Saturday, April 30, 2011

La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Ventoux, 2007

La Vieille Ferme is an old favorite that I buy every year because it's so inexpensive (usually $6.99 a bottle) and good. And it's very enjoyable again tonight although no match at all for the Altitude 500 Ventoux (same appellation, same vintage) I had last night.

The color is a medium crimson/ruby, less bright and less saturated than the Altitude 500. The aromas offer up more garrigue (Provencal herbs), pepper and spice but less bright raspberry fruit. This is a medium bodied, easy going wine that goes well with pizza, but there is clearly less fruit, acidity and intensity compared to the Altitude 500.

Les Vignerons du Mont Ventoux Altitude 500 Parcelles Saint Nicolas Ventoux, 2007

When first opened and tasted alongside the 1989 Domaine Saint Gayan Gigondas, this wine tasted relatively simple, as well it should. It's a young, inexpensive coop wine from a modest appellation.

It's a deep crimson, lighter than the Gigondas but brighter and clearer. The aromatic profile is similar--red raspberries with a background of pepper and spice. In the mouth, it's very ripe but with good raspberry acidity and a peppery finish that seems to broaden and deepen with each sip. Even on the second night, it's a very impressive wine for its price ($8.99)...or, for that matter, any price.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Domaine Faively Montagny, 2006

Domaine Faively's Montagny is a Chardonnay from the Cotes Chalonnaise area of Burgundy. It's a bright medium yellow color with bright aromas of pears, white peaches and flowers. On the palate, there is brisk acidity with no evidence of new oak. A wide range of flavors attack from all directions. This is a very enjoyable wine right now; additional aging might add complexity but would lessen its lively fruit personality.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Domaine Saint Gayan Gigondas, 1989

I tasted this wine right alongside the Kermit Lynch Gigondas (see below), and my conclusion is that, with Gigondas, the appellation is the thing. Although there is a 10-year difference in age, the wines are virtual twins.

The color is deep and dark. The color has turned, and is not as bright as its younger sibling. On the nose, it takes a bit longer to show its best, but the qualities are pure Gigondas--ripe red raspberries and cherries, flowers and fruit leather. Same on the palate. 1989 was a better vintage, and this wine is a bit riper than the 1999 with less tannin in the middle. It hasn't lost any of its power, however. Ripe concentrated finish. Gets riper and riper. This is a big, fruit-oriented wine with all of the finesse of a fine red Burgundy.

On the second night, the Domaine Saint Gayan clearly established itself as the superior wine, not because of the additional 10 years of aging but because of the riper vintage.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cuvee Selectionee par Kermit Lynch Gigondas (Cuvee en Dentelles), 1999

The label identifies this Gigondas as a Kermit Lynch Selection, but it is actually the Cuvee en Dentelle produced by Chateau du Trignon. At age 12, it is drinking beautifully, probably at its peak.

The brilliant deep crimson color indicates that the wine still has plenty of life and that it has been made traditionally, without barriques. The bouquet expresses the pretty side of Gigondas: ripe red raspberries, violets and fruit leather. Very fragrant. Gigondas power shows up on the palate. It's ripe and lovely but with a deceptive amount of tannin on the mid-palate. The red berry flavors have the subtlety and finesse of a good Pinot Noir. Yes: it's like a fine Pinot but without the earthy finish. A long finish full of flavor interest.

This Gigondas was only $15.99 when it was released, but the current vintage would be at least twice that much. Wish I had bought more.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Domaine le Couroulu Vacqueyras, 1998

Now this is what Vacqueyras is all about! It's five years older than the 2003 Monardiere but much, much more vigorous and youthful--probably at its peak now but capable of giving pleasure for several more years.

Deep, deep crimson--the color has turned but there is no sign of amber or rust. No need to coax a bouquet from this wine; it's very aromatic--raspberries, blueberries, flowers, peppery spice and Vacqueyras minerals. On the palate, there is nice raspberry acidity at the front followed by characteristic black licorice and dark minerals. Flavors fill out on the mid-palate with ripe berried fruit and spice. Good old-fashioned Vacqueyras made by an artisan. Reminds me of the excellent wines made by this estate in 1985 and 1986.

I paid $9.98 for this bottle 20 years ago. Southern Rhone prices have escalated dramatically since that time, but the current vintage of Couroulu is available in most areas for $16 to $20.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Snoqualmie Columbia Valley Chardonnay, 2009

Snoqualmie produces a Naked Chardonnay that would probably be more to my liking. But when I saw this Columbia Valley oaked version for $7.99 at my local D&W market, I couldn't resist.

The color is very light; still young. Yes, I do smell toasty oak, buttered pears, brown sugar and a touch of cinnamon. The oak is deftly done, though, and it should integrate nicely with a bit of time. On the palate, too, the toasty character still dominates, but there are clearly some pear and tropical fruit elements waiting to emerge. This wine is fortunately not too big or showy, and there is a little bit of Viognier in the blend to add fragrance and subtlety. At this price, I'm ready to commit myself to at least a half case purchase.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Domaine la Monardiere Vacqueyras Les Calades, 2003

I never believed the critics who claimed the highly touted 2003 Southern Rhones would outgrow their raisined, alcoholic excesses. I bought only a few Southern Rhones from this vintage, and even these continue to disappoint me. A prime example is Monardiere's Vacqueyras les Calades, a wine I have enjoyed immensely from past vintages. Lively and interesting when it was young, the 2003 les Calades is now a feeble image of its former self. The color is definitely fading--rusty, bricky and tired. On first sniff, I get some interesting mature scents of dried fruits, dried flowers and some Vacqueyras minerals. On the palate, though, it's pitifully lacking in acidity with flat, lifeless flavors. The domaine recommends drinking this cuvee at five to eight years because of the lively pepper, spice and berry qualities that typically emerge, but all of those qualities are long gone from this wine. Tastes like a 20-year-old vin de pays. If you bought any 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape, you probably paid a premium because the wines were given high ratings by many critics. I usually don't start sampling my Chateauneufs until they are 10 to 12 years old, and I wait even longer for a good vintage such as 2001 or 2005. I am convinced, though, that 2003 is not a good, nor even a fair, vintage. It is a vintage for drinking several years ago...if at all.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chateau Phelan Segur Sainte Estephe, 1995

This wine is drinking very nicely right now. The color is a medium to deep ruby with a bit of amber forming at the rim. Aromas are very intense--dark cherries, cassis and aromatic herbs. It stops short of being green or herbaceous, however, with notes rather of lead pencil and black tea. There is much of the same on the palate. Medium bodied with lots of life. This bottle was not from my cellar; wish it were, so I could go back for another try in a couple of years.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Domaine du Vieux Chene Vin de Pays de Vaucluse Viognier, 2009

Viognier is all about pretty, and this wine is pretty. Peaches, ripe pears and wild flowers. Expensive, highly regarded Viogniers from Condrieu in the northern Rhone often have a slightly pungent anise finish that's not my cup of tea. This wine does not have that quality, and I'm not complaining, although it might bring down my score if I were rating the wine. It glides down very nicely with a slightly sweet, slightly zingy finish. And at $6.99 a bottle, it's very easy on the wallet.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wynn's Coonawarra Estate Shiraz, 2003

This is the kind of Australian Shiraz that I constantly look for...but rarely find. It has strong fruit presence, not too much tannin or oak, moderate alcohol and the depth of a serious wine. The color is a deep ruby, just beginning to change. On the first sniff, I get very ripe scents of fresh raspberries, plums, dark cherries and an attractive spice note. Coffee oak is there but well integrated. Very fragrant./ In the mouth, it's medium bodied with a rich mid-palate. Very ripe but with good acidity to balance and a peppery finish. Even on the second and third nights, this wine goes down very well, glass after glass. Probably at its peak but not going anywhere soon. I bought a half case of it some years ago for about $10 a bottle; wish I had bought more.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Atteca Calatayud Old Vines Garnacha, 2007

I chose this from the wine list at Every Day People Cafe in Douglas, MI to accompany an entree of Cuban Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Chorizo, Black Beans and Avacado. It was a good match, offering up ripe Grenache fruit and complexity to counter the aggressive, spicy flavors of the dish. The color is a deep crimson, very typical of Grenache. The aromas of fresh raspberry are low key but expressive and unmistakeably Grenache. On the palate, there is deep berry fruit countered with deep earthy, briary tones. The old vines complexity is apparent on the finish. This is a much more serious wine than the 2007 Earthworks Barossa Shiraz I tasted from my wife's glass. The latter had ripe berry fruit and not much oak but was relatively simple and straightforward.

Paul Jaboulet Domaine de Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage, 1989

Domaine de Thalabert has long been one of my favorite Syrah wines, but 1989 is probably my least favorite vintage. I know: 21 years is a long time to keep a Crozes-Hermitage; most are for drinking over five to seven years. But I've had the 1988, 1983 and 1985 Thalabert recently and know that all are drinking beautifully. It's been awhile since I've had 1979, 1980 or 1982, but they are long-time favorites, and I strongly suspect that all have a younger presence than this 1989. By comparison, many of the same vintages of Hermitage la Chapelle, the more prestigious and expensive Jaboulet wine, went over the hill years ago. On the first night, I thought I might have been too harsh in my earlier criticism of the 1989 Thalabert (see my post of October 30, 2010). It has a deep, dark Syrah color with only a bit of amber. The initial smells are of black fruits, Provencal olives, spice and lavender, fresher and better than the last bottle but definitely ready to drink. On the palate, it has the spicy strength to stand up to lamb curry and enough subtlety to give pleasure after the meal. There is good acidity and a pleasing finish, although without the complexity and unique personality that come through so strongly in the 1988 and 1983 vintages. And what was left in the bottle on the second night was a distinct disappointment--flat, faded flavors and too many state wood tannins for my taste. Yes, this is still my least favorite Thalabert of the 1980s. Through the 1990s, I continued to buy Thalabert but in smaller quantities as the price went up and the quality was inconsistent at best. The estate has now changed ownership and is no longer on my buy list for anything except an occasional bottle of the simple Cotes du Rhone Parallele 45.