Sunday, December 31, 2017

Portado Winemakers Selection Red, 2011

A previous bottle of this wine (tasted in December, 2016) showed peppery, spicy fruit--a cross between a Cotes du Rhone Villages and a fine Pinot Noir. Today, tannins are obscuring some of these traits, but I consider that a good sign. With a few years' time in the cellar, these traits will emerge again with more intensity.

I bought this for $5.99 at Costco. It is available elsewhere for about $10. If you see it, I recommend buying several bottles and having some patience. At this price, you have little to lose.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Concannon Petite Sirah, 1979

I am not a fan of Petite Sirah, but I must admit that it ages about as well as any. This 1979 Concannon, from a magnum, is showing no real signs of age.

Deep, dark color. Very ripe floral aromas. Also ripe and floral on the palate. Has that dustiness that is typical of Petite Sirah. But everything holds together nicely,  not only on the first night but after being stored in a decanter for three days.

Boroli Langue Rosso Anna, 2011

Paired with the Vajra Langhe Rosso (below), this wine offered a good contrast of styles. Instead of blending Nebbiolo with Barbera, Dolcetta and Freisa, the winemaker chooses Merlot and Barbera.

Good color. And the Nebbiolo shows through clearly in the aromas. Merlot softens the tannins and also seems to make the wine less acidic. Another food-friendly wine that makes good use of declassified Barolo. This wine runs about $15; the Vajra, about 12. Regardless of price, I would choose the Vajra for its freshness and intensity.

G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso, 2014

This is an absolutely gorgeous wine. It's ready to drink now, with loads of aromatic intensity, but is likely to develop even further over the next few years.

Beautiful ruby red. The wine is mostly Nebbiolo, and the hallmarks aromas are there--dark cherries, roses, licorice. There is also Barbera, Dolcetto and Freisa also adding their distinctive traits. The Freisa, in particular, adds a haunting floral character. Oh, I love this wine. And on the palate, it's even better. Perfect balance of acid and tannin. Fresh and lively; perfect match for tomato-based pasta.

Trimbach Gewurztraminer Cuvee des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre, 2000

Aged Gewurztraminer is often a hard sell. Not so for this special cuvee from Trimbach.

Deep gold color but otherwise shows few signs of age. Honey, pineapple and ripe pears. Rich and ripe. Slightly sweet but well balanced. Lychee nuts, peaches and minerals. Keeps you coming back for more.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Ca Bianca Barolo, 2003; i Tres Merli Gigi Rosso Barbaresco, 1999

This is about as perfect a pair of Piedmont classics as you could hope to find. The Barolo is from 2003 but not showing any negative signs from the warm vintage. The Barbaresco is from the excellent 1999 vintage, bottled by Gigi Rosso for a former Italian restaurant in New York city.

As to be expected, the Barolo is dark and powerful but with the lovely Nebbiolo bouquet of rose petals, black licorice and dark cherries. Perfect weight on the palate and an elegant finish for a warm vintage wine. Textbook Barolo.

Many at the table were charmed even more by the Barbaresco. Lovely floral bouquet that jumps from the glass. And the flavors are at least as tempting. Lighter tones, less tannin than the Barolo, but that's what Barbaresco is all about. When the restaurant was operating, this was an expensive wine by the glass; when the restaurant went caput, the bottles went up for auction, and I snagged several at an unbelievable price.

Friday, December 8, 2017

J.L. Chave St. Joseph Offerus, 1999

Wow! This wine has developed beautifully, and I see no signs of impending decline, even at 18 years of age.

Medium deep Syrah color. Has thrown plenty of sediment but it is actually quite pleasant to smell and taste--the tannin that was. Fruit more than oak. Black fruits--blackberries, black raspberries, cassis, lavender--everything you expect from a great Syrah. Also some pleasant earthy, savory tones, black olives, cured meats--all the qualities I love in a mature Syrah. Very ripe but has plenty of acid to balance it out. Sweet and savory. Gorgeous wine.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Domaine Diochon Moulin a Vent, 2000

Two years ago (January, 2016) I said some bad things about this wine. It must have been an off bottle, subjected to bad storage or transportation before it got to my cellar. With this bottle tonight, I take it all back. Domaine Diochon is an excellent wine that ages well, and, at $20 to $25 a bottle, one of the world's great wine bargains.

At 18 years of age, the color has lightened a bit but is still a bright ruby. (Not so with the 2016 bottle.) The bouquet is slow to open but has a lovely subtlety. Cherries, pomegranates, flowers. Same on the palate. It's not made to bowl you over but rather to give you a pleasurable dining experience. And that it does. We had it with a simple meal of tomato soup and salad, but the wine brought the experience to a whole different level. Subtle, smooth, no hard edges and a long, long finish. Glad I still have another bottle.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Ciacci Piccolomini d'Arogona IGT Toscano Rosso, 2010

I bought only one bottle of this Toscano Rosso and nursed it for several years before opening. It is showing very well for a wine made for every day consumption. At $12 a bottle, I would buy it by the case and enjoy it over several years. Don't worry about drinking it too soon and don't worry that it will go over the hill on you. Don't worry about drinking it with pizza (as we did tonight) and don't worry about serving it with beef or pork tenderloin. It's mostly Sangiovese Grosso from young vines used to produce Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino blended with some Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet.

Medium ruby color. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and aged in concrete so it's not for oak lovers. Sangiovese cherry with some herbal notes, ripe and approachable but with good acid structure. Dry up front but with significant ripeness and complexity as the wine glides across the tongue. I like it; wish I had more.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Saint Cosme Little James' Basket Press Rouge, (2015)

The name, the cartoon drawings, the style of the label suggests that this is a fun wine. And it is. But I also got serious pleasure from this beautiful expression of Grenache, one of my favorite wine grapes.

The grapes probably come from the Southern Rhone, but the wine can claim only a vin de table designation because of the unusual way it is made. Commonly used for sherry and tawny port, he solera method works very well here for a dry table wine. About 50% of the wine comes from the current vintage (2015) which is added to a barrel containing wine from every vintage since 1999. As w inemaker Louis Barruol points out, "Our solera is getting more and more complexity year after year. When we add the current vintage, the solera gains a new element without changing the style."

The color is much deeper than I expect from even a young Southern Rhone Grenache, but the aromas and flavors are spot on. Rich, ripe mouthfeel with lots of fresh fruit: strawberries, cherries, a touch of cassis. Soft but not simple. Has mature fruitcake qualities lurking underneath that are suggestive of a fine Chateauneuf du Pape or Gigondas. Fermented and aged in vat.

I bought a bottle for $11.99 at D&W in Kalamazoo and will go back for more. It is great with an every day meal, but I would not hesitate to serve it at a special dinner. Serious fun.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Domaine du Prieure Savigny Les Beaune Blanc, 2011

The label mentions pineapple and mango, tropical fruit traits that are ordinarily found in warm climate, New World Chardonnays rather than white wines from Burgundy. At first I detect mostly citrus and honey dew melon, but as the wine warms in the glass, the pineapple and mango smells and flavors are dominant. Everything is clean and clearly focused, though, with a long finish.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Trimbach Alsace Riesling, 2012

Trimbach has some of the best Riesling vineyards in Alsace. The Clos St. Hune and the Cuvee Frederick Emile bottlings are classics...and priced accordingly. But the regular Trimbach Riesling, which sells for $15 to $25 a bottle, is also excellent. My advice is to buy as much as you can afford. There are very few Chardonnays in this price range that offer as much complexity and character.

Deep yellow color. Has the classic petroleum smells plus yellow stone fruits. Oh so rich and intense, and it gets better from minute to minute. Singing on the second night. The Trimbach Riesling made my Top 10 of 2016 and will probably be on my list against in 2017.

Keenan Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 1979

The grapes for this wine come from Silver Mountain, and the high quality was apparent even in the early 1980s. It got high marks from Parker, and the original price was $17.49--outside of my price range at that time. But the sale tag from Russo's in Grand Rapids reads $8.99, and for that price, I bought several bottles. They have aged remarkably well; I wish I had more.

Very deep, bluish, almost opaque. And a great deal of crusty sediment. Beautifully aromatic from the first pour. Spicy, oaky but good blackberry and currant fruit. Even at 38 years of age, this wine has substantial tannin and acid to carry its beautiful Silver Mountain fruit.

Chateau Poujeaux Moulis-en-Medoc, 1985

I bought this wine at a Chicago Wine Company auction for a ridiculously low price but was nevertheless a bit disappointed by it in the late 1990s. It is now showing its true colors--which are very bright indeed.

Somewhat brickish color, particularly compared to the Keenan Cabernet opened at the same time. At first it seems light by comparison but develops remarkably after about 45 minutes of aeration. Leaning toward the herbaceous spectrum. Black currant with some green overtones. I usually don't like those traits, but this wine carries them quite well.  Beautiful intensity on the mid-palate and finish. Cherries and herbs. Displays the elegance that the Keenan Cabernet beside it just can't match.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Domaine Pegau Cuvee Reservee Chateauneuf du Pape, 1989

Donna and I spent Thanksgiving by ourselves (the troops are arriving tomorrow!) but we had plenty of good food and wine to keep us company: crusted rack of lamb with Tuscan bread pudding, roasted potatoes, chocolate pecan pie topped by  creme fraiche...and a glorious bottle of 1989 Domaine Pegau Cuvee Reservee. I remember tasting this 1989 vintage with Laurence Feraud at the estate back in 1991 or 1992. She told me it would age well, and it certainly has.

The color is still deep and bright. And the bouquet is fabulous: cherries, strawberries on a backdrop of black licorice. What is affectionately known among fans as the "Pegau funk" is present but not as strong as in some previous bottles I have had. Actually, very clean and smooth on the palate. Rich in the middle, ripe and long on the finish. This may be the best bottle of the 1989 I have had.

I am thankful for my family, of course. And I am thankful for being able to enjoy good food and great wine.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Costa di Bussia (Tenuta Arnulfo) Barbera d'Alba, 2010

Costa di Bussia has become my favorite Barbera d'Alba, and I have been buying a few bottles each year in an effort to determine optimum aging for my taste. This 2010 has always shown well and is now beginning to show some development. I would expect even greater improvement over the next two or three years.

Bright ruby. Has classic Piedmont scents: black and red cherries with undertones of black licorice. Very inviting. Great range of flavors. Great acidity and enough tannin to maintain balance. Has the freshness to be an every day wine but enough intrigue to accompany serious dining.

I just bought four bottles of the 2015 Costa di Bussia for $12/bottle. Looking forward to giving it a try soon.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Tasters' Guild/American Wine Society Wine Dinner at Kitchen House, Richland, MI

I have been to many good wine dinners, but this event has to rank near the top for me. Kitchen House regularly serves some of the best farm-to-table food in the area, and the dishes tonight were particularly well conceived and well executed.

Bruce Bruckman of Kobrand presented a full range of wines from Masi Agricola--unique, exciting wines and well matched to the food. I have not had much experience with wines from Valpolicello. I learned a lot while enjoying great food and great wine. My notes follow below.

Masi Agricola Masianco Pinot Grigio, 2016

Masi calls this a "Supervenetian" white, a counterpart to its Campofiorin (see below). It's an impressive Pinot Grigio blend that is fresh enough to enjoy casually on the deck or as a serious accompaniment to dishes such as seared sea scallops.

Pinot Grigio grapes are picked in late August and aged in stainless steel to preserve its fresh, fruity aromas and flavors. This is then blended with Verduzzo grapes picked at the end of September and then ripened for three weeks on bamboo racks to reduce water weight and increase concentration. Aging of the Verduzzo is in barriques.

Fresh aromas of tropical fruits and citrus. Weight and substance on the palate. Honey note. Concentrated and complex. More citrus on the finish.

Masi Modello Rosso delle Venezie IGT, 2016

For its price ($12 to $16) Modello Rosso offers a lot of easy drinking pleasure. I would compare it to an Austrian Zweigelt or a Cab Franc from the Loire Valley of France.

Aromas and flavors of blackberries, raspberries and black licorice. Peppery tannins and brisk acidity. A good match for pork/duck arancini with roasted heirloom tomato sauce.

Masi Agricola Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese IGT, 2013

Made with the same grapes as the Amarone (below), this wine qualifies as Ripasso or Recioto. The double fermentation method results in a wine that provides the richness and some of the complexity of a good Amarone. Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara are fermented, then fermented again with grapes that have been dried for six weeks.

Deep and dark ruby. Rich, ripe--almost jammy--aromas of blue plums and dark berries. Tannins are smooth, but I suspect this wine would age beautifully. Not as great as Amarone but has many of the same qualities for a fraction of the cost. Served with wild mushroom pappardelle with mascarpone mousse--a perfect match.

Masi Agricola Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG, Veneto, 2011

Costasera is considered by many the best vineyard for producing high-quality Amarone. The slopes face west with Lake Garda providing direct as well as reflected sunlight and gentle breezes.

The blend is 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 5% Molinara, and 100% of grapes are dried on bamboo racks to increase concentration. Fermentation occurs in large Slavonian oak barrels or stainless steel at a low temperature; aging is in smaller Slavonian and French oak.

Deep and dark ruby. Intense and powerful aromas of baked cherry, dried plums with hints of balsamic. Tannins are bit lighter than in the Riserva (below) and, as a result, the wine is a bit friendlier at this stage. Great intensity and concentration. Perfect companion to braised short ribs with creamy parmesan polento.

Masi Agricola Riserva di Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, 2011

If you have ever bought a bottle of Amarone (and I must admit that I have not), you undoubtedly know about Masi Agricola, well known for its excellent Amarones and Reciotos. The name Masi comes from the little valley purchased by the Boscaino family in the late 18th century. An historic estate once owned by the descendants of the 14th century poet Dante Alighieri, the vineyards here are perfectly situated and well tended.

Amarone is a wine made from grapes that have been dried, reducing the water weight by 80% and increasing the concentration of the wine. The grapes for this riserva have been dried for up to 120 days, then aged for 38-40 months in 600-liter Slavonian oak barrels and smaller French oak casks, 1/3 of which are new. The blend is 70% Corvina, 15% Rondinella, 10% Oseleta and 5% Molinari. The Corvina grapes have naturally developed botrytis that increases the complexity.

Very deep and dark ruby. Even at this early age, the bouquet is astounding: dark cherries, dried plums, cinnamon. Full bodied and lush on the palate with a powerful finish. Very complex. Is there a better end to a great meal?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Deux Roches Macon-Villages Cuvee Tradition, 2014

If you have a bottle of this wine, I suggest you open and drink it right away. It is at a sweet point that should not be denied.

Medium deep for a three-year-old Chardonnay. Intense and beautiful aromas--ripe pears, apples, honey, citrus. In the mouth, it's even more intriguing. When made right, Chardonnay has a lot of complexity. And this wine was made right. Goes beautifully with fish soup.

Cave de Tain Premiere Note Syrah, 2015

2015 was an excellent vintage in the Northern Rhone, and I was impressed by this wine at an earlier tasting. Tonight, though, it is not showing its best. I get a somewhat stinky smell of burned rubber--probably what is known as a "reduction note." In other words, it is crying for a breath of air.

I pour the wine from glass to glass, and, sure enough, the beautiful aromas of young Syrah begin to emerge. Blue plums, black berries, a hint of cassis. This is how it smelled six months ago when I tasted it. Authoritative note on the palate; reminds me of a young Crozes. And it will get better if you have the patience to keep it for three to five years.

Kuentz-Bas Gewurztraminer Cuvee Tradition, 1983

I remember being entranced by this wine at a large wine tasting in Kalamazoo in the mid-1980s. I liked it, and it had been given a high rating by Robert Parker. At that time, before rating inflation, Parker's score was probably 86-88. Tonight, 30-some years later, the wine is a darker color but has pretty much the same tasting profile and personality.

Unmistakably Gewurz: powerful perfume. Rose petals, mint and all the other traits usually described as "spicy" but are really unlike any spice I have smelled. Big and powerful on the palate. None of the bitterness that I expected from a wine this old. Good acid; not nearly as sweet as most Alsace wines are today. It goes very well with spicy Asian food from Chin Chin in Mattawan, Michigan.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Vintjs Russian River Valley Sonoma County Arneis, 2016

Another Trader Joe's bargain. It is a more serious wine than the La Granja 360 described below. And, although it costs about twice as much ($8.99 vs $4.99), it is still inexpensive.

Arneis is a white wine grape from the Piemonte in Italy, and this wine from the Russian River Valley is clearly more New World in its approach. But it is an interesting variation from the usual Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc/Pinot Grigio axis.

Light straw. Intriguing aromas of grapefruit, herbs, flowers. As zesty as the La Granja but has considerable more depth of flavor. Pleasant blood orange finish. I will go back for more.

La Granja 360 Verdejo Viura, 2016

Along with Pontificis, this was one of my selections on my first visit to the new Trader Joe's store in Kalamazoo. For $4.99 a bottle, it is another very good value.

Light straw color. Very aromatic--flowers, fresh herbs. Ripe pears and citrus fruits. Fruity but with a clean, zesty finish.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Trentadue Old Patch Red Lot #43, 2015

The label bills this as a "delicious 'bistro' style blend," and it matched up well with my Thai Barbecue Flank Steak dish at Food Dance Cafe in Kalamazoo. It offers up bright, spicy fruit and an appropriate degree of ripeness. For the price ($12.99 retail and $34 on the wine list at Food Dance), it also has significant concentration and some intriguing Dry Creek Zinfandel traits.

Ridge Vineyards' Geyserville Red ranks at the very top of my Zinfandel list, and the grapes for this wine have been purchased from Leo Trentadue's vineyards for many years. Great grapes, great wine. Trentadue's Old Patch Red Lot #43 is less ambitious but has a blend similar to that of Ridge Geyserville: 73% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah, 5% Carignane and 2% Sangiovese.

Deep and dark. Lush aromas and flavors of berries and dark cherries. Ripe but good acidity. All of the special qualities of Dry Creek Zin and Petite Sirah--peppery, spicy, tannic. Long finish. Is this the "poor man's Geyserville Red"?

I would love to see Trentadue wines come back into my marketing area. Maybe this is a start?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Badet Clement Pontificis GSM, 2015

Picking over the wines at the new Trader Joe's store in Kalamazoo, Pontificis GSM ($6.99) was one of my first selections. And I will go back soon to buy more.

When I saw "Badet Clement" on the label I knew pretty much that I wouldn't be disappointed. For the past several decades, I have enjoyed numerous low-priced Badet Clement wines from Tricastin and other Southern Rhone appellations. This GSM (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre) is a Southern Rhone blend from Languedoc Roussilon in Southern France. There is more Syrah (32%) here than in the typical Southern Rhone, and that results in a deeper color, fuller body and bolder fruit.

Deep, dark ruby. Unique spicy aromas, full and intense. Hints of menthol and aromatic herbs. More black and than red fruits; more plum than berries. The spicy personality carries over to the palate. Bold and intense. Very young now and from a good vintage. I look forward to enjoying this wine many times over the next three or four years.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Domaine du Marcoux Chateauneuf du Pape, 1990

At one time, I considered this to be the best Chateauneuf--perhaps the best wine--in my cellar, even though what I have are all half bottles (375 ml). Age has taken a toll on the wine in these small bottles, however, and it now represents merely a good example of mature Chateauneuf du Pape.

I get some tanky smells but also some pleasant savory aromas. Lots of crusty and powdery sediment. Better on the palate than the nose. Mature Grenache dried berry and spice. Wish I could taste this wine from a 750 ml bottle or--better yet--a magnum.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Domaine des Tourelles Gigondas, 2004

With a few tastes of the Pesquie Ventoux left from the previous night, I wanted a direct comparison with a Gigondas produced about 20 kilometers away from a similar blend of grapes. La Terrasses is 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah; this Tourlles Gigondas is 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre and 2% Cinsault. The wines are similar, but the Gigondas is unquestionably several notches higher in quality.

The color is similar--deep ruby. The bouquet is typically Gigondas--wild flowers, spearmint and herbs. In the mouth the wild red berries take over. Sweet fruit but also lovely balancing acidity. Depth and concentration. An excellent wine.

Chateau Pesquie La Terrasses Ventoux, 2012

If you visit Gigondas, you will see the Dentelles de Montmirail, a jagged range of mountains in the background. Even farther back is Mont Ventoux. Ventoux wines have traditionally been lower priced, but the cepage is similar to that of Gigondas and other highly regarded Cotes du Rhone Villages--about 70% Grenache, 20 to 30% Syrah and sometimes some other grapes such as Cinsault or Carignane. And the higher elevation produces wines with more acid and lower levels of alcohol than other areas. Ventoux has always been one of my favorite Southern Rhone appellations, and this is an excellent Ventoux.

Deep ruby. Very traditional in aromas and flavors. Hints of spring flowers peep in and out. Red and black fruits with spice and black pepper. More subtle than other vintages of this wine and more interesting texture. An excellent example of Ventoux and of Terrasses. 70% Grenache, 30% Syrah.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz, 2004

For me, the only negative thing I can say about this wine is that it was unfortunate enough to be tasted alongside the excellent 1983 Domaine Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage. I realize, of course, that most Australian wine drinkers would probably disagree with me.

Deep and dark ruby. Very fruit forward and charming, as you would expect from a Coonawarra red. Black raspberries, currants, cassis. Not a great deal of complexity but a good example of Australian Shiraz and a very enjoyable wine.

Paul Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert, 1983

When Rhone wine writer and expert John Livingstone-Learmouth ( tasted the 1983 Thalabert in September of 2005, he reckoned that the wine was nearing the end of its best drinking days. "Drink soon--maybe one last hearty game stew." When he had the wine again 11 years later, he wrote: "Show what I know!...A lovely wine, much appreciated. The length is good and fresh. Outstanding for its age." And he extended the prime drinking window to 2022-2023!

Nothing new here. Domaine Thalabert has a staying power that has confounded most wine critics--most notably Robert Parker who advised drinking the 1983 25 to 30 years ago. I have been buying, cellaring, drinking and enjoying Thalabert since the 1979 vintage and even off vintages such as 1984 have continued to go and grow far beyond the expectation of most critics and drinkers. This 1983 is my favorite (probably even surpassing the 1990) and I was happy to share it with my son, Ted, who was born in 1983 and has aged every bit as well.

The color has lightened but still has good life. Intense bouquet of cherries, flowers, currants, cured meats and a hint of black olives. Incredible depth and concentration; keeps me coming back for sniff after sniff. On the palate, there is no disappointment. Deep, concentrated, intense but with an elegant silky texture. Northern Rhone Syrah at its best.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Veglio Micheloni Nebbiolo d'Alba, 2011

You pour a small amount into your glass; the color is rusty red. You take a sip and immediately notice that the wine is very dry. This wine is fading fast, you think; the fruit is drying out. You think that unless you know that this wine is a Nebbiolo from the Piedmont. If you have experience with Nebbiolo, though, you know that there are good things to come if you sit back and enjoy yourself.

The aroma is lovely and exactly what you should expect from Langhe Nebbiolo--flowers, cherry, dark tones of anise or licorice. Flavors offer more of the same. Nothing dried out about this wine, but it has enough acid and tannin to give a firm structure for the fruit, which unfolds slowly as the wine is exposed to air. This is probably not a Nebbiolo for long-term aging, but it is drinking well right now. It's a wine for slow drinking.

La Ferme du Mont Cotes du Rhone Premiere Cote, 2011

This Cotes du Rhone has 30% Syrah to go with 60% Grenache, and the Syrah seems to be least at this stage of the wine's development.

Very deep and dark. At least some of the wine has probably been aged in barriques. And the aromas and flavors are more backward than I would expect from a 2011 CDR. Floral, herbal scents make me think Syrah. Also more black than red fruits. Black olives, cured meats. Rather firm on the mid-palate and finish but still full of flavor.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Peninsula Gamay Noir, 2013

Having had several vintages of the Gamay Noir and Gamay Noir Reserve from Chateau Grand Traverse, I would rank it as the best Michigan red wine I have tasted. It's not a big, tannic wine, like the ones produced at Brys Estate. And that's probably why I like it. It's light in body, aromatic, and packed with fruit (rather than oak) flavors.

Medium crimson, bright. Very bright aromas and flavors. Good acid, almost tart up front with compact and complex fruit flavors on the mid-palate. Red and black raspberries, then lively pepper and spice on the finish. Very satisfying either on its own or with food. Reminds me of a Pinot Noir from Russian River or the Sonoma Coast.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, 2013

Alison Sokol Blosser, representing the second generation of this family-owned estate, came to Kalamazoo to present her estate's wines Wednesday evening at a wine dinner organized by D&W Market at Fuze Kitchen & Bar. It was my introduction to an impressive range of Sokol Blosser wines, now run jointly by Alison and her brother, Alex.

What impressed me most is the ability of Sokol Blosser to offer the consumer-friendly Evolution line of wines at a reasonable price while continuing to produce high quality wines of place through environmentally friendly practices. The vineyards are 100% organic with plantings of lavender, yarrow, rudbeckia and Russian sage to provide habitats for beneficial insects. The underground cellar is the first in the country to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Solar and wind energy are used and everything at the winery--from office paper to shrink wrap--is recycled.

I liked the Willamette Pinot Gris and the Evolution Sparkling Brut and Big Red Blend. But the wine that attracted me to the tasting was the Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, and I was not disappointed. Before this wine was poured, the wine representative went around the room offering tastes of the Evolution Pinot Noir. It was very good but no match at all for the exceptional Dundee Hills.

What Alison's brother Alex, the winemaker, strives for in Pinot Noir is finesse. This wine has finesse, of course, but also incredible concentration and depth. Black cherry, blueberries and intense French oak highlights. Notes of black raspberry and spice. A hint of orange peel. This wine is lovely tonight, but I want to see what it tastes like 5 to 10 years from now. For those who attended the dinner, D&W is offering this wine for $26.99--an incredible value.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Domaine du Grand Tinel Chateauneuf du Pape, 1990

This 1990 Grand Tinel was made before the estate started putting their best grapes into the luxury cuvees. It is 70% Grenache and, even in 1990, many of the Grenache vines were nearing 100 years of age. Parker always advised drinking this wine when young, but I have always liked the way the 1990s has matured.

Good color but clearly no barriques at this point of time. Considering its age (27 years), this wine is not showing a great deal of aromatic complexity but there is plenty to like in the mouth. Ripe strawberries and cassis. Luxurious mouth feel and a smooth finish. I would say that it's at least as good as the last bottle I had about a decade ago.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Chateau de Plaisance Savennieres,1999

At the Chateau de Plaisance website, the winemaker recommends drinking Savennieres wines either 1) before three years of age "for fruit" or 2) after 10 years. And that is pretty much what I have discovered about Savennieres; wines between the ages of 3 and 10 can be so difficult to drink that it's easy to think of them as being overly mature. Conversely, I have never gone wrong by keeping a Loire Chenin Blanc for a decade or two--over even longer. I have bottles from the early 1980s that are still drinking terrifically.

The color is a fairly deep gold--what you would expect from an 18-year-old white wine. The smells, though, are lively and intense. Grapefruit, minerals, flowers. Chenin Blanc depth. More of the same in the mouth. The tense grapefruit is countered by the ripeness of white peaches. Amazing grip; clings to every surface of the mouth, leaving a desire for more.

Domaine du Cayron Gigondas, 1988

Domaine du Cayron is without question my favorite Gigondas, and the 1988 vintage has given me pleasure for many years. Tonight's bottle may be the best I have had, and I expect future bottles to be even better.

Deep and dark. The cepage is 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Cinsault and just a touch of Mourvedre for color. That touch is doing its job quite well. The bouquet is bold: black fruits, garrigue and menthol. Smells like a young wine albeit with a great deal more complexity. In its youth, this wine was a bit funky, but there is no funk tonight. Fills the mouth with powerful flavors. More black than red fruits. As far as I am concerned, this wine defines Gigondas. And I love it.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Louis Latour Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc, 1998

The last bottle I had of this (November, 2014) was pretty seriously over the hill--very deep color, oxidized smells and flavors. It must have been suffering from bad storage or transportation before it came to me. Or maybe it is simply bottle variation. This bottle is beautiful--just what I expect from a mature white Burgundy. Louis Latour's Pernand-Vergelesses vineyards are old, low yielding and located "within a stone's throw" of the famed Corton hill.

Deep (but not overly deep) gold. Bright and lively in appearance. The bouquet marries mature Chardonnay fruit with French oak--well integrated. Flavors are lovely--mellow, smooth and rich with dried fruits and nuts.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Terra di Briganti Sannio Aglianico, 2007

The Wine Enthusiast used terms such as "thin," "easy,""frank" and "upfront" to describe this Aglianico from the Sannio area of Campania. On the first night, I agreed. It was thin, almost tart but very enjoyable with tomato-based pasta. On the second night, the wine became much more serious. Sour and sweet cherries, flowers and spice. Very aromatic. Very complex. On the palate, the tartness of the first night is now depth and concentration. Clings and pleases. Long finish.

Aglianico is often called the Nebbiolo of the South, and this wine has the firm tannins and high acidity of a good Barolo. It is now 10 years old but just beginning to open up. Wish I had more.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Val de Sil Valdeorras Godello, 2008

The more I have of this Godello, the more I like it. Paired with grilled whitefish, it enhances rather than overwhelms the relatively subtle flavors of the fish.

2008 Val de Sil Godello is now nine years past its vintage date, and the deep gold color is indicative of its maturity. There is nothing old, though, about its aromas and flavors. Minerals, baking spices, white peaches and flowers. There is a stony strength on the palate that reminds me of a good Premier Cru Chablis along with the aromatic complexity of a good white Bordeaux. This is my last bottle, and I am not familiar enough with Godello to predict where it is going from here. But I suspect it has room to grow.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dao Sul Quinta de Cabriz Colheita Seleccionada Dao, 2014

There is good reason to be excited about wines from the Dao region of Portugal. The wine-growing region is surrounded by mountains and the vineyards are 200 to 900 meters above sea level. The vineyards are protected from Atlantic breezes and high enough in altitude to qualify as a cool micro-climate. The soil is granitic, and rainfall occurs mostly in the winter months rather than in the growing season. Both the soil and the climate are conducive to wines with high acidity, relying on finesse and subtlety rather than power. I haven't tried many wines from Dao, but I have tasted enough  to know I want more. This wine, purchased for $6 from Costco, is a prime example.

Deep crimson. Intense smells and flavors--wild raspberries, spice and black pepper. Has many of the qualities that I love in a fine Cotes du Rhone Villages, such as Cairanne or Vinsobres. Has the balance to go well with a number of dishes. And a finish that just won't quit. I want more of this wine.

L. Mawby Leelanau Peninsula Brut Tradition, NV

When I buy French Champagne, I always go for the non-vintage. It's the least expensive bottling, of course, but it's also made for year-to-year consistency. There is a certain rich, toasty Pinot Noir quality in Louis Roederer's Brut Premier that I love, and Larry Mawby seems to have captured some of it in his multi-vintage Brut Tradition. In a flight I tasted earlier this week at the winery, I preferred it to both the Blanc de Blancs and the Grace (Pinot Noir Rose).

There is some apple-like Chardonnay in the Brut Tradition, but the ripe Pinot Noir smells and flavors dominate. Fresh and bright but with some of the complex qualities that come only with maturity.

Travaglini Gattinara, 2011

One of the best wine lists I have encountered recently is the one at Trattoria Stella in Traverse City. I had a glass of this excellent Gattinara there yesterday to accompany buccatini with pork and beef meatballs and a rich marinara sauce. The wine cost me ($14.50) almost as much as my meal, but it was well worth it.

Very deep ruby. Classic nebbiolo smells of flowers and ripe red and black berries. A wine for sniffing, swirling and more sniffing. Medium to full body with good fruit flavors and a velvety texture. There are plenty of tannins in this wine but they are ripe enough to let the fruit glide right through. Having had many mature Gattinaras, I am confident that this 2011 will age well. But it drinks so beautifully now that I'm not sure I would have the patience.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Vincent Girardin Mâcon-Fuissé Vieilles Vignes, 2012

Deep yellow color. There is no other sign of advancing age, but if you have a few bottles of this 2012, I would suggest that you drink up. Smells a lot like lemon curd. But maybe more lime than lemon. Very fresh with bright acids, but still has that creamy mouthfeel that many expect from Chardonnay. Matches well with grilled salmon but would go with many other dishes as well. I like the style.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Domingo Perez Marin La Guita Manzanilla (bottled June, 2016)

Like most Americans I am shamefully ignorant of Sherry. I made some effort to educate myself a bit on our trip to Spain last June and had a couple of very good Manzanillas in Seville. Spain is the place to drink Fino Sherry, which is best consumed when it is freshly bottled. Manzanilla  is a Fino from Sanlucar de Barrameda, where the humid, sea air creates an ideal environment for the development of flor yeasts used in making Sherry. This, Sherry lovers say, is the secret behind Manzanilla's fresh, sea-scented smells and flavors.

And, yes, this Guita smells like a fresh sea breeze. Sea salt, green olive, almonds. When I offered it at the table, I let guests take a sip first, and, as I suspected, every one turned it down. There are oxidized smells and flavors that are typical of Sherry but not in line with popular tastes. It's an acquired taste, I decide; and I am happy to have the full bottle for myself (not tonight, of course). I like the nutty, yeasty flavors and the complex finish that persists, both on the tongue and in my mind.

Marchesi di Montecristo Nerello del Bastardo, 1999

This "bastard" wine was purchased for about $6 at Trader Joe's many years ago. I immediately fell in love with it, considering it an extremely inexpensive way to enjoy the pleasures of Piedmont Nebbiolo. The label strongly hints at Nebbiolo, calling it a Super Piedmontese. "When winemakers in Piemonte wish to make Barolo or Barbaresco, the laws governing these wines only allow a certain be classified as Barolo or Barbaresco DOCG. I Superi (the excess) can only be sold as table wine even though the products are practically the same."

Now well aged, this inexpensive Vino de Tavola is still showing remarkable traits of Nebbiolo from a very good vintage in the Piedmont. The color has the characteristic orange/rust color that in a Cabernet or Syrah might be the sign of old age; not so with Nebbiolo. This wine still has plenty of life ahead of it. Smells tannic but also has the delicate scent of roses and dark cherries. I poured right after popping the cork, not really giving the wine proper time to aerate--essential for Nebbiolo. Although it's showing well now, I expect it to show even better tomorrow night. On the palate, it's characteristically dry and dark toned. Lots of power and lots of beauty. Yes, I am thinking Barolo...for $6 a bottle!

The label speaks of "adding just a touch of something secret." Others have speculated about a blend of Nebbiolo/Cabernet or Nebbiolo/Sangiovese. But since the wine is named "Nerello," why not Nerello Mascalese, a grape grown on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily and, in the hands of the right winemaker, producing wines of ethereal beauty. Nebbiolo from the North, Nerello from the South? A blend of beauty and power: isn't that what great wine is about.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rabasse Charavin Corinne Couturier Cairanne Cuvee Estevenas, 1999

This may be the best wine that is no longer in my cellar. Alas, it is the last bottle of four that I purchased at auction back in 2012. I considered Cuvee Estevenas the best wine I drank in 2013 and again in 2014. And this bottle will at least make my top 10 of 2017.

Rusty red. Fully mature. Strawberries--dried and fresh. Great concentration and focus. Grenache at its crinkly best but supported by lavender scents of Syrah. Lovely. Just keeps expanding. Warm and savory on the tongue. Showing a bit of volatility but that's no problem for me. Very much like a nicely aged Chateauneuf du Pape such as Clos Mont Olivet or Chante Perdrix.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Domaine la Roquete Chateauneuf du Pape, 2006

I opened this 2006 as backup for the extremely ullaged 1979 Vieux Telegraphe. Figuring the Vieux Telegraphe would, at best, be very mature, I wanted guests who prefer younger wines to have an alternative. While it is a very fine Chateauneuf, no one even hinted at a preference for the younger wine.

Medium deep, some bricking. Anyone unfamiliar with Chateauneuf du Pape might think it is nearing the end of the line rather than just launching its journey. Black and red berries. Strong fruit. Bouquet gets deeper and more complex as evening progresses. Somewhat dry on the palate, but I think that's a good sign with this wine.

The Bruniers of Vieux Telegraphe now own this estate. This 2006 is 70% old vine Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. Recent vintages are known as Piedlong and contain 90% Grenache from 70 year-old well situated vineyards plus 10% Mourvedre. Whether Roquete or Piedlong, it often sells at a very good price for such good quality.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Domaine Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape, 1979

This wine has been sitting undisturbed in my cellar for many years, but when I had to move some bottles recently, I discovered that it had apparently suffered some leaking and had serious ullage. Low neck of a Cbateauneuf du Pape bottle is serious ullage indeed; probably a fifth of the bottle had been lost. I knew I had to drink it soon but didn't expect much even though I have read accounts of recent positive experiences with the 1979 Vieux Telegraphe. The cork was clearly soaked, but I did manage to get it out (mostly) in one piece . And once the cork was pulled, I was in for a very pleasant surprise.

Light brickish color but not as much loss of color as you might expect. The first sniff confirms that the wine is as old as the label says...but still very alive. Beautiful old Grenache smells with surprising power and intensity. Some at the table mentioned the smell of new-mown hay. Nothing unpleasant or old. Very savory, almost salty, on the mid-palate. Tastes like Vieux Telegraphe should. I haven't had a VT in many years and never one this mature. Smooth texture, long finish. This bottle--or, I should say, this cork--clearly had its flaws, but the wine still retains signs of greatness.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Paul Jaboulet Domaine de Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage, 1990

Crozes-Hermitage is, by definition, the area near (but not in) the Hermitage appellation, and the quality of wines from this appellation varies considerably. There is no question, however, about the quality of the Crozes wines from Jaboulet's Domaine de Thalabert, which I have been buying, cellaring and enjoying since the 1999 vintage. Many respected critics have said that this 1990 may be the best Thalabert ever produced, surpassing even the legendary 1978. I have never tasted the 1978 Thalabert but I have gone through nearly two cases of the excellent regular (non-Thalabert) Crozes produced by Jaboulet. Comparing this 1990 to that 1978 wouldn't be fair since the latter cost only $5.69 a bottle and represents the best quality/price ratio I have ever encountered (even considering inflation).

The first small pour from the bottle is brickish with a slight medicinal taste. I was a bit worried, but the next pour, and every one after that, was perfect. It is a mature wine, after all, but with all the positive attributes age can provide. Medium deep ruby, crust on one side of the bottle and some sediment. Deep, deep smells of black fruits and cassis. Very ripe and full on entry. Concentration is impressive. On the mid-palate, I get savory tones of black olives and cured meats. Plenty of acid to balance the ripe fruit. Lush black currants on the finish. This is a special wine, indeed. A good choice to accompany a strip steak on Father's Day.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Tablas Creek Vineyard Cotes de Tablas, 2003

When the Perrin brothers of Chateau Beaucastel bought land in hilly, western Paso Robles, their goal was to produce New World wines in the Southern Rhone tradition. Their top wine, emulating a Chateauneuf du Pape, is known as Esprit de Tablas (formerly Esprit de Beaucastel). This wine, Cotes de Tablas, is fashioned after a Cotes du Rhone and has never been intended for aging. However, when staff at the estate went back and reviewed all of their wines made until 2011, it was decided that this 2003 had aged very nicely and was probably their best until that time. Even in 2011, however, no one was forecasting another six years for this wine, and it is now showing its age.

The color has not only taken on brickish tones but appears somewhat drab. The smells and flavors are likewise tired but still offer some pleasure. There is still some ripe Grenache fruit if you look hard enough, but it is somewhat dried out. Leather, spice and pepper add some interest.

I bought this bottle on close-out for $13.99 at Salut Wine and Spirits in Kalamazoo. (Original price was $20 to $25). There is no reason to expect this wine to be fresh and vibrant at 14 years of age. Compared to the 2001 and 2004 Cotes du Rhone wines from Domaine Sainte-Anne that I have been drinking recently, however, it is much more mature and less enjoyable.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Brandborg Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2000

Brandborg's website now reports that Terry and Sue Brandborg's journey of discovery in search of a "cool, coastal climate terroir that would produce harmonious, distinct wines" led them to Elkton, Oregon in the Umpqua Valley. On the way, they apparently visited the Anderson Valley of northern California and produced this pretty good Pinot Noir.

At 17 years of age, the color has developed some brickish tones around the rim but is still healthy looking. Aromas and flavors are mature but show no signs of advanced age. Has a distinctive floral/spice note. Intense. Reminds me more of Oregon than Anderson Valley Pinot. What I like best though is the fine, delicate texture.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Domaine Rabasse Charavin Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne, 2012

Having really enjoyed Corinne Couturier's 2004 Rabasse-Charavin Cairanne, I was initially a bit disappointed when I opened this bottle. By the end of the meal, though, I was convinced that this wine merely needs a bit more time to show its best.

Deep, dark ruby. The aromas are muted at first but open up nicely after about 20 minutes--dark cherries, berries and spices. Same with the flavors. Medium body. Good acid. A well balanced Cairanne that is just beginning to show its best. Come to think of it, I drank my 2004s when they were 9 to 12 years of age. Patience is required.

According to what I read, no wooden barrels are used at this domaine. I like that.

Edna Valley Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc, 2015

This is a crisp, breezy Sauvignon Blanc, ideal for Spring and Summer drinking, with or without meals.

Medium yellow, bright and lively. I smell grapefruit and mint. And maybe some freshly mowed grass, as other tasters suggest. Stops short of the green pepper smells and flavors that often come with New World Sauvignon Blanc. Very lively and fresh on the palate. Good match for dishes heavy in basil or spinach.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Jean-Paul Droin Chablis Premier Cru Montee de Tonnerre, 1983

This wine has been sitting under the cork for 34 years. When the cork broke during removal, I heard a loud pop and got a spurt of Chablis in my eyes as the bottom portion of the cork sank into the bottle. The seal was obviously pretty good, and so is the wine.

Deep yellow color, bright and beautiful. It looked much lighter through the bottle before it was opened, but the wine clearly did not collapse once it was exposed again to oxygen. Beautiful mature scents of minerals, sea salt, nuts and honey. Flinty as Chablis is supposed to be. Same on the palate. Rich and savory but very intense. Minerals coat the palate and cling. The soil on Montee de Tonnerre is Kimmeridgian, rich in limestone and clay. This whole area was once under a sea that covered Northern France. And savory sea qualities linger long in the incredibly complex after taste. I waited a long time to re-visit this wine, but I have no regrets. In its old age, it is singing a sea chanty. And I love it.

Monday, June 5, 2017

CVC Bodegas El Somo Rioja

This wine takes me back to the early 1980s when Rioja was one of my first loves in wine. Around the mid-1980s I quit buying Rioja because of a perception that the winemakers there had moved away from their traditions to create a more commercial wine. My visit to Rioja last June convinced me that many Rioja estates were still following at least some traditional practices and that Spanish wine drinkers were appreciative of the old-time style. I had El Somo, with its distinctive red, black and silver label at least twice as a wine by the glass and enjoyed it immensely it each time.

El Somo is a non-vintage Crianza that cost me $8.99 at Sawall's Health Foods in Kalamazoom, but it is several steps ahead of most Crianzas I have had. Has that old-time creamy texture. Sweet, vanilla American oak but from seasoned barrels. Goes beautifully with rack of lamb, but I had a few sips left when I moved on to dessert: a raspberry/blueberry clafouti. And it continued to drink well.

I bought the last three bottles of this at Sawall's. Hope they bring in more.

Joseph Mellot Destinea Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc, 2015

This wine is less than half the price of Joseph Mellot's Sancerre; yet it satisfies me with its clean, clear Sauvignon Blanc qualities. I guess I haven't tasted enough Sancerre and Pouilly Fume to appreciate what those terroirs have to offer.

Very light and clear. Fresh mint and melon. Very refreshing matched against green vegetable dishes such as spinach pasta. Good fruit, good acidity. Has everything I want for this context.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages Saint Gervais, 2004

This is my favorite of all of the Domaine Sainte-Anne Rhones. Compared to the lower level Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages, it comes from older vines with lower yields. And it has a substantial amount of Mourvedre in the cuvee. I have gotten great enjoyment from the lower level 2004s from Saine-Anne, and this wine has many of the same traits.

Medium to medium light crimson. Good saturation. Like the other cuvees, it is focused around mellow cherry/floral scents and flavors. Mourvedre spiciness adds another dimension. Laid back and lovely. Medium body and an impressively long finish.

The Saint Gervais is now selling for $20 to $25 a bottle, but, for my taste, it is worth every penny.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Paul Jaboulet Domaine Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage, 1995

Crozes-Hermitage is not supposed to age as well as Hermitage, but Jaboulet's Domaine Thalabert is a notable exception. The late Gerard Jaboulet used to recommend drinking Thalabert between ages 10 and 20. Most of the Thalaberts in my cellar are well past age 20, and nearly all are going strong.

Good color with the amber tones that are expected in a wine of this age. The best Thalabert wines, for my taste, were made in the early to mid 1980s when new oak was rarely used. 1989 was a bit oaky for me, but each year after that, it seems, the winemaker has eased off on the oak influence. This 1995 has much of the traditional feel. Black and red fruits, leather, minerals. Medium bodied and cool. Flavors are low key but with plenty of depth. Has aged well and will keep well.

Dessilani Fara Caramino Riserva, 1997

Luigi Dessilani's Fara Caramino that I tasted in the early 1980s was an enormous wine, but it was inexpensive enough that I never bothered to cellar any. At that time, it was a blend of 30 to 50% Nebbiolo plus 25 to 30% each of Vespolina and Bonarda. This 1997 is 80% Nebbiolo, and it has most of the qualities I expect in a very good Barolo or Barbaresco. At 20 years of age, it is elegant and beautiful.

The color is relatively dark for Nebbiolo but somewhat murky. From the time the cork is opened, though, the smells are captivating: dark cherry, roses, tobacco and black licorice. Very Barolo-like. More of the same on the palate. Medium weight on the mid-palate. Long, powerful finish with or without food.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Goru Verde Jumilla Monastrell, 2013

For $6 at World Market, this Jumilla Monastrell offers a lot of pleasure. Like Luzon Verde ($8 at World Market), another of my favorites from this appellation, Goru Verde is made from organically grapes and features a bee on the label. Although it is made in a somewhat modern style, I believe it captures very well the best features of the Monastrell grape, known as Mourvedre in France and Mataro in Australia.

Deep purplish red. Violets, red and black fruits and spice--100% Mourvedre personality. Very ripe but has the intensity of wild berries. I suspect the wine has seen some new oak, but it is well integrated into the fruit-forward style. I like the slightly warm, spicy finish.  This is a wine worth buying by the case and enjoying frequently.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Domaine Paul Buisse Touraine Sauvignon, 2015

This is my kind of Sauvignon Blanc: fresh, floral and fruity with good strength on the palate and a lingering finish. It's a perfect spring and summer wine, regardless of what you're eating.

The color is a bright medium yellow. Passion fruit is the dominant aroma and flavor, but I also get honeydew melon and mint. Has everything I like in a Sauvignon Blanc.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Chateau Pegau Cuvee Lone Cotes du Rhone Blanc, 2014

Laurence Feraud, noted winemaker and owner of Domaine Pegau in Chateauneuf du Pape, produces Cotes du Rhone wines from a 100+ acre estate she bought in Sorgues, very close to the CdP appellation. All of the wines are excellent, approaching Chateauneuf du Pape quality.

Cuvee Lone is a blend of Clairette (40%),  Bourbolenc (30%), Grenache Blanc (20%) and Ugni Blanc (10%), all from vines that are 50-year-old vines. Laurence calls for drinking it in the first year after bottling, and, by those standards, this wine is long past its due date...but still very good. I smell flowers, melons and ripe pears. Broad flavors, full and rich with subtleties that emerge after a few minutes. It's really a wine that begs to be studied but it's still fresh enough to be enjoyed on the deck on a warm summer evening.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mount Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz, 1992

Trevor Mast was happy with this vintage. "The 1992 vintage was exceptional for Langi Shiraz," he wrote on the back label. And, as always, Trevor did an exceptional job producing great wine from what nature gave him to work with.

The color is still dark, though beginning to show amber tones. Dark cherry and blue plums blending nicely with the black pepper that was dominant when the wine was young. Also some Balsamic intensity. Still holding good balance of tannin, acid, fruit. Long finish. Reminds me of a very good Cote Rotie. Thank you Trevor; your work lives on in your wine and our hearts.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Castillo de Monseran Carinena Garnache, 2010

I bought Castillo de Monseran Garnacha regularly a few years ago and am still tempted when I see it for $6 to $8 at World Market or elsewhere. It is an excellent value for an early drinking every day wine, and this 2010 demonstrates that it is also capable of keeping, at least over the medium term.

Bright crimson color. Grenache strawberry, ripe and forward. Same on the palate. Lacks the peppery quality of Southern Rhone Grenache but has its own spicy appeal. Well balanced with reasonable depth. Clearly not as concentrated as the Rutz Russian River Pinot beside it on the table, but this is a $6 wine, after all and is a good choice for spicy Middle Eastern food.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Rutz Cellars Martinelli Vineyards Russian River Pinot Noir, 2000

When auction bidders refused to move on this wine even when the price went down to $10 a bottle, I assumed that they were worried about its age. Of course, there was a possibility that the wine was over the hill, but I considered it worth the price to find out about how well Russian River Pinots age. What I discovered is that they age very well indeed.

Light color with some amber tones emerging at the rim. From the first sniff, the bouquet is beautiful: raspberries (both red and black), French oak and gingery spice. Same on the palate. Even more intriguing, if that is possible. Smooth as silk. Has the texture to be expected from good Pinot Noir. Ripe but good balancing acidity. Good wine.

Keith Rutz is a former fashion designer who turned to the wine business full-time about the time this wine was bottled. He believes in traditional Burgundian approaches to Pinot Noir and tries to buy grapes from some of the best vineyards in Russian River. Martinelli is clearly a good source.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet, 2005

The 1976 Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cab (I think it was called Claret, at that time) that I enjoyed in Melbourne 40-some years ago has become a legend. At 44 years of age, it is still drinking well, I have read. Unfortunately, the 2005 version that I am drinking tonight does not come from Koonunga Hill vineyards but is rather named and styled after that wine. That is a big difference. It's still a decent wine but beginning to show its age a mere 12 years after the vintage.

Still a deep, dark Shiraz color. The bouquet is lovely and unique to the Shiraz/Cab blend. Reminds me of chocolate. Chocolate covered cherries. Flavors are not as interesting as the smells, but that may be because I am eating Triscuits and black bean soup. There is a bit of a sharp edge on the palate that might be a sign of age. Australian wines definitely do not age as well as they did in the mid-1970s. But Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet, at about $8 a bottle, is still a good value for every day drinking.

On the second night, I am ready to revise my initial impression. Tonight, it has that warm, chocolate-tinged feel that seems to characterize Shiraz/Cab wines. For $8 to $10, this is still a good wine for early drinking or medium-term aging.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Domaine Richaud Cairanne l'Ebrescade, 2005

When I first tried this wine two years ago, I thought it was too oaky, too international in style. I guess it was still coming together; tonight it's beautiful.

Unlike my favorite Cairannes (Domaine l'Oratoire Saint Martin and Rabasse Charavin) which are high in old vine Grenache, this wine has 35 percent Mourvedre. And the Mourvedre has a major influence on its personality. Deep and dark in color and also in smells and flavors. Boysenberries, violets and a hint of spice. Very ripe on the palate. Now some red berries as well as black. And a bit of pepper around the edges. Ripe and long. This wine is singing right now. If you have any, drink and enjoy.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Chateau Canon Canon Fronsac, 1990

There are at least three Chateau Canons in Bordeaux--two in Canon Fronsac and one in Saint Emilion. This is the least well known and the least expensive of the three. But it is not to be dismissed.

The color is a light brick. Looks very mature but there is plenty of life in the bouquet. Cherries, flowers, aromatic spices. Very Merlot but without the green or vegetal qualities that often accompany Merlot. Very pretty. Flavors are subtle but still focused on Merlot cherry fruit. Smooth. The tannins have all melted away, but there is good acid to keep the finish lively.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Erich Sattler Burgenland Zweigelt, 2014

This is my first experience with Zweigelt, and I will certainly come back for more. It's a very intriguing wine for drinking with or without food. We ordered a bottle while relaxing at the bar of the Conrad Hotel in Chicago.

Deep and dark. Purplish. Not at all what I expected from a cool climate red. Smells of fresh berries, plums and flowers. Dense and dark. Smooth on the palate, lots of pleasing acid and a peppercorn finish. No food but still very refreshing over 30 to 40 minutes.

Zweigelt is a cross of St. Laurent and Blaufrankisch, two traditional Austrian varieties. "According to the producer, "the grapes for this wine go through a one to two week fermentation and maceration process and are pressed carefully. The wine matures on the less for six months and is bottle after minimal fermentation."

Monday, April 24, 2017

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2004

This wine is almost too pretty. But I like pretty. It's 70% Grenache (30% Syrah) but seems almost like 100% Grenache. Ripe, fruity, floral...and irresistible.

Crimson color, deep and bright. Grenache strawberries and raspberries with Spring flowers and a touch of spice. Smells pretty and tastes pretty. If you like your Syrah wines with a bit of a bite, you probably won't like this. There are no noticeable tannins, and I don't remember any from earlier tastings. But there undoubtedly were--and are--substantial tannins to allow it to age so nicely. And it's not ready to give up any time soon. Ripe flavors glide effortlessly down the palate. Very pretty.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Costa di Bussia Tenuta Arnulfo Barbera d'Alba, 2010

In the Piedmont area of Italy, Barbera is the go-to wine when the pasta course comes to the table. Pasta is our main course tonight, and this Costa di Bussia is a perfect match.

Medium deep garnet. Has been aged in barriques but the influence in terms of aromas and flavors is minimal. Beautiful smells of dark cherry plus herbs, spices and grilled tomatoes that blends perfectly with the pasta sauce. Deep and dark but typically Barbera. Not as bright as the Trifula we had last night (see below) but deeper and richer. Dry and peppery on the finish. Has more tannin than your typical Barbera d'Alba. This is probably my favorite medium-priced Barbera, and this 2010 is showing well tonight. I try to buy at least a few bottles every vintage.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Trifula Piemonte Rosso, 2014

This wine is a real find: a blend of 80% Barbera and 20% Nebbiolo for $12.95. With a screw top and a cartoon photo of a dog on the label, Trifulo Rosso is not designed to impress your dinner guests...unless they are knowledgeable and appreciative of well made wines from good vineyards. According to the cartoon on the back label, Trifula is a truffle dog who stumbled upon the largest truffle ever found--one that sold for a million dollars and made the dog famous enough to have a wine made after him. The story, according to the label is "to be continued..." The wine, Trifulo, is also to be continued--purchased in quantity and enjoyed frequently.

Bright garnet with amber Nebbiolo tones around the rim. Very aromatic: dark cherries, mulberries, flowers and the dark tones of Nebbiolo. Beautiful. Much the same on the palate. Coats and teases the tongue with ripe fruit flavors. The tannins are not obtrusive and there is plenty of Piedmont acid to bring you back for taste after taste. No need to age this wine; it is so enjoyable right now that I could drink it every night.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Clos du Mont Olivet Chateauneuf du Pape, 1988

You could argue that this wine is overly mature. In fact, my wife argued that, and I brought up a bottle of Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz (2003) for her Easter dinner. So much more pleasure for me! For my taste, this is old Chateauneuf du Pape at its best.

The color is very light, almost copper colored but still bright and clear. The nose is a bit muted at first and definitely has a note of oxidation. Grenache oxidizes relatively early, but that can actually be a plus for well constructed blends of Chateauneuf du Pape. The sweet crinkly Grenache is supported by the firm structure of Syrah and Mourvedre. Within a few minutes, this note of oxidation blends in beautifully with all the other facets of mature Chateauneuf du Pape--tobacco, sea salt, dried fruit, herbs and minerals. Flavors are even better. Very savory, very smooth, very complex. A hint of sour butter that is unique and very attractive.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Les Vignerons d'Enclave Cotes du Rhone Villages Valreas Cuvee Prestige. 2013

For $5.99 at Trader Joe's, this Cotes du Rhone Villages is one of the best values in Southern Rhone wines. It's produced by a cooperative, Les Vignerons d'Enclave at Tulette, and some buyers might be turned away by the back label description of "candied fruit aromas and flavors." In fact, I find very little that I would call "candied" in this wine, particularly in the 2013 vintage.

Yes, it is ripe and has smells and flavors of Grenache red berry. But, like other good Southern Rhones, the ripe fruit is supported and framed by black pepper, spice and tobacco. Tannins are pleasingly rustic, and there is good balance of fruit, acid and tannins. I should buy more of this wine.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Chateau de la Font du Loup Tasting at Russo's in Grand Rapids

Anne-Charlotte Melia-Bachas, owner and winemaker at Chateau de la Font du Loup in Chateauneuf du Pape, brought her wines for a tasting at Russo's International Market in Grand Rapids. I liked the wines and appreciated the opportunity to talk with the winemaker.

In his Chateauneuf du Pape book, Harry Karis describes Font du Loup as "semi-modern," but I am not sure I agree. Ms. Melia-Bachas stressed that she does not like what new oak does to Southern Rhone wines and uses none. Following tradition, the Grenache is aged in old oak foudres; in more semi-modern tradition, she uses twice-used barriques for Syrah and twice-used demi-muids for Mourvedre. Neither of these seem to affect the traditional aromas and flavors of her wine.

The white Chateauneuf is impressively robust-a wine for rich, buttery dishes. If you like it fruity, as it is now, she says, drink it in the first five years after the vintage. Between ages 5 and 12, she says, it becomes "a troublesome adolescent." After 12 years, it begins to blossom. That was new information for me. I have been decidedly disappointed by white Chateauneufs that I thought were over the hill when, in fact, they were probably just undergoing an awkward stage. I have long known, of course, that red Chateauneuf goes through this kind of development.

Font du Loup's white Cotes du Rhone is fresh and vibrant. The red Cotes du Rhone (50% Grenache and 50% Syrah) could pass for a CDR Villages or even a young Chateauneuf. It comes from vines just outside the CdP appellation. Cherries, black fruits, lots of spice.

My favorite of the three red Chateauneufs was the Cuvee Hercule--a special blend (55% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 15% Syrah) that included the best lots of each variety. Lovely wine right now; I'd love to taste it in a decade or two. It was named in honor the late father of wine importer Chip Delsener who collaborated with Melia-Bachas in designing this cuvee.

The Font du Loup Puy Rolland Chateauneuf is bound to be a special wine. It is 100% Grenache from vines that are over 100 years old. For a wine with this kind of delicacy, though, I can't find much with such a small taste. To judge it fairly, I would need to sit down at a meal with at least half a bottle.

The regular Chateauneuf is about 2/3 Grenache plus Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault, vinified separately. It has all the qualities I look for in a young Chateauneuf, bold but not over-extracted.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Domaine Chante Perdrix Chateauneuf du Pape, 1989

This wine was dancing many years ago. That's why Robert Parker gave it 94 points and rated it as one of the best wines from a very fine vintage. I didn't taste it at that time, but I have tasted it many times over the past 10 to 15 years. It has been dancing every time, and it is still dancing tonight.

The light color and delicate body would lead you to believe that this wine is on its path down. But I thought the same thing 15 years ago. When first opened, I found little noteworthy in either the smells or flavors. After 30 to 45 minutes, the dance starts. The bouquet is pure Chateauneuf with dried fruits and flowers backed by an amazing collection of exotic spices. Incredibly deep and complex. The same goes for the flavors. Ripe, ripe Grenache berry. Very red fruit, but the glory of this wine is in the nuances. They just keep coming at you in waves.

Chante Perdrix is a very traditional Chateauneuf and still reasonable in price. 1989 is one of the estate's best vintages.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

M. Marengo Barolo, 2012

It's my birthday (#78), good reason to splurge on a special wine. This 2012 M. Marengo Barolo is $70 on the winelist at Rustica in Kalamazoo, but those who arrive in the first hour or last hour get a 50% discount on wine or beer. So we had an excellent wine, drinking well even in its youth. And at the $35 price it is hardly a splurge.

The color is a medium to light garnet, what you would expect from a traditionally made Barolo. In fact, Mario Marengo uses some barriques for aging but only for 15 to 20% of the wine and the small barrels are seasoned by a few years of previous use. The aromas are amazing: red fruits, flowers and spice. More strawberries and red raspberries than dark cherries and not as much of the black licorice/tar element as you find in some Barolos. Very complex. The more you sniff, the more you get. Incredibly rewarding on the nose. Much of the same on the palate. That "very dry" feeling that comes across on the finish tells me that this wine has plenty of tannin and acid for long-term cellaring. But there is much to like right now.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tenuta Rocca Barbera d'Alba Roca Neira, 2006

This is a suave, internationally style Barbera. It is smooth and lush but with strong fruit and oak tannins.

Very dark, purplish. The wine has been aged in new oak barriques. Rich black fruit smells and flavors. Dark cherry, chocolate, coffee. The oak is apparent, but the tannins are well integrated. Beautiful ripe Barbera flavors dominate on the back end of the palate.

The producer writes that this wine will age for at least 10 to 12 years in a cool cellar, and I agree. At 11 years of age, it is drinking well now and should get better for at least a few more years.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Brusset Les Haut de Montmirail Gigondas, 1990

Daniel Brusset was one of the first Gigondas winemakers to produce a wine using new oak barrels, indicating so with the words "eleve en futs de chene neufs." The wine got high praise from Robert Parker, but I was dubious when I tasted it against 20 or 30 other Gigondas wines at the tasting room in Gigondas in the spring of 1992. It won't age as well as traditional Gigondas, I predicted.

I still strongly favor traditional, non-oaked versions of Gigondas, but tasting this wine, now 27 years past its vintage date, I must admit that I was wrong about the aging. This wine is very good. And it tastes like a good Gigondas should.

The color is still fairly deep, and there is a heavy crust on one side of the bottle, which suggests to me that there is at least some Syrah in the blend. I like the bouquet--Burgundian aromatics with Gigondas dried cherries, tobacco and animal scents. If you were tasting it blind, the flavors would be a dead give-away that this is a Gigondas. Gigondas is only a few kilometers away from Chateauneuf du Pape on the south and Vacqueyras and Beaumes de Venise on the north, and the grapes used are the same for all of these Southern Rhone appellations, but there is something distinctive about the taste of Gigondas that I can't quite put my finger (or tongue?) on. There is power, for sure, even though the alcohol level is only 13%. And there are fruit and mineral traits that I love. Finally, I don't detect any of the new oak traits that I tasted in 1992. This is clearly produced from high quality grapes in a good vintage, and it has aged well.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2004

This wine is just begging to be drunk...right now. That does not mean it will not continue to develop (Sainte-Anne's 2001 Villages is also drinking well right now), but if you like good wine, there is no reason to wait.

Beautiful ruby color. The bouquet is very floral but also plenty of ripe red fruit. The strawberry Grenache on the palate is irresistible. Luscious fruit flavors that get better with every sip. Multidimensional but all of the dimensions come back to rich, ripe red berries. Probably not as complex as the 2001 Villages at this point but more seductive. It matches up well with hanger steak but would also do well with just about anything.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Kuentz-Bas Gewurztraminer Tradition, Alsace, 1983

I like an occasional bottle of Gewurztraminer but rarely can find anyone to enjoy a bottle with me. That's the main reason this wine has lingered in the cellar for these 30-some years. While it hasn't made the transformation from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan, it is every bit as good as it was in the mid-1980s when I bought it for less than $5 a bottle.

Deep gold but not a whole lot deeper than it was in its youth. Still bright and lively. The classic Gewurztraminer smells are powerful. Gewurz means spicy, but, as Jancis Robinson has pointed out, it would be hard to find a spice on your shelf that resembles the aroma of Gewurztraminer. Roses and barber shop are better terms. On the palate, too, it's full bodied and powerful. Nothing shy about this wine, and there is no reason to apologize for lack of subtlety. There is plenty to like in this wine.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Domaine Creve Coeur Cotes du Rhone, 2011

Based on everything I read, this Cotes du Rhone is 100% Grenache. Smelling and tasting it, I would swear that it has a fairly high percentage of Syrah.

Deep and dark. Smells tannic and a bit backward. Mostly black fruits--blueberries, blackberries, plums. On the palate, though, reasonably deep fruit flavors come forth. Again, plums and berries. Very little of the red berry, spice and pepper that I expect from 100% Grenache, but, nevertheless, an enjoyable wine. I would buy more.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Deux Roches Macon Villages Tradition, 2014

This Macon, along with all of the wines of Collovray et Terrier, were big favorites of mine during the early 1990s. I was delighted to see this Macon on the shelves once again. It comes from one of the oldest vineyard areas in Burgundy, very near to Saint Veran and Pouilly Fuisse.

Brilliant and deep yellow with hints of green. This wine has seen no new oak, although it has spent some time on its lees, but the aromas and flavors have at least as much complexity as oaked wines from Burgundy or the New World. Inviting smells of white peach and apricot. Same on the palate but with bright acidity. A very inviting wine. Goes beautifully with whitefish or with fish stew. Wish I could find some of the Saint Veran.

Murgo Etna Rosso, 2014

This is the wine that attracted me to the Italian Table flight at Vino Volo (see below). For the past several years, I have been enjoying occasional bottles of the 2008 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso--a very good wine that is maturing nicely. This 2014 Murgo doesn't have the same appeal to me, perhaps because it needs more time in the bottle.

The colors are deep and saturated. Black fruit flavors--plums and backberries. Big and rich with a nice bittersweet finish. For me, though, this wine lacks the elegance and class that the Tenuta delle Terre has offered from the beginning.

Piancornello Campo Della Macchia Tuscany, 2013

This is a blend of Sangiovese, Colorino and Syrah. The color is a rather rusty red, lighter than I expect from a Tuscan blend of these grapes. And the smells and flavors also leave an impression of a more mature wine. Tobacco, ripe cherry and dried fruit.

Castelfeder Lagrein Rieder Sudtirol-Alto Adige, 2014

Lagrein is another "new" Italian wine for me. Actually, it is a very old wine grape that is no longer very widely marketed, at least in my area. I liked Castelfeder's Lagrein and, at the right price (under $15), will come back for more.

Alto Adige is in northeastern Italy, in the Alps. From this area, I am inclined to look for white wines such as Pinot Grigio, but this red wine is much sturdier than I expected. In my flight of three (including wines from Tuscany and Etna), it is by far the darkest in color. The smells are beautiful--small red berries, violets and spice. And it's full bodied enough to stand up to a spicy chili

Wine Tasting on the Fly: Vino Volo

A four-hour layover at the Denver airport: how about a leisurely lunch and wine tasting? That was my experience earlier this week. Roaming the aisle looking for good food, I happened upon a Vino Volo outlet offering not only attractive food but a good choice of wine flights (three-ounce glasses of three different wines). I ordered a bowl of beef/bison/pork chili accompanied by the Italian Table flight of red wines: Castelfeder Lagrein, Piancornello Sangiovese blend and Murgo Etna Rosso.

Dan and Jake answered all of my questions about the wine and food in great detail. It was a great experience.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Domaine de Marcoux Chateauneuf du Pape, 1990

I bought a dozen half bottles of this 1990 Domaine de Marcoux when it was first released. The bottles I had in the early to mid-2000s were among the best Chateauneufs I have ever tasted--just bursting with energy and intensity as well as very deep fruit. With hindsight, I should have finished off all of the bottles within the next few months, but it's easy to assume that a great wine will only get better. This bottle tonight no longer qualifies as great but it is very good.

The color has lightened, and there is a substantial crust of sediment on one side of the bottle, which has been undisturbed for at least a decade. Smells and flavors are what I expect from an older Chateauneuf du Pape--dried and fresh cherries, savory spice and sea salt. Strong presence on the palate. There is nothing wrong with this wine except for my memory of the greatness it offered a decade ago.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2001

This wine gets prettier and more floral every time I drink it. It has reached a beautiful stage of maturity,  but I'm not sure it has reached its peak.

The color is deep and bright; some sediment is forming along the sides and bottom of the bottle, but not too much. Red raspberries and spices along with flowers. Even better on the palate. The wine is still fruit-oriented but with another dimension. Very enjoyable with an every day meal but elegant enough to accompany a special meal.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Domaine Terlato and Chapoutier Victorian Shiraz-Viognier, 2006

Michel Chapoutier is from an old wine-making family in the Rhone Valley of France. Anthony Terlato is a Napa Valley winemaker. Together, they are producing wines from some very good vineyards in Central Victoria, Australia. This wine is 95% Shiraz with just a touch of Viognier (a white wine grape) for aromatic complexity. It is a combination used by many Northern Rhone winemakers to produce Cote Rotie.

I don't smell or taste the Viognier in this wine, and that is how it should be. It adds yet another layer of pleasure to both the nose and palate. Black raspberries and peppercorn. Ripe and inviting but multidimensional. Rich, velvety mouth feel but not at all thick or heavy. Lots of ripe black fruits--plum and berry--on the palate. The only thing that concerns me about this wine is the color. The rusty, brickish tone is to be expected from a wine of this age, but the color lacks the brightness and saturation that I usually note in a wine of this quality. It's drinking beautifully right now so my inclination (primarily because of the color) is to drink the remaining bottles relatively soon.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Pierre Amadieu Vacqueyras le Grangeliere, 2007

I have had several excellent Gigondas wines from Pierre Amadieu. This Vacqueyras is at least as good. If you have been to the Rhone, you know that Vacqueyras and Gigondas are only a few kilometers apart. Yet the wines are very different--perhaps in part because of differences in the blend of grapes used by most Gigondas producers. Mostly, though, the difference is in soil, vineyards and micro-climate.

Deep, dark ruby. Ripe blueberries, dark Vacqueyras minerals and pepper. Full bodied. Ripe but not overly ripe as some 2007 Rhones are. Minerals and pepper take over on the palate. This wine has probably spent some time in new oak barriques, but, for my taste,  it still retains the traditional personality of Vacqueyras. Very good now but will probably get better over the next couple of years.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Chateau Mazeris Canon-Fronsac, 1982

The last report of Chateau Mazeris I made was in December, 2009. For whatever reason, I believe I enjoyed the wine tonight more than I did then--even though the earlier review was mostly favorable.

The color is light and brickish; that's to be expected for a 35-year-old red wine. It's mostly Merlot that continues to age well. Cherries and black tea with some aromatic herbs. The tea is maybe more prominent than it was eight years ago but otherwise not much change. A strong core of ripe fruit on the finish that is worth dwelling on. What is remarkable about this wine is its balance, even after all these years. 12% alcohol, old oak, traditional winemaking...$6.99 a bottle. The winemaker knew he didn't have to do anything showy to sell his Claret.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Val de Sil Valdeorras Godello, 2008

From 2012, when I opened my first bottle until tonight, this wine has changed about as much as any white wine I have tasted. It had bright lemon acidity in its youth, and I compared it to a good Sancerre or Premier Cru Chablis. Over five years, it has maintained its intensity while broadening and gaining incredible complexity.

Now a deep gold color. The bouquet jumps out at me as soon as I pull the cork. Very powerful. Mostly flowers but also some minerals, nutmeg and lemon zest. On the palate, it has a huge presence for a white wine. Coats the tongue with a range of flavors. Now I know what Godello is all about.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Jean Descombes Morgon, 2002

I am a big fan of Jean Descombes Morgon and consider it an excellent value at $10 to $12 a bottle. It also ages very well for a cru Beaujolais.

The color has faded a lot since my last bottle of the 2002 a couple of years ago. From a deep ruby to a rusty brick red. The bouquet, though, is still fruit-oriented and lovely. Cherries, pomegranates, violets. Has gained delicacy with age but still has full fruit flavors with medium ripeness.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Chateau d'Epire Savennieres, 1982

The red tag on the bottle tells me that I paid all of $5.25 for this wine. And I bought and drank plenty of it--because of the price and because of the quality. I remember its rich, vibrant fruit when it was young--better than any California Chardonnay could deliver for a comparable price.

The only place I knew that sold Savennieres was Village Corner in Ann Arbor, and the sale booklet produced by Dick Scheer and his staff every other month provided ample information about the appellation, the wine and the producer. What I learned from reading the booklet and drinking the wine is all that more meaningful tonight as I enjoy yet another bottle of a 37-year-old white wine that is seemingly immortal.

The color is incredible for a wine of this age--deep gold but not overly so and still bright and lively. The bouquet has the complexity that you would expect but, again, clean and beautifully focused. Does not seem at all old. White peaches soaked in anise. A touch of honey. The flavors are even better. Sea salt and minerals. A pleasing touch of sweetness that goes right down the middle of the tongue and leaves a long after taste. Silken texture. Still good acidity but no hard edges.

I had a disappointing bottle of this in 2008 and had almost written it off. Glad I gave it another try. This should make it into my top 10 list for 2017.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Phillips Hill Toulouse Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2006

The label sums up what Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is all about: "difficult as it is to grow Pinot when you have to fight the climate or the soil, here it grows as if it were a nursery for angels." The pure fruit qualities of the grape just seem to develop effortlessly in this cool, foggy valley near the Pacific Coast. It's my favorite source for Pinot Noir wines, ranking even higher than Oregon or the Burgundy region of france.

We tasted at Toulouse Winery near Philo several years ago and were impressed by the fruit quality. This may be even better than the Toulouse Estate Pinot, which is very good indeed.

Beautiful ruby with slight bricking. Scents of red raspberries, cherries, mint and green tea. Lacy Pinot texture and bright fruit flavors. Long and ripe. Gets better with every sip.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Parducci Mendocino County Pinot Noir, 2013

When I saw this Pinot on the wine list (Cafe4 in Knoxville, TN), I knew it was good because I have several bottles in my own cellar. I paid $4.79 for my bottles, but I had no hesitation paying $7 a glass for the glass tonight. It is worth that...and maybe more.

Deep ruby, Cherries, red berries and spice. Has the depth of fruit of Mendocino Pinot Noir, Medium full on palate. Firm fruit on finish. The $4.79 price was a special; wish I could find more at that price. This is a very good North Coast Pinot.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Moillard Cotes du Rhone Les Violettes, 2013

If it hadn't been for the name, I might have missed the violets in this Cotes du Rhone. It's definitely internationaly-styled with very little of the peppery, spicy rusticity that I love in a Southern Rhone. If I were drinking it blind, I might think it were a New World blend of some sort. Nevertheless, it is very attractive--smooth, medium bodied and moderately ripe. As it airs over the course of the meal, I detect more of the ripe Grenache berry. Nice wine but cheap at half the price. For $16 to $18, I can find much better options.

I had this as a wine by the glass at the excellent Lazy Goat Restaurant in Greenville, SC.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

La Guita Manzanilla Sherry (bottled 2016)

I have to admit my ignorance about sherry, but I know that Fino and Manzanilla are usually best when freshly bottled. As a result, many of these wines are past their prime by the they reach our shores. I had some good examples in Spain last summer, and this La Guita is another.

Very light color. I get an immediate whiff of oxidation, but that is part of the plan with Sherry. It quickly fades into the background behind fresh scents of sea brine, green olives and yeast. The flavors are also fresh and blend beautifully with tapas from Curate, an excellent Spanish restaurant in Asheville, NC. Patatas brava, skewered lamb, Catalan spinach and Catalan sausage. I really felt like I was back in Barcelona or Seville. Good sherry, great food.

Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Chateauneuf du Pape, 2013

Most of the Chateauneufs in my cellar were purchased a decade or more ago when even the best bottles from the best vintages were available for less than $20 a bottle. Chateauneuf du Pape wines age very well over two or three decades, but they are also very good when tasted young, as this 2013 Vieux Lazaret demonstrates.

The color is not particularly dark but has bright, clear crimson tones. At least this bottling of Vieux Lazaret is aged in large, old oak foudres. From the first sniff, the origin of this wine is indisputable; it has all the hallmarks of a fine traditional Chateauneuf. Bright red fruits, pressed flowers, spices and pepper. Mellow in the mouth with compact fruit and old vine intensity. Long finish. 14% alcohol is apparent but in a positive way and in line with CdP tradition. The wine is well proportioned and well balanced. A delight now with a promise of more to come.

Even though Vieux Lazaret sells for about $40 a bottle, I was able to get a three-ounce pour for only $10 at a unique place--Battery Square Book Exchange and Champagne Bar in Asheville, NC. Yes, I could spend an afternoon just browsing the reading matter in this fantastic new and used book store. And I can also order and drink 25 to 50 wines and champagnes by the glass, including some high-end wines available in one-ounce, three-ounce, five ounce or 10-ounce pours. This is my type of place; next time I'm ordering the 2010 Ceretto Barbaresco. We saw little groups everywhere: four women who call themselves WWW, Women Who Wine; two men getting together for coffee and a roll; a group upstairs discussing 19th century history; young college couples exploring the stacks. It's a place to be alone or together exploring books and wine.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Louis Latour Montagny 1er Cru Le Grande Roche, 2011

This Louis Latour Chardonnay was quite ordinary when I first popped the cork, but it became increasingly impressive as it aired and warmed throughout the meal. I paid $16 for this a year ago at Village Corner in Ann Arbor and consider it an excellent value.

Deep gold color. Looks perfect for current drinking. As the bouquet begins to open, I smell flowers, lemon creme and vanilla. Enough depth to keep me coming back for sniff after sniff. Pretty much the same on the palate. Apples, lemons and muscat. Nice acidity with a pleasing touch of sweetness on the finish. Right on the money for current drinking.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Domaine la Remejeanne Cotes du Rhone Les Arbousiers, 2011

Domaine la Remejeanne produces several very good Cotes du Rhones made in a traditional way. This is the one with a high percentage of Syrah (70% vs 30% Grenache).

As to be expected with the Syrah-rich cepage, the color is a deep, dark ruby. And the aromas and flavors lean more toward black fruits and tones--blackberry, cassis, lavender and a hint of mint. Takes some time to open, but it's drinking nicely. My only complaint: the alcohol level is a bit high (15%) and there is not enough balancing acidity to keep it lively. It's a big wine, though, and New World wine drinkers will probably prefer it to Remejeanne's Grenache-rich CDR.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Cave Vincole Kientzheim Kayserberg Tokay d'Alsace, 1983

I drank many bottles of this Alsace Pinot Gris 30-some years ago. At the time, it was cheaper than jug wine and many, many times better. I bought in quantity and enjoyed. But two bottles of this Tokay d'Alsace (the name used at the time for Alsace Pinot Gris) and two bottles of the Gewurztraminer got pushed to the side to gather dust in the cellar. It's past time to open these bottles and see what they have left.

After 30-plus years in the bottle, the cork is difficult to extract but does eventually come out (in two pieces, rather than one). When first poured, the color is surprisingly light but, when exposed to air, it quickly turns to deep gold and then a tawny color. If you go by color alone, you're probably not going to like this wine. The Pinot Gris scents, though, are remarkably preserved: dried and fresh pears, apples, butter and a touch of brown sugar. The wine is dry on the palate, although rich in flavor and texture. Remarkably clean for a 34-year-old white wine. Long, enjoyable finish. Looking forward to the next bottle.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Chateau Carteau Cotes Daugay Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 1982

I bought a lot of 1982 Bordeaux. Robert Parker was exclaiming about the greatness of the vintage, and the wines were incredibly inexpensive, even for that period. The price tag on this bottle, now 35 years old, reads $7.99. As other wines reach maturity, it's easy to push these older Bordeaux aside; and, regardless of their advancing age, I have never really been disappointed by even the most modest of labels.

Brick red but still vibrant. The only thing old about this wine is its cork, which was difficult to extract. The bouquet is intense and clean: mint, cedar, cherries and red spices. Same on the palate. Clear as a bell. Both sweet and savory qualities. Relatively big for a wine that is clearly Merlot heavy. Oh, if New World Merlot smelled and tasted like this, I would be a buyer.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Luca Ferraris Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato, 2011

If you have never tried Ruche, join the crowd; I have been drinking wine for nearly 40 years, and this is my first bottle of Ruche, wine made from an old, relatively rare grape grown near d'Asti in the Piedmont appellation of Italy. It's easy to compare this wine to Nebbiolo because it has a similarly enchanting aromatic profile. But it is definitely unique. As Kyle Phillips of the Italian Wine Review put it: "If you like this kind of wine you will like it very much. If not, you won't and though this is an obvious comment, unless you are absolutely certain you don't I would give it a try." With this bottle, my first try at Ruche, I am delighted that I gave it a try.

It is believed that the grape was brought to the Piedmont many years ago, probably from the Burgundy area of France. And the color is relatively light, similar to that of Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo. The nose is incredibly beautiful--like walking into a floral shop and being bombarded with diverse smells from all directions. Also spice, red currants and pomegranate. Intense but also subtle, if that is possible. New scents seem to be appearing with each sniff.  Much more delicate in texture and body than Barolo or Barbaresco. There is plenty of tannin here but it is hiding behind the fruit and acid structure. Berries on the mid-palate but almost tart on the finish. Citrus? or cranberries. There are some drinkers who may not appreciate the finish, but I love it. Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato is now on my buy list.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Penfolds Koonunga Hill South Australia Shiraz Cabernet, 2008

If you are trying to get a handle on the difference between Australian Shiraz and French Syrah, "generosity" is a key word. Australian Shiraz is often generous (sometimes to a fault) while Northern Rhone Syrah wines, like the one produced by Cave de Tain (below), have more structure (sometimes too much). When Australian winemakers blend Shiraz and Cabernet, as in this wine, they count on Shiraz to provide the generous mid-palate while Cabernet Sauvignon provides the structure. The result can be an enjoyable wine either for casual drinking or to accompany meals.

Very dark and deep. Blue plums, berries, dark chocolate. Has the classic Shiraz/Cab smells and flavors. Hard to isolate either grape, but they complement each other nicely. At eight years of age, this wine has developed a pleasing level of mature complexity, but I would feel comfortable holding it for another year or two.

Koonunga Hill is a Penfolds classic, first produced in 1976. It was inexpensive then and still is, selling for about $8 to $10 at World Market. I prefer the Shiraz/Cabernet rather than the Cabernet/Shiraz because it has the qualities I remember from that initial vintage, but both are good. If you can't afford Penfolds Bin 389 (I saw a price tag of $70/bottle recently), this is the poor man's choice. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hecht & Bannier Languedoc Rouge, 2014

Even from the Languedoc, good old-fashioned Southern French wines like this one are increasingly hard to come by. For only $28 a bottle on the wine list of the excellent Meadowlark restaurant near Dayton, OH, it is an unbelievable bargain.

Smells like some of my favorite Southern Rhones from the 1990s: red fruits, pepper, spice and loads of garrigue. The French country side is blooming. Just as good on the palate: zingy, peppery fruit that gets better with every sip. Matches up well with an excellent dish of hanger steak on a bed of arugula with roasted potatoes and broccoli. The dish sounds more straightforward than it really is. And so does the wine. Imported by Frederick Wildman, H&B Languedoc Rouge is a wine to seek out and buy in quantity.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Cave de Tain Premiere Note Collines des Rhodaniennes Syrah, 2015

Syrah from the Northern Rhone and the 2015 vintage at a decent price ($15.95)--I had to give it a try.

Deep ruby some purplish tints. Aromas were very Nouveau when the cork was popped, but the wine took on weight and seriousness within 10 to 15 minutes. Boysenberries, violets, spice and black pepper. Intense flavors. Crozes-like. The wine is easy enough to drink now, but I would like to see how it develops over the next year or two.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Edmunds St. John Rocks and Gravel California Red Wine, 2001

Steve Edmunds, one of my favorite New World winemakers, says that Rocks and Gravel--a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah--"has always been inspired by the lovely, sunny red wines grown in the South of France, and these days it may be hard to distinguish from the real thing." By the "real thing," I am assuming that Edmunds is referring to Chateauneuf du Pape, and this wine is truly very close, in some ways, even more appealing than a fine Chateauneuf du Pape.

It has all the peppery, spicy, sea salt goodness of a middle-aged Chateauneuf. This Rocks and Gravel, though, is now 15 years old, and showing younger than the two Chateauneufs from 2000 I had last week (2000 Mas Boislauzon and 2000 Pierre Usseglio). Younger, more vibrant fruit but still plenty of the secondary characteristics to be expected from a CdP. More Mourvedre than Syrah in the blend, I suspect. Violets, lavender, a pleasing touch of Mourvedre barnyard. Reminds me of Bois du Boursan or Vieux Telegraphe. But the strong cherry/berry fruitiness reminds me even more of Domaine Sainte-Anne Saint Gervais. Actually, no comparisons are needed; this is Edmunds St. John Rocks and Gravel--a well made wine sourced from well selected vineyards in Paso Robles, Mendocino and El Dorado.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Graham's 20-year Tawny Port

This was a wine opened for Christmas plum pudding, but I still have some to savor. Taylor's 20-year Tawny was my wine of the year for 2016, and Graham's 20-year Tawny is certainly not far behind. 20-Year Tawny is just so much better than 10-Year Tawny. It is more expensive, of course, but well worth it.

Smells and flavors that have built up over 20 years and more in the barrel. Can't quit sniffing. But don't want to miss the flavors. Very complex--fruit, nut, wood, spirity alcohol all in harmony. Walnuts, caramel, toffee and dried fruits. Jam packed with flavor. There are few desserts that can match this wine.

Babich Hawkes Bay (New Zealand) Chardonnay, 2015

I bought this Chardonnay regularly in the late 1990s. It was one of my best introductions to really fine unoaked Chardonnay. There is so much aroma and flavor in this wine that it's hard to imagine why a winemaker would want to sacrifice that by adding the all too familiar traits of new oak.

Good bright color. The label mentions mango and peach, and it's hard for me to get past the mango. Mango, melon, papaya--all of those complex smells and flavors of tropical fruit. Very finely focused. Creamy on the palate with a long, pleasant finish. My ideal (or close to it) in unoaked Chardonnay.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Veglio Michelino Barbera d'Alba, 2012

Even though it has been in the bottle for a few years now, this Barbera d'Alba looks, smells and tastes like a young wine. And that's perfectly all right, even for this aged necrophile. Of course, maturity adds much to a wine, but the exuberant fresh fruit of this wine is just what I need to accompany vegetarian chili on a cold January evening.

Beautiful rich crimson robe. Has the dark tones that I love in wines from the Piedmont--dark cherry, dark licorice, blue flowers. Ripe but also intense--coats the tongue but also dances on it.

I bought Veglio's Barbera d'Alba for about $10 at Sawall's Health Foods in Kalamazoo. I have had more expensive Barberas that delivered much less pleasure. I'll be looking for more--from this vintage and more recent ones.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2000

All of the Sainte-Anne wines age fabulously, even the simple Cotes du Rhones. And this Saint Gervais, with 60 to 70% Mourvedre, is particularly ageworthy. It is my favorite wine from one of my favorite estates.

The 2000 Sainte-Anne Saint Gervais is showing better than it was five years ago but is still a young wine. Medium deep with minimal bricking. I smell black fruits, violets and other aromatic blue flowers. Mourvedre spiciness. Has the ripe berry fruit of the lower level Sainte-Annes plus the depth and power of Mourvedre. Rich but not thick on the palate with a medium long finish. Reminds me of a good Gigondas.

In addition to the Mourvedre (60-70%), Saint Gervais is made from Syrah (15-20%) and Grenache (15-20%)--all from vines planted in the early to mid-1960s. The Mourvedre, according to Rhone expert John Livingstone-Learmouth (, is "aged 50% new-4 year 228-litre oak casks, 50% vat 10-12 months, unfined, unfiltered." Grenache and Syrah are destemmed and raised in vat for 10 to 12 months.