Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jean Descombes Morgon, 1997

I've written about Jean Descombes Morgon many times; it is one of my favorite Cru Beaujolais wines, and I buy it in nearly every vintage. It's a wine that ages well, and I try to sample it at various stages. At present, 1995 is one of my favorite vintages, and, while this 1997 is two years its junior, it's showing more age right now.

It's a deep cherry red, shading to amber at the edge. The classic dark cherry scents are there, reserved and graceful. An aged Jean Descombes Morgon develops the personality of red Burgundy, and this vintage is no exception. The finish is sweet and in line with the Descombes style. A bit tired but still a beauty.

The vintage on the market right now is the 2008, selling for $13 to $15. It was a bit of a disappointment when I tasted it last Spring, but I plan to re-visit it soon.

Lost in the Beer Fridge: Gaetano d'Aquino Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, 2004

My son is master of the beer fridge; I rarely go near it. But on a cleaning binge in the basement recently, I discovered not only beer but a lone bottle of wine in the car fridge. Unfortunately, it was not Chateau Latour, but Gaetano d'Aquino's Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, a Trader Joe's bargain at $3.99 a bottle (or less). This bottle apparently had been misplaced at the time of my daughter's wedding and had been sitting untouched--lost in the beer fridge--for five years.

The label, still as old-fashioned as it was in 2005, describes the wine as "light gold in color with a full, dry flavor and pleasingly bitter aftertaste." And when the bottle was opened, that was exactly what was found. I would now call the color "medium light gold" because it has darkened slightly, but the flavor was even fuller and dryer than it was in its youth. And there was still plenty of zip and life in the pleasingly bitter finish. It took awhile for the aromas to open up--subtle flowers and ripe pears--and flavors also broadened and gained complexity as the wine aired in the glass. This is now a very substantial Pinot Grigio, all the better for the five years it spent conversing with beer.

The lesson: d'Aquino Pinot Grigio is well worth the $3.99 you'll pay at Trader Joe's or even the $5.99 you'll pay for the slightly updated label (same wine) at Cost Plus World Market. It drinks well young and will keep for several years. I wouldn't say the same for Two Buck Chuck.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Agricole Vallone Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva Vereto, 2000

Agricole Vallone's Salice Salentino has reached a good stage of maturity, at least for my taste. The color has lightened to a brick red, and the aromas and flavors are nicely burnished, although this wine has never been anything other than outgoing and friendly. I smell dark cherries, licorice and lots of ripe skin tannins. There is substance and structure, mostly from the peels, but the ripe fruit qualities still dominate. It's silky smooth, and the flavors glide all the way to a long, pleasing finish. I bought this wine for $4.79 on closeout three or four years ago, and I'm still getting my dividends on a regular basis. Alas, only two bottles left.

Domaine du Grand Prieur Cotes du Rhone, 2007

This has been one of my favorites Cotes du Rhone wines for more than a decade, and I still drink the 2005 and 2006 vintages with great pleasure. The 2007 Grand Prieur seems impressive from the first pour and sniff, but it ends up being a bit of a disappointment for a vintage that has received such acclaim.

It's deep and dark for a Cotes du Rhone with some bluish tints (as in the 2005 and 2006) but no sign of new oak aging. It smells and tastes tannic but is still fruit-oriented--black fruits, spice, minerals, black pepper and even some purple flowers a la Gigondas. This is an ambitious Cotes du Rhone but perhaps a little too much so. On the second night, the alcohol (14%) seems to dominate and wipe out the ripe fruit qualities. I may have caught this wine at an awkward stage, but I suspect it will never please me as much as the 2005 does.

Delas Saint Esprit Cotes du Rhone, 2007

This is still my favorite 2007 Cotes du Rhone. Deep and dark; looks almost like a Crozes Hermitage. Black pepper and spice and everything nice. Young Syrah aromas; smells lively and it is. Sweetness of red raspberry tart but with lemon peel acidity. Pleasantly warm but not hot (13.5%). Good structure and mouthfeel but flavors unfold nicely even after being open several days on the counter. This wine will get even better when the Grenache qualities start to shine. Still available for about $10 at D&W and Cost Plus World Market.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chateau de la Roulerie Anjou Rouge le Maronis, 2006

This is a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley that is drinking beautifully right now and should continue to do so for some time. The color is deep and dark with bluish tints, still young. Typical Cab Franc aromas and flavors are well displayed: black raspberries and cherries, flowers and a dusty, dry finish, somewhat like black tea. Tannins are smooth and silky, and the wine should go well with a variety of summer dishes. If you like sweetish, oaky New World Cabernet Franc or Sauvignon, you might be turned off by the earthy finish (some describe it as "dirt"), but it's true Cabernet Franc. The wine comes from vineyards that can be traced back to 1020, and winemaking practices are traditional and uncompromising. Try it; you might well love it, as I do.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gilbert Picq et ses Fils Chablis, 2000

While on the topic of unoaked Chardonnays, here is another fine example. Gilbert Picq ages all of his wines in stainless steel to preserve the special character of wines from this region, located about halfway between Paris and the slopes of Burgundy.

The color is deeper than the Faively Montagny (below) but not yet showing any sign of advancing age. The aromas are classic Chablis: flint, minerals, citrus, bold and lively. This wine has many of the mineral qualities of a good Sancerre but is still unmistakeably Chardonnay from Chablis. A perfect accompaniment for seafood paella. The finish is piercing and could probably benefit from a bit more aging. I opened the wine a bit earlier than I ordinarily would because I had a few bottles of Picq Chablis from the 1996 and 1997 vintages that showed some premature oxidation. Whatever might have caused this premature oxidation, it should not be blamed on the vineyards nor the winemaking of Gilbert Picq. This is one of the finest and one of the best values in Chablis.

Domaine Faively Montagny, 2006

This is a white Burgundy from Montagny, a satellite region just north of the Maconnais. As I've mentioned in an earlier post, it's an excellent version of unoaked Chardonnay, capturing the qualities of the grape and its origins--hillside vineyards at an altitude of about 400 meters. By New World standards, yields are relatively low--about 3.7 tons per acre.

The color is a medium light yellow. Some at the table are surprised to learn that it's a Chardonnay because it has brisk acidity and a lively personality. "There is more pear and less apple than you expect from a Chardonnay," one taster commented. Actually, there are both pears and apples but slightly unripe along with lemon, minerals and spring flowers. An absolutely gorgeous wine with all the qualities I expect from a Chardonnay.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Francois et Denis Clair Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Beaune, 2002

There are many artisans in the Burgundy region of France but not many wines that could be described as "budget." This Hautes-Cotes de Beaune, selling for $15 to $20 a bottle, is one of my candidates.

The color is a medium light garnet/ruby with bright lively tones. Smells coming from the glass are warm and aromatic--pomegranate, boysenberry and purple flowers. The wine has the delicacy to be expected from a fine Pinot Noir--light in body but rich in flavors of fresh red berries, cherries and a hint of Pnot earth. The earthy quality is actually much less prominent than in the Angeline California Pinot Noir reviewed below. I don't find many tannins, but there is a tensile strength that holds it all together. Sweet fruit with good acidity and a long finish. Reminds me of a wine from Nuits St. George, a nearby but much pricier appellation.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde, 1990

This is from a 375 ml bottle, and I would say that a half bottle of this is worth at least a magnum of any other Syrah you could put on the table. Although some brown/amber tones are forming, this 20-year-old is still remarkably deep and dark. Because it was from a half bottle, we probably finished this wine off too quickly to let the remarkable bouquet open up. The one quality everyone at the table noted was lavendar but I also smelled thyme, grilled tomatoes, and red and black fruits. I wish I had been more patient finishing off my glass, but the flavors and palate feel were too good to resist. Smooth and round with clearly defined flavors. Red berries and animal. Great concentration and lively fruit on the finish. This has to rank as one of my top wines of the year.

Tarima Jumilla Monastrel, 2009

From my admittedly limited experience, I would say that Jumilla is an excellent region for Monastrel (Spanish for Mourvedre). I have yet to taste an ordinary Monastrel from this appellation and was delighted to find this offering on the shelves at Cost Plus World Market for $6.99 for a bottle. Tarima is imported by Jorge Ordonez, who also brought in the excellent Finca Luzon Jumilla Monastrel I reviewed last year. Tarima, I have found out, is a replacement for Finca Luzon in Ordonez' portfolio.

The color is a medium light ruby, and the overall character of this wine leans lightly toward finesse rather than power. It has all the complexity I expect from Mourvedre but with Burgundian elegance. Berries galore--blue and black--on the nose plus Mourvedre flowers and spice. Still young with a lot more to come over the next couple of years. There is very little tannin in this wine, however, so I would not put it away for the long term. The label says 15% alcohol, but that's hard to believe. No heat, no warmth, no thickness; plenty of well focused fruit and elegance. It's a worthy successor to the Finca Luzon, I would say.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Les Trois Couronnes Cotes du Rhone, 2007

Some bottles of Les Trois Couronnes have exhibited the ripe Grenache qualities typical of the warm 2007 vintage. This and other bottles I have opened show a much more stern, almost tart quality as if at least some of the grapes were picked slightly unripe. The first impression I get is garrigue--spicy, briary Provencal herbs--a quality that is lacking in many overly ripe Southern Rhones from 2007. Also deep, deep cherry aromas and flavors. Skin tannins provide plenty of structure, almost too much. I have found considerable bottle variation, but no duds, from Les Trois Couronnes Cotes du Rhone, still widely available for about $7 a bo ttle.

Charamba Douro 2007

This is dry red wine from the Douro region of Portugal is made from the varieties used to make Port: Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional.

There is nothing shy about this wine. It has a very deep color and expressive aromas that are both elegant and powerful. Flowers, red and black fruits. Firm in the middle but flavors emerge nicely on the finish. I don't detect any oak, but the fruit tannins should carry this wine a long way. At $5 a bottle, how can you go wrong?

Boskydel Leelanau Peninsula Vignoles, 2006

Through the 1980s, Vignoles was a staple offering of wineries in the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan. Larry Mawby, who now concentrates on producing high quality sparkling wines, made excellent Vignoles and Vignoles Reserve wines that were always on my buying list. In fact, I still have a couple of bottles of Mawby Vignoles from 1982 and 1983 that I will open soon, mainly for curiosity because 27 years is a bit much for even a well made Vignoles. My other favorite Vignoles during that period was made by Bernie Rink at Boskydel Vineyards. When I finally found my way to Bernie's tasting room last summer, I was delighted to find that he is still making a dry Vignoles, perhaps the only one on the peninsula. I bought two bottles and opened the first last August, finding it to be a throwback to the Vignoles of old that I loved so much. A year later, I opened the second bottle and found the kind of change and development to be expected of a fine wine.

The color is now a deep gold, showing signs of maturity. The bouquet takes awhile to open but shows sweet scents of white flowers. Pineapple flavors dominate the palate, ripe and full bodied with racy acidity. Flavors cling to the back of the throat.

Boskydel is no longer available in wine stores or supermarkets in my area, but at the winery this wine sells for $8.99 a bottle or $65 a case. That's an incredible case discount, and I plan to pick up a case the next time I make it to Leelenau.