Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Les Vignerons de l'Enclave des Papes Cotes du Rhone Villages Valreas Prestige, 2012

As I drink this wine tonight, I am embarrassed to say that I opened it for cooking. After all, at $5.99, it's the least expensive red I could put my hands on. But it is certainly better than your every day cooking wine.

Fairly deep and dark ruby. The cuvee is 75% Grenache, 25% Syrah--perfect for my taste. Lavender, cassis and black fruits of Syrah with a friendly Grenache finish. Lots of black pepper and a touch of Provencal herbs. Just keeps getting better, even on the third and fourth night.

Even at Trader Joe's, this wine is a fantastic bargain that is easy to overlook. The label mentions candied fruit aromas and flavors, and when it's young, the flavors are ripe and upfront. It's unpretentious but by no means simple. It is a CDR Villages, after all, from a very good appellation.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Gilbert Picq et Fils Premier Cru Chablis Vaucopin, 1999

This is exactly what I expect from a mature Chablis--earthy, flinty, brisk and not at all like a buttery New World Chardonnay. It was a perfect match for a rich Coquilles St. Jacques.

Deep gold. No premature oxidation, as I have found in a few other bottles from this batch. Solid earthy smells, lots of mineral attraction. At first, I taste a slight bitterness on the finish, but this fades away after I let the wine breathe and warm. No refrigeration needed for this wine; cellar temperature is plenty cool enough. Some at the table taste honey; I get mainly the flinty tastes of properly aged Chablis. Very satisfying.

Domaine Baumard Clos du Papillon Savennieres, 2003

I have had astounding Chenin Blanc wines from Domaine Baumard and its Clos du Papillon that have aged beautifully over two to three decades, but 2003 was a warm year in the Loire Valley (and in all of Europe) and not ideal for aging wines. Twelve years from the vintage date, this wine has probably reached its peak...or maybe gone past it.

The color is a beautiful, medium deep straw. Scents of peaches, flowers and white pepper. Medium bodied and elegant on the palate. Much better at just a few degrees above room temperature and with plenty of aeration. Some Chenin Blanc earthiness on the finish. Very good, but not great, Savennieres.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Fatalone Gioia del Colle Primitivo Riserva, 2006

This is a pretty good wine and unfairly matched against the excellent Ridge Geyserville (below). Rich and sweet smells and flavors. Prunes, raisins and fruit cake. 15% alcohol but carries it well.

Primitivo is considered to be the Italian cousin of Zinfandel, and the similarity is apparent. In fact, the young Ridge Geyserville had many of the same qualities. This wine should be better in three or four years, but I don't think it will ever achieve the elegance that the Geyserville has.

Ridge Geyserville Red, 1992

It's a field blend of 65% Zinfandel, 20% Carignan, 15% Petite Sirah in the 1992 vintage. And, as always, it ranks among the best the New World has to offer in the way of wine. It's been several years since I have had this Geyserville, and it still has all the qualities I loved then plus some more that have developed since.

Deep red. The vanilla and dill of New American oak still dominate the bouquet, but that's all part of the package. At first, there are some slight medicinal hints, but these blow away within half an hour. Rich, rich, rich. Chocolate, dark cherries, anise. As it ages, it becomes hard to distinguish it from a fine Cabernet blend. Smooth and rich on the palate. Uplifting herbaceousness on the finish.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Graham's Vintage Port, 1980

This 1980 from Graham's has received very good reviews, both from professional and amateur tasters. When I opened a half bottle last year, I was impressed but suspected the bottle might have been slightly corked. So I opened another bottle this Christmas, and the result was the same: great flavor profile but a damp cardboard aroma that is similar to that of a corked wine. Two others at the table detected these same scents; others found nothing not to like.

Although 1980 is not considered on a par with great vintages such as 1990, the wine is youthful and pleasant. Ripe blackcurrant, glides down easily and is a good match for Bouche de Noel. But still that troubling damp cardboard smell. Oh well, just enjoy the wine.

Domaine Jean Deydier et Fils Les Clefs d'Or Chateauneuf du Pape, 1989

I am always surprised that Les Clefs d'Or doesn't attract more attention among Chateauneuf du Pape drinkers. I have been enjoying the wine since the 1981 vintage and have never had a disappointing bottle. When I visited the area back in the early 1990s, it was one of the wineries I chose to visit, along with Domaine Pegau and Beaucastel. Since that time, Pegau and Beaucastel have gained considerable fame and now sell for $60 to $80 a bottle while Les Clefs d'Or can usually be found on close-out shelves--if at all. It's never flashy but always solid.

Deep crimson, considerably darker than the younger Chante le Merle (below). This is clearly a different style of wine--more structure, more depth and more complexity. Strawberries but also black raspberries and violets. One difference is that Les Clefs d'Or has 15% Mourvedre, and that gives it good structure and staying power. Some will prefer the old vines Grenache, but I still like Jean Deydier's wine--at less than half the price.

Bosquet des Papes Chante le Merle Vieilles Vignaes Chateauneuf du Pape, 1999

I ordinarily don't buy prestige bottlings of Chateauneuf du Pape, but this 1999 Chante le Merle of Bosquet des Papes presented itself as a good buy many years ago. It is 85% Grenache from vines more than 100 years old and is made with only a small amount of new oak.

Medium deep crimson, bright with good clarity. The nose is a bit one-dimensional: strawberries, strawberries and strawberries. Ripe and very pleasant. And over the course of the meal it gained depth and complexity. Same on the palate. Friendly, ripe red berry fruit. My view is that the wine will gain a lot of depth and complexity over the next five to seven years. I am glad I have another bottle or two .

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Eric Ross Saralee's Vineyard Russian River Pinot Noir, 2001

Another top-end Russian River Pinot Noir, this one at full maturity and, as a result, significantly more complex and enjoyable than the Trader Joe's Reserve (below).

Deep ruby with mature garnet/brown tones. The smells and flavors of this wine are incredibly vibrant and youthful. Bright red cherries, cranberries, red plums and a slight touch of ginger. Russian River Pinot +++. The texture has probably gained the most from the 14 years in the bottle. Fine, fine silk. A slight bit of sweetness on the finish. Special wine.

Not a bargain wine at release price, but I got the wine at auction for a price about the same as the Trader Joe's bargain.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Trader Joe's Russian River Pinot Noir Reserve Lot 85, 2011

This has all the qualities of a top end Russian River Pinot Noir. And I paid only $10 for it at Trader Joe's--an excellent value.

Medium deep ruby. Smells and flavors of cranberry, cherry and ginger--all well proportioned and framed by acid and oak. Texture and style of Russian River Pinot. Good now and should age well. I will look for more the next time I make it to TJ's, but I fear that I will be too late.

Rouge Garance Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2011

This is not quite like any Cotes du Rhone or CDR Villages I have had, and I'm still trying to decide whether I like it.

Medium deep ruby, clear and bright but not too dark. Intense smells of red cherry, white pepper and spice, very tightly wound. I don't detect any of the scents I associate with either Grenache or Syrah. Some Mourvedre, yes. I learn that the cepage is actually 70% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre. And that may explain some of the tightness, but I still don't get much of the black fruit, cassis presence I expect from Southern Rhone Syrah. Also very tight on the palate. I like the intensity of red cherry, violet flavors. But not as much generosity as I expect from the Southern Rhone. Maybe it just needs some aging.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mauro Molino Vigna Gattere Barbera d'Alba, 1998

I have been buying young Barberas but have never had a well aged bottle to know what to expect. This 1998 was available at a good price from WineBid so I decided to give it a try. Glad I did.

Deep red cherry color with burnished mature tints around the rim. Lovely nose--dried rose petals, anise seed and dark cherry. Gets better as it airs and warms in the glass. Medium bodied, Barbera acidity. The winery uses the terms "intensity" and "persistence" to describe wines from this vineyard, and I agree. Red cherry fruit on very long finish. This is a wine to enjoy over the course of an evening. Wish I had more.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Good Harbor Vineyards Leelanau Peninsula Pinot Grigio, 2012

Whenever I go to the Leelanau Peninsula to taste wine, Good Harbor is always one of my stops. I like the no-nonsense tasting room where I always get good information about the wines and usually have a chance to chat with the owner--the widow of the late Bruce Simpson, who was one of first to establish vineyards in Leelanau. The Simpsons are a family--as ours is--that believes in drinking wine every night with dinner. "If I had to pay $30 a bottle, we simply couldn't afford that," she told me. That is the philosophy that guides our family as well. Wine is part of a healthy lifestyle--a daily pleasure, as important to me as exercising or eating oatmeal and blueberries for breakfast.

This Pinot Grigio was our favorite wine when we tasted there last summer, and it was on sale for about $10. Perfect. Tonight, the wine appears deeper in color than I expected, but it is not fading. The aromas and flavors are rich enough to suggest Pinot Gris rather than Pinot Grigio (same grape, different style of winemaking). But there is still plenty of freshness and fruit--a mouthwatering wine. There is a slight "leesy" quality, from time spent resting on it spent yeast cells or lees. This is a particularly good Pinot Grigio, and I'm looking forward to future bottles.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Chateau Pesquie Terrasses Ventoux, 2010

Now this is more like it. Compared to what a Ventoux red should be, this is much closer than the Les Amidyves of Olivier B. (below). But it's still not what I really want or like. The wines, they are a-changing. And I guess I'm going to have to get used to it.

70% Grenache, 30% Syrah, it's deep and dark. But the bright crimson of Grenache is still visible. More blue plums and dark cherries than red berries, but that's alright. Also pepper and spice from the fruit. It's a medium bodied, friendly wine but still too high in alcohol (14%) for a Ventoux. Unfortunately, that seems to have become the style in the Southern Rhone (and most places in the world). Grenache takes well to high alcohol when the yields are miniscule, as they are in Chateauneuf du Pape or even Gigondas. But high alcohol Syrah is too sharp and angular for me.

At $15, Terrasses is about the same price as Les Amidyves. I'll try Font-Sane or the coop wines soon to see if they come closer to what I want (for about half that price).

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Domaine Olivier B. Ventoux Les Amidyves, 2011

Jon Rimmerman of Garagiste was quite enthusiastic about this wine. And since Ventoux is a long-time favorite appellation of mine, I was quick to buy...but may not be the next time around. Although it has some impressive traits, Les Amidyves does not fit what I look for in a Ventoux wine.

Probably the classic Ventoux wine, for me, is the the Perrin Family's La Vieille Ferme, one of the least expensive and most enjoyable wines on the market. I have been enjoying it since the early 1980s. Year after year, it is boldly fruity and expressive with the traditional spice and pepper of the Southern Rhone in pleasing proportions. And, of course, the price is hard to resist--still $6 to $8 a bottle. For a few dollars more a bottle, I frequently enjoy Domaine de Font-Sane Vieilles Vignes and a couple of cooperative wines brought in by J&R Importers: Altitude 500 and Cuvee Les Trois Messes Basses. Chateau Pesquie La Terrasses is another fine example, although usually selling for about $15--more than I care to pay for a Ventoux. All are excellent wines produced in a style that is similar to that established by La Vieilles Ferme. How does Olivier B's Ventoux fit this profile?

The wine is very dark and dense--much darker than any of the above. Aromas and flavors are prune-like, dark fruit compared to the fresh red berries of the traditional Ventoux. Very powerful and muscular--too much so for my taste. Is this Ventoux trying to become a Gigondas? I find plenty of pepper, which I like in a Southern Rhone. But, by the second night, it becomes overwhelming. I think it's more about the high alcohol than the natural pepper from the Grenache/Syrah fruit. 15% alcohol for a Ventoux?