Saturday, June 27, 2015

Didier Grappe Cotes du Jura Longefin Chardonnay, 2012

Jon Rimmerman of used the words "purity" and "honesty" in describing this Cotes du Jura Chardonnay. That's probably why I hit the "buy" button, and I'm glad that I did.

Medium deep yellow. From the first sniff and sip, I can tell this is a unique wine. Minerals, cool Chardonnay fruit, lemony acidity. Purity and honesty, indeed. This is one of the best Chardonnays I have had in a long, long time. I think I paid $16,87. Wish I had bought more.

Vallana Spanna, 2011

When asked to help pick some inexpensive but ageworthy wines to lay away for my grandson born in 2011, I felt overwhelmed. Sure, I have many wines in the cellar that have aged quite well over two, three, and even four decades. But I never put any of them away with confidence that they would age that well. And I have bought other wines that I thought would be solid agers that died prematurely on me.

I know wine critics and others who try to estimate when a wine will be drinking at its best. I don't trust any of them. What I do trust is track record. And, on the basis of that, I recommended this Vallana Spanna as one of the wines I feel confident will be there and offer pleasure for my grandson in 2032 or later. Number one, the wine is made from Nebbiolo, arguably the most ageworthy of all wine grapes. And 2011 has been rated as a very good vintage for Nebbiolo from the Piedmont area of Italy. Secondly, it comes from highly underrated vineyards in the Novara hills northeast of Barolo, and I have had other wines from this region that aged marvelously, including the 1975 Dessilani Gattinara and the 1982 Dessilani Spanna. Finally, this wine, in particular, has a great track record with bottles from the 1950s still getting good reviews. Just to be sure, though, I wanted to try the 2011 Vallana right now.

Very deep ruby but nothing that would indicate barriques or new oak treatment. Has the hallmarks smells and flavors of traditionally made Nebbiolo: dark cherries, rose petals and black licorice. Bold, full bodied and fruity. Fruity enough that it would be easy to miss the strong tannins, but they are there. Even more important, there is plenty of acid to keep it going for years and years. But I don't want to tell you that I could taste this wine blind and predict that it will last three or four decades. It's a beautifully fruity wine that goes very well with spicy Mexican food. Everyone loves it. With some close attention, it's also possible to note the great concentration and the way the wine clings to the back of your palate and stays there for minute after minute. I love it.

I hope that I'm around to enjoy this wine with my grandson in 2032, but I doubt that very much. In the meantime, I could drink this wine again and again right now. And it's only $14.99 at Binny's in Chicago.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Domaine de la Bastide Cotes du Rhone Villages Visan, 2009

This is a very good wine. But tasted alongside the 1989 Lucien Barrot Chateauneuf du Pape, it is totally outclassed.

The color is deep, dark and bluish; some of this wine has undoubtedly been aged in barriques. Sweet berry and herb aromas. Very pretty. Chocolate as well as red and black fruits on palate. Strong finish. This is a very good example of the modern, international style of Southern Rhone. I like it better than most modern-styled Rhones but think it needs time for integration of oak and fruit.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lucien Barrot Chateauneuf du Pape, 1989

Ask me my favorite Chateauneuf du Pape, and I would have to give it a lot of thought. I love Pegau Cuvee Reservee, Bois de Boursan, Vieux Donjon, Clos de Pape, Clos Mont Olivet, Les Clefs d'Or, Chante Perdrix, Vieux Telegraphe, Beaucastel. Oh, and I also like Beaurenard, Janasse, Chante Cigale, Fortia, Clos Saint Jean, Lou Frejau, Raymond Usseglio, Pierre Usseglio and older vintages of Grand Tinel. There are many excellent wines in Chateauneuf du Pape, and they were once (not too many years ago) cheap enough to buy in quantity. But if I had to name my No. 1, it would be this one: Lucien Barrot. As one writer put it, having a bottle of Lucien Barrot in the cellar is like having a Van Gogh painting in the attic. It is a jewel among jewels, and it is usually one of the least expensive of Chateauneufs du Pape, probably because the wine takes many years to show its true charm.What better choice for Father's Day dinner of grilled Australian lamb?

Minimal bricking around the edges. At 26 years of age, this wine still shows a deep, dark ruby. No barriques, just good fruit and good traditional winemaking. Bouquet is slow to come around, but it's worth the wait. Everything is blended together so well that it's hard to single out individual smells and flavors, but they focus around strawberry and are beautiful. On the tongue, the wine is smooth as silk. Long finish with lots of subtle fruit and spice qualities. I've had many good Chateauneufs, but this ranks right up there among the best.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Castillo de Monseran Garnacha, 2010

This wine is widely available, and I have seen it discounted to $6.99 a bottle. As far as I'm concerned, it's worth at least twice that much.

Medium ruby, good brilliance. Peppery Grenache with some herbs. Soft but not simple. Lots of subtlety on the palate for a $6 wine. I like having a few bottles of this in the cellar at all times.

Jean Descombes Morgon, 2002

I always hold and drink Jean Descombes Morgon longer than anyone I know. I like aged Gamay, and this is an excellent example.

Medium light color with some bricking. Fresh and dried berries, sweet and lovely. Also some floral scents. Lacks the distinctive spice of a good Pinot but has a similar texture and intensity. Savory as well as sweet with a long and interesting finish. The bouquet, though, is the thing; worth the price of admission.

Domaine Rabasse-Charavin Cairanne, 2004

This wine was shining when I first bought it two or three years ago on WineBid. Now it's losing some of its charm but still displays the old vine character that is a hallmark of this estate.

Color a bit faded but still deep. Dried fruits and flowers. Reticent at first but bouquet eventually begins to open. Cherries and red berries. Has retained plenty of intensity and old vine power. This is my last bottle, and I didn't want to keep it any longer, but I will miss it.

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone, 2004

When young, Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhones have a cool, tonic feel on the palate, with smells and flavors of wild herbs, red raspberry and spices. This 2004 has reached a lovely stage--the maturity I've been waiting for. Because they are well made wines, with low alcohol and high acidity, I am never worried they will drift over the hill.

Medium ruby/garnet color. Complex fruit/spice smells and flavors with fine, ripe tannins. Very Grenache now. And much better than the Cotes du Rhone appellation suggests. Good grip and finish.

Domaine Richaud Cairanne l'Ebrescade, 2005

I love Cairanne and have read nothing but good things about Domaine Richaud. Although I have always been a fan of Domaine l'Oratoire Saint Martin Cairanne, I thought this wine was worth a try when I saw it at a good price on a WineBid auction.

Opaque, purplish color--must have been aged in barriques. Lots of oak, black fruits, coffee, plums and spice box. Exciting but not what I've come to expect from Cairanne. Full-bodied presence with plenty of alcohol (14.5%). Both smells and flavors open up dramatically when I pour from the Rabbit aerator.  More red fruit and more depth now. But reminds me of an Australian GSM rather than a Cairanne. International style, not mine.

St. Antonius Kreuznacher Kronenburg Riesling Auslese, 2012

At $8.99 a bottle, this is a true budget wine. It's slightly sweet, better as an after-dinner drink. But it has the depth and quality of an Auslese.

Medium deep yellow. Jonathan apple, clean and fresh. Gains floral smells as it warms in the glass. Sweet but doesn't cloy. Clean finish with an acidic lift.

Boskydel Leelanau Peninsula Vignoles, 2009

Bernie Rink at Boskydel was one of the pioneers of wine-making on the Leelanau Peninsula, and, to my knowledge, he has never moved from French hybrid to European varietals. Vignoles is not a familiar name with the wine-buying public, but the wine has the full body of Chardonnay plus good acidity for aging.

Medium yellow, no sign of advancing age, even after six years in the bottle. Apple and pineapple with citric acidity. Clean and fresh. Better than most Chardonnays from Leelanau and Old Mission and, at $70+ a case, an excellent value.

Domaine de Font-Sane Gigondas, 1999

My previous bottles of this were still too young to really enjoy; this bottle has reached majestic maturity. Considerable bricking but basically a deep crimson color. Strawberries take center stage both in aromas and flavors. Also purple flowers and Provencal herbs. Crinkly maturity. Lovely. Lots of beautiful Grenache qualities with a long berry finish. Peppery qualities emerge and the wine still has some firm tannins on the mid-palate. Gigondas power. I have more of this and will be in no hurry to drink.

E. Guigal Cotes Rotie Brune et Blonde, 1990

This wine hardly qualifies as a budget wine, but it was a budget wine when I bought it--on sale in half bottles at a price lower than the going market price at the time. I probably paid $10 to $12 per 375 ml bottle. A 750 ml bottle now sells for $60 to $75.

I see significant bricking on the taste-size pour; from a full glass, however, it is a beautiful deep ruby with only slight signs of bricking at the rim. Mature Syrah, somewhat funky. Dark cherries, herbs and flowers. Both the smells and flavors are savory rather than ripe. Very concentrated flavors. Demands your full attention. Very enjoyable wine, but only if you are familiar with and like Northern Rhone Syrah. No Aussies; this is not Shiraz.