Saturday, June 29, 2013

Domaine de Font-Sane Gigondas, 1998

After years of frustration with this wine, a bottle I opened in early May finally produced the enjoyment I expected when I bought a case more than a decade ago. I vowed not to wait too long for the next bottle, as I often do. And I was rewarded once again.

Muted crimson tones. Mature scents of berries, flowers, garrigue. The power has been tamed a bit, but the beauty of Gigondas is now shining. Lifted smells of violets--maturing Mourvedre. Some dryness on mid-palate but good range of ripe fruit flavors on the finish. Not a great Gigondas but very good.

Delas Saint Esprit Cotes du Rhone, 2007

The last bottle of this I opened had flavors that danced on the tongue; this bottle, not so much. That's a problem I have with wine; when I catch one in its shining moment, I cling to the few that I have, hoping they'll get even better. Inevitably, I wait too long. This bottle is by no means bad; it's just not as exciting as it could have been had I opened it a few months earlier.

The color has lightened up a bit; looks mature. Syrah scents of blackberries and cassis. Some black pepper on the palate. All good, but a bit more muted than last bottle. Good fruit charm but I would call it mellow now rather intense. This was the 10th bottle of a case so all is not lost. I now know this wine's maturity curve.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sabrego Valdeorras Godello, 2010

This wine is all about minerality. The wine has a good fruit presence but I have a hard time identifying any particular fruit or type of fruit. What stands out in the wonderfully complex aroma/flavor profile are minerals, flowers, spices, tree nuts...and more minerals. Minerality is a popular word these days, and some wine writers say there is no such thing. Maybe I'm just referring  to something I like very much but cannot find a word to describe. So be it.

The color is a medium gold, and the wine has a viscosity similar to that of a big Chardonnay or an Alsace Pinot Gris. For 13.5% alcohol, it has considerable power and bite but without sacrificing any of its, yes, mineral charms. We really like this wine--enough to pay the original $14.99 asking price at World Market. When the price came down to $7.49 and then to $6.79, we liked it even more.

Incidentally, the Spanish word, Sabrego means "granite," and the vines are planted on granitic soil. The wine is produced as a joint venture by Bodega Rafael Palacios of Valdeorras and his American importer, Eric Solomon.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nerelo del Bastardo, 2006

This is a Trader Joe's wine I've been buying and  enjoying for several years now. With its gaudy red and black label and its low price tag (usually $5.99), it's a wine that often gets overlooked. And that's unfortunate because it's one of the best values available anywhere.

The label suggests that the grapes for this Italian wine come from declassified  Barolo and Barbaresco vineyards, where appellation rules are strict and excess grapes must go into table wine. My first taste of the 1999 Nerello del Bastardo years ago confirmed that this is indeed high quality Nebbiolo. I still have some of the 1999 as well as the 2000 and 2002, and they are aging nicely with all the varietal traits of Nebbiolo, perhaps blended with some Cabernet or Sangiovese. This 2006 is my least favorite Bastardo so far and the one that is less obviously Nebbiolo. The label has also changed: "Marchesi de Monte Cristo" (clearly a bogus estate) has been removed from the label, and "Nerello" is now spelled with only one "l." But the style of the label and the message on the back implying the use of Nebbiolo grapes indicate that this is the same wine.

Dark, purplish robe; could be mistaken for a Napa Cab as it is poured. Smells and flavors are similarly large scaled but very tannic at this stage. So tannic that the Nebbiolo heritage is not so obvious as in other vintages. Dark cherries and maybe some roses. The blend may have changed, incorporating more Sangiovese (although the back label still suggests excess Barolo grapes). The 2006 has undoubtedly been exposed to considerable new oak, probably barriques. It's more impressive, perhaps, but not as immediately charming as past vintages. But with some time, I think it will start releasing its usual subtle charms.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Henry Fessy Crus du Beaujolais Brouilly, 2009

This is exactly the type of wine I like with a vegetable-oriented meal on a spring or summer evening. It's crunchy and fresh with an array of intense aromas and flavors.

Medium light in color and body. Very pretty smells--lavender, flowers, cranberries. Racy presence on palate; nothing sweet or fat about this wine. Intriguing flavors dance on the finish.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pietra Santa Cienega Valley Pinot Noir, 2009

This winery, located in the Cienega Valley of San Benito County, makes a range of wines from Italian varietals such as Sangiovese. This is the first Pietra Santa Pinot Noir I've run across.

Light garnet color. Also light in body, and it takes some time to recognize the intensity of the aromas and flavors. Lavender and spice. Now I smell some wild berries and cherries. French oak acidity and intensity but it really doesn't come across as an oaky wine. A good measure of complexity on the long finish. For me, it doesn't measure up to Pinots from Anderson Valley and the Sonoma Coast--lacks the depth of fruit and concentration. But I like it and, at the right price, would come back for more.

The property, I learn, is part of what was once Almaden Winery, a low price favorite in the 1980s. This wine is definitely several steps up from anything I ever had from Almaden.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape, 1993

With braised lamb shanks for a Father's Day dinner: very enjoyable. 1993 was not a great vintage, and this bottle is less powerful and spicy than the last bottle I had a couple of years ago. But there is still plenty of pleasure to be gained.

Medium deep crimson. Bouquet of dark cherries, cassis, iodine and spices. Compact fresh and dried fruit. True to its appellation. Savory and sweet with a slightly warm finish.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rabasse Charavin Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne, 2004

The bouquet of this wine is fully formed and delightful. Dark cherries, strawberry compote and nuances of black pepper and tobacco. Although Syrah is only 15% of the blend, the grape makes its presence felt with scents of juniper berries and herbs. Much of the same on the palate. This Cairanne has more tartness than most Southern Rhones, but that is a plus as far as I'm concerned. There is still plenty of Cairanne-style sweetness on the finish.

Corinne Couturier, who took over the estate from her father in 1985, fashions the wine from 70% Grenache (40- to 70-year-old vines), 15% Syrah (10 to 30 years), 10% Counoise (30 years) and 5% Cinsault (15 to 20 years). All of her wines are made traditionally--unfined, unfiltered and aged in concrete.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages Saint Gervais, 1999

This 1999 Saint Gervais from Domaine Sainte-Anne is about as mellow and table-worthy as a wine can get. But I suspect that it still has some room to grow. Compared to the other Saint-Anne cuvees, Saint Gervais has a high percentage of Mourvedre and a good track record for aging.

A deep crimson color. Clean, well focused smells of dark berries, violets and Mourvedre spice. Deep and dark with a long, ripe finish. Not terribly complex at this stage of development but very enjoyable.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Domaine du Vieux Chene, Vin de Pays Vaucluse Grenache, 2010

This is the perfect match for the MezzaCorona Pinot Grigio described below. It's fresh, lively and honest; doesn't pretend to be a show wine but is capable of grabbing your interest and holding it through a meal. Vieux Chene, one of my favorite Southern Rhone estates, makes a VDP Grenache, a VDP Syrah and a couple of blends (Cuvee Friande and Cuve de la Dame Vieille). I like them all. The choice depends on what you're eating.

Medium crimson color. Low key scents of spices, herbs, berries and black pepper that get gradually more assertive as the wine airs and warms. Has the sweet fruit of Grenache to liven up a vegetable-oriented meal but lots of intricacies to enjoy at the table after the meal is over. The price tag on this bottle, purchased at Sawall's Health Foods in Kalamazoo, reads $7.49.

MezzaCorono Vignetti delle Dolomiti Pinot Grigio, 2011

This is always one of my favorite Spring and Summer wines--fresh, light but never simple. The usual price is about $8.99, but I can nearly always find it at some time during the warm months for a couple of dollars less. For an estate bottled wine from cool climate vineyards--the oldest winegrowing area in Europe, it is a steal.

Very floral. There are lilacs outside our kitchen window, and the smell wafting in is a perfect match for the wine. Also fresh herbs on top of vibrant pear-like fruit. Nothing at all simple or ordinary about this wine. Pinot Grigio/Gris has many faces; this one is fresh and lively, and I always drink it during the first year.