Saturday, August 30, 2014

Domaine de la Tourade Cotes du Rhone, 2011

Wine is all about the moment--the moment you choose to pop the cork. After more than 30 years of popping corks and drinking wine, I can't say that I pick the right moment less than half the time. Sometimes I pop the cork prematurely; too often, I wait too long. With this Tourade Cotes du Rhone, I can say confidently that I picked right moment.

Aromas are very forward and friendly but also powerful, as you might expect from a young Gigondas. Southern Rhone scents of ripe berries spiked with black peppercorns, spice and lavender. Very plush mouth feel--a bit firm in the middle but still forward and friendly without seeming simple. Plums, red and  blue berries and peppery spice. Just the right amount of ripeness and enough acidity to keep me coming back for more. Tourade is best known for its Gigondas, and I have had many pleasant sips of the 2008 Vacqueyras from this estate. This Cotes du Rhone has a different personality but is no less intriguing. Traditionally made Cotes du Rhone at its best.

Cave Saint Verny Cotes d'Auvergne Le Chardonnay, 2012

If you're looking for an alternative to the buttery, oaky New World Chardonnay, this wine is a good choice. A companion piece to Le Pinot Noir from Cave Saint Verny, this is a racy, unoaked wine that is inexpensive ($8 to $10) and a perfect match for pan fried whitefish.

Lemon is the dominant aroma and flavor, but I also find flowers, white peaches and green apples. Very bright and lively. I even get a hint of butter, but it is lemon butter. It's not a great wine but a good one that you're likely to come back to several times if you like bright, high acid Chardonnay, as I do.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Marchesi di Montecristo Nerello del Bastardo Vino da Tavola Rosso, 2002

The label is similar to that of the Nerelo (one "l") del Bastardo wine now available at Trader Joe's, but the wine is somewhat different. The label suggests that this is declassified Barolo or Barbaresco blended with a "mystery" wine--all for $6.99. Despite the pretentious Marchesi di Montecristo moniker, the wine is excellent--one of the best values I have had from Trader Joe's.

Good color, some garnet at the rim. Fragrant Nebbiolo scents of cherries and fresh flowers. Barolo-like dark tones on the palate. More like Barolo than Barbaresco. Good fruit/acid balance; dances on the tongue. Lovely warm berry flavors on the finish--like blueberry/raspberry pie fresh out of the oven. Fully mature and holding up well 12 years after the vintage. The 1999 was equally good the last time I tried it.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Nine Stones McLaren Vale Shiraz, 2005

Wine writer Len Evans is one of the producers of Nine Stones wines so you can expect a greater focus on appellation than is usual for Australian wines. I prefer the Nine Stones McLaren Vale over the Nine Stones Barossa. In most vintages, though, the Hilltops cuvee, from vineyards in New South Wales, may be the best of the lot.

Very deep and dark with bluish tints. Young and ripe with plenty of oak. Scents of blackberry and boysenberry; very fragrant. Palate is particularly rich and full on the mid-palate; berries, coffee and mocha chocolate. A very enjoyable wine, although eventually the oak-influenced traits become a bit over bearing. Maybe a few more years in the bottle would do it good?

Les Trois Couronnes Gigondas, 2007

In the Southern Rhone hierarchy, Gigondas ranks second, right behind Chateauneuf du Pape; as a result, $20 is usually considered a low price. I paid $11.99 for Les Trois Couronnes, primarily because it is a cooperative wine, a sibling of the low-priced Les Trois Couronnes Cotes du Rhone. This is my third try of the Gigondas, and I remain convinced that it is worthy of its appellation.

The color is deep and dark. Very peppery on the nose: pepper, spice, black fruits. Has the bold presence that is expected of a Gigondas. On the palate, it's chewy and tannic. With aeration, the black pepper becomes increasingly apparent on the palate, along with black fruits, lavender and spice. Tingles and lingers on the finish. Just the right amount of fruit and acid for the 14.5% alcohol. This would never be mistaken for Cayron (the very best Gigondas, in  my opinion), but it's a good Gigondas for the money.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Jean Descombes Morgon, 2005

When this wine first hit the shelves, it was gloriously fruity, a summer pudding of ripe berries. Seven or eight years later, fruit is still the dominant feature--strawberries and kirsch. It's still a nice wine but much less intense and bright. Some would write this off as a wine past its prime. Based on my experience with past vintages, I am confident there are greater pleasures to come. The 1995, 1998 and 2002 Jean Descombes I have had in the past year have developed subtle charms and tertiary complexities that may or may not be in store for this 2005. With several bottles left, I'm willing to take the chance.

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2000

All of the Sainte-Anne wines, even the straight Cotes du Rhone, meet the standards for Cotes du Rhone Villages. And they all are capable of 10-plus years of aging. Compared to the Cotes du Rhone, the CDR Villages comes from older vines with lower yields. The blend is very similar--about 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah.

At 14 years of age, this CDR Villages is surprisingly youthful. Medium deep ruby, bright and clear. Ripe berry smells and flavors with aromatic herbs and spices. Smooth and somewhat full on the mid-palate. Good balance of fruit and acidity and a pleasing after taste.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Domaine de Font-Sane Gigondas, 1998

A few years ago, this wine was so tight and stingy that it was difficult to drink. I thought it had lost all of its fruit. But what it needed was patience. Now, it is drinking beautifully, and it will probably stay at that plateau for at least a year or two.

Deep ruby, some browning. Dark cherries, berries and herbs. Gigondas power and grace. Peppery elements are emerging that I did not notice on the previous bottle a year or so ago. Keeps getting better with aeration. Ripe finish. 14.5% alcohol but carries it well; neither hot nor unbalanced.

Domaine Rabasse Charavin Cuvee d'Estevenas Corinne Couturier Cairanne, 1999

The last bottle of this I had was in January, 2013, and no other wine I had that year matched it or even came close.  For 2014, once again, this is unquestionably my Wine of the Year. It's the top Cairanne cuvee from Corinne Couturier of Rabasse Charavin, and 80% is Grenache from well placed 100-year-old vines plus 20% Syrah from younger but still low-yielding vines. The pedigree is clear from the first sniff to the last glorious after taste. This is a great wine.

It has definitely matured over the past year and a half, but I wouldn't say the changes are either good nor bad. It's just a different wine. The color has good saturation for a wine this age, and the bouquet wafts gracefully from the bottle and glass. Grenache berries, concentrated and compact, flowers and herbs. Everything you should expect from a top Southern Rhone and then some. Silky on the palate; true class. The crinkly flavors of mature Grenache from very old vines. And a long, beautiful finish. Special wine.

Unfortunately, this wine (and any others from Rabasse Charavin) are very difficult to find anywhere in this country.  I got my bottles at a WineBid auction a few years ago. Other bidders apparently felt that a 12-year-old Cotes du Rhone Villages was likely to be over the hill.