Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Jean Descombes Morgon, 2005

When this wine first hit the shelves, it was gloriously fruity, a summer pudding of ripe berries. Seven or eight years later, fruit is still the dominant feature--strawberries and kirsch. It's still a nice wine but much less intense and bright. Some would write this off as a wine past its prime. Based on my experience with past vintages, I am confident there are greater pleasures to come. The 1995, 1998 and 2002 Jean Descombes I have had in the past year have developed subtle charms and tertiary complexities that may or may not be in store for this 2005. With several bottles left, I'm willing to take the chance.

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2000

All of the Sainte-Anne wines, even the straight Cotes du Rhone, meet the standards for Cotes du Rhone Villages. And they all are capable of 10-plus years of aging. Compared to the Cotes du Rhone, the CDR Villages comes from older vines with lower yields. The blend is very similar--about 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah.

At 14 years of age, this CDR Villages is surprisingly youthful. Medium deep ruby, bright and clear. Ripe berry smells and flavors with aromatic herbs and spices. Smooth and somewhat full on the mid-palate. Good balance of fruit and acidity and a pleasing after taste.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Domaine de Font-Sane Gigondas, 1998

A few years ago, this wine was so tight and stingy that it was difficult to drink. I thought it had lost all of its fruit. But what it needed was patience. Now, it is drinking beautifully, and it will probably stay at that plateau for at least a year or two.

Deep ruby, some browning. Dark cherries, berries and herbs. Gigondas power and grace. Peppery elements are emerging that I did not notice on the previous bottle a year or so ago. Keeps getting better with aeration. Ripe finish. 14.5% alcohol but carries it well; neither hot nor unbalanced.

Domaine Rabasse Charavin Cuvee d'Estevenas Corinne Couturier Cairanne, 1999

The last bottle of this I had was in January, 2013, and no other wine I had that year matched it or even came close.  For 2014, once again, this is unquestionably my Wine of the Year. It's the top Cairanne cuvee from Corinne Couturier of Rabasse Charavin, and 80% is Grenache from well placed 100-year-old vines plus 20% Syrah from younger but still low-yielding vines. The pedigree is clear from the first sniff to the last glorious after taste. This is a great wine.

It has definitely matured over the past year and a half, but I wouldn't say the changes are either good nor bad. It's just a different wine. The color has good saturation for a wine this age, and the bouquet wafts gracefully from the bottle and glass. Grenache berries, concentrated and compact, flowers and herbs. Everything you should expect from a top Southern Rhone and then some. Silky on the palate; true class. The crinkly flavors of mature Grenache from very old vines. And a long, beautiful finish. Special wine.

Unfortunately, this wine (and any others from Rabasse Charavin) are very difficult to find anywhere in this country.  I got my bottles at a WineBid auction a few years ago. Other bidders apparently felt that a 12-year-old Cotes du Rhone Villages was likely to be over the hill.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel, 2006

Old Hill has some of the oldest vines in North America, and, despite the Zinfandel name, this wine is a field blend that includes Grenache, Alicante Bouche, Mourvedre, Syrah, Carignane and some grapes that are yet to be identified. My kind of wine.

Inky black. There is plenty of oak here, and the oak traits come out in the smells and flavors as well. It's not forbidding nor overdone, though. Pretty floral and berry scents. It has opened up quite a bit since I first tried it last November. Same openness on the palate. Drinking well right now. Beautiful ripe berry Zin. Lots of depth and strength. The alcohol is very high--15.3%--but the fruit is prominent enough to handle it.

Old Hill vineyard carries some prestige, but I got this wine at a bargain price as well, presumably because of the mistaken perception that Zinfandel, especially high alcohol Zin, does not age well.

Greenwood Ridge Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 1999

The more I try Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs, the more enamored I become--especially those with a little bottle age. I bought this at auction for a fraction of its retail price, presumably because other buyers were not sure a California Pinot would keep this long. I took a chance and am glad I did.

Medium light ruby, with some shading to brown along the edges. On the first pour, I suspected it might be just a bit over the hill. But no. Initially, the smells were very pretty and very much in line with other Pinots from Anderson Valley I have tried: cherries, cranberries, spice and earth. Not too ripe. Over time, the bouquet just keeps getting better and more complex. On the palate, there is more of the same. Pleasing tartness of wild berries. Spice without sweetness. Just keeps getting better. Clinging finish. Fifteen years is not too much to expect from a Greenwood Ridge Pinot Noir. Wish I had more.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2004

Jean-Luc Colombo: this is how Cotes du Rhone should taste.

Deep ruby, bright and lively. Crushed berries and mint. This Villages is more complex and complete than Sainte-Anne's Cotes du Rhone from the same vintage, but it is styled the same--very fruity but with serious mid-palate concentration and intensity. Berries, berries, berries. Very pretty. Ripe finish that will only get better.