Monday, September 30, 2013

Domaine Berthet Rayne Cuvee Vieilles Vignes Cotes du Rhone, 2007

This old vines cuvee Cotes du Rhone from Berthet Rayne has many of the qualities to be expected from a Villages wine. From the very good 2007 vintage, it is drinking very well right now.

Beautiful deep crimson color. Grenache spices, cherries and anise on the nose. Fruit comes across nicely on the palate. Slightly tannic, just enough to make the flavors interesting. Grenache cherry ripeness on the long finish. This may have seen some new oak, but the wine still preserves its Southern Rhone traditions.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cave de Lugny Macon-Lugny Les Charmes Chardonnay, 2010

I remember going to a wine tasting in the early 1980s--one of my first ever wine tastings--and being charmed by a Macon-Lugny Les Charmes. Tonight, many vintages later, I am equally charmed.

As the name suggests, Cave de Lugny is a cooperative that accounts for a large percentage of the total production of Maconnais wines. That is nothing to shy away from because I have found some of my favorite wines from French coops. And the price is always several dollars less than a comparable wine that is estate bottled. In this case, the wine comes from a single vineyard, Les Charmes, where the vines are old and planted with the Musk clone of Chardonnay, which undoubtedly accounts for the wonderfully complex aroma and flavor profile.

Pears, almonds, white flowers and minerals with a nice citrus edge. Flavors open up on the palate and just keep humming. A nice almond touch on the long finish. This is a wine I could drink before, during and after the meal.

For $10 to $12 at World Market, this is one of the best Chardonnay values around.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Jean Descombes Morgon, 1997

I used to worry about my Jean Descombes Morgons slipping over the hill. Now I worry about whether I've given them enough patience to allow full maturity.

Medium deep cherry red color. The bouquet is not showy, but it's there, clean and well focused. Cherries and red berries with a touch of licorice. Same on the palate: an undercurrent of strong fruit, well developed. Ripe but not overly so. Again, this is not a showy wine, but it has a classic beauty. Good balance of fruit and acidity. A long, lingering finish of ripe red cherry. Perfect with grilled salmon.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mount Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz, 1989

This cool climate Shiraz from the mountain slopes near Ararat in eastern Victoria (Australia) was a good companion to the St. Hugo Coonawarra Cab reported on below.

I remember this wine as being very peppery in its youth, but that quality has integrated into the overall personality of the wine. Coffee, oak, dark berries, lavender and spice. Very much like a Paul Jaboulet Hermitage from the 1980s, although with a bit more oak. Smooth on the palate, although not as much so as the St. Hugo Cab. Gets deeper and more complex through the meal. Savory flavors, deep and compact. Fruit well balanced against acidity. Good stuff that lingers. Very enjoyable.

Alcohol level is 12.5%; how times have changed!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Orlando St. Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, 1997

My wife gave me this St. Hugo Cabernet, along with some other bottles, for a Christmas present many years ago. Tonight, we're drinking it together for her 65th birthday and enjoying the perfect beauty of maturity. The gift that keeps on giving.

The bouquet is what I would consider, from my limited experience, classic Coonawarra Cabernet. Very forward scents of berries, currants, cherries and mint. Ripe fruit and oak up front and all the way back. Very smooth; beautiful texture. This wine is clearly from another era: 13.5% alcohol content. I find some slight green hints, closer to mint than bell pepper, though. Oak is a major part of the wine's personality, but the fruit is showing beautifully right now.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone, 2000: Comparing the Villages and the Notre Dame des Cellettes

All of the Domaine Sainte-Anne wines are Villages quality, even the simple Cotes du Rhone. All will age well for at least a decade. As you ascend the ladder, however, from CDR to Villages to Notre Dame des Cellettes, the vines get progressively older and the wines progressively more complex and interesting. This can be seen from my notes on two wines from the 2000 vintage, one opened last week and the other, last night.

Cotes du Rhone Villages Notre Dame des Cellettes, 2000: Medium ruby. Very berry--crushed raspberries and strawberries, ripe and lovely. Not much pepper, spice or dark elements. Very enticing on the mid-palate and very long finish. Gets better on the second night after being opened and re-corked with a VacuVin, but not as good on the third night.

Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2000: Medium ruby again but not as clear and bright as the Notre Dame. The berry quality in this wine is much more subdued and takes a back seat to Southern Rhone spices--lavender, cinnamon, nutmet. More austere but still ripe, fruity and slightly tonic.

Surprisingly, as you climb the ladder, the price differential is not that great: $10 for the CDR, $12 for the CDR Villages and $14 to $16 for the Notre Dame. The Saint Gervais (even older vines and a higher percentage of Mourvedre) is selling for about $18 to $20 these days and is definitely my favorite.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Rafael Palacios Sabrego Valdeorras Godello, 2010

If you're looking for an alternative to the old Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc axis, Godello from the Valdeorras region of Spain is a good choice. It offers the medium body of Chardonnay and the crisp edge of a good Sauvignon Blanc.

Medium gold color, bright and clear. Minerals galore with citrus, pears and a hint of flowers. Lush and full. Some almond notes. Medium bodied with racy acids and a long finish. Most Godellos on the market sell for about $15 but can compete favorably with French, Italian and California wines costing twice as much.

Domaine de la Bastide Cotes du Rhone Villages Visan, 2009

Domaine de la Bastide produces a simple Cotes du Rhone (fig label) that can be found in many shops for about $12. This Villages wine from Visan is a step or two up and ordinarily sells for $15.99 and up. When I saw some bottles on close-out sale for $5.99 at Harding's Market, I jumped with both feet.

Very deep and dark. Maybe some new oak? If so, it's nicely understated. Smells young too but with nice fruit and spice aromas. Dark cherries and red berries in a brandy sauce. Firm for a Southern Rhone and even a bit tannic on the finish, but it has a nice mouth feel. Although the wine is quite pleasant right now, I think it will drink well and improve for another four or five years.

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso, 2008

Most Sicilian wines you see on the market are inexpensive and unremarkable. Those from the volcanic soils and higher altitude around Mount Etna tend to be expensive. This Rosso from Tenuta delle Terre Nere, which can be found in a few shops for $12 to $16, provides an intriguing entry point.

The wine was sold to me as a red Burgundy look alike, and I think of fine Pinot Noir every time I try it. Beautiful ruby color, medium deep. Clear and brilliant. Yes, it smells like a fine red Burgundy--Nuits St. George?? Wild berries, Pinot spice, no hard edges. Lovely wild berry flavors. Delicate, not light, with a very long finish. I've had this wine for three years, and it's getting better. I'm not sure about long-term cellaring, though.

Cave St. Verny Le Pinot Noir, 2007

This is a wine that's easy to overlook. But it delivers a lot of what I expect from Pinot Noir at only $7.99 a bottle.

Medium light Pinot color. Cranberries, red raspberries,spice and pepper. Not the sweet pie spice you get from some California Pinot Noir. Lean but not austere. Ripe fruit and perky acid. Nothing showy but a wine to enjoy more and more through the course of a meal.

There may be some bottle  variation with this coop wine. I enjoyed this a lot more than the last bottle I opened a few months ago.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Peninsula Whole Cluster Riesling, 2012

On a recent tasting pilgrimage to Old Mission Peninsula in northern Michigan, this was my favorite wine, and I brought home a bottle to share with the family and make sure it was not just a passing fancy. And it was not. This Whole Cluster Riesling still ranks as one of my all-time Michigan favorites.

The label states that "we separately fermented three different Riesling lots from our Bailiwick Vineyard in order to articulate flavors ranging from crisp apple to ripe peach." That probably trumps anything I could say to describe the wine. Yes, crisp apple. Yes, ripe peach. Perfectly defined aromas and flavors. Ripe and peachy on the inside framed by crisp acidity. What I like most is the rich mid-palate presence.
When I was tasting a range of well made wines at this estate, this one clearly stood out at the moment and in my memory. I'll go back for more.