Sunday, July 30, 2023

Soter Vineyards North Valley Willamette Valley Chardonnay, 2013

Willamette Valley is the Oregon appellation known for high quality Pinot Noir (and, in recent years, Chardonnay) wines. Yet, as the label of this wine points out, the sub-appellations of the North Valley have the best claims in terms of soil and micro-climate. This North Valley Chardonnay from Soter Vineyards is drinking beautifully at 10 years of age.

Medium deep lemon yellow. Citrus is the theme here: lemon custard and citrus zest along with white flowers. Fresh and lively. Green apples and lime on the palate. Concentrated and well defined flavors with an intense finish.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Eden Valley Wines Old Butts Eden Valley Shiraz, 1995

The Eden Valley appellation was what attracted me to this wine, which has been one of my most pleasurable auction purchases. Eden Valley is a relatively cool micro-climate in the Barossa Valley. It is the source of many good Rieslings, and it is where most Henschke wines are sourced and produced. The vines for this Shiraz are about 80 years of age and the "old butts" are gnarled tree-like vines similar to those found in Gigondas and Chateauneuf du Pape in the Southern Rhone. According to the label, the combination of the cool climate and the old vines led to slow ripening and the development of complex flavors. Complex, I guess. I love this wine.

The color has lightened considerably, even compared to the previous bottles I had in 2020 and 2021. Ethereal scents and flavors. Savory rather than sweet. Black olives, leather, dried berries, cured meats. Great level of acidity. Subtle flavors that shift and change with every sip. Reminds me of a Domaine Thalabert (Jaboulet) Crozes Hermitage from the 1980s--high praise indeed.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Kirkland Signature K Vine Frenchan's Hill Syrah, 2021

This is a wine made by Charles Smith specifically for Costco. Frenchman's Hill is a vineyard that the winemaker considers to be specifically suitable for Washington state Shiraz.

Dark inky color. I opened the wine about two hours before drinking, and I believe it benefited from that aeration, becoming significantly deeper, more acidic and more interesting. Black currants, cassis. Very easy to drink. Tannins are soft for a young wine, but fruit and acidity are strong. Has the herbal, mineral edge that is more common in Northern Rhone Syrah compared to Australian Shiraz. A bargain at $9.99.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Evening Land Sonoma Coast Vineyards, 2012

This Evening Land Sonoma Coast Pinot was a Garagiste offering several years ago. It comes from the highly respected Gap's Crown Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast..

Medium dark ruby with garnet tones. Ripe but taut. Good acid. Cherries and cranberries with some citrus peel on the finish. Medium body. Drinking nicely now and will probably keep a year or two.

Chateau du Trignon Rasteau, 2018

This Rasteau from Chateau du Trignon was the wine of the evening for me and for most of those at our table. At $24, it is cheaper than the Gigondas but at least as good, although probably not as ageworthy.

Deep ruby with garnet tones around the rim. Lighter than the Gigondas. It is 65% Grenache and 35% Mourvedre aged in vats and foudres (large traditional barrels). Red berries, olives, earth. Sweet and savory, very much like a good Chateauneuf du Pape. Surprisingly supple tannins plus tongue-tingling acidity. Good overall balance. Finish is long and complex. A treat to drink right now and will probably keep. My score 18.5.

E. Guigal Gigondas, 2019

E. Guigal was one of the first Rhone producers to use new oak, and this wine spent two years in oak casks, 50% of which were new. It is 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre.

Very deep, dark with purplish tones. Intense aromas are also deep and brooding, promising more to come. Cherry, cranberry, licorice, garrigue. Medium to full body. Tannins that grip, acidity that pleases. Flavors open nicely on the finish, but there is much more to come through the rest of this decade. I gave this wine a score of 18.5, but, at a price of $35, I will not be a buyer.


Domaine de Beaurenard Cotes du Rhone, 2021

I have been a fan of Domaine de Beaurenard's Chateauneufs du Pape since the 1990 vintage. This is my first taste of the estate's Cotes du Rhone, and I am impressed. It is similar to the Brusset CDR (below): 70% Grenache, 30% Syrah aged in both stainless steel and neutral barrels.

Compared to the Brusset, a deeper ruby color. Also more aromatic intensity: red berries, plums, flowers. Medium full body, coats the tongue. A bit rough on the finish, but, again, this is a 2021 and will benefit from a few more months in the bottle. Good CDR; my score: 18.0. At $15, I would be a buyer but the retail price ($19 to $24) seems a bit high for a Cotes du Rhone, even one of this high quality.


Domaine Brusset Laurent B Cotes du Rhone, 2021

At $14, this was the least expensive wine at the tasting and a good value. It is 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and 10% Carignan aged six months in 80% stainless steel and 20% large oak barrels.

Bright, medium ruby. Fresh and fruity. Strawberry Grenache with a touch of black pepper. Medium body, bright acidity. I marked it down on the after taste but attributed this to youth rather than lack of fruit. It will be a good every day wine for the next two to three years. My score: 17.0.


E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Blanc, 2021

I recognized this wine immediately because of the Viognier (60%) in the blend. Others at the table who had expressed their love of Viognier did not immediately recognize the Viognier because it is blended with Rousanne (15%), Marsanne (10%), Clairette (8%), Bourboulenc (5%) and Grenache Blanc (2%). The wine also lacks the delicacy of Condrieu, a more expensive Viognier wine from the Northern Rhone.

Medium light yellow, good brilliance. Lovely Viognier scents of white flowers, apricots and white peaches. The Marsanne and Rousanne express themselves through a rich texture and medium full body. A bit short and sharp on the finish, but that may change with a few more months in the bottle. At $15, a good value. My score 16.5.

American Wine Society National Tasting Project, Installment #2

Donna and I participated last night in the second installment of the American Wine Society's National Tasting Project. My tasting notes can be found above. This year's tasting focused on Southern Rhone wines. And as a Southern Rhone enthusiast for many years, I thought the wines were very well selected, including some of my favorite estates, such as Beaurenard, Chateau du Trignon, E. Guigal, Brusset, Pierre Amadieu and Fortia. My favorite at last night's tasting was the 2018 Chateaau du Trignon Rasteau; but then, as a 2018, it was also the wine with the greatest maturity.

My scores throughout the tasting were embarrassingly high, but I do love these wines. On this site, you should remember that I do not rate wines or recommend them. I have developed my own tastes over many years, and I don't want to impose them on anyone else any more than I want others to impose their tastes on me.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Chateau Feuillet Valle d'Aosta Torrette, 2016

Chateau Feuiollet's Torrette is composed of 90% Petite Rouge and 10% Mayolot--hardly household grape names in the world of wine. These grapes are grown in the mountainous Valle d'Aosta in northwest Italy where the sunny but cool climate allows long, slow ripening.

The "delicately perfumed" smells mentioned on the label, are not present at this time. The wine is probably in a reduced state, thirsty for more oxygen. That will probably change with more time in the bottle or more time for aeration. The flavors, though, are delicate, intense and beautiful. Dried berries, sweet and savory with a hint of black pepper. Evolves slowly throughout the meal, leaving a very pleasant after taste.

Domane Yves Cheron Gigondas, 2020

This Yves Cheron wine, offered as a wine by the glass at Every Day People Cafe in Douglas, MI, is drinking beautifully for a young Gigondas. It was a pefect match for the Bolognesse pasta dish.

Deep, dark crimson. Has the sweet smells and flavors of fresh red berries countered by the dry chalky mouth feel of Gigondas. Distinctly Gigondas with mint, bay leaf and limestone-tinged minerals. Gigondas is only a few miles from Vacqueyras and the grapes used are basically the same; yet the wines are very diffeerent. This Gigondas is 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah. Delicious now but will undoubtedly be drinking even more beautifully with another 8 to 10 years in the bottle.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Kermit Lynch Selection Languedoc Cabrieres Rouge, 2020

The French generally consider Southern France to be too warm to produce good Syrah-dominant wines. Languedoc Cabrieres, however, has a high altitude, cool micro-climate better suited to Syrah. As a result, this wine has 55% Syrah and only 35% Grenache along with smaller quantities of Carignan and Cinsault.

Dark ruby color and dark berry smells and flavors of Syrah. Compared to the last bottle I had several months ago, this wine is now beginning to open up nicely, showing ripe fruit, flowers, spicy minerals and earth. The personality is clearly Southern Rhone/Languedoc. Good to drink now or later.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Jean Bourdy Cotes du Jura Blanc, 2012

This is not your ordinary Chardonnay. As the back label states,"according to the tradition in our family, this wine ages slowly during four years in old barrels before bottling." As a result, it says, "This Chardonnay is better if you uncork it 3 or 4 hours before bottling."

It sounds like an oxymoron, and it is. If the wine has been exposed to air for so long in old barrels, why do you need to expose it to even more oxygen before drinking? In fact, aeration is precisely what long-in-barrel wines need. The same is true for Barolo. And the result can be spectacular.

Deep yellow color. When I first popped the cork, the wine did show some stinky, oxidized smells. Some might call them "pissy." But these smells were also exotic, mineral-tinged and beautiful. I did wait four hours after popping the cork, and by then the stinky smells had all disappeared; the exotic, mineral-tinged traits remained. Buttered biscuits, cinnamon, eucalyptus honey. Beautiful. Medium bodied with good acidity and a somewhat oily texture. Long finish.

This is not a budget wine but well worth $30 or even more if you can afford it.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

19 Crimes Southeast Australia Shiraz, 2021

Probably because of the rather garish packaging, I have never been attracted to 19 Crimes wines when I see them on the shelves for $10 to $15 a bottle. But when my local Trader Joe's store offered the Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc for $4.99, I had to give them a try. The Pinot was surprisingly decent and drinkable, but I find this Shiraz to be ordinary and fairly priced at $4.99.

Bright red. Comes across as a bold Aussie Shiraz. Black fruits, vanilla, oak. The fruit appears to come from highly cropped vineyards, though. Simple, undistinguished and slightly sweet.


Saturday, July 15, 2023

Willamette Valley Vineyards White Pinot Noir, 2021

This is an unusual wine created to show the best traits of red and white grapes. Pinot Noir grapes from vineyards at Willamette Valley Vineyards are lightly pressed to get only  the free run juice without the color and tannins from the peels. The wine is then matured in stainless steel and neutral barrels to preserve the fresh fruit. 

Light and bright, almost as clear as water.. White peaches, flowers and lemon creme.Good viscosity on the palate. More body than the color suggests. I like the Chardonnays from this estate, and this wine has many of the same qualities. Medium long, multi-flavored finish. I went back for four more bottles and will enjoy them over the next two or three years.

WVV sells its white Pinot Noir (under the Tualatin label) for $50. My local Costco has the WVV White Pinot for $23.99, an incredible bargain.


Fontanafredda Barbera Briccotondo, 2020

I have had this Fontanafredda Barbera three times now at Martini's Restaurant in Kalamazoo and find it a perfect match for the penne pasta with red sauce dish.

Bright, medium light riby. Cherry tinged Barbera fruit. Also black fruits and plums on the palate. High acidity, low tannin approach typical of Barbera. That is what I like and it goes nicely with Martini's brisk red sauce. I will certainly be back for more of the food and the wine.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Piper Heidsieck Cuvee Brut, NV

On sale for $20 a bottle at Costco, this is one of the best buys in Champagne I have seen in a long time. A blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier and 20%  Chardonnay, it is fresh, light and brimming with red fruit smells and flavors. A perfect aperitif or simply for sipping on the deck.

Light gold color with fine mousse and tiny, persistent bubbles. Fresh scents of apples, ginger-tinged Pinot Noir, citrus, salted almonds and warm toast. Elegant mouth feel and racy acidity. Delicious.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Chateau Suiduiraut Sauternes (375 ml), 1983

Even from a 375 ml bottle, this 1983 Suiduiraut Sauternes still offers magnificent smells and flavors.

Deep amber color but not as dark as the 1983 Doisy Daene I opened and reported on last week. Richer and sweeter than the Doisy Daene.One person at the table immediately mentioned Seville orange marmalade--a perfect descriptor for both the flavors and texture. Also dried and fresh apricots, honey and butterscotch. Viscous and mouthfeeling, Pleasure clinging to the inside of your mouth. Sweet but with the tangy bitterness of marmalade. Beautiful.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Chapel Hill House Block McLaren Vale Shiraz, 2014

Chapel Hill's House Block Shiraz comes from one of the best vineyards in McLaren Vale, and the winemaker is Michael Drago. Like John Duval, Drago is a former winemaker at Penfolds who helped produce the highly touted Grange Hermitage.

Very deep and dark. Big and youthful. Blackberries, mulberries, oak. Full bodied with substantial tannins on the mid-palate and finish. Good potential, but, for my taste, this wine needs at least another five years in the cellar.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Chateau Leoville Barton St. Julien 2nd Grand Cru Classe, 1993

1993 was not a particularly good vintage in Bordeaux, but Robert Parker called Leoville Barton "one of the biggest, richest, most impressive wines of the vintage." Although it may have faded slightly from its best form, the wine is drinking beautifully tonight.

Medium red, considerably lighter than the 2004 Penfolds Cab beside it at the table. It is also lighter in body than the Penfolds, and the tannins have subsided, releasing intriguing, beautifully complex flavors. Red currants, raspberries, cherries, cassis. Oak is perfectly integrated into the fruit. Polished texture on mid-palate, leading into a long, satisfying finish. I think it is showing better tonight than it did a year ago when it may have been outclassed by a 1982 Haut Bages Liberal that accompanied it at the table. 

Penfolds Bin 407 Barossa Valley Cabernet, 2004

Australian wine critic James Halliday wrote that "this is 100% about Cabernet Sauvignon and nothing about terroir." He awarded it 94 points as a classic Australian Cabernet.

Deep and dark. Nearly opaque. Classic scents of black currant, cassis and smoke-tinged oak. Big on the mid-palate with loads of tannin. Has the fruit faded or is it hiding behind the tannin? Penfolds lists prime drinking time as 2021; I would be inclined to give it a few more years to let the tannins soften.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Warre's Vintage Port, 1977

This bottle has been resting in my cellar for 40-some years and is now showing beautifully. Fill level is good but there is a great deal of crust on top of the cork. Once this is cleaned off, the cork falls into the bottle with a slight touch. The wine was decanted and then poured.

Medium light color. Beautiful red fruit smells and flavors. Strawberries, raspberries, nuts, caramel, sweet spices. Very pleasantly sweet; good counter for salty aged Stilton cheese. Sits lightly on the tongue and releases its pleasure. Well worth the wait.

Schweiger Vineyards Spring Mountain Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002

 I paid $16 for this Schweiger Cabernet in July of 2008; the winery is now selling library bottles of the same 2002 vintage for $275 ($3300 for a 12-bottle case). Tasting the wine tonight, I don't consider that an outrageous price (although it is far above my wine budget). The winery has clearly discovered that this is a special wine; and it is.

Deep and dark. Powerful smells and flavors, rich and complex. Raspberries, cherries, cassis, dark chocolate...and more. Very lively and fresh. Flavors explode on mid-palate and finish. More acidity than I expect from a California Cabernet, and, in my view, that is what makes this wine so wonderful to drink.

Whitehall Lane Napa Cabernet, 2013

This very good Napa Cabernet has 8% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec in the blend. From the highly rated 2013 vintage, it is drinking beautifully right now.

Inky black. Lush fruit--currants, cassis, cherries, mocha, toasted oak. Velvety mouthfeel, sweet fruit. Medium long finish. A wine that should please almost any audience. Soft acidity makes it easy to drink, but not a good candidate for extended aging.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Chateau Caillou Sauternes, 2005

In texture, flavor and enjoyment, this bottle was a perfect match for a fresh apricot cake we had for dessert.

Medium deep gold. Looks youthful. Ripe apricots, honey, vanilla. Rich flavors. Viscous mouth feel that blends beautifully with the texture of the cake. Would be good with any fruit-oriented dessert.

Chateau Haut Bages Liberal Pauillac, 1986

Upon initial tasting of the 1986 Bordeaux from cask, English wine critic Clive Coates listed Haut Bages Liberal as one of the wines he would be opening his wallet to buy. I did the same and ordered a case on futures for about $160. It was a good choice. The wine is drinking beautifully tonight. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot.

Beautiful, bright crimson. Smells and flavors that open beautifully over the course of the dinner. Black raspberries, red plums, cassis, spice. Ripe fruit with savory tones that get more delicious with every sip. Very long finish. I think the wine has reached its peak and may stay there for at least another four or five years.

Chateau Sociando Mallet Haut Medoc, 1985

Sociando Mallet is a highly respected Haut Medoc that always drinks and ages considerably above its class. This 38-year-old bottle is a good example.

Bright crimson with minimal bricking around the rim. Also darker in smells and flavors than the 1989 Citran beside it at the table. More black and than red fruits. Oak is well integrated and the flavors are deep. Good grip on the mid-palate, but finish is not quite as ripe and fruity as the 1986 Haut Bages Liberal beside it at the table. 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc.

Chateau Citran Haut Medoc, 1989

The current vintage of Chateau Citran is priced at about $35, and this 1989 shows that it ages well for a medium priced Bordeaux.

Medium deep with some bricking. Pleasing, fruity bouquet. Spicy red and black currants and lifted tones of green bell pepper. 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot. Tonight, I would say the Merlot is dominant. Compared to the 1985 Sociando Mallet Haut Medoc beside it at the table it is clearly lighter in body and flavor.

Monday, July 3, 2023

Chateau Rieussec Sauternes, 1989

For my taste, Rieussec is always one of the top Sauternes, and this 1989 is a particularly good vintage for the estate.

The color has deepened considerably over the past two or three years but still bright and lively. Ripe apricots, honey, toasted coconut, orange zest and butterscotch. Very ripe, rich and concentrated. Dessert in a glass. Has the complexity and depth that comes from three plus decades in the bottle but still bright, fresh and packed with fruit. If you are fortunate enough to have a bottle of this wine, now is a great time to pop the cork.

John Duval Entity Barossa Shiraz, 2012

This is probably my first experience aging a serious wine bottled with a screw cap. When I had this John Duval Shiraz at a tasting about a decade ago, it was dense and tannic; I assumed it would need extra time, because of the screw cap, to open up. Tonight, the tannins are clearly in the background as the ripe fruit shows through.

Very deep and dark. Blackberries, boysenberries, blue plums and oaky spice--ripe and rich. Velvety mouth feel. Showing all the positive effects of maturity, but I am sure it will continue to develop in depth and complexity.