No Spitting Allowed: A Great Malbec For Ribs; A Rias Baixas For The House; And A Limp Cabernet

An occasional review of wines that find their way into our glass where they are tasted and toyed with before actually being consumed.


2008 Arkenstone "Obsidian" Howell Mountain Estate Red

On the sniff, concentrated red and black fruits. On the palate, flash of tightly wrapped brambly fruit, next a lean-streak finish and then Howell Mountain earthiness in the aftertaste. Still tight. Lots of minerals. Lots of tannins (so dusty you may not notice them at first sip) that will become much more chocolaty with age

Verdict: Keep her if you can, but scrumptious now with decanting. ($120)


2009 Estancia "Keyes Canyon" Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Not much aroma. Good initial shot of cranberry and cherry fruit, but it's a single note, and that note fades quickly. 

Verdict: Nice start, but it limps to the finish line. ($14)


2010 Tikal Mendoza "Natural" Malbec

This one comes out of the bottle with tight, very interesting, concentrated dried cherry and elderberry flavors with a hint of chalkiness. Fine tannins and a lot of minerality. It's the kind of wine that would match up well with a fatty duck confit or juicy ribs.  

Verdict: Quite lean, but the meat on its bones is nicely succulent. ($22)


2010 Santiago Ruiz Rias Baixas

Close your eyes and you could be drinking this minerally white wine out of a tin cup and not a Riedel stem. Lots of rounded floral notes, but what sticks is the sauvignon-like herbal flavors and that great minerality, with a little chalkiness and great clearing — but not piercing — acidity.  Lovely to drink by itself, but after half a glass you'll be raiding the fridge. (FYI: Not all albariño, the back label says. There's some loureiro and a dash of treixadura in there.)

Verdict: This could for sure be somebody's house wine! ($18)


2009 Melka "CJ" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Lovely English breakfast table aromas of mixed-berry conserves leap out of the glass, and once to the lip there's a lot of stuffing to back them up — a big wine with concentrated fruits and tannins. Still, the tastes are not linear, instead curling up into a ball on the palate and leaving an orb of fruitiness without a wham-bam finish. But it's a very nice wine, so I sent it to the replay booth for review the next morning. The non-linear impression remains unchanged. 

Verdict: Scores a touchdown, but no extra point. ($52)