Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva, 1977

Monsanto 1977 Chianti Classico Riserva When I walk past the wine shelves at Costco in Kalamazoo, I always notice the rustic yellow label of the Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva. It sells for about $14 at Costco, but I know the price is closer to $20 at most wine stores. I notice it mainly because I know I have (had) one wine with that same label in my cellar. I bought the bottle 40-odd years ago after reading tasting notes of several Monsanto wines (some from much earlier vintages) from the Village Corner (Ann Arbor) sale booklet. I knew the 1977 would age well, but I never buy or drink much Chianti so I never got around to opening it...until tonight, to mark my 81st birthday.

In case you're turned off by the name, Monsanto has nothing at all to do with the chemical company. In fact, Fattoria Monsanto, located on a bluff halfway between Florence and Siena, dates from 998 A.D. It is one of the oldest and best producers of Chianti Classico, and the $14 bottles available from Costco are excellent values, whether you drink them now or 40 years in the future.

The color is brick like but remarkably deep for a wine this old. Classic Sangiovese bouquet, clean and intense. And the flavors are even better. Red cherries, deep and concentrated. Beautiful acidity carries the flavors all the way down the tongue to a long finish. Not at all old tasting. With lemon and garlic marinated lamb chops and roasted potatoes, carrots, onions, peppers and tomatoes, this was a perfect wine to remind me of what aging is all about.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

JM Perraud Saint Veran, 2014

This is not a buttery, oaky Chardonnay. And all the better, as far as I'm concerned. Medium to deep gold. Peaches, honeysuckle and a hint of clover honey. Full and rich on the palate. Savory minerals, almost salty. Fat but also acidic, keeping tongue dancing from tip to finish. My type of Chardonnay.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Domaine de la Janasse Vieilles Vignes Chateauneuf du Pape, 1989

 labelAs I approach my birthday (#81), I have been looking around the cellar for wines to help me celebrate the pleasures of advanced age. I have many worthy candidates, and this is one that didn't quite make the final cut. I just couldn't pass it by; and now I wonder if anything I can pour next week will even come close to measuring up.

The color is definitely not promising; a lot murkier than what I remember from my last bottle. One sniff from the bottle, though, tells me this bottle is special. Savory smells of cherries, tobacco, mint, sea salt and Provencal herbs. Flavors are even better: sweet red berry fruit with nuances coming in from all directions. Great acid; dances on the tongue and leaves a long impression. If year 81 is as good for me as #31 is for this wine, I am in for a very good time.

La Janasse Vieilles Vigne, of course, has never been a budget wine. About 40% of the vines were planted in 1920, most of the rest, in 1965. The estate considers it their top Chateauneuf. I usually don't spend top dollar for wine, but this wine became available for a ridiculously low price when Rhone Direct, a direct import company of the early 1990s, went bankrupt. I actually apologized to the owner when I placed my order. He said: "No problem, friend. Enjoy!" Enjoy, I did tonight.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Trimbach Alsace Pinot Blanc, 2012

I love Pinot Blanc wines, particularly those from Michigan's Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas. I like the intense fruit and fresh acidity of these wines--perfect for spring or summer drinking on the deck. This Pinot Blanc from Alsace has those qualities along with a great deal more. It forced me to sip a little more slowly to appreciate deeper and more subtle smells and flavors.

Medium deep straw. Aromas are as fresh and lively as I expected; it's on the palate that the deeper qualities come through. Broad strokes of ripe apricot across the mid-palate. Then green apple intensity on the finish. Savory minerals. Demands attention and rewards it.

Located in Ribeauville, Trimbach is my favorite source of Alsatian wines. Trimbach's Rieslings are fantastic, but this lower priced Pinot Blanc ($12 to $15) is often overlooked. If you see it on the shelf, buy what you can afford...and let me know so I can do the same.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Franco Serra Barbera d'Alba, 2014

tFrancoSerra-BarberaDAlbaThis is my favorite every day Barbera, and it is also one of the least expensive ($10 to $12 at D&W in Kalamazoo) on the market. It has many of the traits that I find most attractive in a good Nebbiolo or even a more expensive Barolo.

Beautiful deep ruby. No oak; the wine has been aged in stainless steel. Nebbiolo-like aromatics: flowers, cherries, black licorice. Beautiful. On the palate, even better: sour cherry acidity on the mid-palate and fresh berry sweetness on the long finish. Delicious. Remind me to buy more of this wine.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Domaine des Tourelles Gigondas, 2004

Domaine Des Tourelles 2004 Gigondas AOC 750ml Wine BottleThis is a perfectly mature Gigondas, well balanced and ready to enjoy. Mature garnet color. Lifted nose of mature Grenache--red berries, spice and pepper. Rich, smooth and full bodied on the mid palate. Good balance of ripe fruit and acid. A traditional wine with no new oak traits; that's what I like in a Southern Rhone wine. Medium long fruit- and spice-oriented finish. Everything I expect from a Gigondas.

In 2008, this property was purchased by the Perrin family, makers of Chateau
Beaucastel (Chateauneuf du Pape) and other fine Southern Rhone wines. It is now known as Domaine Clos des Tourelles.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Saint Hilaire Brut Blanquette de Limoux

Saint Hilaire BrutChampagne, of course, is sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, and there is no disputing its quality. The price tag, though, is also high, and if you want to celebrate at a much lower price, this wine from southern France is a good choice (on sale right now for $14 at D&W in Kalamazoo).

Bubbles are small and persistent. Good clear color. Scents of yeasty dough. Biscuity flavors. Classy style; better than Spanish Cava. Really very similar to fine Champagne. The quality at Saint Hilaire has improved a great deal over the past 10 to 20 years. A real bargain.

Actually, Saint Hilaire's Blanquette de Limoux may be the oldest sparkling wine in the world. Benedictine monks at Saint Hilaire were making it in 1531, at least 100 years before the first Brut from Champagne.

Dow's 20 Year Tawny Port

DOW'S PORTO TAWNY 20 YEAR OLD 750MLMy love affair with 20 year tawny port began three years ago in the tasting room at Taylor Fladgate Port House in Porto, Portugal. Consumed alongside two very good vintage Ports, Taylor's 20 Year
Tawny kept luring me back like the sweet, seductive songs of the Sirens that lured Odysseus. Since that time, I have been on the alert for suitably priced bottles of 20 Year Tawny. The going retail price is upwards of $50 a bottle, but I know that I will get at least four times that much pleasure just from smelling what's in the bottle.

The color is tawny, of course, from 20 plus years of aging in old barrels. The scents and flavors that have developed as a result of that aging are unbelievable. Toffee, walnuts, dates, figs and orange zest. Every sniff is a new revelation. Tasted side-by-side with a regular Fine Tawny from the same Port house, there is no comparison--Concord grape juice compared to a first growth Bordeaux. I still prefer Taylor's 20 Year Tawny, but right now I have no complaints about Dow's.

I have never tried a 30 or 40 Year Tawny. The price is even higher,. and the word I get is that 20 Year offers the best quality/price ratio.

Firestone Cabernet

I'm not sure if this is the Paso Robles or the Santa Ynez Cabernet; I ordered it from the wine list at Cafe 36 in Kalamazoo. But my experience with the wine aligned more with the tasting notes of the Paso Robles I have found online. I also don't know the vintage, but its state of maturity tells me that it's either a 2016 or 2015. Whatever, it is a very good Cabernet for the price (probably about $15 on the retail shelf).

The color is deep and dark as you might expect from a California Cab. But it is not as sweet or oaky as most Cabernets in this price range. Nice forward fruit--black currants and cassis; right on target for Cabernet Sauvignon, Not very tannic but not simple either. Has depth and concentration and a long black fruit after taste. I would be very happy drinking this wine with a special meal at home or in a  restaurant. In fact, it was a special meal: our 47th anniversary!