Sunday, October 30, 2022

Frazier Russian River Dutton Ranch Chardonnay, 2011

Dutton Ranch has a reputation for producing some of the best California Chardonnays, but most on the market are too expensive for my budget.. When I saw this Dutton Ranch Chardonnay available at auction for a reserve of $10, I quickly made a bid, even though the wine is 11 years old and from a lesser known producer.  It was a good decision.

Deep gold color, bright and lively. Does not look, smell or taste old. Spiced apple-- rich, buttered and caramelized. Has some French oak lime to doll it up, but the fruit is unmistakeably from a superior vineyard. Deep, deep flavors supported by ample acidity. Long, complex finish.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Roucas Toumba La Grande Terre Vacqueyras, 2011

This is classic Vacqueyras--ripe, dramatic and full of gamey personality. It was a great match for grilled lamb chops.

Deep, dark ruby. No traces of new oak or small barrels. Powerful bouquet of dark cherry, blackberries, violets, black licorice and pepper. Equally bold on the palate. Cherries and new leather. Good body and ripe flavors that coat the tongue. 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Mourvedre, but the Syrah and Mourvedre seem to dominate at this stage of the wine's development. The Wine Advocate recommended drinking by 2019; John Livingstone-Learmouth (DrinkRhone,com), by 2022-2023. I think it still offers several more years of dramatic pleasure.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Kermit Lynch Languedoc Cabrieres, 2020

This wine from Southern France took awhile to open up but was well worth the wait. It's 55% Syrah and that is apparent in the dark ruby color and the aromas of blackberries, currants and black olives. The Grenache (35%) kicks in with strawberries, garrigue and a peppery finish. Carignan (7%) and Cinsault (3%) add some earthy, spicy intrigue. Gets better with every sip, and I think the wine has more to give over the next several years.

I bought this ($54 for half a case) from Dave Russo at MegaBev in Grand Rapids--an excellent value from Southern France.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

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

I was disappointed with this wine a few months ago, perhaps because it was tasted in the company of other very good Chateauneufs, including the 1994 Pegau Cuvee Reservee. Tonight, as a match for grilled lamb chops, it was singing.

Medium dark crimson. Some sediment near the bottom. Intense, lilting aromas of herbs, strawberries, mint, new leather and sea salt. Very much a Chateauneuf du Pape and the grapes come from venerable vineyards in la Crau and Piedlong. Plums, berries and cherries on the palate. Has a gamey quaality that probably turned me off last December, but it is very similar to the gamey notes in Australian or New Zealand lamb. A perfect wine for the meal. And still growing.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Saltram S2 Southeast Australia Shiraz, 2019

Most Australian Shiraz is rather heavily influenced by oak--sometimes too much for my taste. This Saltram S2 Shiraz shows very little, if any, oak...but I am not a fan.

Medium ruby. None of the dark, purplish or blue tones that go with new oak maturation. Ripe berry and plum flavors but lacking in acidity, structure and flavor interest. The grapes have apparently been matured in stainless steel with just a touch of oak. It doesn't work for me.

Syrah grapes have relatively thick skins with plenty of tannin. I have enjoyed many unoaked wines from the Rhone Valley of France with tannic structure, acidity and peppery spice. Oak is not needed or desired for wines from such vineyards. The Southeast Australia vineyards that produced the Saltram Shiraz do not measure up. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Wind Gap Gap's Crown Vineyard Chardonnay, 2013

Of the three Wind Gap Chardonnays I obtained from WineBid, this is my favorite.

Medium deep gold. Lemon meringue, green apples and minerals. The flavors of butter but not the texture and fatness that comes from malolactic fermentation. Also some vanilla-like spice, but I don't believe it is oak-induced. Too brisk for some drinkers but just right for me. 

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso, 2008

I have enjoyed this wine over the last 12 years, and I believe it may be starting its downward slide. It is still an excellent wine, however, graceful and elegant with twinkling flavors.

Even in its youth, this Etna Rosso had some orangeish tints on the rim, and these have expanded toward the middle. The same happens with a good Barolo or Barbaresco, of course. The dark cherries and pomegranates that I noted two years are less prominent now--more dried than fresh fruit. On the other hand, the exotic spice and floral tones may be even more prominent and intriguing. Not much tannin, but the acids keep the wild berry flavors dancing along the palate. Long, haunting finish. My advice at this point: drink up but don't give up. The wine still has a lot to give.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Quinta do Cabriz Dao Colheita Selecionada, 2014

I fell in love with Dao wines in a small pizza place on the banks of the Douro in Porto, Portugal. Donna and I were waiting for a carryout pizza, and the waiter offered us a glass of wine while we were waiting. It was a Grao Vasco from Dao, and the waiter described it as a "very good wine, very low price." $3 a glass, as I remember, and it was very good. Since then, I have had an eye out for wines from this Portuguese region, and I found this Quinta do Cabriz for $6.99 a bottle five years ago at Costco. It too is a very good wine at a very low price.

Bright red with garnet hints. Nicely aromatic: black raspberries, blue plums and herbs. Medium to light body. Some tannin on mid-palate but doesn't get in the way of the bright fruit flavors. Dark spices, licorice and pepper on the long finish. Reminds me of a good Pinot Noir but also some qualities of Nebbiolo. Very good to drink now, but I suspect it will get even better with a year or two in the cellar.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Thibault Liger-Belair Bourgogne Les Deux Terres, 2014

This Bourgogne Rouge is a blend of two Burgundian grapes--Pinot Noir and Gamay (the major grape of Beaujolais). The result is a delicious wine and a good value at $20 a bottle.

Medium dark ruby--more like Gamay than Pinot in appearance. Dark cherries, earth and zesty, peppery spice on the finish. Concentrated, somewhat complex finish. Could be a good match for pizza, pasta, beef or salmon.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Cusomona Sicilian Nero d'Avila Terre Sicilane, 2019

This is a $12 to $15 drink now wine that gives considerably more than simple pleasures. Deep and dark with violet tones. Bold aromas and flavors featuring dark cherries, blue plums and spice. Tannin is there but it doesn't keep the fruit flavors from bursting onto the tongue. Ample acidity to keep the flavors lively and interesting. Flavors linger long after the final sip.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Kenwood Six Ridges Russian River Pinot Noir, 2018

This 2018 Kenwood Pinot Noir is also available as a wine by the glass at the Out of the Fire Cafe in Donegal, PA. I couldn't resist trying it side by side with the Kenwood Cabernet.

The light in the cafe is not the best, but Donna and I both saw this Pinot as considerably darker than the 2017 Cabernet beside it. Not at all typical of Pinot Noir. And whereas we didn't find blackcurrant smells and flavors in the Cab, we did find them in the Pinot. Not as tannic as the Cab and more of the peppery spice that is typical of Pinot Noir. And while it may fail the elegance test that is expected from Pinot Noir, it is a very enjoyable drink, with a long expressive finish.


Kenwood Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017

Kenwood Cabernet was high on my buying list back in the early 1980s, but in more recent years the price of the wine has sort of outpaced my perception of quality and enjoyment. When I saw this 2017 Kenwood Alexander Valley Cab offered for $13 a glass at the excellent Out of the Fire Cafe in Donegal, PA, I wanted to give it a try. I was not disappointed.

Deep, dark Cabernet color. Matured in French, American and Hungarian oak. The flavors seems to be ahead of the aromas at this stage.Boysenberries, blackberries, vanilla and a touch of cinnamon. Not overly influenced by oak. Fruit and spice flavors take over on the finish. Long and nuanced with enough acidity to make the flavors dance on the tongue. I like this wine. 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Amalie Robert Her Silhouette Willamette Valley Chardonnay, 2011

Amalie Robert's Her Silhouette is a Dijon Clone Chardonnay and about as unadorned as you can get--no oak and no malolactic fermentation. At 11 years of age, it is still a youthful, exuberant example of Oregon Chardonnay.

Remarkably light color for an 11-year-old white wine. And the aromas and flavors are equally youthful. Proves the thesis that it is acid rather than oak tannin that determines the ageability of wine. Fresh and lively, lemon cream, apple and minerals. Abundant acidity, perhaps more than many tasters would prefer. But it is fruit acidity, unadorned by the sweetness of oak. And I love it.


Saturday, October 1, 2022

Chateau de Richebois Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2021

A 2021 red wine? I love older wines and frequently dig into my cellar for bottles from the 1980s. But I also love younger wines, particularly traditionally made wines from the Southern Rhone. Through the 1980s and 1990s, I usually bought case quantities of my favorite Cotes du Rhone wines on release and drank them within the first year or two as a preview of what the vintage offered and a guide to whether I should buy more expensive offerings from Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and other CDR Villages. This wine, with its fruity, yeasty charm, reminds me of those young Cotes Rhones.

Medium deep crimson. I'm reasonably certain it has not been aged in new oak barrels, as many young Southern Rhones are these days. Cherries, plums, strawberries and a hint of black pepper. I suspect the pepper element will get more prominent as the wine ages. Very smooth on the palate.

Chateau Richebois CDR Villages is a new offering at my local Trader Joe's, selling for $7.99--an excellent price for a CDR and an even better value for a CDR Villages. I will buy more.