Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Agricola Molino Ausario Barbaresco, 2000

Front Item PhotoA considerably older wine than the two Barolos (below), but the bouquet was much more muted when the cork was popped. Flavors were also a bit reticent, but with airing this wine really opened up.

Actually darker than the Guido Porro Barolo. Bouquet develops nicely over several hours--cherries, violets, leather. The flavors, thouigh, are glorious, even compared to the two Barolos on the table. The cherry component is brighter with more red tints--probably because of higher acidity. Dances on the palate. This wine is my favorite of the evening, and that is saying a lot.

Guido Porro Lazzairasco Barolo, 2009

Square2009 was a particularly warm vintage in the Piedmont, and Kerin O'Keefe advises drinking most wines "through 2019." I agree; this Barolo is drinking beautifully right now. I prefer it over the  2013 San Silvestri Patres (below), although both are excellent wines.

Lighter than the San Silvestri and more garnet tones (not a bad sign for a Barolo). Initially, the two wines are aromatically similar but within a couple of hours, the Lazzairasco starts to show dark tones of licorice as well as plums, cherries and leather. On the palate, it's smoother and less tannic. Nothing to inhibit the lovely Nebbiolo flavors. I am in Piedmont heaven tonight.

San Silvestri Patres Barolo, 2013

labelI usually don't drink Barolo this young, but it was a gift from a dinner guest. And Kerin O'Keefe, my go-to source for information about Piedmont wines, says, "It's rather forward for such a young Barolo so drink sooner rather than later." (Wine Enthusiast)

Medium dark and very aromatic from the time the cork is popped. I let it air for four hours, and the scents grew more powerful and complex: flowers, black fruits and earth. Deep and serious with a long after taste. But it's still very tannic--particularly compared to the Barolo and Barbaresco to follow it. If I had a few bottles of this, I would put them away for at least five years.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Villa Baglio Barbaresco, 2009

BARBARESCO VILLA BAGLIO 09  .750I don't know much about this Barbaresco estate, but the wine was selling for $14.99 at G.B. Russo in Grand Rapids. (That was several years ago.) I thought it was well worth a try. And I was right.

Medium light color, lighter than the Albe Barolo from the same year. Beautiful Nebbiolo scents--flowers, dark cherry. Same on the palate. 2009 was a warm year and a vintage to drink sooner rather than later. This is showing well right now.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Brezza Barbera d'Alba Superiore, 2012

This bottle comes from my cellar back home, but it brings back happy memories of drinking a glass or two of red wine (always with gratis appetizer).while waiting for the local trattoria or ristorante to open at 7:00 p.m. This bottle, though, is very good, more suited for a primi or even a secondi piatti.

Beautiful ruby red, deep and brilliant. The aromas are very cherry, red and slightly tart. Also some red raspberries, mint and licorice. Cherries on the palate, too--freshly picked and bright. Abundant fruit but enough depth and complexity to accompany any meal. A gorgeous Barbera.

Brezza's Barbera comes with a glass cork--eliminating the risk of a corked bottle while offering more elegance and class than a screwtop closure. I like it. .

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Italian Wine Country: Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, where picturesque villages are perched on steep mountain slopes overlooking the sea, is known for its scenery but you don't want to visit without tasting the local wines. Similar to Carema, vineyards are grown on steep, rocky terraces. The vines must be old because re-planting would be a herculean effort.

Made from Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino grapes, Cinque Terre wines are aromatic (hay, citrus, apples) with crisp well defined flavors. No butter or toast in these wines but rather a salty, savory minerality. They are what I most like in white wine, but they are limited in quantity and almost impossible to find in the United States.

Italian Wine Country: Visiting Carema

After four days in the Piedmont, I scheduled three days in Pont St. Martin/Carema, where Nebbiolo is grown on terraces sculpted out of steep mountain slopes bordering Val d'Aosta. I went because I love the red wines of Carema, and they are very hard to find in the United States because only about 55,000 bottles are available for the whole world to enjoy.

Ferrando is the top producer of Carema; the other one is the cooperative, which also produces excellent ageworthy wines. The top wine of the cooperative is the Riserva but I was also impressed by the Carema Classico, which sells for about $12. Tasted over three nights, this inexpensive Carema seemed fruity and somewhat straightforward on the first night, then filled out and developed a great deal of complexity over the following days. I suspect it will age for at least a decade, maybe two.

Lunch at a small restaurant near the cooperative was another occasion for drinking the Carema Classico. Like many local establishments, the restaurant had no menu and not even a blackboard list of dishes and prices. When the waitress started giving us choices for a four-course lunch, I had visions of an enormous tab but thought, "what the heck." The food was fantastic, servings were large and the wine got better and better. When the bill finally arrived, the total cost, food and wine for two, was $35!

Italian Wine Country: Tasting Barolo and Barbaresco

Aside from the tour at Costa di Bussia (below), most of my tasting in Piedmont came from glasses ordered in bistros and trattorias (typically $8 for Barolo or Barbaresco, $6 for Langhe Nebbiolo, $4 for Barbera or Dolcetto) and from visits to community tasting rooms in Barolo and Barbaresco. A trip to Dogliano was a good occasion to sample the excellent Dolcettos from that area. The White Truffle Fair in Alba, held on weekends during the month of October, was also a great place to get free tastes of both wine and food. At the fair, I was particularly impressed by the lineup of wines from Curto Marco, including the LaFoia Barolo, the Arborina Barolo and the Freisa. From Aurelio Settimo, I enjoyed the 2015 Barolo and the 2015 Barbaresco--both showing nicely developed aromas and flavors even at a young age.

Other wines I tasted and enjoyed on the trip included (listed in rough order of preference): 2015 Negretti Bricco Ambrogia, 2015 Fratelli Barale Cannubi Barolo, 2015 Lodali Barbaresco. 2015 Giuseppe Marcarino Pertinace Barolo, 2017 Fratelli Revello Nebbiolo, 2015 Cortes Rabaja Barbaresco, 2015 Gigi Rosso San Pietro Barolo and 2015 Ca Roma Romano Marengo Rapet Barolo.

Probably best of all, for my taste, were the 2015 and 2016 Barbarescos from Produttori del Barbaresco, the excellent cooperative located in the heart of the Barbaresco village. Consumed with an astounding truffle pasta at the Trattoria Bollito in Alba, the 2015 was so good that I had to order a second glass (a splurge at $6). At the tasting room in Barbaresco a few days later, I had tastes of both the 2015 and 2016 plus the 2008 Riserva. At this stage, my vote goes to the 2015. Then again, 2015 is a good year for early drinking Nebbiolo.

Italian Wine Country: Costa di Bussia

Sorry for my extended absence. I spent most of the month of October in northern Italy, then faced some pressing personal matters right after my return. I will try to fill in the gaps with some impressions and memories from Italian wine country.

A visit to the Piedmont wine area has been a long-time dream of mine, and I thoroughly enjoyed tasting my way through Barolos, Barbarescoes, Langhe Nebbiolos and Barberas. We stayed four nights in an 18th century Cantina in the middle of the vineyards of Costa di Bussia. Early Fall in the Piedmont was warmer than we expected, but colors were beginning to appear on the vines, and the two to three mile drive through the vineyards of Bussia hill (two or three times every day) was exhilarating. The Nebbiolo grapes on one side of our building were still on the vine--small berries, ripe and lovely. On the other side was a Barbera vineyard with larger grapes, also ripe and lovely but with more straightforward flavors. Harvest was expected to begin about the 20th of October, the day after our departure from the area.

Lodging at Costa di Bussia (about $100 a night) was good. There are three regular rooms, a suite and a community room with refrigerator, microwave, toaster and coffee maker. A selection of cheeses and sausages were left in the refrigerator each morning, along with Nutella, for self service breakfast. The packaged white bread did not tempt us so we got by on cheese, sausage and snacks we brought from home. Breakfast was not the highlight of our stay.

We signed up ahead of time for an afternoon tour and tasting and that was the highlight we anticipated, although I would have liked more detailed information about individual vineyards and their influence on the wines. The Nebbiolo vines outside our room (Campo del Buoi) were only about 30 years old. Donna wisely asked what had been there previously, and the answer (Barbera vines) suggested that the site might not have been considered ideal for Nebbiolo until Barolo prices started to escalate in the 1990s. That is pure speculation, but the Barolo from that vineyard was not my favorite of the four wines tasted, although it does sell for a higher price than the basic DOCG Barolo.

The 2013 DOCG Barolo was my second favorite (after the Riserva) and very impressive: roses, dark cherries and black licorice, savory and silky. Deep and classic.

2013 Barolo DOCG Bussia Vigna Campo dei Buoi: Single vineyard Barolos command a premium price and some (Cannubi, Bric del Fiasc, Sarmassa, Arione) are well worth it because of site and soil. This one is very good and distinctive, but, in my opinion, not worth a premium price. Darker than the DOCG Barolo. Scents of coffee, chocolate and mint. Ripe but feels dry on palate. Deep and persistent flavors.

2013 Barolo DOCG Bussia Riserva: Complex nose: dried flowers, plums, mint. Berry flavors, warm and ripe. Long finish with lots of berries.

2013 Barolo DOCG Bussia Luigi Arnulfa: This is the top of the line Barolo, named after the pharmacist who first shipped Barolo wines to the United States in the late 19th century. Darker. Very ripe aromas. Ripe berries, tobacco, licorice. Powerful tannins but ripe and silky. Although this wine feels like a long ager to me, our tour director told us she would age it for an additional five years but no longer.

I liked all of the Barolos; all are made in the traditional style with aging in large Slavonian oak barrels--12 months for the basic Barolo and 24 months for the others. The Luigi Arnulfa is made from what the estate calls "overripe and selected Nebbiolo grapes." I did not taste the Barberas, but I buy several bottles of the basic Barbera nearly every year at home. It is one of my favorites and one reason I decided to visit the vineyards.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Vincent Girardin Emotion de Terroirs Pinot Noir, 2006

I know that red Pinot Noirs from the Burgundy area of France are the benchmark for the varietal. But I have never been willing to part with the $$ required for the best red Burgundies, and the lesser ones (such as this wine) have never measured up to the quality or aging ability of Pinot Noirs from the Northern Coasts of California. This Emotion de Terroirs, from the highly respected estate of Vincent Girardin, is good but at 13 years of age appears to have passed its prime--an age when many Pinots from Russian River and the Anderson Valley are just beginning to shine.

Deep and dark. More like a Cotes d'Or than a Cotes de Beaune. Has the peppery/gingery spice aromas that I usually find in a Russian River Pinot. Good Pinot Noir texture but the balance seems to be leaning more toward alcohol than fruit at this stage. Wish I had opened it a few years ago.

Terlato & Chapoutier Victorian Shiraz-Viognier, 2006

2011 Domaine Terlato and Chapoutier Shiraz ViognierMy favorite Shiraz wines come from Central Victoria, and this is a very good example. Tasted alongside the 1983 Domaine Thalabert (below), it was definitely the inferior wine but did not embarrass itself.

Deep ruby, darker than the Thalabert. On the first night, pretty Viognier scents tended to overwhelm the Syrah notes of black raspberries and currants. On the second night, the depth was much more apparent. More acid than the typical Australian Shiraz, and that is what I like about it. Ready to drink now and over the next five years.

Paul Jaboulet Domaine de Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage, 1983

1983 Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de ThalabertOpened for my son's 36th birthday, this is a wine that has aged every bit as admirably as he has. He appreciated it and so did I.

Deep ruby with minimal bricking for a wine that is in its 36th year. Lots of crusty sediment and a cork that was difficult to remove, but all that was resolved through careful decanting. Black olives, currants and black pepper on the nose. Incredible presence on the palate. Deep, concentrated and just keeps on singing. Great acid structure plus tannin and remarkably pure Syrah fruit. This is better than any Hermitage I have ever had. But that has generally been my experience with Domaine Thalabert.

I'm not sure how Jaboulet's 1983 Hermitage la Chapelle is showing right now. I bought a case but sold most of it prematurely. Robert Parker downgraded the 1983 Northern Rhones because of excessive tannins that he thought would outlive the fruit. As far as I am concerned, he was dead wrong.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

D'Arenberg The Stump Jump Grenache Syrah Mourvedre, 2014

 labelThe label says that this wine is 38% Grenache, 32% Syrah and 30% Mourvedre, but my impression is that it is 100% Shiraz in personality. It is slightly sweet (1.6% residual sugar), very oaky and somewhat alcoholic. It's a style that is very popular among Americans as well as Australians. And the label claims that if you hold the bottle at arm's length and can still read the optometry chart, you are sober enough to have another glass.

Maison L'Envoye Straight Shooter Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2017

Maison L'Envoye originated in French Burgundy but has traversed the globe in search of "elusive sites where Pinot Noir shines." Straight Shooter is the group's low end offering from the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and their web site calls it a wine "made to drink, not analyze." Of course, it's a wine to drink and enjoy, but it's not at all simple.

Deep ruby, darker than many Pinots. The clones are  Pommard/114/115/777/Wadensvil/667, and the wine was matured in French oak barrels, 10% of which were new, for 12 months. The oak influence, though, is unobtrusive. From the first sip, the wine cannot be mistaken for anything but high quality Pinot Noir. Bright Oregon fruit (dark cherries, blueberries, plums), flowers and ginger/pepper spice. Strong flavors from front to back. Goes well on its own as well as with grilled Faroe Island salmon from the menu at 600 Kitchen in Kalamazoo.

I have not seen Straight Shooter Pinot in shops but will certainly look for it. At $15 to $20 a bottle, it is a fantastic bargain.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Chateau d'Angludet Margaux, 1978

1981 Château D'AngludetAt 41 years of age, this 1978 Cru Bourgeois still has some life left in it, although it is probably well past its prime.

I get a medicinal smell when the cork is popped, but this blows away with some airing. Pretty scents of flowers and fruit, dry and fresh. Flavors are classic: black currant, cassis and a hint of sour cherry. Has plenty of acid as a backdrop to the ripe black currant finish. Good balance that brings me back for sip and after sip.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Tenuta Arnulfo Costa di Bussia Barolo, 2005

When I first opened this wine and took a sip, I wasn't so sure it would measure up to a very good Langue Rosso (2010 The Vinum) we had enjoyed two nights previously. The smells were a bit muted, and acidity was blocking ripe fruit flavors. After three or four hours of passive aeration in the bottle, though, this 2005 Costa di Bussia was living up to the expectations of a fine Barolo just entering its prime stage of drinkability.

Medium deep crimson/amber with good brightness and saturation. Now the bouquet is coming through--dark cherries, flowers, leather and a hint of Piedmont black licorice. Acids and tannins are still dominant but not enough to blunt the bright Nebbiolo flavors. Deep fruit. Dances on the tongue. Long after taste.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Merry Edwards Russian River Pinot Noir, 2000

Merry Edwards -  Pinot Noir Russian River 2016 <span>(750ml)</span> <span>(750ml)</span>If I were to taste this wine blind, I might think of it as five to seven years of age but certainly not 19 years. It is a beautiful wine, still apparently in its prime.

Deep, dark ruby. Very saturated with virtually no tones of brick or amber. At first, exciting floral/fruit scents and flavors. Pomegranates and cherries. Deep, concentrated and intense. Later, some gingery spice that is typical of Pinot Noirs from the best areas of the Russian River Valley. A rather big wine for Pinot Noir but silky textures and enchanting, complex flavors that stay with me long after I have finished drinking. Merry Edwards has a well earned reputation for producing high quality Pinot Noir, and this wine is a testament to their ability to age.

Kangarilla Road McLaren Vale Shiraz, 2016

Finding good, inexpensive Australian wines (under $10 a bottle) is virtually impossible--at least in my markets. If you travel to Australia, you will find that budget wines in the shops are generally those priced at $20 to $30 a bottle. Vineyard workers in Australia are paid a decent wage--probably four to five times more than a comparable worker in California or Oregon. Winemakers I have talked to laugh at the idea of a $10 wine. "I can't give you an empty bottle with a label for that price," they say.

This Kangarilla Road Shiraz, selling for $13.99 at Costco, is one of the best values I have seen in quite awhile. Away from Costco, I suspect it might cost $20 to $25, and, even at that price, it is a good value for an Australian Shiraz.

Very deep and dark. Blue plums, blackberries and spicy oak. This is a big wine but not overly ripe or alcoholic. Well defined fruit flavors and ripe tannins that go down easily. I will buy more but I will wait a year or two for prime enjoyment.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Vinum Langhe Rosso, 2010

Barolo and Barbaresco are the king and queen of Nebbiolo. And Langhe Nebbiolo (often made from grapes that didn't quite make the cut for Barolo or Barbaresco) is a relatively low priced alternative. For pure pleasure, though, at an even lower price, I have been impressed by wines labeled as Langhe Rosso that combine Nebbiolo with Barbera and, in some cases, Dolcetto. This example is a 50/50 blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera.

According to the winemaker's website, the fruit comes from LaMorra, and the wine displays the elegance and aromatic range that is characteristic of wines from this area just north of Barolo. Rose petals, deep cherry/berry fruit, pepper and dark licorice--all the smells I love in Barolo and Barbaresco. The color is deep and dark, thanks to the Barbera in the blend, and the fruit is forward enough to enjoy right now, although there is still plenty of tannin for backbone and aging potential. The more I sniff and sip, the better it gets. By the end of the bottle, I am grinning from ear to ear.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Domaine Le Sang de Caillou Vacqueyras, 1998

labelIf I had tasted this blind, I would have pegged it as a Chateauneuf du Pape. But that's no surprise; I have had the same impression with the previous four bottles I have opened over the past 10 to 15 years. Even at 19 years of age, this 1998 Vacqueyras still seems to be getting better.

I see some bricking at the rim but the color still shows some deep crimson. Aromatic herbs along with Grenache cherry and earthy notes. This is the least expensive of the Sang de Caillou bottlings,  but the fruit is clearly special. Rich but not heavy. Great depth and concentration on the finish.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Villadoria Bricco Magno Langhe Nebbiolo, 2013

Villadoria Nebbiolo Bricco Magno 2014According to the producer, this wine is made in an "international style" with small oak barrels being used for the initial phase of aging. The juice is then moved to barrels of various sizes until "it achieves the right aroma-flavour balance." For me, this international style is usually a red flag, and the 2010 vintage of this wine did not receive a very good rating from my most trusted authority on Italian wines, Kerin O'Keefe of the Wine Enthusiast. I am glad I tried it, though; it was a very pleasant surprise.

From the first sniff, this wine displayed the Piedmont Nebbiolo scents that I love--dark cherry, licorice, aromatic flowers. Intense and powerful. In the mouth, the wine is even more impressive. Oak tannins as well as fruit tannins but they tend to frame rather than overwhelm the very fine Nebbiolo fruit.

Even at its retail price of $18 to $20, I find it a very good value.

Tuatea Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc, 2018

Our local Trader Joe's store displays this wine prominently, and, at the urging of staff, I decided to try a bottle. Glad I did.

Leans toward the grapefruit spectrum of Sauvignon Blanc, but I also find a touch of passion fruit and melon. Has more weight and concentration than your typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc--more like a white Graves from Bordeaux. Yes, I learn, some of the wine has seen some new oak, but it hasn't been overdone, as it often is in New World SBs, and I like the result. The acidic intensity keeps you coming back for sip after sip.

At $6.99, I think this is one of the best values at Trader Joe's. It's a dollar cheaper than one of my old favorites, Picton Bay, and it's a more serious wine. As one writer put it, it would be cheap at double the price.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Gamay Noir, 2017, 2005

2017 Gamay Noir_THUMBNAILIn my view, Michigan's climate is a bit too cool and cloudy to produce high quality red wine. There are, however, many wineries working hard to produce a Cabernet or Merlot to match those in California. Having tried many of these wines (most of which carry substantial oak and a high price tag), my favorite is a less expensive choice: the Old Mission Gamay Noir of Chateau Grand Traverse.

For $13, I bought a bottle of the 2017 version of this Gamay Noir Limited, and we enjoyed it in our hotel room with carry out pizza. It was even better than I remembered, with bright aromas and flavors of red cherry, berries and spice. Medium bodied with a perfect balance of fruit and acidity and a luscious finish. I found it hard to quit sniffing and spitting.

When I visited the winery the next day, I just had to have another taste, and, because I enjoyed the 2017 Gamay so much, the man at the counter offered me a taste of an older vintage--either the 2005 or 2008. I chose the 2005 and was suitably impressed. Compared to the 2017, it was mellow and laid back but no less delicious. Lots of subtle undertones, what you might expect from a very good Pinot Noir of the same age. And a remarkable after taste. I am still holding to my opinion: this is the best Michigan red wine I have tasted.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Cordero di Montezemolo Monfalletto Barolo, 2014

Thanks to the Coravin wine preservation system, Trattoria Stella in Traverse City is able to offer this excellent Barolo as a wine by the glass. At $16.50 for a seven-ounce pour ($66 for a full bottle), it was a great value.

Deep garnet; probably has seen some new as well as neutral oak barrels. There is nothing lost, though, in the aromas and flavors. Straight from the bottle, the aromas are powerful: dark cherry, flowers, spice and licorice. I know that Barolo requires significant aging, but there is something very exciting about the smells and flavors of a relatively young bottle. Same on the palate. Incredible power and intensity. Yes, there are plenty of tannins, but they are ripe and coat the mouth with pleasure. Lots of potential on the finish. Surpringly, we noted that tannins became more noticeable after the wine aired in the glass for 10 to 15 minutes. With a few more years in the bottle, I am sure that process will be reversed.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Domaine de la Janasse Vieilles Vignes Chateauneuf du Pape, 1989

 labelThis mature Chateauneuf was a perfect accompaniment to an excellent Father's Day feast featuring grilled New Zealand lamb chops and sauteed cilantro and garlic potatoes. Compared to the 1989 Domaine Pegau Cuvee Reservee I had a few weeks ago, it is definitely a more mature wine but with equally deep and concentrated aromas and flavors.

Relatively dark for a 30-year-old Grenache-based wine, but there are oxidative notes that are most apparent right after the wine is opened. After a couple of hours in the decanter and glass, the fruit begins to open--dried cherries, sea salt and red berries. Deep and concentrated flavors with a long finish. Everything you expect from old Grenache vines that are well situated in the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Belles Vignes Sauvignon Blanc, 2018

This wine is a simple Vin de Pays from the Loire, but it has a lot to recommend it. And it can be purchased for only $4.49 a bottle right now at Trader Joe's in Kalamazoo.

Very light color. Still very young, but this is not a wine to put away. Peppery, spicy aromas--cilantro, jalapenos. Also some gooseberry and green fruits. Not as sweet as most New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. In fact, it may be too dry and puckery for some drinkers. I like this style of Sauvignon and will go back for more.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Nerello del Bastardo Vino di Tavola Rosso, 2000

 labelThis looks like a Barolo, smells like a Barolo and has the glorious flavors of mature Nebbiolo. It's not a Barolo, of course, but rather a simple table wine purchased for $5.99 many years ago at Trader Joe's. The back label refers to the wine as a "Super Piedmontese" made from grapes that didn't make the cut for Barolo or Barbaresco. The strict appellation rules require that "only a certain quantity after aging (minimum 4 years) to be classified Barolo or Barbaresco DOCG. (The excess) can only be sold as table wine." In this case, the winemaker added "just a touch of something secret." Hence, the term "Bastardo." Sensing the quality, I bought a case of Bastardo, and this is the last bottle.

Rusty, bricky color of traditionally aged Nebbiolo. Scents of cherries and flowers--bright and lively. On the palate, the wine sings. The crust of sediment reveals that the tannins have subsided, letting the deep, concentrated flavors shine through. More than just a table wine; wish I had more.

To my knowledge, Trader Joe's no longer carries this wine (although I have seen it at World Market). More recent vintages probably contain very little, if any, Nebbiolo but are decent wines for the price.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Bybee Vineyards and Habitat Russian River Pinot Noir, 2005

The last time I had this wine (May 26, 2016) I was tremendously impressed by the bouquet. The good scents are still there, but the flavors are even better.

Medium light garnet. This wine is beginning to show its age but still has plenty of life left. Pretty scents of flowers and sweet fruit. Dark spices typical of Russian River Pinot along with ripe fruit. Ripe cherry, neither sour nor sweet. Once again, the finish is remarkable.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Domaine du Haut des Terres Blanches, 1994

Image result for domaine du haut des terres blanches 1994I have had two very disappointing bottles of the 1998 from Domaine du Haut des Terres Blanches, but this 1994 may be even better than the last bottle I opened a few years ago.

The color is a light brickish red. Grenache, which oxidizes early, is about 80% of the blend, and this is actually the strength of this Chateauneuf du Pape. A good portion of the Grenache comes from old vineyards in La Crau, one of the best areas of the appellation. The nose takes a few minutes to adjust to the 21st century but then becomes classic--menthol, dried cherries, herbs and sea salt. The flavors are beautiful from the first sip: intense, multi-layered with sweetish fruit and a long finish. Probably because of my negative experience with the 1998, this wine did not make the short list for my 80th birthday. But I'm sure it will be in line for #81.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Chateau de la Roulerie Anjou Chenin Blanc, 2016

View product's larger picture. This picture will open within a viewer, which can cause accessibility problems.In recent years, most Chenin Blanc wines I have consumed were from Savennieres and well aged. I had almost forgotten how good Chenin Blanc can be when it's young.

Full yellow, clear and bright. Scents of white flowers, lemon, honey. Plenty of richness in the mouth but also zesty and clean. Makes all the taste buds stand up and pay attention. Silky texture. An exciting experience; wish I had bought more.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico, 2016

MONTEGROSSI_chianticlassico_webThis is not a Super Tuscan; it has the specified grapes (90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Colorino) and meets the other requirements for the Chianti Classico appellation. It is, however, from Tuscany and has super-wine qualities--power, concentration and flavor.

Deep and dark with purplish tints. The wine is obviously well oaked, but there is plenty of ripe fruit to back it up. The aroma has some pretty floral notes along with ripe cherry and dark berries. Deep, concentrated flavors. Good balance of tannin and acid.

This is a top-notch Chianti that is well worth its usual retail price of $18 to $20. It's on the wine list (by the glass or bottle) at Gusto Restaurant in Texas Corners, near Kalamazoo, MI, and we took advantage of the Thursday night 40% discount for bottled wine.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin Cairanne Prestige, 2005

oratoire-st-martin-les-doyes-carianneI have drunk more than my share of this incredibly good Cairanne. In fact, I bought it by the case back in the days (1980s, early 1990s) when it sold for $8 to $10 a bottle (as opposed to $30 today). I usually followed the advice of the domaine and drank it at 5 to 8 years of age; so I have never had a l'Oratoire Saint Martin Prestige this old; nor have I ever had one this good.

The Prestige bottling, now known as les Douyes, is produced from a field blend (60% Grenache, 40% Mourvedre) planted in 1905 on limestone/clay slopes. It is one of the top wines from the estate and my favorite, although I am more likely today to buy the Reserve des Seigneurs--less distinctive but also more affordable.

Deep and dark. Sediment forming on one side and some free floating clumps. The bouquet is intense and glorious from the time the cork is popped. Black fruits, violets, leather, spice and herbs. More typical of Mourvedre than Grenache. Very fruity on the palate but with lots of grip and concentration. The texture is somewhat rough, probably because a few bits of sediment made it into my glass. But the finish is long and satisfying. I love this wine.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Roger Lassarat Pouilly Fuisse Racines, 2005

Wow! This wine lifts Chardonnay--and Pouilly Fuisse--to another level. According to the Lassarat website, the fruit comes from "three parcels of century-old vines, in the soils of Solutré and Vergissson." The estate is proud of "its complexity, the richness of its sap, its intense minerality." And well they should be. It is a special wine.

Even at 14 years of age, this bottle shows a brilliant deep yellow. No signs of advancing age. Lovely bouquet of fresh flowers and fruit, leaning toward citrus with spicy overtones. Has the sappy richness of Pouilly Fuisse, but not to the extreme. Mineral acidity. Layers of flavor and a long after taste. I am pleased.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reservee Chateauneuf du Pape, 1989

This 1989 Pegau is a wine that just missed the cut for my 80th birthday dinner. So I brought it out for Easter dinner.

Since there is no government warning label on the back, I know that it is the bottle I bought at the winery on an April visit to France in the early 1990s and carried with me by auto and plane the rest of the trip, trying hard to avoid exposure to heat. Some leakage and mild ullage had occurred and the cork was difficult to remove, but the wine itself was fantastic.

The color has lightened with maturity but is still deep and saturated. I opened the bottle a couple of hours early, but the aromas were bright and fresh from the first moment. Cherries, red berries, menthol and aromatic herbs--very fresh for a 30-year-old wine. There are some earthy qualities, and those are precisely what I, and other Pegau fans, love in the wine. You don't have to be a Pegau fan to love this wine, though. It has beautiful sweetness on the mid-palate with great balancing acidity and a finish that just won't quit. Although Pegau is typically thought of as a "big" wine, age has given this bottle an elegant touch.

Ignorant of the customs of the Southern Rhone, I arrived at Pegau at an inopportune time on my trip in 1992. Laurence Feraud, the winemaker, was having lunch with her mother in a beautiful outdoor setting, and, although I apologized profusely for my intrusion, she brushed my apologies away and graciously treated me to a private tasting and educational session. Her wines were not well known at the time but were represented in my part of Michigan by J.C. Mathes of J et R Wines. "Give my best to Professor Mathes," she said. Some 27 years later, I say, thank you, Laurent, for a great tasting and a great bottle of wine.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Cuvee des 3 Messes Basses Rouge Cotes du Ventoux, 2014

This is not a great wine that has been stored away in the cellar for many years and pulled out for a special occasion. In fact, it is made by a cooperative of small growers, Les Vignerons du Mont Ventoux, who banded together in 1924 to pool their resources and make a living from their vineyards. I have bought this wine, usually in case quantity, for decades and know I can count on it for enjoyable every day drinking. My experience has taught me that you need a good supply of wines like this to keep you happy while you are stashing away great Barolo and Chateauneuf du Pape. While the price tag might read $10, its value to me is high.

Deep crimson, clearly a Rhone blend (50% Grenache, 30% Carignan, 20% Syrah) made in the traditional style that I love. Strong fruit presence with pepper, spice and herbs. At five years of age, the wine is fresh, lively and well balanced. Has all that I love and expect from a Southern Rhone.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Paul Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert, 1990

The great 1978 Domaine Thalabert came to market at about the time that I was first getting interested in wine. And I missed it, although I bought two plus cases of the 1978 regular Crozes from Jaboulet ($5.99 a bottle before the 17% Village Corner case discount). For me, Jaboulet's Crozes Hermitage was an introduction to the world of fine wine, and, although it has declined in recent years, this 1998 regular bottling gave me many years of enjoyment. From the 1979 vintage through the 1989, I bought at least a case of Thalabert every year. It was my go-to wine. The 1990 got loud raves from Robert Parker, however, and the price escalated. I was unable to buy or afford more than half a case, but those bottles, along with my remaining bottles of the 1983, are cellar treasures.

Compared to the 1970 Pio Cesare Barolo and the 1988 Vieux Telegraphe, this is clearly a young wine with abundant fruit but also secondary and tertiary qualities that make it special. Deep and dark ruby with only minimal bricking along the rim. A heavy crust of sediment has formed, but on one side of the bottle only. The wine has rested, undisturbed, for nearly 30 years.

The bouquet is fresh and intense, a mix of red and black raspberries, herbs and a hint of cured olives. The same on the palate, along with some black currant and sour cherry tones. A rich wine but not heavy. Excellent balance of fruit, acid and tannin and a long, complex and concentrated after taste. If the Barolo and the Chateauneuf reflect an enjoyable maturity, this wine, I hope, suggests a future that is even better.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape, 1988

1988 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du PapeI drank a lot of Vieux Telegraphe back in the days when it was one of only three or four Chateauneufs widely available in the United States. And I wasn't terribly impressed with vintages of the 1980s when they were 10 to 15 years of age. These bottles were wasted, I now believe, opened way too early. Produced from high quality old vineyards, Vieux Telegraphe ages about as well as any wine from this appellation. And this 1988 is showing beautifully right now.

Medium to light ruby. Scents of dried and fresh red berries, flowers, herbs and white pepper. Not as noticeably aromatic as the Pio Cesare Barolo beside it on the table but equally deep and complex. I find it hard to quit sniffing. The palate is even more expressive. Ripe fruit fills the mouth, then flares into a peacock's tail of flavors. Another great wine.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Pio Cesare Barolo, 1970

This wine was already entering its second decade when I bought it, along with a number of other Piedmont wines, at a big close-out sale at G.B. Russo & Sons in Grand Rapids, MI. The original price tag was for $11.79 but the sale price was $4.99--inexpensive even in the early 1980s for a Barolo. This 1970s Pio Cesare has received good marks in several tastings of older Barolos; and the last bottle I opened (about four years ago) convinced me that it was in no sign of serious decline.

The color, of course, was even lighter than the previous bottle, a brickish red that would not be considered a good sign in a  Bordeaux or Napa Cabernet. But it's a color that you should expect from a mature Barolo made in the traditional way, aged for many months in a large barrel. The bouquet is beautiful--oh so lovely--from the moment the cork is removed. Dried flowers, fruits, herbs along with a powerful balsamic element. It's really hard to keep my nose out of the glass, but what appears on my tongue is even better. Smooth as silk, no hard edges. Great intensity of flavors. Ripe tannins and just the right amount of acidity. A hint of chocolate on the finish that lasts for several minutes. Great wine!

Wines for my 80th birthday

Celebrating my 80th birthday on March 30, I had the task of choosing three of my favorite wines to bring from the cellar to the table. It was a tough choice--I have many favorites--but, after hours of deliberation, my selections were a Barolo, a Chateauneuf du Pape and a Crozes-Hermitage that I consider at least the equal of most wines from the more prestigious Hermitage appellation in the Northern Rhone. More specifically, the wines were the:

*1970 Pio Cesare Barolo
*1988 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape and
*1990 Paul Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine Thalabert.

All were excellent, meeting all my expectations--mature but still going strong. In notes to follow, I will report on each wine in detail.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Bergadano Langhe Nebbiolo, 2008

Image result for bergadano langhe nebbioloI bought a case of this wine about six or seven years ago, and, after trying it periodically over the years, decided it was a little less than I expected from a Langhe Nebbiolo. Tonight, opening my eighth bottle, I finally find what I have been looking for.

Brickish red--good sign for a Nebbiolo. Beautiful upfront floral and fruit scents; then deeper and darker bouquet--cherries, black licorice, tannin. Earlier bottles did not seem tannic to me, just not very much Nebbiolo character. I was wrong; this bottle has significant tannins both on the nose and palate. But they are opening up nicely and leading to lovely Nebbiolo flavors on the mid-palate and after taste. More like Barolo than Barbaresco. I'm not going to be in a hurry to drink my last four bottles.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Franco Serra Langhe Nebbiolo, 2015

tFrancoSerra-NebbioloLangheI just bought a few bottles of the 2017 Franco Serra Langhe Nebbiolo at D&W's online wine sale and decided go to the cellar for an earlier vintage (which I bought two years ago at the same sale) to see how the wine is coming along. I am happy to report that it is doing well and more than meeting my expectations.

The brickish red color is normal for a young Nebbiolo. And it tells me that the wine has been made in the traditional way, aged in large, seasoned barrels rather than new oak barriques. The aroma is stunning: fresh flowers, dark cherries and savory herbs. Gets prettier with every swirl and every minute in the glass. I could be happy just sniffing a good Nebbiolo. And this is a good one. More of the same on the tongue plus some teasing black olive flavors. It's a bit firm and tannic right now but with plenty of acid to keep it lively. This will get better over another decade, but I don't have time or inclination to wait. For $12 a bottle, this is just what I need while waiting for my Barolos and Barbarescos to mature.

All Franco Serra wines (Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto) are great bargains. This 2015 Nebbiolo is special.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Gilbert Picq Chablis Premier Cru Vaucoupin, 1998

Now this is real Chablis...with enough age to bring out all the best traits of the appellation.

Deep yellow gold. Lemon, lime, flint--very concentrated. Minerality personified. Nothing fancy, nothing added or held back. You can almost taste the limestone in the soil. Somewhat taut on the first night but rich, sweet Chardonnay fruit comes through on the second and third night. All the changes over three nights are positive. The wine is mature but not at any risk of sliding over the hill. This is very much a wine of place, and I love it.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Why Buy Cheap Cabernet?

Sommelier Madeline Puckette, author of Wine Folly, asks (in her email newsletter): "Is There Such Thing as Good Cabernet Under $20?) Her conclusion, after tasting three candidates priced at $15 to $20, is "no." From my experience, I agree. And that is the main reason, I rarely drink or review New World Cabernets here except for a few bottles from the cellar that I may have cost me $10 or $15 back in the 1980s but are worth much more today.

The bottles sampled by Madeline Puckette were the 2015 Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet, the 2016 J. Lohr Seven Oaks Estate Paso Robles Cabernet and the 2016 Smith & Hook Central Coast Cabernet. On examining the color, she found that they all "looked amazing"--maybe too amazing. The were all very dark with a level of color extraction that one would not expect from wines at this price level. "No one has ever admitted to using wine grape color concentrations, so I was unable to make a conclusion." There are, of course, rumors in the trade.

The three wines also "smelled pretty good"--but only the Louis Martini actually smelled like Cabernet, albeit a little overripe. As for taste, they all had "an explosive zing of sweet-sour acidity that tasted like Sweetarts (the candy)." She concluded that they had all been acidified--a common practice with warm-climate New World reds.

The Cabernet grape is highly tannic--one reason that it has a track record of producing great, ageworthy wines in the Napa Valley as well as Bordeaux. But tannins can taste bitter in a young wine, and these wines had somehow managed to get rid of or hide the tannins. Consumers, of course, appreciate the smooth mouthfeel, but anyone who has tasted a fine, well aged wine knows that it is better to tame the tannins with appropriate time in the cellar rather than technology.

My conclusion (and hers) is that most New World Cabernets worth buying or drinking will cost you more than $20 and probably require at least several years of aging. The rest are manufactured for mass consumption.

The good news is that there are many very good artisan wines for under $20--wines from special micro-climates and vineyards produced by winemakers who believe that good wines are made in the vineyards and not the chemistry lab. These are the wines that are my focus for buying, drinking and reporting.

Lattanzio W.E. Bottoms Vineyard Russian River Pinot Noir, 2005

This 2005 Russian River Pinot is showing well and was a good match for Coho salmon.

Medium light cherry red, some amber beginning to form at rim. Lifted bouquet of dark cherries, flowers, ginger and a touch of cinnamon. Perfectly ripe but not at all sweet. Pinot fruit on mid-palate, cherries and berries. A slight tannic edge on the finish on the first night, but this fades away with some aeration. Seems perfect for drinking right now.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Schlumberger Alsace Pinot Blanc, 2016

Pinot Blanc Les Princes Abbés 2016.Last night, I enjoyed Trimbach's Pinot Blanc. Tonight, it's Schlumberger's Pinot Blanc, and it's at least as good.

Green apples, pears, lemon and white flowers. Fresh and vigorous. Good acid structure and long finish. I like Pinot Blanc.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Flying Leap Vineyards Arizona Mourvedre, 2016

My expectations were not particularly high when I ordered a glass of this Arizona Mourvedre. But I was very pleasantly surprised.

Medium garnet. Smells and tastes like a very good Cotes du Rhone Villages. Dried strawberries, herbs, pepper. Has the intensity of a Chateauneuf du Pape. If I were tasting this blind, I would swear it was Grenache rather than Mourvedre. An after taste that sticks with me for a good part of the evening. Very good wine.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Les Cassagnes de la Nerthe Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2015

Chateau la Nerthe, of course, is a Chateauneuf du Pape estate; this is a CDR Villages from vineyards just north of Orange and Avignon.

Deep, dark, purplish. Although the wine has been aged, according to tradition, in concrete vats, it has also spent 12 months in four-year-old 228-liter barrels.. Ripe black fruit smells and flavors. Fruity and delicious, but a bit too New World for my taste. Lacks the peppery rustic tannins I expect from a good Cotes du Rhone. By the end of the meal, I could identify it as a CDR Villages. I suspect that most of the qualities I most desire in a Southern Rhone will start showing up with four or five years of aging.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Grao Vascoi Dao DOC Vinho Tinto, 2016

Donna and I had a memorable experience drinking Grao Vasco Dao red wine two years ago while waiting for a pizza in Porto, Portugal. Tonight, back home, we are once again enjoying a bottle of Grao Vasco while waiting for a pizza. As the waiter in Porto told us, in broken English: "Very good wine, very low price."

Very deep, dark and intense color. Lovely scents of ripe cherries, flowers and spices. Pleasantly mouth filling, medium body with peppery acidity. Combines the attractive qualities of a Northern California Pinot Noir and a good Cotes du Rhone Villages. As the label suggests: "perfect for every day drinking and long conversations."

Friday, February 15, 2019

Trimbach Alsace Pinot Blanc, 2015

Trimbach Riesling 2015The winemaker at Trimbach called this Pinot Blanc a "wine for pure pleasure!" I agree.

Citrus, green apples and minerals. Has the Trimbach stamp of quality--clean, bright and focused. Nothing overdone. Crisp acidity of a good Pinot Blanc; a perfect match for rainbow trout. Long, dry finish.

Trefethen Napa Valley Chardonnay, 2015

Trefethen is about as old school as it gets; in fact, the estate's 1976 Chardonnay was named "Best Chardonnay of the World at the Gault Millau World Wine Olympics in France in 1979. From persons who know wine, I have heard nothing but high praise for this winery in the Oak Knoll district of Napa.

Nothing flashy about Trefethen's 2015 Chardonnay. Classy scents of lime and orange blossom integrating nicely with apple oriented Chardonnay fruit. The wine was aged 9 months in French oak, only 20% new. Elegant mouth feel and subtle flavors that linger for several minutes. A real treat.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Heavenly Hour Revisited

I couldn't resist another Heavenly Hour wine flight at Vino di Sedona in Sedona, AZ. For the white, I went back to the Selbach Spatlese from Piesporter Michelsberg. And I wasn't disappointed: ripe apple fruit, sleek and stylish.

For the Pinot, I chose Alexana Winery's Terroir Series from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Black cherry fruit with mocha, nutmeg and violets. This wine sells for about $35 retail, about the same as Ferraro Carano's Anderson Valley Pinot I had a few days ago. Both are very good wines, but I prefer the Anderson Valley wine.

My final selection was the Quilt Napa Valley Cabernet. Very deep and dark. Smokey oak and vanilla on the nose with rich black fruits on the mid-palate and a sweetish, oaky finish. As to be expected from the Wagner Family (Caymus Vineyards, Meomi), this wine has been produced with the assistance of 20 months in French oak barrels, 70% new. It's too oaky for me but is exactly what many wine drinkers are looking for. At least some of the grapes come from the high-rent district of Napa (Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena) so I would expect it to age for many years.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Ferrari Carano Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2016

This wine took a few minutes to open up but eventually became my favorite of the flight (Selbach Riesling, Viberti Barbera d'Alba and Ferrari Carano Pinot Noir).

Lovely Anderson Valley fruit--clean, focused and elegant. Raspberries, cherries. Burgundian-style fruit presence. Firm texture. I would expect this wine to develop greater complexity with 8 to 10 years in the bottle.

Viberti La Gemella Barbera d'Alba, 2016

La Gemella means twin, and this wine was named to honor the winemaker's mother, who was herself a twin. The mother was also a lover of Barbera, and she would be greatly honored if she could taste this wine.

Beautiful scents of cherries, berries, crushed roses and oak. Some Piedmontese licorice on the palate but tannins are ripe and supple. As to be expected from Barbera, the acids are ample and lively, bringing me back for sip after sip. Drinking beautifully right now.

Selbach Spatlese Riesling Piesporter Michelsberg, 2016

Happy Hour at Vino di Sedona in Sedona, AZ offers a flight of three wines, 3 ounces each, for $13. Considering the wines available, this is not Happy Hour but Heavenly Hour. I chose this Selbach Spatlese plus a Viberti Barbera d'Alba and a Ferrari Carano Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Heaven indeed.

Spatlese wines are sweeter than Kabinetts because the grapes are left on the vines until they are fully ripe--sometimes only 7 to 10 days longer but the difference in the glass is significant. They are not dessert wines but rather ripe and complete. Brilliant color, classic Riesling scents with just a touch of petrol. Clean, bright, elegant. Long finish.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Elouan Oregon Pinot Noir, 2015

Pinot Noir bottle shot horizontalI was a bit disappointed when I first smelled and tasted this Oregon Pinot Noir. My first impressions were focused on ginger, cinnamon and other baking spices that I usually associate with California Pinots from cheaper appellations of California. Rich and full bodied on the palate--not really the traits I am most looking for in an Oregon Pinot Noir. Over the course of the meal, though, the wine opened nicely. Cranberry and cherry fruit with good depth on the finish.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Marchesi di Barolo Barbera del Monferrato “Maraia, 2016

In the dialect spoken in the Piedmont area of northern Italy, "maraia" refers to a group of rowdy youngsters or "brats." And I like the lively "bratty" traits of this wine. It was a perfect match for the delicious Capellina Pomodoro I had at Uncle Sal's Italian restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Dark ruby, lively and brilliant. Dark cherry/berry smells along with cassis and vanilla. Lively acidity and just the right amount (13%) of warmth and body. Will get better with a year or two in the bottles but beautiful right now.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Lustau Solera Reserva Captaz Andres Deluxe Cream Sherry

When I pulled this out of the cellar on Christmas day, I was embarrassed by the red tag on the bottle: $4.99! But I knew that this wine is worth much, much more. In fact, the $20 price tags I have seen elsewhere represent extreme bargains. It comes from very old and rare soleras owned by Emilio Lustau. A month later, I am still enjoying it.,

Brownish/amber color, and there were some notes of oxidation when I first opened the bottle. Those signs may have been a factor in the ridiculously low close out price. Oxidation, of course, is all part of the Sherry experience. And it doesn't take more than a few minutes before it all gets folded into the complex mix of walnuts, raisins, dates, figs, maple and toffee. Sweet but not sticky or cloying. Layers and layers of pleasure. A perfect match for plum pudding.

Pontificis Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre Pays d'O, 2015

Badet Clement & Cie 'Pontificis' Grenache - Syrah - Mourvedre, IGP Pays d'Oc, France labelIf you yearn for the Cotes du Rhone wines of yesteryear, as I do, you should give this wine a try. The grapes (Grenache, 48%, Syrah, 38%, Mourvedre, 14%) come from the Languedoc rather than the Southern Rhone, but the wine has all the lively fruit of a good Cotes du Rhone from the 1980s or 1990s. And it sells for only $7.99 at Trader Joes.

Deep crimson/purple. Peppery Grenache spice plus back fruits more reminiscent of Syrah and Mourvedre. Great mouthfeel. Tannins on mid-palate but they are supple and ripe. Good acid structure and a spicy finish. This is my go-to every day wine, and I am looking forward to trying the 2016 vintage which has now reached the shelves.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Chardonnay, 2016

Kirkland Signature, of course, is the Costco label, and some of the Costco wines are very good for the price. This 2016 Chardonnay was on sale for $6.99 a bottle just before Christmas.

Medium deep yellow. Scents of blood orange, apple and vanilla. Good acid on the mid-palate, ushering in a cascade of fruit and oak flavors. Sonoma is a good appellation for Chardonnay. If I see more of this wine for under $10, I will be a buyer. At $6.99, it was a steal.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Domaine Raymond Usseglio Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Girard, 1999

Image result for raymond usseglio chateauneuf du pape 1999
This Chateauneuf is 90% Grenache from vineyards planted from the 1920s to the mid-1960s. And it is at a good stage for drinking right now.

Medium to light crimson. Very fruit forward, ripe and lovely. Grenache strawberry with spice and just a hint of cassis. Ripe, ripe fruit, clean and well defined. Gains depth and concentration over the course of the meal. If I were tasting blind, I would guess that it might be from 2010 or 2012 rather than 1999. Long finish.

Chateau Cap de Mourlin Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 1983

Image result for castle cap de mourlin 1983It was 1983 when Jacques Capdemourlin made major renovations to the vineyards and winemaking facilities of this estate in the Saint Emilion appellation of Bordeaux. At least some of those changes may have contributed to the quality of this bottle, which is showing well for a 35-year-old wine.

Some amber in the color but generally well saturated colors. The wine is mostly Merlot and Cab Franc but I find none of the green tones that I often find in those varietals. My last bottle of 1983 Cap de Mourlin was probably 15 years ago, and I note a significant improvement rather than decline. Ripe blackcurrants with black tea on the finish.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Evolucio Blaufrankisch, 2015

Blaufrankisch: where have you been all of my life? Until tonight, this Austrian red wine has never attracted my attention. As a versatile every day dinner wine, it now has a prominent place on my buy list.

Purplish blue in color, but the wine has clearly not seen any new oak or small barrels. Incredibly beautiful smells of ripening blackberries, dark cherries, blue flowers and pepper. Very fresh and lively, like a later summer garden after a rain. Tangy flavors of fresh berries and black pepper. Slightly funky but in a positive way. Long and satisfying finish.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Jean Descombes Morgon, 2005

Along with the 1995, this 2005 Morgon is one of my favorites from Jean Descombes. Now in its 13th year, it is hanging on to the vibrant black raspberry fruit that attracted me when the wine was first released. The 1995, which lasted me until about a year ago, took on complex mature notes that are still in the future for this lovely 2005.

Deep ruby color. The berry fruit smells are apparent as soon as the cork is popped. Also some flowers and gamay spice. Very lively on the palate. Very fruity but not at all simple. I still have one bottle and I'm sure it will age as well as the 1995. But I doubt that I will have the patience to wait.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Domaine du Grand Tinel Chateauneuf du Pape, 1995

I've enjoyed the 1990 Grand Tinel many times over the past two decades, and this 1995 appears to be made in its likeness. 1995 was the first year that Grand Tinel started reserving some of the produce from the estate's oldest Grenache vines (100-135 plus years of age) for a luxury cuvee, but I would guess that at least some of these premium grapes went into the traditional cuvee.

Good dark color. Very Grenache--macerated red berries and cherries. Also a good dollop of cassis, probably from the Syrah. Very concentrated, like summer fruit pudding. Ripe, lovely, just the right amount of alcohol (14%) to provide warmth and body. A wine to cuddle up with on a cold winter night.

I believe I have at least one bottle of the 1990 left and am looking forward to trying it soon.

Smith Woodhouse Vintage Port, 1991

Smith Woodhouse Vintage Port 2003 375ML Half BottleSome online reviews have suggested that this 1991 Port is maturing faster than would be expected. After sampling this bottle slowly over the last several weeks, I don't agree.

The bouquet is rich and fruity, although not particularly complex. Flavors are sweeter than I expected--blackberries, blue plums--and, again, lacking a bit in complexity.

That initial reaction, however, came on Christmas day, when other things were competing for attention. Several weeks later, for whatever reason, I find significantly greater depth and interest both on the nose and the palate, cocoa, dried fruits and dark chocolate as well as the blackberries and plums. I like it...although not as much as the 1995 Smith Woodhouse Madalena I had earlier this year.

Parducci Small Lot Blend Mendocino County Pinot Noir, 2013

Parducci Small Lot Blend Pinot NoirI remember my amazement when I walked into Harding's Grocery in Kalamazoo and saw this wine selling for $4.99 a bottle. It was a special offer, and I stocked up. Whether from the Anderson Valley or other nearby vineyards, Mendocino County has a well deserved reputation for producing fine Pinot Noir.

From the beginning, this wine has been very good, but the bottle tonight is spectacular. Fruity, floral, spicy scents waft up from the time the cork is pulled. Cherry, red spices--exciting to smell and even more exciting to taste. Great fruit, great acid, lovely to drink right now.

Later in the evening, I opened a bottle of 2011 Bourgogne Pinot Noir from Nicolas Potel. The Pinot traits were very similar. Contrary to stereotype, however, the Burgundy was slightly sweeter, fruitier and less intense.

Collovray et Terrier Macon-Villages Tradition, 2014

From the 1990 vintage, I bought at least a case of this producer's Macon-Villages. (At that time, it was labeled Domaine Deux Roche Macon Davaye.) A decade later, the 1990 wine had developed greater complexity but was still youthful in appearance and flavor. This bottle from 2014 is drinking beautifully today but significantly more mature in every respect.

Deep yellow color of a mature Chardonnay. Still has the lovely citrus, peach, apricot scents that attracted me to the wine several years ago. But the fruit has mellowed and taken on tones of honey, nuts and grains. Very much what I expect from a mature Saint Veran or Pouilly Fuisse. I love it but plan to drink my remaining bottles sooner rather than later.

Collovray et Terrier also make a very good Saint Veran, and I remember paying an extra buck or two to buy this wine in quantity too during the early 1990s.