Monday, February 24, 2020

Quinta de Cabriz Dao, 2014

SquareSome of the best values for serious, delicious red table wines come from Portugal, and my favorite appellation is Dao. I bought several bottles of this Quinta de Cabriz a couple of years ago at Costco in Kalamazoo for about $6 a bottle. It is no longer available there but other Portuguese wines appear from time to time at similar prices. They are well worth trying and, in most cases, putting away for a few years.

Medium deep garnet. Lovely aromas that get better as the wine airs over an hour or so. Cherries, red plums, raspberries, spice and white pepper. More elegant, less muscular than most Douro wines. Tannins have faded to the point that flavors shine through, but I suspect there is much more to come with additional aging. Many subtle qualities come through on the finish.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin Cairanne Cuvee Prestige, 2005

labelI have had this wine from numerous vintages at many stages of maturity, and it has always been a special wine. This 2005, though, may be the best of any I have had.

Beautiful bouquet right out of the gate. Black fruits, violets, blue plums and high-toned spices. All the same on the palate. Broad, rich well defined flavors. Mourvedre spiciness. Long, savory finish.

This cuvee is made from well situated Grenache and Mourvedre vines, some more than 100 years old. It is a substantial step up from the domaine's Reserve des Seigneurs, which is also one of my favorite wines. Since 2010, the Prestige Cuvee has been labeled Les Douyes and sells for $25 to $30 a bottle. It does not always age as well as this 2005, but it is a wine worth seeking out for your cellar.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso, 2008

2018 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Rosso, Etna (750ml)This wine from Mount Etna in Sicily has been compared to high-level red Burgundies. And, from my limited experience with expensive red Burgundy, I see the similarity. It is elegant, graceful and loaded with lovely smells and flavors.

Medium deep garnet. Bouquet of dark cherries, pomegranates and exotic spices. Also wild and spicy on the palate. On the first night, acidity is so forward that the wine is almost tart, although certainly not austere. On the second night, the balance is perfect--spicy fruit and ripe tannins countered by the acidity you might expect from a good Nebbiolo. Long, long finish.

I paid about $12 for this wine at D&W in Kalamazoo several years ago, and I still have a few bottles (which I am in no hurry to drink). When I see the current vintage on shelves today (such as at Tiffany's in Kalamazoo), it is usually $18 to $20 but still worth it, in my opinion.

Robertson Winery South African Chenin Blanc, 21016

Robertson Chenin Blanc"Tannic" is a word not usually associated with white wines, but Chenin Blanc is a notable exception. Loire Valley wines made from this grape (Savennieres, Vouvray, Saumur Blanc) age very well. I have some Savennieres from 1979  and 1981 that are drinking beautifully. Chenin Blanc wines from South Africam, however, are generally not made for long aging. Or, at least, they are inexpensive enough that I don't bother.

Typically deep color. Scents of canteloupe, pineapple, peach and somewhat funky minerals. Same on the palate. Full bodied and rich. Tannins and acids are well balanced. Strong mid-palate flavors and a long finish.

You can buy this wine for $8.99 at Crosstown FreshMarket in Kalamazoo. As long as I don't beat you to it.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Barbadillio Dry Oloroso Sherry

 labelI'm as ignorant as most Americans about Sherry. But I am learning. When I ordered a glass of Manzanilla Sherry at a restaurant in Spain, the waiter cautioned me that "the wine will not be sweet." In fact, many wines with Sherry on the label sold in the United States are sweet and bear no resemblance to the wines of Jerez (or Sherry), some of which are sweet and others, like this wine, very dry.

Oloroso means aromatic, and this wine is richly scented, a result of long aging under oxidative conditions. Walnuts, hazelnuts, toffee and orange peel. I love the complexity and richness. Similarly rich on the tongue and very smooth. It's lovely on its own but also good to accompany a wide variety of dishes. Tonight, it matches up well with a dish containing roasted vegetables (Brussels sprouts, onions, potatoes), bratwurst, walnuts and almonds in a sauce of Dijon  mustard and honey. Oh yes, a cascade of flavors and smells in the food and in the wine.

I paid $12.99 for this bottle of dry OIoroso. If I had paid three times that much, I would not have felt cheated.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Domaine Jean Deydier et Fils Les Clefs d'Or Chateauneuf du Pape, 1995

Image result for 1995 les clefs d'or wineLes Clefs d'Or is a Chateauneuf that does not attract a lot of press or attention. As a result, it is often lower priced than its peers. I have bought a lot of Clefs d'Or over the years and have never been disappointed with the quality. The estate has fine vineyards in the northern part of the appellation and is made from a blend of Grenache (60 to 65%) planted in the 1950s and 1960s, Mourvedre (5%) and Syrah (25 to 30%).

Deep and bright. Minimal bricking for a 25-year-old wine. From the first sniff, I know this is a classic traditional Chateauneuf. Enticing bouquet of dark fruits, tobacco, mint, new leather and spices. Power and concentration. There may be only 5% Mourvedre in the blend, but I can smell and taste those lovely Mourvedre floral-tinged spices. Also some Syrah backbone to prop up the ripe Grenache fruit. Besides being a very fine Chateauneuf, Les Clefs d'Or has convinced me that it is very ageworthy.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Four Sisters Central Victorian Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016

 labelThe Four Sisters are actually the four daughters of the late Trevor Mast, a legendary Australian winemaker who established the Mount Langi Ghiran winery. The classy label was designed by the eldest daughter, Dahlia, a graphic artist. Trevor's idea was to create a graceful wine that his daughters would enjoy drinking with their friends.

Four Sisters Cab has all the positive qualities you expect from a high quality Cabernet but at a fraction of the price. Black currant fruit and understated oak. Significant depth and complexity. Four Sisters sells for about $12 a bottle (when you can find it). I found it ($5.75 a glass) on the wine list of Phoenicia Taverna, an excellent Lebanese restaurant in Mason, Ohio.

Tempest Bay Carneros Chardonnay, 2018

Image result for tempest bay chardonnay 2018This was a Trader Joe's special selling for $7.99. I gave it a positive review and vowed I would go back for more. Alas, I have searched for it unsuccessfully on several visits.

Very clear and bright. Smells and tastes like Carneros Chardonnay should. Moderately stated fruit and oak with mineral tones and good acid. Really brings me back for more. Come on, TJ: bring back this wine!

Muster Barossa M, 2010

The M on the label stands for the grape that is called Mataro in Australia, Monastrell in Spain and Mourvedre in France. It is a grape that is well suited to the warm, sunny clime of the Barossa Valley of Australia.

When you pick up a bottle ($15) at Crosstown FreshMarket in Kalamazoo, you might not notice that the vintage date is 2010. The thick skinned M grape also requires a bit of bottle age to get rid of its raspy tannins. This wine, though, like many Spanish Monastrells on the market, has spent some time in new barrels to make it more accommodating to New World wine tastes.

Deep and dark, does not appear to be 10 years old. More black than red fruits. Also cassis and a hint of violets  Smooth finish with a bit of complexity. A good value for every day drinking.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Bergadano Langhe Nebbiolo, 2008

Image result for bergadano langhe nebbioloAfter my experience with the poorly presented Barbaresco at Wine Loft (see below), this bottle reassured me that Nebbiolo is still alive...and lovely. This bottle cost me $12 several years ago at Binny's in Chicago, and it's giving me several times that much pleasure tonight.

Dark with some bricking. Classic Nebbiolo scents of cherries, roses and black licorice. Lovely. But on the palate it's even better. Vibrant fruit with lively acidity--a bowl of glistening cherries and red berries. Tannins are substantial (as I discovered from previous bottles over the years), but they have faded enough to let the ripe fruit shine through. More like Barolo than Barbaresco. I am holding back on my 2008 Barolos, but this Langhe Nebbiolo is ready to go.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Alasia Barbaresco--Served Too Warm

When I saw an Alasia Barbaresco as a wine by the glass, I was ecstatic...even though it was a bit pricey at $14. Alas, it was a major disappointment, at least in part because the wine was served way too warm. When I made a polite complaint to the server, he checked with the bar and came back with what I consider a less than adequate response. "We can put your glass in the fridge for a few minutes." The chilling had more effect on the glass than the wine, and I have little positive to report about the wine. A blob of dark fruit lacking structure or interest. I know the Barbaresco deserves more than this--particularly from an establishment (Wine Loft) that pretends to have a serious interest in wine.
Some kitchens come equipped with wine racks, and, unfortunately, many casual drinkers keep their wine bottles there, oblivious to the fact that heat above 70 degrees Fahrenheit for even a short time will destroy a great deal of what the winemaker has taken great care to create. Room temperature for red wine means 65 to 70 degrees, and the best storage is in the cellar rather than beside your gas range.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Domaine Raymond Usseglio & Fils Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Girard, 1999

SquareWow! What an enjoyable Chateauneuf du Pape! It's now in its 21st year but showing the qualities of a young wine. It may never be terribly complex, but it certainly is delicious.

Good crimson color. Beautiful aromas pop out as soon as the cork is removed. Ripe red berries, wild and beautiful. Also a good measure of garrigue (Provencal herbs) and spice box. The acid level is perfect and apparent in both the smells and flavors. Very fresh and lively. Long, ripe finish. No need to wait on this wine...nor study it. It's delightful right now.

SECOND NIGHT: Some big changes occur when the bottle is re-corked and kept for a day. The fruitiness gives way to earthy and savory scents and flavors--tobacco and dark fruits rather than red berries. The finish has taken on some weight and depth. It's now a very typical Chateauneuf du Pape. No less enjoyable but a different wine. If you have some, you have a choice--drink now or wait a few years. Either way, you win.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages Cuvee Notre Dame des Cellettes, 2004

This cuvee of Domaine Sainte Anne is produced from older vines and has a greater proportion of Mourvedre in the blend. And it has a reputation for long aging.

Ruby fading to garnet at edges. Fruit is maturing nicely. A bit of smoke on the nose. Sleek black fruit on the palate. Long finish. A more serious wine than the regular Sainte Anne CDR Villages.