Monday, August 31, 2015

Cave Lugny Macon Lugny Les Charmes Chardonnay, 2013

As the name suggests, this is a charming wine that is cheap enough for every day service but elegant enough to serve at a special dinner. It ordinarily sells for about $14 but can be purchased at Costco for about $10.

Medium light straw. Apples, flowers, citrus. Fruity zest. Same on the palate. Slightly spicy flavors. Elegant mouth feel. Not much, if any oak. Chardonnay fruit shines through, and I like that.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Elke Vineyard Anderson Valley Donnelly Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2000

When first released, this wine was given only 80 points by the Wine Enthusiast. That's good enough reason not to pay any attention to critics and early scores. As I taste the wine tonight, 15 years after the vintage, I'm getting at least 95 points of pleasure.

Deep garnet. Potpourri of scents--pomegranates, flowers, wild berries--all beautifully melded into a bouquet. Flavors that cling to the tongue--sweet, savory, spicy. Silky texture. Lots of action on the finish. Wide range of flavors with an essential sweetness that shines through. The goodness lingers for several minutes.

I have had several other Pinots from Elke's Donnelly Creek Vineyard, all from the late 1990s and all superb. When the winery offered futures on its 2013 vintage at a discount, I jumped at the opportunity and have a case stacked away in the cellar. The winery believes the 2013s may be the best wines they have produced.

La Vieille Ferme Rouge, 2014

I have long been a fan of the Perrin family and of La Vieille Ferme Ventoux. I love Ventoux and feel that it was and is a greatly under-rated appellation. Even for wines at the lowest end of the pricing scale, such as La Vieille Ferme, Cuvee les Trois Messes Basses and Font-Sane, the red wines have been better than many Cotes du Rhones costing several times as much. I'm still a fan of Ventoux, but apparently this La Veille Ferme is no longer a Ventoux.

Nowhere on the label is any appellation given, and what is in the glass confirms my suspicion. As usual, there is bold, peppery fruit delivered in an authentic style, but there is nowhere near the depth and flavor interest that I have learned to take for granted with this wine over the past 40 years.

Oh, well. It cost only $8, and it worked very well for making beef bourgignon.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin Reserve des Seigneurs Cairanne, 2006

The domaine's website recommends aging this wine six to eight years. I disagree: after eight years in the bottle, it is just now beginning to open up.

Deep ruby with a purplish rim. Like a young Gigondas: purple fruits and flowers. Mourvedre just stepping out of its shell. Patient sniffing is required but eventually tree bark evolves into violets, blue plums and black raspberries. Smooth texture. Old vine quality. I'll wait another year or so before opening my next bottle.

Bouchaine Carneros Pinot Noir, 2004

I got a good buy on this Pinot Noir at auction presumably because other bidders were reluctant to take a chance on a 10-year-old California Pinot Noir. They were wrong, and I was right.

On my first small tasting pour, the color is a dusty, brick red--definitely showing its age. A full glass pour, though, has more of a deep garnet appearance. Very pretty smells: red berries with a haunting floral perfume. Smells rich. And it tastes even richer. A special velvety mouth feel that I find mostly in well aged Pinots. Deep cherry flavors that coat mid-palate and finish. Gingery spice with a cool, mint-like quality. Fully mature but very enjoyable.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Produtorri del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo, 2012

I'm always excited when I see a Nebbiolo on a restaurant wine list. But, then,Trattoria Stella in Traverse City, Michigan is special in many respects. At Stella, all of the wines that are offered by the glass can also be purchased in 500 ml carafes. That is a huge selling point for me. For a young Nebbiolo, slow to open, that gave me an opportunity to see the wine grow over the course of an exceptional lunch.

It's easy to identify this wine as Nebbiolo from the aromas. The black licorice elements are not very prominent, at least at this stage, but the dark cherry and floral aromas are intense and captivating. On the palate, the wine is firm from front to back. The tannins give the impression that the wine is very dry, even though there is plenty of ripe fruit lurking underneath. Very impressive.

The Produtorri, incidentally, is a cooperative--one of the best--and their Barbarescos always rank among the best of the appellation.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Clos Saint Jean Chateauneuf du Pape, 1995

In writing about this wine a few years ago, I suggested that it might drink better at 10 rather than 15 years of bottle age. With this bottle, let me amend that observation: it is far better at 20 years than at either 10 or 15.

At the time this wine was produced, Clos Saint Jean made very traditional wines that Robert Parker spurned as "old fashioned"--no destemming and extended aging in large old barrels known as foudres. In 2003, the estate hired Philippe Cambey as a consultant, and the wines produced today are more modern and international in style. They get rave reviews from Robert Parker and are about three or four times more expensive than they were in the late 1990s. The vineyards here are some of the best in Chateauneuf du Pape, however, and my view is that great wine is made in the vineyard.

The color is a medium brick, not unexpected after 20 years in the bottle. But that is the only sign of aging I detect. I smell cherries, warm spices and old vine character. Classic Chateauneuf du Pape; reminds me of an old Vieux Telegraphe. Medium weight and very smooth on the palate. Just hitting its prime. Old vine Grenache is shining. Cherry/berry sweetness plus savory spices on a long, long finish.

The price tag from D&W Market reads $12.99, but I buy at times when a 15% or 20% discount is offered for the purchase of six or more bottles. I bought at least six bottles of this 1995 and now wish I had bought more.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Domaine Galevan Paroles de Femme Cotes du Rhone, 2011

Coralie Goumarre of Domaine Galevan markets her wines as having a woman's touch. But really that is nothing new in the Southern Rhone. Nearly all of my favorite wines from that region are made by women: Laurence Feraud of Domaine Pegau, Corinne Couturier of Rabasse Charavin and Veronique Cunty-Peysson of Font-Sane. This is my first taste of Domaine Galevan, a wine I purchased through Garagiste.

Deep crimson. Beautiful color. Takes awhile to open; that's probably because of 20% Mourvedre in the blend. Violets and tree bark. Also berries, spice and a bit of peppercorn. More subtle than most CDRs. Not at all soft and simple but hard to pin down in terms of descriptors. Firm middle palate and finish. I'd like to taste this wine again in a year or two.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Domaine de la Tourade Vacqueyras, 2008

In the Southern Rhone, the 2008 vintage is not highly regarded. For reasonably early drinking, though, this Vacqueyras shines.

Still a deep, dark ruby. Dark, earthy, black pepper qualities have come to prominence. Now very typical of Vacqueyras. Fuller and more earthy than it was a year ago. Black fruit flavors but also some Grenache red berries. Has much to delight. Full on the mid-palate but friendly and open. As ready to drink as it will ever be.

This Vacqueyras initially sold for about $20 but was discounted again and again and finally closed out for $8 when I bought it. Lucky me.

Epicuro Salice Salentino, 2006

This has to be one of the best values for red wine anywhere. Still $5.99 at Trader Joe's, it's far too easy to brush off as a cheap red wine. I tasted this several times when it was first released, then put a few bottles back to see how well it ages. At nine years, it is coming along fine.

Deep, intense ruby red. I smell dark cherries, wild berries, licorice and flowers. Deep and concentrated. In the mouth, there is more of the same. Velvety mouthfeel, typical of Salice Salentino. Pleasantly sweet. Pleasant because the sweetness comes from ripe fruit and peels rather than oak or residual sugar. For those who like "big" wines, this wine will satisfy, but the alcoholic content is only 13.5% and acid rules over tannin. That's my kind of big wine. This wine has improved substantially with age; it has taken on another dimension but does not taste old.

From my limited experience, I would say that Salice ages well for 10 to 15 years. Aglianico, also available for $5.99 at Trader Joe's, has an even better reputation for aging. I will hold off awhile on my 2006 Aglianicos.

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages Saint Gervais, 2000

This is my favorite of the Domaine Sainte Anne wines. It has a relatively high percentage of Mourvedre in the blend and ages beautifully.

Deep cherry red. Takes awhile to open but worth the wait. Slowly violets emerge, then dark cherries. Finally small red berries. Spicy as Mourvedre should be. Also deep and laid back. All of that on the palate...and more. Cherry compote, very rich. More spice. Perfect balance of ripe fruit and fresh acidity. Long, elegant finish. I love it.