Friday, December 27, 2013

Clos Baudoin Vouvray Re-Visited

What a difference a day makes. Re-corked for 24 hours, this wine has lost its stinky sulfur smells. Since it is demi-sec rather than moelleux, as I previously believed, it goes much better with spicy Asian fusion dishes from Chin Chin restaurant in Mattawan, Michigan.

Rich minerally bouquet. Honey and flowers. Plenty of botrytis. Very smooth on the palate, clings and teases. I started drinking this just as I finished my meal, Indonesian beef curry spices still on my tongue. The wine cuts through them beautifully and adds another dimension. It's hard to stop sniffing and sipping. Forget my negative comments of yesterday. This Vouvray merely needed patience and the right context. Best just after a meal but before dessert.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Prince Poniatowski Clos Baudoin Vouvray, 1982

My biggest mistake was thinking this would be a dessert wine. Many of Prince Poniatowski's Vouvrays are Moelleux--rich and sweet enough to serve at the end of the meal. The Prince, however, does not put labels such as sec, demi-sec and moelleux on his wines, choosing instead to make a wine that's suitable for the vintage. And the rains in 1982, I discovered, made it difficult to produce sweet wines that year, although the vintage was otherwise very good. Okay, tomorrow night, maybe I will serve it with the main course, although the wine is too idiosyncratic to match up with any dish I can imagine.

The color is a deep gold, and there are some stinky sulfur dioxide odors at first. With time, though, some intriguing Chenin Blanc smells and flavors emerge--quite a bit of botrytis honey, plus flowers and lemon. The lemon is very dominant, and the wine is actually tart. The term "nervy" is often applied to Clos Baudoin Vouvrays, and I can see why. Clos Baudoin is reputed to be one of the top vineyards in Vouvray, but this wine is not nearly as interesting as the 1982 Savennieres of Domaine Baumard I had a few years ago. Both are 100 percent Chenin Blanc; maybe I just prefer Savennieres to Vouvray.

Prince, by the way, is a legitimate moniker; Poniatowski's great-great uncle was the last king of Poland

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Le Sang de Caillou Vacqueyras, 1998

No Chateauneuf du Pape this year for Christmas dinner, but the 1998 Le Sang de Caillou Vacqueyras is a worthy stand-in. Compared to the Italian Nebbiolos on the table beside it, it has a somewhat rustic, earthy demeanor that is typical of its appellation.

Dark crimson. Cherries, berries, and spice with a touch of black pepper. Creamy smooth and somewhat fat on the palate, but that's in comparison to the Piedmont wines on the table. This is really a pretty spectacular wine and a perfect match for the New Zealand leg of lamb. Flavors get deeper and more enjoyable with every sip. It's really hard to quit sniffing and sipping.

This is probably the best Vacqueyras I've had and it competes favorably with many Chateauneufs du Pape.

Damilano Nebbiolo d'Alba, 2008

Some at the Christmas dinner table preferred this wine to the 1999 Barbaresco (below). And it has much to recommend it. It is a bigger, cleaner wine with more forceful flavors. For my taste, I would like to come back to this Nebbiolo in four or five years when the blossoms start to open.

Deep color and deep aromas and flavors. Dark cherries, flowers and maybe some cassis. This wine, too, improves after being open for a couple of hours. Fuller bodied than the Barbaresco and flavors that are well defined and intense. Damilano also produces a couple of Barolos and a Barbera. Like this wine, they offer an excellent price/quality ratio.

i tre merli Gigi Rosso Barbaresco, 1999

This 1999 Barbaresco was the highlight of my Christmas dinner, although it had tough competition from a 1998 Le Sang de Caillou Vacqueyras and a 2008 Damilano Nebbiolo d'Alba (see above). The Vacqueyras was probably the best match for roast lamb, but I don't believe there is ever a bad time to open and enjoy a Nebbiolo from the Piedmont area of Italy.

The color has tints of orange or amber, but that is common with Nebbiolo, even in middle stages of maturity. At first, the nose is a bit ordinary--some old wood and dark fruit smells, somewhat muted. After a couple of hours, though, it begins to unfold. Light body but loads of flavor. Just let the wine glide down your tongue and the flavors start to dance. Very long faceted finish. Has many of the qualities that I like in a good Pinot Noir--deep, deep fruit that peeks out from behind a wall of ripe tannins and lively acid.

I tre merli was the name of a now defunct Italian restaurant in New York City, and this Barbaresco was apparently offered by the establishment as a wine by the glass. Because the wine is not very well known and 14 years old, auction buyers avoided it and I picked up three bottles for $10 apiece--only a fraction of the former wine-by-the-glass price. I lucked out.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Rabasse Charavin Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne, 2004

I bought this wine at auction for a very good price ($10) two years ago, presumably because other buyers were wary of a seven-year-old Cotes du Rhone Villages. But even at nine years of age, the wine is actually just now beginning to show a beautiful maturity.

Color has turned a bit--from deep crimson to garnet. Some leathery, earthy tones but also dark cherries and black pepper. Acidic grip in the mid-palate that shades into compact peppery Grenache fruit. Reminds me a bit of Bois de Boursan Chateauneuf du Pape. More bottles, more pleasure to come.

Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila Haut, Cotes du Roussillon Villages, 2011

This wine is a Southern Rhone blend, but I sense a relatively high percentage of Syrah and Mourvedre rather than Grenache.

Color, smells and flavors are all dark. Dark cherries, blue plums, cassis, black pepper. Smells more tannic than it tastes. Very smooth texture and ripe flavors. My first impression pegged it as a pleasurable, though somewhat one-dimensional wine, for early drink. On the second and third nights, though, some extra dimensions started to appear. It's a well made wine worth following.

Louis Latour Domaine de Valmoissine Pinot Noir, 2004

My son, who has a good sense of smell and taste, has declared this relatively inexpensive Louis Latour Pinot Noir as one of his favorite wines. When he was home for a few days, I opened a bottle of the mature 2004 for him, and he was delighted. So was I.

The color, as usual for Valmoissine, is very light--almost transparent around the rim. Ordinarily, I would not consider this a good sign, but the bouquet of the wine made it clear that there is nothing at all lacking. Pinot earth at first, then a burst of wild berries and just the right amount of Pinot spice. Ethereal and lovely. The palate feel is similarly delicate but, again, bursting with complex flavors of ripe red berries. Hints of black pepper on the silky finish. If I were scoring, I would give this wine 93 points. My son thinks it should be higher.

Paul Jaboulet Domaine de Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage, 1994

This wine did not smell corked or over the hill, but it's much more muted than should be expected from a Domaine Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage. Smoke, dark fruit and spice emerge with time but without the intensity that I have found in other bottles, even from the same vintage. And there is no other sign of excessive age. Smooth mouth feel and ripe fruit flavors on the finish, but the nose is not quite right. I'll open another bottle soon.

Umamu Margaret River Shiraz, 2005

This wine is not at all typical of Australian Shiraz. In fact, it reminds me of a Monterey County (California) Pinot Noir.

Spicy, lavender, floral notes; now some dark chocolate. Black fruits and cassis but mostly cinnamon, cloves and baking spices. Very different from the spiciness of the CDR Villages (below). Not much oak and not very tannic, but the wine has complexity and staying power. Consumed over three nights, the wine offered a little bit more each night.

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages Notre Dame des Cellettes, 2000

Domaine Sainte-Anne is an old favorite of mine, and this 2000 Notre Dame is showing particularly well right now.

Bright, deep crimson--high quality Grenache, just beginning to show shades of maturity. Intense red berry spiciness--a whole different spice cabinet compared to the Margaret River Shiraz (above). Cranberry, red raspberry, lavender. Very ripe but also fine, lively fruit acids. Very grippy on the palate; concentrated flavors. Warm, satisfying finish.