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. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Willamette Valley Vineyards Tualatin Estate Chardonnay, 2018

At the American Wine Society tasting with Jim Bernau, founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, I was so impressed by the Bernau Block Chardonnay that I followed up by seeking out and tasting Oregon Chardonnays, I have yet to be disappointed. This Tualatin Estate Chardonnay comes from the Draper clone as opposed to the Dijon Clone used for the Bernau Block. And it is clearly made in an oak-prominent style more like other high end New World Chardonnays.

Winemaker's notes mention lemon cream pie, but what I smell is key lime pie. The new oak component is strong in this wine, and at least some French cooperage imparts a limey note. There is so much more in this wine, though--brioche, orange blossom, vanilla. Creamy texture with good acidity. I prefer the Bernau Block and the WVV Dijon Clone Chardonnays, but this is also an impressive offering.

Willamette Valley Vineyards Tualatin Estate White Pinot Noir, 2019

As a wine lover, the Covid-19 pandemic has actually given me some positive experiences. Through Zoom, I have not only enjoyed tastings and dinners with my local wine group (Tasters Guild/American Wine Society) but have also been able to taste with Anne Trimbach in Alsace, Maria Abonna in Barolo and Madeline Triffon of Plum Market Ann Arbor. An American Wine Society tasting with Jim Bernau, founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon led me to buy 350 shares of WVV Preferred stock and get the benefits of ownership, including an online tasting of the WVV Winemaker's Collection. First on the list was this excellent white Pinot Noir from Tualatin Estate.

Grapes are fully mature, 100% Pinot Noir from the Tualatin Estate, pressed lightly to avoid extraction of the red Pinot color. The result is a wine very much like a very fine unoaked Chardonnay. Light color. Peach and citrus as well as strawberry. Medium body with the texture and richness of a red wine. Pinot spice on finish. This wine was my second favorite from the tasting.  Notes on other wines will follow.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Maison L'Envoye Straight Shooter Chardonnay, 2018

Good Oregon Chardonnay for less than $20 a bottle is hard to find. This wine, now $12.99 at Costco, is a very fine exception.

Medium gold. White peaches, flowers, citric zest. Cool climate freshness on the palate. Good concentration. Pleasing caramel note on the long finish. I prefer this to many more expensive Oregon Chardonnays I have tried recently.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Tenuta Tamburnin Freisa d'Asti, 2015

Freisa is a close cousin of Nebbiolo, and a very attractive cousin, indeed. It has many of the traits of Barolo and Barbaresco, but, because it is not as well known, it often comes at a lower price...if you can find one.

Medium light ruby/garnet. Oh, wow! Rose petals, dark cherries, cinnamon and black licorice. Very Nebbiolo. More dark cherries on palate, deep and concentrated. For some reason, the flavors seem more forward right after the cork is pulled than later, after aeration. Some furry tannins are covering up some of the best flavors, though. As with Barolo, ample acidity to accompany the tannins and ensure longevity.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Domaine de la Bastide Cotes du Rhone Villages Visan, 2009

I bought more than a case of this wine about 10 years ago and have been sampling it every year since. This is my last bottle, and only now am I able to taste my way through the formidable tannins. Wines from Visan tend to be firmer than those from neighboring CDR Villages appellations. And the wine has 30% Syrah and 20% Mourvedre backing up the 50% Grenache.

Deep and dark; some of the wine has probably been aged in barriques. Fragrant black berries with dark chocolate and spice. I keep looking for Grenache red berries but they are slow to emerge. Warm, ripe fruit but still a bit stern for my taste. I admit that I am overly sensitive to tannin; most drinkers will disagree with my assessment of what is generally considered a very fine CDR Villages wine.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Gougenheim Valle Escondido (Argentina) Torrontes, 2016

Torrontes is a white wine grape that is often compared to Viognier. It offers up highly aromatic floral scents but basically dry flavors. That is precisely what I get from this wine. Medium light yellow. Spring flowers and white peaches. Donna also gets a Riesling-like smell of petrol. Very refreshing in the mouth. More body than you might expect from the aromas. Ripe but moderately tart with some mineral and earth tones. A good wine for summer and spring sipping.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Chateau Canon Canon Fronsac, 1990

I am generally not a fan of Merlot, but that hasn't kept me from buying and enjoying the Merlot-rich wines such as this one from the satellite appellations of Bordeaux. I enjoyed several vintages of Chateau Canon (from Canon Fronsac) during the 1980s and 1990s, and this 1990 is drinking beautifully in its maturity.

The color has turned from ruby to garnet and is a bit murky at this stage. Scents of ripe cherries, menthol, and flowers. Very friendly on the palate. Cool fruit impressions. A classic claret.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Domaine de Font-Sane Terrasses des Dentelles Gigondas, 2012

For many years I have bought and enjoyed the Font-Sane Tradition Gigondas. This is my first taste of the Terrasses des Dentelles, a premium bottling from a terraced vineyard on the limestone slopes of the Dentelles des Montmirail overlooking the Gigondas appellation This wine definitely shows its breeding and is worth the premium price ($40 to $45).

Deep bluish color. Has some new oak treatment, but I don't detect any change in the traditional scents and flavors of Gigondas. Spring flowers, fresh red and blue berries and a touch of cassis. Feels big in the mouth but also has a lacy sweetness on the mid palate. Beautifully balanced for current drinking but has the structure for aging. Archetypal Gigondas: beauty and power. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Willamette Valley Vineyards Dijon Clones Chardonnay, 2017

At an American Wine Society tasting last Fall, I was quite impressed by the 2017 Bernau Block Chardonnay. Jim Bernau, founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, talked about his quest for a Chardonnay clone best suited to the Willamette Valley climate and soil--a quest that took him to the Burgundy region of France, where winemakers recommended the Dijon clone. As far as I'm concerned it was a great choice. The Bernau Block Chardonnay I had at the tasting was arguably the best Chardonnay I have ever tasted. While several steps down in price, this Dijon Clones Chardonnay offers many of the same qualities. It was aged 16 months in 20% new French oak.

Medium lemon yellow in color. Captivating smells of lemon, apples, pears and a touch of Eucalypt honey. Medium body. Lemon curd--creamy but with citric acidity. Best when it warms up a bit in the glass. Smooth, nuanced finish. This wine retails for $25 to $30, but I have heard rumors that will soon be available at Costco for $15.99--an incredible value.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Sokol Blosser Evolution Sparkling Red, NV

Australian sparkling Shiraz is a holiday tradition at our house, but I have found it increasingly difficult to find bottles that are not overly sweet and simple. After trying this red sparkler from Sokol Blosser in Oregon I am convinced we have what we need for coming holidays.

Very deep red, so opaque it's difficult to see the small bubbles. Beautiful fruit--mostly Syrah but topped up with Pinot Noir. It's mainly the Pinot that comes across to me. Red cherries, cranberries on a yeasty backdrop. Crisp acidity. The wine is billed as "off dry" but it is much, much drier than most Australian examples we have had recently. We will be back for more.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Paolo Scavino Langhe Nebbiolo, 2012

This wine demonstrates well the similarity between Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir. It has fresh, vibrant fruit with notable depth and concentration.

Medium ruby shading to garnet. Pretty Nebbiolo smells, more like Barbaresco than Barolo. Red raspberry acidity countered by the richness of dark cherries and a touch of black licorice and earth. I am sure the wine will gain some complexity over the next several years, but it is delightful right now.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Sonoma Cutrer Sonoma Valley Les Pierres Vineyard Chardonnay, 1983

I bought two bottles of this wine back in 1985, one to give as a present  to my brother-in-law, Peter (Pierre) and one for myself to try. I planned to drink it by 1988 but as the years passed, the bottle became less and desirable, and I assumed it was long past its drinking window. 

Les Pierres, though, is known though as a special place to grow high quality Chardonnay. As the label states: "The vineyard takes its name from the large number of stones in the soil. The vines are planted in gravelly loam, underlain at 14 to 30 inches by layers of igneous rock and cobblestone." The vines are highly stressed with poor water retention, resulting in low yields and wines that are highly concentrated and rich in flavor and mineral tones. Many believe it is one of the best California Chardonnays.

After 37 years in the bottle, the color is a somewhat cloudy salmon. Could easily be mistaken for a rose. The bouquet needs some coaxing and is best after the wine has warmed in the glass. Ripe apple, peach, minerals and spice. Smooth with good body but also ample acidity. Flavors develop substantially over the course of the meal--rich, subtle and complex. Medium long finish. Of course, this wine would have been better a few decades ago, but it is very enjoyable tonight. I will keep an eye out for current vintages of Les Pierres. 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Trefethen Harmony Oak Knoll District of Napa Chardonnay, 2013

Many Napa Chardonnays come from Carneros, but this wine demonstrates that the Oak Knoll District is also prime Chardonnay country. The Trefethen family were pioneers in Napa, and the estate still has a well deserved following. This 2013 is mature and beautiful.

Bright yellow, still youthful looking. Elegant scents of lemon creme, pear, honeysuckle and a hint of caramel. More elegance on the palate. Focused, well defined Chardonnay fruit, minerals, vibrant acidity. No toast or butter. Reminds me of some of the better Oregon Chardonnays.