Friday, June 22, 2012

Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 1998

There is a heavy crust on one side of the bottle, and the smells and flavors have a few added dimensions. This wine has happily passed from adolescence to maturity. I smell and taste more black than red fruits at this stage--black raspberries, dark cherries and blue plums. Also leather, cassis and spices I can't name. In the mouth, the wine is as full bodied as ever but it has made several turns away from its youthful fruitiness. Oh, there is still plenty of fruit, but the secondary characteristics are beginning to emerge. No hurry to drink, in my opinion.

La Vieille Ferme Ventoux, 2007

This widely available, inexpensive Ventoux is still among my favorite 2007s from the Southern Rhone. It has the ripe fruit of 2007 but also a nice acidic edge that most 2007s lack. That's my view, although many will disagree.

Although I once thought of La Vieille Ferme as a "drink within a year" wine, this wine is still showing well at age five. Very berry--wild raspberries and wild strawberries, ripe and pure. Also garrigue but only a hint of black pepper until the second night.. Medium to full bodied and gushing with ripe fruit. Smooth as silk. This wine will go with anything you bring to the table--from pizza to coq au vin.

Tenuta del Terre Nere Etna Rosso, 2008

There are many ordinary wines from Sicily; this is not one of them. The steep slopes and volcanic soils of Mount Etna have combined to produce a special wine.

It's a medium light garnet color with a haunting bouquet. Seems to be a cross between a fine Pinot Noir and a Barolo. Dark cherries, flowers, licorice--there are many facets to this wine. On the palate, the primary impression is dryness, probably from the high level of tannins. They are very fine tannins, however, that let the fruit ooze through. Not at all big or extracted but huge in flavors and nuances. The finish is long and ripe.

The price has not caught up to the quality with this wine. For under $15...WOW!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Val de Sil Valdeorras Godello, 2008

When Penny Ross, the wine person at my local D&W market, told me about this wine, I had to ask for several repeeats of the name. Godello? I'm embarrassed to admit I hadn't heard of Godello (pronounced Go-Day-O), which may well be the best of all Spanish white wines and slowly gaining recognition in this country. Valdeorras is a mountainous area in Galicia in northern Spain, 100 miles inland, and the old vines cling precariously to the steep slopes, digging their roots deep for sustenance. Val de Sil's 2008 Godello was only about $10 a bottle at that time (2010), and one taste made it clear to me that it is worth at least two or three times that much. The wine needs time, though, to show its mineral charm; only now is the 2008 beginning to unfold. And only now am I beginning to dig into my precious case.

The color is a full lemon yellow; very pretty. I get intriguing mineral scents along with wildflowers, nutmeg, lemon and lemon peel. At 14% alcohol, this wine is probably a bit fuller bodied than most Godellos, but there is no heat or blowsiness to the wine. Has the racy edge of a fine Sancerre combined with the mineral intrigue of a Grand or Premier Cru Chablis. Lemon acidity at the tip and edges of the tongue, then gets riper and richer as it glides down the palate. This wine is very good right now, but I know it's only going to get better over the next five years or more. Please have patience, Fred.

Val de Sil's Godello is clearly aged in stainless steel; that is the traditional way. Be aware, though, that many Godellos on the market have been matured in new oak to appeal to American tastes. It's a taste I prefer to avoid.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Domaine Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape, 1988

This 1988 Pegau has been on my try list for some time, and I opened this bottle as a Fathers' Day present to myself. The bouquet is classic Pegau:: garrigue, cherries, mushrooms and the distinctive Pegau funk. I love that funk, and so do many others. The vineyards that produce  this wine are clearly very special, and Laurence Feraud knows how to present the wine's unique personality. It's very ripe but also savory; almost like dark chocolate with sea salt. Reverberates with unique smells and flavors. Very special.

I was introduced to Domaine Pegau by Alton Turley, a friend who ran a small wine bar in Kalamazoo in the early 1990s. Knowing my love for Chateauneuf, he brought over a bottle of the 1988 for us to try together. I was dubious at first of any Chateauneuf not named Beaucastel, Vieux Telegraphe or Clos du Pape, but we were both highly impressed and asked the importer, J.C. Mathes of J et R, for more. Village Corner in Ann Arbor started bringing in Pegau at about the same time, and I started buying it in preference to my old favorite, Beaucastel. On a trip to France in 1992, I tasted the 1988 again (along with the 1989 and a barrel sample of the 1990) with Laurence Feraud, the winemaker. Robert Parker had given the 1988 only a so-so review, but she assured me that the wine was much better than the review suggested. The 1990, though, she was very excited about, and soon after I read Mr. Parker's 96 point review. It didn't take long for sales of the wine to take off, although the price didn't catch up to the quality for nearly another decade.  The price tag on this bottle says $12.37; that was before my 15% mixed case discount. Current vintages of Pegau Cuvee Reservee now sell for $70 a bottle and up depending on the vintage.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Good Harbor Michigan Chardonnay, 2007

This is one of the last Chardonnays produced by Bruce Simpson before his untimely death. And it is very good. As the label explains, the 2007 autumn was pleasant, and the grapes were harvested in good condition. It's interesting to note that the label claims only the generic "Michigan" appellation even though the grapes came from the estate vineyard on Lake Leelanau and the Big Paw Vineyard of a neighbor.

The bouquet still has notes of vanilla-tinged oak but also distinctive Chardonnay fruit--apples, peaches, citrus. It's at a good stage of development with the fruit and oak playing off each other nicely. It has a slight leesy quality but not as much as you'd expect from a wine left on its lees for five months. The strength of this wine, for me, is the good balance of fruit and acidity.

Domaine Grand-Romane Gigondas Cuvee Boisee, 1990

Traditional Gigondas is made in foudres--large, old barrels that have become neutral in terms of the aromas and flavors they impart. This "cuvee boisee" was one of the early experiments in the use of new oak, inspired undoubtedly by American importers and critics. Better known examples are Brusset's Les Haut de Montmirail and Domaine les Goubert's Cuvee Florence. At the time, I was intrigued by these experiments but didn't buy many because they were more expensive than the traditional cuvees and I didn't like the oak-influenced aromas and flavors. My suspicion was that they would not age well, and I think this wine is a prime example.

Medium deep color with some browning and a good deal of sediment. A note of oxidation is apparent from the first sniff along with more positive smells of toffee and spicy dried fruit. On the palate, though, there are some deep, haunting flavors that make it worth drinking. It's actually quite enjoyable on the first night. On the second, it becomes sweeter and more Port-like while the oxidation becomes more apparent.

Admittedly, 21 years is a long time to age any Gigondas, but I have recently had a 1988 Cayron and 1989 Saint Gayan that were showing much better. If anyone has a tasting note from the 1990 regular cuvee of Grand-Romane, I would be highly intrigued. For now, though, I will continue to avoid the wood cuvees.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Jean Descombes Morgon, 2002

I consider Jean Descombes Morgon one of the best values on the market. For less than $15, you get a wine that gushes with fresh raspberry fruit in its youth but is capable of maturing into a serious wine. I try to sample these wines at various stages of their development, but this 2002 fooled me. Two years ago, I thought I had missed the wine's best years. Tonight, I'm glad I still have three or four bottles left in the cellar.

The color is a medium light garnet, about what it should be for a Cru Beaujolais this age. The bouquet is low key but deep--cherries, pomegranate, spice. The more you sniff, the better it gets. On the palate, it's very cherry--almost like walking into the Cherry Republic in Traverse City. Very fruity but also deep and serious if you take the time to savor it. Has Pinot elegance and a very satisfying finish.

Louis Latour Pernand-Vergelesses, 1998

Now here is a mature white Burgundy to put the Macon Vire-Clesse up against. A few years ago, this 1998 Pernand-Vergelesses was angular and almost bitter on the finish--not pleasant to drink. Tonight, it is approaching maturity and showing nicely.

The color is a deep gold (not as dark as the Vire-Clesse but what you would expect from a 1998 from Louis Latour). The bouquet opens up nicely: butter, flowers, nuts, white peaches, spice--has everything. On the palate, it's not showy but has sparkle and richness. This isn't a top vintage for this wine, but it's still very good.

Louis Latour Villages wines (Saint Aubin is my favorite) are somewhat difficult to find but relatively inexpensive. I paid about $15 for this around 2000, but the price has undoubtedly gone up by 15 or 20% by now. Even so, it's far superior, in my view, to the very good Vire-Clesse which might sell for around the same price. It's all about location, of course.

Chanson Pere et Fils Vire-Clesse, 2005

I bought this bottle at a 30% off closeout price at Hardings Market. Ordinarily, I consider that risky for a white wine that apparently has been sitting on the shelf for several years, but Vire-Clesse has a good reputation for Macon Villages whites. At the usual price of $15 to $18, I'm usually not tempted but for $10 to $11...why not give it a try?

The color is a very deep gold. Mmm, this does not look good. On first sniff, there is a slight note of staleness, but that quickly passes, giving way to a very satisfying mature white Burgundy bouquet--flowers, white peaches, minerals. Gets better every minute. There is a nice richness on the palate. Fills all the corners. Yum. Good choice.