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.