Tasting Notes: This Week in Wine Blogs

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Wine Thoughts: One of the things that we love about Sandra Crittenden's blog Wine Thoughts is how she seamlessly alternates between a big, boisterous Chilean red that she picked up at the Tasting Room for "approximately $100," and a California quaffer she snagged at H-E-B for $12.

And she writes about both wines with the confident, informed voice of a true wine professional who loves and appreciates (and drinks) wines at both ends of the spectrum.

In the glass, the 2008 Lapostolle Clos Apalta "was a deep, almost black, ruby color with fresh aromas and flavors of ripe mixed red and black fruit with sage-herbal undertones and spicy notes. Perfectly balanced, well-structured with a silky mouthfeel and long finish, an exceptional wine."

The 2009 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay "was a medium lemon yellow color with aromas of grapefruit, under ripe pineapple and light oak. Nicely balanced with medium to medium+ body, acidity, alcohol and flavor intensity. Flavors mirrored the aromas with the addition of a chalky minerality in the medium length finish."

Honest wine writing by someone who really knows and enjoys wine. We're sold!

29-95: Speaking of a wide spectrum of value and quality in wine today, top Houston wine writer Dale Robertson's monthly tasting report -- based on notes and scores from a select group of leading Houston wine professionals -- is a fantastic resource for savvy wine shoppers.

From a field that included a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc under $10 and a California Chardonnay for nearly $50, this month's winner was a Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon:

    2009 Justin Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Overall Score: 19 (9 for quality, 10 for value).
    Our tasters: Gave it a unanimous recommendation with a high score of 9.4. "Light oak... big, rich cherry flavors." My score: 8.8. The forward fruit was almost over-powering for my palate, but there's no denying it's a sumptuous wine. Amazingly, these Paso Robles vines survived a nine-inch downpour during the harvest with no real damage done. Buy it [at Spec's, cash price]: $20.89.

Dale's tasting group was around long before the advent of wine blogging and we're thrilled to see that this veteran wine writer (and one of the coolest people on the Houston wine scene) has made the leap into the blogosphere.

Wine Skinny: Houston publicist and wine blogger Robyn Tinsley, author of the Wine Skinny, has been treating herself well lately.

She recently opened a bottle of 2009 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay that she picked up for just under $50.

"Here's a bit of a splurge Chardonnay for your weekend drinking pleasure," she writes. "There's no malolactic fermentation here, so you really get some nice brightness and acidity from start to finish. Enjoy!"

Malolactic fermentation is the process by which malic acid is converted into lactic acid. Here's an easy way to understand what these terms mean: malic comes from the Latin malum meaning apple; lactic comes from the Latin lac for milk; malic acid is that bright tart acidity you taste in white wines that haven't undergone malolactic fermentation; lactic acid is the softer acidity that you taste in the classic "buttery" expression of "California Chardonnay."

We're excited to learn about a California Chardonnay that has food-friendly acidity (yeah!). But at "14.9 percent alcohol" (egad!) and with "14 months in 75 percent new French oak barrels (Allier, Vosage) and 25 percent in stainless steel barrels" (stainless-steel barrels?), we're not sure we could pair this wine with our favorite fish tacos.

But hey, de gustibus non disputandum est. Blog on, sistah!

On the Wine Trail in Italy: "What makes a wine great?" asks 30-year Dallas-based veteran of the Texas wine industry and top Italian wine blogger Alfonso Cevola in one of a series of inspiring posts (man, this dude is on a roll these days!).

"What makes a wine great?" he writes. "I think about that all the time, not just because I must constantly taste and evaluate wines for my work, wines which don't need to be great. Often they just need to be good enough, or good values, or just non-offensive. Yes, not all moments are in need of greatness. Not all days are vacation days. No, there is a need for everyday wines. But this is not the time for that discussion. I am pursuing greatness. So what is it that evades these pages, darts about, zips off the screen like a dragonfly or a refraction from a light source? Where does one find this greatness factor?"

The wine and tasting note that follow are a glorious example of how the physical description of wine can lead to metaphysical observations of the human condition.

There are those among us (wine bloggers) who see our mission as the mere technical description of the wines we taste and drink. And then there are those who view our medium as a pretext for reflection on the meaning of our existence. Looking for truth and beauty? Forget the truth and just search for beauty, wine bloggers!

Check out Alfonso's post for some inspiration.

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