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 SolutrĂ© 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.