Thursday, February 19, 2015

Domaine des Pasquiers Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2007

We're still eating roast lamb and Provencal vegetables from Valentine's Day so I'm sticking with the Southern Rhone theme. We're heading north and a little east as we go from Chateauneuf (Pierre Usseglio) to Gigondas (Les Trois Couronnes) to Sablet (Domaine de Pasquiers). They are all very good wines with very different personalities. Sablet has less prestige than the other two appellations, but it should not be written off as insignificant.

Good dark color but no indication of new oak or barrique influence. Lots of herbs (lavender) and flowers (violets). Also blue plums, licorice and black pepper. Very fragrant. Same on the palate. Black fruited and dramatic. Reminds me of a Vacqueyras or Rasteau. As dramatic as the Les Trois Couronnes Gigondas but less tannic. Fruit showing through very nicely. Fills the mouth with black fruits, licorice and black pepper. At $15.99, this is a fairly pricey CDR Villages, but it is worth the premium.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Les Trois Couronnes Gigondas, 2007

One taster reported that this wine had Syrah flavors wrapped in Pinot. I think that is generally a description of good Gigondas. And this is a good one, even though it comes from a cooperative and I paid only $11 for it.

Good dark color. Black fruit, leather and lavender. Bold fruit and tannin on the inside with the prettiness and complexity of Pinot Noir. Beauty and power. Drinking well now and shows no signs of fading.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Chateauneuf du Pape Tradition, 2000

Many tasters, particularly those who don't have a lot of experience with Southern Rhone, focus on the earthy, barnyard qualities of Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas. I usually disagree, but, with this wine, the barnyard is clearly present. And I love it. This is the first bottle of a half case I bought in the early 2000s, and it shows signs of being a good ager.

Deep Grenache crimson color with minimal bricking. Barnyard, yes, along with cherries, rosemary and ripe berries. Grenache oriented and traditional--no new oak or small barrels used in making this wine. Very rich on the palate, like a fruit cake. Good fruit/acid balance and a long, finish with licorice and black peppercorn. The wine has already started to open up after only about 20 minutes in the glass, and I expect it to explode with flavor alongside Provencal roast lamb in the oven for Valentine's Day.

And it does. Barnyard funk is tranformed into ripe blackberries and currants. Very rich, very long. Reminds me a lot of Domaine Pegau but also Bois du Boursan, two of my favorite Chateauneufs.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Musso Barbaresco Pora, 1993

You can learn a lot about a wine from its color--age, grape, origin and how much it has been exposed to new oak or small barrels. Wine drinkers love to revel over the deep, purplish hues of a young Cabernet, but some of my favorite wines--those based on Grenache or Pinot Noir--are lighter in color or texture. Nebbiolo often has a brickish orange hue that might be taken as a sign of advancing age in other grapes. Brown, though, usually means that the wine is past it.

I've had this Barbaresco Pora twice, and each time I have noted the brown color. Some orangeish tints but mainly a muddy brown color that does not inspire confidence. My first sniff got only damp, muted smells--another bad sign. 1993 was not a strong vintage in the Piedmont, and this wine is 22 years old. I suspect it may also have had some storage mishaps along the way. Nevertheless, as the wine in the glass warms from cellar temperature and is exposed to air, it starts to show the true colors of a fine Cru Pora Barbaresco from a good traditional producer. The bouquet gets more and more exciting--roses, violets, cherries and dark, earthy scents. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied but very concentrated. Warm and savory with Nebbiolo nuances. Acidity is keeping this wine going as the fruit matures. Dances on the palate. I can only imagine what it would be like to drink a Musso Cru Pora from a strong vintage.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Chateau Boutisse Saint Emilion, 2010

The theme for the main course was rosemary: prime filet Wellington with rosemary dressed fingerling medley, heirloom carrots and rosemary scented Hollandaise. The beef was tender and beautifully flavored, and the rosemary theme worked well. Even the wine was redolent of rosemary.

Herbs and flowers. Definitely a Saint Emilion and it escapes the greenness that sometimes comes forth in lesser vintages from this appellation. Merlot and Cab Franc at their best. Ripe finish that blends perfectly with the rosemary-scented dish.

Lavau Gigondas, 2012

The third course of the Tasters' Guild dinner was lollipop lamb chops with pistachio-mint pesto, sweet pea cous cous and Meyer lemon-mint gastrique.

I drink Gigondas often but had never tried Lavau. It is a relatively new estate, I believe, and the style is traditional enough to meet my standards but has clearly incorporated some modern trends--probably some new oak. At least at this stage, it works. Cherries, flowers, leather, not as gamey as I would expect from Gigondas but that makes the wine more appealing to a broader audience. Bold flavors and ripe finish. My favorite wine of the night.

Marland Michigan Lake Shore Chardonnay Non-Affecte, 2013

This an unoaked Chardonnay from Wyncroft of South Haven, MI--a very intriguing selection to accompany a rainbow chard salad with warm tarragon-walnut vinaigrette, braised pork belly, artichoke and cherry tomato. For my taste, this was the top dish of the night, and the wine did not disappoint.

In 2013, the fermentation in stainless steel was very slow due to cold weather so the wine had plenty of time to rest on its lees (spent yeast cells). The leesy quality comes across rather strongly and adds an interesting dimension. Lemon creme and minerals. Texture is fine and smooth as silk. Unlike any Chardonnay I have had, and I would like to follow it over a few years.