Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Snoqualmie Columbia Valley (Washington) Chardonnay, 2009

Previous bottles of this Chardonnay were just too toasty for my taste. So I opened a bottle to use for cooking, then, by mistake, left two thirds of a bottle uncorked in the refrigerator for three days. I assumed the wine would be terribly oxidized, but no! In fact, it's now a beauty. Intricate smells of fruit and flowers--citrus, pear, apple--come out from under the toasted oak. I learned later this wine has a small amount of Viognier (5.6%), and it certainly brings out the floral elements. Lovely.

I paid only $7.99 for the Snoqualmie and have several more bottles. I'm going to hang on to them for a year or so to get rid of that toasty element. And I'll look for more Snoqualmie wines.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Water Wheel Memsie Bendigo Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec, 2006

I paid a bit more ($16.95) for this bottle than I ordinarily spend for an every day wine, but the Bleasdale blend I had last week intrigued me. Shiraz/Cabernet (with Shiraz as the dominant player) is an Aussie tradition, usually as a fruit-forward every day wine. The addition of a small amount of Malbec is a new twist (for me, anyway). I like what the Malbec cherry tones add to the finish.

Very deep, bluish color. And it smells like the Bleasdale--dark berries, chocolate, coffee and oak. My wife gets meaty smells, like the juices of a seared steak. Very ripe and full on the palate, particularly in the middle. (That is one reason winemakers like this blend: Shiraz fills the doughnut hole on the mid-palate that is characteristic of Australian Cabernet.) Malbec cherry on the finish adds a bit of elegance to an otherwise almost jammy wine. I also detect some Cabernet currants and cassis on the finish. Very similar to the Bleasdale. The blend is 87% Shiraz, 7% Cabernet, 6% Malbec. 14.5% alcohol doesn't create any noticeable until the second night, but I would not consider this a wine for aging.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Clifford Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir, 2009

The color of this New Zealand Pinot Noir is very light and even seems a bit watery at the rim--which should be a bad sign. Actually though, on the nose and palate the wine has good intensity and decent concentration. I smell pomegranate and cherry, as to be expected from Pinot Noir, but also a strong whiff of black pepper and spice. The latter seem more in line with Southern Rhone Grenache and add a nice touch to the reasonably long finish. It's the intensity that I like most; there is nothing plodding about this wine. I found it for $9.99 at World Market and consider it a good value.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bleasdale Broad-Side Langhorne Creek Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec, 2008

This is an Aussie classic--big, bold and gregarious. Shiraz/Cab really holds no similarity to either Shiraz or Cabernet. It is a genre of its own, in the tradition of Penfold's Bin 389 and Koonunga Hill Claret. Strident Europhiles are bound to be horrified by the style (or lack of it). But if you can free yourself of your biases, you'll find a lot to like.

Talk about color--this wine is virtually opaque. Aromas are also full of big tannins but not big enough to shoulder away the ripe fruit. As in Bin 389, the Shiraz/Cab comes across with unique smells and flavors of dark chocolate, ripe berries, currants and leather. Malbec, not part of the traditional blend, adds a nice touch to the finish--sweet cherries and blue plums, lush and velvety.

This wine was brought to my house by a dinner guest; I believe it sells for $12 to $15. At the low end of that price, I'm a buyer.

Laurenz und Anna Sunny Gruner Veltliner, 2009

This wine, according to the winery's fact sheet, is named for the "bright and sunny spirit of Anna Moser, daughter of Laurenz V Moser and great granddaughter of Laurenz III, who was one of the first to establish Gruner in this region." And the wine certainly reflects the sunny climate of the Kremstal region of Austria (northeast of Vienna) with its alternating warm and cool breezes.

I'm becoming enamored of Gruner because it goes so well with so many dishes and is a welcome alternative to the Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc axis. This was my first try of Sunny, and I promptly went back for more. Brilliant, light color. Fresh, citrus-tinged aromas that burst from the glass. Flowers, green herbs, and peppery spice. Very fresh, almost spritzy, on the palate. Sunny has a little bit of residual sugar (4 g/liter) that adds some fatness and body to the mid-palate but hardly gets noticed against the brisk acidity.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Terra Noble Gran Reserva Maule Valley (Chile) Carmenere, 2009

This was an even better match for the beef tenderloin/bearnaise sauce. Very deep, bluish. Lifted smells of cherries, dark berries, coffee and dark chocolate. Carmenere is believed to be a distant relative of Merlot (not a clone as I posted previously) and was once used in Bordeaux blends. As with Merlot, cheaper versions of Carmenere often come with green vegetable tones that turn me away, but this wine takes the high road--a lively herbaceousness very nicely countered and framed by the toasty French oak. Lush and velvety on the palate. Has many of the qualities you might expect from a classed growth Pomerol or Saint Emilion. The label and packaging are also classy; an impressive wine for about $15 a bottle.

Le Gramenon Cotes du Rhone, 1998

This wine offers about what I expect from a 1998 Cotes du Rhone--not much. Gramenon is a very good estate, and I remember an excellent Gramenon Sierra du Sud I had about 11 or 12 years ago. This Le Gramenon would have been at least as good through most of the early 2000s, but, like most CDRs, it was not built for extended aging. The color is several shades lighter than the Domaine Sainte Anne, and the aromas and flavors are also considerably lighter. Pleasantly ripe strawberries and cherries, a bit thin on the palate but actually works pretty well with beef tenderloin with bearnaise sauce. Lacks both the intensity and complexity of the CDR Villages below or the Domaine Saint Anne simple Cotes do Rhone. A faded beauty.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages Cuvee Notre Dame des Cellettes, 1998

The worst thing I can say about this 14-year-old Cotes du Rhone Villages is that it hasn't changed all that much since the first bottle I tasted more than a decade ago. The color is still a deep crimson. The aromas and flavors are classic Sainte Anne: blueberries and cream, cherries, lavender and spice. Long, ripe finish. Some might consider this wine a bit sweet on the finish, but that's simply because it's so loaded with fruit. Notre Dame des Celllettes comes from a single vineyard, 30- to 50-year-old vines, 60% Grenache and the rest Syrah and Mourvedre. It's made with reductive winemaking--stainless steel and concrete vats, no oak.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Good Harbor Leelanau Peninsula Pinot Grigio Reserve, 2006

This was my favorite Good Harbor wine when I tasted at the winery during the summer of 2010. While it was very good at that time, it is even better tonight with an additional year and a half of aging.

The color includes some copper tones, common among wines from the Pinot Gris grape and clearly not a sign of early oxidation. It has more body and power than most northern Italian Pinot Grigios. In fact, I would have called it "Pinot Gris," because it is more like the Alsace than the Italian versions. (The grape is the same, of course.) Aromas and flavors have a nice citric edge, and there is good freshness and life as well as substantial power. The blend includes 20% Chardonnay, and it has undergone some oak aging. Fortunately, though, the oak qualities are in the background, letting the strong fruit speak for itself.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Clos Saint Jean Les Calades Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, 1998

I brought out this wine for cooking--beef and vegetables braised in red wine. Most Cotes du Rhone wines, not to mention Vins de Pays, from 1998 are long past their prime. And the last few bottles of Les Calades had tasted a bit faded. Not so with this bottle. I poured some in the pot, added some of the Chaume-Arnaud and kept half a bottle of each for delightful drinking with the meal.

The color is a light but bright crimson--what you might expect from a 1998 or older Chateauneuf du Pape. (And les Calades vineyard is located just outside the Chateauneuf appellation.) I smelled quite a bit of tankiness when I popped the cork, but this faded rather quickly and by dinner time it was sending out beautiful smells of wild strawberries, Provencal herbs and flowers. Very fragrant. Compared to the Chaume-Arnaud, this wine has a delicate texture in the mouth but the flavor concentration is comparable. Ripe and lovely. Berries and flowers.

I paid $4 for this wine more than a decade ago. I'm getting $40 worth of pleasure tonight. The Chaume-Arnaud? I paid $12 at a time when the Euro was strong against the dollar. But it too is a bargain.

Domaine Chaume-Arnaud Vinsobres, 2004

The color is turning slightly, but this wine still has a deep, dark color with good saturation. The nose has always been a bit tight, but the flavors have opened up nicely, showing a good stage of maturity. Black fruits, licorice and black pepper with a touch of lavender on the finish. Very rich, concentrated mouth feel. As I taste this wine alongside the 1998 Clos Saint Jean les Calades, I get a good comparison/contrast of Southern Rhone styles and stages of maturity. Very different; I love both.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Gilbert Picq Chablis Premier Crus Vosgros, 1997

Not everyone likes mature white wines. I do , and this 1997 Premier Cru Chablis has everything that I expect...and a bit more. The color is a deep gold but still lighter and brighter than the 1999 Gruner Veltliner I reported on a couple of weeks ago. And the bouquet is beautiful: lime (both the fruit and the soil), white peaches, flowers. Many subtle facets to explore and enjoy. On the palate, the wine is ripe and round but still fresh. No oxidation in this 15-year-old white, either on the nose or the palate. Instead, age has brought out all the subtle elements of soil and grape. Long, finish.

Gilbert Picq uses stainless steel, no new oak, for his Chablis wines, all of which come from old, well situated vineyards. His price is always a bit lower than his Chablis brethren; the quality, always near the top.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Domaine du Vieux Chene Cotes du Rhone Villages, Cuvee Beatrice, 2006

I am a big fan of Domaine du Vieux Chene; even the Vin de Pays wines that I reported on earlier are very high quality and ageworthy. This is my first try of the Cuvee Beatrice, which is named after the co-owner Beatrice Bouche. Often 100% Syrah, Cuvee Beatrice, according to the label, is 50% Syrah, 50% Grenache in the 2006 vintage. At this stage of development, though, the Syrah seems very dominant. Dark in color and dark tones on the nose and palate. Cherries, both sweet and sour, plus cinnamon and red spices. A bit young, if anything, right now, but the tannins are ripe and leave no hard edges. Not a quaffer. Has some size and requires concentration to appreciate all the nuances.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cuvee des Trois Messes Basses Ventoux Blanc, 2010

In a clear bottle, this wine is very attractive on the shelf and again when poured into the glass. And what goes down the throat doesn't disappoint. Very crisp and clean with well defined aromas and flavors. Flowers, green apples and citrus. Fresh and lively. A blend of 40% Clairette, 40% Grenache Blanc and 20% Bourbolenc. I rarely buy or drink white Southern Rhones, but I will certainly come back for more of this little beauty. Under $10 at D&W in southwest Michigan.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Les Trois Couronnes Cotes du Rhone, 2007

I've discovered a pattern in my response to the 2007 Southern Rhones: my favorites are the least expensive and least sought-after wines, such as this Cotes du Rhone that has lingered on the shelves despite its modest price of $6.99.

The wine changed a bit during its first year or so, as I remember, but it has settled into a pleasant plateau of drinkability. The aromas and flavors are typical of Cotes du Rhone but with an assertive personality that the Beaurenard lacks. Plums, berries and purple spices. To the tart rather than sweet end of the spectrum. No de-stemming here, I understand, and that's probably why I like the wine. Coats the teeth and tongue with a spicy goodness. Not as glib as the Beaurenard but more expressive.

I think the 2007 has been replaced by the 2009 or 2010 on most of the shelves that I visit, but it's usually on a lower shelf and cheap enough that it's easy to ignore. Les Trois Couronnes not for everybody, but if you have experience with traditional Cotes du Rhone you can find a lot of wine here for $6.99.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Domaine de Beaurenard Cotes du Rhone, 2007

Robert Parker has called 2007 the Southern Rhone vintage of his lifetime, and I continue to disagree. I'll admit that I haven't bought nor tried any of the higher-end Chateauneufs du Pape or Gigondas, but most of the lesser wines, such as this 2007 Beaurenard Cotes du Rhone have suffered from the same problem: they are beautifully ripe and round but lack complexity.

After four years in the bottle, the 2007 Beaurenard is fully mature, as to be expected. Medium crimson with burnished tones. Ripe aromas of wild strawberries and spices and some black pepper on the palate. A pleasant wine, simple and straightforward. That's about all you should expect from a simple Cotes du Rhone, but the fact is that there are many Cotes du Rhone (and even Vin de Pays) wines that are not so simple. And I remember Beaurenard CDRs from 2000 and 2001 that were offering much, much more at the same stage of development.