Sunday, October 30, 2016

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

2006 is not considered a top year for Southern Rhone wines, but this is a particularly good vintage for Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin, a Cairanne I have been buying and enjoying for at least the last 25 years. Although the domaine recommends drinking these wines at 5 to 7 years, I have long since discovered that this is a conservative estimate. This wine is still young in every respect.

Good saturated color. Deep, dark cherry scents. Also black fruits, violets, cured meat. Big presence on the palate, rich fruit and spice. Grenache berry giving way to Mourvedre spice. No need to hurry with this wine; it's still in its prime. I have a bottle or two left; wish I had a case.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gavilan Chalone Appellation Chardonnary, 2012

Gavilan is a second label of Chalone, but there is nothing second class about this wine.

Brilliant light to medium gold. Green pears and Granny Smith apples, freshly sliced with a coating of lemon. The aromatic intricacies of this wine are incredible; I can't quit sniffing and get something new from every sniff. Fresh on the palate but, again, with the intracies more common in a mature wine. Beautifully balanced.

For $16.99 (Village Corner in Ann Arbor), this wine gives me more than I would expect from a $20 to $30 New World Chardonnay. Chalone is dedicated to making Burgundy-like Chardonnay and Pinot. And, with this 2012 Chardonnay, I would say they have succeeded.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Southeast Australia Shiraz Cabernet, 2005

During a year I spent in Australia, the 1976 Koonunga Hill Claret (as it was then called) was a favored bargain, whether off the shelf for less than $2 a bottle or in pubs around Melbourne University. The wine was undoubtedly sourced from better vineyards at that time, but the style is pretty much the same, and the wine is still a stellar bargain, selling for $8 to $10 at World Market and other wine outlets. The 1976, I am told, was going strong after three decades; this 2005 has been ready to drink for the past several years.

Deep color, some bricking. Typical Shiraz Cabernet (72% Shiraz, 28% Cab) smells and flavors. Not really like either Shiraz or Cabernet. Dark chocolate, spice and black fruits. Rounded and full bodied. Flavors that grow on you. Very dry with firm tannins.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Les Trois Couronnes Gigondas, 2007

I had some really good things to say about this wine when I last had it in February of 2015. Tonight: not so much. The wine is nearly two years older and may have declined. But I'm more inclined to attribute the difference to bottle variation. I have had five or six bottles of this Gigondas (all purchased at the same time from the same source), and every experience has been different.

The wine tonight has good color, is medium bodied and has decent plum-like fruit. I think I described the last bottle as "Syrah flavors wrapped in Pinot Noir"--pretty much what Gigondas is about. Power and beauty. This bottle has none of that complexity or excitement. Good enough to drink but not worth spending much time with. Some of the 14.5% alcohol is beginning to show on the mid-palate and finish. Maybe the wine has started its decline. But based on the bottle variation I have experienced, I would not advise anyone to either drink soon or hold.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Nerelo del Bastardo Vino da Tavola, 2008

Nerelo del Bastardo is my number one bargain wine from Trader Joe's over the years. It was $5.99 a bottle when I started buying it with the 1999 vintage, but the price has gone up (and the quality down) in recent vintages. There is nothing wrong with this 2008, though.

The label hints that the wine is made from Nebbiolo ("certain BIG wines that we are not permitted to mention here, under Italian law.") And the wine does, indeed, have many of the traits of a Nebbiolo, although I suspect that some other grape (Syrah? Sangiovese? Cabernet?) is part of the blend.

Deep ruby, none of the amber that is typical of even relatively young Nebbiolo. At first, the nose is a bit shy, but it opens nicely after an hour or so. It's on the palate, though, that the Nebbiolo traits appear--rich dark cherry with floral undertones. Fills the mouth. Plenty of tannin here but also lots of acid. Still accessible and exciting to drink. More like Barolo than Barbaresco.

I still have some Bastardo bottles from 1999, 2000 and 2002. And they were all doing fine the last time I tried them. This 2008 may never become as good; then again, it might be even better.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Parducci Small Lot Blend Mendocino Pinot Noir, 2013

This wine ordinarily sells for $13 to $15 a bottle, but Harding's Market in Kalamazoo has a "special purchase" price of $8.69. Even at the higher price, it's a fantastic value--several cuts above your typical inexpensive Pinot Noir.

The label is classy. I was attracted by the Mendocino appellation, and the "small lot blend" designation. But there were 43,000 cases produced, so it's hardly an artisan wine. I don't know where the vineyards are located (probably around the winery in Ukiah), but it does have many of the traits that I love about Russian River Pinot Noir.

Medium light ruby. Beautiful scents, particularly on the second night: flowers, wild raspberries, cedar and French oak. Smooth Pinot texture and flavor interest that keeps me sipping for nearly half an hour. Not at all sweet--even compared to the Marsannay I had last week. Intense Pinot fruit and spice on the ginger end of the spectrum. Very pleasing touch of Pinot black pepper on the finish. I think I will go back for more. I don't think this wine is a long ager, but it should do fine over the next five or six years.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Domaine Bois de Boursan Chateauneuf du Pape, 2003

2003 was a disastrously warm vintage in the Southern Rhone, and, after tasting a few inexpensive Cotes du Rhone wines, I decided to stay away from Chateauneuf and Gigondas wines. This wine from Bois de Boursan was an exception. I have always admired Jean-Paul Versino as a winemaker and read some positive early reports about his 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape. The reports were right.

Good color, some amber beginning to form. The first sniff is funky but quickly turns into typical Bois de Boursan aromas, which are still funky but distinctive and beautiful. Spring flowers in a cow pasture. Very aromatic. Grenache strawberry but also black fruits. Warm and spicy on the palate. Very dense, like fruit cake but also sleek in texture. Very typical and very good. Ripe Grenache finish. No sign of warm vintage issues; the alcohol level is only 13.5%. Glad I have another bottle.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Louis Latour Marsannay, 2006

It has been nearly two years since I last opened a bottle of this red Burgundy. And it has developed nicely during that time.

Medium light color but still bright and lively with only a bit of amber at the rim. The smells are captivating: strawberry, mint, cinnamon and flowers. On the palate, it is fruity and ripe but with acids that keep it from going over the top. I have been drinking Pinots from Anderson Valley and Russian River recently, and this wine lacks the gingery, peppery traits on the finish that add complexity to those wines. I am basically a Europhile, preferring wines from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal to those from California or Australia. Pinot Noir is the exception--and probably because I don't have the big bucks to spend for the top red Burgundies. At less than $20 a bottle, Louis Latour's Marsannay is a good value.