Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Londer Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2008

I have served this wine to guests several times, and the response has always been positive with no mention of smokiness until I bring up the subject. Once brought to your attention, the smokiness cannot be denied; it is a major component of the wine's aroma and flavor profile. But there are so many other things to notice--all good--that there is no reason to dwell on the smokiness.

As I've mentioned before here, this 2008 failed to measure up to the owner's standards because of the smoky quality that resulted from forest fires in the area that summer. When the wine sold off at a deep discount, I bought a case for $72, less than the cost of two bottles at regular retail price.

Medium light cherry. Smoke, yes, but also wild cherries, cranberries, flowers and cinnamon. Much more elegant in its spiciness than Pinots from Santa Barbara and Monterey. This wine is definitely north coast Pinot--racy acidity and silky tannins.

Umamu Margaret River Shiraz, 2005

This is not your typical Aussie Shiraz, but it has received some nice complimernts from reviewers such as Jancis Robinson and James Halliday. The color is a bright cherry red; no inky monster. And there are some good Syrah varietal traits--black fruit, cassis, spice and peppercorn. In my last posting of this wine, I compared it to a good Southern Rhone, but, tasting it tonight alongside Altitude 500 Ventoux, I see no real similarities. I like the style, though, and my only complaint is a bit of greenness in the aromas and flavors. (Were the grapes picked before complete ripeness?) At $12.99, it is well priced for a Margaret River wine.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Altitude 500 Ventoux, 2007

This is only a simple, inexpensive Ventoux made by a cooperative. Yet tasted side by side with the Clos de l'Oratoire Saint Martin Cairanne, it shows its class. The Grenache/Syrah flavors and smells are brighter and fresher, as should be expected for the wine's age and appellation. In the right context, though, a pizza party on the porch, it is every bit as enjoyable. Ventoux is a very under-rated appellation--either for the porch or the dinner table. And this is one of my favorite Ventoux.

Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint-Martin Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne Reserve des Seigneurs, 2000

This may be my favorite vintage for this Cairanne. A previous bottle I tried a couple of years was paired against a very good Clos Saint Jean Chateauneuf du Pape. And the Cairanne, in my view, was the better wine. Cairanne generally does not age as well as Chateauneuf du Pape, though, and this bottle is probably not quite up to its sibling tasted in 2009. Still excellent though and capable of going several more years.

Deep cherry red, has turned color just a bit. Beautiful bouquet of dark cherries, flowers and black pepper. Flavors run deep. The longer it sits in the glass the better it smells and tastes. This is definitely better than the 1998 l'Oratoire Saint Martin Reserve and better than most of the vintages from the 1990s

Perrin & Fils Cotes du Rhone Villages Rasteau L'Andeol, 2004

Someone posting a note on the internet declared this wine "over the hill," but without any explanation. Based on my experience with this bottle, I disagree. The color is a deep crimson, and it has strong fruit qualities (dark cherries, blackberries) as well as secondary characteristics of black licorice, dark Rasteau minerals, spice and peppercorn. Has a very smooth finish and is at least as good as the last bottle of Perrin & Fils Rasteau I had a couple of years ago.

I generally feel that the dark traits are a bit aggressive in a young Rasteau but become more complex and enjoyable when the wine has some bottle age, as this one has. In fact, some of the best Rasteau I have tasted have been more than 10 years of age.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Olivier Leflaive Saint-Aubin Premier Cru en Remilly, 1999

This wine is somewhat of a disappointment compared to the 1995 Saint-Aubin en Remilly that we enjoyed tremendously over the past 15 years. I posted a note on my last bottle of the 1995 a couple of months ago.

Even though this wine is four years younger by biological age, it is much deeper gold in color and more advanced in its development than the other wine. Despite the prematurely deep gold color, which is probably due to some changes in winemaking, the wine does not have the oxidized smells and flavors of many other white Burgundies of the late 1990s that have been identified as "pre-moxed." Honey, yes, but it's elegant, rich honey. Also white flowers, peaches and minerals. The silky texture is probably what makes this wine special. But it still lacks the depth and complexity of the 1995.

I'm a believer in Saint-Aubin and Olivier Leflaive's en Remilly vineyard.  It's very close to Puligny-Montrachet, one of my favorite white Burgundy appellations, and it offers many of the same elegant qualities found in a good Puligny at what was once a poor man's price. Slightly over $10 a bottle back in the mid-1990s, the wine now sells for close to $40.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Domaine les Rouesses Reuilly, 2008

Reuilly, a small Sauvignon Blanc appellation in the Loire Valley, has been known as the poor man's Sancerre but I paid more for this Reuilly than I usually pay for Sancerre. It's a unique face of Loire Sauvignon, and I believe it was worth the premium.

Golden color. Fresh aromas of gooseberry, melon and mint--mellow but still well defined and focused. On the palate, it's particularly rich and round. That seems to be defining trait of Reuilly. There are some drinkers who just do not like the aggressiveness of Sauvignons from Sancerre, and I think they would appreciate Reuilly.

As for price, I always like the poor man idea. At $10 or $12, rather than $23, I would buy a lot of Reuilly.

Friday, May 10, 2013

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

There's Cairanne, and there's Cairanne. If you're looking for the best of the appellation, there are three good choices: 1) Domaine l'Oratoire Saint-Martin, produced by Frederic and Francois Alary, 2) Rabasse-Charavin, produced by Corinne Couturier, and 3) the Cairanne of Daniel and Denis Alary (uncle and cousin respectively of Frederic and  Francois). The vineyards of these three estates are located on the St. Andeol hills; they are old, well situated and capable of producing wines comparable in quality to those of Chateauneuf du Pape (but at a fraction of the price).

This 2008 Reserve from l'Oratoire Saint-Martin was a bit cheaper than usual, presumably because the 2008 vintage was not as good as 2007, 2009 and 2010. But it is still a very good wine. Dark, saturated color. Blackberries, cassis and black pepper.The pepper gives it structure but doesn't detract from the ripe fruit flavors. Good intensity and a satisfying finish. Doesn't measure up to the 1998 or 1995 (nor the outstanding 2000) but still very good.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Domaine de Font-Sane Tradition Gigondas, 1998

I was almost ready to declare this wine dead three or four years ago. It was hard and disjointed, seemed like it had lost its fruit. "Drink up" said some tasters on the internet, but why drink up a wine that is giving you little or no pleasure? I've been down this road before, and I know that what seems like "drying up" or "loss of fruit" is actually an awkward stage the wine is going through. I can't explain it, but I know it happens.

Tonight, I'm glad I had the patience to wait. This 1998 is beautiful, and I still have four or five bottles waiting to be opened and enjoyed. Deep crimson with some tawny tones. Blueberries and violets--Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah in full bloom. Also garrigue and black pepper, but these traits are understated at this stage and come out more prominently on the second night.

I remain convinced that Gigondas is a wine to drink early. My favorite Font-Sane was the 1997 (not a great vintage) consumed a year or two after release. Once the wine goes into its awkward stage, it's hard to know when it's going to come out of its shell. For this wine, the time is right now.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mendocino Vineyards Mendocino County Chardonnay, 2009

When you buy a wine at closeout, you expect to maybe catch some moments of fading glory. With this 2009
Chardonnay (regularly priced $12.99, sale priced $5.99), I've seen many changes over the past several months, but they've all been positive. Initially, I thought the wine was a bit oaky, and it was aged in some new French oak. But whatever oak there was initially has been integrated nicely into the wine, and it's now showing a good range of the Chardonnay fruit salad traits--apple, lime, melon and canned pears. At the price, I bought several; wish I had bought more.