Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Malvira Roero Nebbiolo, 2018


Trattoria Stella in Traverse City has been on the Wine Enthusiast's list of the top 100 wine restaurants in the country so I was not surprised to see a wine of this quality available as a wine by the glass. Roero, as I have mentioned before, is just across the river from Barolo and has some well sited Nebbiolo vineyards.

Medium light garnet typical of Nebbiolo. Haunting scents of rose petals, dark cherries and spice. Seems mature and mellow on initial sips, but the tannins are there if you look for them but with good balancing acidity. Black licorice and red berry fruit on the finish. Beautiful Nebbiolo tonight to accompany fettucine arrabbiato, but it is clearly a wine that will get even better with age.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Casa Santos Lima Red Blend Portugal, 2019

This is a tasty red table wine that is widely available in wine stores for $8 to $10. I have bought a few bottles and found it to be a great bargain at that price. When I spotted a three liter box (the equivalent of 4 bottles) at Costco for $14.99, I wasted no time placing it my cart.

Deep ruby with purple tones. Still very young. Ripe red cherries and berries, plums, spices and black pepper. Has seen a few months in new oak but the fruit flavors are dominant. Medium to full body. The peppery finish reminds of a Pinot Noir or a very good Cotes du Rhone. In the bag-in-the-box format, I am looking forward to many happy returns.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Terramata Barbera d'Alba, 2017

From a grower's cooperative in the Piedmont, this Barbera d'Alba is an excellent value for every day drinking. I bought a case at deep discount from MegaBev in Grand Rapids, after reading about the wine in Dave's (Dave Russo) Wine Buyer's Guide.

Beautiful bright ruby red. Dark cherries, black raspberries, mushrooms and a touch of vanilla. I think the wine has had some oak aging, which has tamed the characteristic Barbera acidity and added a bit of black fruit flavor. It still gives me what I expect from Barbera d'Alba, though. Has improved, I believe, from the last bottle I enjoyed late last year.

Wind Gap Woodruff Vineyard Chardonnay, 2013

I have thoroughly enjoyed several bottles of the 2012 Wind Gap Woodruff Vineyard Chardonnay over the past several months. And this 2013 vintage of the wine is at least as good.

The bright gold color of the 2013 is not as deep or mature appearing as the 2012. And the aroma and flavors are a bit leaner and crisper. Green apple, lemon, papaya and minerals. Vibrant acidity, maybe a bit too much for those who like fat, buttery California Chardonnay. The flavors, though, are beautifully defined with a long finish.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Brewer-Clifton Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir, 2014

Pinot Noir wines from around Santa Barbara are usually lower priced (and not as valued) compared to those from sites farther north in Russian River or the Anderson Valley. Two notable exceptions are the wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands and the Santa Rita Hills--the source of this Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir. These hills are close to the ocean with cool ocean breezes that influence ripening of the grapes.

Light in color and in body. Cherries, red raspberries, cranberries and spice. Delicate texture but rich flavors. Good acidity to keep the fruit going. But even at eight years of age, I think the wine is probably entering its period of decline. I suggest drinking up.


Monday, May 9, 2022

Ronchi di Pietro Friuli Colle Orientali Pinot Grigio, 2018

Donna, my wife, likes Pinot Grigio; I prefer Pinot Gris. Even though it's the same grape, the styles differ, and we rarely find a common ground in terms of style. This wine, from the hills of extreme northeastern Italy, may be what we are looking for. It has the body and flavor of a Pinot Gris with the brisk acidity of a Pinot Grigio from the vicinity of Venice (delle Venezie).

Deep, bright gold.  White peaches, apples. The winemaker mentions the smell of "fresh bread crust" and "acacia flowers." And I agree. Rich flavors, medium to full body. Lacks the herbal tones of Pinot Grigio delle Venezie but has vibrant acidity and good structure without the sweetness that often comes with Alsace Pinot Gris.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Philo Ridge Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2010

Philo Ridge is a small production, solar powered winery run by Fred Buonanno and Heather McKelvy, who moved from high tech jobs to build their dream winery in 1999. This Pinot Noir is produced from two vineyards on the Mendocino Ridge, Anderson Valley, California.

Medium ruby with garnet forming. Looks a bit more mature than I remember from the last bottle I had two years ago, but the bouquet and flavors are still young and fresh. Red cherries, cranberries, forest floor with a hint of black pepper. Flavors are delicate but bold and well defined. The depth and complexity I have come to expect from an Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.


Thursday, May 5, 2022

Amalie Robert Willamette Valley Her Silhouette Chardonnay, 2010

For many Chardonnay drinkers, this wine may be too lean. Dijon clone fruit is fermented in stainless steel at cool temperatures and aged without oak or malolactic fermentation. The result is a powerful, intense wine that delivers all of the beautiful aromas and flavors of the Chardonnay grape...but without the "big and buttery" quality that typifies New World Chardonnays. Donna and I love it.

Bright lemon yellow. Even at 12 years of age, it shows little sign of advancing age. Green apples, lemon cream and minerals. Rich fruit texture and amazing body for a wine with only 12% alcohol content. Flavors are deep, intense and beautifully focused. This is our second bottle of the 2010 (see note from June 9, 2021), and I remember the 2011 as being even better.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Villadoria Langhe Nebbiolo Bricco Magno, 2013

This is Langhe Nebbiolo from the Barolo side of the river. I opened it while we still had a small taste left of the Pelassa Antaniolo Roero for a side-by-side comparison. No winner. Donna liked the Villadoria; I preferred the Roero.

Bright ruby red with garnet highlights. The early aging was done in barriques followed by aging in barrels of various size. The modern or international style is apparent also in the smells and flavors. Sour cherry, rose petals, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla. Fuller bodied than the Roero and more tannins. Flamboyant flavors that retain the Barolo profile. Not as smooth or elegant as the Roero, though, and I prefer the haunting flavors of the Roero.

For $15 a bottle, this Villadoria Bricco Magno is a terrific bargain and will be on my shopping list.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Pelassa Antaniolo Roero Riserva, 2011

Roero is a sleeper wine. It is Nebbiolo (although it rarely says that on the label) and it is grown on vineyards just across the Tanaro River from Barolo (though only insiders know that). Grapes for this wine are grown on well sited vineyards 330 meters above sea level. In other words, it is Barolo from the other side of the river, and this Antaniolo Riserva has many Barolo qualities at a fraction of the price.

Deep ruby red. Some, but by no means all, of the juice has been aged in small French oak barrels. Traditional smells and flavors, though, are eminently present. Dark cherries, strawberries, cinnamon and black licorice. As with Barolo, there is a noticeable dryness on the palate--as the winemaker put it, "dry and decisive, justly tannic and full bodied." Grips the taste buds as Nebbiolo flavors grow more intense and complex with every sip.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Allan Scott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2020

I had heard good things about the Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc long before I was able to locate a body. 

Bright yellow. Grapefruit, lemon, passion fruit and melon. Vibrant fruit, crisp and clean on the palate. The flavors seem to get better as the wine warms to room temperature--a good sign, in my opinion. Long finish. There are many New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs on the market, but this one seems to me a notch above the others. I will look for more.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Domaine Brunely Cairanne, 2018

Many of my favorite Cairanne wines require a few years of aging; this one, I believe, is probably best enjoyed during its youth.

Deep ruby red. A whiff of earth and then strawberries, raspberries, thyme and peppery spice. Has what I like in a Cotes du Rhone Village wine. 50% Grenache with 30% Syrah plus Carignan and Cinsault. Firm Syrah tannins on the mid-palate, but the spicy fruit shines through.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Tenuta Arnulfo Costa di Bussia Barbera d'Alba, 2015

From the Bussia hill that produces fine Barolo wines, this moderately priced ($12 to $16) Barbera d'Alba is one of my long-time favorites.

Bright ruby red. Forceful scents and flavors of black cherries, plums, cloves and savory earth tones. Tannins (probably oak derived) on mid-palate help frame the fruit. The estate recommends drinking this wine at 5 to 7 years of age, and I agree.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Calstar Cellars Anderson Valley Londer Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2007

When last tasted on Christmas Eve, this Anderson Valley Pinot did not quite measure up against two very good Oregon Pinots, one from Chehallam and one from Stoller Vineyards. Tonight, I am ready to sing the praises of Calstar Cellars Londer Vineyard with qualities that seem to me similar to those of a fine Oregon Pinot. It is, of course, at an age at which bottle variation can occur.

Medium ruby, dark for a Pinot. Dark cherries, berries, peppery spice. Lemon peel and black pepper notes that remind me of a Willamette Valley Pinot. Excellent depth and concentration. Persistent flavors of fruit, spice and earthy minerals.

Lange Willamette Valley Classique Chardonnay, 2019

I learned about the Lange Winery from Brian Doyle's excellent book, "The Grail: A year ambling and shambling through an Oregon vineyard in search of the best pinot noir wine in the whole wild world." I was impressed with the lone bottle of Lange Pinot that I bought since reading the book, and I am equally impressed with this Classique Chardonnay. The least expensive of several Chardonnays made at the estate, the Classique is produced from free run juice fermented and aged, according to the estate, in "mostly stainless steel and neutral puncheons" and without malolactic fermentation. From the Dijon clone of Chardonnay, it has the briskness and complexity that I love in Oregon Chardonnay.

Medium gold. Intense smells and flavors of melon, slightly ripe apricots, grilled peaches, lemon zest and brioche. Can a Chardonnay be rich and steely at the same time? Sounds contradictory, but this wine seems to span the gap. Good body, brisk acidity, persistent finish. I love this wine.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Chateau du Mourre du Tendre Chateauneuf du Pape, 1994

1994 was only a so so vintage in the Southern Rhone, but 1994 Mourre du Tendre is aging very well and shows much younger than the 1994 Haut des Terres Blanches I had a couple of weeks ago. It is 90% Grenache (with at least some fruit coming from old vines in la Crau) and 10% Mourvedre made very traditionally and aged in concrete vats.

Deep, dark crimson; no older than 10 or 12 years by appearance. Also smells and tastes young and fresh. Dark cherries, strawberries and garrigue. Fresh and baked fruit flavors. Ripe and full bodied but has ample acidity. Black licorice finish. A very good Chateauneuf du Pape for now or later.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Edna Road 500 Ranch Edna Valley Chardonnay, 2019

The label states that this wine is estate grown and estate bottled and that it is entitled to the Edna Valley appellation, an area known for producing good Chardonnay grapes. I have never been able to find out what this estate is, but I have been able to tell that the wine is worthy of its appellation. I bought several bottles for $8.99 at my local Trader Joe's but have never found it again on the shelves.

Medium deep yellow. White peaches, green apples and a twist of lemon. Full on the mid-palate with some brioche flavors. I like it better as it warms closer to room temperature. Trader Joe's: I want some more; please bring it back!

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Rabasse Charavin Cairanne, 2012

This is my last bottle of this lovely Cairanne, and I am sad to see it go. But, fortunately, I avoided my usual temptation of hanging on to the last bottle long enough to deprive me of its greatest charm. Corinne Couturier's Cairanne takes three or four years to develop its best aromas and flavors, but this bottle is fully mature.

Medium deep crimson. Grenache strawberries and red raspberries. Everything I like in Cairanne, one of my favorite CDR Villages appellation. Now I get that peppery spice that I love but was missing in some of the bottles I drank four or five years ago. Nice finish.

Rabasse Charavin Cairanne is 70% Grenache from vineyards 40 to 70 years of age plus Syrah (15%), Cinsault and Counoise. Behind Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin, it is my second favorite Cairanne but almost impossible to find in my market area. 


Monday, April 11, 2022

Chateau de Carles Fronsac, 2011


Wines from the Bordeaux regions of Fronsac and Canon Fronsac were favorites of mine in the late 1980s. They always offered good value and still do. 

Deep brilliant ruby red. Vibrant smells and flavors of dark cherry, plums, dried flowers and spice. More oak than I remember from the Fronsacs of the mid- to late-1980s. Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec is the blend, and it works well. Lush feel on the tongue and good grip on the finish.

This 2011 was on sale for about $15 several years ago at World Market. At the same price, I would be a buyer again.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Paul Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert, 1985

Paul Jaboulet's Domaine de Thalabert wines from the 1980s were some of the earliest treasures in my cellar, and they continue to delight. The 1983 and 1990 are very strong wines, produced in great vintages.  I did not expect as much from 1985,  but I am getting it.

Brickish tones but surprisingly deep and dark for a wine nearing its 40th birthday. Beautiful Thalabert smells from the time the cork is popped. Black fruits, cured meats, black olives and iron. Smooth and fully developed on the palate with amazingly preserved fruit and a haunting finish. Probably not as ripe as the 1983 or the 1990 Thalaberts but with greater freshness and acidity. It ranks very high on my all-time list of best Syrah wines.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Wind Gap Woodruff Vineryard Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay, 2012

This is my third bottle since early December of the 2012 Woodruff Vineyard Chardonnay from Wind Gap, and I get more enamoured with every sip. It is an extraordinary Chardonnay.

Deep gold color; it is 10 years old, after all. Don't chill this wine too much; it's at its best as it warms to near room temperature. Apple, ripe pear, lemon cream and brioche with just a hint of honey. Works beautifully with a smoked salmon/mushroom/onion quiche. Rich and full on the palate. Buttery, like the crust of the quiche, but not fat or soft. Acidity that dances on the tongue and a finish that seems to linger forever.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Domaine du Haut des Terres Blanches Chateauneuf du Pape, 1998

The 1998 vintage in Chateauneuf du Pape was far superior to that of 1994. However, this estate's 1998, compared to its excellent 1994 I had last week, is a dud.

Medium ruby with browning, particularly at edges. Strawberry fruit and earth but none of the old vine intensity or power that I found in the 1994. Fruity rather than savory, but the fruit is fading and not very interesting. Has some Southern Rhone charm but more what I would expect from a Cotes du Rhone than a Chateauneuf du Paper.


Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Vinum 002 Langhe Rosso, 2010

This wine is a good illustration of what can be accomplished with a blend of 50% Nebbiolo and 50% Barbera. It has the serious qualities of a mature Barolo coupled with the fruity accessibility of Barbera. I like it.

Medium garnet with orange/brown tones. Beautiful Barolo-like smells and flavors. Fresh and dried cherries, rose petals, truffles and earth. Like a Barbera, it is relatively low in tannin but with acidity to carry the fresh fruit. Soft and lovely. Long finish.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Clos du Mont Olivet Chateauneuf du Pape, 1988


Another day, another Chateauneuf du Pape. As good as the 1994 Domaine du Haut des Terres Blanches was, this 1988 Clos du Mont Olivet is even better. Both wines are heavy in Grenache (about 80%) and some of the Grenache in each wine comes from old vines in la Crau, arguably the best vineyard in the appellation. 1988 is, of course, a far better vintage than 1994, and this 1988, although six years older, presents as a much younger wine.

This bottle has been in my cellar for at least 30 years, yet the cork was in excellent shape with wine stain on less than 1/4 inch. Much deeper color than the 1994. Smells and flavors are also what you might expect from a wine 10 or 15 years younger. Strawberries, black raspberries and spice. Not as intense or savory as the Haut des Terres Blanches but the fruit flavors are deeper and even more concentrated. Long, long finish that gets better with every sip. An exceptional Chateauneuf.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Domaine du Haut des Terres Blanches, 1994

As my 83rd birthday celebration continues, I am dipping into some of my favorite mature Chateauneufs. Domaine du Haut des Terres Blanches is not a very well known estate, but it produced beautiful wines in both 1993 and 1994, neither considered very good vintages in the Southern Rhone.

Medium light brickish red. Firm, well preserved cork and not a great deal of sediment. Powerful scents and flavors of mature Chateauneuf du Pape. Wild strawberries, menthol, Provencal herbs and sea salt. Compact, intense flavors that expand in the mouth. Old vine concentration and depth. Reminds me of a mature Vieux Telegraphe, and that may be because this estate, like VT,  has old Grenache vines in la Crau.

I have had several excellent bottles of this estate's 1993 and 1994 over the past two decades, and that was one reason I bought a case of the 1998, which up to now has been a distinct disappointment.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Musso Bricco Rio Sordo Barbaresco, 1996

For my 83rd birthday, I wanted a mature wine that is still full of life. This Barbaeresco, from one of the great Piedmont vintages, met my standards and then some. The label looks old; the wine inside is youthful.

Medium garnet, mature Nebbiolo.Classic scents and flavors: red raspberries, cherries, dried roses, cinnamon and darker tones of black licorice. Good body with legs that cling to the inside of the glass. The flavors are all there--intense and haunting with a long, mellow finish. Acid and tannin in perfect balance. Barbaresco at its finest, and if I had another bottle I would feel comfortable keeping it for at least another five years.

I  paid $21 at auction in 2015 for this 1996 Rio Sordo Barbaresco. The current vintage, with its non-smudged label, sells for $45 to $50 plus two or three decades of patience.


Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Seghesio Family Vineyards Sonoma County Zinfandel, 2006

If this wine had been in my cellar, I would have consumed it several years ago. But it was brought to my house by a guest, and I am glad that I opened it. It is drinking quite well, better than I would expect from a 15-year-old Zinfandel.

Medium crimson. Lots of crusted sediment on one side of the bottle. Lifted scents of red raspberries and boysenberries. Flavors are fruity and intense with considerable power (15.4% alcohol) but only moderate heat. Matches perfectly with well brined porchetta.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Cuvee 3 Messes Basses Ventoux, 2018

Produced by a cooperative, Vignerons de Mont Ventoux, this has become one of my favorite Southern Rhone wines, reminding me of the Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Ventoux wines of the 1980s and 1990s. Unlike many wines from this part of France, Cuvee 3 Messes Basses is still made in the traditional manner.

Bright crimson, medium deep. Very aromatic: fresh fruit with hints of cinnamon and cloves. Strawberries, ripe cherries, spice and black pepper. The fruit is ripe and up front, and the acidity keeps it fresh and inviting. Long and enjoyable finish. Perfect on its own or with almost any food. I can never have enough of this wine in my cellar. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Phelps Creek Columbia Gorge Chardonnay, 2017

This Columbia Gorge Chardonnay joins fruit from the Phelps Creek estate in Oregon and the Underwood Mountain across the gorge in Washington. The Oregon grapes are Dijon and Davis clones; the Washington grapes, Wente clone. It is high elevation, cool climate, volcanic soil and barrel fermented in French oak.

Bright golden color. Powerfully aromatic with fresh citrus tones. Lush and creamy in the mouth but still with the intense citric acidity. Lemon creme. When allowed to warm in the glass, I get notes of white peach and ripe pear. Still intensely aromatic. Meets my standards for Oregon Chardonnay.


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

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

This blend of Viognier and Marsanne is pure Australian and never, to my knowledge, used in the Rhone Valley of France where the two grapes originate. Viognier is a young beauty, full of flowers and ripe fruit. Marsanne is somewhat earthy and plodding, often revealing its true charm after many years of aging. In this wine, the combination works beautifully.

Bright gold. Has the Viognier fragrance--fresh flowers and ripe apricots. Beautiful. The Marsanne provides a rich, full bodied texture and joins with the Viognier to add depth of flavor--ripe pears and spicy skin tannins. What I like most about this wine, thoiugh, is its crisp acidity, a quality often missing in Australian whites. Beautiful on its own but it also matches well with both fish (tilapia) and pork.

At $15, this is a good wine to have in your cellar when you want something other than Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes-Hermitage, 1978

This is NOT Jaboulet's Crozes-Hermitage Thalabert 1978, a legendary wine from a great Rhone vintage, but rather Jaboulet's regular bottling of Crozes-Hermitage. That was my first year buying wine, and the Thalabert was sold out. But the staff at Village Corner in Ann Arbor highly recommended this wine, priced at about $5 a bottle. I bought a few bottles, then a case and later went back for two more  cases. When it was young, one critic described it as a "summer pudding" delight--fresh fruit galore. I had one bottle left in the cellar, and, as I approach my 83rd birthday, chose to experience maturity in a bottle.

Mature, amber/brickish tones. Mute at first but gradually starts to develop a mature bouquet. Sweet Syrah fruit, red and black berries, cassis, leather and Asian spices. Very savory, almost salty flavors. Clings to the surfaces of the mouth with exotic flavors. Certainly not as good as any of the Thalaberts from the 1980s and not as hedonistic as it was in the early 1980s, but a wine that has aged well over 40-plus years.


Friday, March 18, 2022

E. Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde, 1990 (375 ml)

These half bottles of Cote Rotie I bought three decades ago have nestled like children among the bigger bottles in my wine cellar. And half bottles generally don't age well. This bottle tonight, though, is a full grown adult in smells, flavors and enjoyment.

Garnet color, relatively dark for a wine of its age. Bouquet of red raspberries, cherries, lavender and Provencal herbs. Deep, concentrated fruit plus tertiary notes of leather and black olives. Just keeps getting better; I should have pulled the cork an hour ago. Glorious finish. Even from a 375 ml bottle, this wine has aged beautifully.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Royal Oporto 10-year-old Tawny Port, NV

I am quite fond of 10- and 20-year-old tawny port, which is port aged in small oak barrels called pipas for an average of 10 or 20 years. The price goes up for each decade of aging. 20 year tawny is a sublime experience and I am quite happy with 10-year-old tawny, particularly from a good house such as Taylor-Fladgate or Graham's. Royal Oporto is a bit less expensive, and I found this wine an excellent value.

Good dark color. Fresh, medium sweet fruit with layers and layers of complexity from barrel aging. Dates, walnut, caramel. What a great way to finish a good meal. Elysium in Kalamazoo offers this as a wine by the glass for $8, and I got more than my money's worth of enjoyment.

Cloudline Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2019

This wine is offered for $10/glass or $35/bottle at the excellent Elysium restaurant in Kalamazoo. We opted for a bottle and did not regret the decision. It is an excellent value in Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, available at Trader Joe's in Kalamazoo for $15.99. It competes favorably with many Oregon Pinots costing twice as much.

Bright garnet, somewhat dark for a Pinot but there is no mistaking the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir smells and flavors. Cherry, cranberry, pomegranate with peppery spice and a hint of orange zest. Bright fruit with soft tannins and acidity that brings you back for sip after sip. Layers of complexity on the long finish. I want more of this wine.

I usually drink Pinot with salmon or lighter meat dishes, We had hanger steak and braised lamb, and the wine stood its ground.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Wind Gap Woodruff Vineyard (Santa Cruz Mountains) Chardonnay, 2012

Wind Gap specializes in finding well-sited vineyards that produce wines with unique and compelling nuances. This Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mountains was aged 10 months in French oak, 20% new and 80% seasoned. It is a perfectly balanced Chardonnay,  one of the best I have had in many years.

Deep gold. You might worry about this wine being overly mature...until you smell and taste it. Ripe pineapple, pears, lime and a bit of honey. Ripe fruit on entry, then full and rich on the mid-palate. The oak spice is subtle. Rich enough to please a New World wine lover but with the acid and personality of a fine white Burgundy. Long finish. Special wine.


Sunday, March 13, 2022

Chateau Fourcas Hosten Listrac-Medoc, 1982

This wine was very good in its prime. This is the last in my cellar, and, at age 40, it is showing its age.

There is a definite brickish tone to the color, but it is still bright. The advanced age is showing mostly in the muted and somewhat uninteresting bouquet. Prunes, dried fruit and tobacco. Particularly after 45 minutes aeration, some pleasant cherry toned fruit flavors emerge and the finish is medium long. A decade ago, this lesser known wine competed very well against more expensive and more highly-touted 1982s, with Cabernet-dominant smells and flavors. It has always been a good wine to buy in top vintages.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Famille Perrin Ventoux, 2019

Red Ventoux wines are generally built around Grenache and Syrah. This Ventoux from Famille Perrin has higher proportions of Carignan and Cinsault. The grapes are clearly well chosen, however, and well handled.

Deep crimson red. Fresh cherries and berries, red and black. Lovely ripe fruit balanced against fresh acidity. Peppery spice notes but those more typical of Carignan and Cinsault than Grenache. Well defined flavors and a long satisfying finish. For my taste, this is better than Famille Perrin's La Vieille Ferme or even the Cotes du Rhone Reserve.

The 2019 Famille Perrin Ventoux was offered as a special for $6.99 at Plum Market in Ann Arbor last July. After tasting it, I regretted not buying more, but when I visited Plum Market again yesterday, I found, to my delight, the 2020 Famille Perrin Ventoux for the same price. One of the best values in Southern Rhone wines I have seen in many years.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Fossil Point Edna Valley Pinot Noir, 2018


This Edna Valley Pinot was available as a wine-by-the glass at Phoenicia, an excellent Lebansese restaurant in Birmingham, Michigan.

Medium light garnet. Scents of pomegranate, flowers and peppery spice. Gets increasingly aromatic over the course of the meal. Well balanced with good Pinot texture. Spicy finish with herb-infused flavors that linger. Matches well with hashwi, an elegant and flavorful Middle Eastern dish that includes ground lamb, garlic, onions and roasted pine nuts.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Sonoma Valley Zinfandel, 2006

Old Hill Ranch has some of the oldest vineyards in California (dating back to 1885). This wine is made from a field blend that is mostly Zinfandel but includes small amounts of at least 20 other varietals such as Grenache, Alicante Bouschet, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Carignane, Syrah, Temperanillo, Tannat and Grande Noir. As this bottle demonstrates, the blend was beautifully constructed with excellent balance (even considering the 15.3% alcohol content).

Deep ruby/garnet, crusty sediment on one side of the bottle. Enticing scents of dark cherries, wild strawberries and brown spices.  Same with the flavors; old vine qualities with incredible intensity and complexity. Not at all like a Califorfnia Zin; reminds me of a very good, mature Chateauneuf du Pape. 

I have had several of these 2006s over the past decade, and this is clearly the best. Unfortunately, also the last.


Sunday, March 6, 2022

Domaine du Grand Montmirail Les Deux Juliette Selection des Vieilles Vignes Gigondas, 2012

The Grenache (60 to 75%) for this Gigondas comes from vines planted in the 1960s; the Syrah (25 to 30%) and the Mourvedre (0 to 10%) from vines planted in the 1980s.on red clay alluvial soils at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail. It is made by Yves and Denis Cheron in a clearly traditional style.

Deep, dark crimson. Initially, I get red berry scents and flavors; later, they merge with darker tones of blackberries and currants, presumably from the Syrah and Mourvedre. Ripe fruit flavors; delightful. Plump body with legs that cling to the side of the glass (14.5% alcohol). Tannins show up on the finish. I think I will wait a year or two for the next bottle or else give the wine plenty of aeration. There is a lot to like here.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Eredi Lodali Barolo, 2006

The Eredi Lodali estate is located in Teriso, which is in Barbaresco, but it apparently found a good source for the Barolo grapes used to make this wine.

Medium light with the orangeish tints that are the hallmark of traditionally made Barolo. The Barolo scents and flavors are apparent from the time the cork is popped. Cherries, rose petals, tar (or black licorice, if you prefer). Intense flavors from front to back. Lively acids backed by firm, but ripe, tannins. Power, beauty, grip. 

I bought this several years ago on closeout from my local health food store, knowing nothing about Eredi Lodali. With Barolo, I have found, there is little risk involved in trying an unfamiliar label.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages Saint Gervais, 2004

Now entering its 18th year, this wine doesn't owe me anything. I have had many very good bottles over the years even if the last several have started showing signs of aging. This bottle, it seems to me, is a bit better than the last one I had.

The color has lightened and lost its sheen. There is an unpleasant singed smell, like charred wood that wasn't present (or I didn't notice) a few years ago. But there are also some pleasant fruit smells and flavors. And I like the Mourvedre-spiced red berry finish.

Saint Gervais is my favorite (and the most expensive) bottling of Domaine Sainte Anne, and it generally ages well (the 2000 and the 2005 are drinking beautifully). And, if you are not into aging wine, current vinrtages of Saint Gervais are well worth the $20 to $25 price tag. 


Saturday, February 26, 2022

Phillips Hill Anderson Valley Toulouse Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2006

Even within the excellent Anderson Valley appellation, Toulouse Vineyard has a special reputation. This 2006 Phillips Hill is a prime example.

The color is as light as you would expect from a Pinot Noir. Clear and bright. Dark cherries, red berriers, flowers and spice. The 14.5% alcohol is more noticeable on the nose than I remember from my last bottle (April, 2018). And the alcohol shows a bit more on the palate as well. Nevertheless, the special Toulouse Vineyard fruit shows through. Flavors get ever more enticing as the wine airs and as each swallow glides from the front to the back of the tongue. Incredible finish.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Sonoma Junction Sonoma County Chardonnay, 2019

I usually don't get much from label descriptions, but this one seems to me spot-on: "Meyer lemon, ripe pear and vanilla." And those are pretty good traits to have in a Chardonnay, providing ripe fruit, acidity and spicy oak.

Bright yellow. No obvious oak aromas or flavors. Medium full body. Good flavors but finish is a bit rough. The Meyer lemon notes seem dominant to me, and I like that. 

Sonoma has good sites for Chardonnay vineyards, and this wine is a step above your typical California Chardonnay even though it was available for $7.99 at my local Trader Joe's store. I am hoping it will still be availabler when I go back.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Domaine Notre Dame des Pallieres Sablet, 2019

This is neither an old fashioned Cotes du Rhone (which I love) nor a new-fangled one. But it is very good. It's 60% Grenache, 40% Syrah but reminds me of a very good Pinot Noir.

Bright crimson; no sign of new oak barriques. Red berry fruit but more red raspberries rather than strawberries I usually get from Grenache. Syrah black pepper shows up after a few sips...but very elegant. Has the fragrance and silky texture of a Pinot and a long, ripe finish.

I bought this as a "mystery wine" from ($9+ per bottle). It is not what I expected but actually much better. I would jump at the chance to buy some more.


Sunday, February 20, 2022

Terramata Barbera d'Alba, 2017

Like the Ventoux below, this wine is made by a cooperative and is a very good choice for every day drinking. It is probably the same wine as Pertinace Barbera d'Alba, made by the same cooperative.

Bright cherry red. And these bright-red cherries define the wine from first sniff to after taste. A hint of vanilla in the aromas tells me the wine has had some new oak treatment, but it is subtle and does not distract from the beautiful Barbera traits. Medium body, medium tannins. Ripe red cherry fruit on the finish driven by acidity that brings me back for sip after sip.

I bought this wine at deep closeout discount from MegaBev of Grand Rapids (formerly G.B. Russo) , but it is a great value at regular price, about $12 a bottle.


Saturday, February 19, 2022

Vignerons de Mont Ventoux Cuvee des Trois Messes Masses, 2018

Oh, what a welcome blast from the past! This is how Ventoux and Cotes du Rhone wines tasted when it was possible to buy a 12-bottle case of such wines for $35 to $50 a case. It is a taste I love but have a hard time finding these days.

Bright crimson. No blue or purple tints. Ripe red cherries, red raspberries and peppercorn. Lovely combination of ripe fruit and peppery, spicy structure. Long, tasty finish. Made by the Ventoux cooperative; aged several months in concrete vats. 50% Grenache, 30% Carignane and 20% Syrah. Fairly widely available in Michigan for about $12 a bottle.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Edna Road Ranch 500 Edna Valley Chardonnay, 2019

Edna Valley is one of several wind gaps along the California coast, allowing cool ocean breezes to flow in and influence the ripening of grapes. As the label points out, the low rolling hills and volcanic soil are also ideal for creating distinctive Chardonnay wines.

Bright, medium deep yellow. White peaches, fresh squeezed lemon, honey dew melon and flowers. Flavors of butter without the buttery fullness and texture of many California Chardonnays. Long finish, leaves me begging for one more sip.

I paid $8.99 for this bottle at Trader Joe's--a great quality/price ratio. Unfortunately, I have never seen it again at my local (Kalamazoo, MI) Trader Joe';s store

Monchiero Carbone Roero Arneis Cecu DOCG, 2020

The hills of Roero are just across the river from Barolo, and Arneis is often known as the "white Nebbiolo" because of the remarkable similarities in size and shape of the berries. Paired with shrimp pesto pasta tonight, it is a special wine.

Beautiful bright straw. Aromas are fresh, lively and lovely. White currants, mint, sage and flowers. Fresh, ripe fruit on entry developing depth and interest as it glides down the tongue. Picks up notes of roasted nuts and grain. Good body as well as acidity. Long after taste.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Thomas Goss McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016

I tried this wine at a tasting hosted by Old Bridge Cellars and thought it was worth the $14 price tag. Like the Shoo Fly Shiraz I reported on previously, it is produced by Ben Riggs from McLaren Vale fruit.

Deep and dark. Mulberries, blue plums and oak-derived spice. Full bodied but carries its 14.5% alcohol fairly well. At this stage of development, the ripe fruit is peeking through the substantial oak tannins. I would say it is still worth the $14 price tag.