Friday, July 31, 2020

Shoofly South Australia Shiraz, 2017

I usually tune out when I encounter an Australian wine with a cutesy name, but this one is made by Ben Riggs, a winemaker I respect who bills it as a "grower's wine." The fruit comes from vineyards in McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Padthaway and Wrattenbully--all wine-producing areas that I like.

Deep, dark color typical of Shiraz. Shiraz black fruit scents but also spice and black pepper. Has the freshness and appeal of a good Cotes du Rhone. Tannins are there but ripe and balanced by good acidity. No sign of oak chips or new barrels. I am going back for half a case of this wine, selling for $10 to $14 at D&W in Kalamazoo. It's drinking well now and should continue to do so for at least three or four years.

Bianca Vigna Cuvee 1931 Brut Rose

Bianca Vigna 'Cuvee 1931' Spumante Rosato, Veneto, Italy
I generally don't care for Prosecco wines; most are a bit too sweet and uninteresting. This Italian sparkling wine is made from the same Glera grapes that go into Prosecco but it also has some Pinot Noir in the cuvee that adds character and interest.

Although it is labeled Brut Rose, the color is light with only a subtle streak of pink. Tiny, persistent ubbles and a good mousse. Definitely has Pinot flavors reminiscent of Pinot-rich Champagnes such as Roederer Brut Premier. For $13.49 a bottle, I don't expect Champagne flavors, but I am happy with what's in my glass.

This was served at a Taster's Guild wine dinner (through Zoom) with barbecue-spiced seafood dishes from Oakwood Bistro in Kalamazoo.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco, 2009

The 2009 vintage was hot and not particularly good for Barolo. Kerin O'Keefe, my go-to source for Piedmont wines, recommends drinking many Barolos and Barbarescos from this vintage "through 2019"compared to several decades for other vintages. Langhe Nebbiolos generally are made for drinking early, but this 2009 Perbacco from Vietti is clearly an exception.

Medium light with orange tones, typical of Nebbiolo. With decanting and a couple of hours aeration, lovely Nebbiolo smells emerge. Not gushy but deep and serious. Licorice, rose petals and a hint of balsamic. As the meal progresses, these scents become irresistible. An "I can sniff this all night" wine. Laid back and elegant on the palate. But again very deep. The rich textures of a Barolo. Dark cherry, red berries and licorice.

Perbacco is never inexpensive, usually $23 to $25 a bottle. But if you like Barolo but shy away because of price, Vietti's Nebbiolo is perhaps the best option. Always serious Nebbiolo, always good.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Chateau de Montmirail Gigondas Cuvee de Beauchamp, 2013

Bottle front photo imageThis 2013 Gigondas is a perfect match for grilled New York Strip steak. Although it will likely gain some complexity with age, I like the straightforward rustic personality at this stage of development.

Deep and dark. Scents and flavors of black raspberry, dark cherry, thyme and licorice. Classic Gigondas, rich, ripe and moderately powerful. I have one more bottle but wish I had more so I could follow it over the next decade. For tonight, though--perfection!

Sterling Vineyards Napa Chardonnay, 2015

Sterling Napa Valley Chardonnay 2015 750mlAt the same table as the 1999 Gilbert Picq Chablis, this 2015 Napa Chardonnay provides a good comparison and contrast. Whereas the Chablis is loaded with limestone minerality, the Napa Chardonnay offers up notes of lime fruit, related mostly to barrel fermentation and aging in French oak barrels. Both are excellent meal-worthy wines.

Deep yellow, lighter than the Chablis but not by much considering the difference in age. Actually, the two wines have a surprisingly similar degree of maturity. Lime and buttered apples. Riper than the Chablis but a good level of natural acidity. Deep fruit that keeps you coming back for more.

Fruit for this wine comes from some of the warmer areas of Napa blended with a small amount of Carneros grapes. Although the labels are similar, the Napa Chardonnay is to be distinguished from the Sterling Vintners Choice Chardonnay, produced from grapes from the cooler Central Valley around Monterey. The Vintners Choice sells for about $12, roughly half that asked for the Napa bottling.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Chablis Premier Cru Vaucoupin Gilbert Picq et ses Fils, 1999

I thought I detected premature oxidation in a Vaucoupin I had in January of 2008. Maybe it was a bad bottle; or maybe I was just wrong. Twelve and a half years later, this bottle (my last of the 1999) is a beautiful example of mature Chablis.

Deep yellow. Deep, deep scents and flavors of flinty minerals. No oak, the wine is aged in stainless steel. All the nuances of old vine Chardonnay. It's not your archetypal "buttery" Chardonnay, but I detect a distinct buttery flavor. Perfect balance of acid and fruit. An excellent wine; wish I had more.

Chateau Poujeaux Moulis en Medoc, 1985

This wine has been in my cellar for many years, and I was somewhat disappointed with it when it was young. By the mid to late 1990s, I was ready to give up on it. Glad I didn't because it is now showing beautifully, nearly as good as the excellent 1982 Poujeaux.

The color has faded to a medium light amber, but the wine does not smell or taste old. Beautiful bouquet of dark currants, flowers and cinnamon. The tannins that made the wine taste austere years ago have faded, but the acid is strong, carrying lovely fruit flavors all the way to the finish. At 35 years, still going strong.

Giorgio Pelissero Barbera d'Alba Piani, 2009

Barbera d'Alba PianiThis is a serious Barbera, one of the best I have encountered.

Deep, dark ruby. Looks rich, and it is. Scents of blueberries, flowers, spice, coffee, dark chocolate. Powerful wine with oak tannins framing the fruit but not obscuring it. Good acid and long finish. Barbera is often thought of as a first course wine, but this one will stand up to any dish you put on the table.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Using repour To Preserve Freshness

I usually open older bottles of wine, such as the Storybook Mountain Zinfandel from the 1980s (below) on occasions when there are enough dinner guests to ensure that the whole bottle is consumed on the same evening. No matter how well preserved the wine might be, there is nearly always deterioration on the second night. And on the third night, it is usually dead. I have tried various methods such as pumping air out of the bottle with a Vacu-Vin but have never been totally satisfied until I learned about the "repour" wine preserver.

The device is simply a wine stopper that is capable of removing the oxygen in the air above the wine. Pour yourself a glass (or more) of the wine and then immediately insert the stopper until you are ready to pour another glass. As the manufacturer claims: "Repour will keep your favorite wine fresh for days, weeks, or months!"

I haven't tried the method for a month; that claim seems hard to believe. But I tried it for a week with the Storybook Mountain Zinfandel with excellent results. Every glass has been fresh and well preserved: full bodied, rich in fruit with enough acidity to invite another taste (but not enough to create a harsh edge).

Each repour stopper works for one bottle only, but the price is reasonable--10 stoppers for less than $20. If it really keeps a wine fresh for months, then this method is comparable to what you might get with a much more expensive Coravin wine preserver.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Storybook Mountain Vineyards Zinfandel, 198?

labelThe label for this bottle has been missing for years, but the insignia on the top of the capsule identified it as Storybook Mountains Vineyards. I was hoping the cork would tell me the vintage date but, alas, it had only the SMV designation. I feel reasonably certain it was either 1983 (the first vintage for the estate) or 1985. Either way, I assumed it was probably an ex-wine.

The cork comes out with little difficulty and shows only about 1/8 inch of saturation on the bottom. Lots of sediment on the side of the bottle. The wine is an amber to brown color but still shows good brightness. The first sniff, though, is a revelation: prime zinfandel--dark berries, sweet and savory. Even more on the palate. Very rich and full but with good acidity that has carried it well for 35 plus years. A touch of earth on the long, long finish.

I thought for a minute I was drinking a top Ridge Zinfandel, but I know that Storybook Mountain Vineyards has its own well deserved reputation. Located in the Mayacamus Mountains above Calistoga, the location was considered perfect for Zinfandel when the estate was founded in 1983. By now, of course, Cabernet vines there are probably far more profitable. I'll stick to the Zin, thank you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Tenuta Arnulfo Costa di Bussia Barbera d'Alba, 2012

labelOn our trip to Italy last October, Donna and I stayed four nights at Tenuta Arnulfo near Monforte d'Alba. The Barbera vineyards that produce this Barbera were just outside our door. I chose the place because I have enjoyed the estate's wines, the Barolo as well as the Barbera, for several years. This 2012 is a prime example.

Deep ruby but showing some amber notes with age. The smells are glorious:flowers, red fruits, minerals and black licorice. Could easily be mistaken for Nebbiolo. Even more echoes of Nebbiolo in the mouth. Tannic dryness on mid-palate. getting sweeter toward the finish. The winemaker recommends drinking this Barbera within the first five years of its vintage date, but this eight-year-old is showing quite well. For about $15 a bottle at D&w in Kalamazoo, it's an exceptional value.