Friday, June 30, 2023

Willakenzie Estate Aliette Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2015

Willakenzie's Aliette Vineyard lies on southeast facing slopes at an elevation of 550 to 600 feet, producing, according to the estate, wines of  "elegance and finesse, offering an array of red fruit and savory characteristics."

Medium light ruby with some garnet tones. Somewhat dark and deep in the glass. Delicate, intense and persistent fruit scents. Red raspberry, cranberry, black tea. Elegant mouth feel with great acidity to balance the ripe fruit. Savory rather than sweet with a twist of orange zest on the finish.

Chehalem Stoller Vineyards Ian's Reserve Chardonnay, 2016

This wine has cool climate acidity combined with lavish oak and the buttery texture of malolactic fermentation. Even though I generally favor unoaked Chardonnay, this combination works well for me.

Light, bright straw color. Intense scents of lime, peach, lemon curd and vanilla oak. Rich texture and full body. Fruit, oak and acid balanced nicely to give dramatic tension on the mid palate and finish. The winemaker says these qualities will continue to integrate as the wine ages.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Best's Bin 0 Great Western Shiraz, 2000

The Great Western appellation was named after the Great Western Vineyard established by Joseph Best, the first wine grower in the area in the late 19th century. Now owned by Viv Thompson, the winery is located in the Grampians of Western Victoria, near Seppelt and Mount Langi Ghiran--prime territory for Shiraz. Bin 0 Shiraz is produced from four very old vineyards, some  planted in the 1800s. The low yield from these old vines results in intense flavors that, in my view, represent the very best in Australian Shiraz.

Beautiful deep ruby/crimson. Powerful and intense smells and flavors of Syrah fruit and American oak. The oak is still prominent in the bouquet and mid-palate but integrates nicely with aeration. Black fruit, cassis, lavender, a touch of black pepper. Deep and concentrated with a meaty Syrah finish. Excellent now, but, for my taste, the wine will benefit from several more years in the cellar.

Ayala Brut Majeur Champagne, NV

Ayala, founded by Edmond de Ayala 160 years ago in the village of Ay, is a storied producer of Champagne. This Brut Majeur, 55% Chardonnay with low dosage and vinification in stainless steel, is one of their top cuvees and a lovely champagne.

Tiny, persistent bubbles and a fine mousse. Incredibly fresh aromas and flavors. Freshly sliced apples and brioche. Rich flavors on the mid-palate but fine texture and a long, elegant finish. Excellent.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Chateau Doisy-Daene Sauternes, 1983

Sauternes is a sweet wine made from grapes infected with botrytis, known as the "noble rot." Yet, due primarily to its high level of acidity, most Sauternes have the capacity for long aging. This 40-year-old Doisy Daene is showing very well at age 40.

Very dark color, nearly brown. Oxidation is showing up in the color but with little or no negative effect on the bouquet or flavor. Ripe peaches, honey, caramel. Not overly sweet but enough to make a nice contrast with the pleasantly bitter botrytis on the finish.


Colene Clemens Vineyards Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir Victoria, 2009

Victoria is the top label from Colene Clemens Vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains. The quality shows.

Light ruby, clear and bright. Delicate scents and flavors: red raspberry, forest floor, red spices and citrus zest. Beautiful texture and balance. Ripe fruit keeps coming from all directions with acidity that makes it dance on the palate. This wine ordinarily sells for $70, but I obtained one bottle for $20 at auction. Wish I had more.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Xavier Vignon Cairanne, 2015

When it comes to Southern Rhone wines, I am a die-hard traditionalist. This Cairanne seems to me a blend of the traditional and modern that works very well. I like it.

Beautiful medium deep ruby/crimson. Very forward aromatic profile: red berries, plums, purple flowers, lavender and garrigue. Lovely. Very ripe fruit carries it on the palate. More tannin and higher alcohol to satisfy the modernists, but the fruit is unmistakably Cairanne. 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah,. 10% Mourvedre.


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Giardino Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie, 2022

Pinot Grigio delle Venezie (grown in the area around Venice0  is a modest wine, and Trader Joe's often offers a good number of these wines at modest prices. At $3.99 a bottle, this may be the most modest of the bunch.

Medium straw. Smells of freshly sliced pears and apples,; the flavors offer much of the same. Straightforward approach, made for easy drinking. Gets better as it warms in the glass, which is a good sign. Lacks the herbal traits that characterize many Pinot Grigios, and that's alright with me. Donna is the Pinot Grigio drinker, though, and she is less positive than I am about this Giardino Pinot Grigio delle Venezie.


Sunday, June 18, 2023

Gigi Rosso Barolo Arione, 2001

Gigi Rosso is a very good source of traditional Barolo, and Arione is one of the top vineyards in the appellation. According to critics, this 2001 may not be the best vintage of Gigi Rosso's Arione, but it is very, very good tonight with grilled lamb chops.

Medium deep garnet wtih orangish tints at the rim. Expressive bouquet of cherries, roses and cloves. Beautiful Nebbiolo fruit. Substantial tannins showing up as Barolo grip on the mid-palate but ample acidity keeps it bouncing on the palate toward a long, licorice-toned finish. Better than the last bottle I had in December of 2016, and I think it will be even better in a few years.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Famille Perrin Ventoux, 2020

Always good, this vintage of Famille Perrin is particularly delicious. Bright crimson red with violet tints. Enticing scents of small red berries, violets and spice. Ripe fruit on the palate with a long peppery finish. Very much what I expect from a young Ventoux, even though Carignan and Cinsault now are dominant over Gremache and Syrah in the blend. The Perrin family touch is evident.

Plum Market in Ann Arbor has an exclusive on this Ventoux, and, at $6.79, it is one of the best wine values I have found.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Chateau Fortia Cuvee du Baron Chateauneuf du Pape, 2019


I have enjoyed Fortia Chateauneufs for many years, but this is my first taste of the Cuvee du Baron. I generally avoid the higher priced prestige bottlings of CdP because, even though they may come from special vineyards, they are also likely to be matured in new oak to please the critics and get the high scores. Such is the not the case with Cuvee du Baron, which the estate says, "veritably embodies the distinctiveness of our terroir." It was made traditionally and aged 18 months in old oak foudres. I gave this wine 19/20 and considered it the best of the NTP tasting, even though I gave a similar score to the Pierre Amadieu Gigondas.

Very deep ruby, bright and true. Very deep, concentrated aromas, tending to the cherry/red berry spectrum but also some herbal, peppery notes. Very ripe. Good tannin/acid balance on the palate. Very tannic at this age but the sweet fruit gushes right through into a beautiful long, long finish.

I remember tasting the 1998 Fortia (regular bottling) at a huge Southern Rhone tasting many years ago. Compared to many other fine Chateauneufs, the Fortia was the clear favorite of everyone at the table. Some were skeptical that a wine so ripe and enticing at a young age would stand the test of time. I bought several bottles and can say that it has become even more beautiful after 20 plus years in the bottle. Even at $44, this 1999 Fortia Cuvee du Baron is a good value. As for me, at age 84, I will pass since I doubt that I will live long enoiugh to experience it at its prime.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Domaine de Durban Muscat Beaumes de Venise, 2020

The bottle was in a paper bag, but one sniff identified it as Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, the lively dessert wine of the Southern Rhone. And, of course, Domaine de Durban is one of the oldest, best and best known of these dessert Muscats. It was a delightful finish to our tasting.

Medium light straw. Apricot, peach, orange zest, fruit salad. Fresh and lively. Sweet, medium long finish. One of my favorite dessert wines because of its delicacy and freshness. I gave this wine 16.5/20.

Pierre Amadieu Gigondas Romane Machotte, 2019

I have been drinking and enjoying Gigondas wines from Pierre Amadieu for many years. He is an excellent producer. This traditionally made Romane Machotte ranks high on my all-time list. It is 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah fermented 21 days in concrete vats and then matured 12 months in foudres and barrels. It was a favorite of many of our NTP tasters.

Deep and dark. Lifted red and black fruits with prominent garrigue (Provencal herbs). Unmistakable Gigondas personality.. Beautiful velvety mouth feel with prominent tannins but powerful fruit flavors peeking through. The finish is relatively short today but offering promise of great things to come. I would love to taste this wine at 8 to 10 years of age. My score: 19 out of 20.

Domaine d'Andezon Cotes du Rhone, 2020

This is my good value favorite of the National Tasting Project tasting and the one I intend to rush out and buy. My score (18.5) is just slightly below the scores I gave to the Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas wines and a full point higher than the La Nerthe CDR Village. Yet at $14, it is by far the least expensive of the lot.

Very dark, deep with violet tones. Aromas are a bit slow to open but when they do, they are intense and powerful. Dark cherry, blackberry, anise, black olives. This is smelling and tasting like a Northern Rhone. Ripe fruit well balanced by proper acidity. Lingering flavors of fruit and black licorice. I am sad when the glass is empty.

Actually, critics have often compared the d'Andezon Cotes du Rhone with wines from Northern Rhone appellations such as Crozes-Hermitage or even Cornas. It is 95% Syrah and 5% Grenache from vineyards in Sinargues, a cool pocket of the Southern Rhone suited to Syrah grapes.

Chateau La Nerthe Les Cassagnes Cotes du Rhone Village, 2020

Chateau La Nerthe, of course, is a Chateauneuf du Pape estate owned by the Richard family. They make this CDR Village wine from excellent 40-year-old vineyards on sandy and limestone soil 600 feet above sea level. It's a blend of Grenache (50%), Syrah (40%), Mourvedre (8%) and other varietals (2%), all organic grapes. The wine is aged on its fine lees in stainless steel for nine months, a process more commonly used for white than red wines.

Bright ruby, deeper and darker than I expect and even some purple tints. Very aromatic: cherries, red berries, currants--ripe and lovely. Grenache shines. The fruit on the palate is not quite as expressive or forward, but the tannins are supple enough to enjoy now or later. I think it might have benefited from longer aeration tonight. My score 17.5. Retail price is $20.

Jean Luc Colombo Cotes du Rhone Blanc Les Abeilles, 2020

I don't usually buy white wines from the Southern Rhone. But this CDR blanc certainly has the qualities I look for in an every day white. At $14 a bottle, it is an excellent value.

Medium light straw color, clear and bright. Deep and enticing scents of white peaches, pears, minerals and maybe a bit of honey. (The wine is named Les Abeilles because of the bees who inhabit the vineyard with the good graces of the environmentally conscious Colombo family.) Rich and full on the palate similar to white Chateauneufs I have tasted but also fresh and lively with good acidity. The wine is produced from 80% Clairette aged in tank for freshnesss and 20% Rousanne matured in two- to five-year-old barrels for richness and body. I gave this wine a score of 17.5 out of 20.

American Wine Society National Tasting Project, 2023

 This year, the American Wine Society's National Tasting Project focused on wines from the Southern Rhone, and, as a long-term Southern Rhone enthusiast, I was happy to take part through my local (Kalamazoo, MI) chapter. 

My worry going in was that many of the wines presented might be too modern or international in their style for my taste. Fortunately, none of the wines presented yesterday fit that profile. 

At the conclusion of the blind tasting, I was concerned that my scores were too high. Again, my worries were dismissed as I discovered that my positive views on these wines were confirmed by national reviewers with much more credibility than I have as a taster. It was a good tasting, and I will follow with notes on each of the six wines. A second installment will come next month.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Alain Jaume Lirac Clos de Sixte, 2015

Located across the river to the west, Lirac often gets overlooked among other Southern Rhone appellations. It is a good source, though, of serious big-boned wines.

Bright ruby, deep and concentrated. Black cherries, raspberries, violets and spice. Big flavors, alcohol and ripe tannins on the mid-palate. 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre; a mix of traditional and modern winemaking; fermentation in stainless steel, concrete followed by 16 months in French oak.. A bold, concentrated wine. Right now, though, the tannins and alcohol (15%) are thoroughly in charge; I might be happier with this wine in three to five years.


Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Powers Columbia Valley (Washington) Chardonnay, 2022

This Chardonnay was presented at a local Tasters' Guild dinner that I didn't attend. It was well received, and I bought a bottle to try.

Medium lemon yellow. Fruit rather than oak, white peaches and melon with a hint of honey. Firm acidity on the palate. The wine apparently is unoaked or has had very little oak treatment, and I approve of that. Lacks the complexity and excitement, though, that I have found in many Dijon Clone Oregon Chardonnays. Still young and will probably age well over five years or so. I would consider buying more at $10 to $12 a bottle.


Thursday, June 1, 2023

Gonzales Byass 1847 solera cream sherry

In Jerez, one must drink sherry. That is the name, of course. I wanted to tour and taste at my favorite bodega, Emilio Lustau, but the facility was closed for lunch. Across the street at a small neighborhood bar, I ordered a glass of what the chalk board described as simply solera. Only after I had finished the glass did I ask the waiter what I was drinking. Gonzales Byass 1847 is 75% Palomino and 25% Pedro Ximinez--hence the sweet, but oh so complex, finish.

Walnuts, figs, tofee, raisins, caramel and dried fruits. Rich and complex plus plus. I don't drink much sherry but when I taste a wine like this I wonder why. At the neighborhood bar across from Emilio Lustau, I paid $1.70 and enjoyed every sip.