Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2001 Marciliano (Umbria IGT)

This was first opened on 12/25 and is now being retasted on 12/29/09, having been preserved with gas. On first tasting it was good but very restrained on the nose and palate, somewhat difficult to judge. I'd say 91. Tonight it's a revelation--open, soft with a really delightful bouquet of black, tea, sweet blackberry/blueberry and boysenberry(?), lavender, licorice and anise too (candy and herb components respectively to the sweet nose), a bit of coffee, and toasted oak. Really complex. I believe it's predominantly Merlot but will have to defer to the tasting notes pasted below. I don't get as much cherry as expected for Merlot, however, though it is there as it airs. I'd say this is a 94 now and has potential for even better. Given how it's improved I will hold off drinking this till 2011 and think it can go another ten years.

Parker 95:
The 2001 Marciliano, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, is dazzlingly good in this exceptionally fine vintage for Italy with its powerful and focused aromas of cassis and blackberries, minerals and Mediterranean herbs, its dense, packed palate of superb structure and balance, and a noble austerity and complexity which should guarantee another 20 years of life. (as of 4/2006 thus predicts will last till 2026 vs. my 2021).

WS 90 points:
Wonderful aromas of blackberries, licorice and berries. Full-bodied, with chewy tannins and a medium finish. A bit austere now but should turn around. Cabernet and Cabernet Franc. The sister of Montiano. Best after 2006. 1,400 cases made. –JS

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2007 Tablas Creek (Paso Robles) Esprit de Beaucastel

This one got 94 points from the Tanzer Int'l Wine Cellars's Josh Reynolds as well as 95-97 from Parker himself. I was able to snag some at a good price from Apex Beverage and couldn't wait any longer to taste it. It transported me on first sniff to the actual Beaucastel, and it turns out this winery is a joint venture between the Perrin family which runs the original Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape and a California family in Paso Robles (somewhere near Santa Barbara).

On the nose this is a bit closed but with coaxing you get a major whiff of red raspberry, with strawberry and blackberry components, unmistakably promising of the soft and deep grenache fruit. I read that this is actually 44% mourvedre and 29% grenache (21% syrah) and it might be the first time I've had such a heavily mourvedre-driven wine. Nonetheless, this one has sweet tannins that you wouldn't notice unless you concentrated on the finish, but they are there in abundance, a good thing since there is very ripe fruit here from the great 2007 Calif vintage and this will give the wine longevity and potential to develop more bouquet. With more air i'm getting some subtle minty herb lavender spice component, Parker might say Provencal herbs, on a very long finish that provides the acid and tannin backbone to complement the fruit. This is truly one that drinks great right now, silky and sweet, but will improve. I'd have to agree with the 95 points and with the promise of possibly better--in a couple years it could go higher. I'd give it 2010-2022 drinking window. The finish is very long and voluptuous, and on the palate right now you have a totally hedonistic pleasure. Below is some info on Tablas Creek followed by the Parker and IWC reviews. Given that the Beaucastel itself costs $110 and up, this wine is a great bargain @ about $45-60.

pumped of oxygen and tasted 3 days later (12/29) it was good but the acid was up too high. It didn't, in other words, live up to the improving curve of the Chrysaeia or the Montiano, though on the initial day it was better than either.

The Beaucastel Model at Tablas Creek Vineyard
Tablas Creek Farms Organically
The Rhone in Paso Robles
Tablas Creek Vineyard was founded by the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. They chose the hilly Las Tablas district of west Paso Robles for its similarities to Châteauneuf du Pape: limestone soils, a favorable climate, and rugged terrain.
Vines Imported from France
The partners imported the traditional varietals grown on the Perrins' celebrated estate, including Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Counoise for reds, and Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc for whites. These imported vines passed a rigorous 3-year USDA testing program, and are propagated and grafted in an on-site nursery. All Tablas Creek wines are estate grown and organically farmed on ourvineyard.
Minimum Intervention in Winemaking
Tablas Creek follows the centuries-old Châteauneuf du Pape tradition of blending chosen varietals, which produces wines that are more complex, better balanced, and richer than single varietal wines. Each varietal is hand-harvested when completely ripe and fermented separately. Winemaking, including native yeast fermentation and neutral French oak barrels, preserves the wines' ties to their soil, climate, and varietal character.
Wines: Esprit de Beaucastel
The signature red Esprit de Beaucastel is a richly intense wine, with aromatics of roasted meats, licorice and currants, and flavors of ripe cherries, blackberries, leather, earth and spice, held together in a velvety tannic structure.


Parker 95-97 pts
The profound 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel (a 4,200-case blend of 44% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 21% Syrah, and 6% Counoise) boasts a glorious perfume of roasted herbs, Peking duck, soy, blueberries, blackberries, and bouquet garni. This elegant yet powerful, dense, multilayered wine saturates the palate, possesses multiple dimensions, beautiful nuances, and a stunningly long finish that lasts over 40 seconds. It should provide plenty of pleasure over the next 10-15 years. This Paso Robles outpost is owned by two Francophiles, Frenchman Francois Perrin (one of the owners of the Rhone Valley's Chateau Beaucastel) and Robert Haas (founder of the import company Vineyard Brands, and a pioneer importer of estate-bottled French wines). Seeking out steep limestone ridges near the Pacific Ocean, Tablas Creek was a work in progress for its first four to five years, but it has come on like gang-busters in the 21st century. The 2007s are unquestionably their finest wines to date, but readers should not overlook the excellent 2006s.

Reynolds IWC 94
y Josh Raynolds
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, Nov/Dec 09
($50; 44% mourvedre, 29% grenache, 21% syrah and 6% counoise) Vivid red. Impressively complex bouquet melds raspberry, cherry pit, cassis and incense, with smoky Indian spice and herbal qualities adding complexity. Rich, palate-coating red and dark berry preserve flavors verge on decadent but are nicely framed by velvety tannins. A sweet floral note come up with air and carries through the strikingly long, juicy and spicy finish. I'd serve this powerful, deeply fruity wine with braised lamb.

94 WS:
Rich, dry and full-bodied, with loamy earth, dried berry, mineral, anise and black licorice flavors that run deep and persistent, layered and concentrated, ending with a long, tight finish. Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah and Counoise. Drink now through 2017. 4,200 cases made. –JL

Friday, December 25, 2009

1989 Clinet (Pomerol) and Morey Chassagne-Montrachet 2002

A great treat at Wib and Charlotte's for Christmas dinner. Starting with a Chassagne (I think from Morey) that was wonderful, beautiful gold color, nose of butter and pineapple and lychee with vanilla spice. I have to believe it's at its peak, incredibly balanced and pure with just the right acid to fruit ratio. It is from the 2002 vintage, which Wib and I saw being harvested in Burgundy. I'm not sure but I think it was Chenevottes vineyard which Parker rates 90 points. I'd give it 93 myself. He says drink till 2010. I'd think it'll go 2-3 more years, till 2012 or so.

The light to medium-bodied, mineral-scented 2002 Chassagne-Montrachet Chenevottes is a concentrated, precise, deep, crystalline wine. Loads of quartz and gravel flavors can be found throughout its silky-textured character as well as in its prolonged finish. Drink it over the next 6 years.

Now as to Clinet, a Parker 100 point Pomerol that we bought in 1991 or so as a future and have drunk a couple of times in past years. I have no bottles left. Incredibly enough, tasted tonight with tannins smoothed out but distinctly noticeable on a moderately long finish, the nose suggested it's still years before peaking. The nose was plum and black cherry and blackberry. With air the nose and palate added cocoa/mocha to this enticing fruit menu. The color was still very youthful. The bottle had a dry cork but this wine was in perfect condition after nearly 20 yrs cellaring at Wib and Charlottes house, sans refrigeration but in a cool cellar. I'd give it 95 points and suggest not drinking any more bottles for another 3-4 years and then it'll be drinking just fine for another decade after that--say 2025 if not longer.

Parker's 100 pt review is from 1997 contrasts greatly with Wine Spectator's (giving it 89 pts) from 2003. Parker:

The 1989's aroma (believe it or not, the first bottle in the blind tasting was badly corked) jumps from the glass, offering up pure scents of flowers, black-raspberries, currants, vanillin, and truffles. Full-bodied, with a seamless texture, fabulous concentration, a massive degree of richness, but no heaviness or awkwardness, this remains one of the most profound young wines I have ever tasted. Its sweetness of fruit and layers of flavor, combined with its remarkable texture are the stuff of legends. Both of these wines are approachable (their high Merlot content ensures them softness), yet they remain largely unevolved. If readers like them young, do not hesitate to drink a bottle or two. Ideally, both the 1989 and 1990 vintages will benefit from 4-5 years of cellaring. Given the 1989's additional flavor extraction and length, it is a 25-30-year wine. Anticipated maturity: 2001-2030.

WS: Starts well on the palate but slows down. Lovely aromas of cherry and dark chocolate and hints of earth and vanilla. Full-bodied and velvety, with medium fruit and a medium finish. Slightly one-dimensional. Give it time.--1989 Bordeaux horizontal. Best after 2003. –JS

Jancis Robinson--whom I keep disagreeing with, gave this just 14 points (of 20) in 2008. I think she had a bad bottle:
Acetic nose. Very, very modern, new style. Coconut. Thick and acid. Aggressive, unbalanced. Exaggerated. Too much for me. 26 Jun 2004

Friday, December 18, 2009

Clos du Mont Olivet Chateauneuf du Pape 2007


Note the large stones that cover the soil of CDP. First of 6 bottles tasted tonight at Bob and Laurie's at impromptu, delicious seafood dinner a la Bob. Decanted for about an hour. First a huge aroma of blackberry and more exotic berries from decanter/pitcher. Then the aroma became more complex with a spicy component on top of sweet fig, cherry, and strawberry. Plenty of acid and tannin on finish; it'll be better in a couple years and go through maybe 2025. Medium to full body; moderate finish. I'd give it 92.

Jancis gives it 18/20 which is pretty high for her. Hint of animal and warm bricks on the nose. Then very complete and ripe and engaging. Great balance and integrity. Lots of real richness with tannins very well hidden. But definitely there in abundance. She says drink 2012-20.

WS: A gorgeous, silky, perfumy style, with tea and incense leading the way for supple-textured raspberry, black fig and mulled currant fruit notes. A perfumy note weaves through the minerally finish, with very fine-grained structure. Stylish for the vintage. Drink now through 2029. 4,750 cases made. 93 Pts

WA 92 pts: The brilliant 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape Tradition (made from 80% Grenache and the rest Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and other assorted authorized varieties) is brilliant. Gorgeous notes reminiscent of an open-air Provencal fruit and vegetable market jump from the glass of this deep plum/purple-colored wine. The wine is expansive, savory, very fleshy, and totally disarming in its explosive aromatics and lush, opulent flavors. The better-than-average acids, due to the cool growing year, give it uplift and vibrancy, which nicely buttress the wine’s full-bodied power and substance. This is a beauty to drink over the next 15 or so years.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2005 Sbragia Andolsen Cabernet

Ed Sbragia has long been one of my favorites via his work at chief winemaker at Beringer in creating memorable Private Reserve Chardonnays and Cabernets. The 1980 Chard Reserve is one of the first great wines I had and appreciated as such. There has been a Sbragia Chard reserve for maybe 20 years now and I always love it. Sbragia purchased some vineyard land and is now devoting much of his time to Sbragia Family Vineyards with chardonnay and cabernet.

So tonight, at a DC power spot restaurant with decent but not particularly noteworthy food, had the 2005 cabernet. This was really too young at this point with prominent drying tannins for the first 30 minutes and a somewhat shy nose. With more air, the wine became more complex on the nose and palate. Prominent initially were blueberry, leather, coffee/cocoa/mocha. With airing, a violet and woodsy cedar/pine element joined the earlier components, nose opened, and tannins softened with a vanilla and toasted oaky wood taste substantial on the palate. I'd say this one will be best from 2011-18. I'd give it 92+. Absolutely delightful. As we see, Parker gives it a longer life than me.

Robt Parker: 91 points. The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Andolsen may be one of the finest Dry Creek Cabernets I have ever tasted. Aromas of graphite, blueberries, blackberries, spring flowers, and background toasty oak are followed by a wine with terrific purity, medium to full body, wonderful sweetness, and a silky finish that lasts for 40+ seconds. Drink this superb value over the next 15 years.

Ed Sbragia, the long-time and highly-esteemed winemaker at Beringer, also has his own family operation where he produces 5,000 plus cases of wine, primarily top-notch Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Drinking Argentinian wine in Bogota, Colombia

Down in Bogota for only my 2nd trip to South America (first being Brazil for IPSA in 1982) and thoroughly enjoyed it (except for almost getting mugged or kidnapped, I never found out exactly what the two criminals would've done to me if I'd followed them to the side street they claimed I needed to go to in order to show police my documents). Among the pleasures was drinking some Argentina wines. Never had any except for a swig or two at a store tasting of cheap ones.

At Oyster 69 (hmm) had an excellent meal of abalone, which was my first time and it was exquisite, and steak (also outstanding), along with glasses of unidentified cabernet and then malbec. Both very nice, 90 point wines. At Harry's Bar with its really extensive S.A. wine list, had Clos de los Siete 2006 or 2007 (couldn't read in the dark). This is a bordeaux type blend. Also very good 90 points or so. The Malbec was distinguished by a pleasant spiciness from the cab which was a nice new world cab with currant overtones. The Siete being a mixture had some black cherry and perhaps a bit more dimension than the cab at Oyster 69. The steak at Harry's also excellent.

Bogota was interesting, good colonial architecture district and museums (of Independence and of Gold esp), and the people I met at the University of los Andes were cosmopolitan and friendly, esp my host Carlos Cabelleros, Dean there and also a columnist for El Tiempre, the leading newspaper.

2005 Altamura cabernet Napa Valley

A winner. In the mode of Harlan and Realm, a ripe yet elegant, big yet refined and impeccably balanced cabernet. Also reminiscent of the Hartwell we had at the late lamented Vin restaurant in Raleigh. That is, a Napa cab done right. To me it smelled of pine/cedar/forest, blackberry, licorice and sweet herbs or flowers. It had good acid and very soft or sweet tannins that made for an altogether delightful drink with a long finish, balanced and complex. One could drink this for 8 or 10 more years, I'd guess, and the bottle bouquet will be exquisite in 2-3 more. Right now the aromas are beautiful but a bit restrained. This was obtained at 411 West's half-price wine Mondays @$65 which is about what it costs in the store. For a classy Napa cab it's a fair price. I'd give this 94+ points.

Parker more or less agrees @ 95 pts:
The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is a big, well-balanced red boasting a dense ruby/purple color as well as aromas of roasted herbs, creosote, licorice, black currants, cedar, and loamy soil. Dense and full-bodied with superb richness and power, and sweet tannins, it should drink well for two decades.

Wine Spec 93:
A ripe, juicy mix of black cherry, wild berry, plum and currant, this firms up midpalate and holds its focus, revealing greater depth and complexity and ending with a nice tight, tannic backbone. Drink now through 2016. 4,100 cases made. –JL

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving wines De Lisio Grenache 2004, Mitolo Shiraz GAM 2004, Clos l'Obac 2001, 2004 D'Arenberg Ironstone Pressings

The DeLisio was wonderful as usual. Everything in order: big fruit, with sufficient acid and soft tannin for a great nose and palate. I'm sad today was the last one I'll drink.

The Mitolo Shiraz GAM was actually the equal of the De Lisio today. Big and only slightly herbaceous, more sweet raspberry fruit than many shiraz wine i've had. Looks like the thing to do is find the expensive Shiraz wines and make sure they have a few years age and they'll lose the herb/pepper component that isn't too my liking. This one was silky and long finishing, though certainly not as complex as a bordeaux blend or even a GSM.

Clos l'Obac was very restrained relative to the first two. It is a blend of the grenache with syrah and i expected it to be more flamboyant and thus up to the first two. It was fine -- perhaps elegant is the word, subtle--but i'd say closed and not ready. Also seemed to have cabernet currant element. WS gives it 91 (as does Parker). Here's WS:
Powerful, rich with extract and tannins, offering ripe fruit flavors of plum and dried cherry that mingle with spicy oak and notes of wild herb. More muscular than expressive, but should open with food. Best after 2004. 200 cases imported. –TM

And indeed I was right it does have a good dose of Cab: Blend of 35% Garnacha, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 10% Merlot and 10% Cariñena.

As to Ironstone Pressings, loved this before, this time also seemed somewhat closed. Didn't have much time to expand in glass and will be drinking some more tomorrow from a pumped bottle.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

2004 Chryseia redux

A wonderful wine beautifully blackberry/huckleberry juice with very soft tannins and just-right acid-fruit balance. Like other Portuguese wines, this one gets noticeably better with air, more complexity, floral, spicedrop and forest overtones coming out with time. Red raspberry too. Silky smooth, moderately long finish. On the second day after refrig and pumping out oxygen. Even silkier, acid is attenuated as is tannin and you get a lovely blueberry vanilla and spice. This is one great wine. Could drink this every night of my life. Note the earlier tasting note on Chryseia.

Monday, November 16, 2009

2002 Andrew Will Sorella

Forgot I had this stashed away at 1114 Rhode Island. Beautiful day in DC 11/16 so I left office early to work on chapter 2, the theory chapter, of the scandal book. It's tough sledding so I deserve a break though I'm still writing thank you very much.

Now the wine: Blackberry, cinnamon, nutmeg, cedar and pine, minerally/steely component and other spice notes highlight the nose. Some herbaceous accents join these on the palate. The color is a kind of blackberry/black cherry juice tint with a bit of brick red at the edge. There is plenty of tannin and good acid yet very silky textured and full bodied. I would say this is short of peaking, maybe should be drunk starting in 2011 and can be enjoyed for another 6-8 years till 2018 or so. Very, very long finish carried by the tannin and acid. After the tannin rounds out this will be better, but I also suspect it's not a 20+ year wine. 92 points at this point.

Here's what Parker says in giving it 93 points (actually Pierre Rovani). Pierre and I are quite similar:
Produced entirely from fruit acquired from Paul Champoux’s Champoux Vineyard, the 2002 Sorella is fashioned from 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Petit Verdot. Tar-laced black fruits, sweet spices, and herbs are found in this beauty’s aromas as well as flavors. Medium-bodied, muscular, and intricate, it is a lovely, concentrated, as well as complex offering with a long, flavor-packed, and slightly warm (from alcohol) finish. Drink it between 2007 and 2018.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Birthday Nov 7 tasting quick notes plus Nov 8 Tirant 2001 Rotllan Torra spectacular

On November 7 celebrated Bob's birthday with 3 Super Tuscans that were all superb, esp the 1997 100% merlot Montiano Falesco and the 2000 Solengo
1996 Vigna d'Alceo Castello dei Rampolla 92 parker

1997 Montiano Falesco 95 parker

2000 Solengo Argiano 95 parker

I couldn't take contemporaneous notes on the above but i will say the Montiano had all the great cherry fruit and roundness of a Pomerol, totally pleasure; and the Solengo which was cab merlot and syrah was also round seamless and very complex and silky.

Then opened another purchase from Hart Davis Hart, 2001 Rotllan Torra Tirant Priorat (Parker 96-98) which was superb tonight. Very full of licorice, blueberry, blackberry, road tar, a figgy ripeness with a bit of vanillla, cedar and spring woods too. In short everything from the grapes which are grenache, Cab sauv, carignan *25% each, plus merlot 10%, syrah 15%. the acid and tannin are apparent only on swallowing whereupon they carry a long spicy licorice berry finish. this is what Priorat is all about. It is better than any of the 3 others above but not hugely better than the Montiano or Solengo, and possibly the latter has the potential to get even better. I can imagine the Tirant getting better with another year, developing more bottle bouquet, but that's about it for development and it'll certainly hold for 6-8 more years after that, till maybe 2018.

Lovely birthday party, wonderful to have everyone gathering here in Chapel Hill including Max and Emily, Emily's friends Taylor and Sarah and Jesse, Clay and Inge, Connie, Hans, Dub, Libby, Wib, Charlotte, Bob (Laurie in Guatemala), John, Lucy. Great friends all.

Here's Parker on Tirant: 96-98 points reviewed in 2004

A prodigious effort, the 2001 Tirant is a 9,000-bottle cuvee made from 30% Grenache (90-100 years old), 25% Carignan (90-100 years old), 25% young vine Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, and 10% Merlot. Fermented in large oak foudres and aged 12 months in new French oak, it will be bottled with neither fining nor filtration. Inky/purple-colored to the rim, it boasts a spectacular bouquet of blueberries, blackberries, and the region’s classic crushed stone minerality. This full-throttle yet remarkably elegant 2001 possesses tremendous intensity and texture as well as layers of flavor, but comes across as not over the top, overripe, or overly heavy. The 60-second finish reveals more noticeable tannin than the other cuvees. Give it 1-2 years of cellaring and drink it over the following 10-15. The 2001 Tirant is indeed a special wine.

Jordi Rotllan Torra was one of the pioneers of Priorat having founded this small estate in 1984, long before this now fashionable wine region became world renowned.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

2005 Glen Carlou Red bordeaux blend South Africa

I had this at a tasting i stumbled upon at Bell Liquors on M St, DC. I tasted several decent btls but this was the best. totally ready to drink with very appealing spicy cinnamon, licorice overtones to the nose and palate, cedar/woodsy and even chocolate. It was $14 at Bell and worth that for current drinking. I see at WIne.com it's $20. The winery notes say this:

A blend of 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 6% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc.

Brilliant ruby red with a purple rim. Dark berry fruit and Christmas cake with some cedar wood undertones and cinnamon. Very round and soft with nice ripe tannins some liquorice and cured cherries. Mouth feel very long and elegant with a nice creamy chocolate flavor.

The 2005 vintage was a bit cooler and drier than average, making our ripening period longer on the noble red cultivars, giving us full ripe fruit with elegant soft tannins.

And I see Parker actually has a review w/89 points, just where I'd put it

2005 Grand Classique - a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with small amounts of Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc – costs only a few dollars more than their pure Cabernet, and is vastly more interesting and delicious. Stewed blackberries, cassis, cedar, tobacco and juniper berry rise from the glass and saturate the palate in a smooth yet invigorating show. The dark tobacco element – along with a stony suggestion – is especially prominent in the finish, which this vintage (unlike the last) evinces neither heat nor drying. This is in short a seamlessly-rich, intriguing, sensually-satisfying Bordeaux blend to enjoy over the next 3-5 years

2003 Sociando Mallet

This one gets very good write-ups from Parker and Jancis robinson (whom I've just subscribed to). On the first night, 10/31, the wine was dark and silky with plenty of acid and softening tannins but I found the fruit overwhelmingly tinged with black olive--not one of my favorite aromas. Gassed it and tonight the olive was gone to be replaced by spring woods, flowers, violet, and hint of cassis. So it's much better tonight. However it also was oxidizing, in my view; i'm not sure how good the gas valve still is. I say oxidizing because the acid seemed too high tonight. Nonetheless I'd say what I need to do is let this sit for another year or two before drinking the other 10 btls I'm storing. I'd give it 92 based on potential for future mellowing, rounding and shedding the olive. Here's Parker and Jancis. For her 17.5 is very high.

Sociando-Mallet is the poster child for what cru bourgeois estates can achieve. This is a wine that is consistently of classified-growth quality and also one of the longest lived wines made in the Medoc. An exceptional vintage for Sociando-Mallet, 2003 has produced a spectacularly concentrated, inky blue/purple-colored wine with an extraordinary nose of blackberries, raspberries, some white flowers, and a hint of lead pencil shavings. The wine is powerful, extremely full-bodied, quite tannic, and seriously endowed. This is stunning wine that is rich, layered, and in need of 5-6 years of bottle-age. It should keep for 30+ years. It is certainly a riveting effort for the vintage and, as I wrote last year, probably a modern-day version of a hypothetical blend of a 1970 and a 1982.

Ch Sociando-Mallet 2003 Haut-Médoc 17.5 Drink 2007-20
Harvest date 10-24 Sep; yield 49.5 hl/ha; vineyard area 70.62 ha
Very dark indeed – much more so than most 2003s. Right out to the rim too! Mineral and heady – this smells like one of the most successful wines of this vintage. Succulent and ripe and exotic but not overdone and without a hollow middle. The tannins are a bit dry on the end, which stops it being a top scorer for me, but it’s definitely one of the best 2003s. Flattering and with sufficient freshness – the structure is rather Italian actually! Some bitterness and acidity... I wonder whether this was acidified?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

2004 Clos Mogador

Thrilled to be at Andy and Susan's and opening a bottle of my very first Mogador. A rarity and a great great pleasure. This one on opening is deep but restrained on the nose.the kind of wine you know immediately has many pleasures to offer. but at this point hasn't developed bottle bouquet. the tannins are plentiful but very soft and the acid is low but not too low. the finish is basically endless. caramel violet and toasty oak with i can't help thinking some hazelnut. there is mocha and a bit of sherry/raisin on the nose. blackberry too. this is hedonistically rich, full bodied that will get perfumey and even more silky on the finish as the tannin resolves further. can't get much better than this in a young red wine. I'd give it 97 points. I'd say will improve 3-4 years and last another 10-15.

Clos Mogador is produced by the esteemed Rene Barbier who has hit homeruns in both 2003 and 2004. The 2004 Clos Mogador has a more saturated purple color than the 2003 as well as a more expressive perfume of mocha, coffee, and flowers (violets) in addition to toasty oak, earth, and blue and black fruits. More extracted and backward than the 2003, it demands a decade of cellaring and should drink well for an additional 20 years. The 2004 is a tour de force.96+ points.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2004 Andrew Will Sorella

As noted earlier I've become a real fan of the Will bordeaux blends. A few wines ago there are notes on the 2002 and 2006. I haven't read them in an effort to make an unbiased evaluation of this one. On 9/29, last night, I opened and found wonderful red fruit (strawberry, plum, maybe cherry) plus very pleasant woodsy and spicy nose. THe palette is long and complex and very nicely balanced, with good acid and soft tannin that melts right in with the fruit. A moderately long and complex finish and lovely color add to the enjoyment. Tonight, after the wine was gassed but not refrigerated, it had lost its brightness and delineation and the acid had receded. Still the nose was great, with different components: chocolate, coffee and blackberry. Actually trying to recall the taste last night I think there were also mocha and caramel/vanilla overtones then, but no black fruit. So I'm giving this baby a 93. I think it'll drink well for 6-8 years, say till 2018.

Writing in 2007 Parker gave it 92 points. Clearly he thinks it'll last longer than I'm saying; maybe that's because I didn't write any notes till tonight and my memory is distorted. On the other hand, Wine Spec gives it 92 points but says drink only till 2014 which is shorter than I predict. So maybe I'm right if you average the predictions.

The 2004 Sorella is sourced from the Champoux Vineyard and is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot,18% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petit Verdot. It was aged for 21 months in 70% new French oak. Dark ruby-colored, it presents a fragrant perfume of pain grille, scorched earth, sweet spices, clove, mint, cassis, and black currants. This leads to a medium-bodied, velvety-textured, seamless, full-flavored wine with excellent balance and enough structure to evolve for 3-5 years. It should provide pleasure through 2027.

Notice the substantial difference in smell/taste descriptions from me and Parker in the WS. I think what this means is that basically a cab dominated wine smells like berries and currants with some burnt component if aged a long time in oak. Parker calls it pain grille and scorched earth, WS calls it tar, and I called it woodsy. Take your pick. WS:

An expressive red that's bright, open-textured and juicy, with blueberry, tar and currant flavors, lingering on the fine-grained finish. Needs time to shed the tannins, but the flavors come through well and persist impressively. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Best from 2009 through 2014. 740 cases made

And notice the stephen tanzer review from IWC:

2004 Andrew Will Winery Sorella Red Wine Horse Heaven HIlls

($66; a blend of 55% cabernet sauvignon, 21% merlot, 18% cabernet franc and 6% petit verdot) Bright, saturated ruby-red. Sappy black fruits, licorice and pomegranate on the nose. Then densely packed but quite tightly wound and brisk in the mouth, with distinctly primary berry and graphite flavors lifted by a floral component. Very youthful wine with an excellent spine of acids and tannins. This must be the freshest set of Bordeaux blends I've tasted from Chris Camarda in years. 91 points.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ardevol Priorat Comeu 2004

Grenache nose of cherry with a very nice floral component; maybe some strawberry and plum--red fruit. The palate is fine but doesn't have the depth or structure of the best Priorats. I think it probably needs another year or two to come together, though the tannin is very low and i worry the acid will overtake the fruit. As it was Venturied and aired in the glass, the wine developed more robust bouquet with a hint of blackberry. But I still worry about fruit swamped by the high acid without sufficient tannic buffer. So i'm saying 90 points, drink 2010-2013.

Below is Parker, quite a bit more enthusiastic than me (94 points--which must be why I bought 3 bottles). First: Wine Spectator which in this case is much closer to my evaluation @88 points and drink till 2012. I really can't see how Miller can predict this will be drinking well in 2020-2025.

Here's WS first:
Smoke esso notes frame plum and cassis flavors in this oaky red. Shows muscular tannins and soft acidity, with a coffee and mineral finish. Drink now through 2012. 400 cases imported.

Parker (Jay Miller)
The 2004 Coma d’En Romeu is an altogether different species of Priorat. Composed of 65% Carinena, 25%Garnacha, and the balance Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it offers up an alluring aromatic array of crushed stone, earth notes, violets, blueberry, black currant, and plum. Full-bodied, opulent, and layered, it has outstanding depth, concentration, and length. Already complex, it should blossom with another 3-4 years of bottle age. It will be at its best from 2012-2025. It is a great value in Priorat with 400-500 cases available to the USA market .

Thursday, September 24, 2009

2007 The Show Cabernet Napa

This has 3 names on it including Gott which I assume is Joel Gott who has an eponymous label. I'm writing from the Admiral's Club, celebrating its 70th birthday at DCA by giving away wine and cheese/. This is the red on offer. IT's very soft, no tannin and little acid. The fruit is faintly reminiscent of cabernet and the nose is a bit of sweet plum, a hint of licorice and oak. IF this wine costs $7 I'd say it's worth it. Not a lot of complexity or nuance, this is a simple red table wine that has enough fruit to be acceptable compared to so many acid-emphasizing, vinegar-like cheap wines. However I really don't know that it's cheap, I'm just assuming it is. OK I went to Winesearcher.com and found that the cheapest price there was $10.49. IT would be interesting to do a $10 cabernet comparative tasting, esp using Australian cabs against US. I know I've had the Beringer Knights Valley Cab at about $18 and it's way better than this. I'd give this one 86 points, which means it's better than a couple of the cabs or bordeaux I've written about earlier that presumably cost about the same. There is no entry on Parker or Wine Spec.

2002 Andrew Will Sorella

I've clearly become a big fan of Andrew Will. Previously I've tasted a couple of his other wines. In this case I saw MacArthur had a big sale, 1/3 off which placed both 2002 and 2004 Sorella at the magic $35 point that I can (barely) justify spending. I keep thinking it's the equivalent of what I used to spend when I spent $18 for Pichon Lalande in 1981. THose were the days. Anyh0ow, this one isn't as good as the 2006. It has developed some bottle bouquet which is absolutely delightful and very St. Julien. On palate I get blackberry, blueberry, blackcurrant and black cherry along with a pleasant herbal/spice overtone. The tannins on this one are resolved and it will probably improve only for perhaps another year, then hit a plateau for 5-8 years. I don't think this one will go past about 2015. The finish doesn't match the 2006 Sorella. It's not short but relative to other ANdrew Will's I've had it is the shortest and least complex. But it's still mighty fine and I think just about anything from this winery is going to be excellent. These days you're not going to get a Bordeaux blend from Bordeaux itself that's as good as this for under $40. Sadly.

I should note I'm writing this 2 days after tasting for the first time on 9/21. I did use gas (the refrigeration on this unit too, the single wine bottle Preservino, is broken) and tasted again on 9/22. It was absolutely first rate, even more integrated on the palate though less forward on the nose. I think 91+ is a good rating for this one.

Here's Parker (93 points):
Produced entirely from fruit acquired from Paul Champoux’s Champoux Vineyard, the 2002 Sorella is fashioned from 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Petit Verdot. Tar-laced black fruits, sweet spices, and herbs are found in this beauty’s aromas as well as flavors. Medium-bodied, muscular, and intricate, it is a lovely, concentrated, as well as complex offering with a long, flavor-packed, and slightly warm (from alcohol) finish. Drink it between 2007 and 2018.

There is no Wine Spectator on this one.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Copain syrah 2006 mendocino mcdowell

Blackberry, blueberry, licorice and violet with a hint of stone. Soft tannin and subdued acid, and the ripeness here seems to overcome the spicey briary component of syrah that I don't like very much. This was a pleasant surprise and who knew Mendocino was growing really good wine? Finish is on the shorter side. Maybe 3-4 more years to drink. 90 points.

Parker didn't review in 2006 but in 2005 gave it 93 points
His 2005 Syrah McDowell Valley (from vines planted in both 1911 and 1945) exhibits similar intensity, with a saturated ruby/purple color and notes of bacon fat, blueberry, and blackberry as well as a hint of licorice. It is medium to full-bodied, soft, with silky tannins and good freshness. Drink it over the next 5-7 years.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

2007 Chateaumar Cuvee Bastien Cotes du Rhone

A pleasant surprise, a fine spicy, piney red fruit nose (plum, cherry, strawberry) with considerable acid, soft tannin, and a bit of heat to carry a moderate finish. This one costs I think about $15. I'd guess it's nearly equal syrah and grenache. Initially the grenache was more prominent, with time the syrah emerged more with its tangy spice (which i'm not crazy about). Another 2007 CDR which of course is supposedly at an all-time high in quality. This one is good but doesn't approach the Terre d'Argile from Janasse. Maybe 88 points. No reviews in Parker or WS. Actually better 24 hours later on 9/18. Hey it's 9/18/9, that's almost as good as 9/9/9 which I neglected to celebrate. It's not a 90 but the nose is really forward and grenachey and the taste is more strawberry grenachey too, with a long finish. This bottle was gassed and put in regular refrigerator. I'm not sure how good it'll be tomorrow. 89.

Well! A google search shows it's 100% grenache after all. No syrah so above is wrong. Here is what vineyard says online:

The Wine:

Cotes du Rhone "Cuvee Bastien"

A custom cuvee for Bourgeois Family Selections. The wine is a deep, nearly opaque purple,

bringing confident aromas of raspberry, strawberry and blackberry to the nose, with eucalyptus,

black pepper, licorice and floral notes. Touches of cinnamon and spice follow onto the medium to

full-bodied juicy palate. The tannins are firm, ripe, and well integrated. It all makes for delicious

fun. A true declassified Chateauneuf-du-Pape. 100% single vineyard Old Vine Grenache aged for

8 months in concrete tank before bottling with minimum filtration.

Flavor Profile of the grape: Spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate with a relatively high

alcohol content.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ruston Family Cabernet Napa/Sonoma AND Napa Stagecoach Vineyard

These two wines were opened today after being p urchased today at MacARthur Liquors where California cabernets are on sale for 1/3 off. Thus I found these two wines at $30 and $35 that are normally far more. Parker rated the ordinary bottling at 89, but Wine Spec gave it 93. Parker gave 92 to the Stagecoach Vineyard version of the 2004 Ruston cab. Well, I love the standard cab which is perfectly balanced and mature right now (but with enough tannin, acid and fruit to last another 4-5 years). It features a very woodsy/cedary/piney nose, a very soft acid/tannin component with licorice and blackberry on the nose and palate. I'd give it 91+.

Turning to the Stagecoach, we get a significant ramping up of the fruit, acid and tannin. Parker gives it the 92 rating and I'd have to agree or maybe 93 points. In this one there's just more stuffing: more fruit, more complex, more alcohol and acid and tannin and fruit with a longer finish. Whereas the first one isn't getting any better (and is certainly very nice now) this one will get some bottle bouquet and a bit better in 2 years or so. I'd think this one will last 15 years. The nose is moderately restrained considering how much is going on there. A eucalyptus nose with a piney/woodsy component continuing and I can see the idea of black tea too as Parker notes below. On this one I get the blackcurrant and some more oaky vanilla than was present on the standard bottling. Licorice too. I think this one is clearly worth the extra $5/btl at the sale price. Is it any better than the Andrew Will Sorella that I can also get for about $35/btl on sale? Not sure, wish I could taste them side by side but i've already opened two bottles in this one evening, shared with roommate Ben, Max's high school friend from Chapel Hill who lives in the DC house with me along with Max and Lisa.

Parker 92 pts: The 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Stagecoach Vineyard boasts the deepest ruby/purple color as well as a sweet nose of creme de cassis, blackberries, truffles, graphite, and flowers. This elegant but substantially flavored, full-bodied, beautifully pure, complex wine is a stunning effort. Drink it over the next 15-20 years.

Parker 89 points From both Rutherford and Oakville vineyards, the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon offers up a bouquet of Chinese black tea, black currants, and earth. Medium to full-bodied with excellent ripeness, good balance, and broad flavors, it should drink nicely for 10-12 years.

It's interesting that Wine Spectator really raved about the straight Cab bottling, giving it 93 points which is quite high for them. Of course they didn'[t taste the Stagecoach from 2004:

Shows wonderful balance, harmony and finesse, with a mix of ripe, fleshy currant and cherry fruit and hints of herb, pepper and creamy oak, all folding together in a smooth, seamless manner, ending with a long, mouthcoating finish. Drink now through 2014. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 477 cases made. –JL

Monday, September 14, 2009

1999 Sesti Brunello Reserve "Constellation"

This was my second of 2 bottles of the Sesti reserve Brunello di Montalcino, drunk at Elaine's on Franklin where we head an excellent meal with the wines complementing foie gras and buffalo steak. The wine exhibited a lovely bouquet that was indistinguishable for me from a St Julien. If served blind I would have certainly guessed "mature bordeaux." I've referred earlier to the St Julien nose and its mysterious blend of vanilla and blackberry. The palate was different, though, showing a spicy ripeness that was more Tuscan, showing its Sangiovese character. Soft tannins and acid now blending nicely with the fruit for a moderately long, balanced finish. I found it thoroughly enjoyable, would rate it 92, and glad I waited to open it so it could reach this peak after 10 years mellowing in the bottle.

Sesti is perhaps the most beautiful vineyeard I've visited, perched on hillside on the outskirts of Montalcino, featuring a tower that was built in the 10th century as one of 7 used to guard the area from hostile forces. See picture of bottle label on the right. Dr. Sesti farms organically and biodynamically which means he prunes and so forth in accordance with the phases of the moon. He's written an enormous book on the constellations that he was quite proud of, and was working on a second opus, which reviews various religions' views of heaven and also, he says, explains what heaven really is like. As always, I want to know if it has movies, ice cream, wine, and HDTV with HBO.

In light of my comments above I found the below discussion of the 2001 Brunellos very interesting. Notice Jancis Robinson (from her website) discusses the worldwide tendency to make wines that taste alike and I suppose this could be part of what I detected in the Sesti. She does say nice things about Sesti in general though.

The Sesti family, who planted their vines near the Tuscan town of Montalcino in the early 1990s, celebrated Easter 2001 with a platter of warm hard-boiled eggs, anchovies and wine round the fire at six o’clock in the morning. This had nothing to do with an early mass and everything to so with the sub-zero temperatures which had threatened their embryonic 2001 harvest the night before. They had spent the moonlit night setting fire to bales of straw and then creating a protective blanket of smoke over the vines by pouring water on them. Their vines escaped serious frost damage even if some of their neighbours were less fortunate. Apart from this everything went pretty well for Brunello di Montalcino in 2001, the vintage just released.

If you are a Brunello di Montalcino fan, think of buying some 2001, rather more classically styled wines than the super-opulent 1999, because this may be your last chance for three years. Rain devastated the 2002 and 2005 vintages while the heat of 2003 resulted, as in 2000, in many unbalanced wines, particularly in the hotter southern part of the zone. Producers are very thrilled by 2004, and 2004 Rosso di Montalcino, the more accessible little brother of Brunello, is also worth investigating.

Brunello di Montalcino is not a wine to be trifled with. It is the single most famous, highest-priced Italian red produced south of Milan. Often retailing at well over £30/$50 a bottle, it is a potentially magnificent expression of Sangiovese grapes (known as Brunello here) ripened in southern Tuscany where the extra warmth and open slopes can give it an intensity, vibrancy and longevity rarely seen in the wines made in Chiantishire to the north. Brunello has long been the jewel in the crown of many an Italian wine list.

But much has changed recently in the prestigious Montalcino wine zone encompassing a greater variety of terroirs than one might expect for a virtual square 10 miles across. In the last 20 years plantings have doubled to almost 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) while the amount of Brunello bottled has doubled in the last 10 years with an unprecedented amount currently maturing in even more cellars than ever. In 1990 there were just 87 producers of Brunello. Today there are 200.

The wine used to be predictably and majestically solid and, for many more years than the statutory minimum of five before it can be released, relatively unapproachable. It was a wine that positively demanded to be left alone. And it was not necessarily particularly deep-coloured, with Brunello made from vineyards in the higher, northern zone in particular being quite high in nervy acidity.

The other day I tasted 66 new releases of Brunello di Montalcino 2001 ferried over to London in an attempt to charm British buyers and found the proportion of wine that deviated from this traditional style even greater than when I had tasted the 1999s a couple of years ago.

But it is not just the wines that have changed. The market has too. The many new investors in the zone must be kicking themselves that demand in Germany, Switzerland and the US for great Italian wine has shrivelled in line with the German economy and the dollar exchange rate against the euro just when there is more Brunello to sell than there ever has been.

Not only have many of the old peasant growers become wine bottlers themselves, the zone has seen a great influx of investment from outsiders - people like the Canadian couple who have established themselves just next door to another outsider, Piemonte’s most famous wine producer Angelo Gaja at San Restituta. Under the awkwardly-accented name Máté, they – typically - are also growing varieties other than the classic Sangiovese.

...When Banfi arrived in the south of the Montalcino zone in the 1980s they pioneered a ‘commercial’ style of Brunello made more obviously for the American market than for Italian and German-speaking traditionalists for whom the great, decades-old vintages of Biondi-Santi or the super-savoury wines of Gianfranco Soldera at Case Basse represent the acme of Brunello di Montalcino. Today it seems as though the majority of new producers are seeking to make a richer, darker, more approachable style of Brunello than the long-term classicists.

A major ingredient in this new recipe has been the French oak barrique. In the old days Brunello had by law to be kept for 42 months in large old oak tonneaux but this requirement has been systematically relaxed so that today Brunello needs only to spend two years in any sort of oak, as small and flashy in its effects as the consulting oenologist suggests. Many of the deeper, lusher, sweeter wines I tasted seemed to owe some and sometimes much of their character and colour to small new oak barrels.

I’d say a good third of the Brunello di Montalcino 2001 bottlings tasted closer to an archetype of modern red wine than to anything even particularly Tuscan which seems a shame. Those whose 2001s struck me as particularly over the top in terms of oak, extraction and/or ripeness were Corte Pavone (despite organic practices in the vineyard), La Fornace, La Mannella, Mocali, Pietranera, Podere Bellarina and Santa Lucia.

The current global tendency to produce similar wines all over the world is undoubtedly dangerous, but in Montalcino there are – as in Bordeaux - examples of obviously ‘modern’ wines that are very competently made, a pleasure to drink and will appeal to those whose palate and brains are uncluttered by any notion of great traditional archetype. Among these I would include, for the 2001 regular Brunello bottling specifically, Frescobaldi’s CastelGiocondo, Cupano (a new, organic, French-run property in the far west of the zone), Fanti and Siro Pacenti.

The best, more classically styled wines I tasted in this array of regular Brunello di Montalcino 2001 bottlings were from Agostina Pieri, Fattoria Barbi, Capanna, Caparzo, Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragon, Collemattoni, La Fortuna, Fuligni, Il Poggione, Poggio di Sotto, Salvioni, Tenuta di Sesta, Sesti, Silvio Nardi(Manachiara bottling), Talenti, Tornesi, Uccelliera and Villa Le Prata.

The even better 2001 Riservas will be released only next year, and there were a few regular Brunello 2001s that tasted as though they were the rejects from a superior wine rather than a great wine themselves – which they should be at current prices. Many producers, such as Gaja and Soldera, are yet to release their 2001s but now is a good time to take your pick of the wines that managed to escape the frost.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Andrew Will 2006 Sorella Bordeaux Blend

Another excellent Andrew Will--purchased 3 btls @ $34 from Apex with case discount, a very fine price. Color is beautiful ruby purple with a deep nose of violet and blackberry and a bit of cedar and spice. The finish was long but also hot for the first hour, then faded more into the background. Balanced, complex and beautiful with certainly 15-20 years ahead, as it will develop plenty more bottle bouquet and it will knit together nicely indeed. I'd give it 94 points. See also my later post on the 2002 Sorella.

Parker says the same points 94
The 2006 Sorella, produced from Block 1 of the Champoux Vineyard, is the winery flagship. Saturated purple in color, the perfume is a complex amalgam of pain grille, scorched earth, espresso, black currant, blackberry, and licorice. This leads to a supple-textured wine with layers of ripe fruit, outstanding depth and concentration, considerable elegance, and a long, pure finish. It will evolve for 8-10 years and provide pleasure through 2030.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

2006 Stuhlmuller Cabernet

2006 Stuhlmuller Cabernet

Bought this on rec of Michael Du at Pearson’s where I purchased a full case of wine on sale. This one is a winner. It was $45 with 30% off=32.50 and I’d give it 94 points. I'd never heard of this winery before.

There is a berry aroma and flavor I can’t identify, maybe it’s mulberry—something I haven’t detected in a wine before. There’s also a nutty spiciness that I like a lot and toasty vanilla. The finish is long, balanced, with plenty of acid to balance the ripe fruit and noticeable tannins. I’d think it’ll drink well for 7-8 years. I'm glad to learn that Mr. Du is a reliable informant. He also had me taste a couple of California Pinot Noirs that I agreed were very fine. Parker and Wine Spec both give it 91. I now see that perhaps the distinctive nose is the black tea.

Parker: Proprietor Fritz Stuhlmuller has also produced an outstanding, reasonably priced ($40) 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. Sweet, earth-infused black currant and black cherry fruit is accompanied by a wine exhibiting excellent depth, a full-bodied mouthfeel, no hard edges, and hints of Chinese black tea and spicy oak. Consume it over the next decade.

Wine Spec 91 points: Firm, concentrated and well-balanced, offering dense, chewy cedary currant, anise, spice and nutmeg notes that are full-bodied and tannic, with touches of herb and spice. Drink now through 2014. 1,950 cases made. Release price $36.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

2006 De Lisio Quarterback

Picked this up in DC at Zola's retail store in Penn Quarter on the way to a Restaurant Week meal at Teatro Goldoni. Made happy discovery that they have half price wines during happy hour Mon-Saturday and enjoyed a good chardonnay from Yalumba before opening the DeLisio for dinner. This one is roughly 1/4 (quarterback) grenache, cab, merlot and syrah and i could at least imagine that i could detect at least 3 of the components (not the merlot, which i suppose is the tamest of these 4 varieties). For about $20 it's a fine wine that stood up nicely to the various dishes at the restaurant. There isn't a lot of tannin there but the violet, blackberry, currant nose and spicy palate with moderately long finish, and decent acid backbone, suggest this could be drinking well for 3-4 more years. Parker gave it 90, which seems right to me:

The purple-colored 2006 Quarterback is a blend of 30% Shiraz, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, and 21% Grenache aged for 15 months in seasoned French oak. It exhibits an already complex aromatic array of cedar, spice box, cherry, black currant, and blueberry. Smooth-textured, easygoing, and concentrated, it is an excellent value designed to provide pleasure over the next six years.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

2004 Priorat of distinction: 2004 Mas Romani (Mas Alta) La Basseta

This one came highly recommended by Parker (96 points) and I must say this rating is justified. A spicy vanilla aroma with pronounced cinnamon and clove perfume wafted from the decidedly inferior cheap wine glass I'm using in West Danville at the house we're renting. I can only imagine what the nose would do with appropriate glassware. The bottle was driven around on Sunday and then put in refrigerator since we have nowhere else to keep it cold. I took it out around 5 pm and by 7 it was still too cold but not terribly so. I'm impressed with how well it showed given this treatment. The clarity of the spice, reminiscent of a spice chewing gum is unique and pleasing indeed. Color is a beautiful dark ruby red/purple with almost no color at the rim. On the palate the acid is vibrant, precisely delineated and balanced against the lovely ripe fruit, predominantly blackberry and blueberry. Very long warm but not hot finish. Tannins are pretty well disguised by the acid and fruit but I have little doubt this wine will be drinking even better in a couple years and will last 8-10, let's say till 2020. I'm sorely tempted to buy more of this even though it's about $60 and that was a good price. I'd love to taste this alongside my bottles of 2004 Clos Mogador and Mas Doix.

24 hours later (Wed. at 7 pm) the wine is drinking beautifully. The spice is attenuated though still present. The black cherry component is more evident today along with the toasty oak vanilla. Lovely perfume and finish and now the tannin is even more receded into the background though clearly there and helping the finish. With more air there was a licorice element along with violet. I've gotta say the only wines I like as much are bordeaux; other than a properly aged bordeaux there's nothing much better in my view.

Parker (in 2007):
The 2004 La Basseta is 50% old-vine Carinena, 40% Grenache, 5% Merlot, and 5% Syrah aged for 15 months in French oak, 50% new. Dark ruby/purple, the wine has a spectacular perfume of mineral, scorched earth, violets, lavender, kirsch, and blueberry pie. Full-bodied, the wine is opulent with a velvety texture, layered flavors, a beautiful integration of oak, tannin, and acidity, and a well-delineated, long finish. Drink this pleasure-filled wine over the next 10-12 years. Tanzer says 94 points and that's equal to about 96 or 97 for Parker's more generous rating tendency.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Andrew Will 2005 Champoux Bordeaux Blend

My first (I think) Washington State red of any distinction. Just purchased 6 bottles of the Andrew Will Sorella 2006; Max had a bottle and raved about it, so I got a bottle of a different cepage up here in Vermont where we are staying on Joe's Pond, West Danville, for the week of Griff Seymour's wedding. So, yesterday I opened this Champoux vineyard bottling. Initially the wine was extremely complex on the palate though somewhat closed on the nose (as Max noted in the Sorella) with menthol/mint/eucalyptus, black cherry, oak and a prune/raisin/sherry quality indicating, I guess, quite a ripe vintage. The color is very deep purple with no red or anything else on the rim. With air seemed like almost a cherry cough syrup. I can sense the cherry from the merlot and the faintly woodsy/spicy/slightly vegetal (not unpleasantly so) element from the cab franc. These together overwhelm the cabernet black currant element that would I assume be present without these two in the blend prominently. As we see from Parker the wine is 45% cab and 55% of cab franc, merlot and petit verdot. The acid was pronounced and the tannins moderately firm, suggesting long life given the very highly extracted fruit that will stand up to the acid and tannin. Moderately long finish. I'd guess this will go a good 10-15 years or more.

Used the vacuvin (no gas up here) and put in refrigerator. 24 hours later, today on Aug 17, the nose still was not very forthcoming. You can tell from the color and the restrained but pleasant and complex aroma that this is a keeper. The taste is less Bordeaux than California because the fruit is so forward. I suppose it's kind of St Emilion like, showcasing the Cab franc. Now about an hour after opening the Vacuvin stopper this thing is really cooking, even opening a bit on the nose.

Parker's tasting notes are a bit opaque to me (I don't know what grilled bread smells like, maybe what I think of as the combination of oak and sherry ripeness gives a burnt element) but the 94 points is just what I'd say.

On Wednesday, 2 days after opening, the wine was holding very well. More rounded now and the cab franc was more in evidence with a slight bit of vegetal on palate (not enough to spoil) while the nose remained soft, with a raspberry and violet tinge and still long balanced finish. I am really impressed with how well it's still drinking, a great sign for ageability.

Parker 94 points:
The 2005 Champoux Vineyard is made up of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. Purple-colored, it delivers an alluring perfume of pain grille, spice box, and violets. On the palate, it is layered, intense, and powerful. Its impeccable balance should allow it to evolve for up to a decade and drink well through 2030.

Andrew Will, located on pastoral Vashon Island, was founded in 1989 by former sommelier Chris Camarda. His focus is on blended, Bordeaux-style wines from some of Washington’s finest vineyards. The wines are made identically, the differences among them reflective of that vineyard’s terroir. He also produces a Syrah named in honor of his late wife. Chris Camarda’s efforts with Syrah deserve serious attention. The Annie Camarda Syrah is a blend of fruit from the Champoux and Ciel du Cheval Vineyards, two of eastern Washington’s finest.

Wine Spectator also 94 points so we're all agreed on the quality but WS sees a much shorter drinking window than Parker or I:
Seamless and harmonious, with beautifully articulated, ripe black cherry, cassis and violet-tinged floral notes that mingle with hints of cedar and dark chocolate as the finish plays out against polished tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Best from 2009 through 2015. 1,185 cases made. –HS