Thursday, December 30, 2021

Shoo Fly South Australia Shiraz, 2017

Although the name suggests a somewhat less than serious wine, Shoo Fly Shiraz is crafted by noted winemaker Ben Riggs from selected vineyards in McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Wrattonbully, Padthaway and the Adelaide Hills. It was aged 10 months in seasoned oak.

Bright crimson. Forward scents of blackberries, currants, coffee and dark chocolate. Both red and black fruits on the palate plus cool climate spice and pepper. Has noticeable tannins but is probably at a good stage for drinking right now while the fruit is fresh and vibrant.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Ronchi di Pietro Schioppettino Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC, 2016

This is my first taste of Schioppettino, a red wine from the Alps in northeastern Italy. It won't be my last.

Slightly burnished garnet with a violet tinge. Intense wild berries, red and black. The cool climate acidity is apparent even in the aroma. Black pepper and more black pepper on the palate: I love it. Good tannic structure and almost tart flavors, offering subtle nuances. This is not the "big" wine style that was popular in the 1980s, and that is one reason I like it so much. Would go well with almost any dish. Available for about $20 at MegaBev in Kalamazoo.


Monday, December 27, 2021

Tenuta Rocca Vigna San Pietro Barolo, 2005

This 2005 Barolo is much deeper, darker and more mysterious than the young G.D. Vajra Rosso beside it at the table. It required some concentration, and some of the tasters quickly dismissed it in favor of the younger and more vibrant wine. It is, though, a very good, albeit not entirely typical Barolo.

The amber/orange color confirms that it follows the traditional school: no barriques. Very deep scents and flavors of dark cherries, violets, earth and cloves. Lacks some of the pretty floral qualities usually associated with Nebbiolo from Barolo vineyards. Full body with rich fruit flavors. Some at the table compared it to the 1977 Gould Campbell Vintage Port we had two nights ago: figs, walnuts, dark flavors. Even at age 16, tannin levels are still high, and I wouldn't hesitate to keep the wine another five years.

G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso, 2019

If you want to taste the essence of red Piedmont wine, this Rosso from G.D,. Vajra should be at the top of your shopping list. It is mostly Nebbiolo, Dolcettoo and Barbera but also contains small quantities of Freisa, Albarossa and Pinot Noir. Available for $14.99 at MegaBev in Kalamazoo, it is a lovely wine to accompany almost any meal.

Bright ruby red. Very aromatic with scents of red cherries, black raspberries, red currants, flowers and spice. Tannins are friendly, the fruit is ripe and the acidity is mouth watering.. Has the best traits of Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa and Pinot Noir blended together in a wine priced for every day drinking. It's hard to go wrong with G.D. Vajra's Rosso.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Terramata Barbera d'Alba, 2017

This Barbera d'Alba is made by Cantina Vignaiolo, a growers' cooperative in the Piedmont area of Italy and is well priced at $10 to $15 a bottle. I bought a case when the wine was being sold at deep discount by MegaBev in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.

Bright ruby/garnet. Enticing smells of fresh raspberries, violets, mushrooms and aromatic herbs. Fruity and medium bodied with characteristic Barbera acidity. A hint of almonds adds interest to the finish. I am sure the wine will age over a few years, but I doubt that my case will last that long. It's too good to sit on the shelf.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Gould Campbell Vintage Port, 1977

Vintage Ports are made only in good vintages, and 1977 was an especially good vintage. Now at 44 years of age, this Gould Campbell is demonstrating why wine lovers are willing to buy, cellar and drink Vintage Port. 

Dark amber with a very dark center. Smells and flavors are dark and incredibly rich. Figs, dates, prunes, chocolate but also some bright cherry and mint to add complexity. Amazingly young for a wine that has been in the bottle from 44 years. An unforgettable experience.

Raymond Usseglio Chateauneuf dui Pape, 1999

Perhaps less prestigious than the previous labels (Les Clefs d'Or and Pegau Cuvee Reservee), this wine from Raymond Usseglio was a highlight of our Christmas dinner.

Deep, dark color. An earthy Chateauneuf but with eipe red berry scents and flavors playiing off of the savory notes. Full bodied with a rich mouth feel. This is what I expected, and it was a hit with other tasters

Domaine Pegau Cuvee Reservee Chateauneuf du Pape, 1994

As recently as last Valentine's Day, this wine was singing, offering layers of fresh and dried strawberry fruit along with herbs and pepper. Tonight, it's very hard for me to find the fruit behind earthy tones that I never found in previous bottles.

Good color. Deep and dark with bright tones. Less barnyard on the nose than the Clefs d'Or Chateauneuf that preceded it, but there are brett-like tones in the flavors. Savory with a good texture but the cascade of fruit flavors that I always get from a Pegau Cuvee Reservee seem to be hiding or non-existent. The consensus at the table is that this is the lesser of the three Chateuneufs being poured tonight. I suspect this is merely a bad bottle.

Domaine Jean Deydier et Fils Les Clefs d'Or Chateauneuf du Pape, 2000


This has always been one of my favorite Chateauneufs through several vintages, from 1981 to 1989. The domaine has well situated vineyards, some in le Crau and not until recently have they been making a prestige cuvee that bleeds some of the best grapes from the reguloar bottling. This 2000 wine tonight, though, did not have the fruit to measure up to my expectations.

Good deep ruby color. Barnyard notes from the first sniff, and they continue to haunt the wine. Brett? They are not really objectionable but they seem to hide whatever fruit is still around. Savory more than fruity. A good wine; has Chateauneuf dui Pape traits but not a great deal of depth or complexity.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Chateau Bel Air Sainte Croix du Mont, 1986

I bought a case of this wine years ago when prices were ridiculously low for Sainte Croix du Mont, a close neighbor of Sauternes. I have had numerous bottles over the past decade or so, but this bottle tonight is showing much better than any of those. If this had Sauternes rather than Sainte Croix du Mont on the label, I would consider it a fine example.

Deep gold, bright and beautiful. No fading. Beautiful scents and flavors of coconut frosting, apricots and pineapple. Not overly sweet but attractive to all at the table, even those relatively new to wine. Acidity that brings you back for more.

Willakenzie Estate Cuvee Pinot Noir, 2015

I loved the Calstar Cellars and the Stoller Vineyards (see below), but, lo and behold, these Pinots just keep getting better. This is my favorite of the night.

Medium deep crimson. Very bright. Great bouquet, even at age 6. Rose petals, cherries and more black pepper and orange zest. Texture is a bit heavier than the Stoller Vineyards, but I have no complaint. Good acid/tannin structure. Flavors that grow in the mouth.

WillaKenzie concentrates on the specific attributes of specific vineyards, but this wine, like the Stoller Vineyards, is produced from a combination of terroirs. I like the result.


Stoller Vineyards Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, 2015

Just a slight difference in alcohol content, compared to the Calstar Cellars Pinot that preceded it at the table, made a big difference. While both wines were very good, most at the table agreed that this Willamette Valley wine had better balance and more interesting flavors.

Medium deep but a bit lighter than the Calstar Cellars. Cherries, anise seed, black pepper and orange zest. The zesty, peppery quality was immediately recognized by those at the table. The light, silky texture, though, was what set the wine apart for me. Flavors that open up and get more complex as the meal progresses. An excellent wine.. 

Calstar Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2007

This very good Anderson Valley wine was one of three good Pinots chosen to accompany our Christmas Eve dinner of marinated, crispy pork shoulder.

Medium dark ruby. Cherries, red berries, flowers and vanilla. Captures the vibrant fruit purity of Anderson Valley Pinot. At least one at the table noticed the alcohol, which is a bit high at 14.2%. Otherwise, the balance is good, and the wine is tasty with a medium long finish that keeps me coming back for more. Unfortunately, it was presented against two very good Oregon Pinots.

Bouchard Aine et Fils Bourgogne Chardonnay, 2019

We have had good luck with several vintages of the Bouchard et Fils Pouilly Fuisse. This is a less expensive appellation with fruit from several terroirs in Macon, Chalon and Cotes de Beaune. It is available right now for $14.99 at the Costco store in Kalamazoo. I recommend it.

Bright gold but noticeably lighter than the Wind Gap on the table beside it. Many of the same traits: apple, citrus, white flowers. Wonderful expressive flavors unfold, wrapped with brisk acidity. Depth and complexity as wine warms and airs. Beautiful. Gives everything that I was waiting for but never received from the Wind Gap. This wine is drinking beautifully today but I will not hesitate to keep a few bottles for five or six years.

Wind Gap Woodruff Vineyard (Santa Cruz) Chardonnay, 2012


This well made Chardonnay is fully mature but still offering an enjoyable drinking experience. Many bottles of it are still available at WineBid for a bargain price.

Deep gold; looks mature. Ripe apples, citrus, oak. Reasonable depth and concentration. Made more in the French than California mode, but the acid carrying it is getting a bit tired. I am sure there is bottle variation in this lot, but I intend to drink my remaining bottles sooner rather than later.

Elke Vineyards Mary Elke Boonville Barter Pinot Noir, 2013


Alas, Mary Elke's Elke Vineyards winery no longer exists. In my opinion, the vines here produced some of the best Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs. The 2013, I believe, was the next to last vintage, and it was hailed by Mary as one of their best years.

Medium garnet. Beautiful scents and flavors of cranberries, pomegranate and flowers. Peppery spice and orange zest on the palate. Reminds me of a good Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot. This is the my first of half a dozen Boonville Barters bought on futures frrom the winery. I am looking forward to the rest.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Chehalem Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2018

Oh yes! This is what I expect from Pinot Noir! Of course, it costs twice as much as a bottle of Meiomi, but I bought the wine at a discount price ($16) a few months ago at Tiffany's Wine & Spirits in Kalamazoo. And it's real Pinot from a special site in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

Bright ruby. Lighter tone than the Meiomi. The wine is young and requires a few minutes of aeration before it starts releasing its complex aromas and flavors. Deep, deep, deep cherry. Clings to the nostrils and tongue. Pepper, orange zest, earth, dark red and blue fruits. Silky Pinot texture. Dances on the tongue. I just keep coming back for another sniff and another sip. Excellent wine!

Meiomi California Pinot Noir, 2016

Meiomi is arguably the most popular West Coast Pinot Noir on the market. A  few years ago, I met a man stocking wines at the local store; officially retired, he had taken a part-time job with a wine distributor for one reason only: so he could get a discount on Meiomi Pinot Noir. "I just love this wine," he said. I have met others who felt the same, and I don't mean to fault their taste. As for me, I simply don't care much for Meiomi (nor, for that matter, any of the wines made by Caymus).

Full garnet color. Dark red fruits, tobacco, chocolate and espresso. A green flavor that reminds me of cheap Merlot. Does not have texture I expect from Pinot Noir. And I find the wine overly oaky and a bit one-dimensional. That's me; you don't have to agree. And sales figures reveal that thousands of wine buyers disagree.

Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Peninsula Whole Cluster Riesling, 2014


When I taste at Chateau Grand Traverse near Traverse City, MI, this Whole Cluster Riesling is always one of my favorites. Each year, I buy and put away a few bottles to get an idea of how well the wine ages in the bottle. I was a bit disappointed when I opened the 2012 earlier this year; it tasted a bit tired. The 2013 was much better but not up to my expectations when I started cellaring this wine. Tonight, it's the 2014, and I find perfection!

Medium deep yellow. A good lively color. The smells are heavenly. Flowers, pears, ripe peaches. Flavors are crisp, well defined and persistent. The acidity in this bottle is perfect. Reminds me of a very good German Kabinett or Spatlese. Goes perfectly with grilled salmon and mushroom risotto.

The grapes come from three different plots at the estate. They are hand picked and gently pressed without destemming or mechanical crushing. From that point, processing is minimal. The grapes speak for themselves and with great articulation.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Laurent duBlanc Cotes du Rhone Tradition et Terroir, 2020

One of two Cotes du Rhone wines now offered in my local Trader Joe's store, this wine presents a somewhat different taste of the Cotes du Rhone appellation.

Deep and dark with purplish tones. This wine been has aged a bit in new oak barriques. Red berry fruit and peppery spice but also some darker oak-derived notes. The oak is not covering up the fruit, howeveer. Even in its youth, this CDR is drinking very well. Those who are used to oak-influenced wines might prefer it to the Collection Rhone that I described last week. For my taste, I will take the more traditional Collection Rhone.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Luca Bosio Truffle Hunter Leda Barbera d'Asti, 2018

With a name and a label like this one, I expect a "fun" wine. We had it with pizza, but it was home-made pizza and very good. The wine is also home made (I think, "rustic" might be the proper term) and very good. It is fun to drink but offers serious smells and flavors that enhance the meal.

Beautiful deep ruby color. Cherries, roses,  anise and a hint of almonds. Do I detect truffles? That's probably my imagination. And the wine, after all, is named after the owner's truffle hunting dog, Leda, rather than the truffles that Leda sniffs out. Truffle Hunter Barbera is fun to smell and taste, and it has the hallmark acidity that makes Barbera an exciting wine to drink.

Truffle Hunter Barbera is widely available in the Kalamazoo area (MegaBev, D&W, Hardings) for $10 to $12 a bottle. In my opinion it is well worth the price.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Arnoux et Fils Vacqueyras Cuvee de Lauris, 2007

This wine seems to be at a perfect stage of maturity, and I don't see it moving off that plateau for quite some time.

Still dense and dark in color. Only a small part of this cuvee is aged in new, 228 liter oak casks; the rest, in large seasoned oak barrels. Blueberries, boysenberries, licorice and black pepper. Lush and fruity for a 13-year-old Vacqueyras. Many of the Grenache (60% to 70%) and Syrah vines (25% to 40%) for this cuvee are nearly 100 years old, and the wine has some old vine funk but none of the intensity and complexity that I would expect. It drinks very well, though, and I would buy again if available for thes same price ($15).

Friday, December 10, 2021

Vignobles de la Vallee du Rhone Collection Rhone Cotes du Rhone, 2020

As Cotes du Rhone prices have gone up, I have tended to focus my purchases more on Cotes du Rhone Villages wines (a step up in quality as well as price) and give them a few years of aging in the bottle. That is a shame, I decided tonight as I tasted a young (2020) Cotes du Rhone. There is a lot of pleasure lurking in young CDRs that I have been missing. This selection, only $6.99 at Trader Joe's, is a throwback to the wines I enjoyed for a similar price back in the 1990s and 1980s.

Deep crimson. Beautiful scents focusing on red cherries and peppery spice. 55% Grenache, 30% Carignan and 15% Syrah. Tannins, clearly derived from skins and pips rather than oak, are entwined beautifully with the fruit. If this is an indication of what the 2020 Rhone vintage offers, I will be a buyer. And I will return to Trader Joe's for more of this lovely Collection Rhone. Good now and will stay that way for at least a couple of years.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Hope's End South Australia Red Blend, 2018

This is an unusual blend: Shiraz, Grenache, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The result is a pleasant enough wine-by-the-glass restaurant pour.

Deep and dark crimson/ruby. Has a little of everything: black fruit, red berries, cherries and plenty of sweetish chocolate. Has enough sweetness to counter the oak tannins. Not much acidity. I enjoyed a glass to accompany my meal at Fieldstone in Kalamazoo but am not tempted to buy or drink any more.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

d'Arenberg The Hermit Crab McLaren Vale Viognier Marsanne, 2018

The blend in this wine is 62% Viognier and 38% Marsanne. While the Marsanne gives the wine some body, the Viognier clearly dominates.

Medium gold, clear and bright. Enticing scents of white flowers, ripe pears and canteloupe. Round, ripe and full bodied with moderate acidity and a pleasing finish. Very pear-like. When you are looking for an alternative to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc at about $15 a bottle, this is a good choice.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Paolo Scavino Langhe Nebbiolo, 2012

Reviewing this wine for the Wine Enthusiast shortly after its release, Kerin O'Keefe notes that "while this wine can age for a couple more years, enjoy it now for maximum freshness." I enjoyed it then (2015) and, several years later, I still find it fresh and lovely.

Beautiful crimson ruby. Scavino uses some barriques for this wine. Fresh red berries, cherries, rose petals and sweet spices that are probably oak-influenced but blend very nicely with the traditional smells and flavors of Nebbiolo. Ripe fruit from front to back with mouth watering acidity and a finish that follows me even after I have finished the meal and put away the bottle.

As I remember, this wine sold for $15 to $17 a bottle when I bought it in 2015 at D&W Market in Kalamazoo. For a Nebbiolo of this quality, that is a very good price.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Paul Jaboulet Aine Domaine de Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage, 1988

Probably the first wine I ever bought in quantity was the Paul Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage. The vintage was 1978, and the highly acclaimed Domaine de Thalabert was probably already sold out. So the staff at Village Corner directed me to Jaboulet's regular cuvee, and I bought a case. It was so good that I went back to the well at least twice and still have one bottle in the cellar. Every year after that, the staff directed me to the Domaine Thalabert, and I bought at least a case every vintage through the 1980s decade. It was one of the smartest things I have ever done.

Looking down on a full glass, the color is deep and dark, almost impenetrable still. With a small pour, the bricking that comes with aging is more apparent. The bouquet is unmistakable Thalabert: savory scents of black fruits, cassis, black olives, earth and minerals. Absolutely entrancing. At the front of mouth, the ripe black fruit is still there. The savory, acidic elements take over on the mid-palate and finish. TheThalabert dance is still there, as it was on the 1980 Thalabert we enjoyed last week. A bit more tannin and a bit more acid in the younger sibling. 

The 1978 regular Crozes in the cellar is well past its prime, and I had a few weak bottles of the 1989 Thalabert. Otherwise, this seems to be a wine that never grows old. I love it.


Chateau Pegau Cuvee Maclura Cotes du Rhone, 2017

Being a long-term fan of Domaine Pegau's Chateauneuf du Pape, I am naturally intrigued by winemaker Laurence Feraud's ventures with less expensive Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages wines. This Maclura (named after the hedge apple or Osage orange tree) comes from vineyards in Sorgue, located about four miles southeast of the Chateauneuf appellation boundary. It is not a Chateauneuf, but it has the stamp of Laurence Feraud's winemaking style.

Deep ruby. No new oak, of course, with a Laurence Feraud wine. Very aromatic: red and black berries, cassis, spice and a hint of black olives. Lush, rich fruit on the palate. Ripe tannins and refreshing acidity. The wine goes down pleasantly, sip after sip. Now, I am ready to try the CDR Villages Setier.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

WillaKenzie Estate Chardonnay Yamhill-Carlton District, 2016

This may or may not be a Dijon clone Chardonnay, but it certainly has the Oregon Chardonnay traits that I love. It is acidic and crisp with intense smells and flavors.

Medium deep yellow. Scents of lemon butter, green apples and tangerine. Lemon crerme and minerals on the palate. The butter is in the smells and flavors but not so much in the texture, which is taut and minerally. More like Chablis than Cote de Beaune Chardonnay. Better when it's only lightly chilled. And I suspect that this 2016 still has room to improve in the bottle over the next several years.

According to the label, it "was fermented and aged in wood puncheons, amphorae and stainless steel tanks to emphasize fruit expression, minerality and crisp acidity. Battonage of the lees and partial malolactic fermentation contribute to a complex and round mouthfeel."