Saturday, June 30, 2018

Fontanafreddo Briccotondo Langue Dolcetto, 2015

Dolcetto means "little sweetie," and that's probably the reason I usually dismiss this Piedmont wine when I am browsing a wine list or looking at bottles on the shelves. It is not a sweet wine, though, and can be very stunning when made by a good producer like Fontanafreddo.

I had this wine to accompany a simple spaghetti pomodoro at the pasta and pizza restaurant at Eataly in Chicago. Both the wine and the dish were excellent. Deep ruby color. Violets, roses, cherries and the dark tones of licorice. Very much a Piedmont wine. The fruit is fresh and intensely focused. Weight and substance far beyond what you might expect from a wine that has been raised three months in stainless steel. Velvety texture. Long finish.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Paul Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage, 1978

This is not Jaboulet's highly regarded Domaine Thalabert Crozes but rather its generic sibling, probably from purchased grapes. The wine is, however, from the great 1978 vintage. And it is still hanging on well, showing only a slight decline from the last bottle I had in 2009.

When I first tasted this Crozes in 1981, it was a rich summer pudding experience: blackberries, raspberries, cherries in a rich compote. After 40 years in the bottle, the rich fruitiness has evolved into a textbook example of aged Northern Rhone Syrah. Black olives, minerals, cured meats--more savory than sweet, more Cote Rotie than Hermitage. Old but still very good.

Le Piane Boca, 2011

I'm embarrassed to admit that this is the first Boca I have had. I'm not embarrassed to report that it is one of the best wines I have ever tasted. Three days later, it is still in my taste history.

Boca is a mountainous region of Italy, northwest of the more famous Nebbiolo appellations of Barola and Barbaresco. Boca is actually the birthplace of Nebbiolo, and knowledgeable wine people are aware that the region is capable of producing great wines with exceptional ability to age. Piane is probably the top producer in this appellation, and this particular bottling contains Vespolina as well as Nebbiolo.

From the first sniff, I know I am in for a magical tasting experience. Powerful scents of rose petals, dark cherries, balsamic and iron. And on the palate, it's even better. Blackberries, cherries, minerals. Powerful fruit and enough acidic backbone to carry it for decades. But why wait? It's irresistible right now.

This was offered as a wine by the glass at Trattoria Stella in Traverse City. It is not a cheap wine, selling for $52 a bottle retail ($74 at the restaurant), but Stella was offering a three-ounce glass for $8.50. I followed it with three ounces of a Langhe Nebbiolo that was very good but could not even approach the complexity and depth of the Boca.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Cascina Ballarin Langhe Nebbiolo, 2009

This wine is showing beautifully when I open it; yet after three and a half hours of aeration, it is still improving and growing when I take my last sip.

Amber hues of good Nebbiolo, made by a traditionalist. No barriques. Rose petals, black raspberries, balsamic. Like sniffing a very good Barolo. Coats the front teeth and the tip of the tongue with the dryness of a Barolo. Plenty of weight on the mid-palate and an exciting array of flavors on the finish. More savory than sweet. More Barolo than Barbaresco. Excellent.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve, 2015

I figured this Cotes du Rhone might offer some of the same charm as the Pontificis from the Languedoc (below). And I was right. Tasted side by side, they are very similar. And they are both great values even though the Pontificis ($5.99) is about half the price of the CDR  ($10.49).

Both wines are blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. And the scent of violets that makes them so attractive is part of the Mourvedre profile. Famille Perrin is a bit richer in Grenache (60%). And, as a result, the smells and flavors lean more toward strawberries than black raspberries. 2015 is a good year for wines from Southern France, and this wine is every bit as attractive right now as the Pontificis. I want more of each.

Pontificis Pays d'Oc Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre, 2015

I have had this wine several times before, but one sniff from this bottle tells me the wine is open and ready for business. Beautiful scents of black raspberries, peppercorn and violets. I believe it's the violets that are responsible for the come-hither overtures. Beautiful. On the palate, it's even more tempting. Ripe and fruity but not simple. Acidic edge brings you back for more...and more.

Produced by the excellent Burgundian negotiant, Badet Clement, this Languedoc wine is 48% Grenache, 32% Syrah and 20% Mourvedre. At $6.99, it's probably the best value I know on the shelves of Trader Joe's.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Mount Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz, 1995

From one of the best Shiraz vineyards in Australia and legendary winemaker Trevor Mast, this 1995 Langi Shiraz is showing beautifully at the moment.

The lifted minty notes in the bouquet suggest that this vintage was exposed to a greater than usual amount of new American oak. But this does not detract from the wine's overall charms and may even be an asset. The oak scents are nicely integrated into more traditional smells of black currants, black olives and peppercorn. Reminds me a lot of Jaboulet's Domaine Thalabert, one of my favorite Syrah wines. Rich but not at all heavy on the mid palate. And the finish sings. At least at this stage, I think I prefer this 1995 to the very good 1997 Langi Shiraz.