Saturday, January 30, 2021

Luca Bosio Truffle-Hunter Leda Barbera d'Asti, 2018

Noting "truffle" on the label, I can't help but dream about the wonderful smells and tastes of truffles and other mushrooms. And that's what I smell when I first open the bottle. And, of course, I also smell all the other Barbera goodies: ripe cherries, slightly unripe red berries and a bit of earth. This wine is very approachable and easy to drink. Good acid, smooth tannins, rich flavors that fill the mouth. We are drinking it right after finishing off a few ounces of the more expensive wines from Thursday's wine tasting (see below). As one wise wine professional put it, when you taste an expensive wine side by side with an inexpensive one, it's the cheap wine that always tastes better.

I believe that Truffle Hunter Barbera is still available for $10 to $12 at D&W in Kalamazoo.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Quinta de Noval 10 Year Tawny Port

This 10-year tawny port was paired with a superb banana pudding from South Kitchen. One taster commented that it was an ideal match, the best of the night. I can't help thinking that almost any food (sweet, cheese, nuts) would go well with this tawny. And almost any dessert wine would go well with this banana pudding, which somehow had more deep, complex flavors than any pudding I have ever had.

The color, of course, is tawny, clear and beautiful. And the bouquet is as complex and inviting as can be expected from a 10-year (or even 20-year) tawny. Fresh as well as dried fruit--figs, dates, apricots along with nuts and orange zest. Long the wine and to the meal.

Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso, 2017

The second red wine at the AWS/Tasters Guild wine dinner is Le Macchiole's Bolgheri Rosso. Even at $29.99 (the reduced price for those attending the event, this may be one of the best values of the event. Produced as a "Bordeaux blend," the wine actually contains Syrah (a Northern Rhone grape) as well as Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is fermented in stainless steel, then aged for 10 months in a combination of used barriques and concrete.

Dark and dense. I don't find any of the four grapes standing out as dominant. This is just a big, black fruited wine that begs to be enjoyed now or whenever. There are undoubtedly plenty of tannins, but they are not at all intrusive. Rich texture with ripe red berry fruit on the finish. Goes well with the beef tenderloin and cauliflower/potato mash. While I have focused on the wines, I should mention the four excellent courses of food from South Kitchen in Richland, MI.

Errazuriz MAX Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017

This Chilean Cabernet, along with Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso, was chosen to accompany the tenderloin of beef main course at the AWS/Taster's Guild dinner. From vineyards in the Aconcagua Valley at the foot of the Andes mountains, the grapes are crushed and fermented in stainless steel, then aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, 30%  of them new.

Bright ruby with some purple tones. Typical Cab aromas and flavors of currants, plums and only a hint of oak. I also detect an undertone of celery and green herbs that is not to my liking. The wine is very pleasant to drink right now, and I suspect that the green qualities will become less noticeable with a few years in the bottle.

Recognized by some writers as one of the world's great values in Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine sells for $16.79 for those attending the event.

Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay, 2017

 As the second wine in the AWS/Taster's Guild event, Chateau Montelena's Napa Chardonnay was a worthy followup to the Baumard Savennieres, although a totally different style. It was aged for 10 months in 100% French oak barrels but still preserves a strong expression of the Chardonnay grapes, grown on what was once an ocean terrace near the base of what is now Mount Veeder.

Lighter in color than the Savennieres. Bright and lively. Fruit and oak are beautifully integrated. Stone fruit, lime, flowers. Firm and vigorous on the palate with great fruit definition and a long finish.

The 1973 Montelena Chardonnay was the wine that outscored some prestigious white Burgundies at the 1976 Judgment of Paris. On that alone, the wine has earned a premium price ($74.99 retail, $46.59 for those attending the event). What's relevant, of course, is what's in the bottle in the 2017 vintage. And there is no question that this is a classic Napa Chardonnay, respecting the traditions of the estate and the appellation.

Domaine des Baumard Savennieres, 2017

Domaine des Baumard Savennieres was the first wine at an AWS/Taster's Guild wine dinner through Zoom on Thursday night. It is hardly a budget wine, with a retail price of $45.99 ($30.89 at D&W Kalamazoo for those attending the event). As a buyer of Baumard Savennieres since the 1979 vintage, I can say that it is more worth the premium price than any wine I have ever tasted. Our last bottle of the 1979 was opened only a few years ago, and it continued to get more glorious with every passing year. (Using the search function, you can find my notes on this wine plus notes on Baumard Savennieres from 1981, 1985, 1990, 2003 and 2008.)

Deep straw. Brilliant as always. No wood is used in either fermentation or aging. Like his father, Jean, Florent Baumard wants a pure expression of the fruit, which in this case comes from the St. Yves vineyard, planted on volcanic schist mixed with sandstone and granite. The minerals are clearly apparent in the aromas and flavors. Pears, almonds, honeysuckle and a touch of honey. Very powerful but with the subtlety and complexity of a great wine. Full bodied with excellent acidity for aging.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Bybee Vineyards and Habitat Sera Russian River Pinot Noir, 2007

 I have had very good experiences with the Pinots of Bybee Vineyards and Habitat, wines made from organic grapes grown sustainably in the Green Valley area of the Russian River.  This is my first taste of Sera, a reserve bottling that lifts my appreciation for this label even higher.

Light ruby, bright and well saturated even out toward the rim. Entrancing aromas from the moment the cork is popped. Cherries, berries, a bit of menthol to lift the smells and flavors. Even better on the palate, if that is possible. This wine just keeps singing all the way down the tongue. Oak is in the background, as it should be, as the delicate, complex fruit flavors carry the message.

Monday, January 25, 2021

d'Arenberg The Hermit Crab McLaren Vale Viognier Marsanne, 2018

 Both of the grapes used in this wine are from the Northern Rhone. Viognier is used for Condrieu; Marsanne, for white Hermitage. The grapes and the wines made from them couldn't be more different. Viognier is bright and floral; one of the stock descriptors for Marsanne is glue (not meant to be negative). Somehow, if you can imagine it, this wine captures both the spring flowers and the glue: bright and floral but also broad and strong.

Brilliant yellow, very attractive. Also very aromatic: spring flowers, apricots, spice and, yes, a hint of Elmer's glue, workmanlike and serious. On the palate, the same contrast: bright acid with broad undertones and a bigger body than you might expect from the flowery top notes. This wine is unlike any wine I have ever tasted from the Northern Rhone, but it is quite enjoyable.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Nine Stones Barossa Valley Shiraz, 2013

Nine Stones, a label initiated by wine writer Len Evans, has been bought by Calabria Family Wines. Whether the new owners will maintain the high quality that was established by Evans is yet to be determined, but this bottle is very enjoyable.

Deep and dark. Very aromatic: blackberries, coffee, dark chocolate, vanilla. Ripe and full bodied. Classic Barossa Shiraz. Plenty of oak influence. A nice sweet berry finish.

Available for $12 to $15 at D&W in Kalamazoo.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Duck Pond Willamette Valley Chardonnay, 2019

When we attended (via Zoom), the American Wine Society tasting led by Jim Bernau, founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon, I was impressed by the Pinot Noir (as expected) but even more impressed by the 2017 Bernau Block Chardonnay. It was, for me, a whole new experience in Chardonnay. Tonight, I opened a much less expensive Willamette Valley Chardonnay and am excited all over again.

Deep yellow. Intense smells and flavors of lemon custard, flowers and just a hint of seasoned French oak. Not oaky, not buttery, not creamy. Vibrant cool-climate acidity and persistent flavors of minerals and intense fruit. More like White Burgundy than New World Chardonnay.

I bought this bottle for $17.99 at Sawall's Health Foods in Kalamazoo. I hope they stock up on it because I will be back for more.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Prince Poniatowski Vouvray Aigle Blanc, 1989 Revisited

I opened this bottle on Christmas day and was somewhat disappointed. Since that time, it has been in the cellar under a Repour cork and tasted periodically. Tonight it started showing what I expected several weeks ago.

Deep old gold. Bright but mature. Mature but powerful Chenin Blanc smells and flavors. Very ripe pears, almond butter and honey. Sparkling acidity. The power and personality of Chenin Blanc with a pleasing touch of sweetness.

Domaine Jean Descombes Morgon, 2006

 I used to buy three or four bottles of this wine every vintage, but apparently I bought only one from the 2006 vintage. And I may have waited a bit long to open it. It is still an enjoyable wine but a bit muted in personality.

Light garnet. Muted scents of smoke, pomegranate and old oak. From the beginning, the flavors are more forthcoming and pleasant than the smells. Delicate cherry with some citric acidity.

I have found aging of Jean Descombes Morgon to be unpredictable. The 1995, 2002 and 2005 vintages showed a lot of staying power, certainly more than this 2006.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Merry Edwards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2001


Merry Edwards has become known as the Queen of Pinot Noir. Drinking this Sonoma Coast bottling from 2001, I am convinced the title is warranted. It is big and fruity, yet elegant, refined and complex. Nearly two decades old, it is still going strong.

The grapes come from vineyards in the Sebastapol Hills area of the Russian River Valley, relatively cool and near the Pacific Coast. 

Deep garnet, bright but transparent. Entrancing scents of raspberries, flowers, tobacco and spice. Intense and exciting. Compact fruit on the palate with ample acidity to keep it fresh. Keeps getting better through the meal of Faroe salmon baked on red cabbage, potatoes and onions.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Vinum Langhe Rosso, 2010

In the distant past, when times were hard in the Piedmont, it is rumored than Barolo producers would often add a bit of Barbera to the mix to get a darker color and a more accessible tannic structure. Today, as Barolo has taken its place as one of the top wines in the world, such a practice would be considered disgraceful. Barolo (and Barbaresco) must be 100% Nebbiolo. This wine, a blend of 50% Nebbiolo and 50% Barbera, sells for less than half the price of Barolo. Yet there is no denying its incredible charm. Beautiful deep ruby with minimal orange tones that are typical of Nebbiolo. The bouquet, though, is as Nebbiolo as anyone would want. Lilting scents of flowers, ripe cherries, dark spices and a hint of clove. These carry over to the flavors and there is no tannic wall to keep them from flowing freely from the front to the back of the mouth. If barriques have been used in aging, I can't find any evidence. The Vinum Langhe Rosso is a beautiful wine for drinking now, and I suspect that it will keep going for at least five more yeajrs.

Monday, January 11, 2021

E. Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde, 1990

 Now 30 years old and from a 375 ml bottle, this Cote-Rotie ranks as one of the best Syrah wines I have ever tasted.

Crimson turning to amber. The bouquet takes about an hour to open but is worth the wait. Savory scents of red and black fruit, flowers, herbs, cured olives. In the mouth, the wine's greatness is apparent from the first sip. Smooth texture, perfect acidity, flavors that sing all the way along the tongue. All of the lean complexity to be expected from mature Northern Rhone Syrah. A finish that lingers for minutes. I am ready to forego dessert rather than interrupt those lovely flavors.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Elderton Estate Barossa Shiraz, 2014

This is a classic Barossa Shiraz--big, bold and ripe. But it has more fruit flavors and less tannin than many of its Barossa siblings. The wine was aged in "predominantly 2nd and 3rd fill American puncheons" for 24 months. French oak barriques, widely used in New World as well as Old World wines, hold 225 liters; puncheons are 500 liters so they are much less likely to impart smells and flavors to the wine, particularly if they are in their second or third fill.

Very dark at the center shading to medium dark crimson. Under screw cap, the wine is still showing very young. Voluminous aromas of black raspberries, dark chocolate, vanilla, mint and cloves. Much of the same on the palate. Not very much acidity to suit my taste but lots of sweet fruit flavors, plums and cherries as well as raspberries. Tannins are there but seem to add rather than detract from flavors. Gets better and better over the course of the meal. I would not hesitate to keep this for another five years but it is very enjoyable now.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Domaine La Garrigue Vacqueyras, 2010

Now this is what Southern Rhone wine is all about--great fruit from 70-year-old vines (80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre, 5% Cinsault) aged in concrete vats to preserve the traditional aromas and flavors. I love it.

Deep but not inky dark. Powerful aromas of black raspberries, blueberries and Provencal herbs. (How can a wine with this name not have garrigue?) Bold flavors; goes beautifully with lamb and chick peas. And what I like most: a streak of black licorice that I associate with wines from Vacqueyras. Is this from the soil? I rarely get it from Gigondas, located just a few kilometers to the south, or Cairanne, a similarly short distance to the north. I love all three appellations, and what I love most is their uniqueness of personality and flavor. That personality is lacking from the barrique aged Les Quatre Filles Cairanne (below).

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Chateau Les Quatres Filles Cairanne, 2006

I have been reading about the Barolo Wars of the 1990s when the clashes between modernists and traditionalists became bitter. Elio Altare, a modernist, took a chain saw to his father's large Slavonian oak barrels and replaced them with new barriques. His father, in turn, disowned Elio and bequeathed his land to his daughters. I was reminded that much the same thing has been happening in the Southern Rhone over the past two decades. I don't know if the conflict has affected winemaking families as it did in the Piedmont, but it has influenced my buying a great deal.

I love Cairanne, and the estates that satisfy my tastes--primarily L'Oratoire Saint Martin and Rabasse Charavin are traditionalists, using mostly large, seasoned foudres, rather than new oak barriques. I know very little about Les Quatres Filles, but when I saw it available for $10 a bottle, I bought a couple of bottles. Opening one tonight, I am disappointed because it is clearly a modern version of a traditional favorite.

Inky dark. Barriques. Beautiful scents of fresh strawberries, flowers and vanilla. Some interesting flavors opening up on the palate, but there is still significantly more tannin than I expect from a 14-year-old Southern Rhone. And the peppery structure I love in Rabasse Charavin has been replaced by sweet vanilla and chocolate. A good wine and a bargain at $10...but not my style.

It's an interesting contrast. In Barolo, barriques were introduced by modernists in order to make the wine easier to drink young. In the Southern Rhone, most CDR Village wines drink beautifully from day one...unless the Grenache has been aged in barriques, adding oak tannins that linger, sometimes too long.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Valdinera Barbera d'Alba Superiore, 2013

Even at age 7, this is a very fresh, bright, fruity Barbera which is a beautiful match for our mushroom/onion/spinach pasta.

Beautiful deep ruby. Spicy, fruity scents. From the time I pop the cork, I know that I need the Pinot/Barolo glasses to capture and hold the aromas. Cherries and flowers, lively and intense. Similar intensity on the palate. Tannic mid-palate, but this is a wine to enjoy now for its fruity intensity. Lots of pleasure for the money (about $15/bottle).