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