Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ici/La-Bas "Les Reveles" Medoncino Pinot Noir Elke Vineyard Anderson Valley, 2006

This is an Anderson Valley Pinot Noir made by Jim Clendenen, a respected winemaker from Au Bon Climat. The grapes come from Mary Elke's Donnelly Creek vineyard--again one of the best.

Medium deep ruby. Wild strawberries, flowers and spice. Fruit purity and focus. Lively intensity on the mid-palate followed by a rich, satisfying finish. For my taste, this wine needs some time to develop depth and complexity. A 1997 Ici/La-Bas I had a couple of years ago showed loads of character, even though Mary Elke's vineyards were still young at that time.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Collovray & Terrier Macon Villages Tradition, 2014

For those preferring a white wine with our Thanksgiving turkey, this traditional Macon was more than adequate.

The color is a beautiful medium gold. (By comparison, the 2013 from this estate tasted last week was much deeper gold with more suggestions of maturity.) Crisp apples and pears. No oak but probably some time spent on the lees (spent yeast cells). Chardonnay just the way I like it, showing all the facets of the fruit. Reminds me of the estate's Pouilly Fuisse and Saint Veran, which I had many times during the 1990s. Good Macon, good vintage. Buy more.

Clos du Clocher Pomerol, 1995

Some 1995 Bordeaux might be showing signs of age, but this Pomerol is doing just fine.

Deep and dark. Scents of dark chocolate and cherries, laced with just a hint of herbs. A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, showing the best face of both varietals. Flamboyant with finely tuned fruit. I'm generally not a fan of Merlot, but then I rarely run across Merlot this fine. Paired with a 1979 Edmeades Cabernet at the Thanksgiving table.

Edmeades Anderson Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 1979

The price tag on this bottle reads $7.99. Even considering inflation, that was a particularly low price for a 1979 California Cabernet. The 1979 Burgess Cellars was $12.50; Mondavi, $13.15 and Cakebread, $15.95. Edmeades, though, had vineyards in Anderson Valley--a cool climate area that was very low on the prestige scale at that time. In recent years, Anderson Valley has gained a reputation for very high quality Pinot Noirs and Alsace varietals. As a result, there aren't many vineyards (outside of Yorkville Cellars) producing Cabernet or other Bordeaux varietals. This wine, though, is proof that the area is capable of producing very good, ageworthy Cabernet.

Deep but with the bricking to be expected. Well focused Cabernet smells and flavors--blackcurrant, black fruits and leather. A blast from the past, well preserved. Tasted alongside a 1995 Pomerol (Clos du Clocher), this wine showed all the colors of Cabernet Sauvignon. A hit at the Thanksgiving table.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Giacoma Fenocchio Langue Freisa, 2013

As much as I love Piedmont reds, I hadn't heard of Freisa until recently, and this is my first bottle. It's an old grape, probably an ancestor of Nebbiolo, that has not gained the prominence of Barolo and Barbaresco...or even Langhe Nebbiolo. But this bottle from Giacoma Fenocchio is very, very good, and I will certainly be back for more.

Deep ruby color. The bouquet, even at this young age, is heavenly. Cherries, raspberries--a whole fruit orchard surrounded by rose bushes. Deep, dark and full of passion. I love to sniff Nebbiolo, but I think this may be even more enchanting. The same on the palate. Layers of flavor framed by good acidity and mouth drying tannins. Yes, there is some bitterness on the finish, but it's a pleasant bitterness, like that of dark chocolate. This wine is clearly an ager, but at my age, who cares?

The wine list at Bistro Stella in Traverse City introduced me to Freisa, focusing on G.D. Vajra's Kye. I was tempted to try a glass of the Kye but instead went for a Nebbiolo d'Alba, which was very good. I hope the Kye is still on the wine list the next time I get to Travere City. And in the meantime, I will be looking for other Freisa wines. I bought this from WineLibrary.com for $20.23 with free shipping from New Jersey. Worth every penny.

Pierre Bise Anjou Blanc, 2001

I drank this inexpensive Anjou Blanc with great pleasure through most of the 1990s and bought four cases (for about $40 a case) for my daughter's wedding in 2005. I am well aware of the value of this wine, and apparently the domaine has also come to this conclusion, asking $78 a bottle for the current vintage. It is a special dry Chenin Blanc wine, at least as good as most Savennieres.

Deep gold by now, showing its maturity. Also maturity on the nose but that's a plus with this wine. Honey, red berries, incredible depth and concentration. Same on the palate. This is very much like drinking a red wine. You can't just sip and forget; you have to savor the greatness of Loire Chenin Blanc, well grown and well made. Alas, my last bottle.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Franco Serra Barbera d'Alba, 2012

This is one of my favorite Barberas, and it is an excellent value at $9.99 a bottle (D&W FreshMarket in Kalamazoo).

The color is dark and so are the smells and flavors. Black cherry, blackberries and peppercorn. Very much a Piedmont wine in its intensity and concentration. Pleasing ripeness on the finish.

Monte Degli Angeli Piemonte Pinot Noir, 2013

You don't see many Pinots from the Piedmont area of Italy, but the grape should take well to the cool, high altitude climate. I like this inexpensive ($10/bottle) Piedmont Pinot.

I usually expect a burst of aroma when I pop the cork on a Pinot Noir but got virtually nothing from this one. Oh well, Piedmont wines generally need some air, and this wine's aroma becomes better and better over the next half hour. Cherries and spices. On the palate, the wine is not as delicate as I expect from Pinot Noir but it is rich and satisfying. Reminds me more of a Barbera than a Pinot Noir. Nothing overdone and a pleasing finish.

I suspect that this wine might benefit from aging, but it will probably not get that chance from me.

d'Arenberg The Hermit Crab McLaren Vale Viognier Marsanne, 2013

This is an interesting combination of two Rhone whites. Marsanne is the grape used for white Hermitage; Viognier is the only grape allowed for the Northern Rhone appellation of Condrieu. The Australian d'Arenberg winery blends them at 76% Viognier and 24% Marsanne, and it works well for me.

The color is deep yellow, as you might expect from even a young Marsanne. And on the first night I get a lot of Marsanne character. "Glue" is sometimes used as a descriptor, and I smell glue here. That may sound negative, but it really isn't when you smell it in a wine. It's a broad earthy smell that might match up well with a crab bisque soup. Concentrated and deep.

On the second night, the Viognier peeps out with a completely different personality--white peaches, spring flowers, crisp acidity to counter the Marsanne earth. Viognier is generally not considered a wine for aging; Marsanne seems to improve even over several decades. For this wine, I would be tempted to let it age for awhile, knowing full well that the color might get deeper and less pleasing to some.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Mas de Boislauzon Chaussynette Vin de France, 2013

Mas de Boislauzon is an excellent Chateauneuf du Pape domaine, but this inexpensive wine is labeled simply Vin de France--not even Cotes du Rhone. The estate won't reveal where the grapes come from, but some have speculated that they may have come from young Chateauneuf vines. Actually, they could come from anywhere in France and probably from a less prestigious appellation. At any rate, someone has crafted a very good, traditional Southern Rhone wine.

The blend probably contains about equal amounts of Syrah and Grenache,  but, for me, the Syrah traits seem dominant. Deep ruby. Black fruits, anise, black pepper. Lush on the mid palate. Good acid lift (only 13% alcohol), and the finish improves throughout the meal. I bought this for about $13 from Folgarelli's in Traverse City; for that price, or even a bit more, it is an excellent value.

Fatalone Primitivo Riserva, 2006

Primitivo is believed by some to be the Italian equivalent of Zinfandel. And this wine is every bit as bold and powerful as Zins from Dry Creek or elsewhere in California. The aromas and flavors are dark--black fruits, licorice and just the right amount of funk and rusticity. Warm at 15% alcohol, but not at all awkward or tiring to drink. At 10 years of age, it is mature but will keep for several more years.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Collovray et Terrier Macon Villages Tradition, 2013

This is an old favorite that I enjoyed many times in the 1990s. Also known as Domaine Deux Roches, the estate also produces very good Pouilly Fuisse and Saint Veran wines.

This 2013 has taken on a deep gold color, showing more maturity than I would expect. I bought a case or two of the 1990 and was still enjoying it 1998 and later. Otherwise, though, the wine is fresh and lively. Broad apple and citrus smells and flavors. I don't believe this wine is aged in oak, but it does have some leesy qualities that give it body and richness. Lots of subtelty, reminds me of a Pouilly Fuisse.

Rouge Garance Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2011

This CDR Villages is 70% Syrah, 20% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre from vines 50 to 70 years old. It is also aged in barriques but still looks, smells and tastes very much like a traditional Cotes du Rhone.

Deep ruby. Backward scents of black fruits and spice. Same on the palate with a touch of black pepper showing after the wine has been opened for half an hour or so. Medium weight, good grip and finish.

I bought two of these from Garagiste a few years ago and probably opened them a few years too soon. Although the wine shows well now, I suspect it will gain more depth after a few years of aging.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Nine Stones McLaren Vale Shiraz, 2008

Nine Stones, established by wine writer Len Evans, offers several cuvees of shiraz; my favorites are the Hilltops and this one from McLaren Valey. This 2008 is showing pretty well right now.

Deep, dark color. I smell mostly black fruits--blackberry and anise. On the palate there are also some blue plums and a hint of black pepper. McLaren Vale fruit is prized for its supple mid-palate presence, and this trait comes through here. Some tannin but drinks well right now.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2006

This label says Cerise Vineyard, and, from the time I pop the cork, I smell cherries, beautiful cherries. Dark cherries but also bing cherries and other red berries. Very fruity, even at 10 years of age, but multifaceted and beautiful.

Cerise is the French word for cherry, and the vineyard is in the Anderson Valley, on a steep southwest facing slope not far from the ocean--fog in the morning, sun in the afternoon, cool temperatures overnight. Knez and Chronicle also produce Pinot Noirs from this highly regarded vineyard. Saintsbury's plot is near the top (1000 to 1300 feet elevation) planted with Pommard and Dijon clones.

On the palate, the wine reveals itself as distinctly Anderson Valley. Compared to Russian River Pinots, which I also love, the Anderson Valley product is intense and pure, oriented more toward fruit than spice. Not as dark but more vibrant. Cairanne rather than Rasteau. This 2006 wine was aged in 50% new French oak, but at this stage of development I can't detect any oak influence. Has the delicacy and texture appropriate for Rainbow trout and Hasselback potatoes. In my opinion, Anderson Valley is one of the best spots from growing fine Pinot Noir.