Sunday, September 25, 2016

Penfolds Bin 407 South Australia Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004

This is not as big and powerful as I expected. (I'm not sure what those expectations were based on except probably earlier vintages of this or similar Aussie Cabs.) But it is a very petty wine and a good match for filet mignon.

Deep and dark. Distinctive Cabernet bouquet of blackcurrants, blue plums and cassis with hints of herbs and vanilla. Not really very oaky at this stage and the tannins are ripe. Grapes come from several respected wine-growing regions including Padthaway, Wrattonbully, Robe and Coonawarra. Smooth and elegant but nothing particularly complex or memorable at this stage. I suspect that it needs a few more years to show its best.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegno Riserva, 2005

Cannonau di Sardegno is actually Grenache grown on the Italian island of Sardinia. And anyone familiar with Southern Rhone wines would recognize the Grenache heritage immediately.

The color is a medium light brick color, much lighter than I expected for an 11-year-old wine. And the smells and flavors are also much more mature. Wild berries, red cherries and peppercorn. This wine has the intensity and focus of Grenache from low-yielding vineyards (as opposed to most of the Grenache from Australia, California and Spain). Warm and satisfying. This is very much like a good Chateauneuf du Pape, but one from the late 1980s rather than 2005.

As an interesting comparison, on the second night I tasted it side-by-side with a 2004 Cotes du Rhone from Domaine Sainte-Anne. The Cotes du Rhone is a year older but is several shades darker in color and tastes much younger with fresh, bold strawberry fruit flavors. This is not your run-of-the-mill Cotes du Rhone, though; Sainte-Anne ages well over many years. At this stage, the Cannonau is by far the more interesting wine. Five years from now, I'll probably prefer the Sainte Anne.

As a poor person's Chateauneuf, Cannonau di Sardegna is a good value at about $14 a bottle. But don't put it away for any longer than a decade.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Franco Martinetti Barbera d'Asti Montruc, 2004

Locals in the Piedmont wine appellation love Barbera with tomato-based pasta, and that was our match tonight. Perfect. Tomatoes are high in acid and so is Barbera. This bottle from 2004 is holding up very well. Deep and dark. Powerful smells and flavors of black cherries, flowers and licorice. A much bigger wine than I expected. I think it has seen considerable time in new oak barriques. But the acid is even more powerful than the tannins. A slight herbal quality along with the acid on the finish. Probably will get better with a few more years in the bottle, but, alas, this is my only one.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Domaine des Girasols Cotes du Rhone Villages Rasteau, 2005

Rasteau and Cairanne are only a few miles apart, and the same grapes are used for the blend. Yet the wines are very different. Compared to the forward red-fruited personality of Cairanne, Rasteau is more reticent and may even need a bit of age to show its best. This 2005 from Domaine des Girasols is just beginning to open up.

Deep and dark. This is not a wine for casual drinking, but if you give it a bit of attention, its beauty is apparent. Deep, compact black fruit smells with flowers and minerals. Really special bouquet just beginning to form. Also on the palate, it's still a bit backward but has traditional feel and flavors. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvedre and Carignan. I like this a lot; wish I had more.

Buehler Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 1990

I've always considered Buehler to be one of the best values in Napa Valley Cabernet. I paid $10 or $12 for this 1990; and I've seen the current vintage for just a little over $20. Buehler's estate vineyards are on Howell Mountain--prime property, but the Buehler family bought it while real estate prices were still reasonable. For the lower priced bottlings today, estate grapes are blended with fruit from the valley floor, but, again, the Buehlers have well established sources they can trust.

Consumed young, Buehler cabs are quite good although not quite as opulently oaky or sweet as some of the higher priced labels. As this bottle demonstrates, though, the wine ages well for 20 years or longer. Medium deep color. Beautiful Napa Cab scents of black currants, black berries and plums with a touch of cassis. Elegant on the palate with flavors that complement, rather than overwhelm, those of the food.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Portada Winemakers Selection Lisboa (red wine), 2011

One of my fondest memories of our trip to Portugal and Spain during June was sipping a glass of  house red at a small bar along the riverside in Porto. Served in a large Burgundy-style glass, the wine tasted better with every sip. Noting my enjoyment, the waiter showed me the bottle: Grao Vasco Dao. "Good wine, low price," he said. And I agreed. We paid two Euros a glass for at least ten Euros worth of enjoyment. I also remembered some Grao Vasco wines I had enjoyed during the late 1970s and early 1980s--good wine, low price (less than $2 a bottle at that time!)

Since that time, I have been looking for Grao Vasco or any similar Portuguese red, and I think I have found it. This Portada is not from Dao, a mountainous area with a temperate climate in northeastern  Portugal, but from, "the wine region of Lisboa...where the low rolling vineyards lie between the Tagus River and the Atlantic Ocean."

Deep, dark ruby. Similar to the Grao Vasco in its floral, red berry aromas. Cranberries, sour cherries, almost tart on the palate but fattening up with aeration. Gets better and better as fruit emerges. What I like most is the black pepper finish, warm and spicy. This doesn't come from alcohol; it's only 12.5%. Great balance of fruit, acid, alcohol.

The Wine Enthusiast liked this wine, giving it 90 points and ranking it #8 among the magazine's Top 100 Best Buys for 2014. I like it, too, and the price ($5.99 at Costco) makes it even more appealing.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Domaine Rabasse Charavin Corinne Couturier Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne Cuvee Estevenas, 1999

This 1999 Cairanne was my Wine of the Year for both 2013 and 2014. It's been almost two years since I opened the last bottle, and I may have waited a bit long. At age 17, it has a right to slip a bit, but it's still a special wine, every bit as good, in my opinion, as a top Chateauneuf du Pape. It's 80% Grenache from vineyards 80 to 100 years old and 20% Syrah from slightly younger vines--all south facing.

The color has lightened but still looks healthy for a Cotes du Rhone Villages of this age and vintage. The bouquet is fantastic--leather, dried cherries, flowers and a pleasant hint of barnyard. Reminds me of a mature Vieux Telegraphe. Grenache berry, mature and crinkled on the palate. Lots of haunting old vine qualities. I detect some slight volatility on the finish that wasn't there in January of 2013 and October of 2014. But it's still a very fine wine.