Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dao Sul Quinta de Cabriz Colheita Seleccionada Dao, 2014

There is good reason to be excited about wines from the Dao region of Portugal. The wine-growing region is surrounded by mountains and the vineyards are 200 to 900 meters above sea level. The vineyards are protected from Atlantic breezes and high enough in altitude to qualify as a cool micro-climate. The soil is granitic, and rainfall occurs mostly in the winter months rather than in the growing season. Both the soil and the climate are conducive to wines with high acidity, relying on finesse and subtlety rather than power. I haven't tried many wines from Douro, but I have tasted enough  to know I want more. This wine, purchased for $6 from Costco, is a prime example.

Deep crimson. Intense smells and flavors--wild raspberries, spice and black pepper. Has many of the qualities that I love in a fine Cotes du Rhone Villages, such as Cairanne or Vinsobres. Has the balance to go well with a number of dishes. And a finish that just won't quit. I want more of this wine.

L. Mawby Leelanau Peninsula Brut Tradition, NV

When I buy French Champagne, I always go for the non-vintage. It's the least expensive bottling, of course, but it's also made for year-to-year consistency. There is a certain rich, toasty Pinot Noir quality in Louis Roederer's Brut Premier that I love, and Larry Mawby seems to have captured some of it in his multi-vintage Brut Tradition. In a flight I tasted earlier this week at the winery, I preferred it to both the Blanc de Blancs and the Grace (Pinot Noir Rose).

There is some apple-like Chardonnay in the Brut Tradition, but the ripe Pinot Noir smells and flavors dominate. Fresh and bright but with some of the complex qualities that come only with maturity.

Travaglini Gattinara, 2011

One of the best wine lists I have encountered recently is the one at Trattoria Stella in Traverse City. I had a glass of this excellent Gattinara there yesterday to accompany buccatini with pork and beef meatballs and a rich marinara sauce. The wine cost me ($14.50) almost as much as my meal, but it was well worth it.

Very deep ruby. Classic nebbiolo smells of flowers and ripe red and black berries. A wine for sniffing, swirling and more sniffing. Medium to full body with good fruit flavors and a velvety texture. There are plenty of tannins in this wine but they are ripe enough to let the fruit glide right through. Having had many mature Gattinaras, I am confident that this 2011 will age well. But it drinks so beautifully now that I'm not sure I would have the patience.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Vincent Girardin Mâcon-Fuissé Vieilles Vignes, 2012

Deep yellow color. There is no other sign of advancing age, but if you have a few bottles of this 2012, I would suggest that you drink up. Smells a lot like lemon curd. But maybe more lime than lemon. Very fresh with bright acids, but still has that creamy mouthfeel that many expect from Chardonnay. Matches well with grilled salmon but would go with many other dishes as well. I like the style.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Domingo Perez Marin La Guita Manzanilla (bottled June, 2016)

Like most Americans I am shamefully ignorant of Sherry. I made some effort to educate myself a bit on our trip to Spain last June and had a couple of very good Manzanillas in Seville. Spain is the place to drink Fino Sherry, which is best consumed when it is freshly bottled. Manzanilla  is a Fino from Sanlucar de Barrameda, where the humid, sea air creates an ideal environment for the development of flor yeasts used in making Sherry. This, Sherry lovers say, is the secret behind Manzanilla's fresh, sea-scented smells and flavors.

And, yes, this Guita smells like a fresh sea breeze. Sea salt, green olive, almonds. When I offered it at the table, I let guests take a sip first, and, as I suspected, every one turned it down. There are oxidized smells and flavors that are typical of Sherry but not in line with popular tastes. It's an acquired taste, I decide; and I am happy to have the full bottle for myself (not tonight, of course). I like the nutty, yeasty flavors and the complex finish that persists, both on the tongue and in my mind.

Marchesi di Montecristo Nerello del Bastardo, 1999

This "bastard" wine was purchased for about $6 at Trader Joe's many years ago. I immediately fell in love with it, considering it an extremely inexpensive way to enjoy the pleasures of Piedmont Nebbiolo. The label strongly hints at Nebbiolo, calling it a Super Piedmontese. "When winemakers in Piemonte wish to make Barolo or Barbaresco, the laws governing these wines only allow a certain quantity...to be classified as Barolo or Barbaresco DOCG. I Superi (the excess) can only be sold as table wine even though the products are practically the same."

Now well aged, this inexpensive Vino de Tavola is still showing remarkable traits of Nebbiolo from a very good vintage in the Piedmont. The color has the characteristic orange/rust color that in a Cabernet or Syrah might be the sign of old age; not so with Nebbiolo. This wine still has plenty of life ahead of it. Smells tannic but also has the delicate scent of roses and dark cherries. I poured right after popping the cork, not really giving the wine proper time to aerate--essential for Nebbiolo. Although it's showing well now, I expect it to show even better tomorrow night. On the palate, it's characteristically dry and dark toned. Lots of power and lots of beauty. Yes, I am thinking Barolo...for $6 a bottle!

The label speaks of "adding just a touch of something secret." Others have speculated about a blend of Nebbiolo/Cabernet or Nebbiolo/Sangiovese. But since the wine is named "Nerello," why not Nerello Mascalese, a grape grown on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily and, in the hands of the right winemaker, producing wines of ethereal beauty. Nebbiolo from the North, Nerello from the South? A blend of beauty and power: isn't that what great wine is about.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rabasse Charavin Corinne Couturier Cairanne Cuvee Estevenas, 1999

This may be the best wine that is no longer in my cellar. Alas, it is the last bottle of four that I purchased at auction back in 2012. I considered Cuvee Estevenas the best wine I drank in 2013 and again in 2014. And this bottle will at least make my top 10 of 2017.

Rusty red. Fully mature. Strawberries--dried and fresh. Great concentration and focus. Grenache at its crinkly best but supported by lavender scents of Syrah. Lovely. Just keeps expanding. Warm and savory on the tongue. Showing a bit of volatility but that's no problem for me. Very much like a nicely aged Chateauneuf du Pape such as Clos Mont Olivet or Chante Perdrix.