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 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.