Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ca' Rome' Romano Marengo Barbaresco, 1999

This 1999 Barbaresco was a worthy companion to the 1970 Barolo (see below) that preceded it. Nebbiolo, in my opinion, is one of the best wine grapes for aging, developing a range of subtle and constantly changing smells and flavors.I'm sure this Barbaresco will probably continue to age well, but it is too good to resist right now.

The color is deep and dark, albeit with some orange tones around the rim, as is typical of Piedmont Nebbiolo and definitely not a sign of advanced age. Less power and more subtlety--but that is one of the differences between Barolo and Barbaresco at any age. Same range of smells and flavors: dark cherry, roses and hints of dark minerals. As you drink this wine, you are struck by its dryness; yet, there is a powerful streak of sweetness that seems to weave its way right back along your tongue, pressing gently but persistently into your taste buds. Sweetness and dryness dancing across your palate and leaving a finish that goes on and on. Oh yes.

Pio Cesare Barolo, 1970

This well aged Barolo was by far the highlight of my weekend. It ranks as my Wine of the Year and among the top five of my 30-year wine-drinking career. Originally purchased for $4.99 (marked down from
$11.79), I considered it a cellar treasure from the day I bought it and stashed it away, along with a companion bottle, for all too many years--probably because I treasured it too much. But I have no regrets that I waited so long to pop the cork. ("Carefully ease the cork from the bottle" would be more accurate terminology.)

The back label states that this Barolo was aged in large oak casks for nine years! Now that is traditional winemaking at its best or worst, depending on your point of view. I can hear modern winemakers exclaiming: "Why that will dry out all the fruit!" But, tasted 35 years after bottling, the fruit is incredibly powerful, even fresh. This is a remarkable wine.

The color has faded to almost nothing--a murky reddish brown that, again, raises all sorts of red flags. But one sniff tells you that there is nothing faded about this wine. Lovely autumnal scents of dried currants, dried roses and dried licorice (if there is such a thing). These ethereal scents just keep coming at you, shifting and changing. The first taste is somewhat sharp but after about an hour of aeration, it is smooth as old silk. And the flavors are as complex as the bouquet. This is why I cellar wines.

Cimicky Trumps Barossa Valley Shiraz, 2004

Among several very good wines consumed with family over the Thanksgiving weekend, this wine tends to get forgotten. Paired with the Bopparder Hamm Auslese, it came off as heavy handed--not only in terms of weight (14.5% alcohol vs. 10.0) but delineation of flavors. Most of the Barossa Valley is relatively warm, and this is a warm climate Shiraz that is true to tradition and very enjoyable.

Plush blackberry and currant smells and flavors. At first, I get chocolate and coffee tones; as the wine airs, there is a pleasant herbal note. Full bodied and full flavored. Just what it should be.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Weingut Adolf Weingart Bopparder Hamm Ohlenberg Riesling Auslese, 1991

I don't drink many German wines, and I realize that I'm missing a lot. Generally, though, my family and friends--like most Americans--simply don't understand or appreciate the quality of German wines or of Riesling. "Too sweet," is the usual comment, and some of that prejudice comes merely from seeing the slender German-style bottle. Yes, there is some residual sugar in most German wines, but it's there to counter the acidity and provide balance that is so sadly missing from many plodding, overoaked New World Chardonnays and Cabernets.

Now in the bottle 20-plus years, this Mittelrhein Riesling is showing beautifully. Everyone at the table agreed that the sweetness was a perfect match for the spicy pulled pork fajitas. Medium deep gold color, still bright. Beautifully delineated stone fruit smells and flavors with just a touch of Riesling petrol. I paid $16 for this wine back in the mid-90s; a New World Chardonnay with this much character would sell for two or three times as much.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

SeaGlass Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, 2008

Dick Scheer and his citizen tasting panel at Village Corner in Ann Arbor like this New World Pinot for its Old World earthiness. And I agree: it does have the earthy smells and flavors of a good Bourgogne Rouge.

Beautiful Pinot ruby color. Cherry smells and flavors with ginger spiciness in the background. Burnished and Burgundian. On the tongue, it's very sleek and ripe from front to back but with enough acidity to keep it lively. I find it hard to put the glass down.

The SeaGlass Pinot that is on the shelves right now is the 2013. This is the 2010 so it's had time to gather up some goodness. Seems at a perfect stage for drinking right now, but who knows? It could get even better. At $8 to $12, it's a tremendous bargain.

Ici la-Bas Les Reveles Elke Vineyard Anderson Valley Mendocino Pinot Noir, 1997

When this wine was made, the Anderson Valley did not have the Pinot prestige that it has today, but winemaker Jim Clendenen (of Au Bon Climat) knows how to ferret out high quality Pinot Noir grapes. Mary Elke's vineyards near Donnelly Creek have some of the best.

The color is medium light and has turned only slightly. Smells are gorgeous--strawberry and rhubarb boiling over on the pie tin. And the flavors are even better. Sleek body with red berry fruit that is so ripe but also so tart and racy. Amazing freshness on the finish for a 17-year-old wine.

The Elke vines were somewhat young in 1997; they must be coming into their own by now. And the winery reports that the 2013 vintage was exceptional, even for the lower-priced Boonville Barter. I was a buyer but have stashed them away and am not going to think about them for the next 5 to 10 years. If they are better than this 1997 (and I expect them to be), OH WOW!

Chateau d'Angludet Margaux, 1983

The cork on this wine was not in great shape, and there was even some high neck ullage. But my worries quickly faded when I sniffed the wine. It has a beautiful Margaux-like perfume of  sweet cherries, tea, herbs that carry over nicely into the flavors. It's very ripe and very smooth on the palate with just a bit of a herbal/tea edge. After 31 years in the bottle, this 1983 d'Angludet is holding quite well--although the cork and ullage on the remaining bottle in my cellar looks even worse. I'll have to open it soon.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Louis Latour Pernand Vergelesses, 1998

The 1998 vintage was not particularly good for white Burgundy, and this Pernand Vergelesses is past its peak drinking years. But it's still better, for my taste, than 90 percent of Chardonnays on the market.

A deep gold color, fully mature. Apples, citrus, grains, hazelnuts. Slight stale note that fades after 15 minutes or so. Mellow smells and flavors, an apple orchard in the Fall. Past its prime, but still has Grand Vin intensity and grip.

Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d'Asti, 2011

Selling for $5.49 at Trader Joe's, this has to be the top Barbera value on the market. I could gladly put this on my table every night.

Deep, dark ruby. Dark cherries, flowers, licorice--immediately appealing and it just keeps getting better. Has seen enough new oak to develop a silky texture, but not so much to cover up the lovely Barbera smells and flavors. Plush and ripe; medium to full bodied. A slight green note but the finish is still very ripe and long.

Domaine Rabasse-Charavin (Corinne Couturier) Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne, 2004

I like Cairanne wines on the young side; Rasteau and Vacqueyras, with some extra age. The dark-toned mineral elements of Rasteau and Vacqueyras need some time to mellow out, in my opinion, whereas the red cherry/berry tones of Cairanne are more attractive to me than the leathery smells and tastes that develop once the fruit has started to fade. Corinne Couturier at Rabasse Charavin produces one of the top two or three Cairanne wines, and this 2004 still has a lot of pleasure to give...even though I liked it better a couple of years ago.

Deep ruby with some browning at edges. Lifted fragrance of flowers, dark cherries and herbs. Same on the palate with leathery notes and pepper on the finish. A bit past its peak, for my taste, but has good grip and typical Southern Rhone flavors.

Much higher on the Corinne Couturier list--and one of my favorite wines--is the Cairanne Cuvee Estevenas, from some of the oldest vines in the appellation.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Domaine du Val des Rois Valreas Signature, 2007

Tasted alongside the Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone (below), this Valreas eventually reveals itself as the superior wine. It is, however, a CDR Villages and cost about twice as much as the Sainte-Anne.

Deep, bright crimson. Shy at first. Blueberries, dark cherries, lavender, spice. Now it's blossoming. An understated beauty. Clean, fresh, youthful fruit. Wild berries and a hint of black pepper on the finish. A very fine Valreas.

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone, 2001

Although labeled as a Cotes du Rhone, this wine has the qualities of a Cotes du Rhone Villages--and a very fine Villages at that.

Medium deep ruby. The fruit has faded just enough to marry with the secondary characteristics--berries, plums, spice, dried flowers and herbs. There are some wild berry notes on the palate but they blend in nicely with the secondary traits of leather, lavender and earth. When this wine was young, it was predominantly Grenache. Now the Grenache and Syrah have married nicely--both red and black fruits. At a calm, even-tempered stage of maturity.

Picton Bay South Island (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, 2013

After drinking the Monte Degli Angeli, I had to try my other Pinot Noir bargain from a recent Ann Arbor trip. There are many good wine bargains at Trader Joe's, but this New Zealand Pinot for $7.99 belongs right at the top of the list.

This is a bit darker than Piemonte Pinot (below). Beautiful spicy nose--strawberries, cherries, ginger and licorice--all the things I like. In the mouth, there is more of the same. Ripe fruit framed by spice and pepper. Fine texture; flavors reverberate. A terrific value and a very good wine for drinking right now. On the second night, this wine becomes a bit more herbaceous, though still good. I prefer the Monte Degli Angeli.

Monte Degli Angeli Piemonte Pinot Noir, 2011

When you think of the Piedmont region of Italy, you think of Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera. But a Pinot Noir? I saw this bottle while browsing in Plum Market in Ann Arbor, and the wine manager, Rod Johnson, a long-time friend from Village Corner, assured me it was well worth trying.

And Pinot in Piedmont makes sense. The cool climate, with morning fog, is similar to that of Burgundy and other good Pinot growing areas such as the Anderson Valley of California. And while Barolo is often considered a "big" wine, that is more because of its tannins, big flavors and ability to age. Nebbiolo actually has many similarities to good Pinot Noir: with its haunting fragrance, lively acids and complex flavor profile.

As for Monte Degli Angeli, it is a medium light Pinot color, bright and lively. I note the spicy cherry/cranberry tones of North Coast California Pinots. It's definitely not sweet, and it's definitely in the very early stages of its evolution. On the second night, it really starts to sing. Now the sweetness emerges, but there is nothing simple about it. Has a lot more grip and strength than most Pinot Noirs. And I just keep coming back to sniff and sip. Irresistible.

For $10.56? This is serious wine; I'm heading back to buy more.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Khalkhal-Pamies Plaisir de Lys Minervois, 2011

Now this is a wine that matches up well with the pizza. The wine makes the pizza taste better; the pizza makes the wine taste better. That doesn't mean this is less of a wine than the Marsannay; in many ways, it is superior. But it has the bold aromas and flavors needed to stand up to the tomato/onion/artichoke pizza.

The color is deep, dark and purplish. It's a blend of Carignan (50%) plus Grenache and Syrah made traditionally without new oak contact. The aromas at this stage are very primary--blue plums and spice, youthful and bold. I taste lots of crunchy black pepper along with the dark fruits. A country wine with dramatic flavors. Also a lot of depth. I like it. A Jon Rimmerman ( selection that sells for about $16 a bottle.

The Right Wine with the Right Food

It should go without saying: the best wine is the one that is most suited to the meal that you're having. I opened the Louis Latour Marsannay to go with the Henrietta Hills rainbow trout, and it was a great match. What was left in the bottle we had the next night with pizza, and it was only ordinary.

We have vegetable oriented dishes most nights of the week, and I choose the wine based on the type of vegetables that are in the dish.When we are having roast lamb (mostly for special occasions), I hunger for a Chateauneuf du Pape or Gigondas. Cairanne is a good match for roast pork.

If you have a fine wine that you're anxious to try, wait until you have a meal that will highlight the subtle flavors of the wine or at least provide a neutral backdrop. Otherwise, you're wasting your money, and you will never really appreciate the wine.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Louis Latour Marsannay, 2006

Marsannay is the northernmost appellation of Burgundy, bordering on the suburbs of Dijon. Although it may be close in terms of distance to the greatest Pinot Noir appellations, it is not close at all in terms of reputation or price. Louis Latour's Marsannay usually sells for about $20, and when you can find it discounted for $16 or so, it is a very good value.

Very light in color, but that's not necessarily a bad sign for a Pinot. The aromas and flavors move toward strawberry on the spectrum. Delicate and ripe. Well worth exploring every nook and cranny. Lacey fruit flavors, a beautiful match for the delicate flavors and texture of rainbow trout. Compared to Anderson Valley and Russian River Pinots that I have been exploring recently, this wine is less complex, without the cranberry/red cherry tones, but has similar lively acidity. I like it and will come back for more.

Gran Passione Salice Salentino Riserva, 2010

There are several wines with the deep brown Gran Passione label now on the market. I tried the Rosso (which has some Merlot in the blend) previously and liked it very much; this Salice Salentino I like even more. Made with 100% Negroamaro grapes from Puglia, in the bootheel of Italy, it's a bold, dramatic wine that goes well with full flavored foods.

Deep, dark ruby color. Dark cherries, spice, licorice and flowers. Has plenty of power. Warm, black and peppery on the palate. Ripe red and blue plums. Full bodied and powerful, like an Italian Gigondas but with a rich, velvety texture. Everything about this wine is dark but also high toned with good acid and bright flavors on the finish. Very good--Salice Salentino, where have you been all my life?

Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone, 2005

This 2005 appears to be maturing faster than most vintages of Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone, but it's certainly drinking beautifully right now.

The color has turned a bit, and the bouquet is lovely--violets, spice and ripe red berries. I could sit and sniff for hours. In the mouth, there is more of the same; it's bursting with red berries, ripe but not overdone. Laid back and lovely. Lots of sediment at the bottom but not at all bitter. Seems more mature right now than the 2001 or even 1999 or 1998.

1749 Pierre Chainier Sauvignon Blanc, 2013

This is one of several Sauvignon Blancs made by respected Loire producers now on the market for under $10 a bottle. They don't really measure up to Sancerre, but then it's hard to find Sancerre for under $20.

Medium light color. Very pretty--mint, grapefruit, leaning toward passion fruit. Sweet and lively Sauvignon Blanc fruit on the tongue. Lots of appeal, especially for $8.

Macon-Lugny Les Charmes Chardonnay, 2010

Les Charmes is the name of an old and respected vineyard in the Macon area of Burgundy. It is also an appropriate name for this charming Chardonnay. The current vintage (still available for $10.99 at World Market) is 2013; this bottle is three years further along in its development and, for my taste, that development is positive.

Medium deep yellow. Spiced apple smells. Apple and nutmeg. Not really Granny Smith apples but fuller and deeper like Red Delicious. Unadorned Chardonnay scents--what Macon is all about. Both the aroma and flavors get deeper and deeper, better and better. Not a vibrant wine as it was a couple of years ago, but a charming accompaniment to a vegetable centered meal. I'll go back and get some of the 2013 vintage.