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.