Sunday, October 31, 2021

Tenuta Arnulfo Costa di Bussia Barbera d'Alba, 2014

This wine is 100% Barbera from grapes grown on the estate's Bussia hill vineyards, near where Donna and I stayed for four nights on a trip to the Piedmont in October of 2019.

Bright ruby red, lightening in tone around the rim. Beautifully aromatic with scents of cherries, strawberries, licorice and mint. I have had this wine frequently over the last several years, and it seems to be at a good stage of maturity right now. French oak tannins have melted to let the red berry fruit to show through. One of my favorite mid-priced Barberas.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Edna Road 500 Ranch Edna Valley Chardonnay, 2019


On the top shelf at Trader Joe's I saw the Edna Valley Vineyards Central Coast Chardonnay, a wine I have bought and enjoyed many times. The price was $10.99. Just below it was this Edna Road Chardonnay from the Edna Valley appellation for $8.99. Edna Valley is a more prized appellation than the general Central Coast area, and, I pesume, the grapes are priced accordingly. I can find no record of any winery named Edna Road nor Ranch 500. So this apparently is a label created specifically for Trader Joe's. And, as I discovered when tasting it, an escellent value.

Medium deep yellow. White peaches, lemon and a good whiff of butter. Not the creamy, buttery texture that is common with Chardonnays that have gone through malolactic fermentation but the smell and flavor of fresh Kerry Gold butter. Edna Valley, moreso than the more general Central Coast appellation, has a cool climate with morning fog and cool breezes from the Pacific Ocean. Like the Edna Valley Vineyards wine above it on the shelf, this wine is oaky but not at all sweet or flabby. The oak tannins open up nicely on the finish to reveal well defined Chardonnay flavors with a pleasing touch of caramel. Good wine, good value; I have already gone back for a case.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Pelassa Antaniolo Roero Riserva, 2011

This wine is 100% Nebbiolo from Roero, on the other side of the Tanaro River from Barolo and Barbaresco. On the first night, I thought it was a bit understated and not really representative of Nebbiolo. Tonight, it is blossoming and showing signs of even more beauty and power to come.

Medium light ruby. Scents of red berries, roses, spices and licorice. The latter is not as pronounced as in some Barolos but well defined and beautiful. Plenty of tannin on the mid-palate. Creates a sense of dryness but lets the fruit shine through. Cascade of flavors on the long finish. Beautiful wine for drinking now and over the next decade.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Casa Santos Lima Confidencial Reserva Tinto Lisboa, 2017

If you are looking for inexpensive, high quality wines, Portugal is one of your best sources. This excellent red from the Lisboa appellation around Lisbon is a good buy at its regular price, about $15 a bottle, and Costco in Kalamazoo has it on the shelves for $6.99!

Very dark, bluish. Even though the label speaks of "traditional fermentation techniques," the long maceration and oak aging also mentioned are really modern and international. From the time the cork is popped, the wine gushes with red berry scents, very ripe red raspberries. Flavors are sumptuously ripe, with a toasty element, but carried by acidity that keeps you coming back for more. On the second night, the tannins are more evident. This is a wine to buy and enjoy now. But if you buy more  than you can drink right away, be aware that it may go into a mute period for a few years before emerging with greater depth and complexity.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone, 2015

Guigal's Cotes du Rhone, as usual, has a substantial percentage of Syrah (50% along with 40% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre) and, as a result, leans toward black rather than red fruits.

Deep ruby, bright and clear. Blackberries, cassis, smoke. Medium to full bodied. Still has substantial tannin on the mid-palate. Wish I had waited a few years on this one. Good fruit on the finish, though. Guigal's CDR has a good reputation for aging and is a good value at about $12 to $15 a bottle.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Domaine de la Tourade Vacqueyras, 2011

Domaine de la Tourade is an excellent source of traditional Gigondas, -and the estate also owns vineyards in Vacqueyras. Cuvee de l'Euse is produced from old-vine Grenache, while this regular cuvee, often available at an attractive price, is 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre from vines averaging 50 years of age on clay-limestone soil.

Deep crimson. Dark, earthy tones typical of Vacqueyras. Blackberries, anise, leather and a pleasant (for me) touch of barnyard. Bold fruit with matching acidity. More aggressive than the 2008 vintage of this wine that I enjoyed several years ago. 2008 was a lesser vintage but I consumed the wine at five to eight years of age.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Pithon-Paille Anjour Mozaik Blanc, 2017

I am a long-time fan of dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley and was anxious to try this offering from the Anjou area. Compared to Savennieres and Saumur Blanc, it is a different face of Chenin Blanc. But very good.

Deeper gold than I expect from a 2017 wine. This wine probably won't last for decades as my favorite Sanennieres from Domaine Baumard do, but I'm sure it will keep well and develop for a few more years. Very full bodied with legs that cling to the inside of the glass. Yet the alcohol level is only 12%. Blood orange, quince, minerals--rich and vibrant flavors and smells. Deep and concentrated. Good fruit/acid balance and a long, complex finish. A perfect match for shrimp pasta but would go well with pork or chicken.

Barham Mendelsohn Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2004

Some wine critics such as Jim Gordon have written that Pinot Noirs from California and even Oregon have limited aging ability and should be drunk within five years or so of the vintage. While I respect Gordon's taste, my experience is that well made, well chosen Pinot Noirs not only keep well but, in many cases, require 10 to 20 years in the bottle to show their best. If given the choice, I would almost always choose a Pinot made by the late Clendenen of Au Bon Climat. Clendenen has spoken highly of the Mendelsohn vineyard of the Russian River Valley and made this wine, which is showing quite well at 17 years of age.

Medium light garnet ruby. Incredibly fragrant bouquet of red raspberries, sweet spices and earth. This is a wine I could sniff all night. Delicate Pinot body and texture. Good acidity. Picks up some dark cherries and red plums on the mid-palate and a dash of sweet vanilla on the finish. Again, the flavors and smells just keep getting better and better. In my opinion, this wine will be just as good, if not better, four or five years from now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2007

There are unique Sainte-Anne smells and flavots that I think I could detect readily in a blind tasting. Sometimes, these high-toned elements are a bit too aggressive for me when the wine is young. After 10 to 12 years, these traits are still around but mellow enough to make each sip a true delight.

Still deep and dark crimson. Amazing for a 14-year-old CDR Villages. Dark cherries, black raspberries and Sainte-Anne herbs and spices--rosemary and basil?? High toned still but not aggressively so. Strawberry puree on the palatewith some darker fruits from the Syrah and Mourvedre. Mellow and lovely. This was a $12 wine when I bought it (now about $16 for the current vintage), and it is an amazing value.


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Brooks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2019

Another good wine-by-the-glass choice at Every Day People Cafe in Douglas, MI. Ordered to accompany the herbed chicken entree.

Medium light garnet. Wild strawberry, flowers and herbs. This could be easily mistaken for a good Southern Rhone. Violets, pomegranate and licorice. Pinot Noir texture and weight. Amazingly long finish that is more herbal and floral than fruity.

Yves Cheron Gigondas, 2018

I couldn't resist trying this Yves Cheron Gigondas offered as a wine-by-the-glass at Every Day People Cafe in Douglas. It was a good choice to accompany the heavenly seared pork belly entree. This is one of our favorite dining spots in SW Michigan.

Deep and dark. Initial sniffs and tastes told me it was a New World take on an Old World classic. Big, fat and impenetrable. With a few minutes of airing, the old Gigondas traits began to come through. Dark fruit, tobacco, licorice and hints of talc and non-oak-derived vanilla. Gets better and better throughout the meal. Multi-dimensional and not at all heavy. I would be happy to wait five or more years for this wine to come around, but it is enjoyable tonight.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Terramata Barbera d'Alba DOC, 2017

G.B. Russo & Sons was an institution for more than 100 years in Southwest Michigan, offering an excellent selection of wines and international food. I visited the store frequently and in recent years depended on Dave Russo's email Wine Buyers' Guide for excellent wine values. Sadly, G.B. Russo & Sons is no longer, with the facility being taken over by MegaBev. Fortunately, Dave's Wine Buyers' Guide continues, and that is where I obtained this very good Barbera. Dave knows Italian wines, and he also knows how to seek out good closeout bargains from distributors and other stores. Produced by a cooperative in the Piedmont, Terramata Barbera d'Alba typically sells for about $15 a bottle, a good value. Through the Wine Buyers' Guide, I picked up a case for $5.99 a bottle--an even better value.

Bright, medium deep ruby red. Sumptuous smells and flavors of red berries, cherries and vanilla with a hint of almonds. Excellent balance on the palate with good fruit and no hard edges. The wine is very good now and should age well over the next five years or so. Terramata is actually an alternative label for the Pertinace Barbera I obtained from Costco ($12.99) and reviewed here on September 16 of this year. The Pertinace was a 2018; this 2017 is less tannic and has better balance.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Straight Shooter Willamette Valley Chardonnay, 2018

I have become enamoured of Willamette Valley Chardonnay, but a good, affordable wine from that Oregon appellation is hard to find. I picked this up for $12.99 at Costco and am quite happy with it.

Medium deep yellow. The  Willamette Valley freshness is apparent from the first sniff. Lemon creme, green apple and fresh pear. Lots of ripe flavor interest: creme brulee, green apples, pears and honey. A hint of caramel on the finish. Fermented in stainless steel; 50% of the juice was then aged for 10 months in seasoned French oak. If you want an introduction to good Oregon Chardonnay, this is a good place to start.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Eden Valley Old Butts Shiraz, 1999

 Eden Valley is a cool part of the Barossa that produces the great Shiraz wines of Henschke. Old Butts refers to the gnarled, tree-like vines similar to those you see in Gigondas and other areas of the Southern Rhone. According to the label, sap flows more slowly in these 80-year-old butts, creating deeper and more complex flavors. Likewise, the cool climate of the Eden Valley leads to slower and more complete ripening of the grapes. This is my kind of wine!

The label mentions a red/purple hue, but this has clearly become lighter and more amber after 22 years. An intriguing bouquet, more like the Domaine Thalabert we had last week than the Penfolds Bin 128 from Coonawarra. Black raspberries but more meaty than fruity. Anise seed, leather and peppery spice. Good tannic backbone. Aged in both American and French oak, but neither has had a noticeable effect on smells and flavors. Full on mid-palate, but the finish is what makes this wine remarkable. Red berries, cherries; savory and salty; more like a French rather than an Australian Hermitage.