Monday, February 8, 2016

Chateau Bel-Air Saint Croix du Mont, 1986

Saint Croix du Mont is a neighbor of Sauternes, and Chateau Bel-Air, now 30 years old, is every bit as good (or better) than many of the premium wines of Sauternes. I bought a case of the Bel-Air for about $35; a Sauternes this good would cost at least twice as much.

Deep old gold color; the wine is 30 years old, after all. Scents of honey, apricots, almonds are well defined. And the wine glides smoothly down the tongue. Plenty of sweetness and none of the bitter edge that sometimes creeps into an older Sauternes.

Saint Croix du Mont, as a satellite appellation, is no longer a well kept secret as it was in the late 1980s when I bought this wine. But the wines from there are still cheaper than Sauternes and, in some cases, I am sure, better. Because they cost less, some would say, "drink them early"; based on my experience with Chateau Bel-Air and other Saint Croix du Mont estates, I disagree.

Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone, 2006

This 10-year-old CDR from Domaine Sainte Anne seems to have changed very little from when it was released. Vibrant cherry/berry aromas, a full mid-palate and long, pleasing finish. It is still very fruit oriented and has not yet taken on the secondary traits I love so much in the 2004 and 2001 Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone wines. I like the freshness and youth almost as much as I like the maturity of its older siblings.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Chateau Haut-Plantey Haut Medoc, 2013

My first choice for a wine to match up with Provencal style roast lamb is Chateauneuf du Pape. And the 1998 Fortia (below) matched perfectly. Penny Ross, wine specialist at D&W Markets in Kalamazoo suggested this Merlot-rich Haut-Medoc, and it, too, was a perfect match.

The 2013 is still young but shows beautifully after two to three hours of aeration. It's 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet, but the Merlot seems dominant right now. And what a Merlot it is: blackcurrants, tea, a subtle herbal lift that goes well with Provencal herbs in the dish. Well balanced wine for drinking now and over the next few years.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Domaine du Haute des Terres Blanches Chateauneuf du Pape, 1998

This has to be one of the biggest wine disappointments I have ever had. I loved the wine, as others did, at early tastings when it was first released. The estate has well situated vines and a reputation for long aging. The 1993 and 1994 Haute des Terres Blanches are drinking beautifully and getting better with age. But this 1998 tonight is horrible. Muddy brown color, muted  but unappealing smells and horribly bitter flavors. Does not resemble wine or even vinegar. I left it open and continued to sample it for several hours, but it only got worse. Then, down the drain.

This may have been one bad bottle, but it doesn't smell or taste like any corked or heat-damaged wine I have ever had. The cork did not show signs of serious leakage. Unfortunately, I have read online reviews on Cellar Tracker reporting tasting experiences similar to mine. I have other bottles I will sample in the weeks to come.

I'd love to hear from others who have tasted this wine recently.

Chateau Fortia Chateauneuf du Pape, 1998

I have been following this wine closely over the past several years. I remember it as being exceptionally good when it was first released, but reports since then have been varied. I liked the wine even more in 2009, but a bottle opened at Thanksgiving, 2014 showed more secondary than primary fruit flavors. No problem, I thought; it is entering another stage of Chateauneuf du Pape development. Tonight's bottle was yet another experience.

Deep, dark crimson, and the initial aromas are beautiful. Good solid red fruit focus with at least some of the lushness it showed when it was first released. None of the leathery traits I detected in 2014. A bottle of 2013 Haut-Plantey from the Haut Medoc and a 2011 Columbia Valley Cabernet are beside it at the table, and this is clearly the superior wine--smoother and with a more developed flavor profile. Of course, it should show better than those wines at this stage of its development. On the second night, I was a bit disappointed; the bouquet was not as intense and the flavors not as focused. It might be better consumed sooner rather than later.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Marques de Grinon, Caliza Red, 2010

Following the CUNE Rioja and the paella (see below), this Marques de Grinon beauty was served to accompany puchero, a traditional Spanish stew. The smells and flavors of both the wine and the stew still linger in my memory.

Caliza is from grapes grown on limestone soil, 70% Syrah and 30% Petit Verdot with maybe a bit of Graciano. It's a beautiful wine.

Deep and purplish. Oak is a big part of Spanish wine. The Petit Verdot aromas are entrancing--intense but elegant. Black fruits and dark chocolate. Very deep and comlex. The alcohol level is 14.5% but the wine carries it well. In fact, it may bring out the aromas with greater intensity. This is another wine I want in my cellar.

CUNE Crianza Rioja, 2011

Last summer, as a treat for my son-in-law and daughter who had bought me a fine bottle of Rioja as a Father's Day present, I dug into the cellar to dig out a couple of Riojas from the 1970s--a 1978 CUNE Crianza and a 1975 Vina Turzabella Gran Reserva from Ramon Bilbao. Both were beautifully complex. And, surprisingly, the CUNE Crianza was showing as well as the Gran Reserva beside it. Crianza is the lowest level of Rioja, aged for the shortest period in oak, while the Reservas and Gran Reservas are made for aging (and even more aging.)

I made a mental note to buy some current bottles of CUNE. And, after tasting this 2011 at a wine dinner hosted by Cosmo's Cucina Restaurant and D&W Market in Kalamazoo, I have done so.

Deep ruby color. I'm sure it has seen more new oak than the 1978. Deep, deep scents and flavors of cherry and red berries. I can taste the oak but it's subtle and well integrated with the concentrated fruit flavors. I thought I smelled Garnacha, but I learned later that it's 100% Temperanillo. How will this wine taste in 35 years? I probably won't be around to find out, but I suspect that it might.