Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel, 2006

Old Hill has some of the oldest vines in North America, and, despite the Zinfandel name, this wine is a field blend that includes Grenache, Alicante Bouche, Mourvedre, Syrah, Carignane and some grapes that are yet to be identified. My kind of wine.

Inky black. There is plenty of oak here, and the oak traits come out in the smells and flavors as well. It's not forbidding nor overdone, though. Pretty floral and berry scents. It has opened up quite a bit since I first tried it last November. Same openness on the palate. Drinking well right now. Beautiful ripe berry Zin. Lots of depth and strength. The alcohol is very high--15.3%--but the fruit is prominent enough to handle it.

Old Hill vineyard carries some prestige, but I got this wine at a bargain price as well, presumably because of the mistaken perception that Zinfandel, especially high alcohol Zin, does not age well.

Greenwood Ridge Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 1999

The more I try Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs, the more enamored I become--especially those with a little bottle age. I bought this at auction for a fraction of its retail price, presumably because other buyers were not sure a California Pinot would keep this long. I took a chance and am glad I did.

Medium light ruby, with some shading to brown along the edges. On the first pour, I suspected it might be just a bit over the hill. But no. Initially, the smells were very pretty and very much in line with other Pinots from Anderson Valley I have tried: cherries, cranberries, spice and earth. Not too ripe. Over time, the bouquet just keeps getting better and more complex. On the palate, there is more of the same. Pleasing tartness of wild berries. Spice without sweetness. Just keeps getting better. Clinging finish. Fifteen years is not too much to expect from a Greenwood Ridge Pinot Noir. Wish I had more.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2004

Jean-Luc Colombo: this is how Cotes du Rhone should taste.

Deep ruby, bright and lively. Crushed berries and mint. This Villages is more complex and complete than Sainte-Anne's Cotes du Rhone from the same vintage, but it is styled the same--very fruity but with serious mid-palate concentration and intensity. Berries, berries, berries. Very pretty. Ripe finish that will only get better.

Louis Latour Puligny Montrachet, 1992

From a 375 ml bottle, I should have opened this four or five years ago. But there is still plenty to like.

Deep old gold. Stale smells but also cherries and red fruits. Deep, concentrated fruit. Even better on palate--dried cherries, long and concentrated. Oxidized, yes but doesn't have the hard edges that many oxidized whites develop.

Jean-Luc Colombo Les Abeilles Cotes du Rhone, 2010

Everything about this wine looked perfect. 2010 is a very good Cotes du Rhone vintage; Jean-Luc Colombo is a respected producer of Cornas from the Northern Rhone; the blend was approximately equal parts of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre; and the price was right--$8.99 with the chance to bring that down 20% on a six-pack wine sale day at D&W Market. I was ready to jump for 6 or even 12 bottles, but I wanted to taste it first. And I'm glad I did.

The color is deep and dark. Plenty of Syrah and Mourvedre. Good cherry-tinged fruit that is reasonably accessible but seems muted for a Cotes du Rhone. Where is the spice? Where the black pepper? Seems like an international style wine. Generic red, probably some new oak or small barrels. Good wine if you like that type of thing, but it's not for me.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cameron Hughes Lot 324 Atlas Peak (Napa Valley) Chardonnay, 2010

Cameron Hughes is a California-based negotiant who buys wine from producers who would rather sell their wine to a negotiant than have the public know that their high-priced wine has not been sold. There is no way of knowing who produced this Chardonnay, but there are no $10 to $12 producers on Atlas Peak. One smell and one taste will tell you that Lot 324 (purchased at World Market for $10.99) is high class stuff.

Medium deep yellow. Lime, apple, flowers--intense but with a classy  sense of proportion. Strong fruit shows through the oaky qualities. Creamy on the mid-palate and finish. Long and lovely.

Londer Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2008

Tasted alongside the Yorkville red below, this Anderson Valley Pinot shows a remarkably different profile. Although the acid structure is similar, the Pinot mouthfeel is plush and lovely with no hard edges.

As I've mentioned before, Londer's 2008 was tainted by the smoke of forest fires that swept the region during the growing season. Unsatisfied with the quality, Londer sold this wine off at deep discount. I bought a case for about $50, and this is my next to last bottle. I have noted the smoke quality (sort of like smoked salmon) becoming increasingly dominant as the wine ages, but this bottle seemed like a throwback to the early bottles and was very nice. Maybe there is simply bottle variation.

Deep ruby. The smoke certainly didn't affect the color. In this bottle, it serves as a nice complement to the wild berry acidity. Plush and warm. No hard edges. This is really a very fine Pinot with one unfortunate flaw.

Londer has since gone out of business. The retired ophthalmologist and his wife have decided they would rather spend time with their grandkids than learn a completely new (and extremely complex) occupation. All of their wines--even those from non-smokey years--are probably floating around in the market at fairly good discounts. I've been looking.

Yorkville Cellars Rennie Vineyard Hi-Rollr Red, 2010

Located at the Southern end of the Anderson Valley, Yorkville Cellars is entitled to the Yorkville Highlands rather than Anderson Valley appellation. And unlike other wineries in the Valley, who now lean heavily toward Pinot reds and Alsatian whites, Yorkville uses only Bordeaux varietal grapes. This Hi-Rollr Red, intended for every day drinking, is comprised of 44% Malbec, 35% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot.

It is a delightful dinner wine, bright and fresh. Malbec dark cherry, Merlot red cherry and the red raspberry structure of a Loire Cab Franc. Not to mention the floral lilt of Petit Verdot. Earth, herbs and berries. Fills the mouth with racy flavors. This is really not very Claret like at all but very enjoyable.,

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Boroli Nebbiolo d'Alba, 2004

Tasted alongside the 1993 Musso Barbaresco Pora, this wine showed another face of Nebbiolo. The color is several shades darker, although there are some orange tones around the edges. The bouquet is much slower to open. Dark and bold, more like Barolo than Barbaresco. Dark cherries, licorice, roses. Has that clinging concentration on the palate that leads many tasters to note that the wine is "very dry." British critics often talk about "fruit drying up on the palate," but I believe that this dryness is not because of any weakness in the fruit but rather because of strong tannins combined with the high acidity of Piedmont Nebbiolo. On the second night, the fruit concentration became even more apparent. Wish I had another bottle or two.

Musso Barbaresco Pora, 1993

1993 was not a good vintage in the Piedmont area of  Italy, and 21 years may be a bit much to expect from a Barbaresco, even from a top vineyard and a good producer. But it was available for $15 at auction, and I thought it was worth the chance.

The color is a very murky amber with lots of free floating sediment. I suspect the wine has not had perfect storage. The smells and flavors of mature Nebbiolo are intense and clearly defined, though. Cherries, dried flowers. Good acidity and concentration on the palate and a long finish. Not a great wine, but the experience is worth at least $15.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Casa Castillo Jumilla Monastrell, 2012

The Jumilla area of Spain is apparently a good place for producing Monastrell wines. My policy is to try every one I see on the shelves, and I've yet to be disappointed. When this one appeared at D&W Market in Kalamazoo, I didn't have to hesitate because I had already tried a glass several years ago at a restaurant in Santa Fe. It is priced at $11.99, a step above some other excellent Spanish Monastrells (like Tarima and Castana) but still outrageously inexpensive for the quality of wine in the glass.

Deep purplish. Still young and a bit tannic on the mid-palate, but the lovely violet-tinged Mourvedre is hard to hide and very likeable. Ripe blueberries, spice, flowers. Velvety mouthfeel.

Buena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir, 2007

On my first sip of this Carneros Pinot Noir, I noted a somewhat tart cranberry/cherry quality. It reminded me of other North Coast Pinots, and I liked it. But I wondered how others at the table might react.

No worries: the wine was friendly enough to please those who were not paying close attention and to entrance those who were. As the meal progressed, the wine became more expansive. And when the delicious pork was gone, the wine was ready to take over and lead the show. Those slightly tart cranberry/cherry flavors became slightly sweet cranberry/cherry with tones of spice and flowers.. Not too sweet. Not too spicy. Just right.

Boskydel Leelanau (Michigan) Vignoles, 2009

Bernie Rink, a former librarian, was one of the first winegrowers on the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan, and his Boskydel dry Vignoles is one of my long-time favorites from the area. It is unpretentious and not a wine designed to make the casual drinkers at the table say, "Wow! What is this?" It's rather a wine to sip and appreciate for its nuances and the way it makes the meal even better. We had it tonight with spinach pie and Greek potatoes, and it was a perfect match.

Medium gold. Lemon and pineapple. Plays nicely off the lemon and herbs in the Greek potatoes. Robust mouth feel without any oak intricacies to distract attention away from the fruit of the vine. Boskydel has been winegrowing since the early 1980s, and the Vignoles vines must have some age on them by now. I think there are more nuances to come for this wine over the next several years.

Boskydel wines are not aggressively marketed or distributed. The best way to taste and buy them is to visit the tasting room near Lake Leelanau. If you want a single bottle, it will cost you $8 to $9. But for around $70, you can pack a whole case in your trunk. This is what wine tasting and buying was all about several decades ago, and you can still have the experience at Boskydel.