Saturday, August 31, 2013

Reserve Perrin Cotes du Rhone, 2009

Whatever the appellation, whatever the price point, you can always depend on getting a high quality wine from the Perrin Brothers of Chateau Beaucastel and Le Vieille Ferme. I paid $9.99 at World Market for this very good Cotes du Rhone.

Beautiful deep ruby color. Very fragrant--Southern Rhones spices and herbs galore. Dark cherries more than berries with Mourvedre violets. High-toned acidity right now but this should fade in six months or so. Long, distinguished finish.

Domaine la Monardiere Les Calades Vacqueyras, 2007

This is the least expensive of three cuvees of Vacqueyras produced at Domaine la Monardiere. That's the reason I buy it, and it's always a very good wine for around $20 a bottle. The estate recommends that it be consumed after 3 to 5 years (compared to 4 to 6 for Les 2 Monardes and 8 to 10 for La Vieille Vignes) because that is when the spicy fruit should be showing best.

Very deep and dark./ Ripe, spicy fruit is at the forefront, as it should be. Black plums and berries, coffee and cassis (as opposed to the black licorice that I usually get from Vacqueyras minerals). Plummy sweet fruit tannins on the mid-palate, smooth and approachable. This wine is at a perfect stage for drinking; I have often waited a bit too long with past vintages. The 2007 is a tad ripe for my taste, and leans slightly toward an international style (barriques?), but others at the table like it immensely.

Domaine la Monardiere, I understand, has been using organic farming methods for several years and can take full credit starting with the 2010 vintage. All grapes here are picked by hand.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Costa di Bussia Barbera d'Alba, 2010

I usually think of Barbera as a Pinot Noir type wine--more finesse than power. This Costa di Bussia Barbera d'Alba has both, although I think it's a few years away from showing its best.

Very deep ruby. Even the aromas seem velvety--dark cherries and dark spices. Also some flowers. Very rich and smooth on the palate. Very cherry, deep and intriguing, but flavors not well defined at this point. Tannins are ripe and soft but very apparent. I can sense a lot of flavors just waiting to be uncovered. 

This is a wine that I'd like to follow over the next several years.

Londer Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2008

The forest fires that threatened northern California in 2008 are now threatening the longevity of this Londer Pinot Noir. The smokiness that permeated the grape skins in that vintage have been apparent from the beginning but they seem increasingly more prominent as the wine ages. That was what the winemaker suspected when he sold off the vintage at a steep discount.

Smoke is about all I can smell tonight, but I get delicate Pinot fruit on the palate. Cranberries, pie spices and a hint of pepper. And, of course, some smoke on the finish. I still have a few more bottles I need to drink soon.

NV Scharffenberger Cellars Anderson Valley Brut Excellence

Scharffenberger Cellars established itself as a sparkling wine producer in the Anderson Valley in 1981--several years before Roederer, a top Champagne producer, explored the West Coast and chose a site right next door for its U.S. operations. In order to expand its vineyards, Roederer recently purchased Scharffenberger, but the wine has maintained its distinctive style and is an excellent representative of California sparkling wine.

Very small and very persistent bubbles--a good sign. Apple and citrus, very fresh and refreshing. Dances lightly on the palate but has a creamy texture and some yeasty, bread dough traits. Good flavor depth and a long finish. We tasted this alongside the very good L. Mawby Talismon Brut, but the Scharffenberger was clearly superior for my taste.

I found the Scharffenberger for $16 at World Market, a great value for a sparkler of this quality.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Domaine Rabasse Charavin Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne, 2004

I was lucky enough to acquire nearly a case of this beautiful Cairanne for a song at a auction. It is fully mature and at a beautiful stage for drinking.

Good deep ruby color. Red berries, cherries, lavender and garrigue--eveything you expect from a fine Cairanne. There is a bit of crinkly maturity showing in the bouquet, but, at least for me, it is very pleasant. This wine has always had more tartness or dryness than I expect from Cairanne, that, too, is a positive quality. The grapes clearly did not have the same level of ripeness that most 2003 and 2007 Rhones exhibited. But they also show more precise and focused fruit definition.

Corinne Couturier's Rabasse Charavin Cairanne has earned a place alongside Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin in my personal Cairanne Hall of Fame.

As Sortes Val de Bibei Valdeorras Godello, 2007

I had an almost sexual attraction for this wine when I first saw it on the shelves of D&W FreshMarkets. It is in a big heavy Burgundian bottle with a classy label. It is imported by Eric Solomon (always a good sign). And it is Godello, after all, a Spanish white that I have become quite fond of. But it was priced at $25 a bottle, and I admired it from afar until one day, as if by magic, the price was lowered to $14. I jumped at the opportunity and bought a few bottles.

The first bottle, which I had on July 12 of last year, was quite good, albeit with lots of lime and vanilla suggesting extravagant new oak treatment. I was dubious about the oak but still assumed it would age well and waited a year before opening the next bottle. Big mistake.

The color tonight is a very deep gold, closer to a well aged Sauternes than a bottle of fine white Burgundy. There are some pleasant floral scents at first but they are followed by stale, oxidized notes. Same on the palate. This wine is not undrinkable, but at age six, it has clearly seen its better days. Very disappointing.

I now remember reading an article in the New York Times about a big tasting of Godellos. The As Sortes was the most expensive of the bunch, and it got the lowest rating. Too much oak and too much winemaking manipulation was the assessment. And I agree. Like a beach bunny tan, excessive treatment with new oak can make a young wine appear very sexy. And it can also make this wine age prematurely. Big and buttery? No thanks.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chateau Pesquie Terrasses Ventoux, 2008

At $12 to $15, the Pesquie Terrasses Ventoux is  a good value, even though it costs significantly more than other equally good wines from this appellation such as La Vieille Ferme, Altitude 500, Font-Sane and Les 3 Messes Basses. Ventoux is one of the best appellations in France for quality/price ratio so I usually buy some bottles from all of these estates. While the Pesquie does not offer a premium in terms of quality, it has a unique personality and style. The 2008 was a bit cheaper than usual, probably because the vintage was less hyped than 2007, 2009 and 2010.  But I have always found the 2008 Pesquie Terrasses to be very good.

Still a deep ruby. Black pepper is very prominent on the nose at this stage, and I like it. Pepper, spice, red berries and garrigue. The wine has taken some interesting turns and is more enjoyable than ever. More Syrah than Grenache traits at this stage; reminds me of Delas Saint Esprit Cotes du Rhone. Matches up well with garlicy, spicy Lebanese food.

Epicuro Salice Salentino, 2006

The blend of 80% Negroamara and 20% Malvasia Nera is typical of wines from Salice Salentino, an Italian wine appellation in the boot heel of Apulia. And it delivers the goods quite nicely.

Dark ruby color. Italianate nose of ripe fruit, peels and flowers. Very smooth and rich on the palate. Sweetness of ripe cherries and plums countered by the bitter qualities of black licorice. Leathery, spicy. Long finish. Gets better over the course of half an hour or so at the table. Should improve for at least two or three years.

My experiences with Salice Salentino have always been positive. These wines are always inexpensive--about $10 to $12 a bottle--but this Epicuro bottling was only $5.99 at Trader Joe's--a true steal. After trying the wine, I put a few bottles of the 2006 away to see how it would age. Now, I wish I had put more away. I can't speak for the more recent vintages that are likely on Trader Joe's shelves today, I have always had good luck with Epicuro wines and will be a buyer of both the Salice and the Aglianico whenever I make it to a TJ outlet in the future.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Chateau La Tour de Beraud Costieres de Nimes, 2010

Costieres de Nimes is south of the Cotes du Rhone per se, in the area near Arles on the Mediterranean coast. The blend is Southern Rhone-like (Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre) but with one difference--the addition of Marsalan, a cross blend of Cabernet and Grenache. I have no experience with Marsalan, and that's why I bought this wine.

Deep color. Pretty aromas of pepper, spice, fruit and flowers. Almost too floral and too pretty for my taste. Right now the Marsalan is Gamay-like, and that doesn't mesh with my Southern Rhone expectations. I suspect the wine simply needs more time in the bottle. On the second night, it seems to gain weight and depth. A unique style that is worth re-visiting.

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone, 2001

This has to be my favorite vintage of Domaine Sainte-Anne. Deep and dark with lovely scents of berries and peppery spice. Some floral notes. More pepper and less ripeness than the 1998 or 2000. More fully developed than the 2004 or 2005. Plenty of skin tannins but ripe and accessible. This is worthy of at least CDR Villages status and probably better than most Gigondas.

Pierre Bise Anjou Blanc, 2001

I bought several cases of this wine for about $5 a bottle for my daughter's wedding in 2005. It was the best white wine I could find for $10 a bottle or less. But that was eight years ago, and I had mixed feelings when I found three more bottles while I was doing an inventory of the cellar. Tonight, I popped the cork and WOW! Wish I had more.

A dark gold color reveals its age, and in other respects the wine is unabashedly mature. Mature but not old, and I don't know if this wine will ever taste old. Powerful bouquet--apricots, honey, nutmeg. Any notes of oxidation you can find here are all part of the winemaker's grand plan in order to bring out the complexities of the Chenin Blanc grape. It's not just a pretty face. Full bodied and deep on the palate. Lots of tannin for a white wine--all from the skins. Long, rich finish. Reminds me of the 1969 Coteaux du Layon I had a few weeks ago but dry rather than sweet. I think there is some botrytis here. The simple Anjou Blanc is at least as good as most Savennieres I've had.

Domaine du Vieux Chene Vin de Pays Vaucluse Cuvee de la Dame Vieille, 2010

Vin de Pays Vaucluse is a modest appellation but one that I have always found to be very good. And Beatrice and Jean Claude Bouche at Vieux Chene,, located on the road between Gigondas and Chateauneuf du Pape, produce several of my favorites. I like the 100% Grenache, I like the 100% Syrah and I'm even more fond of this cuvee which is 50% Syrah/50% Grenache.

Good deep color; Syrah showing. Berries galore, spice and pepper; that's the Grenache. Smells inviting, and the flavors offer up the same pleasures. Grenache takes the tannic edge off of the Syrah. Very friendly on the palate but with plenty of ripe skin tannins and room to grow for three or four years.