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.