Thursday, March 30, 2017

2014 Alto Moncayo Veraton

This is the second wine of Alto Moncayo which I've written about before. It's about half the price in the US. It's still wonderful. It's a good advertisement for grenache. Incredibly complex and pleasing. Initial two openings (March 23-25, 2017): Almonds, gardenia, red berries like pomegranate and cranberry. Preserved with Coravin, poured again March 30 showing even more complex nuances of mint along with the red berries. Smoother now, tannins pretty much gone. I'd like to taste this next to the flagship Alto Moncayo Alto Moncayo as it's called, which I'd guess has fuller body, more tannin, longer finish.  By itself the Veraton is hedonistic and fun. The winemaker is Chris Ringland of Australia.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

2014 Caymus Cabernet

Enjoyed this--immensely--at Circa Foggy Bottom with good friend Prof. Maria José Canel of Madrid. The Caymus cabernet, a hedonistic wine, shows a kaleidoscope of flavors from pine and cedar wood inflected cassis to blackberry to cranberry with many spicy nuances. Maybe even some almond or other nut. It goes down about as easily as a cabernet could. The tannins are barely detectable but there's enough acid and tannin to allow the wine to age and I suppose develop even more complex aromas. I expect some purists would think the wine too extracted and emphatic, a little pushy and obvious. OK by me. It was a terrific accompaniment to the nicely cooked salmon I had. More subtle wines have their place too, of course, but it should be ok to enjoy a wine that just comes up and gives you a big hug.

Unfortunately my Coravin preserver is locked in my car in Alexandria so although I took the bottle home (2/3 full), all that preserved it was its original cork and the refrigerator. It tastes pretty good just the same, two days later.

Here's Parker (94 points): The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley has a dense opaque purple color, a kiss of blackberry and cassis fruit, a full-bodied mouthfeel with ripe tannin and a long finish. It is very Caymus in its immediate accessibility, but has plenty of staying power and depth. This is lush, full, intense and pure. Drink it over the next 15 or so years.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2012 Stonestreet Chardonnay Broken Road

These days I'm not able to drink wine very often. It's a great frustration. But on New Year's Eve with friends I just had to share a bottle of this Stonestreet from my lonely cellar, a Sonoma vineyard that makes some of my favorite California chardonnays and cabernets. A beautiful place to visit and taste too.

So, this wine had a wonderful nutty, caramel spice aroma that got more and more floral, I think, as it sat in the glass. The taste was refreshing even though full bodied with a nice fruit and mineral finish. 93 points.

It reminded me that good chardonnay can be nearly as complex and enjoyable as good reds. I wish I could've drunk another couple glasses but somehow I had the self-restraint not to. For those who think chardonnay is boring or passé, this bottle (among many others) would have to give them pause. Furthermore, the notion that something like pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc can compete with an excellent chardonnay seems far fetched to me. With a few exceptions of course, like a great white Bordeaux, but they cost way more for the same quality level in my experience. Lesser known whites like Godello and Albarino can also provide a lot of pleasure. But time in and time out, chardonnay does the trick for me--granted, "different strokes for different folks" is true and to each his or her own, etc etc.

Parker says 93 points too: The 2012 Chardonnay Broken Road, made from Dijon clones, is the most tropical of these Chardonnays, revealing lots of pineapple, mango and a hint of bananas. A wet rock-like component provides minerality. It should drink well for 4-6 years. 
 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

2003 Sociando Mallet finally comes around

Bought this one around 2005 when it was released to some acclaim, but each bottle I opened over the following 8-10 years was a disappointment. The wine was unyielding, tannic, not much to please either the nose or palate. Finally, last night I opened one of my last 2 bottles and it was a revelation. Tastes like a lovely mature Bordeaux with a pronounced floral, lavender and black currant/huckleberry aroma and tastes to match. Very round now, velvety mouth feel, and moderately long and sweet finish with just a hint of tannin left. Nice purple color too.

Parker gave it a 94 when it first came out. More recent tasting (Aug 2014) he gave it a mere 90. I'd say a 92 is about right for the bottle I just tasted. Here's what Parker said in the more recent review:

This fresh Northern Medoc demonstrates how strong the 2003 vintage can be in this sector of Bordeaux. The tannins have softened considerably, and the wine reveals a youthful dense ruby/purple color. Notes of white flowers, blackberries and black currants are found in this still youthful, medium- to full-bodied, rich wine that is just approaching full maturity. It should provide plenty of pleasure over the next decade.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

2009 Remelluri Rioja Reserva

The aromas developed with time in glass, a combination of floral and strawberry with a hint of herbs and vanilla. The palate didn't develop as nicely, with acid more predominant than fruit, and soft tannins. I'm not sure there's a great future for this wine, unfortunately. To be fair, the wine was purchased and lugged home on the Berlin Ubahn only a week ago, and it's in a 375 ml bottle, so it might be an unfair comparison to more settled wines in 750 ml bottles. Also I'm using the lousy, very shallow glass that is available in my Berlin apt (I've ordered some Riedel glasses--Riedel being a German company they're inexpensive here!). But I'd only give this 87 points. The Wine Advocate was much more enthusiastic at 93 points:

The 2009 Remelluri Reserva aims at showing the character of Remelluri, as this is the first modern vintage that does not have grapes purchased from external suppliers. These grapes are now in the Lindes range of wines, but in the past they were blended with the estate grapes. The cool Remelluri vineyards behave very well in warmer years. This 2009 is very clean with predominant aromas of earthy red fruit intermixed with notes of vanilla and cinnamon, a satin texture with round, fine-grained tannins and quite classical and very well-proportioned style. This is a great vintage for Remelluri Reserva.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tasting in Spain January 2016: 1. Madrid and Ribera del Duero

On my admittedly self-indulgent visit to Madrid for two months, I have determined to do a reasonable amount of tasting Spanish wines. They are so much more affordable here than in the US. This is different from French wines, which are generally little or no less expensive in France, perhaps because they have more of a world-wide market than Spanish wines. In any case, on my first full day in Madrid I purchased several bottles from Bodega Privada (online sales only, delivery for 6 Euros) at 1/3-2/3 less than US prices, followed a few days later by my visit to Bodega Santa Cecilia, one of my favorite wine shops in all the world. There I snagged 3 bottles of my favorite grenache wine, Alto Moncayo Alto Moncayo 2013 (also tasted at my Durham tasting in early January before I left) and a couple other gems at steep discount. And because of a slight mixup on the order they gave me a complementary tasting and tapas at their lovely wine bar. A wine bar that serves some superb Spanish wines, so I couldn't help adding on to my order a glass of Finca Dofi 2013. A great Priorat winery, but apparently not a great year for them judging by the tasting--89 points.

This was followed last week by a journey to Asturias, Cantabria (north and northwest of Spain), and Ribera del Duero where I had wonderful private tastings at Bodegas Vizcarra (famed for $20 in US "Pruno" which Parker keeps overrating at 93-94 points; it's $12 here) and Emilio Moro, which produces my current favorite Ribera, Malleolus. I found out that word means something like "little vineyard plot." I do think this trip solidified my sense that I like Ribera a bit better than Rioja. Not to say I don't love me some Rioja (see below). Tastings were private because I was the only tourist around midweek in late January. Also visited the ridge-top fort or castle at Penafiel, quite a dramatic place.

Notes on the Emilio Moro tasting:







Tasting 3 levels of wine at Emilio Moro: all excellent. Naia Restaurant serves Resalso by the glass for a song

Resalso 2014: Lightest in color, lowest in body and finish, less distinctively varietal. A bit of cherry soda on nose. No tannin, some alcohol on nose, pleasant medium finish. Citrus comes out with air on nose, maybe cotton candy. Very revealing to have this alongside the other two for tasting. 87 points. Resalso comes from young vines and recent vintage and tasting the other two alongside, from 2013 and 2011 and older vines, is instructive. Emilio Moro 2013: Bigger, deeper nose, slightly darker. Notable anise and spice with vanilla in background as in the cherry. There is definite tannin and acid on the finish. Tannins though are pretty round. With air it opens to give more oaky or vanilla nose. Nicely balanced and very pleasant now, better in a year or two. With more airing, more caramel and mint overtones, and rounder on palate, with longer but not terribly complex finish. 90 points. 2011 Malleolus: Huge increase in darkness and depth of nose. Anise plus more complex spices, vanilla. Fruit tones shade more toward plum here, with cherry and caramel. On palate round tannins but quite pronounced. Fruit and acid in nice balance carrying a medium long finish. Nose is classic winery smell of oak and fermented grapes. Wonderful silky mouth feel but with need of some age to soften tannins. I'd say give it 2-3 years. With more air, more complex nose develops. The impression is of high quality wine, from older vines, carefully crafted. Could not be mistaken for a Rhone or a Bordeaux or a Priorat. And is more elegant than most Riojas. There is a slight hint of sherry here, I guess or prune-type ripeness, but nicely integrated with the rest of the flavors and aromas. Might be a slight hint of citrus here too, and some forest floor, spice and mint coming on with more airing--even some sandalwood incense. 93 points.

From Vizcarra, the 2014 Pruno is a solid wine with some real character and deserves 89 points. The Vizcarra is significantly better, 91 points, but a clear step behind Malleolus.


At this moment I'm sitting on my 8th floor rooftop terrace looking west over Madrid. It's a clear day and I can actually see a bit of mountain at the far horizon. But on the whole the weather has been much cloudier than during my stay in 2012. Anyhow, I've just opened a bottle of La Rioja Alta Rioja 904, vintage 2005 which is the most recent release--they usually keep them for 10 years before releasing, and only make it, their Gran Reserva, in the best years. The nose is superb: creme de cassis and cherry vanilla with a hint of mint, exotic spices and flowers. The tannins are mostly resolved so it's indeed at its peak right now though will last a while with its nice balance of fruit, acid, alcohol and remaining tannin. I'd call it medium body, with a long balanced finish. The color is beautiful, purple with the brick colored rim denoting maturity. Sitting on my terrace drinking great Spanish wine: this was my dream that led me to come here for the winter. Enjoying also Flor d'Esgueva cheese, which is local to the Ribera area, a low lactose sheep's milk cheese featuring a nice tangy crumbly taste.


Vineyard at Vizcarra

Penafiel Castle

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2012 Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo Sangiovese 60% Cabernet Sauv 40%

A SuperTuscan from Maremma on sale at Calvert Woodley for about $15. I had to buy a bottle. It generated a 93 point rating from Vinous (formerly Tanzer's IWC) which is pretty high for them. So what I'm finding in the glass initially is indeed a soft and smooth but complex wine with evolving nose of piney woods, cherry, a certain herbal earthiness that's common in sangiovese but dialed back a bit by the cabernet, which I like. With air more of a mint/menthol/eucalyptus aroma. Soft tannins and moderately long finish, medium body, fairly light colored. I'd say this is better than the hyped Black Slate Priorats I've purchased--not that they're bad.

Vinous says this in its review: Dark bright red. Amarone-like opulence on the nose and in the mouth, with a raisiny nuance to the ripe, soft red cherry, sweet spice and herb aromas and flavors. So velvety and opulent I would have tasted it in Veneto had I tasted it blind, but it’s so well balanced and smooth that it’s pretty irresistible. Finishes long, with lush, smooth tannins and a hint of residual sweetness. I really like this wine because, for all its showy sweetness and opulence, it manages to retain a graceful quality without going over the top. Amarone lovers will score it even higher than I have.