Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Domaine Sainte-Anne Saint Gervais, 2000

As most of you know, I am a fan of Domaine Sainte-Anne wines, and Saint Gervais is my favorite bottling. It's 60 to 70% Mourvedre blended with about equal quantities of Grenache and Syrah--all from well sited vineyards planted in the mid-1960s. The high percentage of Mourvedre is what makes it special for me.

Deep and dark ruby. More black than red fruits with hints of violets becoming more prominent since the last bottle I opened. Rich and very smooth on the mid-palate. Unlike the other Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhones, the Mourvedre in this wine may have been exposed to new oak but it is nicely integrated. Elegant and charming on the mid-palate. Goes well with beef.

Phillips Hill Toulouse Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2006

After driving from the Pacific Ocean through a 10-mile stretch of towering redwoods, Toulouse Vineyards and Winery suddenly loomed up on our left. It looked inviting, and we stopped for a very pleasant tasting. It was one of my first introductions to Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, and I was suitably impressed. Phillips Hill Winery (which we had passed just a few miles before) apparently used grapes from one of the Toulouse vineyards to make this wine. Noting that, I was quick to buy. And, tonight, I have no regrets.

The color is a deep ruby with only slight bricking. Crushed raspberries--black and red--with flowers and spice. The Anderson Valley traits are apparent: very pure fruit, subtlety and grace. Lovely texture. Long finish. As much as I like Russian River Pinot, I believe that Anderson Valley is a cut above.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Domaine de Cristia Cotes du Rhone, 2015

This wine is made with 100% Grenache grapes but the color tells me that it has been aged in new oak barriques. And, as far as I'm concerned, that is not a good combination. Grenache does not take well to new oak; the wood tannins cover up and basically destroy most of the subtle qualities of the grape.

Dark, bluish color. Sweet rather than ripe smells. At least at this stage, I don't get the pepper, spice and floral traits I expect from Grenache. Rich and ripe but essentially flat on the palate. International style; not to my taste.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sottimano Mate Brachetto, 2016

Like the Chidaine Vouvray Sec (below), this is a wine I might never have tried without the opportunity to sample from a wide array of fine wines at Tastings Wine Bar in Columbus, Ohio.

Light in color and body. This is not for those who like "big boys" or "heavy hitters." That's okay; that means there is more for the rest of us. Lovely scents of flowers, spice, wild berries. Not much tannin but lots of acid that makes it dance on the tongue. This is my first go at Brachetto, and I will go back for more. I suspect, though, that Sottimano's Mate is the best of the lot.

Chidaine Les Argiles Vouvray Sec, 2014

Of all the white wines I have ever tasted, this ranks right near the top. Beautiful from the first sniff--pears, spring flowers and just enough honey to make it all come alive. Great acidity highlights the expressive mineral qualities. 

I don't drink much Vouvray because most are bit too soft for my taste. This is dry Chenin Blanc at its best. A special  wine that sells for about $25 a bottle and worth every penny. I had two ounces only from Tastings Wine Bar in Columbus, OH. Next time, I will have a whole glass...or a bottle.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Laurus Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2011

As soon as I pour this wine, I can tell it is a modern, internationally styled Southern Rhone--generally not to my liking. As I sniff and sip, though, I'm finding a lot to like.

The color is deep, dark, bluish--a sign of barriques. Gabriel Meffre's website confirms that about 60 percent of the wine has been aged in 275 liter Laurus barrels for 17 months. The label indicates 15% alcohol, another trait of the international style, but the wine carries it well. Aromas are deep and dark, loaded with black fruit. This is 76% Grenache, but it smells like a Northern Rhone Syrah. Deep fruit on the palate. Unfolds nicely with airing. Blue plums as well as blackberries on the finish.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Dessilani Gattinara Riserva, 1988

I have been drinking and enjoying Dessilani wines since the 1978 vintage, but this is a bottle I picked up at auction several years ago. Like Spanna, Gattinara is a Nebbiolo-based wine from the Novara Hills north of the Piedmont region of Italy. And, as Nebbiolo, it ages very well.

Brownish color with heavy sediment. I miss the beautiful floral scents that are typical of Nebbiolo, but the fruit scents of this wine are attractive--dark cherry, fresh and dried. And there is also a good amount of brettanomyces. Lots of power on the palate. Very cherry with the brett adding an attractive earthy element. 

Rutz Cellars Martinelli Vineyard Russian River Pinot Noir, 2000

This wine is the antithesis of the Red Door Pinot (below). Yet I would be hard pressed to tell you which one I prefer. They are both very good.

Very dark color. Though it's nearly 18 years old, I find no signs of age in the color, smells or flavors. More dark cherry than strawberry. And lots of dark Russian River spiciness. Very deep and serious. Has Pinot texture but shows power rather than delicacy in the long finish.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Red Door Oregon Pinot Noir, 2010

I find a lot to like in this inexpensive Pinot Noir with a modest Oregon appellation. It simply gets better with every sip, and that's not just because of the benefit of aeration. The more I drink, the more I appreciate its subtle charms.

Light Pinot color, almost pink. The developing bouquet leans toward strawberry but also some dark cherry. Very pure Pinot fruit. Some rhubarb tartness on the palate. But it's the finish that keeps bringing me back for more. Perfectly balanced. I bought this from Garagiste for about $10 a bottle; wish I had more.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Smith Woodhouse Madalena Vintage Port, 1995

Twenty years ago, the Wine Spectator gave this 1995 Smith Woodhouse Port 92 points and made it a Cellar Selection. On my birthday (March 30), it is drinking beautifully with plenty of room to grow.

Deep, dark ruby. Looks young. Blue plums, berries, chocolate. Sweet but countered nicely by acidity. Perfect balance. Lush feeling on the palate. A real hit with everyone at the table, even those with limited experience with Vintage Port.

Pieropan Soave Classico DOC, 2014

This is a wine that stood out at wine dinner at Oakwood Bistro a couple of years ago. And I was lucky enough to win a bottle by correctly identifying the grape as Garganega. Garganega is hardly a household wine term, but, based on my limited experience, I prefer it to Pinot Grigio.

Beautiful deep yellow color. Flowers, pears, white peaches and minerals. Delicate aromas, crisp acidity and a persistent after taste. Probably even better with a few more years in the bottle. I like this wine and will be on the lookout for more. Why has it taken me so long to discover Soave Classico?:

1989 Chante Perdrix, 1989 Domaine de la Janasse Vieilles Vignes Chateauneuf du Pape

For my 79th birthday on Saturday (March 30), I chose two of my favorite Chateauneufs from the 1989 vintage. Each wine had faded a bit from its past glories, but I'm sure I have too. It was a good occasion for well aged Chateauneuf du Pape. With slow-cooked leg of lamb and roasted potatoes, they were delicious.

1989 Chante Perdrix is one of the best Chateauneufs (and one of the best wines) I have ever tasted, but it's been a few years since my last bottle. Even in its relative youth, this Chante Perdrix was light colored and light bodied--seemingly tannin free--but with incredibly deep, complex and persistent smells and flavors. Tonight, it takes two or three hours of aeration to bring out the those ethereal qualities. Grenache red berry and dried flowers. Still a great wine.

1989 Janasse Vieilles Vignes is several shades darker and has some tannic firmness, but I find it a struggle to coax out scents typical of a Chateauneuf du Pape. Flavors are a bit better: some dark as well as red fruit. Most at the table preferred the Chante Perdrix, but this too is a very good wine.