Monday, August 29, 2016

Chateau Patache d'Aux Medoc Cru Bourgeois, 1983

Robert Parker says that Patache d'Aux is a wine that should  be consumed between ages 5 and 8. That's probably because he has never bothered to try it after extended aging. For my taste, the wine was okay in its youth but gives a whole new level of enjoyment at full maturity. Like most Bordeaux from 1982 and 1983, it has aged beautifully.

Patache d'Aux is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, and that is the lush black fruit quality that Parker apparently prefers. The rest of the cuvee is 30% Merlot, 7% Cab Franc and 3% Petit Verdot, and all of these have blended nicely after 30-some years in the bottle. I get well defined Merlot and Cab Franc smells and flavors--cherry, raspberry and red fruit. Donna smells more of the black currant and black fruit qualities of Cabernet Sauvignon, and those are certainly there, too, giving a firm underpinning, even in its old age. And the special fragrance of Petit Verdot. No need to deconstruct, though; it's all one integrated whole with the nuances that only advanced aging can provide. So smooth on the palate and so well defined. Parker compares Patache d'Aux to a Napa Cabernet, and that's what it was age 5 to 8; tonight it is much, much more.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Domaine du Font-Sane Gigondas Tradition, 1999

It's not easy to catch a good Gigondas at the right stage of maturity, but this 1999 is definitely singing. If you are fortunate enough to have a bottle, open it soon and enjoy.

Medium ruby. Beautiful Grenache scents--red cherry, strawberry, aromatic herbs. Ripe and wonderful on the palate; that perfect Gigondas combination of power and beauty. Open and friendly immediately after the cork is popped but becomes more complex and enjoyable with each sip. Dances on the tongue/

Domaine Galevin l'Esprit Devin Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2010

Now this is how a Cotes du Rhone wine should taste! Judging from the color, this wine from Domaine Galevin may have spent some time in new oak barrels but the effect is not to erase the traditional traits of a fine Southern Rhone. A beautiful bouquet is already forming--violets, black and red fruits and peppery spice. Concentrated on the mid palate. Good fruit. Just the right amount of alcohol, acid and fruit tannin. A finish that keeps you coming back for more.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Domaine Mireille et Vincent Cotes du Rhone

I have had the Mireille et Vincent Cotes du Rhone in the past and always enjoyed its traditional style. This vintage, which I ordered by the glass at Martha's Table in Sutton's Bay, MI, was a distinct disappointment, although I suspect that others might disagree.

In the glass, the wine is dark enough that it's virtually impossible to distinguish it from the Joel Gott Cabernet beside it on the table. The smells are also very similar--coffee, chocolate, black fruits--ripe and lush like a California Cabernet or Zinfandel. The flavors are ripe and oaky enough that I find it hard to finish the glass. Oh well, that is the direction that many makers of Cotes du Rhone have taken. And I don't like it.

2 Lads Old Mission Peninsula: A Candidate for Great Michigan Red?

2 Lads is the northernmost winery on Old Mission Peninsula, and the view of both bays from the hilltop winery is spectacular. It's worth a visit for the view alone, but the wines are also good.

The 2015 Chardonnay was fermented in half stainless steel and half 630 gallon French oak tanks. And the result is a delicious Chardonnay that captures the flavors of a good unoaked Chardonnay. Some oak smells and flavors but mostly fresh, clean Chardonnay fruit. I like it.

The 2015 Riesling, like those of previous vintages shows spicy, limey, mint traits that I associate more with Gewurztraminer than Riesling. Again, I like it.

My favorite, though, is the 2013 Cabernet Franc, which ranks as my No. 1 Michigan red--at least for this trip. It has beautiful smells of wild cherries and berries with smokey spice and vanilla. There is good structure here, but the wine is very friendly for drinking right now. Reminds me a bit of a good Chinon from the Loire Valley. And, really, isn't that the kind of red wine that Michigan is most capable of producing?

Monday, August 15, 2016

In Search of the Great Michigan Red Wine: Villa Mari

For many years, I have had few good things to say about Michigan red wines. As I see it, the climate is well suited to brisk white wines like Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Vignoles and Pinot Gris but not warm or sunny enough to produce big, bold reds. For years, many of the reds I tasted from Leelanau or Old Mission were almost pink in color with smells and flavors of celery and green bell peppers.

Brys estate on Old Mission Peninsula was started with the express purpose of demonstrating that world class Cabernet and Merlot could be produced from vineyards on Old Mission Peninsula. With all due respect, I have never been a fan of the reds from Brys estate. They are dark in color from time spent in barriques, and they don't show celery or bell pepper...yet. But they are too oaky for my taste, and I suspect those green elements will start showing up once the oak starts to integrate.

Mari Vineyards has found an intriguing way to produce the Great Michigan Red. The owner planted varieties such as Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Merlot and then made sure they ripened fully by constructing temporary greenhouses around some of the vines--a process the winery calls "nellaserra."

The 2011 Ultima Thule I tasted at Villa Mari is a blend of 45% Nebbiolo, 35% Cabernet Franc and 25% Merlot. The grapes were grown at the northern-most tip of Old Mission, all with the extended growing season provided by temporary greenhouses. The color is impressively opaque. And, yes, I can find the captivating scents of Nebbiolo--dark cherry, cassis, flowers. Powerful yet Nebbiolo should be. The flavors are big and bold--perhaps more like over-ripe New World Merlot than Italian Nebbiolo. Barolo gets its power from a combination of acid and tannin; this wine is all tannin, mostly from the oak. By the time I finish the glass, I actually feel a bit tired. At least at this stage, the wine is overwhelming. Too ripe, too big, too oaky. At $69 a bottle, it aspires to be the Great Michigan Red. But, for that price (and a lot less), I can find hundreds of more enjoyable red wines from France, Italy or Spain.

Tasting at Chateau Grand Traverse, Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan

I always look forward to tasting at Chateau Grand Traverse, the oldest--and, for my taste, the best--winery on the Old Mission Peninsula of Michigan. My three favorites here are the Lot 49 Riesling, the Whole Cluster Riesling and the Ship of Fools (a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir). But none were available to taste or buy at this time.

The Lot 49 won high praise from wine writer Jancis Robinson a few years ago, so I suspect she buys all of this wine she can get her hands on. Too bad for me. The Whole Cluster Riesling and the Ship of Fools are apparently popular as well. I will have to come earlier next year.

I was happy, though, to taste the 2014 Dry Riesling, a wine that's readily available in Michigan for $10 to $12 a bottle. A pretty traditional Alsace style wine. Apple, pear, petrol with a bit of honey.
The 2014 Late Harvest Riesling is much sweeter, of course, but with great balancing acidity. The staff note citrus, white peach, melon and orange blossom honey. And that sounds about right to me. I could happily drink this wine several times a week.

Recently, CGT has also been having success with red wines. The 2012 Pinot Noir Reserve has attractive strawberry/rhubarb aromas and flavors, but it's a bit one-dimensional. Would be better with some of the peppery/spicy qualities of Pinots from Russian River or Anderson Valley. The 2012 Gamay Noir Reserve, though, is a special wine. The staff call it "our answer to Cru Beaujolais," but I find some of the spiciness and structure I expect from a good Pinot. Tart cherry and black pepper. Mmmm.