Sunday, April 14, 2024

Vignerons du Mont Ventoux Cuvee des 3 Messes Basses Ventoux Rouge, 2019

This is an old favorite I have enjoyed for many years. The 2019 version is as good as ever, maybe better.

Deep and bright. Lovely smells of fresh berries, red and blue, along with herbs and spice. Fuller bodied, it seems, than past vintages but just as friendly and open. Ventoux black pepper and spice on the mid-palate and finish. Never disappointing.

3 Messes Basses is made by the cooperative at Mont Ventoux and sells for about $12 a bottle. It is worth every penny and more. In the 2019 vintage, it is 60% Grenache, 20% Carignan and 20% Syrah.
 

Friday, April 12, 2024

Schiavenza Barbera Serralunga d'Alba, 2018

As a "mystery wine," this Schiavenza Barbera was offered for less than $10 a bottle by Jon Rimmerman at Garagiste.com. It was an excellent value, since it usually retails for nearly twice that much.

Medium ruby. Not as dark, nor as bright as most Barberas. And there is significant amber at the rim. Dark cherries, earth, leather. More mature than its age would suggest, but, for me, that is a plus. Drinking well right now. Enough tannin to balance the exuberant Barbera acidity. A wine that begs you to have another sip. Excellent with tomato-based ravioli.


Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Romain Duvernay Beaumes de Venise, 2016

 

Beaumes de Venise is located only a few kilometers from Gigondas, and the grape blend used in this bottling is very similar to that used in the Gigondas (below)--60% Grenache. 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre vs. 65% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre for the Gigondas). Tasted side by side, the Gigondas is clearly superior for my taste, although Donna prefers the Beaumes de Venise. In terms of retail value, of course, the Gigondas is worth at least 50% more.

Medium deep red. A bit thin on aromas and flavors at first but grows with aeration. Cherries, red berries, dark tones. Less floral, less chalky and a bit lighter in body than the Gigondas (although both are 14.5% alcohol). Flavors and complexity grow with aeration. A very enjoyable wine but I would still be willing to pay the extra price for the Gigondas.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Domaine du Grand Montmirail Les Deux Juliettes Vieilles Vignes, 2012

I get a distinct aroma of violets with this Gigondas. It is a smell I usually associate with Mourvedre, but this wine has only 5% Mourvedre (along with 80% Grenache and 15% Syrah). Whatever, I love the smell, love the bright Gigondas flavors.

Deep, medium dark ruby. Violets, dark cherries, baking spices, dark licorice tones. Firm tannins on the mid palate lead to cascading flavors of ripe blueberry fruit on the long and pleasure-packed finish.
 

Chateau Pegau Cuvee Maclura Cotes du Rhone, 2021

 

I have enjoyed Domaine Pegau's Cuvee Reservee Chateauneuf du Pape for many years but have had less experience with the Cotes du Rhone wines made by Laurence Feraud. This Cuvee Maclura takes some time to get through to my senses but does offer the strength and substance of its more expensive siblings. 

Deep and dark. Looks like a Syrah based wine even though it is 60% Grenache and 20% Syrah. Also more black than red fruits in the smells and flavors. Dark cherries, currants, black licorice. Lots of strength on the mid palate. Requires some attention but eventually the ripe fruit flavors tease themselves onto the finish.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Trader Joe's Reserve Rasteau Lot 254. 2022

The letters RASTEAU are engraved right into the bottle, and this is a true Rasteau, worthy of the appellation and a very good Cotes du Rhone Villages. At $9.99 it is a good value, and, after tasting it, I went back to buy half a case. Medium crimson, bright but translucent. Fresh cherries, berries, black papper and licorice. Has the dark mineral tones that I associate with Rasteau and Vacqueyras. The peppery structure I expect from a good CDR Villages wine. And a pleasing ripe fruit finish. This is probably made by a cooperative, and coops in the Southern Rhone are generallky very good and likely to use traditional winemaking practices.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Cape Mentelle Margaret River Cabernet Merlot, 2005

I have always considered Cape Mentelle an excellent source of Australian Cabernet wines, but years ago I found this bottle  on the shelf for $10 or less at Binny's in Chicago. Because of the low price, perhaps, I did not take it seriously. Tasting it tonight, after all those years, I realize I should have bought a case.

Bright ruby, deep and dark. Classic Cabernet smells and flavors. Ripe and fresh. Red and black currants, mint and spice. Well defined flavors and a persistent finish. Tannins are ripe and accompanied by good red fruit acidity. Was a perfect match for Easter roast lamb dinner.

Domaine Chante Perdrix Chateauneuf du Pape, 1978

For my 85th birthday, I wanted a wine with some age on it, and this 1978 Chante Perdrix was perfect. If I can age as gracefully as this wine has, my future will be all right. The 1978 vintage is a legendary one for Rhone wines, and Chante Perdrix has given me some of my most exciting tasting experiences.

Cork is surprisingly intact for a wine of this age and there is no noticeable ullage. The color is brickish and very light, similar to the 1989 Chante Perdrix I enjoyed many times in my 60s and 70s. Light, delicate body and mouth feel, very much like a Pinot Noir. The smells and flavors are ethereal. Sweet and savory. Strawberries, dried and fresh, and spices galore: mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, warm tea. Sits so lightly on the palate but leaves so much pleasure. Gets better with every sip. Very much like the 1989 Perdrix and seemingly ageless.
 

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Point Ormond Victoria (Heathcote) Shiraz, 2020

When I tasted this Shiraz at a blind tasting, I thought it might be a French Syrah. It had more red fruit smells and flavors and greater acidity than most Australian Shiraz wines. The fruit comes from Heathcote, which has ancient Cambrian soil and a cool climate that is quite favorable for Shiraz.

Medium ruby red, not as dark or as deep as mosr Shiraz wines. Has not spent much time, if any, in small new oak barrels. Cranberries, strawberries, black olives. More savory than sweet. Acidity teases out the complexity of the excellent Heathcote fruit.

I bought this wine for $14.99 from Plum Market in Ann Arbor and will soon go back for more.


Saturday, March 23, 2024

Terramata Barbera d'Alba, 2017

Whenever I open a bottle of Barbera d'Alba, whether it's to accompany pizza or a more serious meal, I am rarely disappointed. This Terramata Barbera, produced by a growers' cooperative in the Piedmont, actually out-classed the pizza tonight.

Bright ruby red. Vibrant cherry and red berry backed by spice and black papper. The tannins are soft but the Barbera acidity is present in full force to keep the flavors rich, lively and persistent. This wine ordinarily sells for about $15, but,I bought it for less than half that price through Dave Russo's MegaBev Wine Buyer's Alert. At either price, it's a bargain.
 

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Caberbet, 2019

Donna and I were living in Melbourne, Australia when the first Koonuinga Hill Shiraz Cabernet was produced in 1976. Since the wine was priced at $2 to $3 a bottle, we drank it frequently with great pleasure. That 1976 Koonunga Hill turned out to be a special wine aging beautifully for two decades and more. The vineyards that produced that great 1976 are undoubtedly used now for more expensive wines with the Penfolds label. Penfolds doesn't claim that this wine comes from the Koonunga vineyard in Barossa but merely that it is styled and named after it. And my enjoyment tonight with pizza is similar to the enjoyment I enjoyed 40 some years ago.

Bright ruby red. Blackberries, blueberries and plums with dark chocolate on the mid palate. Full bodied and full flavored. Enough acid to tease the back palate. I liked it enough to come back for bottles of the 2020 when I saw them offered on the shelf, and I will reach for it again with every day meals..

Friday, March 15, 2024

Ici/LaBas Les Reveles Elke Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2006

The cool climate of Mendocino's Anderson Valley is ideal for growing Pinot Noir, and many of my favorite wines from this appellation have been produced by Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat/Ici LaBas from Donnelly Creek vineyards previously owned by Mary Elke.

Medium to light color with amber forming at the rim. Mature and lovely. Scents of red berries, flowers (fresh and dried) and forest floor. Red raspberries, cranberries--fresh and ripe. Excellent acidity with hints of citrus zest on the long, lovely finish.
 

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Tenuta Tambournin Les 3 Seuri Freisa, 2015

Genetically, Freisa is believed to be a parent of Nebbiolo and a cousin of Viognier. That means it is capable of producing fragrant wines with high quality fruit that is high in both tannin and acidity.

Medium deep garnet. Aromas of violets and fresh strawberries leading to flavors of black licorice, spice and leather. Full and rich on the palate. A bit of austerity at this stage from the tannins but pleasing finish featuring fruit and minerals.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Martin Ray Dutton Ranch Concrete Chardonnay, 2020

This Russian River Chardonnay was aged on its lees for six months in concrete eggs rather than oak barrels to preserve the aromas and flavors of excellent fruit from the highly respected Dutton Ranch vineyards.

Bright medium deep yellow. Vibrant fruit. Freshly peeled apples in lemon juice and butter. Spicy Russian River tones. Clean, well delineated smells and flavors with a long finish. At $20 a bottle, this is an exceptional value in California Chardonnay.
 

Friday, March 8, 2024

Ferdinando Principiano Dosset Dolcetto, 2021

Sometimes negative comments can trigger my interest, indicating for me that the comment comes from a person with different tastes and expectations from my own. On Cellar Tracker, this Dolcetto was criticized because it was "missing in body, missing in wow factor." The body of a wine is determined by its alcoholic content, and this wine is low (11.5%) in alcohol. It does, however, have the tannin and acidity to carry intense Dolcetto flavors and a fine texture.

Beautiful bright ruby color. Cherries, red raspberries. Excellent balance of ripe fruit, tannin and acidity. Sits lightly on the tongue but leaves a lasting impression. The pasta was rich; the wine was elegant but not at all overshadowed.
 

Monday, February 26, 2024

Chrismont Winery LaZona Aglianico, 2021

I was surprised to see so many Italian varietals at this King Valley (Australia) winery. The Arneis had many of the qualities of Italian versions I have tried. The Barbera was very good, perhaps a little less acidic than a Piedmont Barbera. As I expected, the Nebbiolo had only a vague resemblance to a Langhe Nebbiolo. The grape apparently does not thrive away from its Piemont home. My favorite of this lineup was the LaZona Aglianico, and we ordered a bottle to accompany an excellent Sunday lunch at the winery.

Dark crimson color, bright and youthful. Dark cherries but also some bright red fruit tones. Ripe fruit with lively acidity. Just the right amount of earth and forest floor with white pepper on the long finish. At $36 AU, this is an excellent value
 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Jones Winery and Vineyard Rutherglen Malbec, 2019


 
Malbec has become very popular in the United States--so much so that I tend to avoid it, wine snob that I am. After tasting this 2019 Malbec from Jones Winery & Vineyard in Rutherglen Australia, I decided that Malbec is worth another look.

Beautiful bright crimson color. Ripe red cherry, intense aromas and flavors. Rutherglen is a particularly warm area of Australia, best known for its dessert wines, but this 2019 Malbec has surpringly good acidity. Medium bodty, great texture, long finish that gets better and better over the course of the meal.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz, 1991

According to most critics, Henschke ranks as one of the top two or three producers of Australian Shiraz, and Hill of Grace is the estate's most high respected product. Tasting this wine tonight, I can say, without hesitation, it is not over-rated.

Medium dark garnet. Minimal bricking. Entrancing bouquet of red and black fruits, flowers, eucalyptus and white pepper. Lovely ripe fruit with savory tones. Finesse rather than power. Has aged beautifully and is not finished yet. Ranks very high on my all-time list.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Carrick Unravelled Central Otago (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, 2021

The estate describes Unravelled as "our early drinking offering for Pinot Noir lovers...bottled earlier with less new oak." It is by no means a simple wine, however, and was given 94 points by New Zealand wine critic, Cameron Douglas.

Deep and dark for a Pinot Noir. Black fruits, minerals, spice, pepper. Pleasant warm smells and flavors. Drinking beautifully now, but I don't see it fading away any time soon

Gibbston Valley Central Otago (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, 2021

We ordered glasses of two diffeerent Central Otago Pinots at dinner tonight. This was my favorite.

Deep and dark for a Pinot Noir. Very similar to the Carrick beside it at the table. As for aromas and flavors, the two wines are very different. The Gibbston strikes me as cool, the Carrick, warm in both smell and taste. Red raspberries, strawberries, minerals. Spicy, peppery finish. Deep, concentrated flavors with potential for aging.
 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Russian Jack Martinborough (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, 2020

Another excellent value in New Zealand Pinot Noir ($19.99NZ or $13US). For my taste, the quality is similar to the Central Otago Mt Difficulty Pinot (below). Maybe even a little better. Martinborough is at the extreme northeastern tip of the mountainous south island of New Zealand.

Bright ruby, considerably lighter than the Mt Difficulty. Red berries, dark cherries, spice. Lighter on the tannins, good acidity on the ripe fruited finish. I like the depth and complexity. This could match up with salmon or lighter dishes as well as the lamb shanks on the table. 

Mount Difficulty Roaring Meg Central Otago Pinot Noir, 2022

This is a relatively inexpensive Central Otago Pinot Noir ($29.99NZ or about $20US). But it shows the potential of this high altitude, cool climate appellation on the south island of New Zealand.

Very deep and dark for a Pinot Noir. A big wine that matches up well with the lamb shanks on the table. Strawberries, boysenberries and spice. Ripe tannins on the mid-palate and good Pinot acidity on the finish. A very enjoyable wine but doesn't measure up to the North Canterbury Pinots tasted at Greystone Winery (see below) or Pegasus Bay.
 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Greystone Thomas Brothers Waiparu Valley (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, 2021

The winery considers this wine "one of our finest single block expressions ever, showing the effects of fruit intensity & gentle handling." Also from high-sited, north-facing vineyards on a limestone/clay soil, the high quality fruit is apparent even from a tasting.

Medium deep ruby, darker than the Vineyard Ferment. Greater intensity, more tannin with acidity and concentration similar to the Vineyard Ferment. Ripe red berry fruit with complex, savory flavors that will undoubtedly develop even more with cellar aging. Sells for $135NZ (about $80US) at the cellar door.

 

Greystone Winery Vineyard Ferment Waiparu Valley (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, 2020

Tbis wine literally made itself. Grapes were hand picked, destemmed and then fermented between the rows where they were grown. Then it was aged for 15 months in old oak barriques. The idea is to eliminate any outside influences and make it "a pure expression of the hillside." Once grapes are brought into the winery, they are introduced to a new environment--temperature controlled and a new yeast population. In the vineyard, only native wild yeasts contribute to the fermentation, and the climate of the vineyard and the vintage are preserved.

The 2020 Vineyard Ferment Pinot comes from a high, north-facing vineyard on limestone bedrock covered with clay soil. Grapes are Dijon clone. The wine is exceptional.

Light color, even for a Pinot Noir. Red fruit, spice, flowers with delicate tannins. Expands on the tongue with sloiw waves of beautiful flavors. Plenty of acid, but a calm rather than lively feel. Dances across the tongue in a slow waltz leading to a long, complex finish. My favorite of the tasting; I ordered a full glass with lunch.

Greystone Wines, Erin's Waipara Valley (New Zealand) Chardonnay, 2020


I will start with the bad news: Greystone wines are not imported into the United States.And they would not be budget wines if they were. Our tasting at the winery on the south island of New Zealand, however, confirmed to me that Greystone wines represent thre essence of what I consider artisanal. As the winery puts it: "We believe true fine wines are temporal, each vintage a fleeting snapshot of a place in time. We don't seek to manipulate the final product with additives or flavourings--instead we allow a true interpretation of the soil, vines and season to shine through." The woman who led us through our tasting of three "reserve wines" mentioned again and again the challenges faced by vines on the limestone/clay soil and the cool climate. That is good, she told us. We seek quaality, not quantity.

Erin's Chardonnay comes from high slopes planted to the Mendoza clone. Following what the winery considered an ideal summer for Chardonnay, the grapes were handpicked, then given 100% whole bunch pressing, wild fermentation, full malolactic and aging in French oak barriques (40% new) for 16 months. The result is a very special Chardonnay indeed.

Medium deep, bright yellow. Lime, butter, minerals. The oak has given it a richness with no sacrifice of vibrant, acid-driven fruit. Layers and layers of complex flavors and smells. More like Oregon than French or California Chardonnay. This wine sells at the winery for $135NZ (about $80US), and it is worth every penny.

Later in the day, with lunch and dinner, Donna and I sampled Greystone's regular (lower priced) Chardonnays from 2019 and 2018. Both were very good.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Main Divide North Canterbury Pinot Noir, 2021

Like the Waipara Hills Pinot (below), Main Divide comes from a cool climate on the mountainous south island of New Zealand. Side by side on the table, I like both but had a slight preference for this wine.

Medium deep ruby. Slightly funky aromas but more intense at this stage than the Waipara Hills. Cherries, red plums, black tea and oak.Good tannin/acid balance. Some unexpected complexity on the finish.
 

Waipara Hills Waipara Valley North Canterbury (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, 2021

Waipara Valley is located about an hour north of Christchurch on the mountainous south island of New Zealand. It is a cool climate with brisk ocean breezes that should be good for growing Pinot Noir grapes.

Medium deep ruby. Aromas of dark cherries, violets and spice. Medium intensity. I like the hints of white pepper/citrus zest on the finish. A good value at $10 to $15 a bottle.
 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Owen Roe Growers Guild Oregon Pinot Noir, 2021

The appellation for this Growers Guild Pinot is broad, including grapes from vineyards throughout the Pacific Northwest, including not just the Willamette Valley but also the Columbia Gorge and Umpqua and Rogue Valleys. Yet the quality is far from generic.

Medium garnet. Bright red fruit, mint and toasty oak. Bright acidity, citrus zest on the finish. Subtle nuances on the finisgh as the wine develops over the course of the meal. A good value at $15 to $20 a bottle. 

Sunday, February 11, 2024

The Withers Winery Cody Mendocino County, 2010

As an avid Southern Rhone enthusiast, I have generally been less than impressed with "Rhone Ranger" wines. This Cody from Withers Winery is a notable exception.

Bright, medium deep crimson. Looks like a traditional Cotes du Rhone Villages. And the smells and flavors also match up. Grenache (70%) strawberry with darker fruits from the Syrah (30%). Clean, well defined fruit with a white pepper finish. Perhaps a bit sweeter than a CDR Villages, bur, in a blind tasting, I would have a hard time distinguishing it from a high quality Cairanne or Valreas
 

Friday, February 9, 2024

Renati Ratti Barbera d'Asti Battaglione, 2019


 For the current vintage of this wine, the winemaker describes it as a "bright cardinal red." As an avid St. Louis Cardinals' baseball fan, that is enough to attract my attention. One sniff and sip convinced me that it is indeed worthy of wearing Cardinal red.

Ripe red berries, plums and spice. An exuberant experience in the nose and in the mouth. Acidity that creates almost a tart impression. Teases the taste buds and leaves a long, satisfying after taste. This Barbera usually sells for $25, but I purchased it during a special sale at D&W in Kalamazoo two years ago. The current vintage is now on sale for $14.98 at Plum Market in Ann Arbor, but you will have to go on a wait list to get some. If it's anything like this 2019, it is well worth the wait.


Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Carpe Diem Anderson Valley Chardonnay, 2019

This excellent Chardonnay initially sold for $25 to $30 but is now available in my marketing area for $12 to $15. I'm sure that is because the label reveals that it's from the 2019  vintage. Many Chardonnays of that age are now showing their age; this one is just coming into its own. Made by Roederer Estate, the fruit is Dijon clone (now used for most Oregon Chardonnays) from cool climate vineyards. 

Medium deep yellow. Lovely smells of ripe apple, honeydew melon and white peaches. The wine was fermented in French oak barrels, 9% new, but the aromas seem oriented more toward fruit than oak. Like an Oregon Chardonnay on the tongue: intense flavors of lemon cream and minerals. Great texture. Clings to the tongue and sparkles with energy.
 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Calstar Cellars Londer Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 2009

For me, Anderson Valley Pinots rank just behind those from the best Willamette Valley, Oregon vineyards. This 2009 from Calstar Cellars is a fine example.

Deep ruby red. Red cherries, pomegranates, dried flowers, spice and a bit of black pepper. Pure Pinot fruit, ripe and well defined. Silky texture with good acidity to frame the flavors. Grows in the glass. 

Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d'Asti DOCG, 2021

Selling for $5.99 at Trader Joe's this wine is easy to overlook or dismiss. It is, in my opinion, one of the best value in the store, a perfect choice for appetizers or every day meals.

Bright, translucent ruby red. Cherries, berries--fresh and lively. Smooth texture with ripe fruit and bright acidity. Medium long and flavorable finish.
 

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Vignerons du Mont Ventoux Altitude 500 Ventoux, 2019

I like wines from Ventoux, and I have been pleased with other vintages of this Altitude 500. But this bottle does not make it with me.

Deep, dark crimson. A big wine, full bodied and highly extracted--not at all what I expect from a Ventoux. The alcohol is too high (15%) for me, and the flavors are hot and somewhat bitter. 75% Grenache but none of the friendly tones of Southern Rhone Grenache.

Second night: Hey, I was too tough on this wine last night. Tonight, I can smell the cherries and taste some ripe Grenache fruit on the finish. Maybe it just needed air. Or maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention. I still get some alcoholic heat, but there is enough acidity to keep it fresh. For the price, though, ($15.49), I prefer Ventoux from Famille Perrin ($6.79) and 3 Messes Basses ($10 to $12).

Friday, February 2, 2024

Domaine l'Oratoire Saint Martin, 2005

This cuvee of Domaine l'Oratoire Saint Martin, known since the 2010 vintage as Douyes, ranks among my top 10 all-time favorites. I have been drinking it since the late 1980s, and this 2005 may be the best of the lot. It is a field blend of old vine Grenache and Mourvedre.

Medium deep crimson. Enticing bouquet of cherries, blueberries, violets and Provencal herbs. Mourvedre showing. On the palate, the Grenache is doing its part: ripe strawberries and white pepper. Fills the mouth with pleasure. Old vine nuances on the long finish. Now nearing the end of its second decade, this Cairanne is still going strong. Sadly, this is my last bottle.
 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Evans & Tate Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005


Cabernets from Australia's Margaret River have always reminded me of good Bourgeois cru reds from Bordeaux, and this 2005 Evans & Tate Cab is a good example.

Medium deep red, surprisingly similar to the beet root slices in a plate beside it on the table.  Mulberries, red and black currants, cassis, chocolate. A good level of acidity. Not a blockbuster. Lovely finish featuring ripe, well defined fruit. 

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Terres d'Avignon Kermit Lynch Selection Cotes du Rhone, 2021

I had a glass of this excellent Cotes du Rhone to accompany a pomegranate glased salmon entree at Sava's in Ann Arbor. 

Bright crimson. Dark cherry, strawberries on a background of peppery spice. Very much a traditional Cotes du Rhone, heavy on the Grenache. Lovely ripe smells and flavors that develop and grow with the flavors of the dish. A wine I would gladly buy in quantity if it were available in my marketing area.
 

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert, 1991

Like all great wines, Domaine de Thalabert has a distinctive personality that comes shining through regardless of the vintage. I start anticipating the pleasure of that personality as soon as I start opening a bottle, and the ecstasy continues through the last sip.

Still deep and dark after more than three decades in the bottle. Black raspberries, cherries, black olives and those distinctive Thalabert minerals. Enough acidity to keep the fruit fresh and lively. Makes the tongue dance and sing. I have been drinking Thalabert since the 1979 vintage, and this 1991 is one of my favorites. Better than the 1995 we had in December, but not quite as good as the 1983 we had in October, 2023.


 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Bodega Esteban Martin Garnacha-Syrah, 2021

This Grenache/Syrah blend from the gravelly soils of the Carinena region of Spain reminds me of a very good, traditionally made Cotes du Rhone. Purchased from Costco last year for $4.99, it also represents an excellent value.

Bright ruby red. Smells and flavors of red berries, cherries, violets and black pepper. A good structure of ripe tannins and fresh acidity. Peppery finish. Works beautifully with acorn squash filled with cranberries and pecans.
 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Luca Bosio Leda Truffle Hunter Barbera d'Asti, 2021

Back in the 1980s when I was enjoying Kenwood and other old style Cabernets, this Barbera would have been dismissed as a "picnic wine." Even by today's standards, it is still a "fun" rather than "serious" wine, but I see nothing wrong with that. It is fun; it is delicious. And, to be honest, I enjoy it more than I enjoy the Kenwood Cabernet beside it at the table.

Medium light ruby, bright and clear. Strawberries, raspberries, a touch of pepper. Ripe but well defined flavors framed by fresh acidity. Drinks well with food, even beef tenderloin in a mushroom/Cabernet sauce. Yes, it;s fun, but that doesn't mean it's simple.

Kenwood Sonoma County Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009

When I first started buying wines in the early 1980s, California wines were gaining a great deal of respect, but there was less reverence for certain sites and appellations. Cabernets that I considered inexpensive enough to buy included Kenwood, Burgess Cellars, Shafer, Turnbull Cellars, Beringer and Conn Creek.. All of these, with the exception of Kenwood, have well sited vineyards in Napa, and their prices today reflect their appellations. Kenwood is in Sonoma County, however, and even some of their high-end bottlings still sell for $12 to $15 a bottle, not much more than their retail price in the early 1980s. This bottle confirms  to me that the old time quality and style that I found at Kenwood 40 years ago is still there at an even more affordable price.

Deep and dark; looks younger than its years. Old time smells and flavors of blackberries, currants, cassis and vanilla. American oak? A broad shouldered 1980s Cab. Slightly rough on the mid palate but a compelling finish with suggestions of balsamic and pomegranate.
 

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Fontanafredda Piemonte Barbera Briccotondo, 2008

I have a glass of the current vintage of Briccotodo every time we visit Martini's, our local Italian eatery. It is always fresh and fruity, an excellent accompaniment to pizza or red sauce pasta. When I saw a 2008 vintage of this Barbera on WineBid with a reserve of $15, I waa curious to see how an inexpensive Barbera might age over 12 to 14 years. Very well, I discovered.

Medium dark ruby, bright and clear. The fruity aromas of a young Barbera have become a bit earthier, but I like what I'm smelling.. Black raspberries, cherries, black pepper on the tongue. Bright acidity attacks the outer borders of the tongue with deep fruit, pepper and spice flavors down the middle. A major step upward from the young Briccotondo I have come to know.

 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Wind Gap Woodruff Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains, Chardonnay, 2012

I have had this wine many times over the past two years, but I don't think I have ever appreciated its quality as much as I did tonight, comparing it to a wine 10 years its junior, the 2022 Rock Station Napa Chardonnay. Rock Station, purchased at Trader Joe's for $12.99, is a decent wine with light oak/mineral traits typical of Carneros Chardonnays. The Wind Gap is a totally different wine and actually tastes and smells younger than the 2022 Rock Station.

Medium lemon yellow compared to a medium dark gold with the Rock Station. The bouquet is not Carneros, of course, but it has some of the Carneros elegance plus beautiful complexity and depth. Apples, lemon custard, minerals. Great acid structure to support the ripe fruit flavors.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

B Vineyards and Habitat Russian River Pinot Noir, 2005

We had an exceptional bottle of this wine in September of 2016. That was etched in my memory when this wine appeared at auction at the same low reserve ($15) as the previous one. I suspected the wine might have gone through a significant decline over seven plus years, but, for $15, I still took the chance. And I am glad I did.

Medium light garnet, slightly murky just as I described the bottle consumed in 2016. Perhaps this is because the wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered; I find no negative effects on the smells and flavors. The bouquet may not be as floral or intense as the previous bottle, but the enthralling flavors of ripe wild strawberries gliding across the tongue from front to back are just as intense and persistent. Silky Pinot texture and ample acidity to delight the senses. A very special wine.
 

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Famille Perrin Ventoux Rouge, 2021

For years, Ventoux and other Southern Rhone wines were my top choice for every day meals featuring pizza or red sauce pasta. As most Southern Rhone wines have gone up in price, they have frequently been replaced for such occasions by inexpensive Barbera wines such as Rosa dell Olmo ($5.99 at Trader Joe's). Tonight with Barbera and Ventoux side-by-side on the table, my top choice is Famille Perrin's inexpensive Ventoux Rouge ($6.79 at Plum Market in Ann Arbor).

Bright crimson. Even more aromatic than the Barbera. Flowers, fresh berries, currants, spice and black pepper. Glides across the tongue. Both wines are filled with mouth watering acidity and fresh fruit flavors, but the Ventoux has more complexity and excitement. I love the peppery finish.

 

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d'Asti, 2021

I buy and drink a lot of Piedmont Barberas, usually spending at least $12 to $15 to get a decent bottle. But this little gem from Rosa dell Olmo, selling for $5.99 at Trader Joe's, measures up quite well with any I have tried.

Translucent ruby red. Beautiful scents and flavors of cherries, red berries and vanilla countered by some darker tones. Barbera acidity plus rich fruit flavors and a silky Pinot Noir-like texture. I don't know why I haven't been buying more of this wine.
 

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Matthew Fritz Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, 2022

From the first sniff and sip I knew this was not a delicate Pinot Noir. But all the better because I was drinking it with a beef curry dish at Chin Chin Asian restaurant in Mattawan, MI. Nevertheless, the wine has true Pinot Noir personality.

Medium ruby color. Concentrated cherry-oriented fruit with black pepper, spice, black tea and citrus zest. Very Pinot. Medium body, medium tannins, medium plus acidity. Stood up well to the curry and gave persistent pleasure throughout the meal.
 

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Languedoc Cabrieres Rouge, 2020

This Kermit Lynch Selection is from the Languedoc but offers up some of the best qualities of both Northern and Southern Rhone. It is 55% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 7% Carignan and 3% Cinsault.

Bright, medium deep crimson. Thanks to the high elevation vineyards, where days are warmbut nights are cool, the Syrah has Northern Rhone traits featuring black fruits and Provencal olives. But this is countered by Grenache red fruit and Southern Rhone garrigue. Bright acid-driven fruit with the finesse of a serious wine. Noticeably better than the last bottle we had in July, 2023.