Sunday, May 24, 2015

St. Hallett Barossa Gamekeeper's Red, 2010

At a wine dinner at Oakwood Bistro in Kalamazoo, Donna and I had the good fortune to share a table with the St. Hallett winemaker, Stuart Blackwell. This was the least expensive wine that Stuart presented to us that night, but he made it clear that it was one of his favorites. And he had confidence in its aging ability.

The wine is a combination of Shiraz (61%), Grenache (32%) and Touriga Nationale (7%). As an experiment, it was aged on its lees but without new oak. And the result is impressive.

Very dark, Shiraz, Touriga color. Black fruit, peppery, still young. Round, full and tannic. I'm searching for the Grenache red berry, and it may take more time to emerge. For now, the darker grapes dominate. As the wine airs, more peppery qualities emerge--some Syrah, some Grenache. And the finish becomes increasingly friendly and open. Yes, I think that's the Grenache speaking. I like this wine and have a few more bottles to enjoy a few years down the road.

Red Door Cellars Oregon Pinot Noir, 2010

I bought this wine from Jon Rimmerman at It was very inexpensive ($10 or less) and has only Oregon as an appellation. Some reviews on Cellar Tracker were negative, so my expectations were not high.

The color is so light that a one-sip pour in the glass is nearly transparent. Strawberries and spice--light but nice. The negative Cellar Tracker reviewer apparently likes his wines darker and more tannic. I've read that the secret to good Pinot Noir is the spice, and I agree. This wine has the kind of spice I like--cranberries, sour cherries, a touch of ginger. (None of the cinnamon and pie spices that I find disagreeable in Pinot wines from Monterey County.) Light body but plenty of substance. The more I drink, the more eagerly I come back for more. Great smells, great flavors, great acidity. It's not for everyone, but it's my kind of Pinot Noir. Wish I had bought more.

Pierre Bise Clos du Coulaine Savennieres, 1998

This is my third or fourth try of this wine, and it still puzzles me. The color is a deep, old gold, much more mature than much older Loire Chenin Blancs I have had. Compact smells of somewhat funky Chenin Blanc--honey, spices, stale lemon curd. Has substance but no freshness. (I know, it's a 17-year-old white wine, but I am comparing it to other wines from the region, including the 2001 Pierre Bise Anjou Blanc--a wine that cost less than half as much and is still drinking beautifully.) Full bodied and tannic for a white wine with a firm finish. Okay, but it doesn't thrill me as other mature Savennieres have.

I have read reviews of this and other Clos du Coulaine wines from the late 1990s from writers I trust. There is little comparison between what they report and what I have tasted from these wines. I suspect this batch may have been exposed to too much heat during transport or storage.

Olivares Altos de la Hoya Jumilla Monastrell, 2009

I loved this Jumilla Monastrell when it was first released and put away a couple of bottles to see how well it ages. The only thing I discovered is that it's holding well.

Very dark and bluish. French oak barriques, I believe. I smell vanilla, violets, black fruits, coffee and dark chocolate. Ripe, creamy smooth with a long finish. Very dark chocolate. French oak has been very, very good to this wine. The Jumilla old vine Monastrell traits are lurking underneath and will undoubtedly make this wine a revelation to 10 to 15 years. I'm not sure I want to wait that long, and there are plenty of unoaked and lightly oaked Spanish Monastrells on the market to satisfy my immediate appetite.

Nicolas Cotes de Gascogne Sauvignon Blanc, 2013

The label is classy and simple--looks like a $25 Sancerre but with a $9.99 price tag. And it's really a pretty classy wine for the price.

Beautiful light straw color. Grapefruit, flowers, leaning toward the sweetness of passion fruit. Same on the tongue. Pleasing grapefruit acidity and freshness but ripe fruit to counter it. Just what I like for a mid-summer evening on the deck.

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone, 2001

This is a good example of a mature Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone. It has lost some of its bold fruit and cream and gained some finesse and depth.

The color is fading a bit but still a healthy medium light ruby. Strawberries and spice still dominate the nose but with developing complexity. Good fruit but not fruity in a simple way. On the palate, there is more of the same: strawberries, spice and a trace of pepper. The same red berry fruit that it had 10 to 12 years ago but with growing depth and maturity. This is certainly not a typical Cotes du Rhone, nor even Cotes du Rhone Villages.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Moutard-Diligent Irancy, 2009

This Pinot Noir from an area just south of Chablis was another of my favorites at the French wine tasting presented by Soif Distributors. It impressed me not because of its size but because of its lack of such.

Light garnet color. Cherry/berry scents but very reticent; takes a lot of time to start to open but well worth the wait. Light spices and dried fruits and flowers. Has the texture that you expect from a good Pinot Noir. The tannins are velvety and supple. Good acid balance but needs a few years to show its best.

Mas de Daumas Gassac Languedoc Blanc, 2012

This is priced the same ($50) as the Languedoc Rouge (below), and I was underwhelmed with my first taste. As I suspected, though, it needs more time so I went back for a second try after the wine had time to warm up a bit and gulp some air. This time, I was impressed.

Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc is another field blend--mainly Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Petit Manseng. Fairly deep color. I smell some Chenin Blanc mineral, floral tones that are unfolding slowly. Figs, ripe apples and earth. Lots of grip on the palate. Now comes the incredibly long finish. This, too, will be a special wine.

Mas de Daumas Gassac Languedoc Rouge, 2012

This was one of several wines presented by Soif Distributors of Detroit at a French wine tasting last night presented by Salut wines of Kalamazoo. A highly regarded but not very well known wine, Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge is made from a field blend that is primarily Cabernet but also 19 other grape varieties, including Syrah, Nebbiolo, Barbera and Montepulciana.

Very dark and deep. Deep, deep aromas of black fruits, truffles, mushrooms, cured meat. Fascinating wine. Same on the palate. Deep, deep fruit. Plums, blueberries, cassis. Packed tight. I don't know when this wine will open, but when it does, it will be peacock's tail.

The price ($50) is outrageous for a Languedoc wine, even though Robert Parker has raved about the wine and the estate. I was ready to dismiss it summarily on the basis of price alone...until I tasted it.

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Les Ormes, 2010

Tasted alongside the much older Fourcas Hosten (below), this Barbera d'Asti is considerably lighter and less concentrated...but very good. Deep bluish tints. Cherries, roses and black licorice--the Barolo formula but without the tannin. Licorice, turning to black pepper. A very engaging wine. Fruity, high acid, low tannin but not at all simple. Can be enjoyed with many foods and a variety of occasions

Chateau Fourcas Hosten Listrac, 1982

The price tag on this bottle reads "$9.95." But that was a time when you could buy Cos d'Estournel for $25. The current vintage of Fourcas Hosten sells for about $20; Cos, $360 and up. There are many bargains in Bordeaux, and some of them still offer pleasure for 30 years and more. Fourcas Hosten is a prime example.

I've had many bottles of this wine at various stages of its development, and I admit that it has faded a bit from its best showing. The cork crumbles, and there is a thick crust of sediment but not as much bricking as you would expect from a 33-year-old wine. I get fabulous smells as I am pouring it into the decanter: sandalwood, flowers, red berries, Merlot tea. The 1982 Fourcas Hosten has always seemed Cabernet-dominant in the past, even though it is only 50% of the blend. Today, Merlot (40%) seems to be taking over. I taste tea, cherries, red plums. The palate doesn't quite measure up to the promise of the nose. Medium long, sweet finish. Still a nice wine.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Domaine du Val des Rois (R Bouchard) Valreas, 2007

Nine generations of the Bouchard family have been wine growers in the Southern Rhone since the 1600s, and the winemaking here has always been very traditional. The dark, bluish tints I see when I first pour this wine suggest to me, though, the use of barriques--a modern twist. I did not notice this in the 2004 bottles I have been drinking recently. Blueberries and plums. Very peppery and spicy. Medium full body. Less ripe than most 2007 Southern Rhones I have tasted. But not as complex as the 2004 Val des Rois.

Domaine de la Tourade Vacqueyras, 2008

I have been impressed by every wine I have had from Domaine de la Tourade. The 1998 Gigondas was particularly memorable, and I was able to buy enough of this 2008 Vacqueyras at close-out prices to enjoy it frequently. 2008 was not a good year for the Southern Rhone, but the winemaker did a good job of staying within the limits of the fruit he was working with.

Medium deep ruby with minimal bricking at rim. The bouquet seems less forward than I remember from the last bottle I had several months ago, but I have a cold. As the meal goes on, the wine gets better and better. I think it's curing my cold.  Subtle fruit, pure and so well framed.

Francoise et Denis Clair Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes-de-Beaune, 2005

I am a pretty confirmed Europhile. For whatever wine I am buying--be it Cabernet, Riesling, Syrah, Grenache or Chardonnay--I usually feel I can get more wine for the money by buying French, Italian or even Spanish rather than New World. Pinot Noir is another matter. I have rarely had an outstanding red Burgundy, mainly because I am not willing to pay the big bucks. Even the least expensive (and ordinary) Pinots from Burgundy are $15 or more. Recently, I have had some good luck with California Pinots, such as the Acacia described below and some excellent examples from Anderson Valley, Russian River and Sonoma Coast. These wines are not cheap, either, but I have managed to get some good aged wines at decent prices through online auctions.

I opened this Hautes-Cotes-de-Beaune soon after the Acacia specifically to make an unbiased comparison. And after the first night, I was leaning toward the New World wine. The Burgundy takes longer to open and is less fragrant. Very dry on the palate; is the fruit fading? On the second night, the aromas and flavors were more prominent, though. And on the third night, they were brilliant. Bright cherry fruit, very deep and concentrated. Gets better and better. Sweet and lovely with a long finish.

Hautes-Cotes-de-Beaune is a modest appellation, and I bought this wine for about $15. It's clearly worth that and more. Whereas the Acacia seems to be fading at 10 years of age, this nine-year-old needs more time in the cellar.