. You can hate that idea or you can like it. But what you can’t do is ignore them and simultaneously embrace Madonna. Anything negative that can be thrown at Kiss from the perspective of image or marketing applies to Madonna as well. Hell it was Kiss in the 70’s who constantly reinvented themselves musically and eventually image wise. It’s not only plausible but likely that she took the idea to reinvent herself for every album and tour directly from Kiss.

All of the acts I mention have also been commercially viable for long periods of time if not their entire careers. Rush for example, has been playing arenas for 30 years. Commercial success isn’t everything by any means. But when it’s coupled with the impact these acts have had on rock ‘n’ roll it’s apparent that they should have been elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame years ago. These 5 artists are by no means an exhaustive list. There are many great artists the Rock Hall has ignored. In my opinion these are the most shocking and egregious omissions.

Most Hall of Fame’s mean something. But if the Rock Hall keeps inducting the likes of Madonna while ignoring so many true innovative rockers they will continue to be a sham. I don’t even think Madonna is in the category of rock. But if they want to elect her so be it. But by all means make sure the eligible, great acts are in first.

Posted in Music | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Castle Rock – 2005 Russian River Valley Petite Sirah

Posted by Gabe on December 18, 2007

Petite Sirah is one of those grapes that falls below the radar for a lot of people. It’s often used in blends. Zinfandel is often one of the things it’s blended with. It is however bottled as a varietal also, mainly in California, and has a definite following.

When it’s great, Petite Sirah makes dense wines that can age a long time in the bottle. They can be inky, spicy, monoliths at times. The sorts of wines that need air and big food to settle them down and pair with. But they can be incredibly enjoyable, unique and fascinating to drink

Castle Rock Petite SirahThe Castle Rock 2005 Petite Sirah from Russian River Valley in California starts off on a promising note. The nose is full of berries and the first sip, although tart, reveals some spicy characteristics. The tartness carries over to the mid palate, to the point of distraction. Well over an hour after the wine was decanted that tartness had not measurably dissipated. Some chocolate notes appear on the mid palate but they’re not particualry strong. The finish does feature a touch of white pepper. But it’s also a noticeably short finish. As you drink the wine you’re waiting for the finish to carry itself longer in your mouth but it vanishes in an instant. All you’re really left with is a tingling on your tongue from the tartness which is the main characteristic of this wine

Tartness aside, it’s not unpleasant. However I do find it to be one dimensional in nature. Therefore I can not recommend this wine. It retails for right around $10.00. For that price there are scores of wines I could point out that offer a lot more bang for the buck as well as hedonistic drinking pleasure. In the category of Petite Sirah alone both Foppiano and Concannon have been making Petite Sirah for years that is consistently enjoyable vintage after vintage. if you’re in the mood for Petite Sirah they’re safe bets..

Posted in Petite Sirah, Wine | 2 Comments »

This New Years Eve Celebrate with Sparkling Shiraz

Posted by Gabe on December 17, 2007

Most of us are conditioned to drink Champagne and other sparkling wines to highlight a celebration. The truth is that many sparklers work well with food. Additionally sparkling wine adds an element of fun that livens up any meal from breakfast through dinner.

Australia tend to do things their own way. So it should be no surprise that many of the sparkling wines emanating from down under are Shiraz based. Among other things, they do Shiraz very well so this is a good thing. I just previewed a handful of Aussie sparklers and the two below were my favorites.

LeconfieldLeconfield 2004 Sparkling Shiraz – The nose give off a huge hit of crushed blackberry. The first sip reveals some spice notes. The mid palate has strong plum pudding flavors. This is accompanied by an undertone of brioche that hangs gently though the crisp, dry finish. Dark berry notes appear throughout and provide rich, mouth filling flavors. This wine is dry and works very well with food. I had it with roast pork loin and found it to be a splendid match. That said it sipped well on it’s own. The production on the Leconfield was 750 cases. Well worth seeking out Leconfield Coonawarra Estate has been around since 1974. If this sparkling Shiraz is any indication of the quality they are putting out I’d suggest looking into their other releases as well.

  

Ultihorne “Flamma” Sparkling Shiraz – This ones opens with a heady aroma that just envelops your nose, making you want to dive into the glass it’s so inviting. The first sip Flammareveals mulled spice flavors and fruit that is a bit brighter than the Leconfield. The mid palate has a touch of white pepper that floats on the tongue. Raspberry, plum and spice notes emerge throughout. The finish most prominently features chocolate and biscuit notes. This wine is incredibly refreshing and each sips in an invitation to go back for more. This is also a great wine with food. I enjoyed it immensely with roasted potatoes and a rotisserie chicken. Flamma also works well on it’s own as there’s a lot going in this wine and it’s all very enjoyable. Don’t hesitate to drink it with dessert either, all that dark fruit should pair nicely with dark chocolate. Just 450 cases of this wine were produced. It’s worth taking the time to find.

Both of these sparkling wines will make festive, elegant additions to your celebration on New Years Eve. But more than that these wines are proof that Sparklers should not be reserved only for special occasions. Drink them anytime.

Posted in Sparkling Wine, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Lange Vineyards – “Dundee Hills” Estate Pinot Noir – 2005

Posted by Gabe on December 14, 2007

Willamette Valley in Oregon has several distinct wine growing regions. Within each of those the style of Pinot Noir, the valleys signature varietal can vary greatly. In general Pinot Noir in Oregon is more Burgundian in style than those produced in other parts of the US. Since most consider Burgundy to be the benchmark for great Pinot Noir, Oregon can be a revelation to new converts.

Lange Vineyards is located in the Dundee Hills Appelation of Willamette Valley. The area Langeis known for earth with a reddish hue and extremely well balanced Pinot Noirs. Dundee Hills may in fact be the area in Oregon with the most Burgundian Pinot’s of all. Lange makes several vineyard designates in addition to some cuvees.

The 2005 Dundee Hills Estate Pinot Noir is a pretty small production at 400 cases. The wines nose is a bit reticent at first. After breathing for a bit the aroma starts to come out. Raspberry is the first thing that hit me and it lingered along with a bit of dust. The mid palate shows lots more berry fruit at this point. This wine is still pretty young. With a couple more years of bottle age I’s expect the earthiness of this wine to become more apparent than it is now as the fruit subsides.  This Pinot finishes with some mushroom, spice and a hint of smokiness. Overall the wine has an elegant feel. It’s medium bodied with good acidity.

Suggested retail on this wine is $60.00. Some digging on Wine-Searcher.com shows it can be found for a few dollars less. This is a terrific Pinot Noir that shows what can be accomplished in Willamette Valley, making it a good bet if you want to lay a bottle of Pinot Noir down for a couple of years. Make no mistake Lange is one of the best producers of Pinot Noir in Oregon.

Posted in Pinot Noir, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Shannon Ridge Vineyards and Winery

Posted by Gabe on December 12, 2007

Napa and Sonoma get a lot of attention for producing great wines. Much of it is deserved, but there are several areas in California that aren’t as well known yet, also producing noteworthy wines. One of those regions is Lake County California. Many well known wineries from outside Lake County have been sourcing fruit there for years. Now the number of wineries in the area is also growing.

One of these Wineries is Shannon Ridge. They were founded in 2002 and currently produce about 13,000 cases of wine. Their winery sits on 1,000 acres in Lake County. Eventually they plan to have between 60 and 70 percent of that land under vine.  The rest will be preserved for the wildlife that roam the area in and around them.

Shannon Ridge Sauvignon BlancSauvignon Blanc is one of 3 whites Shannon Ridge made in the 2006 vintage. It hits you immediately with a big nose full of citrus and guava notes. The first sips are surprising considering how big the nose is. This Sauvignon Blanc hits the palate gently at first. The citrus is present but not overwhelming.  The mid palate of this wine is quite delightful. It absolutely dances on the tongue, balancing citrus, gooseberry and a nice acidity. It fills the mouth, but drinks smoothly with no sharp edges. The finish is significant, long enough in fact to be noticeable and impressive. Although this Sauvignon Blanc drinks beautifully on it’s own, it will also pair well with a variety of different foods. I found it to be a wonderful match with Chinese Pork Dumplings. The suggested retail price is $16.00 although Wine-Searcher.com shows it can be found in some shops for a few dollars less. Well worth the money.

At just over 3,700 cases the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon stands as Shannon Ridge’s largest production of 2006. The Sauvignon Blanc was close at 3,600 cases. The Cabernet has berries on the nose and the first sip reveals a touch of tartness. This likely comes from theShannon Ridge Cabernet 10% Petite Verdot that was blended in. After the wine had time to breathe that touch of tartness softened up and the wine had a more luxurious quality to it. White pepper is the story of this Cabernet’s mid palate. If you enjoy the spice on your tongue and the back of your throat that comes from those peppery notes this is indeed a Cabernet to seek out. Along with the spice there are lots of deep, dark berry notes present. A touch of oak shows up but does not overwhelm the palate in any way. This is definitely a Cabernet that is ready to drink now. It will also marry well with a wide variety of foods. I had it with pork and it was a nice accompaniment. It’s is however a Cabernet Sauvignon that is smooth enough to enjoy on it’s own. The suggested retail price is $19.00 but Wine-Searcher once again shows it can be found for a couple of dollars less in some instances. A solid Cabernet to drink in it’s youth and a must for lovers of strong white pepper notes.

Shannon Ridge SyrahSignificantly smaller in production than the other two wines is their 2006 Syrah. This less than 1,500 case lot has 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petite Verdot blended in. The first thing that hit me from this Syrah was a huge nose filled with Blackberries. Sipping it the Syrah reveals itself to be pretty big and bold. There is a bit of jam that brings to mind Zinfandel. That thought only lingers briefly though. The mid palate brings on some mocha notes and more dark berry fruit. This Syrah is full bodied, mouth filling and an absolute pleasure to drink. The finish has blueberry notes as well as a hint of malted chocolate. It lingers on the palate for a good long while. A treat to drink on it’s own this Syrah will pair well with roasted meats, BBQ and perhaps even dark chocolate among others. Retail on this wine is also $19.00. As with the others I found it to be fairly priced.

All three wines I previewed from Shannon Ridge Vineyards and Winery are enjoyable and worth seeking out. However, I found the Sauvignon Blanc to be the most unique of the three and worth going that extra mile to find if you have to. In the grand scheme of things Shannon Ridge are a fairly young operation. With these wines, they show themselves to be one to watch.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | 4 Comments »

The All Time Best Christmas Albums

Posted by Gabe on December 10, 2007

Tis the season to be jolly or perhaps grumpy. That depends on each of our moods and dispositions as much as anything. But regardless of if we’re walking around spreading Cheer or dying to scream Bah Humbug the thing none of us can avoid at this time of year is Christmas Music. It’s everywhere.  That said here are my picks for the five best Christmas Albums of all time.

5) James Brown – Funky Christmas. I love that fact that James put funky right in the title. Is there a chance that anything JB put out wasn’t going to be funky? One important JBthing to note is that this isn’t your average Christmas album. It’s not James singing a dozen or so standards, not that I wouldn’t enjoy that too. This was James at the top of his game in terms of social awareness and message songs. So he sprinkles some of that in with the Christmas cheer. But with songs like “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto,” James is clearly trying to do more than just entertain. He does mix in some standards like “Merry Christmas Baby.” Taken as a whole it’s an interesting package and the Godfather makes it work.

  

4) Dean Martin – Making Spirits Bright. Dino’s Christmas album is the polar opposite of Dean MartinJames Brown’s. On this collection he rips through 15 classics with those legendary pipes.  Whether it’s “Silent Night” or “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” Dean sings his butt off. If you’re looking for a collection of Christmas standards sung by a legendary crooner you’re going to have a hard time doing better than this Dean Martin collection. The is one Christmas album that should make the whole family happy. It was remastered a few years back, so the sound is up to par as well.

  

3) B.B. King – A Christmas Celebration of Hope. B.B. King has accomplished so much in his legendary career it’s hard to believe it took him 50 years to release a Christmas album. B.BIn 2001 The King of the Blues finally clocked in with a full length Christmas release and it was worth the wait. As with much of his music there’s an inherent joy in every note he wrings out of his guitar. He runs through some standards such as “Please Come Home for Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” But he also includes some lesser known tunes and an original, “Christmas Love.” One of the highlights is the closing track, an instrumental take on “Auld Lang Syne.” B.B. King is truly a treasure of American Music. His Christmas Album befits a king.

   

2) Ray Charles – The Spirit of Christmas. Brother Ray’s Christmas album is perfectly Ray Charlestitled. The passion and spirit he brings to the recordings on this album reverberate through the speakers. He runs through eleven well known Christmas songs and pretty much makes most of them his own. Whether he’s singing lighter fare like “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” or the more serious “What Child Is This” he injects each track with his soulful vocals and inventive musical styling. For my money though the closing track, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is the highlight of the set and one of the benchmark vocals of his career. Crank up some Brother Ray this Christmas, he’ll keep you warm!

  

1) Elvis Presley – Elvis’ Christmas Album. All these years later the one Christmas album I Elvisplay the most every year is this one. It’s also one of the first I owned. 2007 marks 50 years that this one has been out. Like most of Elvis’ output from the late 50’s it still sounds fresh and integral. Does anyone want to hear anyone else sing “Blue Christmas” after hearing Elvis own it? “Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)” is probably worth the cost of the CD all on it’s own. Elvis runs through several more sacred numbers on the album and he sings them with reverence. If you’re only going to own one Christmas album, Elvis’ is the one to go with. He’s the King for a reason.

Posted in Music | 3 Comments »

2005 Chamán de Santa Cruz

Posted by Gabe on December 7, 2007

The 2005 Chaman de Santa Cruz is a 50/50 blend of Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon. ChamanThe Carmenere grape has been making some noise in Chile over the last decade. Prior to that it had been sometimes confused in the vineyard with Merlot. This after it was wiped out in Europe in the late 1800’s due to Phylloxera.

Carmenere  is softer with less tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon and is thus often used to blend. Some wineries will bottle it as a varietal, but more often than not it plays a supporting role.

In this case Carmenere is the equal partner of Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose is pretty big, once this wine has had some time to breathe. The initial hit is blueberry pie. Chaman is rich and mouth-filling with a lush texture. The mid palate features some white pepper to go along with copious berry fruit notes. The finish has a slight, almost imperceptible tannic bite. Mocha notes however dominate the finish which is a pretty lengthy one cosnidering this wine is selling for around $12.00. Chaman is unlikely to improve at all in the bottle as it’s built to drink young. It should hold and remain enjoyable for a couple of years.

Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Wine | Leave a Comment »

A Little Mink for Christmas

Posted by Gabe on December 6, 2007

Pop-Punk-Rockers Mink have given their fans an early Christmas present in the form of Mink HHa holiday single. “Little Drummer Boy (Girl)”has soaring guitar riffs and a driving beat that certainly rocks in a more furious way than other version of the song I’ve heard. An urgent vocal and some well placed drum fills complete the package. Assuming Kiss in the “Animalize” era had recorded “Little Drummer Boy” it might have a similar sound. If you’re tired of hearing Holiday songs by the likes of Bing Crosby and Johnny Mathis, Mink’s new Holiday Chestnut might be just the sonic nugget your ears have been hoping would be in your stocking.

Posted in Music | Leave a Comment »

 
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