Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Coteaux du Layon, Chateau de la Roulerie 2003

Looking for a good dessert wine for less than $15? This one worked quite nicely at a recent Christmas party.

Coteaux du Layon wines from the Loire Valley are always fairly inexpensive and I have several in my cellar from the late 1960s and early 1970s that are still drinking beautifully. Because of the warm summer of 2003 in France, this wine is lower in acidity than most vintages and particularly good for drinking right now. From the first sniff, the wine is plump and luscious with scents of peaches, ripe pears, citrus peel, honey and a smokey, tobacco undertone that probably comes from botrytis (15% in this wine). It's very ripe but with no alcoholic heat (only 13%). Clings to the tongue while the flavors climb out to tease every surface. Delicious wine. The sweetness at the end is balanced by some citrus peel acidity. At $13/bottle, I wish I had bought more.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

CDR Villages Rasteau, Domaine Beau Mistral 1990

Two of my favorite Cotes du Rhone Villages are Cairanne and Rasteau. Although these two areas are within a few kilometers of each other, the wines are very different. While Cairanne wines are generally spicy and peppery, Rasteaus have a dark, dense component to the aroma and flavor that probably comes from minerals in the soil. I usually prefer Cairanne, but this bottle suggested to me that I may be drinking my Rasteau wines too early. This one at least has aged beautifully.

The color is still dense and dark and so is the bouquet--blackstrap molasses more than licorice. But also dark cherries and black raspberries. Deep and intense. It dances on the tongue with ripe, ripe flavors from front to back. This is the last bottle of a case I bought 15 years ago; alas, it's by far the best.

Most Cotes du Rhone Villages wines are probably consumed before they are eight years old; this one is nearing 18 and at its peak.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Yecla Monastrell, Castano 2005

Spain is an excellent place to look for artisan wines these days. There are many inexpensive little gems on the market, and I am doing my best to taste as many of them as possible.

Monastrell is the grape known as Mourvedre in France. Chateau Beaucastel is one Chateauneuf du Pape that has a substantial amount of Mourvedre in its blend, and this wine reminds me a bit of a young Beaucastel: deep and bluish, almost opaque with concentrated fruit and peel aromas. Lots of dark substance but also delicate floral/fruit notes--boysenberries, dark cherries and violets. The skin tannins create the feeling of a big wine--firm at the front and in the middle but again with a finish that speaks of finesse and delicacy. Lots of concentrated fruit. Very much like a Southern Rhone.

I paid $6.49 for this wine (a young Beaucastel will set you back $50 plus) and plan to go back for more. For some reason, Spanish wines seem to make it to many health food stores as well as wine shops. Don't hesitate to try them.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Cotes du Rhone Lou Peyrau, Domaine la Monardiere 2001

Many of the best Cotes du Rhone wines from the 2001 vintage were a bit subdued when young and have benefited from a few years of cellaring. And this was certainly one of the best Cotes du Rhones in 2001. I haven't seen this cuvee recently, however, among the offerings of Domaine la Monardiere, a very fine family-owned estate in Vacqueyras. Martine and Christian Vache have worked the property since 1987. They use no weed killer or chemical fertilizer--only organic compost.

The color is very deep and dark, almost purplish--probably indicating a high proportion of Syrah and Mourvedre. The bouquet has some meaty Syrah elements that blend in to prettier scents of red raspberry, dark cherry and violets. Very substantial for a Cotes du Rhone and still backward for a six-year-old wine. Grenache strawberry scents and flavors emerge as the wine warms in the glass. Fully ripe but firm and concentrated. This is serious wine. Lilting berry notes on finish. Just a hint of spicy, violet-tinged mourvedre. Still young with potential to grow. Wish I could find the 2005 Lou Peyrau!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Saint Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly, Olivier Leflaive 1995

This is not a cheap, every day drink but, for what it delivers, it is relatively inexpensive and definitely an artisan wine.

A winemaker in Burgundy, pointing out the lay of his vineyards in relation to the hillside and their exposure to sun, told me that Saint Aubin is one of the best values in the area. It offers many of the same qualities as its pricier neighbor Puligny Montrachet; but because it is not as well known, it does not command as high a premium.

I encountered this particular wine at a large Frederick Wildman tasting about 10 years ago. It was my favorite wine of the tasting and, at $12 a bottle, I could afford to buy a case. I held it for about three years, then started sampling the wine, a bottle or two a year. Tonight's bottle was the best so far and fortunately I have three or four left in the cellar.

The deep gold color suggests maturity; the brilliant hue tells me it still has plenty of life. The bouquet is elegant rather than showy. Nuances come out gradually as the wine airs and warms: white peaches, stone fruits, lemon butter and a hint of walnut husks. On the tongue, it's very ripe but with enough acid lift to keep you coming back for more. Good fruit concentration. Silky smooth. Classy. Lingers at the back of the palate like a multi-colored satin pillow. Lovely.