Thursday, June 30, 2011

Domaine d'Andezon Cotes du Rhone Syrah, 2009; Domaine Mathieu Cotes du Rhone Syrah, 2009

Most Cotes du Rhone wines are Grenache-based; these two are both 90% Syrah, 10% Grenache. I encountered them on the wine lists of two Chicago restaurants.

The d'Andezon, offered by Mexique on West Chicago Strees, was my favorite of the two. It had qualities that I associated with Northern Rhone Syrahs such as Crozes-Hermitage and Saint Joseph: berries, cassis and a proper amount of Syrah herbaceousness. It had supple fruit flavors and enough substance to stand up to an excellent pork with mole poblano sauce.

Domaine Mathieu was my choice at Bistro 110 just off of North Michigan near Water Tower Place. It too was very good--riper and less herbaceous than the d'Andezon. It had less acidity than the d'Andezon and would probably appeal to someone who prefers Australian Shiraz over French Syrah. It was a good match for a flavorful flank steak sandwich.

Chateau Pesquie la Terrasses Ventoux, 2008

Since I've had other 2008 Southern Rhones that have disappointed me (see my note on the Domaine l'Oratoire Saint Martin), I almost passed up this wine, even though it was being offered at a good price. That would have been a mistake as this 2008 Ventoux pleases me immensely.

It's a deep, bright ruby/crimson and has all the signs of a traditionally made Southern Rhone. Black peppercorn galore with black plums and berries, spices and garrigue. None of the unripe greenness that I found in the finish of the Oratoire Saint Martin. This is a wine that is drinking very well right now, but it also has the fruit stuffing to keep it going and growing for at least four or five more years.

Pesquie Ventoux is now selling for $9.99 at D&W in southwest Michigan (I've seen it in other stores for $10.99 to $14.99). Even at the higher prices, it's a good value.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Domaine Sainte Anne, Cotes du Rhone Villages Cuvee Notre Dame des Cellettes, 2000

Alain Steinmaier, the winemaker at Domaine Sainte Anne, raises his wines in a very reductive environment of cement tanks. And those familiar with the estate know that all of his wines, from the simple Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages, age beautifully over at least a decade. Soren Gudiksen, a Southern Rhone "wine lover from Denmark" who publishes the excellent website points out that vintages of the Notre Dame and Saint Gervais cuvees going back to 1986 are available at the winery.

Notre Dame des Cellettes is a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre--the same as the regular Cotes du Rhone Villages but from some of the estate's oldest and best vines. When I tasted it alongside the 1994 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape it was clearly not a Chateauneuf (although a similar blend) but a wine of comparable quality. The color was a deep, deep crimson with almost no bricking, and the aromas were intensely fruity and still youthful. All of the Sainte Anne wines have a unique honey/resin quality when they are young that would be hard to miss in a blind tasting. This starts to integrate at about age 10 or 12, and this wine shows a hint of honey/resin that is just beginning to fold into the deeper smells and flavors of Grenache and Syrah. Red and blue berries, spice and a hint of tobacco (as opposed to the black pepper that is more typical of most Southern Rhones). The pungent spiciness of Mourvedre is just starting to peek its head out, and it gives the wine a ripe, laid back quality similar to a Volnay or a well aged cru Beaujolais. The wine has good concentration, but the tannins are ripe and unobtrusive. A very good wine that will only get better in the decade ahead.

When this 2000 was released, the Notre Dame cuvee sold for about $12; today it's $18 to $20 and I am still a buyer.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape, 1994

As most of you probably already know, my choice of a wine for Father's Day or any special day is nearly always the same, a Chateauneuf du Pape. From the appellation, I have several favorites: Pegau, Bois de Boursan, Clos des Papes, Vieux Donjon, Clos Mont Olivet, Lucien Barrot. A tough list from which to choose, but I remember some very favorable comments about this 1994 Clos des Papes a few years ago. As a match for boeuf bourgignon, the wine did not disappoint.

The color is a brilliant deep crimson with minimal bricking around the edges--very impressive for a 17-year-old. The nose has good intensity--cool spices, cherries, berries, leather and a hint of garrigue. On the palate, I get the same along with some notes of sea salt. Although this is a Grenache-based wine, Mourvedre spiciness is very much apparent. Just the right amount of warmth. This is a wine of finesse rather than power with clearly delineated smells and flavors. The silky mouth feel reminds me of a good vintage of Clos Mont Olivet. It doesn't reverberate, as the 1981 and 1983 did on previous Father's Days, but it's a very good wine at a good stage for drinking.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Georges DuBoeuf Macon-Villages Chardonnay, 2009

This is my style of Chardonnay--bright, straightforward and lovely. The color is medium yellow, several shades lighter than the Edna Valley (below). Intense scents and flavors of green apples, citrus and spring flowers. Much more floral than the Edna Valley. Also lighter and prettier. Two very different styles. Drink this one with vegetable or fish dishes; save the Edna Valley for shellfish, creamy pastas and sauces.

Edna Valley Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Paragon Chardonnary, 2008

This 2008 Edna Valley is right in line with bottles I've had from the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages; no changes in style or approach. The label speaks of the terroir and micro-climate of Edna Valley, but what I find is a fairly typical oaky but good quality California Chardonnay with citrus and brown butter notes. Good acidity and freshness. My taste leans toward the Duboeuf Macon-Villages reported next, but others will disagree. They are comparably priced every day whites.

Melini Orvieto Classico, 2009

This is a sibling to the Melini Chianti I reported on a few weeks ago. Both are selling at my local D&W market for $6.99 a bottle. And both are incredible values.

The color is a medium deep straw, and the nose is full of herbal/fruit complexity--pears, citrus and delightful spcy notes. Medium bodied with a racy acidity and a touch of almond on the finish. Much more than anyone should expect from a $6.99 wine. Like the Chianti, it's traditionally made and honest with good fruit; no winemaker tricks to make it seem worth more than it really is.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin Reserve des Seigneurs Cairanne, 2008

2008 is not nearly as good a vintage as 1998, but this wine is 10 years younger than its sibling reported on below. It's very good and worth a purchase of a few bottles...but not as good as the 1998.

The color is deep and dark, but the aromas are much more muted than those of the 1998. With some time, they open up. Now it smells like a fruit bomb: dark cherries and red and blue berries. All of the spice and pepper are clearly in the background now but they will emerge in a year or two, giving the wine more depth and interest. Plenty of fruit aromas and flavors. Complexity will follow, but this will never approach the quality of the 1998. On the finish, there is a green quality that tells me the grapes never ripened fully. Will be good over three or four years but, in my opinion, not a wine to keep.

Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin Cuvee Prestige Cairanne, 1998

Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin's Cairanne is one of my favorite Cotes du Rhone Villages wines. Although it's usually best for drinking between ages five and seven, this 1998 is still showing very well.

The color is a deep ruby, somewhat burnished. The bouquet is nicely developed--very fragrant and fresh with smells of blueberries, garrigue and spice. Has '98 ripeness. On the palate, there is cherry/berry fruit appeal but with significant depth and concentration. This is Cairanne at its best, but the alcohol is beginning to intrude a bit on the finish so it's time to drink up.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Domaine du Grand Prieur Cotes du Rhone, 2005

My recent disappointment with the 2005 Domaine de la Janasse Cotes du Rhone highlights my respect for Bertin Gras' Domaine du Grand Prieur. Six years after the vintage, Janasse is showing its age, Grand Prieur is just beginning to show its stuff.

The color has lost its dark, bluish tints and the nose no longer offers up gushy scents of blueberries and cream. There is still strong fruit, however, backed by herbes de Provence, and the finish has taken on subtle notes of black pepper and minerals. The grapes for this Cotes du Rhone come from vineyards in Vacqueyras, but the yields are too high to qualify for that appellation. At this stage of its development, the Vacqueyras heritage is becoming more apparent. It's not as showy a wine as it was in its youth, but it's now showing more subtlety and depth