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.