Sunday, January 26, 2020

Domauine Alary (Daniel & Denis) Cairanne Le Font d'Estevenas, 2007

Image result for alary font stevenasCairanne is my favorite Cotes du Rhone Villages, and Domaine Alary (along with L'Oratoire Saint Martin and Rabasse Charavin) is one of my favorite estates.

La Font d'Estevenas is a blend of roughly half Grenache and half Syrah; the Syrah is particularly dominant at this moment. Dark ruby, some sediment. Beautiful fruity, floral smells. Black fruit and dark spice on palate. Some tannin showing, but at this age, it is unlikely to resolve. Still a very enjoyable wine.

Chateau du Mourre du Tendre Chateauneuf du Pape, 1988

Image result for mourre du tendreMourre du Tendre makes very traditional Chateauneufs, and this wine has done very well for itself after 30-odd years in the bottle. The color is still deep and dark with no signs of oxidation. Smells and flavors are also surprisingly youthful; black and red fruits, deep and concentrated. Ripe Grenache berries but not overly sweet. Not a great Chateauneuf du Pape but a very good one that has aged admirably.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Deep Valley Mendocino Red Wine Blend, 2017

Trader Joe's has many inexpensive red wine blends, but I find most to be slightly sweet, overly oaky and generally undistinguished. I was willing to give this one a try because the fruit comes from Mendocino County, presumably (if you believe the name) from the deep part of the Anderson Valley, just before the redwood forest that escorts you to the raging shores and the cool breezes of the northern Pacific Ocean. Alas, this wine has no Pinot Noir in the blend, but I still give it high marks for the quality of its fruit (Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel and Merlot).

Very deep and dark, as you might expect. Very attractive peppery, spicy aromas and flavors. Reminds me a lot of a good, traditionally made Cotes du Rhone. Great structure that stands up well to a spicy, tomatillo green pork stew. I'm usually not a fan of young Petite Sirah but the tannins are well handled and backed up by peppery Syrah and fruity Zinfandel flavors. The aromas are particularly attractive. For $5.99, this is a very good wine for every day use.

An even better deal, and several steps upward in quality, is the Castle Rock Mendocino Pinot Noir at Costco for $8. Other shops carry the Castle Rock California (as opposed to Mendocino) Pinot--a much less interesting wine for the same price. Mendocino fruit is worth seeking out, particularly Pinot Noir.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Fontanafredda Briccotondo Piemonte Barbera, 2017

This is what Piedmont Barbera is all about. It was a perfect accompaniment to our meals at Bravo Ristorante in Kalamazoo.

Deep, brilliant ruby. Fresh and vibrant fruit aromas and flavors--red berries and cherries. Very fruity but has substance. Ripe with a Barbera tang on the finish. This wine sells for about $15 retail, and, in my opinion, is well worth it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Luciano Sandrone Barbera d'Alba, 1997

I tend to think of Barbera as a wine to drink after five to eight years in the bottle. This bottle is approaching 23 years, but it was made by the highly regarded Barolo producer Luciano Sandrone.

Very dark but with some garnet tones. Looks much younger than its years. The bouquet also shows little sign of age--a bit muted but pleasant fruit and oak scents. Coffee, chocolate and black fruits. Deep and concentrated flavors with a Barbera tang on the finish. Elegant and well made but not as much complexity as I expected from a wine of this age.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Laurus Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2011

Côtes du Rhône Villages Rouge 2011 - LaurusThe fresh-berry aromas coming from the bottle when I first popped the cork told me I had an old-fashioned Cotes du Rhone, a type of wine that I love. Within a short time, though, I discovered that this Laurus CDR Villages from Gabriel Meffre is not as traditional as I had hoped. As the label indicated it was aged for nine months in a "specially designed 275 liter Laurus barrique." And the alcohol level is 15%--appropriate for an internationally styled wine.

That said, I did enjoy the wine. It is now nearly nine years of age (the label suggests four to five years potential aging), and the tannins are soft and friendly. Dark color, black fruit aromas and a concentrated mouth feel. The finish is long and reasonably complex. This wine clearly is made from high-quality Southern Rhone fruit, and I like it. But, knowing the modern approach, I will not be buying again.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Tempest Bay Carneros Chardonnay, 2018

Tempest Bay Carneros Chardonnay 2018Carneros Chardonnay wines are rarely cheap. Bordering on San Pablo Bay just north of San Francisco, Carneros gets cool ocean breezes and morning fog that makes it a good place for growing Chardonnay (and Pinot Noir) grapes.. That's why I was intrigued when I saw this wine selling for $7.99 at Trader Joe's.

Research by Domaine Dave at found that the Tempest Bay label is not owned by Trader Joe's but rather by a highly respected Sonoma winery that apparently is reluctant to cheapen its image by selling its wine for under $10. That could be because the winery has a surplus of wine that might otherwise command a higher price. Or it could be that the winery contracted with Trader Joe's to make a less expensive version. Domaine Dave concludes that "you can't infer too much other than they do know how to make high quality wine."

I don't have much experience with tasting Carneros Chardonnay, but I can say that I find this bottle attractive. Oak barrels are expensive; most Chardonnays selling for less than $10 a bottle substitute oak chips, which impart what I consider cheap aromas and flavors, not at all attractive. A better alternative is to produce an unoaked wine or one using mostly seasoned barrels. That's what I find in this wine. Yes, there are some vanilla scents but mostly I find green apples, pears, honeydew melon and spicy minerals. There is substantially more acidity than you get in most $10 Chardonnays, and that is what I like. I will go back for more.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Baxter Toulouse Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2004

Baxter WineryThe southwest-facing Toulouse Vineyard has special qualities. According to Baxter's label, "the vines lie below the coastal fog until near midday when they emerge into the afternoon warmth, which allows the grapes to ripen slowly, producing wines of incredible depth and complexity." The father/son winemaking team at Baxter has done an excellent job of turning these special grapes into a special wine. No new oak was used, and, even at 15 plus years of age, the fruit is still powerful and intense.

Deep ruby. Smells like a bowl of red berries, just washed in cold water and waiting to be devoured. Ripe fruit balanced by acidity that brings me back for sniff after sniff and sip after sip. Cloves, mint and the gorgeous fruit purity of Anderson Valley Pinot.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Vinum Langhe Rosso, 2010

This wine is only 50% Nebbiolo (along with 50% Barbera) but it has the qualities I love in Nebbiolo plus plus And when I tasted it side by side with the Barbaresco and Barolo wines I had on December 31, it certainly did not come across as a poor cousin. It may be the best $10 wine I have tasted.

The color is a deep, bright ruby, probably thanks to the Barbera content. But the aromas fit the tar and roses profile of a fine Barolo. Rich and deep. Cherries are ripe but with good acidity. This wine, too, dances on the tongue and then glides into a long after taste.

This is not my first taste of this gem of a wine, and, fortunately, it will not be my last.