Sunday, March 31, 2013

Domaine du Haute des Terres Blanches Chateauneuf du Pape, 1993

Domaine du Hautes des Terres Blanches produces a traditionally made Chateauneuf du Pape that does not get a lot of attention from Parker or Tanzer but is always very good when given enough time in the cellar. Although 1993 was only a so-so vintage, this wine is showing very nicely right now. It was a worthy companion to Domaine de Thalabert at the dinner table (see below).

Lovely compact smells of a mature Chateauneuf du Pape--dried cherries, red berries, spice and sea salt. An appealing  combination of sweet and savory. Very full on the mid-palate with a long, smooth finish.

Domaine du Hautes des Terres Blanches was widely available in my area during the 1990s for $10 to $12 a bottle. I bought quite a few and am glad I did. Even the oldest--this 1993--still has many years of life ahead of it.

Paul Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert, 1990

This was my wine of choice for my 74th birthday, and a good choice it was. I've always been a big fan of Domaine Thalabert, particularly those from the 1980s. Critics tagged this as perhaps the best Thalabert ever, with the possible exception of the 1978, and online reviews on Cellar Tracker rate it very highly for current drinking. I can't disagree.

Deep ruby red. The bouquet is absolutely gorgeous. Black raspberries, lavender, sage. Has the fresh fruit smell of youth but with a leathery maturity emerging. Same on the palate. Very smooth texture with a lovely Syrah finish. Has the power of a good Cornas plus the finesse of a Cote Rotie. 12.7% alcohol is amazingly low for a wine with this much dramatic flair.

I agree that it's probably the best Thalabert ever made (I didn't get to taste the 1978), and it is one of the best Syrahs I've encountered. The wonderful secondary characteristics that I love so much in the 1982, 1983, 1985 and 1988 Thalaberts have not yet emerged; so, as good as it is now, it will get even better, at least for my taste.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Domaine des Baumard (Clos St. Yves) Savennieres, 1990

As I near and pass my 74th birthday, I intend to bring out some of my more mature bottles just to see what age is all about in wine and life. If I mature as well as this wine has, I will be very happy.

It's a deep old gold color, very mature to the eye. At first, I thought I might have a corked bottle since there is a slight cardboard-like aroma. This fades away, though, and what accompanies it is sheer beauty. Peach pits, nuts, quince and a bouquet of flowers. Maybe what I smell is damp straw, a common descriptor for Savennieres. Chenin Blanc is not always a sweet, smiling peach as many New World producers like to make it. It also has a dour element that underlies and accents its classic beauty. As I have read, Florent Baumard, refuses to use new oak or any other means of softening his wine, and that is for the better, as far as I'm concerned. The more I sniff, the more I like. And the palate: wow! Deep and complex with a rich texture (Rabelais used the word "taffeta" to describe Chenin Blanc, and I think it's appropriate here. What I like best, though, is the after taste. It just refuses to finish.

I may have kept this wine a bit long, thinking, before I removed the paper wrapper, that it was the more prestigious and ageworthy Clos du Papillon. It's not perfect and it may indeed be slightly affected by cork taint, but there is so much to like. It's really hard to quit drinking.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bodega Rafael Palacios Sabrego Valdeorras Godello, 2010

Godello is a grape that has been grown in this area of Spain for many years, but the vines are very old and the granitic soil on the steep slopes are depleted of nutrients. That's the perfect environment for producing high quality wines...but with a very low profit margin because of low yields. Palacios is one of the producers who is intent on preserving these old Godello vines and Eric Solomon is helping him market them to an American public that knows little about Godello. I had never heard of or tried Godello until D&W Markets brought in the Val de Sil Godello that I have reported on several times over the last few years. Sabrego is even better, in my estimation.

Bright medium gold color. Very fresh and lively. Pears, green apples, lime and a hint of flowers. Flavors are lusher than the smells suggest. Medium bodied and a bit of almond on the finish. Mouth watering acidity. This is a wine that drinks very well on its own but is even better with flavorful food.

I considered Sabrego a bargain when I saw it for $14.99 at World Market. When the close-out price came down to $7.47, I scooped up all that was on the shelves. There must have been more in back room because the price came down another 10% when I was in the store yesterday. $6.72 for this quality? I left a few bottles behind but may go back again and scoop them up. Although the wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel to preserve the fresh fruit qualities, it has enough acid to carry it for at least a few years.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cotes du Rhone Villages Valreas Cuvee Prestige (Vignerons de l'Enclave des Papes), 2007

This is a wine I look for every time I enter a Trader Joe's story. And every time I am surprised that it is still available for only $5.99. This is not a simple Cotes du Rhone but a CDR Villages from a good appellation. And even though it is produced by a cooperative, it is always well made in a traditional style that I love.

The color of this 2007 is a deep ruby, and the smells and flavors confirm that this wine is still going and growing. Black fruits shading to red with Provencal spices and black pepper. Good depth of fruit. Everything as it should be. At least at this page, I prefer this wine to many labels from Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Rasteau. 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah, but the structure is what you'd expect from a higher percentage of Syrah.

I've been buying this Valreas since the 2001 vintage and yet to be disappointed. The vintage on the shelves right now at Trader Joe's is probably the 2010 or 2009. Whichever it is, there is no need to worry about drinking it right away.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chateau Candulon St. Julien, 1983

I've never been able to find out much about Chateau Candulon,  but the label indicates that it is in St. Julien. As I remember, the wine was available in the mid 1980s for a good price--$8 to $10--at Village Corner in Ann Arbor, and I  bought several bottles for mid-term drinking. As I got more and more interested in Rhone wines, the Candulon sat on the shelves longer than I planned. Every time I open a bottle, as tonight, I do so with the assumption that the wine will be several years over the hill. Every time, as tonight, I am pleasantly surprised.

Good deep, dark color. I can't find any browning or  bricking. And the bouquet is similarly well preserved: Cabernet currant; Merlot cherries and tea. Medium body, focused flavors. Everything as it should be. This is not a "wow" wine; it does not have the personality of a Gruaud Larose or Leoville Barton; but it is a very serviceable dinner wine for every day drinking or serving to guests. Again and again, I discover that you don't have to spend big money to get ageworthy Bordeaux wines.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Picket Fence Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2011

Once again, I run into a wine that costs me $12 a glass at a restaurant that I can buy for about the same price per bottle retail. And I don't get angry because the wine meets my expectations. The restaurant is one of my favorites, the Common Grill in Chelsea, Michigan, and my entree--pancetta wrapped pork tenderloin in a fig balsamic sauce--is fantastic and a good match for the wine.

My only complaint about the Common Grill is its New World wine list, and I have been disappointed there time after time by California appellation Pinot Noirs. Picket Fence is Russian River Valley and worth a try, even for a premium price, I thought. In the glass, the wine delivered some of the northern coast qualities I prefer in a California Pinot. So no complaints.

The aromas are very smoky, even though there is no forest fire excuse for this 2011 wine. Smoked salmon cooked in bacon fat. Actually, quite appealing although a bit overdone. On the palate, the wine is tart rather than sweet. Tart cherries or maybe cranberries. I like the northern coast intensity. The wine could probably be called spicy but the spices are not the cinnamon/nutmeg baking spices that you get from Santa Barbara or Monterey Pinots. Not a wine I would want to drink on its own, before or after a meal, but it's a perfect match for the fig balsamic sauce. At $12 a bottle, I am a buyer. At $12 a glass? Okay. At least better than the California appellation Pinots I usually get at the Common Grill.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

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

This bottle has been open for three nights now, re-corked each night, of course, with a VacuVin. The first two nights, it was ordinary; tonight, it is singing.

Blackberries, cassis, black peppercorn. Ripe and inviting. 13.5% alcohol is just right for this wine. Has the qualities I like in cool climate Australian Shiraz, but at a fraction of the cost. This is very good Southern Rhone Syrah. Northern Rhone Crozes and St. Joseph are classier but, again, at a much higher price.

As an inexpensive Vin de Pays, this wine is theoretically ready to drink when it hits the shelves. I have held on to this bottle for more than a year, and, judging from the way it's held up since being opened Monday night, I think it will probably be at its best in two or three more years. The price tag from Sawall's Health Food Store in Kalamazoo reads $7.49; I think the current price for the 2010 may be a dollar higher. Either way, it's artisan wine on a budget.

The partner of this Syrah is a Grenache for the same price, but you can also step up a notch to the Cuvee de la Dame Vielle or Cuvee Friande which blend the two grapes for a more typical Southern Rhone.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Rabasse Charavin Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne, 2004

Cairanne is my favorite Cotes du Rhone Villages, and Rabasse Charavin is rapidly overtaking Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin as my favorite Cairanne wine. Unfortunately, not much of this wine is shipped to the United States. I bought this 2004 at auction--at a good price because other buyers apparently were reluctant to take a chance on a nine-year-old CDR Villages. L'Oratoire, in fact, is usually best at five to eight years of age. This 2004 Rabasse Charavin, though, is not showing any signs of fading.

Deep ruby color. Has all the ripe, round red fruits that are to be expected from Cairanne but a whole lot more. Lots of skin tannins produce almost a tart quality on the first night that develops into deep dark cherry flavors on the second night. This wine is still young. Black pepper, tobacco and spice. Lovely fruit.

As good as this wine is, it pales by comparison with the 1999 Rabasse Charavin Cuve Estevenas I bought at the same auction for the same price for the same reason. Wish somebody would bring these wines into my marketing area.