Thursday, June 30, 2022

Thierry Despres Grande Maison Cuvee des Monstres Monbazillac, 1996 (375 ml)

Monbazillac is a satellite of the more prestigious Sauternes/Barsac appellation, and ordinarily sells at a discount. Thierry Despres, however, aspires not only for Sauternes quality but also the standards of the No. 1 Sauternes, Chateau d'Yquem. I don't have enough experience with Yquem to compare the two, but this dessert wine is very, very good.

Deep old gold, nearly turning to copper. Apricots, coconut, honey--botrytis in spades. Very rich and fat on the palate, like apricot puree. I opened it to drink with an apricot tart, and it was a perfect match. One taster compared it to a German Trockenbeerenauslese, and I agree. Loads of pleasure in this little half bottle.

Penfolds Bin 389 South Australia Cabernet Shiraz, 2002


Penfolds is high on this 2002 vintage of Bin 389; notes on the site say it is for drinking from now until 2045. After tasting it, I can see why. The wine is  very young for its 22 years.

Deep and dark, almost opaque. The wine is aged in barrels used previously for the high-end Grange Hermitage. Good barrels, seaoned but still showing plenty of oak qualities. Black fruits, coffee, dark chocolate and sea salt. As the winery points out, it combines savory and sweet qualities. Still very young but has the texture, complexity and depth of a fine wine in or near its prime. A special wine but I am going to wait a few years before drinking my next bottle.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz Michael, 1998

Michael is the premium bottling of Shiraz produced by Wynns, a perennial Coonawarra stalwart.

Deep, dark crimson with minimal bricking at the rim. Very spicy bouquet, vanilla and baking spice. Black raspberries, cassis, vanilla and a touch of coconut. Rich on the mid-palate with good balance of fruit, oak and alcohol. Slight attenuation on the finish but a very good wine that has aged well.

Friday, June 24, 2022

bigLITTLE Leelanau Peninsula White Bland, 2020

bigLITTLE,  a project of brothers Mike and Pete Laing, shares winery space with Mawby near Sutton's Bay on the Leelanau Peninsula. Mixtape, which is now available at Crosstown FreshMarket in Kalamazoo, is a field blend of white grapes--riesling, gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.

Light straw color. Riesling smells of apple, peach and petrol. Also has Riesling acidity and flavors. Residual sugar gives it a touch of sweetness but, for my taste, not at all unwelcome. I am looking forward to trying more bigLITTLE wines;.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Saltram S2 Southeastern Australia Shiraz, 2019

Saltram is an old and respected name in Australian wines, but I had rarely, if ever, seen it offered in the United States until I saw the display in my local (Kalamazoo) Trader Joe's store. And the price was unbelievable--$3.99 a bottle. S2 is not one of Saltrram's top bottlings, but it sells at Dan Murphy's in Melbourne for $35 Australian (about $27 in US dollars). $3.99?? I was told at the checkout that the wine was initially destined for China but rejected for trade reasons. Trader Joe's then bought the whole lot and apparently for a good enough price to offer it at retail for $3.99. Suspecting that, at that price, the wine would not be around tomorrow, I bought a full case and now am glad that I did.

Medium ruby. None of the blue or purple tones that indicate new oak maturation. Smells like Syrah--red and black fruits with a hint of spice and pepper. Same on the palate--unadorned Shiraz fruit, soft and accessible. I suspect that it might improve with a few years in the bottle, but there is no need to wait. It is very enjoyable right now. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Wind Gap Russian River Syrah, 2008

I have never bought much California Syrah, opting instead for French Syrah or Australian Shiraz (which really should be thought of as a different wine altogether). This very good Wind Gap wine from the Russian River is likely to change that habit.

Deep, dark Syrah color. Still youthful. Black raspberry, cassis, black pepper and toasted oak. Reminds me of the wines made in the laste 1980s by Australia's legendary winemaker Trevor Mast at Mount Langi Ghiran. Still has some tannin to lose but the acidity keeps it fresh and lively right now. Strong, likeable fruit.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Fetzer Mendocino Late Harvest Riesling, 1985

This was a white wine when I bought it some 35 years ago. It is now a dark red wine but still has the lovely sweet and acidic flavors that defined it during its youth.

Dark almost muddy color. Has darkened from white to rose to copper to dark red over the years. Lovely peach and honey smells and flavors. Bursting with life. 8.5% alcohol but loaded with acidity and sweetness--like a fresh picked Red Haven peach in late August. Too acidic to accompany dessert (pavlova with whipped cream and strawberries) but very refreshing as an after dinner treat. My last of 24 half bottles purchased many years ago.

Paul Jaboulet Domaine Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage, 1988

Many of the best Syrah wines I have ever had came from Paul Jaboulet's Thalabert vineyard in Crozes-Hermitage. I bought them by the case through the 1980s, and the bottles I have left are treasures.

Brickish color reflects the changes that have taken place over the last 34 years. The smells and flavors though get better with each passing year. Savory rather than fruity. Black fruits, cassis, black olives and cured meats. Rich flavors on the mid palate and amazing complexity. Acidity that brings the flavors into sharp focus. At least as good, maybe better than the bottle I had last year. Both the 1985 and 1988 are still going strong. The 1983 and 1990 are even better.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Yorkville Cellars Yorkville Highlands Rennie Vineyard Cabernet Franc, 2009

Our introduction to Mendocino wine was at Yorkville Cellars. Following the main road through the valley on our way to the North Pacific coastline, we drove past a picturesque vineyard with sheep grazing between the rows. The sign at the road advertised free tastings, and we were ready for a break. We knew little about the reputation of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, and Yorkville produces only Bordeaux varietals. We liked what we tasted and later ended up buying a mixed case during the estate's annual End of Prohibition Celebration wine sale. Yorkville makes good wine--unpretentious, organic and authentic. With a few years of age on it, this Cab Franc is particularly appealing.

Medium light, bright ruby. Beautiful smells of cherries, black raspberries, flowers. There is a Cab Franc quality on the palate that some describe as "dirt," and this wine has it although it has toned down nicely with some time in the bottle, coming across as earthy minerals. Bright acidity, blending nicely with fruit and oak tannins.

If you get on the Yorkville mailing list, you can get notices of the End of Prohibition sale. Wines are sold at a deep discount (50% off??) and shipping is free. If the winery produced Pinot, I would buy every year.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Wind Gap Woodruff Vineyard Chardonnay, 2013

 I bought at closeout prices both the 2012 and 2013 Woodruff Vineyard Chardonnay. After having tasted both several times, we have concluded that the 2012 is the better wine. But both are remarkably good in a high acid format that is rarely found among Chardonnays from California.

Deep gold. Deeper and darker than I remember from the last bottle. It may look overly mature but still has lots of life. Lemon creme, pears and sweet spice. Bracing acidity. A cascade of flavors that get richer and more enjoyable with every sip. Leaner and less complex than the 2012 but still very good.


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Bec Hardy Pertaringa Lakeside McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon, 2019

There was a time when Cabernet Sauvignon was everybody's favorite wine. But it's now hard to find a good Napa Cabernet for less than $50, and Australian Cabs have also climbed the price ladder. I rarely buy Cabernet any more, and I really don't miss it because I have found good alternatives in the Rhone Valley and Piedmont. This wine, though, is a throwback to the wines I enjoyed in the 1970s and 1980s. It is a good every day drinker at a decent price ($11.99 at Costco).

Very dark. More purple than I am used to seeing. Blackberries, currants, cassis, vanilla. Tannins that give strructure but do not obscure the flavors. Warm and friendly on the finish. This wine might gain some complexity with a few years in the bottle, but it might also lose some of its charming Cabernet fruit. It's priced for every day drinking.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages Saint Gervais, 2000

 Cotes du Rhone Villages wines generally do not age beyond 10 or 12 years. But wines from Domaine Sainte-Anne, particularly the Saint Gervais, with its high level of Mourvedre, have a reputation for long aging. Even so, I was a bit skeptical about this wine since my last two bottles from the 2004 vintage were well past their prime. No problem; the 2000 is still singing.

Deep crimson/ruby. Beautiful scents of violets, red and black fruits, Mourvedre spice. Rich fruit on the mid-palate, ripe fruit and skin tannins but no sign of new oak. Mellow red fruit finish. This cuvee now sells for $25 to $30 but is still good value at that price.

Friday, June 10, 2022

TuaTea Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2021

I have in past vintages rated TuaTea as a notch above most inexpensive Sauvignon Blancs on the market. With my first taste of the 2021 TuaTea, I will stick with that assessment. It sells for $6.99 at Trader Joe's.

Light, bright straw. Smells of grapefruit, passion fruit, melon. Some textural richness on the palate that reminds me of a Bordeaux Blanc. Medium light citric finish.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Cambria Katherine's Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay, 2020

Cambria, located in the Santa Maria Valley of Santa Barbara, produces cool climate Chardonnay wines that typically get high ratings from critics. This Katherine Vineyards bottling is a perennial favorite, and, after tasting it, I can understand why.

Bright lemon yellow. Lovely smells of flowers, musk melon, white peaches and a hint of vanilla. Meyer lemon and golden delicious apples on the palate. The wine has been barrel fermetned but is not your typical buttery Chardonnay. The oak is light and balanced by citric acidity, derived from what the estate calls the "refrigerated sunshine" of the Santa Maria Valley. Long, delicious finish with lots of zest. The best is yet to come, in my opinion. It is now available at Costco in Kalamazoo for about $14 a bottle, an excellent value.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Domaine de Marcoux Chateauneuf du Pape, 1990 (375 ml)

The 1990 Marcoux Chateauneuf du Pape was highly regarded. Robert Parker gave it 91 points and called it a "remarkable Chateauneuf du Pape." I was fortunate to get a case of 375 ml bottles and found it truly remarkable at 10, 15, 20 years of age. The last half bottle has rested in my cellar for many years, and I assumed that, at 32 years of age in the 375 ml format, it would be a shadow of its old self. But while it may not be at its best, it is still a remarkable wine.

Light brick color. The cork was difficult to remove. Has the smells of savory, mature Chateauneuf du Pape. I love it. Mellow but still full of life. Dried strawberries, compact and concentrated. Very concentrated. Long finish. Wish I had a few more.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Gaggino Convivio Ovada Dolcetto, 2018

Despite its name, which means "little sweetie," Dolcetto from the Piedmont region of Italy is not a sweet wine. In fact, it has a pleasantly bitter note on the finish, which makes it a perfect match for tomato-based pasta or pizza. It is believed the name derives from the gentle hills where it grows best. The best Dolcetto comes from Dogliani and Diano d'Alba, but good quantities are grown in Ovada, a bit more removed from the prestigious sites of Barolo and Barbaresco.

Dark ruby purple which can be attributed to the skin color of the grapes rather than oak treatment. Exciting scents of fresh cherries, red and black fruits, iron. Fruity but not frivolous. Medium bodied. Dolceto is generally less acidic than Barbera but this wine has enough to keep me coming back for sip after sip. What I love best, though, is the pleasantly bitter finish, with notes of almonds and walnut husk.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Umani Ronchi Rosso Conero San Lorenzo Marche, 2018

This wine is made from Montepulciano grapes--simple, straightforward and oh so delicious. I had it at Eataly in Chicago with spaghetti pomodoro, which was the same.

Dark crimson ruby. Blackberries, blue plums, cassis, sweet oak. Mid weight, doesn't try to do too much. Not at all tannic and the acidity is framed nicely by ripe peels and oak. A great accompaniment for pomodoro sauce.


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

La Ca Nova Nebbiolo Bocciolo, 2018

This is not La Ca Nova, which has excellent vineyards in Barbaresco, but Azienda Agricola Ca Noval, located in the Novara hills of the northern Piedmont at the foot of the Monte Rosa massif.. I had a glass of it to accompany my meal of campanelle bolognese at Alla Vita on Randolph Street in Chicago. Both the meal and wine were excellent.

It's too dark in the restaurant to note the color, but smells and flavors confirm that the wine is made by a staunch traditionalist (without barriques). Enchanting scents of red flowers, dark cherries, savory spices and black pepper. Very peppery. Seems approachable and elegant on initial sips, but the characteristic Nebbiolo dryness becomes more and more apparent as the meal progresses. Still very bold and tannic; should age well. Flavors follow me all the way back to our hotel. A special wine that is selling for $16.99 at Binny's in Chicago.