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.