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.