Friday, July 17, 2015

Don & Sons Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2012

I ordered this from the wine list at the Common Grill in Chelsea, Michigan. It went well with the excellent Lake Superior Whitefish Piccata; but then it would match up with nearly any dish or appetizer. Don, of course, is Don Sebastiani of the family that pioneered winemaking in Sonoma County.

Deep ruby color, shows its youth. Strawberry, rhubarb and black tea. Aroma and flavor profile similar to that of the Eric Ross Pinot below. It's much younger, of course, and does not take as many twists and turns. But it has more fruit intensity and power. A wine to savor with the meal and afterward. Pinot Noir from California is either very good or very bad. And this is one of the good guys. I'd like to see how it ages.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Eric Ross Russian River Valley Poule d'Or Pinot Noir, 2001

After having a very good Wonderwall Edna Valley Pinot Noir last night with salmon at the Every Day People's Cafe in Douglas, MI, I was in the mood for another good Pinot--this time with home cooked whitefish. This 2001 Eric Ross RR Pinot was a beautifully mature choice.

A light Pinot ruby color but no real signs of advancing age. Lovely sweetish smells of red berries and flowers with toasty French oak fading into a backdrop. More ripe red fruit on the palate--like a strawberry/rhubarb tart. Lovely. Delicate--as a Pinot should be--but surprisingly rich fruit flavors on the mid-palate. Sweet, spicy finish. Is aging beautifully.

E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone, 2011

My very first case purchase of a Cotes du Rhone was the 1976 Guigal recommended to me by a wine salesman at what was then Zimmerman's liquor store on Grand Avenue in Chicago (now the site of a Binny's outlet). I had virtually no experience with wine at that time but thoroughly enjoyed every bottle. Since that time, I have had numerous more-than-memorable bottles of this wine--the 1981, 1983 and 1985 were particularly good, and I remember enjoying some vintages all the way into the early 1990s. Guigal's CDR has an excellent reputation for aging as well as for consistency, quality and value. This 2011 seems to fit quite nicely into that tradition.

Very deep ruby/crimson. Probably a fairly high percentage of Syrah in the blend. Red fruits, garrigue and a hint of black pepper. Syrah firmness on mid-palate with a peppery edge that becomes increasingly more prominent. Long finish feature fruit, spice and pepper. Exactly what I like in a Cotes du Rhone.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Domaine du Haut des Terres Blanches Chateauneuf du Pape, 1993

1993 was not a particularly distinguished vintage in the Southern Rhone, and Diffonty's Domaine du Haute des Terres Blanche is not very well known. This wine, however, is showing very nicely.

Some bricking at edges, but the bouquet is fresh and lively for a 22-year-old wine. Flavors lean toward dark cherry, fresh and dried. Gets better throughout the meal. Good fruit and good acid for balance. A finish that just keeps giving.

The price tag says $11.99. That was 20 years ago, but this wine is still a relative bargain among Chateauneufs du Pape.

Two Fine Old Riojas: 1978 Cune, 1975 Vina Turzaballa

The wines that first got me truly interested in following wine were Riojas. I remember enjoying several cases of  Rioja Vega, Domecq Domaine, and Olarra Riojas in the late 1970s--all priced around $2 to $3 a bottle and offering so much more than anything I could find in New World wines. But Rioja wines started changing in the early 1980s, and so did my taste in wines. But I have a few old bottles lingering in the cellar, and, for a family gathering tonight, I decided to bring out a couple.

1978 Cune Rioja is darker in color and seems much younger than its years. The smell of vanilla-tinged American oak barrels is prominent, as it was 35 years ago. Creamy mouthfeel. Dark fruit and oak. A real delight to drink.

1975 Ramon Bilbao Vina Turzaballa Rioja: When first opened, this wine seems a bit precarious. The bouquet is fabulous, but the color has faded to amber and the flavors seem a bit rustic. After an hour or so, however, this wine starts to show its stuff. The American oak is still there but integrated nicely with the herb-tinged Temperanillo fruit. The complexity is remarkable. This is why you age wines; magic has happened in the bottle and this wine has many stories to tell. I love it.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Didier Grappe Cotes du Jura Longefin Chardonnay, 2012

Jon Rimmerman of Garagiste.com used the words "purity" and "honesty" in describing this Cotes du Jura Chardonnay. That's probably why I hit the "buy" button, and I'm glad that I did.

Medium deep yellow. From the first sniff and sip, I can tell this is a unique wine. Minerals, cool Chardonnay fruit, lemony acidity. Purity and honesty, indeed. This is one of the best Chardonnays I have had in a long, long time. I think I paid $16,87. Wish I had bought more.

Vallana Spanna, 2011

When asked to help pick some inexpensive but ageworthy wines to lay away for my grandson born in 2011, I felt overwhelmed. Sure, I have many wines in the cellar that have aged quite well over two, three, and even four decades. But I never put any of them away with confidence that they would age that well. And I have bought other wines that I thought would be solid agers that died prematurely on me.

I know wine critics and others who try to estimate when a wine will be drinking at its best. I don't trust any of them. What I do trust is track record. And, on the basis of that, I recommended this Vallana Spanna as one of the wines I feel confident will be there and offer pleasure for my grandson in 2032 or later. Number one, the wine is made from Nebbiolo, arguably the most ageworthy of all wine grapes. And 2011 has been rated as a very good vintage for Nebbiolo from the Piedmont area of Italy. Secondly, it comes from highly underrated vineyards in the Novara hills northeast of Barolo, and I have had other wines from this region that aged marvelously, including the 1975 Dessilani Gattinara and the 1982 Dessilani Spanna. Finally, this wine, in particular, has a great track record with bottles from the 1950s still getting good reviews. Just to be sure, though, I wanted to try the 2011 Vallana right now.

Very deep ruby but nothing that would indicate barriques or new oak treatment. Has the hallmarks smells and flavors of traditionally made Nebbiolo: dark cherries, rose petals and black licorice. Bold, full bodied and fruity. Fruity enough that it would be easy to miss the strong tannins, but they are there. Even more important, there is plenty of acid to keep it going for years and years. But I don't want to tell you that I could taste this wine blind and predict that it will last three or four decades. It's a beautifully fruity wine that goes very well with spicy Mexican food. Everyone loves it. With some close attention, it's also possible to note the great concentration and the way the wine clings to the back of your palate and stays there for minute after minute. I love it.

I hope that I'm around to enjoy this wine with my grandson in 2032, but I doubt that very much. In the meantime, I could drink this wine again and again right now. And it's only $14.99 at Binny's in Chicago.