Thursday, February 19, 2015

Domaine des Pasquiers Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2007

We're still eating roast lamb and Provencal vegetables from Valentine's Day so I'm sticking with the Southern Rhone theme. We're heading north and a little east as we go from Chateauneuf (Pierre Usseglio) to Gigondas (Les Trois Couronnes) to Sablet (Domaine de Pasquiers). They are all very good wines with very different personalities. Sablet has less prestige than the other two appellations, but it should not be written off as insignificant.

Good dark color but no indication of new oak or barrique influence. Lots of herbs (lavender) and flowers (violets). Also blue plums, licorice and black pepper. Very fragrant. Same on the palate. Black fruited and dramatic. Reminds me of a Vacqueyras or Rasteau. As dramatic as the Les Trois Couronnes Gigondas but less tannic. Fruit showing through very nicely. Fills the mouth with black fruits, licorice and black pepper. At $15.99, this is a fairly pricey CDR Villages, but it is worth the premium.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Les Trois Couronnes Gigondas, 2007

One taster reported that this wine had Syrah flavors wrapped in Pinot. I think that is generally a description of good Gigondas. And this is a good one, even though it comes from a cooperative and I paid only $11 for it.

Good dark color. Black fruit, leather and lavender. Bold fruit and tannin on the inside with the prettiness and complexity of Pinot Noir. Beauty and power. Drinking well now and shows no signs of fading.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Chateauneuf du Pape Tradition, 2000

Many tasters, particularly those who don't have a lot of experience with Southern Rhone, focus on the earthy, barnyard qualities of Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas. I usually disagree, but, with this wine, the barnyard is clearly present. And I love it. This is the first bottle of a half case I bought in the early 2000s, and it shows signs of being a good ager.

Deep Grenache crimson color with minimal bricking. Barnyard, yes, along with cherries, rosemary and ripe berries. Grenache oriented and traditional--no new oak or small barrels used in making this wine. Very rich on the palate, like a fruit cake. Good fruit/acid balance and a long, finish with licorice and black peppercorn. The wine has already started to open up after only about 20 minutes in the glass, and I expect it to explode with flavor alongside Provencal roast lamb in the oven for Valentine's Day.

And it does. Barnyard funk is tranformed into ripe blackberries and currants. Very rich, very long. Reminds me a lot of Domaine Pegau but also Bois du Boursan, two of my favorite Chateauneufs.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Musso Barbaresco Pora, 1993

You can learn a lot about a wine from its color--age, grape, origin and how much it has been exposed to new oak or small barrels. Wine drinkers love to revel over the deep, purplish hues of a young Cabernet, but some of my favorite wines--those based on Grenache or Pinot Noir--are lighter in color or texture. Nebbiolo often has a brickish orange hue that might be taken as a sign of advancing age in other grapes. Brown, though, usually means that the wine is past it.

I've had this Barbaresco Pora twice, and each time I have noted the brown color. Some orangeish tints but mainly a muddy brown color that does not inspire confidence. My first sniff got only damp, muted smells--another bad sign. 1993 was not a strong vintage in the Piedmont, and this wine is 22 years old. I suspect it may also have had some storage mishaps along the way. Nevertheless, as the wine in the glass warms from cellar temperature and is exposed to air, it starts to show the true colors of a fine Cru Pora Barbaresco from a good traditional producer. The bouquet gets more and more exciting--roses, violets, cherries and dark, earthy scents. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied but very concentrated. Warm and savory with Nebbiolo nuances. Acidity is keeping this wine going as the fruit matures. Dances on the palate. I can only imagine what it would be like to drink a Musso Cru Pora from a strong vintage.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Chateau Boutisse Saint Emilion, 2010

The theme for the main course was rosemary: prime filet Wellington with rosemary dressed fingerling medley, heirloom carrots and rosemary scented Hollandaise. The beef was tender and beautifully flavored, and the rosemary theme worked well. Even the wine was redolent of rosemary.

Herbs and flowers. Definitely a Saint Emilion and it escapes the greenness that sometimes comes forth in lesser vintages from this appellation. Merlot and Cab Franc at their best. Ripe finish that blends perfectly with the rosemary-scented dish.

Lavau Gigondas, 2012

The third course of the Tasters' Guild dinner was lollipop lamb chops with pistachio-mint pesto, sweet pea cous cous and Meyer lemon-mint gastrique.

I drink Gigondas often but had never tried Lavau. It is a relatively new estate, I believe, and the style is traditional enough to meet my standards but has clearly incorporated some modern trends--probably some new oak. At least at this stage, it works. Cherries, flowers, leather, not as gamey as I would expect from Gigondas but that makes the wine more appealing to a broader audience. Bold flavors and ripe finish. My favorite wine of the night.

Marland Michigan Lake Shore Chardonnay Non-Affecte, 2013

This an unoaked Chardonnay from Wyncroft of South Haven, MI--a very intriguing selection to accompany a rainbow chard salad with warm tarragon-walnut vinaigrette, braised pork belly, artichoke and cherry tomato. For my taste, this was the top dish of the night, and the wine did not disappoint.

In 2013, the fermentation in stainless steel was very slow due to cold weather so the wine had plenty of time to rest on its lees (spent yeast cells). The leesy quality comes across rather strongly and adds an interesting dimension. Lemon creme and minerals. Texture is fine and smooth as silk. Unlike any Chardonnay I have had, and I would like to follow it over a few years.

Les Hospices Sancerre Blanc, 2013

The second appetizer followed an oregano theme: duck confit flabread with oregano-plum sauce and oregano infused goat cheese. Thankfully, I didn't smell or taste any oregano in the wine, but it worked well with the dish.

Subtle smells of flowers and ripe peaches. Has the flinty Sancerre aggressiveness but also some of the riper peachiness of Pouilly Fume. Has more sweetness on the finish that I would expect from a Sancerre.

Bott Freres Cremant d'Alsace Blanc, NV

This sparkling wine from Alsace was chosen to accompany the first appetizer for a Tasters' Guild wine dinner at Epic Bistro in Kalamazoo. The appetizer was chive and onion Cotswold cheese with Finocchiona salami and Spanish olives. In addition to being a refreshing way to start a meal, sparkling wine tends to go well with salty items like olives, salami and cheese.

I enjoyed this Cremant d'Alsace a lot. Good bubbles. Flowers and fruit on the nose but also a sweet biscuity smell similar to that of a Champagne. Ample zest on the palate but also a creamy mouth feel.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2001

Domaine Sainte-Anne is continuing to provide real treats from my cellar. I stocked up when the prices were low and am being repaid in pleasure. The 2001 Cotes du Rhone is drinking beautifully right now as is the 2004 CDR Villages. This 2001 Villages, I think, trumps them all.

Deep ruby. Lovely smells of red and blue fruits, spice and flowers. Coming together nicely in a bouquet. Same on the palate. Has lost its baby fat and the slight tonic lift many Sainte Anne wines have in their youth. But it is still jam packed with sweet red raspberry fruit. Good length and lots of flavor interest. I'll come back to this often over the next year or two.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Domaine de la Tourade Vacqueyras, 2008

Barberas from the Piedmont area of Italy have much in common with Cotes du Rhone Villages wines from Southern France. Both are bold, fruit-oriented wines with enough complexity and interest to make them extremely versatile at the dinner table. Having this wine at the same table with the Gran Passione Barbera d'Asti (below) convinced me that my loyalties still lean toward the Rhone.

Very attractive black pepper qualities here. Also spice, lavender, blue and black fruits. Very clean on the palate with flavors well delineated. Red fruits too with fresh acidity. But still centered around the black licorice/black pepper traits typical of the Vacqueyras appellation. Lovely peppery, spicy finish.

Grand Passione Barbera d'Asti, 2011

Gran Passione has several wines on the market, with a similar black label and pricing between $12 and $15 a bottle. So far, my favorite has been the Salice Salentino, although the Rosso (a Merlot blend) is also good.

Garnet ruby./ Cherries, flowers, opens up nicely. Bright flavors and good acidity. Ripe chocolatey finish but with a slight herbal bitterness similar to what I found with Rosa dell'Olmo Barbera d'Asti. This is a nice
Barbera d'Asti, but I think I prefer the Rosa dell'Olmo at about a third the price ($5.99 at Trader Joe's versus $14.99 at World Market).

Chalone Vineyards Monterrey County Chardonnay, 2004

When I bought this wine (at auction), I was under the impression that it was the Chalone Estate Chardonnay which could be expected to age very well over 10 years or longer. When I learned it was the Monterey County bottling instead, I was disappointed and decided it was a drink now rather than a cellar wine. Actually, it was showing very well.

Deep gold but not overly so./ Very much in line with Monterrey County Chardonnay fruit. Tropical fruit smells--pineapple, citrus and nectarine. Ripe./ Flavors are tangy as well as ripe. Creamy mouthfeel; leesy qualities. Very much a California Chardonnay but good concentration and enough acid to keep it lively.

Chalone's Monterrey County bottling usually sells for about $17; the estate bottling, for $27. I bought this at auction for $10, and other buyers were probably wary about spending even that much on a 10-year-old Chardonnay. I think I came out okay.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Willm Alsace Riesling, 2012

This Riesling plus the Gamay Noir (below) and a Sophoro Sparkling Rose from New Zealand comprised the wine flight chosen by the staff at Food Dance Cafe to accompany the Restaurant Week dinner specials.

I saved most of my Riesling until I had already finished my slow-cooked beef dish. (The Gamay Noir wwent well with that, and the Sophoro was a good match for the creamy tomato soup and the sausage appetizer.) And I'm glad I waited for the Riesling because it opened up a lot over the course of the meal. With air and warming in the glass, the delicate floral aromas became more prominent. Clean and fresh with a nice citrus edge on the finish. It is another wine I will put on my buy list.

Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Peninsula Gamay Noir Reserve, 2011

Although I love Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Vignoles from Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas, I have never been a fan of Michigan reds. I have tasted quite a few oaky reds from the southern part of the state and a few Pinots and Cab Francs from up north that I would classify as promising. But this is the first Michigan red that I would be tempted to buy again. It is, in fact, very good.

I have tasted this wine several times at the winery, but it has broadened and deepened quite a bit with a few months age. Medium light ruby/garnet. Nice peppery aromas from the start, and they get better. Tart cherries with earthy tones. Medium to light body as you would expect from Gamay. Good depth and concentration. I could easily mistake this for a good Bourgogne Rouge. And I do intend to put it on my buy list.