Saturday, October 19, 2013

Good Harbor Vineyards, Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan

The wines from Leelanau and nearby Old Mission Peninsula are now beginning to get the recognition they deserve. Not merely wines made in Michigan, they have a distinct personality deriving from the soil and the relatively cool micro-climate of the area. New wineries are being established every year, but it's the old vineyards that produce the special wines. Good Harbor, just south of Leland, was established more than 30 years ago and has always been one of my favorites.

Good Harbor Tribute Chardonnay, 2008: I've tasted this several times at the winery and am impressed  by the positive changes that seem to take place with each passing year. It was made as a tribute to Bruce Simpson, founder of Good Harbor and winemaker until his untimely death in 2008. It was fermented in stainless steel to preserve the freshness of the fruit, then aged for a year in French oak for complexity. The oak has integrated nicely. Scents and flavors of apple and lime. Light and refreshing with a long, tingly finish. I've had several bottles of the regular 2008, and it too is still going strong albeit with a personality less influenced by oak.

Good Harbor Chardonnay, 2012: Memories of the regular 2008 Chardonnay come back to me as I taste this wine. Apples and Meyer lemon, good mouth feel. This Chardonnay is aged in three-year-old barrels that impart little or no oak traits.

Good Harbor Pinot Gris, 2012: This wine was also aged in used oak barrels but spent some time on its spent yeast cells and, as a result, presents a fuller body and a more oak-influenced presence than the Pinot Grigio below. I like it.

Good Harbor Pinot Grigio, 2012: Same fruit, same vineyard, different style. The grapes were harvested earlier, and the wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel. The heat of the 2012 growing season is apparent in the extravagant pear and citrus fruit smells and flavors. Very fresh and zesty. Hard to resist right now.

San Silvestro Ottone I Piemonte DOC Barbera, 2011

This Barbera was consumed at home with carry out pizza, and it was neither so simple that it went unnoticed nor so complex that it showed up the pizza. San Silvestro Barbera is readily available for about $8--one of the best values on the market today.

It has that medium deep ruby color that is typical of Barbera. Cherries rather than raspberries here. Cherries with a twist of black licorice and some flowers. Beautiful smells and flavors that remind me of the best of Piedmont. Bright, fresh and ready to drink, but I suspect there is more to come.

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti, 2010

I've become a fan of Barbera, primarily because it's so versatile with food. Like Pinot Noir and Grenache-based wines that I love, it goes with just about anything and is particularly well suited for the vegetable-intensive meals that we usually have at home or on the road.

I ordered a small carafe of this Michele Chiarlo Barbera to go with Bolognese pasta at the excellent Cafe Sante in Boyne City, Michigan. Even though the wine was named (46th) one the Wine Spectator's list of Best Wines of the Year for 2012, it is still relatively inexpensive, selling at retail for $12 to $14. And it is beautiful. Crushed red raspberries with floral and mineral undertones. Very fruit-forward for drinking right now, but I have no doubt that it will become even better with a few years in the bottle. Clean, well defined flavors and a long finish.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chateau Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone, 2011

I've read good things about Saint Cosme wines; I know the Gigondas is particularly well regarded among Robert Parker disciples. But I was disappointed by this Cotes du Rhone.

Southern Rhone aromas are there--ripe berries and spice--but not as intense as I expect from a Cotes du Rhone. Where's the pepper? Also some sweet toffee scents that tell me this wine has seen some new oak and aspires to an international style. Smooth and pleasant on the palate but overly ripe and fat for my taste. Very little acid structure.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Nerelo del Bastardo, NV

Nerello del Bastardo is one of my all-time favorite wines from Trader Joe's. Bottles from 1999, 2000 and 2002 were, I am sure, mostly Nebbiolo, probably blended with Sangiovese. I still have some bottles of those vintages, and they are drinking well. This Nerelo (one l rather than two l's and no vintage date but same label and packaging) is likely not Nebbiolo and probably from vines in Southern rather than Northern Italy. But it is still a very enjoyable wine and good value at $8.99 from either Trader Joe's or World Market.

Deep ruby. Cherries and licorice but more restrained and one dimensional than in earlier vintages. Also lacks the floral scents. The wine has good concentration, though, for a wine at this price point. Rich mid-palate fruit and oak. Spicy cherry notes on the finish.

Umamu Margaret River Shiraz, 2005

This is a pleasant, fruity wine but it doesn't fit my image of either Shiraz or the Margaret River appellation of Western Australia.

Medium deep. cloves, cinnamon, dark cherries. Reminds me of a Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara or Monterey County of California. Where is the Shiraz?

Louis Jadot Macon-Villages Chardonnay, 2011

Zesty apple and citrus notes with some intriguing mineral and floral scents and flavors. Very clean and crisp.

The label states that this is 100% unoaked Chardonnay, but it's not sweet tasting at all, as some new world unoaked Chardonnays seem. An opportunity to savor all the great smells and flavors of Chardonnay.

A. Clape Cornas, 1983

The last bottle of this I opened two years ago was corked, but this bottle is a fine example of the old vine fruit and traditional winemaking of the highly regarded Auguste Clape.

Dark, some amber at rim and a great deal of crust on one side of the bottle. It has been well stored (by me) for nearly three decades. Clean Northern Rhone Syrah scents: cherries, berries, anise, lavender and minerals. Probably more minerals than anything else. Tannins have faded for easy drinking. Savory, red meat, sea salt. Very smooth and very long.

For my son's 30th birthday, I chose this 1983 Clape Cornas over the 1983 Domaine Thalabert Crozes Hermitage of Paul Jaboulet. It worked well but, based on previous tastings, I suspect the Thalabert might have been even better. While the Cornas was impressive, at this age it does not have the complexity that I have come to expect from older Thalaberts, particularly the very fine 1983.

Castillo de Monseran Carinena Garnacha, 2010

I've had some bottle variation with this inexpensive Garnacha, and this bottle does not measure up to my memory of my last bottle. It is, nevertheless, very enjoyable.

The color is deep and dark. It has spent several months in new American oak, but I find very little sign of the oak or international style in the aromas and flavors. Strawberries and cherries baked on the crust of a pie and flowing over onto the pan. Very ripe--moreso than I remember from previous bottles. Also very ripe flavors. Ripe berries crushed into black pepper. This wine was a real hit at the table, particularly when I revealed the price: $6.99 to $8.99.

Domaine du Val des Rois Signature Cotes du Rhone Villages Valreas, 2004

A blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah, this Valreas is a perfect example of the traditional Southern Rhone wine that I love.

It's fully mature right now with mellow scents of cherries, pepper and spice. Has developed into a special wine. Savory maturity on the palate. Cherries, not too ripe, and peppery complexity. The power comes from beautiful old vine fruit.