Saturday, September 25, 2021

Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay, 1983

This wine is 100% barrel fermented and spent some time on its lees. It is unabashedly oaky but did not go through malolactic fermentation. The quality of fruit from the Robert Young Vineyard is exceptional, and the result is one of the best Chardonnays I have tasted.

Medium deep gold. Bright and clear. Exceptionally intense bouquet of lemon cream, canteloupe and flowers. Equally intense flavors. Very lively and complex; I could drink this all night with or without food. The oak influence is there, but the smells and flavors are pure Chardonnay fruit. Donna and I are fans of Chateau St. Jean Robert Young, and this 2013 Reserve may be the best we have had.

Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes-Hermitage Domaine Thalabert, 1983

My son, who was born in 1983, has had this 1983 Thalabert at least eight or nine times as his birthday wine, and he still enjoys it almost as much as I do. Even after 38 years, it still seems to get better each year.

The color has lightened considerably with some brickish garnet tones. Beautiful mature scents of dried cranberry, truffles, leather and olives.Equally intense flavors that dance on the tongue and blend beautifully with food (pork tenderloin braised in milk). Finish that lasts forever. This 1983 and the 1990 Thalabert Crozes are as good as any Hermitage I have had.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz, 2005

Bin 128, sourced from vineyards in Coonawarra, is listed by Penfolds as its cool climate Shiraz. With up front fruit typical of Coonawarra, it features elegance rather than power.

Deep, dark, bluish. Beautiful smells of black currants, blackberries, flowers and menthol. Oak derived spices liven the palate. Medium to full bodied. Plenty of tannin but not enough to keep the berry fruit from showing. Drinking well now but should keep for several more years. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Domaine Rabasse Charavin Cairanne, 2012

I have sampled this wine several times over the past four or five years, and this is the best it has shown. I think it is very close to full maturity.

Bright ruby red. Enticing scents of strawberry, pomegranate, herbs and sweet as well as peppery spice. I find a dark tone similar to what I usually associate with Rasteau and Vacqueyras more than Cairanne. A dry, tannic streak down the middle and a bit of heat from 14.5% alcohol. Even so, I love the full fruited, ripe berry finish.

This Cairanne is produced from 70% Grenache (40 to 70 years of age), 15% Syrah (20 to 30 years), 10% Counoise (30 years) and 5% Cinsault (15-20 years). It is made traditionally and aged in concrete vats.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Peninsula Whole Cluster Riesling, 2013

What a difference a year makes! The 2012 Whole Cluster Riesling I had Friday night was showing a bit tired so I was anxious to open the 2013 to see if I was being too tardy in opening these wines. What I found was a 2013 wine much younger than the vintage date might suggest.

Lemon yellow, bright and lively. More peaches than pears tonight plus some citric notes. Medium dry and full bodied in the Whole Cluster style. Well defined flavors although I still would prefer a bit more acidity. It tastes a lot like the young Whole Cluster wines I taste every year at the winery, but I find none of the complexity I would expect from a nine-year-old German Riesling.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Peninsula Whole Cluster Riesling, 2012

This has always been one of my favorite Michigan wines, and this 2012 is the oldest of my stash in the cellar. It was a good match for a seafood paella.

Medium deep gold, perhaps a bit deeper than I would expect from a nine-year-old Riesling. Rich, rounded peach and ripe pear scents with hints of petrol. Dry and medium to full body, in the Whole Cluster style. Does not have the zing and acidity of a German Riesling and is showing a bit tired and one-dimensional at this stage. I gave it 94 points when I tasted it in its youth but would give it only 88 tonight.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Pertinace Barbera d'Alba, 2018


This wine has all the vibrant fruitiness I expect from a .young Barbera. It was fermented for 10 to 15 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, then aged for nine months in French oak barrels.

Deep, dark, bright ruby. Has the Piedmont profile: dark cherries, spice and black licorice. More acid than tannin, but that's what Barbera is about. Has the intensity to provide a good backdrop for tomato and roasted vegetable pasta. I paid about $10 at Costco but haven't seen it there recently.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Vincent & Sophie Morey Maranges 1er Cru Les Fussieres, 2007

Red cherries was my initial impression when I popped the cork on this red Burgundy wine; and a positive impression it was from the first sniff to the reverberating after taste.

In its youth, this wine was quite dark for a Pinot Noir. With 13 years of age, it is now medium light with amber tones moving out from the rim. There is nothing mature, though, in the vibrant smells and flavors. Red cherries, red raspberries and baking spices. The spices add some sweetness but the basic theme is tartness. And I like it. Flavors that cling to the tongue and inside of the mouth and dance toward a complex finish.


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

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

This cuvee of Domaine Sainte-Anne's Cotes du Rhone Villages is produced from older vines at the estate and includes a higher percentage (10 to 20%) of Mourvedre. It costs a few dollars more than the regular CDR Villages and is definitely worth the premium. I have had glorious bottles of the 1998 and 2000 Notre Dame; the 2004 vintage is not as good but still a special wine.

Deep, bright crimson. With age, the wine has lost the high-toned, lifted aromas that are characteristic of young Domaine Sainte Anne wines and has developed some beautiful secondary aromas and flavors. Strawberries and red raspberries. Skin tannins contribute a lot to this wine; they are deep and full of flavor...even when you get down to the sediment at the bottom of the bottle.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Clos du Mont Olivet Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Unique, 1998

Clos du Mont Olivet can always be depended on to produce a good, ageworthy Chateauneuf du Pape. Cuvee Unique refers to a wine made from barrels selected by North Berkeley Imports, and the result is an even more special wine. It's a wine that begs for grilled leg of lamb with roasted vegetables, and that's exactly what we had.

The color has turned to brickish red, but there are no other signs of advancing maturity. Very aromatic. You can almost hear the wine singing "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme." Also plenty of mint and other aromatic herbs to highlight the scents of ripe strawberries and raspberries. Still singing on the palate. Deep and complex with fruit and herbs dancing together. Rhone critic John Livingstone-Learmouth writes that he would like a just a bit more "richness" on the finish, but I like the acidic edge that, with aeration, actually does become richer and richer as the meal progrsses.  Thank you Clos du Mont Olivet and North Berkeley Imports.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Vietti Tre Vigne Barbera d'Asti, 2013

Vietti is a very good producer of Barolo and Barbera, and this Tre Vigne bottling comes from well sited vineyards in three different areas near Barolo. At $15 to $18 a bottle, it is nearly always a good moderately priced choice.

Vibrant ruby red. Lush aromas of cherries, plums, almonds and vanilla. Elegant, medium bodied presence on the palate. Dried cherries, anise and almonds are prominent in the flavors. A pleasing austerity with flavors that open slowly and subtly through the meal. This is a good wine to order in its youth with a restaurant meal, but it also ages nicely over 8 to 10 years.

Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Peninsula Gamay Noir Limited, 2017

Tasted alongside the Underwood Oregon Pinot Noir, this Gamay definitely had more  distinctive Pinot traits.

Medium light ruby. Looks like a Pinot Noir. Tempting smells of cranberries, red raspberries and flowers. Smells like a Pinot Noir. Medium light body and silky texture. Pepper, lemon zest and spice. Tastes like a Pinot. Raspberry sweetness against a tart cranberry background. Acid and tannin dance on the tongue. This is the Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir Limited rather than the Reserve, but it is still a special wine, my second favorite Michigan red (after the Gamay Noir Reserve).

Underwood Oregon Pinot Noir, 2019

This was poured for me at a friend's house, and I did not guess it was an Oregon Pinot Noir until I checked out the label. It is simple Oregon rather than Willamette Valley appellation.

Dark color and bold fruit smells and flavors are reminiscent of a Zinfandel. There is a peppery, spicey, earthy flavor, though, that I associate with a good Cotes du Rhone. Offers up a lot of pleasure for a $10 wine.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Merry Edwards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2001


Now in its 20th year, this Merry Edwards Pinot Noir is still showing elegance, grrace and beauty.

Deep ruby in center, amber creeping out from edges. Beautiful Pinot scents: cherries,blueberries, rose petals and cinnamon. Deep, concentrated fruit flavors carry over to the palate. Pleasing warmth. Alcohol (14.1%) now seems to dominate the balance and mouthfeel of this wine, but the flavors are beautiful and persistent.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages Notre Dame des Cellettes, 1998

This wine has aged well over 23 years, as is common with the CDR Villages wines produced  by Domaine Sainte Anne. 

Deep ruby color. Entrancing scents of strawberries, black raspberries, flowers and a hint of rosemary. Mellow on the palate. Good tannin/acid balance. Rich fruit flavors on mid-palate and finish. More like a Pinot Noir than a Cotes du Rhone. Still giving lots of pleasure.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Girasole Mendocino County Pinot Noir

The appellation for this Pinot Noir is Mendocino rather than Anderson Valley, and the wine is modestly priced (about $15 a bottle) as a result. It does, however, have many of the positive traits I associate with more expensive Anderson Valley wines.

Medium dark ruby. Raspberry, cranberry, cinnamon. Purity of fruit flavors that are common with more expensive Pinots from Anderson Valley. Intense flavors with a citric edge that I like. Improves over the course of the meal and is by no means overwhelmed by the bold flavors of a hamburger. Worth a rry if you like Anderson Valley Pinot.

Topolovino Baja Nebbiolo, 2016

Nebbiolo from Mexico??? Yes, Nebbiolo is the trademark grape of the cool Piedmont area of Italy, but Mexican Nebbiolo is on the wine-by-the-glass list at  Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill in Chicago. And the wine goes well with the spicy, cheesy fare at the restaurant. How does it compare with Nebbiolo from northern Italy?

Deep, dark, purplish. But it has probably been aged in small, new oak barriques (as it is at some Piedmont estates). The smells and flavors of Nebbiolo are readily apparent--cherries, flowers, licorice and spice. Also some currant and cassis. A big, tannic wine but lacks the acidity and freshness of the Fontanafredda Nebbiolo I had last night. Actually gets a bit tiring to drink by the end of the meal but is a good counter to the excellent beef tip enchiladas. I would order it again but am not going out to buy it for my cellar.

Fontanafredda Ebbio Langhe Nebbiolo, 2019


I was hot and thirsty when we stopped for a mid-afternoon drink on the streets of Chicago. "Why in the world," I thought to myself, "did I order a glass of red, particularly a big, tannic red, rather than a refreshing white or rose?" Well, it was Eataly, after all, and I jumped at the opportunity to taste a Nebbiolo that was not available in my market area. And it turned out to be a good choice.

Rusty Nebbiolo color. Beautiful scents of cherries, raspberries, cinnamon, licorice and rose petals. Reminds me of the 1998 Famiglia Anselma Barolo we had from the cellar last month. Actually, the wine is very refreshing. Medium bodied with substantial Nebbiolo tannins but surprisingly light on the palate. Big tannins coupled with high acidity. That's what I like about Nebbiolo from the Piedmont in Italy.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Les Amidyves Ventoux vs La Vieille Ferme

La Vieille Ferme is the archetypal Ventoux even though the Perrin family now has to scour the countryside for similar, though less expensive grapes. Tasting it alongside Olivier B's Les Amidyves Ventoux was an illuminating experience.

Although Olivier B projects a rustic image, his wine is sophisticated, polished and still going strong at age 11. It has depth and concentration, though not a lot of the traditional elements of 'Ventoux. On the third night, it was showing a bit of fatigue and lacked the freshness and acidity of the younger La Vieille Ferme. And the Perrin family's knock off Ventoux clearly had more of the rustic, peppery spice that I love in Ventoux wines. In a box for $5 a bottle equivalent, you cannot go wrong with this wine. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Indigenous Nebbiolo d'Alba, 2015

When I first tasted this wine three years ago, I thought it was okay but, at $13 a bottle, a reasonable buy. Nebbiolo, whether in a top level Barolo or a low-end Nebbiolo, often needs time to show its best. Glad I waited; tonight, Indigenous Nebbiolo d'Alba is a fragrant, elegant beauty.

The color is light and rusty; that's typical of traditionally made Nebbiolo and not a sign of advancedd age, as it might be with a New World Cabernet or Zinfandel. Oh so beautiful scents of the Nebbiolo trinity: roses, cherries and black licorice. Has the elegance and texture of a fine Pinot Noir. Flavors that tickle the taste buds and cling. Very dry; tells me that the wine has ample tannin to carry it along to even greater glory. But it is so enjoyable right now that it will be hard for me to wait on the remaining bottles in the cellar. Wish I had bought more.

Olivier B Les Amidyves Ventous Rouge, 2009

This is a Ventoux that came with very high praise from As a long-time fan of Ventous (La Vieille Ferme, Font Sane Vieilles Vignes, 3 Messes Basses, etc.), the wine surprises me a bit. Although it has traits that clearly differ from those of my long-time favorites, I still find it a very enjoyable wine and not at all over the hill at age 12.

Deep crimson. Red berries, violets but also some black fruit scents and flavors. Very smooth on the palate. Sophisticated face of Ventoux. Lush berries with freshness and polish. When Ventoux wines were some of the least expensive on the market, I usually bought them young and drank them within the first year. This wine proves that good Ventous is also capable of mid-term aging.


Sunday, August 8, 2021

Domaine Lou Frejau Chateauneuf du Pape, 1998

This is classic, old fashioned Chateauneuf du Pape, ripe and ready to drink.

Mature brick red color. Powerful scents, very Chateauneuf. Red berries, fresh and dried, leather and garrigue. Savory flavors of sea salt and red berries. 
Long, powerful finish.

La Vieille Ferme Rouge

For many years, I bought--and drank--a case of La Vieille Ferme every year. A
that time, it was produced from Ventoux vineyards; today, Ventoux has been recognized as a premium source, and Ventoux grapes are too expensive for this low-end bottling. To keep the price at the low price point that has come to be expected, the Perrin family seeks out high-quality grapes from Languedoc country. Plum Market in Ann Arbor recently offered LVF bag-in-a-box (3 liters) for $20 and the Famille Perrin Ventoux for $6.59 a bottle. They make an interesting comparison.

Deep ruby/purple. That's probably because this wine has a higher proportion of Syrah (as opposed to Grenache) in the blend. Much fruitier than the Ventoux. Blackberries and cassis with a full bodied plummy texture. Carignan and 
Cinsault spice. Grenache black pepper emerges with aeration but it's not as prominent as it is in the Perrin Ventoux. Full bodied and ripe but enough acid to keep it lively. At $5 a bottle equivalent, this has to be the best wine bargain on the planet.


Friday, August 6, 2021

Valdinera Barbera d'Alba Superiore, 2013

This Barbera d'Alba comes from Roero, on the other side of the Tanaro River from the more well known vineyards of Barolo and Barbaresco. It is a serious Barbera made traditionally in large barrels and capable of aging for 10 to 15 years, according to the winemaker. I love it.

Medium deep ruby, sediment forming already. Beautiful scents of red cherries, roses and licorice. Piedmont spices and minerals. Could be mistaken for a Barolo. Good red cherry flavors with Barbera acidity plus palate-coating tannins. Long finish. Drinking beautifully now but still has room to grow.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Cline Cellars Cashmere Black Magic (Alluring Dark Red Blend), 2015

This is a New World version of a Southern Rhone, albeit with Petite Sirah added to the typical blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. The grapes, according to the producer, come from well situated old vines, but the wine is matured in new oak. Tasting it alongside the Famille Perrin Ventoux (below), I found no similarity whatsoever.

Inky black magic color. And alluring scents of coffee, chocolate, black currants and vanilla.  I also find some chalky Petite Sirah notes. Velvety texture and tannins that are accessible enough to carry on the Black Magic image. Very popular with two young guests who are not regular wine drinkers. I can see what they like, but I prefer the Perrin Ventoux.

Famille Perrin Ventoux Rouge, 2019


I was a fan of Ventoux Rouge back when it was the poor country cousin of Cotes du Rhone. The cooler climate on the slopes of Ventoux provide a fresh acidity to go with the full bodied fruit flavors. As grapes from Ventoux have become more expensive, the Perrin family has had to look elsewhere for fruit to make its lowest priced wine, La Vieille Ferme. The Famille Perrin Ventoux is a step above in quality and price, but Plum Market in Ann Arbor recently offered this wine for a price ($6.59) usually reserved for La Vieille Ferme. A sensational bargain.

Deep crimson, bright and lively. Seems a bit shy when the cork is first popped but it fills out nicely as the meal progresses. Grenache red berry along with spicy notes from Carignan and Cinsault. Bright, lively fruit but with depth of flavor that is not expected from a wine at this price point. Has the peppery structure that I love in traditional Southern Rhone wines. Long finish. I bought half a case, wish I had bought more.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Pithon-Paille Anjou Mozaik Blanc, 2017


It's a strange name but actually a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley of France. Loire Chenin Blancs include Vouvray, which usually has some degree of sweetness, and dry wines from Savennieres and Saumur. This wine from Anjou is decidedly dry but very different from both Savennieres and Saumur.

Medium light yellow. Powerful scents of flowers and ripe Red Delicious apples or apple sauce. A decidedly dry streak running right down the middle of the palate. A lively delicious wine for drinking right now. And I believe it will keep and improve for several years, although I doubt that it will have the staying power of Savennieres.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Amalie Robert Her Silhouette Willamette Valley Chardonnay, 2011

This wine is about as close to pure, unadulterated Chardonnay as you are going to get. It is fermented in stainless steel at cool temperatures with no oak and no malolactic fermentation. Rather than being big and buttery, it offers a slim, well defined silhouette of feminine form.

Deep lemon yellow. Intense aromas and flavors of lemon cream and stone fruit. Has all the traits of Oregon grown Dijon clone Chardonnay that I love. Sleek acidity that paints an imprint on the tongue. Laser focus of mineral and fruit flavors on the finish. This is Chardonnay, and I love it.

2011 was a super warm growing season in the Willamette Valley, too warm perhaps for good Pinot Noir but good for this Chardonnay. I like this 2011 better than the 2010 I had a few months ago. But at 10 and 11 years of age, both are drinking beautifully, with superb balance that shows no sign of breaking up.

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Vinum 002 Langhe Rosso, 2010

The Vinum 002 Langhe Rosso is a delightful combination of Nebbiolo and Barbera, the two main grapes of the Piedmont. As such, it is an excellent wine for every day fare or for special occasion meals.

Beautiful ruby tones of Barbera. Powerful aromas of both grapes: dark cherries, red cherries, raspberries, vanilla and licorice. Strong acidity of Barbera plus tannic grip of Nebbiolo. Full bodied and velvety with a medium long finish. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Parady Family Wines Ore Cart Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012

This is Napa Cabernet as I remember it from the late 1970s and early 1980s--before winemakers started competing for Parker points by making their wines riper and increasingly plush. It has everything I expect from a good Cabernet. Reminds me of Burgess Cellars wines from 1977, 1978 and 1979.

Deep and velvety color. Classic Cabernet bouquet of black and red currants, cassis and cofee. Ripe flavors but good acid balance and structure. Black and red fruit, coffee and chocolate. Medium long finish.

The winery is located on Howell Mountain and the grapes come from 50-year-old hillsidevineyards. It is aged for 26 months in 100% French oak, 55% new. 

Big Cork Vineyards Maryland Viognier Chenin Blanc, 2020

This is a blend (75% Viognier/25% Chenin Blanc) that I have never encountered before. But it works nicely. Viognier provides the honeysuckle beauty while Chenin Blanc adds body, substance and acidity.

Very light color. Beautiful floral/fresh fruit scents typical of Viognier. Melon, peaches and stone fruits on the palate, more like Chenin Blanc. Plump but not at all sweet. No sign of new oak seasoning, but it may have had some lees contact. Goes well with fondue but would also work as an aperitif.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Famiglia Anselma Barolo, 1998

This wine received positive reviews when it was first released, and it has more than surpassed estimates about its ability to age. At 23 years, it is showing impressive grace, elegance and beauty.

The color is deep with the orangeish tints typical of Nebbiolo. The bouquet is beautifully formed--dark cherries, spice, flowers. You can almost taste the flavors before the wine reaches your mouth. Doesn't explode but expands gently in the mouth with complex flavors. Everything I expect from a well aged Barolo. Coats the tongue and the roof of the mouth with dry, tannic fruit. Acidity keeps it lively and invites sip after sip. "Good to the last drop," one taster observed.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Patton Valley Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2018

Offered as a wine by the glass at Zingerman's Road House in Ann Arbor, MI, this Pinot Noir was delightful accompaniment to a perennial Sunday Road House favorite, Grillade and Grits.

Medium deep garnet. Pomegranate, boysenberries, cocoa and gingery spice on the nose. Good carry through on the palate. Tannin and acid interact nicely on the palate. Good concentration and grip; coats the tongue. Orange and black pepper on the finish. This wine deserves the 92 point rating it received from Wine Enthusiast and retails for $26, a good value for this level of Willamette Valley Pinot. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Domaine les Hautes Cances Cairanne Tradition, 2007

When this wine was first released, Rhone critic John Livingstone-Learmouth ( listed it as "promising" with a best drinking date of "2020 or so." It is still dark and robust but seems to have a flaw of some sort.

When first opened, I got intense scents that reminded me of good Cairanne. Upon closer examination, though, a funky, somewhat borsey smell emerged--not  entirely bad but too much for Donna (and probably most other wine drinkers). Flavors were okay, but there was a metallic edge that might also indicate brett. Even though the wine is now 14 years of age, I don't think these traits are associated with advanced age or poor storage. With age, though, a level of brett that may have been attractive in youth has now become less palatable. I bought the wine, one bottle, at auction so don't have to worry about future disappointments.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Domaine de la Tourade Gigondas, 2009

As a match for beef entrees, I usually choose Gigondas, and I am nearly always happy with my choice.

Deep, dark color but no sign of aging in small oak barrels. Beautiful scents of red and blue berries, violets and a talcum-like smell that I associate strongly with Gigondas. Power and beauty. Balance leans a bit more toward tannin and alcohol than I prefer, but the wine is still very enjoyable and a good match for marinated flank steak.

Friday, July 2, 2021

MezzaCorona Trentino Pinot Grigio DOC, 2020

MezzaCorona's Pinot Grigio is widely available, usually for under $10 a bottle. Yet I find it a top example of Italian Pinot Grigio. It is crisp, dry and food friendly with intriguing smells and flavors.

Light straw with good brilliance. Scents of pears and green apples. More of the same on the palate, along with white peaches, herbs and minerals. Right now in Kalamazoo this wine is selling for $7.99 at Trader Joe's and $9.79 for a magnum at Costco. Excellent value.


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Pelassa Piemonte Oltre, 2014

"Oltre" means "more than," and this wine is more than Barbera, the workhorse grape of Piemonte. It is, in fact, 90% Barbera plus 10% Nebbiolo, the king of Piemonte grapes. The result is more noble than you might expect.

Deep, dark ruby; the color of Barbera rather than Nebbiolo, which often has an orangeish/garnet tone even in youth. The aroma, though, may be more Nebbiolo than Barbera: dark cherry, plums, minerals and vanilla. Power and concentration. On the palate, good Barbera acidity coupled with Nebbiolo tannic grip. Baked plums and spice. Drinks beautifully right now, but I would not hesitate keeping this for at least two or three more years. We are having it with pasta, but I would not hesitate serving it with a special meal.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

J.L. Chave St. Joseph Offerus, 1999


Although the price has increased a bit in recent years, Chave's St. Joseph Offerus is still one of the best values in Northern Rhone Syrah. And this bottle has aged well over 20 plus years.

Deep ruby, bright and clear. Black fruit, anise and aromatic herbs on the bouquet. Ripe fruit on palate from front to back. Good acid structure. A hint of black pepper on the finish. This is definitely Northern Rhone Syrah rather than Australian Shiraz. I like it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Domaine du Haut des Terres Blanches Chateauneuf du Pape, 1998

Tasting this wine side by side with the excellent 1989 Lucien Barrot, I was impressed by the similarity of the two wines. They do indeed have much in common: 1) they are both relatively unknown, even by those who have a special attraction for Chateauneuf du Pape; 2) they are, as a result, relatively inexpensive; 3) they are both excellent examples of traditional Chateauneuf du Pape, and 4) they both age surprisingly well. Knowing that the 1993 and 1994 were showing well, I was disappointed by bottles of 1998 Domaine du Haut des Terres that I opened too early. Even at 12 to 15 years of age, the wine was showing very little, and I assumed that it was seriously flawed. With this bottle, I realized that was I was way too impatient; at 21 years of age, the wine is just coming into its own.

Medium deep crimson with bricking at the edges. Healthy looking color. Savory scents of strawberries, cherries, dried flowers. Perhaps not as complex as the bouquet of the 1989 Lucien Barrot; but then this wine is nine years younger. Much of the same on the palate: dried and fresh berries, fresh acidity. Not as finely textured as the Lucien Barrot and slightly higher in alcohol (14% vs 13.5%). Otherwise, they are similar wines. I had the Terres Blanches one night with rack of lamb and the next night with grilled salmon. It worked well with both dishes. 

If you have some bottles of this wine, forget the negative reviews you have seen on Cellar Tracker and on this blog. Open at your leisure and enjoy.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Lucien Barrot Chateuneuf du Pape, 1989


I remember reading a note from a wine merchant several years ago, saying, in effect, "having a bottle of Lucien Barrot Chateauneuf in the cellar is like having a Van Gogh painting in your attic." I would agree with this assessment; every bottle of Lucien Barrot I have had (mostly from the 1988 and 1989 vintages) has been an ageless work of art. 

Once deep and dark crimson, the color is now a brick red with good brilliance and saturation. Savory bouquet of dried strawberries on a bed of aromatic herbs and a hint of tobacco. Intense flavors--ripe berries, fresh and dried. Has the delicate texture of a fine Pinot Noir combined with the strength and power of a Chateauneuf du Pape. Pleasure that lingers long after the wine is swallowed. This is my last bottle of 1989 but I have 1998, 2007 and 2010 to anticipate.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Luciano Sandrone Nebbiolo d'Alba Valmaggiore, 1998

This is my Father's Day wine, opened a day early because it matches up well with tonight's meal (lamb meatball pasta) as well as tomorrow's dinner (rack of lamb). If we enjoy this too much tonight, I'll choose another bottle to add tomorrow. From my first impression, I think this Valmaggiore from Luciano Sandrone will be quite popular.

Brick red, good saturation. Amazing Nebbiolo smells from the moment the cork is popped. Roses, red raspberry/cherry fruit and black licorice undertones. Deep and inviting. Ripe and lovely all the way down the palate. Cascading flavors of ripe crushed berries, exotic spices and licorice. Expressive and lingering finish; has the freshness of a young wine and the complexity of one that is fully mature.

This is not a Barolo, but it is better than many, if not most, I have tasted. Luciano Sandrone is a great winemaker, and he has specifically seeks out Valmaggiore sites for their special attributes.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone Rouge, 2018

This wine is deep and dark with a purplish hue. At least some of the grapes have clearly been aged in small new oak barrels. Yet the winemaker has preserved the traits of traditional Cotes du Rhone that I love. Both red and black berries, probably more Syrah than Grenache in the blend., along with cassis and black pepper. Some tannin on the mid-palate but still very drinkable. And the peppery finish is exactly what I am looking for in a Cotes du Rhone. At $12 to $14, this is a good choice for every day drinking or even special occasions.


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Peninsula Gamay Noir Reserve, 2016

This Gamay Noir Reserve has been aged in barrel for 36 months but still has the fruity elegance of the varietal. Like the Limited, it is light in color and body but has considerably greater depth and complexity. The Reserrve is a bit higher in alcohol (13.9% vs 12.7%) but a tad lower in residual sugar (0.2 vs 0.5 brix) than the Limited. It also costs about twice as much.

Tart cherries, red plums and even more of the spice and black pepper that remind me of a fine Pinot Noir. A touch of dark chocolate on the finish. This is a very good wine, but, for the price differential, I will stick with the Gamay Noir Limited. I believe that both will age beautifully for 10 years or longer, although the Reserve may deliver a bit more pleasure at maturity.

Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Peninsula Gamay Noir Limited, 2018.

I have always been enthusiastic about tasting Pinot Noirs from the cool climate of northern Michigan. However, the Gamay Noir wines from Chateau Grand Traverse strike me as more typical of fine Pinot Noir than any of the Pinot Noirs I have tasted, even those from the CGT estate. In fact, they are my favorite reds of any kind from Old Mission or Leelanau. This Limited is the less expensive Gamay Noir bottling, selling for $14 to $16 a bottle and an incredible bargain.

Very light garnet. Tart cherry, plum and spice. Has the zesty, peppery mid-palate and finish that reminds me of some of the top Oregon Pinots. This is on my buy list every year, and I am impressed by this 2018 vintage.


Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Peninsula Whole Cluster Riesling, 2018

The Old Mission Peninsula of Michigan is one of my favorite sources of high quality Riesling. This Whole Cluster Riesling from Chateau Grand Traverse is one of the driest and best. Grapes are hand picked and whole clusters are pressed without any destemming or crushing. Residual sugar at 1% is barely detectable.

Medium light. Beautiful scents of ripe pear, apple and flowers. Surprising richness on the mid-palate for a wine with such zesty acidity. Great finish.

Good Harbor Vineyard Leelanau Pinot Grigio, 2018

Good Harbor was one of the earliest wineries on the Leelanau Peninsula, and it is still one of my favorites. I always taste there on my trips to the Traverse City area, and I am particularly fond of this Pinot Grigio and the Good Harbor Chardonnay.

Medium light color. Pears, apples, citrus. Has spent some time on its lees (spent yeast cells), and this adds some richness and a slight tingle on the mid palate. More in the Pinot Gris rather than Pinot Grigio style, and that is one reason I like it. But it has the zesty acidity that characterizes northern Michigan wines. At $15 or less, it is a good value.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Amalie Robert Her Silhouette Chardonnay, 2010

This is Oregon Dijon Chardonnay in its purest form, created, according to the label, to "reveal the inherent beauty of unadorned Chardonnay." It was fermented in stainless steel and aged without oak. It has few of the smells and flavors that most Americans associate with New World Chardonnay. Over 11 years, it has aged well, and I love it.

Deep lemon yellow color. Green apple and citrus. Lemon zest that broadens out on the palate. Low alcohol (12%), reflecting the cool climate and vintage. As an unoaked, cool climate Chardonnay, it lacks the flinty, earthy qualities of Chablis and has more substance and depth than most unoaked Macon wines. It is well balanced and uniquely Oregon Chardonnay. Well defined flavors on tart, lively finish.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Cave de Tain Premiere Note Collines Rhodanniene Syrah, 2016

This inexpensive Syrah from the Collines Rhodanniene has many of the qualities you might expect from more prestigious appellations such as Crozes-Hermitage.

Deep and dark. Scents of blackberries, anise and violets. Warm and rich. Currants and dark cherry. Subtle spice and black pepper on the finish. Not overly complex but a good match for grilled lamb chops.

Taittinger Brut La Francaise, NV

Toasting our return from the pandemic, our four-couple gourmet group enjoyed this delightful bottle of Taittinger Brut.

Small, persistent bubbles. Rich, toasty notes on the nose and palate with a pleasing green apple zest on the finish. Warm and rounded with subtlety and class. When choosing a traditional non-vintage champagne, I usually go for Roederer or Veuve Cliquot. Next time, I will look for 
Taittinger as well.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Willamette Valley Vineyards Griffin Creek Grenache, 2016

As a fan of Chateauneuf du Pape and other Southern Rhone wines, I usually don't have much use for New World wines based on the Grenache grape. From my experience, most are overly sweet and one dimensional. This wine, however, grabbed my interest.

The color is darker than I expect from Grenache. Scents of strawberries, blueberries and chocolate and some notes of blue plum, anise and licorice on the palate. Medium bodied with good acidity. Not at all like a Chateauneuf du Pape, but there are some interesting oak-influenced flavors and textures. I would consider this a wine for immediate drinking or medium term aging.

Willamette Valley Vineyards Ingram Estate Pinot Noir, 2017

This was my #1 of the four very good Willamette Valley Vineyards wines we had at the Oregon Wine Month Virtual Tasting last night. Intense, exotic Pinot Noir traits gushed from the moment the cork was popped and got better as the night progressed.

Deep, bright medium light ruby. Tart cherries, cranberries, spring flowers. Intense and beautiful. The strength on the palate seems to come from acidity rather than alcohol or tannin. Black pepper and savory spice on the finish. This wine is on the young side at the moment, and I have confidence that it will soon live up to the promise offered by the nose.