Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Vietti Tre Vigne Barbera d'Asti, 2013

Vietti is a very good producer of Barolo and Barbera, and this Tre Vigne bottling comes from well sited vineyards in three different areas near Barolo. At $15 to $18 a bottle, it is nearly always a good moderately priced choice.

Vibrant ruby red. Lush aromas of cherries, plums, almonds and vanilla. Elegant, medium bodied presence on the palate. Dried cherries, anise and almonds are prominent in the flavors. A pleasing austerity with flavors that open slowly and subtly through the meal. This is a good wine to order in its youth with a restaurant meal, but it also ages nicely over 8 to 10 years.

Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Peninsula Gamay Noir Limited, 2017

Tasted alongside the Underwood Oregon Pinot Noir, this Gamay definitely had more  distinctive Pinot traits.

Medium light ruby. Looks like a Pinot Noir. Tempting smells of cranberries, red raspberries and flowers. Smells like a Pinot Noir. Medium light body and silky texture. Pepper, lemon zest and spice. Tastes like a Pinot. Raspberry sweetness against a tart cranberry background. Acid and tannin dance on the tongue. This is the Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir Limited rather than the Reserve, but it is still a special wine, my second favorite Michigan red (after the Gamay Noir Reserve).

Underwood Oregon Pinot Noir, 2019

This was poured for me at a friend's house, and I did not guess it was an Oregon Pinot Noir until I checked out the label. It is simple Oregon rather than Willamette Valley appellation.

Dark color and bold fruit smells and flavors are reminiscent of a Zinfandel. There is a peppery, spicey, earthy flavor, though, that I associate with a good Cotes du Rhone. Offers up a lot of pleasure for a $10 wine.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Merry Edwards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2001


Now in its 20th year, this Merry Edwards Pinot Noir is still showing elegance, grrace and beauty.

Deep ruby in center, amber creeping out from edges. Beautiful Pinot scents: cherries,blueberries, rose petals and cinnamon. Deep, concentrated fruit flavors carry over to the palate. Pleasing warmth. Alcohol (14.1%) now seems to dominate the balance and mouthfeel of this wine, but the flavors are beautiful and persistent.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages Notre Dame des Cellettes, 1998

This wine has aged well over 23 years, as is common with the CDR Villages wines produced  by Domaine Sainte Anne. 

Deep ruby color. Entrancing scents of strawberries, black raspberries, flowers and a hint of rosemary. Mellow on the palate. Good tannin/acid balance. Rich fruit flavors on mid-palate and finish. More like a Pinot Noir than a Cotes du Rhone. Still giving lots of pleasure.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Girasole Mendocino County Pinot Noir

The appellation for this Pinot Noir is Mendocino rather than Anderson Valley, and the wine is modestly priced (about $15 a bottle) as a result. It does, however, have many of the positive traits I associate with more expensive Anderson Valley wines.

Medium dark ruby. Raspberry, cranberry, cinnamon. Purity of fruit flavors that are common with more expensive Pinots from Anderson Valley. Intense flavors with a citric edge that I like. Improves over the course of the meal and is by no means overwhelmed by the bold flavors of a hamburger. Worth a rry if you like Anderson Valley Pinot.

Topolovino Baja Nebbiolo, 2016

Nebbiolo from Mexico??? Yes, Nebbiolo is the trademark grape of the cool Piedmont area of Italy, but Mexican Nebbiolo is on the wine-by-the-glass list at  Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill in Chicago. And the wine goes well with the spicy, cheesy fare at the restaurant. How does it compare with Nebbiolo from northern Italy?

Deep, dark, purplish. But it has probably been aged in small, new oak barriques (as it is at some Piedmont estates). The smells and flavors of Nebbiolo are readily apparent--cherries, flowers, licorice and spice. Also some currant and cassis. A big, tannic wine but lacks the acidity and freshness of the Fontanafredda Nebbiolo I had last night. Actually gets a bit tiring to drink by the end of the meal but is a good counter to the excellent beef tip enchiladas. I would order it again but am not going out to buy it for my cellar.

Fontanafredda Ebbio Langhe Nebbiolo, 2019


I was hot and thirsty when we stopped for a mid-afternoon drink on the streets of Chicago. "Why in the world," I thought to myself, "did I order a glass of red, particularly a big, tannic red, rather than a refreshing white or rose?" Well, it was Eataly, after all, and I jumped at the opportunity to taste a Nebbiolo that was not available in my market area. And it turned out to be a good choice.

Rusty Nebbiolo color. Beautiful scents of cherries, raspberries, cinnamon, licorice and rose petals. Reminds me of the 1998 Famiglia Anselma Barolo we had from the cellar last month. Actually, the wine is very refreshing. Medium bodied with substantial Nebbiolo tannins but surprisingly light on the palate. Big tannins coupled with high acidity. That's what I like about Nebbiolo from the Piedmont in Italy.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Les Amidyves Ventoux vs La Vieille Ferme

La Vieille Ferme is the archetypal Ventoux even though the Perrin family now has to scour the countryside for similar, though less expensive grapes. Tasting it alongside Olivier B's Les Amidyves Ventoux was an illuminating experience.

Although Olivier B projects a rustic image, his wine is sophisticated, polished and still going strong at age 11. It has depth and concentration, though not a lot of the traditional elements of 'Ventoux. On the third night, it was showing a bit of fatigue and lacked the freshness and acidity of the younger La Vieille Ferme. And the Perrin family's knock off Ventoux clearly had more of the rustic, peppery spice that I love in Ventoux wines. In a box for $5 a bottle equivalent, you cannot go wrong with this wine. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Indigenous Nebbiolo d'Alba, 2015

When I first tasted this wine three years ago, I thought it was okay but, at $13 a bottle, a reasonable buy. Nebbiolo, whether in a top level Barolo or a low-end Nebbiolo, often needs time to show its best. Glad I waited; tonight, Indigenous Nebbiolo d'Alba is a fragrant, elegant beauty.

The color is light and rusty; that's typical of traditionally made Nebbiolo and not a sign of advancedd age, as it might be with a New World Cabernet or Zinfandel. Oh so beautiful scents of the Nebbiolo trinity: roses, cherries and black licorice. Has the elegance and texture of a fine Pinot Noir. Flavors that tickle the taste buds and cling. Very dry; tells me that the wine has ample tannin to carry it along to even greater glory. But it is so enjoyable right now that it will be hard for me to wait on the remaining bottles in the cellar. Wish I had bought more.

Olivier B Les Amidyves Ventous Rouge, 2009

This is a Ventoux that came with very high praise from Garagiste.com. As a long-time fan of Ventous (La Vieille Ferme, Font Sane Vieilles Vignes, 3 Messes Basses, etc.), the wine surprises me a bit. Although it has traits that clearly differ from those of my long-time favorites, I still find it a very enjoyable wine and not at all over the hill at age 12.

Deep crimson. Red berries, violets but also some black fruit scents and flavors. Very smooth on the palate. Sophisticated face of Ventoux. Lush berries with freshness and polish. When Ventoux wines were some of the least expensive on the market, I usually bought them young and drank them within the first year. This wine proves that good Ventous is also capable of mid-term aging.


Sunday, August 8, 2021

Domaine Lou Frejau Chateauneuf du Pape, 1998

This is classic, old fashioned Chateauneuf du Pape, ripe and ready to drink.

Mature brick red color. Powerful scents, very Chateauneuf. Red berries, fresh and dried, leather and garrigue. Savory flavors of sea salt and red berries. 
Long, powerful finish.

La Vieille Ferme Rouge

For many years, I bought--and drank--a case of La Vieille Ferme every year. A
that time, it was produced from Ventoux vineyards; today, Ventoux has been recognized as a premium source, and Ventoux grapes are too expensive for this low-end bottling. To keep the price at the low price point that has come to be expected, the Perrin family seeks out high-quality grapes from Languedoc country. Plum Market in Ann Arbor recently offered LVF bag-in-a-box (3 liters) for $20 and the Famille Perrin Ventoux for $6.59 a bottle. They make an interesting comparison.

Deep ruby/purple. That's probably because this wine has a higher proportion of Syrah (as opposed to Grenache) in the blend. Much fruitier than the Ventoux. Blackberries and cassis with a full bodied plummy texture. Carignan and 
Cinsault spice. Grenache black pepper emerges with aeration but it's not as prominent as it is in the Perrin Ventoux. Full bodied and ripe but enough acid to keep it lively. At $5 a bottle equivalent, this has to be the best wine bargain on the planet.


Friday, August 6, 2021

Valdinera Barbera d'Alba Superiore, 2013

This Barbera d'Alba comes from Roero, on the other side of the Tanaro River from the more well known vineyards of Barolo and Barbaresco. It is a serious Barbera made traditionally in large barrels and capable of aging for 10 to 15 years, according to the winemaker. I love it.

Medium deep ruby, sediment forming already. Beautiful scents of red cherries, roses and licorice. Piedmont spices and minerals. Could be mistaken for a Barolo. Good red cherry flavors with Barbera acidity plus palate-coating tannins. Long finish. Drinking beautifully now but still has room to grow.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Cline Cellars Cashmere Black Magic (Alluring Dark Red Blend), 2015

This is a New World version of a Southern Rhone, albeit with Petite Sirah added to the typical blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. The grapes, according to the producer, come from well situated old vines, but the wine is matured in new oak. Tasting it alongside the Famille Perrin Ventoux (below), I found no similarity whatsoever.

Inky black magic color. And alluring scents of coffee, chocolate, black currants and vanilla.  I also find some chalky Petite Sirah notes. Velvety texture and tannins that are accessible enough to carry on the Black Magic image. Very popular with two young guests who are not regular wine drinkers. I can see what they like, but I prefer the Perrin Ventoux.

Famille Perrin Ventoux Rouge, 2019


I was a fan of Ventoux Rouge back when it was the poor country cousin of Cotes du Rhone. The cooler climate on the slopes of Ventoux provide a fresh acidity to go with the full bodied fruit flavors. As grapes from Ventoux have become more expensive, the Perrin family has had to look elsewhere for fruit to make its lowest priced wine, La Vieille Ferme. The Famille Perrin Ventoux is a step above in quality and price, but Plum Market in Ann Arbor recently offered this wine for a price ($6.59) usually reserved for La Vieille Ferme. A sensational bargain.

Deep crimson, bright and lively. Seems a bit shy when the cork is first popped but it fills out nicely as the meal progresses. Grenache red berry along with spicy notes from Carignan and Cinsault. Bright, lively fruit but with depth of flavor that is not expected from a wine at this price point. Has the peppery structure that I love in traditional Southern Rhone wines. Long finish. I bought half a case, wish I had bought more.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Pithon-Paille Anjou Mozaik Blanc, 2017


It's a strange name but actually a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley of France. Loire Chenin Blancs include Vouvray, which usually has some degree of sweetness, and dry wines from Savennieres and Saumur. This wine from Anjou is decidedly dry but very different from both Savennieres and Saumur.

Medium light yellow. Powerful scents of flowers and ripe Red Delicious apples or apple sauce. A decidedly dry streak running right down the middle of the palate. A lively delicious wine for drinking right now. And I believe it will keep and improve for several years, although I doubt that it will have the staying power of Savennieres.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Amalie Robert Her Silhouette Willamette Valley Chardonnay, 2011

This wine is about as close to pure, unadulterated Chardonnay as you are going to get. It is fermented in stainless steel at cool temperatures with no oak and no malolactic fermentation. Rather than being big and buttery, it offers a slim, well defined silhouette of feminine form.

Deep lemon yellow. Intense aromas and flavors of lemon cream and stone fruit. Has all the traits of Oregon grown Dijon clone Chardonnay that I love. Sleek acidity that paints an imprint on the tongue. Laser focus of mineral and fruit flavors on the finish. This is Chardonnay, and I love it.

2011 was a super warm growing season in the Willamette Valley, too warm perhaps for good Pinot Noir but good for this Chardonnay. I like this 2011 better than the 2010 I had a few months ago. But at 10 and 11 years of age, both are drinking beautifully, with superb balance that shows no sign of breaking up.