Thursday, September 24, 2015

Penfolds Bin 407 South Australia Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004

As with most of their premium wines, Penfolds makes Bin 407 Cabernet from grapes from several districts, usually including Coonawarra, Wrattenbully, Padthaway, Robe, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and even Margaret River. The idea is to craft a wine following a distinctive style as opposed to one that reflects a particular vineyard or appellation. And the result is nearly always impressive.

Deep and dark with hints of amber forming at the rim. There is considerable sediment at the bottom of the bottle, but this wine still has a long way to go. Aromas are captivating and unmistakably Cabernet--black currants, black fruit and espresso. All of those come through in the flavors. Plump mid-palate but plenty of mouth watering acidity. Very black currant on the long finish. Archetype of a New World Cabernet.

Penfolds patterns its Bin 407 after the more expensive Bin 707--a poor man's Bin 707, if you will. But there is nothing second-rate about this wine. When I saw it offered at a distributor's close out for about $12 a bottle, I jumped quickly. I recently saw it advertised by an Australian retailer for $109 a bottle.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tenuta Arnulfo Costia di Bussia Barbera d'Alba, 2010

Tenuta Arnulfo has well situated vineyards in Monforte d'Alba and makes an excellent, traditional Barolo. If I did not see the Barbera d'Alba designation on the label, I would swear that this wine is a Nebbiolo d'Alba made from grapes that did not quite make the cut for the Costa di Bussia Barolo.

Deep color and deep, deep smells and flavors. Dark cherries, roses and black tones of licorice or anise--the hallmark traits of a good Nebbiolo. Sweet red flowers with an undertone of darker, more serious traits. Smells tannic, and it is--at least for a Barbera. Rich fruit flavors--again very deep. Unfortunately, I opened this just before pouring it at the table; it clearly opens up and gains character as it is exposed to air. Very much like a baby Barolo--high tannin, high acid, low alcohol (13.5%), and very expressive fruit. The label says that it is one of the longest lived Barberas, and I don't doubt that. I am holding back at least a few bottles.

This wine was recommended to me as a good, inexpensive Barbera by David Russo of G.B. Russo & Sons in Grand Rapids, and I have been buying it since, for $10 to $12, at every opportunity. The Costa di Bussia Barolo sells for $50 to $60 so I have not tried that, but, from tasting this low-end wine, I am convinced it is not over-priced.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone, 2004

Most traditional Cotes du Rhone wines stay pretty much the same from the time they are released until the fruit starts to fade. The Domaine Sainte-Anne wines, in my opinion, are an exception, retaining their fruit while undergoing a transformation that adds depth and complexity.

Deep crimson. Good saturation to the rim with no sign of bricking. Mature bouquet of strawberries, dried leaves and flowers. Still has some of the cool tones that characterize the wines of this domaine but also some Pinot-like spice and pepper. Full bodied but still smooth and elegant. Fresh red berry flavors from front to back.

Bouchaine Estate Vineyards Carneros Pinot Noir, 2004

My favorite appellations for California Pinot Noir are the Anderson Valley, Russian River and Sonoma Coast. After tasting this wine and a couple of others, I'm ready to add Carneros to the list.

Beautiful medium deep ruby. Very complex, intriguing perfume. Flowers, fruits, peppery spice. Probably some French oak influence but it has integrated nicely. The flavors are equally fantastic: rich, ripe cherry fruit but with great balancing acidity. Deeper and more complex with every sip. Delicate, silky texture of an aged Pinot Noir but with an undertone of ripe cherries on the mid-palate and finish. Excellent right now but probably with some room for growth.

Windspiel Austrian Gruner Veltliner, 2010

Time has added some new dimensions to this Gruner Veltliner since the last time I tried it more than a year ago.

It still has a youthful color--medium straw with green glints. There is freshness to the aromas, too, with flowers, white pepper and spice. Also some hints of petroleum reminiscent of German Riesling. In the mouth, particularly, the wine is filling out. Still has a citric edge but also some broader flavors, like nectarines or peaches. This is my last bottle so I will never know where it goes from here, but I suspect the development will be positive.

Kirkland Signature Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2013

I like to shop at Costco, and I have found good values in the wine department. Wines such as the Au Contraire Russian River Chardonnay and the Perrin Vinsobres Les Cornuds are priced 25 to 40 percent lower than at other stores I have visited. The bargain wines, though, have the Costco Kirkland Signature label, and this is the first one that really appealed to me. The price: $6.99. And it's a Cotes du Rhone Villages, not just a simple Cotes du Rhone. On the label, I find that it's made by Patrick Lesec, a respected name.

The wine has good deep color and the initial smells are inviting. Black fruits, spice and pepper. Shows more Syrah than Grenache. Same on the palate. Over the course of the evening, though, I find a leathery trait in the finish that I associate with brettanomyces. It's not quite barnyard but bordering on it. I'm probably wrong; it may just be Mourvedre that needs some time. But at least at this stage of its development, this wine does not appeal to me. Maybe I will give it another try in a few months.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Ca' Rome' Romano Marengo Barbaresco, 1995

This is my second go at an aged Barbaresco from this estate. The other was from the 1999 vintage. Both were excellent expressions of Barbaresco.

The orangish tints that appear when the wine is first poured give the impression that it may be overly mature. But that is typical of traditionally made Nebbiolo after a decade or two in the bottle. The bouquet that I expect from Barbaresco is somewhat muted, too, on the first impression. It opens beautifully, though, with passive aeration over an hour or two. Oh, yes. Cherries and rose petals. Now some anise seed. Subtle at first, then gathers momentum. By the end of the meal, I find myself going back for sniff after sniff. Those Nebbiolo traits are blended together nicely in the flavors and are lovely from the very beginning. Very intense. Sweet but with enough acid to make it dance on the tongue. Excellent.

This is the regular cuvee of Ca' Rome' Romano Marengo Barbaresco. Grapes from the most favored vineyards go into the Maria Brun cuvee, named after the owner's mother and made only in top vintages. My goal is to find a mature Maria Brun at a reasonable price.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Les Vignerons de l'Enclave des Papes Valreas Cuvee Prestige, 2010

This is a Valreas that I buy nearly every vintage for $5.99 at Trader Joe's. In the past, I did not consider it a serious competitor to the Val des Rois described below. Tonight, drinking the two wines side by side, I prefer the co-op wine from Trader Joes to the $14.99 Val des Rois. That could change in a few years.

Deep crimson, looks like a Grenache-based wine from the Southern Rhone, which it is. It also smells and tastes like a good CDR Villages. Ripe strawberries with a touch of black pepper. Smooth on the palate, not as concentrated as the Val des Rois but more enjoyable. A bit riper than it need be but has authentic flavors that linger and please.

Domaine du Val des Rois (Bouchard) Valreas, 2007

I loved the 2004 Val des Rois, but this 2007 seems to be a horse of a different color. A deep, dark, bluish color. Leads me to think that this wine has spent some time in barriques. A beautiful bouquet is forming--plums and black fruits, though, rather than the red berries and spice that characterized the 2004. Big, full bodied wine that has much to recommend it. It's ultimately too international for my taste, though, and comes across as tannic and alcoholic on the second night.

Paul Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine Thalabert, 1989

The 1989 Domaine Thalabert has never received the attention that the highly rated 1990 has. And it  doesn't deserve it. But it is a very good Northern Rhone Syrah now in a plateau of maturity. I should mention that I'm a big fan of Domaine Thalabert and do not agree with those who claim that this particular Crozes-Hermitage should be consumed at a relatively young age.

The color has faded quite a bit. Now a medium light brick red. Typical scents of a mature Northern Rhone Syrah--leather, black fruits and mint. Same on the palate. More acidity and less tannin than when I tasted it a couple of years ago, and I like that. Takes awhile to open but is lovely to sip after a pleasing dinner of roast lamb. Perfect match for wine. The acidity really carries it on the finish. It's not as good as the 1990, the 1983 nor even the 1985, but it's still very good.

I should mention that much has changed at Jaboulet over the past two decades, but the vineyards that produced this wine are special.