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.