Friday, December 29, 2023

Valdinera Nebbiolo d'Alba Sontuoso, 2011

Sontuoso is the Italian word for sumptuous, and this wine is sumptuous although it did require three and a half hours of aeration to show its best. From vineyards across the river in Roero, this Nebbiolo d'Alba comes close to matching the richness and power of a good Barolo.

Bright ruby with orangeish tones typical of Nebbiolo. Tar and roses, indeed! Very aromatic and very Nebbiolo. Dark cherries, rich and concentrated.  Substantial skin tannins on the mid-palate provide flavor as well as structure. Plenty of acidity for balance. And then the dark cherry finish, which gets more sumptuous, concentrated and complex with every sip.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Benton Lane Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2022

Benton Lane was an early starter in the Oregon wine movement. Located in the southern Willamette Valley, between Eugene and Corvallis, grapes here get plenty of sunlight for complete ripening before the autumn rains. The result is a very good Pinot Noir that  is widely available and, at $24.99, a fine value. I had this glass to accompany a delicious Faro Island salmon dish at Kitchen 600 in Kalamazoo.

Deep and dark red. Has all the concentrated smells and flavors that I associate with Willamette Valley Pinot: cherries, pepper and spice. Sweet French oak balanced with orange zest acidity. Lots of complexity on the finish. I have had some excellent Oregon Pinots over the past several months, and this measures up nicely for quality and value.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Graham's 10-Year-Old Tawny Port

This wine comes from juice aged in seasoned oak for an average of 10 years to create a complex, vibrant after-dinner drink with notes of dried fruit and nuts. 

Figs, nuts and eucalyptus honey. Rich and mellow with a pleasant bite on the finish.

Chateau Poujeaux Moulis-en-Medoc (Bordeaux), 1985

Chateau Poujeaux produced good wines during the 1980s. The 1985 did not get particularly high reviews, however, and I was able to secure several bottles for a low price. Unfortunately, I drank most of those way too early, hanging on to the more highly regarded bottles of Poujeaux from 1982. Two remaining bottles of the 1985 I have had over the past two years, however, have been spectacular.

Medium garnet, lighter than the 1985 Sociando Mallet beside it at the table. Smells and flavors, though, are much brighter and fresher. Red as well as black fruits plus some coffee, pencil shavings and spice. Ripe tannins and tangy acidity. Sparkling complexity on the long finish. The highlight of the evening and a good match for beef tenderloin with a mushroom wine reduction sauce.

Chateau Sociando Mallet Haut Medoc (Bordeaux), 1985

Sociando Mallet always gets high marks from critics for its quality and ageworthiness. A bottle of this 1985 we had in July of this year was drinking beautifully, but this bottle is a distinct disappointment, not as good as either the 2005 Greysac or the 1985 Poujeaux beside it at the table.

The color has some bricking but is darker than the 1985 Poujeaux. Smells are a bit muted, but no one at the table found any hint of cork taint. Some pleasant red and black fruit flavors but also a bit muted and dry. I suspect this may have cork taint but slight enough that it does not show up in the damp cardboard smells usually associated with TCA.

Chateau Greysac Medoc (Bordeaux), 2005

This is a reliable inexpensive Bordeaux Bourgeois Cru that I have bought and enjoyed for many years. I bought this bottle for about $12 when it was released, but the current vintage sells for about $25.

Good deep Cabernet color. Well preserved fruit. Currants, berries, spice. More black than red fruits. Acid, tannin, fruit, oak in good balance. A bit of sediment on the last pour. Holding well with no sign of decline. This wine is in this week's WineBid auction with a reserve of $25.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Marchesi di Barolo Barolo, 1999

As the final wine of a delightful Nebbiolo evening, this 25-year-old Barolo performed well. It is drinking beautifully but gives no sign of growing old.

Medium ruby with orangish tones typical of Nebbiolo. Red cherries, roses and licorice, as you might expect. Both red and black fruits. Acidity that makes it dance across the palate.

Ca del Baio Pianrosa Barbaresco, 2008

Moving from Nerbbiolo Perbacco to Ca del Baio Barbaresco is not a big step up, but there are differences in fruit and personality.

More red fruit acidity in this wine compared to Perbacco. Sleeker on the mid-palate but still plenty of rich cherry fruit. The strength and structure of a Barolo; yet, it's much more accessible than the last bottle I had a few years ago. Very good but may not have reached its peak.


Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco, 2009


Vietti's Perbacco is generally recognized as one of, in not the, best generic Nebbiolo--a baby Barolo. Tonight, with a hearty beef stew, it served as the introduction to a very good Barbaresco and a very good Barolo. And it measured up quite.

After an hour or two of aeration, Perbacco is open and ready for business. Red berry fruit, rose petal and menthol. Medium bodied with lovely fruit, perfectly balanced between ripe tannins and fresh acidity.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert, 1995

Domaine Thalabert is, of course, one of my all-time favorites. Even compared to the Chave St. Joseph Offerus beside it at the table, I still pick it as my favorite, even though others may disagree.

Medium ruby, brighter and deeper than the Offerus even though it is three years older. Intense red and black fruits, leather and spice. Prominent acidity and the hallmark Thalabert finish that keeps the tongue tingling for minutes. This 1995 is not as good as others in the series, notably the 1983, 1990, 1988, 1985. But it is Thalabert, and I love it.

J.L. Chave Selection St. Joseph Offerus, 1998

In my opinion, this St. Joseph from Chave, selling for about $30, is the very best value in Syrah on the market. Chave doesn't own the vineyards but he has selected grapes that get to the essence of Syrah.

Medium deep garnet/ruby. The color is changing, but the wine is just as enticing as it was when I first tasted it 20-some years ago. Compared to the Spanish and Australian Syrah wines beside it on the table, it stands out for its crisp red berry berry acidity that comes across in the bouquet as well as the flavors. Black fruits and cassis too. A wine that just keeps getting better with every sip. 1998 was one of the early years for Offerus and it was available in my market for about $20. The price has gone up a bit since then, but is still a bargain.

Brothers in Arms Langhorne Creek Shiraz, 2001

This Langhrone Creek Shiraz was an immediate hit at the table, even compared to the very good Syrah/Petit Verdot that preceded it. At 22 years of age, it is fresh, lively and youthful.

Medium deep color, bricking a bit. Very expressive bouquet of red and black fruit, eucaplyptus and spice. Intense flavors of ripe berries, tobacco and menthol with good acidity. Drinking beautifully now and should hold or get better over the next few years.


Marques de Grinon Dominio du Valdepusa Caliza, 2010

This Spanish wine is 65% Syrah and 35% Petit Verdot. It is a big, heavily extracted wine that is softened a bit by the addition of aromatic Petit Verdot.

Very dark, opaque. Quite a bit of sediment; You can tease some lovely floral aromatics from this wine, but on the palate it's dense and powerful. Ripe black and purple fruits and spices on an earthy, mineral background. The wine is significantly better, in my opinion, because of the Petit Verdot in the blend.

Couloir Roma's Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2007

I hadn't heard of Sheldon Vineyards when I bought the Pinot reported on below. But I was well aware of Roma's Vineyard because of this beautiful wine from Couloir I first purchased more than a decade ago. It was and still is one of all-time favorite Pinot Noirs. Same vineyard, different vintages, different winemaker. Sheldon's wine is unoaked because the winemaker didn't want to distract from the beauty of wine from this wild and remote vineyard. Jon Grant, at Couloir, apparently did use new oak but the vineyard charm still comes through.

Medium light ruby, slightly lighter than the Sheldon. Lilting scents from the time the cork is popped. More aromatic than the Sheldon. Also sweeter than the Sheldon with less prominent tannins. It is three years older, of course. Slightly tart red berries, lovely acidity and a finish that just doesn't stop. Intense, delicate, powerful. Roma's V, I love you!

Friday, December 22, 2023

Sheldon Roma's Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2010

Roma's Vineyard is a wild and remote part of the Anderson Valley, a ridge overlooking Boonville in the far north of the valley. The biggest danger to the crop comes from black bears, who harvest a few of the remotest acres on their own. Tobe and Dylan Sheldon, knowing the special qualities of the vineyard, choose to make this wine without any new oak and I love what I find in my glass. 

Medium light garnet, lighter around the rim. Not extremely aromatic compared to the Couloir Roma's Vineyard Pinot beside it at the table. Flavors though are intense, complex and delicious. Sour cherries and cranberries. Tannins on the mid-palate are ripe and lovely with plenty of intense acidity to balance. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

WillaKenzie Estate Estate (Yamhill-Carlton) Chardonnay, 2016

WillaKenzie Estate is named after the distinctive WillaKenzie soil of the Yamhill-Carlton sub-appellation  of Oregon's Willamette Valley. This soil makes its mark on several excellent Pinot Noir vineyards at Willakenzie as well as in this delicious Estate Chardonnay.

The yellow gold color has darkened a bit but is bright and clear. Ripe apple, blood orange and orange zest on the nose. Round and rich in the mouth but with crisp acidity. Sweet and savory flavors on the mid-palate and finish. Perfect right now.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Vinha da Coutada Velha Alentejano Red Blend, 2020

If I had this wine at a blind tasting, I would never guess it is from Portugal. It looks, smells and tastes like a young (and expensive) Cabernet blend from California.. And I would never guess the price: $6.79 from Costco. It is 30% Temperanillo, 30% Trincadeira, 30% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in "used barrels." My guess is that these barrels have not been used enough to become neutral because there are oaky smells and flavors in the wine.

Purplish red, opaque. Very aromatic with a lush mouth feel. Blackberries, blue plums and cassis but also red berries and cherries. The contrast of red and black fruits adds some delightful tension. I detect a spicy, herbal component on the finish that is not really typical of any of the grapes used in the blend. It's an attractive trait, and I can see it becoming ever more prominent as the wine ages.

I bought this wine last summer, intending to try it to see if I should buy more. Unfortunately, I don't think it is still on the shelves of my local Costco.


Saturday, December 16, 2023

Phelps Creek Columbia Gorge Chardonnay, 2017

The Columbia Gorge runs between Oregon and Washington, and this wine was made from Dijon and Davis clone grapes on the Oregon side plus Wente clone grapes grown on Washington's Underwood mountain on the other side of the river. It's a cool climate with volcanic soils, and the wine spent 11 months in French oak barrels, 10% new.

Medium deep yellow. Tropical fruit at first but more apple and pear flavors as the wine warms and aerates. Minerals and spice. Medium acidity. Drinking beautifully now, but I don't think this is a 10-year Chardonnay.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Terramata Barbera d'Alba, 2017

In the Piedmont area of Italy, Barbera is typically a wine to drink with the pasta course. And it's a good choice because the natural acidity of Barbera matches up well with the acidity of a good mariara sauce. We had spinach raviolo in a marinar sauce tonight, and this Terramata Barbera was a perfect match.

Bright, medium deep ruby/violet. Enticing scents and flavors of cherries, sweet and sour, vanilla and black pepper. Bright and lively fruit. Adds another dimernsion to the meal. From my memory, this 2017 is substantially better tonight than it was when I last had it on February 22 of this year.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Pike Road Willamrette Valley Pinot Noir, 2022

Pike Road Winery, a sibling of Elk Cove, is located near Yamhill, but this inexpensive bottling is produced from grapes purchased from several family-owned vineyards in the area  representing four different sub appellations. It is a beautiful Pinot Noir and an excellent value selling for $20 a bottle (16.99 right now at Plum Market in Ann Arbor).

Dark ruby violet color. Dark cherries, black currants, flowers. Ripe fruit and oak. A touch of blood orange zest on the lush finish. This wine would not embarrass itself in a lineup of single vineyard Oregon Pinots selling for $50 and up.


Monday, December 11, 2023

Amalie Robert Heirloom Cameo Chardonnay, 2011

I reported last year and the year before on Amalie Robert's 2011 Her Silhouette Chardonnay. That beautiful wine was unoaked with no malolactic fermentation. This wine, made from Dijon clone grapes from the same vineyard, is the exact opposite--barrel fermented and matured in one large French oak puncheon, then matured in new oak and given extended time on its lees plus malolactic fermentation. The works. And it too is excellent, although in a different way.

Light yellow, bright and youthful despite its age. Aromas of lime, pineapple, spice and white flowers. A rich wine but oh so elegant. Silky mouthfeel and well delineated flavors of fruit, spice, minerals and toast. Long finish is punctuated by a distinct note of ripe apple.

On the second night, after being re-corked, this wine is even better..;and more what I expected. The color is deeper as a result of more exposure to air and the smells and flavors are also deeper and richer. Very aromatic: flowers, tropical fruit, honeysuckle and spice. Full on the mid-palate with a slight leesy effect. Again, the distinct note of ripe apple on the finish

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhones Villages Saint Gervais, 2005

This is my favorite cuvee of Domaine Sainte Anne, now known as Les Rouvieres rather than Saint Gervais. Unlike most CDR Villages wines, it is 60 to 70% Mourvedre plus 15 to 20% Syrah and 15 to 20% Grenache, all from vines planted in the early 1960s. It rightly commands a premium price and needs significant cellar time.

Bright crimson, surprisingly deep for an 18-year-old wine. Bright cherries, red berries, violets, cassis. Round structure, well balanced for fruit, acid, tannin. Grainy tannins at first but with an hour of aeration, they seem to fade away, leaving full access to the lovely red berry flavors. Lots of spicy Mourvedre nuances on the long finish. I love it.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Famille Perrin Ventoux, 2020

I realize that many of the wines I report on these days are not "budget" wines. As I get older, my goal is to drink less but better. But there are nights, like tonight and last night, when a budget wine is the best choice. And I know of no better budget choice than these two wines: Franco Serra Barbera d'Alba ($10 to $12 in most stores) and Famille Perrin Ventoux ($6 from Plum Market in Ann Arbor and $10 to $12 elsewhere). I think the 2020 Perrin Ventoux we are drinking tonight is probably more delicious and meal friendly than other recent vintages from 2017 to 2021.

Bright medium dark crimson. Primary grapes for this wine are Carignan and Cinsult, but it still comes across to me as a very good Grenache-oriented wine. Fresh blueberries and strawberries plus fruit spice from the Carignan and Cinsault. Juicy and ripe with acidity that keeps me coming  back for sip after sip. As an accompaniment to penne pasta with a rich tomato sauce, this is perfect.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Franco Serra Barbera d'Alba, 2018

At least in my marketing area, Franco Serrra is usually the least expensive Barbera, selling for $10 to $12. For my taste, it may be the best.

Medium dark ruby, bright and clear. Fresh cherrry-oriented aromas typical of Barbera. Has good Barbera acidity but more tannic structure than the Fontanafredda Barbera I had last night. Delicious fruit tannins with the grip and spice of red and black raspberries


Friday, December 1, 2023

Domaine du Grand Tinel Chateauneuf du Pape, 1995


Herb-crusted rack of lamb, in my opinion, requires a good old-fashioned Chateauneuf du Pape. And this 1995 Grand Tinel is about as classic as it gets.

Brilliant ruby, deep and remarkably dark for a wine nearing its 30th birthday. Minimal lightening around the rim. Beautiful Chateauneuf smells--garrigue, dried and fresh fruits, cassis and leather. Could never be mistaken, in a blind tasting, for anything other than a Chateauneuf du Pape. Lovely savory traits on the palate. Fruit is well developed and complex. Perfect example of a well aged traditionally made Chateauneuf. Blends beautifully with the herb crusted lamb. 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reservee Chateauneuf du Pape, 1989

I tasted this wine from the barrel with the winemaker, Laurence Feraud, on a trip to the Rhone in the early 1990s. It has always been one of my all-time favorite wines...and still is.

Dark brickish color. Lots of sediment at bottom of bottle. Powerful, savory bouquet of Provencal herbs, dark fruit, leather and Chateauneuf earth. A broad shouldered wine, full bodied and ripe on the mid-palate. Fresh and dried fruit, darker than I would expect from a wine that is 80 to 85% Grenache. Tastes sweet but has the acid to keep it fresh and lively. Improves with about an hour of airing and then holds steadily through the meal. It was a perfect match for herb-crusted rack of lamb.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Dominio IV Mulberry Street Vitae Springs Pinot Noir, 2011

Even though Wines Till Sold Out ( was offering this wine at a very good price ($15.79) for an Oregon Pinot Noir, I bought it for a non-wine-related reason. My grandson, Malcolm, was born in 2011 on Mulberry Street in Lebanon, OH, and my daughter is collecting wines from his birth year to give him on his 21st birthday. 2011 was not a great vintage for Oregon Pinot, so I opened this bottle tonight to see if it might be capable of aging another nine years.

A small pour reveals a brickish color. In the glass, it's a medium garnet with good brilliance. Enticing scents and flavors of strawberries, rose petals, orange zest and pepper. Very appealing. The wine has a delicate profile that is not at all like Malcolm but might be appealing to him as a young adult. Will it last that long? I am not sure. The tannin/acid balance is good now and might stay that way for another three or four years. Nine might be pushing it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Pelissero Nebbiolo Langhe, 2012

This Langhe Nebbiolo is produced from young vines (15 years and younger) on Pelissero's estate in Barbaresco. It has the elegance and charm of a Barbaresco wine rather than the power and beauty of a Barolo.

Medium light color. Aromas seem muted when the cork is popped. With an hour and a half of aeration, they begin to emerge--subtle and pretty scents of flowers and fresh fruit. Flavors are also subtle rather than bold. Wild strawberries, cranberries, white pepper, ripe tannins. Understated and lovely. I find it hard to quit sniffing and sipping this wine but suspect that it will be even better with another year or two in the cellar.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Tenuta Tamburnin la 3 Seuri Freisa d'Asti, 2015'

This 2015 Freisa has many of the aromatic qualities and some of the flavors I love in a good Barolo...but at a fraction of the cost.

Bright ruby. Enticing aromas of rose petals, bing cherries, cinnamon and cloves. Ripe cherry flavors with a touch of black licorice. Mouth tingling acidity and enough tannin to add flavor intensity that lingers and pleases. Ligher and more approachable than Barolo or Barbaresco but thoroughly enjoyable..


Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Carpe Diem Anderson Valley Chardonnay, 2019

This lovely Chardonnay was made by Roederer, the French Champagne maker that set up shop  in the Anderson Valley of California. The folks at Roederer clearly like the sunlight, the soil, the cool maritime climate and the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes that flourish in the Anderson Valley. This wine confirms their choice.

Brilliant yellow. Green apples, lemon curd, lemon zest and a hint of almonds. Buttered brioche on the tongue. Rich fruit, elegant wine. Savory notes emerge as the wine warms in the glass. In many ways, this is like drinking a still version of a Blanc de Blanc. I love it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Domaine de l"Espigouette Gigondas, 2012

Bernard Latour's Domaine de l'Espigouette is located in the Plan de Dieu, and I have enjoyed many of his Cotes du Rhone and CDR Villages Plan de Dieu wines. Bernard has also branched out into Vacqueyras and Gigondas, and this is my first go at one of these upper level CDR Villages.

Deep, dark color. And dark is the number one adjective that comes to mind as I taste this wine. The bouquet has the lifted notes of menthol and garrigue that are typical of Gigondas. But there is a strong black strap molasses quality on the palate that I associate more with Vacqueyras than Gigondas. No worry, the two appellations are very close to each other. Very big, very powerful but under it all I find charming blueberry, strawberry fruit that is very similar to that in the 3 Messes Basses Ventoux beside it at the table. That is a big compliment to the Ventoux (which sells for about a third the cost of the l'Espigouette) but no insult to the Gigondas.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Les Vignerons de Mont Ventoux Cuvee des 3 Messes Basses Ventoux, 2019


I have great nostalgia for the Southern Rhones of yesteryear--extravagant, traditionally made and inexpensive. And this wine from the cooperative at Mont Ventoux is the best I know for satisfying my thirst. 60% Grenache/20% Syrah/20% Carignan.

Bright ruby/violet. Red cherries, garrigue on the nose; bright red fruit and black pepper on rhe palate. Fruit seems deeper and more defined than the 2018 vintage I had last year. Also slightly more tannic on the finish. Just right. I want more.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Ribbon Ridge Vineyard Willamette Valley Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir, 2017

When Robert Parker's brother-in-law launched his winemaking venture in Oregon's Willamette Valley, he chose land in the Ribbon Ridge area. Beaux Freres, as the winery is known, has been highly acclaimed, and its Pinot Noirs command a premium price. Ribbon Ridge Vineyards is a smaller and less well known operation in the area which sells some of its grapes to other nearby wineries although, as the label points out, the winery keeps the best produce for its own wines.

Medium deep garnet, dark for Pinot but part of the Ribbon Ridge profile--induced by soil and micro climate rather than over-extraction and oak. The aromas at age six are captivating: red raspberries, dark cherries, spring flowers. Deep flavors that eventually trend toward strawberry plus orange zest and peppery spice. Treads lightly on the tongue with excellent fruit/acid balance. Some grippy tannins on the finish, suggesting that this lovely wine is going to get even better over the next five years or so.

Whereas most Beaux Freres wines sell for $100 plus, this Ribbon Ridge retails for $38 to $40. I bought mine for $17.99 two years ago from Wines Till Sold Out.


Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Domaine des Baumard Les Caleches, 2017

I have been drinking the wines of Domaine des Baumard for more than four decades, and some of the wines from the 1970s and 1980s are still in my cellar, seemingly getting better every year. Those wines were ridiculously cheap at the time because few Americans knew what they were; today Savennieres and Cotesu du Layon wines from Baumard carry the price tags they deserve. This less expensive wine, Les Caleches, is not made for the ages but is an excellent choice for every day service. A blend of Anjou Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, it sells for $12 to $15 and drinks well above its class.

Deep gold, darker than the Chardonnay beside it on the table. Chardonnay peaches and pears; Chenin Blanc flowers, minerals and honey. Rich and viscous on the palate. Plump legs cling to the inside of the glass even though the alcohol content is only 12.5%.. Darker and deeper than Chardonnay but no less charming. I hope wine distributors keep bringing Les Caleches into my marketing area. I will be a regular buyer.


Monday, November 6, 2023

Edna Road 500 Ranch Edna Valley Chardonnay, 2019

I suspected that this wine would be a good value when I first saw it on the shelf at Trader Joe's. According to the label, it is estate grown and bottled with an Edna Valley appellation. Grapes from the Edna Valley appellation don't come cheap, and this wine was selling for $8.99. I bought a case, knowing (correctly) that it would sell out quickly. Over the last two years, the wine has improved steadily. Drinking it tonight, I wish I had bought a second case.

Bright lemon yellow. Enticing bouquet, subtle floral/fruit scents. On the tongue, I get apples, pears, butter, brioche, subtle oak. Silky texture. Elegant mouth feel. Long finish.

Friday, November 3, 2023

Chateau la Louviere Pessac Leognan Blanc, 1983

White wines from Graves (Bordeaux) haven't been on my radar for many years. I bought them in the mid-1980s because they tasted good young and had potential for long-term aging. When I saw this 1983 Louviere Blanc in the cellar, I thought it was probably long past its prime. But not so.

Deep gold color. The bouquet is mature but with no noticeable signs of oxidation. Apples, pears, honey and lime. I was thirsty when I pulled the cork, and the first sip seemed to be thirst quenching--a good sign. The wine clearly has the acidity needed to keep it.alive. And age has given it complexity and interest. I am siure this wine would have been better a decade ago, but it is holding up well at age 40.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Penfolds Koonunga Hill South Australia Shiraz Cabernet, 2019

When Penfolds introduced its Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet with the 1976 vintage, Donna and I were living in Australia. And it was the wine we frequently chose at our local wine merchant or wine bar. We weren't very oriented toward wine at that time, and Koonunga Hill was cheap (about $2 a bottle) and good. Penfolds has gone through many changes over the past five decades, but the goal of the winery is to maintain consistency in the style of each label even though the fruit may come from a different location. The Koonunga Hill vineyard is in Barossa and, due to the ageworthiness demonstrated in that 1976 Koonunga vintage, has probably been upgraded by Penfolds and used in more expensive cuvees. The fruit from this 2019 Koonunga Hill comes from South Australia and was seen as appropriate for what Penfolds considers its "gateway wine." It may not come from Koonunga Hill, but it is cheap (about $12 a bottle) and good..

Bright ruby, deep and dark. I don'r detect any purple at this time. Demonstrative nose of black fruits--blackberries and currants. Plump body (14.5%) with a rich mid-palate. I always get a heavy dose of dark chocolate in Shiraz Cabernet wines, and this wine has it in spades, along with a touch of mint. Substantial tannic grip; that is the style, but ripe fruit and chocolate peek through and carry over into the finish, which is beginning to show some secondary traits. I plan to drink this wine early, but it should age well over the next few years.

I paid $12 for this 2019, but my local Costco has the 2020 vintage for $7.89--an excellent value. I bought a bottle today and will be going back for more. Who doesn't like wines that are cheap and good?

Monday, October 30, 2023

The Wines and Vineyards of Willamette Valley, Oregon

When it comes to wine, I am a terroirist. I love to explore the ways that climate, soil and vineyard affect the distinctive aromas and flavors that end up in my glass. Last week, Donna and I joined our son, Duncan, and daughter-in-law, Lisa, on a trip to the Willamette Valley of Oregon--an ideal place to learn terroir, which is more intricate and complex than I imagined.

Over the past several decades, a number of French and American wine enthusiasts have been attracted to Willamette Valley because they believe it is a special place to grow and produce fine Pinot Noir. The cool maritime climate gives the grapes the acidity they need, and the mineral-rich soil contributes to an array of unique smells and flavors. It rains a lot in Oregon, but the rain is well timed for the grape grower--lots of rain in the Spring when the vines need it followed by a Summer that is often bone dry and a rainy fall that comes after the grapes are already harvested. In addition, the soils provide good drainage.

One of my favorite wineries, WillaKenzie Estate, advertises itself as an estate where "Place matters: Our terroir is our inspiration." The name, WillaKenzie, actually refers to the ancient soil in this part of the Chehalem hills. And the estate bottles wines from several vineyards that offer unique traits. Emery, located on the highest elevation of the estate, has the deepest topsoil and produces wines with deep flavors and fine, silky tannins. Triple Black Slopes is the steepest slope on the estate with thin topsoil and excellent drainage. The wine is known for its power, intensity and structure. We sampled these wines and others (Aliette, Kiana) during our excellent tutored tasting at WillaKenzie.

In addition to the special vineyards, WillaKenzie offers an Estate Cuvee, which is a blend of some of the best barrels from several vineyards. It is an excellent wine, as my notes from last year will confirm. It also offers a less expensive Willamette Valley bottling that includes grapes from vineyards on the nearby Dundee Hills. The soil there is Jory, highly prized for producing elegant wines with spicy, peppery traits.

Stoller Family Estate is located in the Dundee Hills. Our tasting there included an excellent 2017 Reserve Pinot Noir and two younger wines, the 2019 Helen's Pinot Noir and the 2019 Nancy's Pinot. I posted notes on these wines last week.

Another important factor in all of these wines is the Pinot Noir clone or clones used in the blend. At Willamette Valley Vineyards, we got to sample from barrels of seven different clones: Pommard, Wadenswil, Dijon 113, Dijon 114, Dijon 115, Dijon 667 and Dijon 777. In the wines we tasted there and at Colene Clemens (located in Chehalem near WillaKenzie) we could detect the dark fruit, earth and mushrooms typical of Pommard; the cherry, raspberry and rose petal of  Wadenswil; the nutmeg, clove and allspice of 667; and the blackberry, cassis and licorice of 777. The Victoria, Adriane and Margot cuvees from Colene Clemens combined Pommard, Wadenswil, Dijon 667 and Dijon 777 in a captivating artisanal package.

The best part of wine, of course, is the hedonistic pleasure of smelling and tasting. But there is much, much more to the process of creating this pleasure. Last week, we had a short course that combined meteorology, geology, horticulture and more. I loved it.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Tour Saint Bonnet Medoc, 1995

Tour Saint Bonnet is an old school claret, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot aged in large old oak barrels. When it's young, it is not very exciting because it lacks the zingy smells and flavors imparted by new French oak barrels. Yet it ages very well and still sells for $12 to $15 a bottle. 

Bright ruby with brick tones moving in from the rim.  Currants, cassis, lead pencil and Early Grey tea. Suave Merlot flavors; no pyrazines or green herbal tones. Lovely ripe Cab/Merlot fruit that lingers long after the glass is empty. I finished the last of my 1990s last year; this 1995 may be even better.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Pithon-Paille Mozaik Anjou Blanc, 2017

This Anjou Blanc is a good example of the excellent dry Chenin Blanc wines produced in the Loire Valley of France. It is at a very agreeable state of maturity right now, but I am sure it will get even better with time in the cellar.

Medium deep straw. Slightly floral with ripe pears, quince and canteloupe. Viscous and medium bodied but with an alluring measure of citric acidity. Savory finish that gets better with every sip.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Willamette Valley Vineyards Elton Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir, 2020

Sourced from the Elton Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills, this Pinot is a favorite among many who frequent the WVV website...and with good reason. Year after year, it is an intriguing wine, my favorite among WVV Pinots.

Medium ruby/garnet. Reticent at first but with swirling and aeration, opulent dark cherry-tinged aromas emerge. Also some pepper, spice and earth. Medium light body with tongue-tingling acidity. The vineyard was first planted in 1983 on Jory and Nekia soil.

Willamette Valley Vineyards Bernau Block Chardonnay, 2021

The first time I tasted Willamette Valley Vineyards' Bernau Block Chardonnay it put me under its spell. And it still ranks as one of my all-time favorite Chardonnays. It is rich and full bodied and with all the smells and flavors that I like in Chardonnay.

Medium deep straw. Lemon creme, lime, apple pie and buttered brioche. I usually go for lean unoaked Chardonnays, and this wine is rich and full bodied...but in a way that pleases my palate immensely. Apple, lemon zest and custard--deep and complex. Gets better with every sip.  

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Willakenzie Estate Triple Black Slope Pinot Noir, 2013


This cuvee comes from the steepest slope on the estate and is characterized by "a complex array of blue and black fruits" and an intense aromatic profile. The 2013 vintage was warm, and this 2013 is nearing full maturity.

Light garnet color. Beautiful bouquet of pomegranate, cherry, spice. Broad flavors, intense and powerful. Good acidity, dances on the palate. Special wine. The winemaker recommends pairing it with rack of lamb and roasted vegetables.

Willakenzie Estate Kiana Pinot Noir, 2016

Compared to the 2018 Kiana (see below), the 2016 is lighter in color and more developed. Yet it too has plenty of room to grow. Red raspberry fruit, deep and complex. Some earth tones plus pepper and citrus zest. 90+ rating from the Wine Advocater.

Willakenzie Estate Kiana Pinot Noir, 2018

According to the estate, wines from this site are marked by opulence. This 2018 also received high critical praise, including 96 points from the Wine Advocate. It is producded from 50% Dijon clone 114, 32% Dijon 943 and 18% Dijon 777.

Medium ruby. Very deep. Ripe red berries, spices and orange peel. Medium bodied, velvety, with ripe fruit on the mid-palate and a lovely finish.

Willakenzie Estate Emery Pinot Noir, 2019

Emery has the highest elevation of any of the Willakenzie vineyards, and 2019 was a particularly cool vintage. Given 97 points by the Wine Advocate, this wine is very good now with excellent cellaring potential. It is 50% Pommard clone, 31% Dijon 667 and 19% Dijon 777.

Medium ruby, slightly darker than the Aliette. Also leaner and firmer on the mid-palate. Medium light bodyt with a delicate texture. Blackberries, violets, earth. Lovely finish that gets better with every sip.


Willakenzie Estate Aliette Pinot Noir, 2017

Aliette is generally considered the lightest and most delicate of Willakenzie's single vineyard cuvees. This 2017 was awarded 93 points by the Wine Advocate.

Medium light color. Flowers, strawberries, peppery spice. Lovely ripe fruit backed by zesty acidic structure. Long finish. Open for business right now, but I can see it getting substantially deeper and more complex over the next five to eight years.

Willakenzie Estate Estate Cuve Pinot Noir, 2017

Willakenzie Estate, located in the Yamhill-Carlton area of the Willamette Valley, specializes in offering several site-specific bottlings "each a pure expressions of its terroir." The Estate Cuvee, however, blends grapes from several of these vineyards, and, from my experience, the result is fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed two bottles of the 2015 Estate Cuvee; this is my first taste of the 2017, which earned 92+ points from Erin Brooks of the Wine Advocate.

Medium light color. Intense scents and flavors of red fruit, fruit leather, flowers and citrus zest. Medium light body. Good balance of acid and tannin but needs time. Gets riper and deeper as it airs.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Stoller Family Estate Legacy Nancy's Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, 2019

Medium ruby color. Darker than either the Stoller Reserve or the Helen's cuvee (see below) and also darker in flavor and personality. Black raspberry, pomegranate, earth tones. Peppery finish. Good now but will be even better with an additional five to eight years in the bottle.

Stoller Family Estate Legacy Helen's Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, 2019

Our server used the term "cherry pie" to introduce this wine, and we all agreed with the description. Bing cherries, ripe and opulent. Also black raspberries and baking spices. Made from the Wadenswil clone of Pinot Noir. Darker in color than the 2017 Reserve (see below) and more structured. Very deep, needs time but still offering up lovely mineral-tinged fruit flavors.

Stoller Family Estate Reserve Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, 2017


Now in its sixth year, this 2017 Pinot Noir from Stoller is showing beautifully but with still some room to grow.

Medium light ruby. Red raspberries and rose petals on the nose; peppery spice on the palate. Earth tones typical of the Pommard clone. Medium light weight; elegance personified. Ripe fruit on the lovely finish