Sunday, September 30, 2012

Boskydel Leelanau Peninsula Soleil Blanc, 2008

When I tasted and purchased this wine at Boskydel two years ago, Bernie Rink (winemaker/owner) told me to give it at least a year. He was rught. When I tried the 2008 Soleil Blanc a year ago, it had improved significantly. A year later, it is really beginning to sing.

Aromas and flavors are deepening. Pears, flowers, minerals--lots of subtle things going on. Has the freshness and brightness of a Sauvignon Blanc but greater depth. Lively, long finish. This wine is good to go now, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops over the next several years.

Boskydel wines are not very easy to find outside of the Leelanau/Traverse City area. If you're in the area, it's best to go directly to the winery. The experience of tasting with Bernie is worth the trip. But don't go away with just a couple of bottles, as most tourists do. You'll pay $8 or $9 for one bottle but only $65 or $70 for a full case that will allow you to follow a wine that is made the way wine is supposed to be made--to drink now and over the next six or eight years, appreciating the changes that take place as the wine grows.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone, 2000

The label reads "Cotes du Rhone" and the price tag says $7.99. But what's inside the bottle is serious wine. The color is a deep, dark ruby; hasn't changed much in a decade. As for the smells and tastes, the changes are all for the better. Has lost some of its simple blueberries and cream fruitiness; spicy complexity is emerging. Very compact fruit smells--dark cherries, lavender and flowers. On the palate, there is the dryness of a good Barolo in middle age--not drying fruit but the sign of substantial tannins just beginning to show. They are fruit, rather than wood, tannins, though, and they are very ripe. The wine has been forward and beautiful to drink from day one, but after more than a decade in the bottle, it is showing the nuances that maturity can bring.

Because it's a Cotes du Rhone (the price has gone up to $10 to $12 a bottle as buyers recognize the quality), this wine gets consumed way too early in my opinion. It's really a CDR Villages wine and more ageworthy than most Vacqueyras or Rasteau wines.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Best's Great Western Bin 0 Shiraz, 1994

Australians know Great Western as a highly respected wine region near the Grampians in western Victoria. And Best's is one of the oldest and best estates there. While Best's finest Shiraz grapes, some from vineyards more than 100 years old, go into the Thomson Family Vineyard bottling, Bin 0 is only a step or two lower in quality, coming from well-sited vineyards planted mostly in the mid-1960s.

The color is dark and deep, but with a mature burnished tone. The first sniff, even before it's poured, is beautiful--red and black raspberries and oak, high toned and fragrant. Also blue plums, cassis and rosemary. The French oak background seems more prominent to me than it did with the last bottle in November, 2009. But it is very well integrated into the fruit. This wine is kept lively by a strong backbone of acid. The fruit is there, but the acid keeps it lively and intense. Plush, plummy flavors keep coming on the lush mid-palate and finish. Has the rich mouth feel of Australian Shiraz but with the acid structure of a French Hermitage. For my taste, this belongs in the top rank of Australian wines.

Best's apparently has no American importer. I bought this wine at auction in the late 1990s.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Delas Saint Esprit Cotes du Rhone, 2007

This is one of my favorite Cotes du Rhone wines at this time, and, for my taste, the 2007 is drinking a bit better than the 2009 right now. That is likely to change over the next six months or so as the wines age..

Deep, dark, bluish--Syrah-like. Unlike your typical Cotes du Rhone, Delas Saint Esprit is strongly oriented toward Syrah (80% Syrah, 20% Grenache). The smells are deep and appealing--dark cherries, blue plums,  cassis. Reminds me of a good Crozes-Hermitage. Spices come through slowly--lavender, rosemary. Now I get the red cherry, floral qualities of a Cairanne from the Southern Rhone. Ripe fruit on the mid-palate and finish but also good acidity to keep it fresh.

The vintage on the shelves at the moment is the 2009; 2010 will follow soon. It sells for $10 to $12 at D&W and at Cost Plus World Market.

Tresor de la Riviere Cotes du Rhone, 2010

As Cotes du Rhone wines have inched up in price, more and more of the low priced offerings that reach the market seem to come from cooperatives. That's not necessarily a bad thing since many of the Southern Rhone coops produce very good wines. Tresor de la Riviere, available for $8 to $10 at D&W Fresh Market and Sawall Health Foods in Kalamazoo, comes from the Vignerons Suze la Rousse. Its rustic, spicy personality derives in part from a fairly high percentage of Carignan in the blend.

Interesting spicy smells. Also dark cherries and black fruits. At this stage, the spicy Carignan seems to take center stage away from the Grenache and Syrah. Not much pepper nor red berries to be found. Seems a bit old fashioned in its approach, but that may be a stage it's going through. On the second night, it's much smoother on the palate, offering up ripe fruit flavors.

Joseph Mellot Destinea Sauvignon Blanc, 2008

Joseph Mellot is one of my favorite producers of Sancerre. This wine, though, is a Vin de Pays from less respected vineyards in the Val de Loire.

I find a lot more subtlety than I expected. Mint, melon, lemon peel and gooseberry--a softer, less shrill side of Sauvignon Blanc. It's fresh and lively, though, with good acidity. My biggest surprise comes when the wine sits in the glass for 15 to 20 minutes and gets closer to room temperature. This is ordinarily enough to make a cheap white wine show its true colors. But Destinea shows quality! The wine just keeps getting better and better. This is not Sancerre, but for $9.99, it's very good Loire Valley Sauvignon.

Londer Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2008

The summer of 2008 brought brush fires in northern California, and Anderson Valley winemakers were distressed to learn that smoke had permeated the grape skins and tainted the aromas and flavors of their  Pinot Noir wines. Some wineries were more affected than others, but Londer Vineyards' owners and winemakers were particularly unhappy about the smoke taint in their wines--unhappy enough to sell the wines at deep discount. And that decision has made me very happy.

The second bottle of a case I bought from Russo and Sons in Grand Rapids seems to have less of the smokey quality than the first bottle. Or maybe I have just gotten used to it. I smell pomegranates, cherries, dark plums, flowers, anise...and smoke. Smoke is still there, but it doesn't hide the charm of a high-quality Pinot Noir. The mouthfeel is special--velvety yet firm. Classic Pinot. Great balance of fruit and acidity. Dark cherry flavors open up on the mid-palate and carry through into a long, complex finish. Unless you're looking for it, the smoke becomes a minor issue.

For a $40 wine discounted to $5.99, I can take a little smoke. And because the sellers were honest about the problem, I am anxious to try Londer Pinot Noir in another vintage...without smoke.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bodegas Rafael Palacios "Sabrego" Valdeorras Godello, 2010

Go for Godello. You won't be disappointed. I must admit that I had never tasted a Godello wine until a year or two ago, but I am now convinced it is a premium white wine grape of the highest order. Over the past year, I've written posts about Val de Sil and As Sortes--other Godello wines from the Valdeorras region of Spain. They are both very fine wines, but this Sabrego may trump both.

It's a beautiful, brilliant gold color and very aromatic: white peaches, pears, minerals and flowers. Rich and creamy on the palate; nice texture. The finish is very ripe and very long but with a pleasing citrus edge. Has the complexity and zing of a fine white Burgundy but with the freshness and fruit presence that come from stainless steel aging.

Godello is a traditional varietal of Valdeorras in Galicia in northwest Spain. Many of the old Godello vineyards are now being re-claimed by producers such as Rafael Palacios, sometimes with the help of savvy importers such as Eric Solomon. The vineyards for Sabrego are at 1,800 to 2,160 feet on granite soils. (Sabrego is the local name for granite).

Sabrego Valdeorras Godello ordinarily sells for $17 to $18, but I found this bottle for less than $15 at Cost Plus World Market. It's declicious now and will only get better with a few years in the bottle. Even at $18, it's a smashing value.

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

This is not a good vintage for Oratoire Saint Martin, but it's still a very attractive wine. And the retail price was lowered from $20 to about $15 a bottle. So who's to complain?

This bottle is a bit slow to open. I get some green, stemmy scents at first. Yes, that's the vintage. But the quality fruit quickly starts to dominate: peppery, spicy black fruit (blue plums?). Now, finally, the red cherry traits that are the hallmark of a good Cairanne. Good concentration on the mid-palate. And the finish has enough interest to keep me coming back for sip after sip.

Tenute Folonari Toscana Santa Martina Rosso, 2009

An Italian restaurant that produces a good marinara sauce ranks high on my list, and the marinara on the Pescatore Linguine I had last week at Lucrezia Cafe in Chesterton, IN was one of the best I've ever had. So it should come as no surprise that this little restaurant just off I-94 between Chicago and Kalamazoo has an excellent wine list as well as an innovative, ever-changing menu.

You'd hardly call Toscana Santa Martina Rosso a "super Tuscan" since it sells for about $10 a bottle. But, with 40% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet and 20% Syrah, it varies from the traditional, prescribed Tuscan blend and, as a result, can't be labeled "Chianti." "It's earthier than Chianti," the waiter told me, and I agree. It's also more complex and enjoyable than most Chiantis of the same price range. It reminds me of a good Cotes du Rhone Villages (such as a Rasteau), which is usually my choice for drinking with a good marinara sauce.

Dark color, almost impenetrable; has probably spent some time in new oak but the smells and flavors are all centered around the strong fruit. Pepper, red and black fruits, an appropriate degree of earthiness. Full bodied feel that is just perfect for the rich, rich, wonderful marinara sauce. I'll look for this wine on the retail shelves. The marinara sauce? I'll just have to come back to Lucrezia Cafe.