Saturday, February 27, 2021

Chateau de Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone, 2015


This Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone has a good reputation, and the 2015 ranked #43 on the Wine Specator's Top 100 wines of 2016. It is 100% Syrah, with most coming from Vinsobres in the northern part  of the appellation and the rest from Villefranchian region on the other side of the river (Gard).. The winemaker was very pleased with the vintage and the resulting wine.

Deep, dark Syrah. Beautiful, intense scents of blueberries, plums and earth. Actually smells like a good Gigondas, and that is not surprising since Saint Cosme is considered among the elite Gigondas estates. At first, the flavor has a somewhat off element, a funky sharpness on the finish. As the wine airs, though, this disappears, and the same intensity displayed in the aroma come through on the palate. Blackberries, blueberries and plums, ripe and lovely. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Domaine du Hautes des Terres Blanches, 1998

Even after many years of drinking Chateauneuf du Pape, many wines from this appellation, and especially this one, continue to puzzle me. I have had excellent wines from Domaine du Hautes des Terres Blanches from weaker vintages such as 1993 and 1994, but my first bottle of this 1998  tasted several years ago, was a total disaster. I was ready to dump the whole lot down the drain. I have had some better bottles since that time, but this one tonight, while still mediocre, is the best of the lot.

Medium light brick color. Dried berries, minerals, herbs and a bit of spice and pepper. Compared to earlier bottles, which were overly sweet and thin, this wine tonight is very dry and savory. It has the concentration that I expect from a Chateauneuf du Pape, and the flavors lingered in my memory for several minutes.

 On the second night. this wine adds some menthol notes and seems deeper and more concentrated. Tasted alongside what was left of a 1994 Domaine Pegau Cuvee Reservee Chateauneuf du Pape, preserved well for two weeks under a Repour cork, this wine did not embarrass itself. This is now a good Chateauneuf du Pape. Did I, several years ago, open a 20-year-old Chateauineuf that was not yet ready to drink?

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Fasai Dao DOC, 2014

Dao is increasingly being recognized as a very good appellation for Portuguese wines. It is a mountainous region in north central Portugal, surrounded on three sides by mountains with a temperate climate and long, warm, dry summers leading up to harvest. The soil is sand on top of granite rock. Until the advent of the European Union, the wines were made by cooperatives who did not always establish a good reputation for either making or marketing the wines. Dao wines I saw on shelves in the 1980s often sold for less than $2 a bottle, and that kind of price did not establish a favorable view in the minds of consumers. Today, Dao wines are still inexpensive, and the ones I have tasted--such as this wine, Grao Vasco and Quinta do Cabriz--have been excellent--some of the best buys on the market. Brilliant color. Lovely scents of red berries, cherries and plums. As one reviewer (Wine Awesomeness) put it, "Think over-ripe plums cut in half and roasting over an open fire." Silky texture with sweet fruit countered by a bit of plum-like tartness. Peppery finish that reminds me of a very good Pinot Noir.

Fasai is the Portuguese word for pheasant and refers to a brightly colored pheasant imported from Asia. The finish, though, reminds me of the the bright plume of a peacock's tale. I paid $7.99 for this at Binny's in Chicago; wish I had bought a case. It is a lovely wine.


Monday, February 22, 2021

Chateau Maugresin de Clotte, Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux, 2015

I bought and drank a lot of wines from Castillon and other satellite Bordeaux appellations in the mid- to late-1980s. They were great values for Cabernet//Merlot-based wines, but I don't remember any being quite as fruit forward and rich as this wine.

Deep ruby color. Attractive smells of ripe black fruit, vanilla and oak spices. Rich mouth feel, medium bodied and ripe enough to make you ignore the tannins. Also good acid for balance. Good for drinking now. On the second night, the 13.5% alcohol becomes more apparent.

This wine is mostly Merlot and Cabernet Franc with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon, but it doesn't show any of the green notes that I often get from Merlot, nor the earthy qualities that are common in Cab Franc.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Tenebres Vin de Pays d'Oc GSM, 2019 Revisited

 I was pretty negative about this wine in a note last week. Tonight I'm ready to take it all back. While we were out of town, I left the wine re-corked on the counter for eight days, expecting to find vinegar on my return. Instead the wine was not only drinkable but quite enjoyable.

No stale notes or oxidation. Blue plums and blueberries, fresh and not overly sweet as it was last week. More Mourvedre and Syrah than Grenache showing now. Still lacks the peppery structure that I like in wines from Southern France but has bright and lively acidity that holds the fruit in place. For the same price, I still prefer Pontificis and Le Vieille Julien, but I am impressed by the strength of the fruit in this wine. I will be more patient with future bottles.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Tenuta Arnulfo Costa di Bussia Barbera d'Alba, 2014

Usually selling for $12 to $16 a bottle, this is one of my favorite low-priced Barberas. It is a good wine for pizza, pasta or even more serious dining.

Medium light ruby, some lightening around the rim. Powerful aromas of dark cherry, flowers, black licorice and a bit of barnyard that is actually quite attractive in the context. Medium bodied. Tannins define the flavors. More cherries and black minerals. Big mouth feel with rustic tannins from the peels rather than oak. Feels like a wine that could age a few more years, but I am not so sure about the balance. Tastes more alcoholic than it actually is (13.5%)

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Villadoria Bricco Magno Langhe Nebbiolo, 2015

The winemaker identifies this Langhe Nebbiolo as an "international style wine," best for drinking after two years in the bottle. It is aged initially in small oak barrels and then moved to barrels of various sizes.

After five years in the bottle, the color is what you might expect from a traditionally made wine, rusty red with orange tints. Aromas are slow to develop and never quite express the best qualities of the grape. Subdued notes of violets and vanilla. On the palate, Nebbiolo exerts itself. Concentrated, full body, rich texture. Dark cherries, balsamic, black licorice. Medium finish. 

2015 was a forward vintage in the Piedmont, but this wine is not as forward as a 2015 Franco Serra Langhe Nebbiolo I had last year. Despite the "international style," I would be inclined to wait a bit longer on this wine.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Sokol Blosser Evolution Pinot Noir,, 2015

This is the wine we drank to accompany the boeuf bouguignon (see note below), and it was a perfect match indeed.

Good ruby red color. Red cherry and pomegranate. Not as aromatically forward as the Mud House Central Otago Pinot we had last week, but the bouquet develops beautifully over the course of the meal. Deep, intense and complex Pinot Noir scents. Ripe fruit with firm acidity. Orange zest and black pepper on palate. Deep and concentrated with a long finish. I want more.

The Evolution brand is the low end for Sokol Blosser, but this does not taste like a low-end wine. The wine was aged 100% in stainless steel, and I like the result, both in price and quality. At $13 to $15 a bottle Evolution is comparable in price to the Mud House Pinot from New Zealand. Mud House is irresistible. Evolution is deep, concentrated and more serious than the price suggests. Take your pick, and I think you will be happy.

Cuisine en Famille Rouge, 2019

This wine is precisely what the label states: a wine for family cooking. And it is an excellent every day wine. Unfortunately, I had only a taste of it tonight because I chose it as a wine to use for cooking a special meal: boeuf bourguignon. And I am sure it will make the dish even more special.

Cuisine en Famille is 70% Grenache, and it is the well grown and well made Grenache that I love. Ripe fruit, fresh acid. Cherries and berries with peppery spice. The 30% Cinsault adds another spicy dimension. Flavors glide across the tongue exactly as they should. An old fashioned Southern Rhone. Wish I had a case to savor over the next three years.

Domaine Pegau Cuvee Reservee Chateauneuf du Pape, 1994

Now this is more like it; this is what GSM should smell and taste like. Of course, Domaine Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape costs a great deal more than $5.99 a bottle, but it sets a high standard for any wine using Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes. The vines are well situated, old and carefully tended by Paul Feraud. His daughter, Laurence Feraud follows traditional practices to make an outstanding wine, year after year. Domaine Pegau sold for $10 to $15 when I purchased this bottle; the current vintage now sells for $75 to $100. I sold several bottles of this 1994 a few years ago for $150.

Bright cherry red. The dark color comes not from aging in barriques but from the Syrah and Mourvedre in the blend. Deep, deep, scents of dried and fresh strawberries plus Provencal herbs and peppery spice. Both red and black fruits on the palate with excellent concentration. Flavors that cling to all surfaces of the mouth and linger there for several minutes. This 1994 is not as deep or complex as the 1989 or 1990 Cuvee Reservee, but it is showing very well right now.


Friday, February 12, 2021

Tenebres Vin de Pays d'Oc GSM, 2019

 When I bought two bottles of this wine yesterday at Trader Joe's I had my reasons: 1) it is a new product, 2) it is priced at $5.99, and 3) it is Grenache (34%), Syrah (33%), Mourvedre (33%) from the Languedoc in France. If I had read the back label, I would have left it on the shelf. And I wish I had. It is clearly made like a New World GSM and not a traditional Southern French wine.

The label describes it as a "jammy red wine with notes of oak, black cherry and cinnamon." I prefer my jam on toast rather than in a wine glass, and it is jammy precisely because of the oak aging. French winemakers know that Grenache becomes wimpy and flabby (sweet) when it is aged in oak. Some winemakers today, guided by the reputable wine consultant, Phillippe Cambie, use new oak barrels for Syrah and Mourvedre but not for Grenache. And, with all due respect to Mr. Cambie, I avoid these wines like the plague because they lack the peppery rusticity that I love in traditional Southern Rhone wines.

Deep, dark color. Strawberry jam, oak and oak spices. Ripe and easy to drink. There is nothing wrong with the wine, and the price is attractive. If you like Australian or California GSM, you really should give it a try. For my taste, I wish I had spent the money on two very good GSMs on the same shelf: La Vieille Julien ($5.99) and Pontificus ($6.99). The latter is one of my favorites from Trader Joe's.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Mud House Central Otago Pinot Noir, 2016

 Central Otago is near the center of New Zealand's South Island. With snow-capped mountains, glaciers and clear mountain streams, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The climate is cool, even in summer, and the soil apparently is suitable for growing Pinot Noir. Most Central Otago Pinots sell for $50 to $60; Mud House, at $13.99, is a real bargain.

Bright ruby red. Bold aromas of red cherries, violets, baking spices and oak. Not much swirling is needed, and it's hard to keep your nose out of the glass. Flavors are equally enticing: fresh strawberries, red currants and spice. Ripe fruit finish. Bolder than I would expect from a Pinot Noir and not very Burgundian, but hard to resist.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Domaine du Haut des Terres Blanches Chateauneuf du Pape, 1998


Domaine du Haut des Terres Blanches owns prime land and good vineyards, but this 1998 is not my favorite vintage of its Chateauneuf du Pape. This bottle, though, is not the total disaster that other bottles I have opened have been. I suspect that storage and transportation before the wine reached me is one reason for the bottle variation.

Dark color for a Grenache-based wine and a great deal of crusted sediment in the bottle. A bouquet is almost non-existent; made me question my covid status. But, no, the problem is with the wine, not my nose. On the second night, I find pleasant cherry- and blueberry-based flavors along with a moderately rich texture and some interesting after notes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Chalone Estate Chardonnay, 2010

When this wine was reviewed by the Wine Enthusiast in 2012, it was described as "overoaked with buttered toast, caramel and sweet vanilla flavors dominating everything else." The winemaker, tasting his product a few years later wrote that "it is now starting to develop the complex brioche nuances that I love in this wine as it ages." Tasting the 10-year-old Chardonnay tonight when it is fully mature, I agree with the winemaker rather than the WE reviewer.

Deep gold color but bright and lovely. Compact smells and flavors--more brioche than buttered toast (sweet, rich buttered toast?) I generally don't like big, buttery Chardonnays, but if this wine personifies the overoaked style, then I am a fan. The oak (412 French oak barrels, according to the label) is integrated beautifully into very special fruit grown on the Chalone Estate. Subtle, complex, long finish. Mature Chardonnay at its best.

The current vintage of Chalone Estate Chardonnay sells for about $30. That's a bit high for my budget, but if you know that you can keep the wine for 8 to 10 years or longer and expect improvement rather than deterioration, that price is not unreasonable.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Philo Ridge Vino di Mendocino III

Philo Ridge is a small winery with vineyards on the Mendocino Ridge of the Anderrson Valley. I have enjoyed Philo Ridge Pinot Noirs and am branching out tonight with a red blend: 50% Zinfandel, 30% Petite Sirah, 15% Carignane and 5% Syrah. Although the name suggests Italy, the wine is 100% California

Deep, dark color suggestive of all four grapes in the blend. Captivating smells focusing on black raspberry. Also black fruits on the palate along with chalky Petite Sirah and earthy Carignane spices.  Easy drinking but not at all simple. This is a wine for drinking and enjoying right now with every day fare. I like it.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Chardonnay, 2019


Most of the good values at Costco are on premium and mid-level wines. Budget wines with the Kirkland Signature label are a mixed bag, but this Sonoma Chardonnay ($6.99) is a winner.

Bright yellow. Intense scents of peaches, blood orange zest and vanilla. Medium body, bright acidity and an impressive finish for a wine at this price point. Vanilla flavors are suggestive of oak, but other oak traits are subtle. It's a wine that can be enjoyed on its own or with a wide variety of dishes.