Monday, November 30, 2020

Domaine du Haut des Terres Blanches Chateauneuf du Pape, 1998

This wine has been a puzzle to me. When I tried it at a big Chateauneuf du Pape tasting soon after its release, it tasted very good, and others at the table agreed. I already had bottles of the 1993 and 1994 vintages in my cellar that were also very good. The price  was low ($13.57) so I bought a case and waited more than a decade before opening the first bottle. It was absolutely horrible, and the next two bottles were only marginally better. This bottle tonight, though, is not going down the sink. It is actually pretty good.

Barely any sediment and a deep color with very little bricking. Much brighter than the color of previous bottles. Black fruit smells; reminds me of a Crozes Hermitage. Now a bit of Grenache berry plus some old oak. Very agreeable on the palate. Ripe fruit but enough acid to keep it from being heavy. With aeration, it develops some interesting twists and turns. Not a great Chateauneuf but a very good Cotes du Rhone Villages. And it's a lot younger than its years. I'm now looking forward to future bottles. 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Archery Summit Vireton Pinot Gris, 2015

 My wife likes Pinot Grigio and usually orders a glass when we are eating out. What she likes is a tight herbal style of wine similar to Mezza Corona. I like Pinot Gris, which is made from the same grape but in a style more like Alsace Pinot Gris than Italian Pinot Grigio delle Venezie. We agreed on a case purchase of this wine primarily because it was offered at steep discount (about $5 a bottle) by Russo and Son (now MegaBev) in Grand Rapids. She finds it "a bit sweet for my taste." I find it savory and delicious.

Deepening yellow color. Savory smells that I expect from Pinot Gris: ripe apples, seasoned oak and nuts. Round and full in the mouth. Nectarine, melon and papaya. Yes, a bit sweet on the finish but also savory and delicious.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Clos des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape, 1994

Rhone expert John Livingstone-Learmouth refers to Clos des Papes as a "gold standard estate," and I doubt that many would disagree with that assessment, although Vieux Telegraphe and Beaucastel also belong right at the top of the appellation. While 1994 is not considered a great vintage in the Southern Rhone, Robert Parker ranked Clos des Papes as  the top wine of the vintage. Tonight, with Provencal lamb for Thanksgiving dinner, this wine lived up to its reputation and then some.

Like Beaucastel, Clos des Papes has a high percentage of Mourvedre (20 to 40%) in the blend. And when I first opened the bottle, Mourvedre was the dominant smell. Aggressive, high-toned, somewhat funky, almost like Bret but much more pleasant. With an hour of airing, the assertiveness fades into a rich, warm aroma of red and black berries, olives, sea salt and  trademark Mourvedre spice. On the palate, it just keeps getting better and better throughout the meal. Rich, warm texture with acidity to keep it going. Everything I want and expect in a Chateauneuf du Pape.

Domaine des Baumard Savennieres, 2008

This is a perfect example of Savennieres, the dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley--more powerful than many red wines and loaded with unique smells and flavors. At 12 years of age, it is just beginning to show its best.

Deep gold. Powerful and attractive smells of quince, grapefruit, flowers, hay and damp stone. Even more assertive and powerful on the palate, So dry that it tugs at your taste buds while also coating them with powerful flavors. The Barolo of white wine. From my experience with earlier vintages of Domaine des Baumard Savennieres, these flavors will continue to grow more complex for at least another decade.

Monday, November 23, 2020

J.M. Perraud Saint Veran, 2014

 The last bottle of this wine I opened was a bit of a disappointment--tightly wound with a lot of citric acidity but not much else. This time, I was a bit tardy bringing the bottle up from the cellar, and it had not become completely chilled by the time I opened and served it. Voila! The transformation was remarkable.

Medium deep gold. Ripe apples in butter, spring flowers, spice and maybe a hint of walnut. Broad and deep. Very much like a six-year-old Pouilly Fuisse. Sleek acidity but also ripe multi-faceted fruit and a pleasing body.

It's a lesson I should have known. Don't overchill a good wine; you are likely to lose a good part of the fruit and flavor.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne, 2013

This 2013 Barbera d'Asti is drinking beautifully right now. The fruit comes from three vineyards in the hills near Asti, and the wine was aged for 12 months in barriques, large Slavonian oak barrels and stainless steel. It's a sophisticated wine that shows Barbera traits at their finest.

Bright ruby with purple tints. Scents of red cherries, violets and spice. Ripe and enticing. Medium bodied with a smooth, refined mouth feel. The oak is well integrated, letting the fruit shine. Long finish. Calls for yet another taste.


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2007


I have reviewed this wine so many times you are probably getting sick of reading about it. But, like any good wine, it is constantly changing and revealing new treats. This Sainte-Anne Villages is a step or two below the Notre Dame des Cellettes and the Saint Gervais bottlings and priced accordingly. It costs only a dollar or two more than the simple Cotes du Rhone and worth the premium, although I am also fond of the Cotes du 
Rhone. It is a very good ageworthy wine.

Deep ruby color. No oak; aged in stainless steel and concrete vats. About 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah plus Mourvedre and Cinsault from vines about 40 years old. Black raspberries, violets, aromatic herbs. Very expressive, as usual. Luxuriant fruit on the palate. More Syrah than Grenache at this point. Lavender and black fruits. Subtle spice notes developing on the long finish.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Cascina delle Rose Dolcetto d'Alba A Elizabeth, 2015

Some of the best Dolcetto vineyards are near Dogliani on the outskirts of the Barolo appellation. This one, though, comes from nearby Barbaresco--old vineyards in Tre Stelle and Rio Sordo. And it displays well its aristocratic breeding.

Clear bright ruby with bluish tints. Billowing scents of cherries, roses, cinnamon and almonds. Sweet fruit countered by a pleasantly bitter almond finish. Teases the tongue with brisk acidity and ripe fruit tannins. Oh, I like this wine. It's good enough and versatile enough to accompany any dish you can put on the table.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Monks Gate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2007

Monks Gate Vineyard is located in the Yamhill-Carlton area of the northern Willamette Valley, and the vines were planted there on Willakenzie soil in 2000. So the vines were relatively young when this 2007 was produced...but still capable of producing a highly impressive wine.

Light color but noticeably bright. Enchanting Pinot bouquet: red cherries, rose petals, and spice box. The scents are so lovely, that I almost expected something sweeter on the palate, but I was not disappointed at all. More of the spice box plus cranberries, cherries orange zest and white pepper. Pleasing acidity. Reminds me a lot of the Tualatin Estate Pinot I had at an American Wine Society tasting last week. The Monks Gate is 10 years older than that wine, but it has aged very well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Thomas Goss McLaren Vale Shiraz, 2016

Wine Enthusiast critic Christina Pickard describe this as a "big but not overblown old-school style of South Aussie Shiraz." I agree with her assessment, and that's why I purchased a few bottles after a Tasters' Guild wine tasting last year. It's definitely Aussie Shiraz, but it has more of the black fruit goodies that I like and less of the new oak qualities that often dominate newer-style wines.

Dark, bluish color. Prominent blackberries, plums and cassis on the nose; a touch of coffee and dark chocolate on the palate. Very ripe fruit flavors overwhelm the tannins that are lurking behind. Fills the mouth but does not taste hot or alcoholic. Although the winery says it uses some French oak barrels, they are not obvious in the smells and flavors. Drinks well now, but I am looking for more complexity as the wine ages.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Willamette Valley Vineyards Metis Walla Walla Valley Red Blend, 2017

This is an unusual blend of Bordeaux and Rhone varietals: 33% Syrah, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot and 19% Grenache. Although the wine is enjoyable, I fail to find specific traits of either the Bordeaux or Rhone grapes. It does, however, deliver plush dark fruit qualities along with red fruit ripeness and acidity.

Dark with bluish tints. Currants, cassis and French oak. Big in the mouth. Good fruit/acid balance with ripe tannins. Cherries and chocolate on the finish. Easy drinking but not simple. I need more time with this wine before I can make a commitment of $35. 

Willamette Valley Vineyards Tualatin Estate Pinot Noir, 2017

This is a good match for the Willamette Valley Chardonnay below. It's a wine that made me sniff and sip very slowly to appreciate all the nuances.

Pinot light but bright color. Heavenly smells of red cherry, violets, earth and Pinot Noir pepper. Dances lightly on the tongue. Hard to find the tannins, but they are there, and I am sure the wine will age very well for a decade or more. Pomegranates, cranberries and, as the winemaker suggests, pumpkin spice. I have never thought about pumpkin spice as a wine descriptor, but, yes, now that you mention it, I taste it. A delicate, ethereal finish that refuses to quit. Again, not a budget wine but worth the splurge.

Willamette Valley Vineyards Bernau Block Chardonnay 2017

Tasted at another American Wine Society virtual event. This ranks high on my all-time best Chardonnay list. Produced from the Dijon clone, it is big in flavor, more like a white Burgundy than a California Chardonnay. The owner compared it to Mersault, but I must admit that my limited experience has never given me a Mersault of this quality.

Medium deep yellow. The nose is simply irresistible: pear, honey, flowers. And the flavors are there to match: lemon cream with subtle vanilla on the finish. Very long, haunting finish. This is not a budget wine ($45 on the winery website) but I feel sure I would have to pay a higher price for a comparable Mersault. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Syrah, 2017

From the Yarra Valley of Victoria, this wine was billed as even cooler climate than the Leeuwin Estates' Sibling. By using the term "Syrah" rather than "Shiraz," the producer is also identifying with the French rather than the Australian style. I am a great lover of Rhone reds, but I don't see this wine as having much similarity to a Crozes-Hermitage or Saint Joseph.

I find some unattractive aromas that blow away after a few minutes in the glass. Probably reduction odors which will resolve with age. More red than black fruit, flowers and spice. Good acidity but a bit sharp on the finish, at least at this stage. This is not my style of wine.

Leeuwin Estate Siblings Margaret River Shiraz, 2017

Of the three wines tasted at the American Wine Society tasting, this was my clear favorite. From the Margaret River area of West Australia, it is from a cooler climate and apparently a different soil structure.

Deep and dark but a bit lighter than the Torbreck. Boysenberries, dark cherries, minerals and violets. Lighter in body than the Torbreck but plenty of strength and structure. Red currants, cinnamon, coffee and black pepper. Good acidity, exciting finish. At $18 to $20, I consider this a great value.

Torbreck Woodcutters Barossa Valley Shiraz


This is the first of three Shiraz wines we tasted as part of a American Wine Society presentation entitled "There is No Australian Shiraz." The theme, of course, was that there is no simplistic stereotype of Australian Shiraz but rather many different styles based on appellation, vine age, climate and winemaking decisions. Although Barossa is often dismissed by American critics as producing overly heavy, alcoholic, extracted wines, it is also home to many of Australia's finest wines such as Penfold's The Grange and Henschke's Hill of Grace and Mount Edelstone Shiraz.Torbreck also has earned critical praise as a premium producer, in part because of the estate's old, dry-farmed vineyards. The Woodcutters bottling is priced at a moderate level ($20 to $25) and includes fruit from relatively younger vines raised mostly in well seasoned French oak. We were both impressed with this wine.

Deep, dark, bright. Big aromatic presence of blackberries, black currants and cassis. Deserves a lot of serious sniffing, revealing more and more pleasures as the wine aerates. I get mostly black fruits on the palate as well. A big tannic wall on the mid palate but it too softens over time to reveal beautiful Shiraz fruit plus mocha, vanilla and lavender. The finish is well worth lingering over, even at this young stage but will get even better with five to ten years of additional age.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Delas Saint Esprit Cotes du Rhone, 2016

I don't drink as much Cotes du Rhone as I once did. Prices have gone up, and some of my old favorites have gone modern. Nevertheless, I still think CDR is the best and most versatile choice for every day drinking. For my taste, it's a perfect accompaniment for a tomato-based pasta and it also works with either vegetarian or meat-centered meals. It's beautiful young, and some bottles will gain complexity with 5 to 8 years of aging...or even longer. Delas Saint Esprit, a blend of about 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache, is still one of my favorites.

Dark crimson. Intense peppery, spicy aromas from the time the cork is popped, Rich fruit and spice on the tongue. Boysenberries, violets. Firm but ripe tannins. Syrah traits are upfront, but there is also plenty of Grenache pepper and spice. My kind of wine.

I bought this at D&W in Kalamazoo where it sells for $12 to $16.