Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape, 1981

The best thing about turning 82 is to have wines like this to help me celebrate. The accompanying photo is to emphasize that food and wine are inseparable. My taste buds are still vibrating in memory of the flavors of double cut lamb chops with garlic-caper rub combined with the 1981 Vieux Telegraphe.

Still some red in the center shading to brick. Not as much sediment as the 1986 Beaucastel we had a few days ago. Beautiful smells that become bigger and more complex as the meal goes on. Red fruit, flowers and Provencal herbs. Sweet on entry, rich on the mid palate with red berries and licorice on the beautiful, long finish. Beautifully preserved for a 40-year-old wine. Every bit as good, maybe a tad better than the 1986 Beaucastel. VT and Beaucastel were the two Chateauneufs that dominated the market in the early to mid-1980s, and it's become increasingly clear to me that they still rank near the top.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

La Ferme Julien Rouge, 2019

 I still had a few sips of the Beaucastel left from Friday night, so I was able to experience the Perrin Family finesse from top to bottom in one night. And I was impressed.

Beaucastel, of course, was initiated by the Perrin Brothers who branched out into Famille Perrin, makers of many excellent Southern Rhone wines. La Ferme Julien, a label made for Trader Joe's, is bascally the same wine as La Vieille Ferme. At $5.99, it is, in my opinion, the number one wine value to be found anywhere.  After a sip of the 1986 Beaucastel (market value: $100), I decided that the wine with a donkey on the label falls directly in line with Perrin standards.

Dark red. Red and black berries with spice and black pepper. Grenache, Syrah, Counoise and Cinsault from well chosen vineyards. Smooth, clean, well balanced. Good acid. No oak or cosmetic additions. Made according to the finest Southern Rhone traditions. The quote from DaVinci is appropriate. "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Chateau de Fieuzal Graves Blanc, 1983

I bought quite a few white Graves wines during the 1980s, and I expected them to age moderately well. My interest faded, though, and this bottle lingered in the cellar longer than I expected. As I near my 82nd birthday, I am focusing on older wines, and this bottle ended up being a good choice.

Rich, moderately deep yellow color. Color deepens only slightly as it is exposed to oxygen during the meal. Lanolin, figs, wax beans. The blend is 50% Semillon and 50% Sauvignon Blanc, but I don't detect any smells or flavors I associate with Sauvignon Blanc. Nor do I detect the French oak in which it was aged.  Full body, rich mouth feel and texture, even some tannin-again more Semillon than Sauvignon. Not great but a good dinner wine.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape, 1986

This 1986 Beaucastel was unusually hard and tannic during the 1990s but has now developed significant elegance and finesse in the Beaucastel style. 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, 10% Cinsault plus 15% of other Chateauneuf blending grapes.

Medium brick color. The cork was stained black with sediment all the way to the top but was still sound and came out with no problem using the Durand cork screw. Even before decanting, the wine was showing very well. Lifted aromas of red fruit, violets, leather. Medium bodied with excellent acid/tannin balance and a long, glorious finish. Red berries galore; incredible fruit presence for a 35-year-old wine. Lives up to the Beaucastel standards. I would suggest decanting rather than extended aeration.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Pelassa Mario's Rosso, 2013

This is an inexpensive, easy drinking red wine from the Piedmont area of Italy that was brought in by Peloton Imports and sold on WineBid. com. It is a blend of Barbera, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. As I am discovering, well grown Barbera can make almost any wine better.

Bright ruby red. Barbera cherry and red currant plus Cabernet black currant and Merlot tea. Classy fragrance that carries over to the palate. Medium bodied and dry. Black tea and lead pencil. Soft, persistent flavors that would enhance nearly any meal. Good acidity

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

E. Guigal, Cotes du Rhone, 2013

My first taste of Guigal Cotes du Rhone was with the 1976 vintage. I bought and enjoyed a case and have been coming back to the wine periodically ever since. With a relatively high percentage of Syrah, it is always an enjoyable wine.

Deep and dark with good color saturation almost to the rim. Smells are on target and fine: red and black fruit with cassis and black pepper. Rich and full on the mid-palate. Tannins open up to reveal fruit and peppery spice. A finish that persists on the tongue and in the mind. Guigal CDR has a good reputation for aging, and this wine could go on for several years. But it is too good to pass by right now,. Better, I think, than the 2014 Guigal CDR I had a few months ago.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Domaine du Mas de Rey Coeur de Camargue, 2015

When I walked into my local supermarket, Crosstown Fresh in Kalamazoo, I noticed two large grocery carts filled with wine bottles. "Wines 3 for $10," said the sign. I am never one to pass up a wine because it seems too cheap, and the labels told me that at least one was worth a try.

Very deep gold color but there is nothing else about the wine that suggests oxidation. Actually, the wine is quite fresh and lively. Blood orange, tangerine and minerals. Ripe, without the tang of Sauvignon Blanc, but plenty of citric acidity. The wine is a blend of 60% Chasan (which was created by crossing Chardonnay with Listan (Palomino in Spain), 20% Sauvignon and 20% Gros Manseng. Gros Manseng probably contributes to the deep gold color. An excellent Spring and Summer wine that should go well with salads or fresh vegetables.

Needless to say, I went back for another 9 bottles

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Ca Rome Romano Marengo Barbaresco Maria di Brun, 1995

Wedding anniversary #48, and, even after covid vaccination, we are still a bit uncomfortable eating inside a restaurant. So we ordered carryout from one of our favorite restaurants, Rustica Kalamazoo: bouillabaise for the first course followed by New Zealand lamb shank. For wine, I brought up from the cellar a bottle of the 1995 Maria di Brun Barbaresco from Ca Rome Romano Marengo. Maria di Brun is a special bottling made with special care from some of the oldest and best Nebbiolo grapes on the estate. I have been looking forward to this bottle, and I was not disappointed.

The cork is not wet but certainly decrepit, crumbling despite my best efforts. The color is medium light with characteristic orange tones. The bouquet, though, is beautiful: cherries, roses and just a slight bit of leather and earth. My notes on the regular bottling of Barbaresco from this estate mentioned the interplay between dry and sweet, and this bottle meets that description. Also good balance between tannin and acid. Has the tart ripeness of a Nebbiolo grape just plucked from the vine. Very concentrated but also elegant and graceful. I think Maria di Brun, the mother of the estate's owner, would highly approve, as do we--Fred and Donna--enjoying our 48th anniversary.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Nerello del Bastardo Vino da Tavola Rosso, 1999

Even without the not-so subtle hints on the back label, it was clearly apparent two decades ago that Nebbiolo is a driving force in this wine. And even though it was declassified Nebbiolo, the grape elevated this wine far beyond its  $5.99 humble status at Trader Joe's. I bought a case and a half and have enjoyed every drop. This is my last bottle, and it is finally beginning to show its age.

The color has lost its bright sheen, and the bouquet has more of the earthy/tarry rather than dark cherry/rose petal face of Nebbiolo. The high acid/high tannin structure, though, keeps the flavors flowing. Power and beauty suggestive of a mature Barolo.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Domaine du Marcoux Chateauneuf du Pape, 1990

This wine has given me a great deal of pleasure over the years. But what I have is in 375 ml bottles, and I had assumed that the two bottles left in the cellar had gone over the hill. Tonight's bottle revealed that there is still some pleasure left.

Medium light brick. Not much brilliance left. I gave it about an hour of aging but would not recommend more than that. Beautiful mature Grenache smells. Dried fruit, savory, salty, meaty. If you love mature Chateauneuf du Pape, as I do, you are going to love this wine. Not much tannin to obstruct the flavors and good acidity to keep it lively from the mid-palate to the lovely finish. So glad I have another little half bottle; but I should drink it soon.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Famille Perrin Vinsobres Les Cornuds, 2016

We drank this Vinsobres as part of an online tasting with Madeline Triffon of Plum Market (Ann Arbor) and Marc Perrin of Famille Perrin. As Perrin pointed out, Vinsobres is the northernmost appellation of the Southern Rhone and Les Cornuds vineyard is at an elevation of 300 meters. The result is Syrah that approaches the elegance of Northern Rhone Syrah and is 50% of the blend (along with 50% Grenache).

Deep, dark color. Black fruits, violets, cassis. Tannic on mid-palate, but still delivers some fresh fruit. This is more like a good Crozes-Hermitage than a Cotes du Rhone Villages. I can almost taste how special this wine will be in 2025 to 2027, but it's no slouch tonight. Good value at about $15 a bottle. I think I paid $12.95 at Costco a year or so ago.


Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages Saint Gervais, 2004

This 2004 Saint Gervais from Domaine Sante-Anne has given me a great deal of pleasure in past years, but this bottle is beginning to show its age.

The color is still reasonably saturated but has lost a bit of its shine. Red fruit smells with a bit of charred wood. Donna detects a metallic smell. Aeration has improved past bottles, and I get more ripe fruit flavors, with some Mourvedre spice, on the second night. Not a first impression wine, but the more I drink, the more I like. Rhone critic and author John Livingstone-Learmouth (DrinkRhone.com) gave the 2004 Saint Gervais only ** and an earlier drinking window than the same cuvee from 2005 and 2006. This bottle is unquestionably past its prime but still offers pleasure.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Bergadano Langhe Nebbiolo, 2008

Like the Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir (below), this Langhe Nebbiolo is loaded with cherries, but they are larger, darker and more succulent cherries. It is a baby Barolo from the Piedmont area of Italy.

The wine has a deep, intense garnet color but minimal orange tints that are typical of Nebbiolo with a few years in the bottle. This wine has been aged in barriques as well as traditional large oak barrels. The bouquet needs some aeration to develop fully; then it is typical and glorious: flowers, dark cherries and licorice. Fills the mouth with rich texture and flavors. Very dry; plenty of tannins but they are warm, round and pleasant. Leans more toward Barolo than Barbaresco in its assertive personality. I have had this wine many times over the past decade, and it has aged very nicely.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Chronicle Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2006

I have had Cerise Vineyard Pinots before but from Saintsbury rather than Chronicle. As the name suggests, all have been brimming with the smells and flavors of fresh cherries.

Medium light. Cranberries as well as cherries. Also some vanilla and spice. Ripe cherry flavors with cranberry acidity. Good intensity but probably not as complex or complete as the Saintsbury. Chronicle's wine is made from a multi-clone part of the vineyard; Saintsbury's is from high on the slope and primarily Dijon and Pommard clones.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Paul Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine Thalabert, 1991

Thirty years is a long time to keep a Crozes-Hermitage...but not this Crozes. This is actually one of the younger Thalaberts in my cellar, and I know that several others (most notably the 1983, 1988 and 1990) are still drinking marvelously. John Livingstone-Learmouth gives this 1991 five stars with a drinking window of 2018-2021.

Good deep color for a 30-year-old reds; substantial sediment crusting on one side of the bottle. Bouquet opens beautifully with aeration and decanting. Black fruits, cassis, prominent black olives and hint of pepper. Savory olives on entry, then gets bigger and sweeter on mid-palate before releasing expansive mature Syrah flavors on the finish. Good acid/fruit balance. Makes the tongue tingle and beg for more. Unquestionably the best Crozes-Hermitage, Domaine Thalabert, in nearly any vintage of the 1980s or 1990s, is at least as good as any Hermitage I have ever had.