Saturday, April 25, 2015

Acacia Carneros Pinot Noir, 2004

Acacia's Carneros Pinot Noir sells for $20 to $30 when first released, but this 2004 was going begging at a recent auction (December, 2014). My guess was that few bidders were willing to take a risk on a 10-year-old Carneros Pinot from this producer, but I was willing to take the risk, if for no other reason than to see how well this wine ages.

The first bottle I had a month or so ago was not very good. The fruit had faded, and there were no exciting traits showing up to replace it. It must have been an off bottle. Or, more probably, I did not give it enough time to rest following shipping. This one is excellent.

Medium ruby, some bricking at rim./ Sweet and fragrant. Red berries, flowers, spice. Very pretty./Same on the palate. Silky Pinot texture. Flavors that fill the mouth--cherries, berries, spice. Savory as well as sweet.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Nerello del Bastardo Vino da Tavola Rosso, 2000; Gigi Rosso I tre Merli Barbaresco, 1999

This has always been one of my favorite wines from Trader Joe's, selling for $6 to $8 over the past 10 or 15 years. In the early days, the label hinted that the wine was declassified Barolo and Barbaresco, and the Nebbiolo traits were clearly apparent to me. Piedmont Nebbiolo for less than $10 a bottle? I was so impressed by the 1999 that I bought a case to see how it would age, then followed by buying a half case of the 2000. My buying slowed after that time, and bottles of recent vintages--now sold at World Market as well as Trader's Joe's--seem to be blends of other grapes such as Sangiovese, Cabernet and Montepulciano and not as interesting.

The 2000 Nerello tonight is showing well. The dark but orangish color clearly confirms that it is mostly, if not completely, Nebbiolo. And the trademark smells and flavors are there too--dark cherries, rose petals and dark licorice tones. For me, that combination is irresistible. Full bodied on the palate with lively acidity and some still firm tannins. The sweet fruit flows freely, though. Hedonistic is the term Robert Parker might use to describe this wine.

My experiment in aging was both successful and not so successful. The wine is well preserved. The orangish color is what you should expect from Piedmont Nebbiolo, and the aromas and flavors are well preserved. I still have a few bottles of both the 1999 and 2000, and I will be in no hurry to drink them. On the other hand, the wine has not changed appreciably from its early days, and I don't find any developing complexity or intensity. By comparison, for Easter dinner, I had a 1999 Barbaresco from Gigi Rosso--good vintage, good producer. By all appearances, this Barbaresco was much further along on its aging curve--lighter in color, more resolved tannins, more autumnal dried fruit smells and flavors. But the concentration, intensity and mystery of a great wine were there, and the acidity tells me this Barbaresco will only get better over the coming decade and more. I don't think the Nerello will ever come close.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chateau Grand Traverse CGT Old Mission Peninsula Ship of Fools, 2009

When tasting at Chateau Grand Traverse, Ship of Fools is always among my favorites and I put away a bottle or two from every vintage to see how well the wine ages. It is a blend of 50% Pinot Blanc, 40% Pinot Gris, and 10% Pinot Noir--the latter for "bouquet and ageability," according to the label.

Generally, I like how this wine has developed, although I am not sure I want to age it any longer. Rather deep color for a six-year-old wine. Complex nose--the brisk acidity of Pinot Blanc plus some lovely funky notes of Pinot Noir. The bouquet gets better as it warms and airs. Full bodied for a white wine with a level of sweetness that pleases me.

Kahlkahl Pamies Loriza Minervois, 2011

The Languedoc is France's largest wine growing region, and production from that appellation is three times that of Bordeaux and more than all of Australia. With such a huge supply and not much knowledge to drive demand, prices have until recently been outrageously low. For several years, I have been able to buy well chosen bottles of Minervois from Village Corner in Ann Arbor and D&W Markets in southwest Michigan--often for $3 a bottle or less. I have no problem with the recent increase in prices; these wines are worth exploring. But I have been spoiled, and when Jon Rimmerman of Garagiste raved about this wine and offered it for $16.79, I was expecting something amazing. In fact, it is in line with other Minervois wines I have had--incredibly good for $3 or even $10 but somewhat pedestrian for $16.79.

Very dark color but no other sign of new oak or barriques. Plums, berries, spice and peppercorn on the finish. Sturdy and full bodied with a rich mouthfeel. I suspect the alcohol level is somewhat high, but the label provides only a ball park figure: 11 to 14%.

Chateau Pesquie Terrasses Ventoux, 2011

Ventoux has been one of my favorite appellations for many years, and my love for these wines is based not only from the wonderful fruit-driven smells and flavors but also the outrageous values these wines offer. The Perrins La Vieille Ferme is an excellent wine year after year--a wine that you can enjoy with pizza or rack of lamb. And you can usually buy it for $5 to $7 a bottle. Other favorites include Font-Sane's Vieilles Vignes, Altitude 500 and Cuvee des Trois Messes Basses--all selling for less than $10. The latter two are cooperative wines, but there is nothing wrong with that; the coop has the technology and the equipment needed to do justice to grapes coming from what I consider a very fine appellation.

Pesquie's Terrasses is another very good Ventoux that has been marketed much more effectively than the above wines and, as a result, sells for two or three times as much. I buy it when I see it at special pricing. As for this 2011, I liked it better a year or two ago, but it is still a very enjoyable wine. Blueberries, plums and spice with a pleasing black pepper finish.

At the excellent Blackbird restaurant in Chicago, I recently had the chance to try another "premium" Ventoux--Philippe Gimel's St. Jean du Barroux. It sells for upwards of $25 a bottle, and, for that premium, you get a wine that is smoother and more elegant on the palate but decidedly more international and modern in its aroma and flavor profile.