Saturday, December 18, 2010

2004 GSM D'Arenberg Ironstone Pressings

A lovely wine gushing with perfume of black cherry syrup/kirsch, raspberry, pine/cedar, and vanilla with some rosemary and other spices (nutmeg? cinnamon?). On the palate good acid, little tannin, long fruit finish with alcohol noticeable but not too strong. The nose is like a candy drop, so sweet but the palate is not a fruit bomb but a nicely delineated, balanced wine. I wouldn't call it deeply complex but it's as pleasurable a Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre as one could hope for. 92+ points. It's not going to get better but should hold well for 3-4 more years.

Third drinking, 3 days after opening and preserving under argon. It's superb, vanilla, spice and raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and cherry. This is about as good as a GSM can be. I now would give this baby 94 points.

Parker is slightly more enthusiastic as of 2006. I'm not sure I see the structure for such long life but what do I know:

The flagship blend of Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre, the 2004 The Ironstone Pressings, is stunning. A full-bodied, powerful red, it displays notes of kirsch, tapenade , blackberries, dusty loamy earth, pepper, and spice. Rich, structured, intense flavors cascade over the palate with fabulous fruit purity and density. This stunner should drink well for 12-15 years.

Tanzer: 91 points
$65; a blend of grenache, shiraz and mourvedre) Ruby-red. Inviting aromas of dark cherry, spiced plum and blueberry, with complicating notes of tobacco, black tea and smoked meat. There's excellent concentration here, with bright acids lifting the dark and red berry notes and chunky tannins providing a solid framework. With air this became sweeter and the tannins seemed to soften, allowing the lush berry flavors to really shine on the finish.

Monday, December 13, 2010

2006 Martinelli Chardonnay, Martinelli Rd

Had this at :Proof tonight with Max and Laura, in lieu of what was on menu, 2007 Stonestreet Upper Barn. They were out of that. Well I believe the Martinelli is something we had before. It's a great chard, just barely short of my memory of the Stonestreet. Burnt toast, pineapple, butterscotch, spice, baking bread. Very complex and evolving in the glass. 93.

Tanzer: 2006 Martinelli Vineyards Chardonnay Martinelli Road Russian River Valley
($48) Green-tinged yellow. Complex, iodine-laced pear, orange and brioche aromas. Stains the palate with deep, spicy orchard fruit flavors, minerals and baking spices, with a jolt of acidity adding grip. This is all soil tones today, and that character dominates the long, juicy finish. This one too displays the complexity of chardonnays costing far more.94

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2002 Andrew Will Sorella

I think this is my last bottle of this vintage and it was the best. Earlier notes testify to the complexity, the silky texture and long finish. As the wine evolved in the glass at Revolution restaurant in downtown Durham with Connie and Hans, it offered just about every classic bordeaux blend aroma from black cherry, plum and currant to violet to mint and tar. It's a beautiful wine and also note that my first entry was more equivocal; I suspect because the wine was too young and perhaps shaken up in transit. It surely merits the 93 points given by Parker. See other notes for more info on Andrew Will and Sorella Vineyard.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

2003 and 2005 Vieille Cure (Fronsac outside Pomerol)

These are essentially Pomerols, 80% Merlot wines with some Cab Sauv and Cab Franc from just outside this tiny parcel of wine heaven near St Emilion. Had the '03 on Thanksgiving, after first drinking the very great 2003 Leoville Poyferre which was just as Parker described it (98 points and a hell of a great future, layer upon layer of finish). Anyhow it's now 3 nights later, Sunday night aft. Thanksgiving, and tasting the '03 Cure after it was only pumped out (no argon). It's pretty damn good. Like its sibling from 2005 it's very dark and has an unmistakably Merlot nose with charred black cherry. A whole lot more going on with the '05, deeper in color and layers of that charred black cherry, blackberry, flowers, pine woods, and a kind of almost grilled meat quality. The nose is nice now but with a couple more years for bottle bouquet it should be indeed heavenly. This one ('05) was a great find as I recall, at CH Wine Co. and I do believe I bought a case of it for about $200. I'd give this 93+. I see from earlier Parker notes that this winery is overseen by Michel Rolland, like another of my 2005 Pomerols, and long-time favorite, Bon Pasteur.

Parker gave it 93:

La Vieille Cure’s amazing 2005 is even better than their terrific 2003 and 2000. The 2005 boasts an inky/ruby color as well as a gorgeously sweet perfume of charcoal, black cherries, black currants, and spring flowers as well as an underlying mineral component. Superb concentration, full-bodied power, wonderful symmetry, purity, and texture, and a multidimensional mouthfeel are all found in this fabulous sleeper of the vintage. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2020+.

Wine Spectator 90 points:

90 points Wine Spectator: "Dark in color, showing lots of blackberry and licorice aromas, with a hint of tar. Full-bodied, with soft tannins and plenty of ripe fruit and smoky oak. Fun and interesting. Best after 2010."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

2007 Brewer-Clifton Mount Carmel Chardonnay

This one gets 96 points from Parker so I was delighted to find it on sale at CH Wine Co. Opened a bottle yesterday and it was a very fine bottle, burgundian in style more than typical California. But it wasn't 96 points; it lacks the depth and complexity. What I do like is the minerality and spice on the palate. On day 2, after 24 hours under argon, the aromas opened up and became more complex and interesting with pineapple, orange and grapefruit. Reminds me of a Chassagne Montrachet, actually; fruitier than most Meursaults, but not as ripe as a great Puligny. What I'm thinking is that this one needs a year in the bottle to integrate. The acid is high as is alcohol, which is fine since the fruit is plenty ripe--just doesn't have the nuance I'd expect.

Here's Parker:

The 2007 Chardonnay Mount Carmel exhibits a liqueur of rocks-like component reminiscent of a Chassagne-Montrachet grand cru. Peach blossom, white citrus, and orange notes are present in this full-throttle, intensely flavored Chardonnay, and brilliant acidity gives the wine laser-like precision. This is another tour de force from these talented winemakers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

1982 Mouton Rothschild

This is the legendary wine, 100 points from Parker and in his latest write-up (below) he says it's still not fully mature 28 years on! Indeed this tasting, on the occasion of my birthday celebration Nov. 6 (a day early, for ease of scheduling), was the first in which the wine actually tasted like it was getting mature. It really is the quintessence of great bordeaux wine. I can see why Parker says it needs a few more years as the bottle bouquet was somewhat restrained. But with coaxing there is a panoply of delights from the classic blackcurrant and, truly striking, the "pencil lead" smell that is often associated with Mouton. Beyond this a subtle array of blackberry, hazelnut, flower and cedar/forest floor, all nicely delineated and quit subtle. The tannins have melted to nicely integrate with the fruit and acid and propel a long finish just full of nuance. As Parker says there's plenty of life in this incredible wine. I'm delighted that I have 3 or 4 more bottles in my cellar--a nice reward for my long patience. This wine was purchased for either $38 or $50 (depending on the lot) and in Wine Searcher today it averages about $1250. If only I'd invested in 100 cases instead of those lousy mutual funds...

Here's Parker's notes from June 2009:

This wine remains one of the legends of Bordeaux. It has thrown off the backward, youthful style that existed during its first 25 years of life, and over the last 4-5 years has developed such secondary nuances as cedar and spice box. The creme de cassis, underlying floral note, full-bodied power, extraordinary purity, multilayered texture, and finish of over a minute are a showcase for what this Chateau accomplished in 1982. The wine is still amazingly youthful, vibrant, and pure. It appears capable of remaining fruity and vibrant in 2082! Thank God it is beginning to budge, as I would like to drink most of my supply before I kick the bucket. This is a great, still youthful wine, and, on occasion, one does understand the hierarchy of Bordeaux chateaux when you see the complexity and brilliance of this first-growth. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2050+ Release price: ($350.00/case)

2004 Mitolo Shiraz GAM

About as good as Australian shiraz gets: complex fruit backed by decent acid and at this point almost undetectable tannin, with a long finish. Among the prominent components are kirsch, licorice, toast, blueberry, jasmine tea, a nicely restrained briary/spicey quality. The restraint makes this a more elegant and serious wine than so many other syrahs where the briar dominates the fruit. Long finish, silky on the palate. As far as syrahs go, this is a 95 point version. I'll be interested to compare it to the newly released Herman Story syrahs as well as the recent Tensley with their high ratings from Parker.

Here's Parker on the 2004 Mitolo GAM--97 points!

Aged 18 months in primarily French oak, the 2004 Shiraz G.A.M. is an exceptional example of a precise yet full-flavored, concentrated Shiraz. Its gorgeous perfume of blueberries, blackberries, camphor, licorice, and pain grille is followed by an inky/blue/purple-colored wine offering superb purity, full-bodied richness, and gorgeous depth as well as texture. This fabulous effort is another example of Ben Glaetzer’s brilliant talents. It should drink well for 15 years.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tensley Syrah Single vineyard Tierra Alta

I liked this a lot, thought it was an outstanding syrah with a complexity and elegance that doesn't always come with this varietal esp in the US (or Australia). Licorice along with the blackberry. A layered finish and soft tannins. I'd give it a 93. Had this first with the meal at Ceiba, which is a South American fusion, 14th and G, in DC on Oct 29.

Parker says 92:
The 2007 Syrah Tierra Alta reveals a similar dark ruby/purple color in addition to more scorched earth, blackberry, licorice, and bacon fat notes, excellent density, but not the breadth or expansiveness of the other single vineyard Syrahs. While it appears to be holding back some of its nuances, there is a lot going on here, and it is certainly an exceptional Syrah.

2007 L'Aventure Cote a Cote

A fine Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre with spice, cherry, plum, and perhaps a touch of cola. Not as deep or complex as the L'Aventure cabernet and the Estate Cuvee which are simply superb. 92 points now; I think it'll drink better in a year or two. Had this at Ceiba in DC with Max, Laura, and Laura's parents Bob and Betty--great to have a chance to meet them finally, on the occasion of the March to restore Sanity (Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert), Oct 30.

Parker liked it better than me, as well as the other bottlings: 95 points from him. Perhaps I mis-remember and underestimate it--this was the second bottle opened and the food was pretty heavy. We'll see how it develops. Parker:

The blockbuster 2007 Cote a Cote (40% Grenache, 40% Mourvedre, and 20% Syrah) boasts a dense purple color as well as a provocative bouquet of jammy black cherries, coffee beans, smoked meats, lavender, and spice. Dense and opulent with a voluptuous texture, tremendous concentration, a layered finish, and abundant tannin (all well-concealed by the cascade of fruit and glycerin), this beauty should be drunk over the next 10+ years.

IWC: 94 points, very high for Tanzer: ($85; 40% each of mourvedre and grenache and 20% syrah) Opaque ruby. Potent dark berry and cherry scents are complicated by notes of licorice, smoked meat, violet and fruitcake. Lush, spicy and energetic, offering sweet dark fruit flavors and a refreshing hint of bitter cherry. Seamless and alluringly sweet, with strong finishing lift and outstanding clarity. You could easily enjoy this sexy wine right now.

Le Bon Pasteur (Pomerol) 2005

Opened on Oct 24. Aired briefly revealed cherry mocha with firm acid and soft tannin, carrying a long finish. Not as superbly multidimensional as I found it when first opened in June '09. Perhaps it's closing up as it reaches the 5 year mark.

However, saved it under a long puff of argon with the Preservino specialized corking system, and then opened it today, Oct 31, a full week later. The nose was indeed superb, a combination of spicy vanilla, hazelnut or pecan brittle, peach pit--a real kaleidoscope of aromas. On the palate perhaps just a bit tired, hint of volatile acid. However I'm thinking this wine would have sung a lovely tune if I'd had it 24 hours later rather than 144 hours.

Bon Pasteur is Michel Rolland's own vineyard and it shows. I'm with Parker in feeling Rolland does well with the wineries he consults for, though it's also fair to say he's got a style that tends to show in all of them--makes them ripe, soft tannin, yet with the acid to last.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2000 beaucastel chat. Neuf du pape

This was slightly below expectations. Nose fairly reticent after the first few minutes. Initially intriguing provencal spice, licorice and strawberry/cherry, plus some woodsiness. Faded to more restrained nose dominated by strawb and licorice. On palate light to med body; looks and color not brilliant; some amber at rim. Taste very low tannin and lowish acid with fruit of moderate complexity and moderate finish elegant as Parker says but that ain't all a compliment. All in all about. A 90 or 91 point wine that seems past it's prime to me, surprisingly.

Parker 94 pts and fairly recent review Deep garnet colour with a faint touch of brick in the rim. Classic Beaucastel earthy/meaty/gamey nose with an undercurrent of stewed strawberries, Chinese dried plums and soy. Quite elegant on the palate with a medium to full body and a reasonably taut structure of medium to high acidity and a medium level of velvety tannins. Layer upon layer of spices and savoury flavours. Long finish. Drink now to 2024. Tasted August 2009.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

2008 Herman Story Grenache Syrah Mourvedre

Another wonderful Herman Story wine, ripe and lush with extraordinary complexity, in my view full of nuance and interest despite its ripeness and unmistakably Californian style. The nuance elevates it above even the excellent Australian GSM's I've had. Dark berries, cherry, and licorice along with spice lent by the syrah. I'd give it 4-5 more years as the tannin is low and quite soft, the acid sufficient. I see no reason to attack this wine for being hedonistic; it is certainly not a Cote Rotie or a Chateauneuf but that's ok with me. I'd give it 92 points.

Russell From, the one-man show running Herman Story out of Paso Robles, just got some rave reviews from Parker. I hope he won't raise his prices as they make his wines good values in CA Rhone-varietal category.

Parker 93 points
he 2008 Casual Encounters, a blend of 30% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 30% Mourvedre, is another blockbuster. Dark chocolate, cassis, blackberry, licorice, and barbecue smoke aromas jump from the glass of this full-bodied, savory, thick, juicy, glycerin-filled effort. It is an opulent fruit bomb that should drink well for 4-6 years.

Readers looking for super-concentrated, extroverted, exuberant, powerhouse wines from California's Central Coast need look no further than the Herman Story estate. For those who love the wild side of Rhone varietals pushed to the limit (but not over), these are highly recommended. Moreover, prices are exceptionally fair for this level of quality.

2004 Mas Doix Salanques

I've had this one before and found it good but not great. A year ago (see 7/9/09 entry) it was better. Mas Doix of course, the first wine, is about as sublime as a Priorat can get. Time in bottle has enhanced this Salanques considerably. Now it offers a bouquet of blueberry, cherry vanilla, cream, violets and lavender, and hazelnut. Tannins even softer than before; acid still healthy but in no way excessive in light of the ripe fruit. It's just a wee bit restrained and will no doubt blossom in another 6-12 months. I had only a small glass so it's under gas and refrigerated, and we'll see how it fares in 24 hours. I have to note the similarity of my notes this time and from July 2009. I do think 94 points is about right.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2007 Clos Mogador

Had this at a new local Spanish tapas place that offered this bottle for just about 20% over the retail. A beautiful grenache dominated cherry vanilla strawberry with the briary fruit, long smooth finish. Not a 2004 and 2005 but a very fine wine that'll go 10-15 years very nicely indeed 95 points. I'm doing this from a week away so have lost some of the detail. In any case, Clos Mogador is one of my favorite wines from anywhere and it's always a treat to have a bottle. With Max's urging I splurged on this bottle and of course it went well with the excellent tapas. It's on 14th: Estadio.

2007 L'Aventure Cabernet with 5% Petit Verdot

This is a kaleidoscope of aromas and Calif cab flavors. It's an awesome cab just a step short of Harlan and its ilk I'd say. Cocoa, coffee/mocha, tobacco, blackberry (and maybe another dark berry I can't identify but i see in professional notes below is none other than blueberry), violet/lavender, mint, licorice and an extraordinary gardenia nose that I've never experienced before (a vanilla plus flowery component that's more expectged from a white grape). Very dark purple like grape juice. On the palate, silky tannins that melt into the finish almost imperceptibly. High acid balanced by deep fruit. It really doesn't get much better than this in California cab. There is a lot of sediment; awfully early for sediment to be this prominent; I mean it really needed decanting. 95+. Good for 10 years. I can't really tell what's cassis, what's blackberry, what's currant. Anyhow it's all good here.

Had some more 24 hrs later. Unsurprisingly the wine is very fine still. Less acid and brightness but new flavors. I'm getting the cherry cola and acid very low except on finish. On palate it's almost like complex Cabernet grape juice. Mint spice prominent with a sweet potpourri edge. Highly pleasurable

What the winery says:

2007 L'Aventure Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot. Stephan has made a conscious choice to develop a Cabernet Sauvignon wine as a permanent fixture of the range, that is, if mother nature permits. The 2007 Cabernet is inky–purple, with an opaque center. Spicy currant and cola on the nose, the attack on the palate is immense with spicy cedar and smoke underpinning dark, wild blackberry and blueberry flavors. The luxuriant mouth goes on and on, with tea leaf and more spice in the finish. $80.00

Parker thinks this will last much longer:

Another long distance runner is the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, a wine worth following over the next 15-20 years. With classic aromas of graphite, creme de cassis, spring flowers, and earth, this is a big, broodingly backward, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon that is probably too formidably endowed and intense to attack presently, but given 3-4 years of bottle age, this wine should evolve as well as some of the North Coast Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa. Everything is there – crushed rock, creme de cassis, graphite, full-bodied power, fabulous concentration, purity, and a saturated purple color, all suggesting a brilliant wine. By the way, it is a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 % Petit Verdot. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2025+. 94+ points.

Tanzer as usual a point or two lower than Parker:
93 points; Dark purple. Strongly perfumed bouquet of blackcurrant and cherry pit, with a mounting note of blueberry. Deeply concentrated dark fruit flavors are supported by a suave mineral spine and framed by silky tannins. Impressively pure and vibrant, with strong finishing cut and echoes of smoky minerals and spicecake. As attractive as it is now, this suave wine is built to reward patience.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

From Budello outside Bologna, an excellent Barbera

Notes for blog on the surprisingly excellent wine made right here at Locanda Gli Ulivi in Budello, outside Bologna about 15 miles. Sitting here looking at the very vines that made these wines along with a beautiful set of low hills covered with vines on, higher up, trees. Weather perfect and air fresh, out on terrace by swimming pool.  So the innkeeper asked if I'd like to try his own wines and I thought sure let's try.  I believe the barbera is 13 euros, the pignoletto frizzante 8 so wasn't expecting much.

Well the white pignoletto was a near perfect simple summer sipping wine, uncomplicated but grippy and apply in the best quaffing way.

The red though truly surprised.  At first it was plum with some vailla and prune, not unlike a simple but well made brunello.  Then it evolved to include a tutti fruity and flowery component quality --though actually I'm smelling it in the air from flowers so I think the flowers aren't from the wine.  Still the wine kept evolving so after 90 min or so became more elderberry or some other spicier or herbaceous berry than the basic strawberry or raspberry.  The finish lengthened with time too. The wine isn't an age worthy wine but it's fresh and drinkable now and for the year or so, then will be replaced by the next year.  Very close relationship here between land and wine and terroir.

This is me in midst of the Gli Ulivi grapes, at harvest time.  Note: I added this picture on July 5, 2012, the day we met Wib and Charlotte at Gli Ulivi. Delighted to return to this place.

There is a subregion, the proprietor told me, called Budello (also name of village) and from this perch we can see the entire area! He said it's part of Colli Bolognesi, but distinct Budello.  He grow the two grapes in these wines and a Sauvignon blanc that he's out of.  This of course is my favorite thing to be doing. Il Monticelli Barbera--n.v. Same name for the frizzante.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

2007 Tablas Creek Espirit de Beaucastel

Now this a wine!

The nose is very deep and endlessly complex, starting with mint/eucalyptus, then all kinds of berry with coffee and mocha. I sense the roasted meat quality with licorice and spice ... Maybe some white pepper but not enough to be peppery. This is a great wine, absolutely worthy of the
heritage and name of Beaucastel. The winery is co-run by
the Beaucastel Perrin family, and a california team, in the Paso Robles area.

The finish is long but perhaps not as complex and multidimensional as the nose. In later taste some big time black cherry and kirsch, also on nose. 95 points and this will get better with even more potential for bottle bouquet. The tannin is soft but good acid backbone promises another 8
yes of drinking.

24 hrs later:
The nose is lovely, with spice and raspberry primary. The acid is perhaps a bit
more aggressive but surprisingly balanced tonight. I can't quite get the aroma,
maybe camphor, juicy fruit. I'm glad I have more bottles of this one.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

2008 Beringer Napa Chardonnay

A fine burgundian nose, toasty vanilla oak, minerally, but a bit of alcohol on the nose that's out of balance with the fruit. Similar on the palate, hazelnut perhaps along with the tropical fruit, maybe apple, peach and pineapple? The finish is dominated by alcohol but it's persistent and not unpleasant. Plenty of acid there and perhaps the alcohol will help preserve it and it will balance out in a few months. Still this is a very good Calif chardonnay, clearly superior to the Grayson which cost $9 on sale at CH Wine--this one is $16 at Harris Teeter and at the winery itself, but $9 (plus 10% tax in DC) from Calvert Woodley. As such it's hard to imagine a better chardonnay bargain. It blows away any Macon I've had in recent years. Maybe the Yalumba 2008 chardonnay was almost as good @ $10 if memory serves.

Anyhow, I'd say Beringer is the highest quality/price producer of chardonnay anywhere, when you consider that their private reserve is always wonderful and costs under $30, a price that can't get you a great chardonnay anywhere else. the Chasseur or Ramey single vineyards, and Newton unfiltered are all as good or better but they cost $50 and up. The Morlet and Peter Michael are $100+. Not to mention Burgundy itself where the entry price for the real villages (not Macon or Pouilly Fuisse) is $40 and the grand cru vineyards are $75+. The 1980 Beringer PR Chard was the first great chardonnay I ever tasted and I remember it clearly to this day; it has remained the most consistent terrific chardonnay you can get for a reasonable price. In 1980 the PR cost $12-14 in DC so 30 yrs later, getting it for $28 as I just did at Pearson's is a bargain given inflation which would make $12 in 1982 equal about $28 in 2010. In other words it hasn't gone up at all in real terms. I will have a review of the Private Reserve shortly.

Meanwhile this $9 baby from Napa will stand up to the Ramey Russian River, for instance, which cost $33 or so.

Here's Parker giving this wine 89 points (that's what I'd say, or maybe 90). I don't see how he can call the oak note "subtle" but he's the expert. Below that are the interesting notes on production from the winery. I swear I just looked at it, after writing the above evaluation. These notes say much of the wine was aged for 8 months in oak.

A sleeper of the vintage as well as a stunning value, the 2008 Chardonnay Napa ranks alongside some of the great bargains in California Chardonnay such as Kendall-Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve. Orange blossom, lemon oil, peach, and pineapple notes are restrained, but noticeable in this medium-bodied, fruit-driven effort. A subtle note of oak provides structure and delineation. This, too, will drink well for several years.

From Beringer:

Beringer's Chardonnay vineyards span several sub-appellations in southern Napa Valley, where fog from the San Pablo Bay works its way north each afternoon during the growing season, cooling the vineyards and slowing sugar production in the grapes, thus allowing a longer maturation period, and maintaining the varietal's bright acidity. The cooler vineyards to the south produce grapes with crisp apple, pear and citrus characteristics, while vineyards closer to Yountville yield Chardonnay with a rich texture and tropical fruit aromas and flavors. Winemaker Laurie Hook chose complementary lots from each of these vineyards to craft a wine that exhibits bright fruit, richness and complexity, hallmark expressions of Napa Valley terroir.

When making the 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay, Laurie kept each lot separate and used several different techniques to retain the fruit's brightness while developing its innate complexities. After the grapes were sent directly to press where the juice was gently extracted, half the wine was aged for eight months in French oak barrels (32% new) to enhance its natural richness and roundness. The remaining juice was stainless steel fermented to highlight the crisp, bright citrus and fruit flavors that Chardonnay grapes offer in abundance. Laurie chose to put 58% of the wine through malolactic fermentation, balancing the wine's lush mouthfeel with its bright fruit characteristics.

'Gamble Ranch makes up a third of the 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay, accounting for the wine's luscious tropical flavors. Our Stanly Ranch vineyard in Carneros is also a large component of the blend, which added bright citrus notes and a lovely minerality. Flavors of roasted pineapple, ripe apples and lemon meringue are accented by aromas of vanilla and sweet citrus. The wine's bright citrus notes and nice acid balance are an ideal counterpoint to its rich, honeyed fruit flavors.'

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2005 Andrew Will Two Blondes

This is about 35% cab sauv, 35 cab franc, and 30 merlot. extremely complex, evocative nose with about 10 components from violet to wood bark to blackberry, raspberry, cranberry, licorice and oak/vanilla. There's some other wild berry aroma--blueberry maybe? or pomegranate? and flavor I'm not sure of too. Some herbal notes with airing. There's some alcohol on the nose that is well balanced with the fruit and acid. The tannin is way in the background; there is some but it's about as sweet and silky as tannin can be I'd say. The alcohol is noticeable on the finish and perhaps a bit much but it does help to carry the long finish. This just misses on the depth and length I'd like in a 95 point wine but I'm guessing it'll drink nicely for another 4-5 years and will develop a bigger bouquet still. Medium body and medium color, pretty opaque but a bit of translucence and a bit of red on the rim even though it's just 5 years old. I guess this is an index of the relatively low tannin and does mean the wine is not a real long ager. I'd say the nature of the nose marks this a US rather than French bordeaux blend--it's bigger, and there's little currant or tobacco as far as I can tell, telltale markers of the French versions. Plus actually I'm not sure how many Bordeaux actually use a nearly balanced blend of the big 3 grapes, since Pomerol emphasizes merlot and St Emilion emphasizes cab franc. I'm giving it 93 points

Tanzer gives it just 89:

2005 Andrew Will Winery Two Blondes Vineyard Red Wine Red Mountain

($60; 36% cabernet franc, 35% cabernet sauvignon and 29% merlot) Bright ruby-red. Notes of smoke, game and dried herbs on the nose. Lush, smoky and dry, with a distinctly balsamic quality to the flavors of tart red berries, game, earth, spices and truffle. Like the Sheridan bottling, this shows firm acidity, which gives it good cut and a juicy quality. From a vineyard near Zillah planted at an altitude of 1,250 feet. The highest in pH of these 2005s, at about 3.9, according to Chris Camarda.

Parker's Jay Miller says 92:
The 2005 Two Blondes, located a stone’s throw from the Sheridan Vineyard, is a blend of 36% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 29% Merlot. Its personality is remarkably similar to its sister vineyard with expressive red and black fruit aromas, spice box, and smooth-textured, sweet fruit. It is a lengthy, elegant effort for drinking from 2012 to 2025.

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.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

1989 Beychevelle

Purchased in '92 or '93 in honor of Emily's birth year. Opened tonight with Francie's delicious lamb dinner and it was splendid. The nose was a bit more restrained than I might have expected, and perhaps this wine is now past its peak. A bit of a spicy/herbal mineral quality that would be more likely in a CA cab. However on the palate this was classic mature bordeaux, all the components in perfect harmony, the color classic mature brick red rim and quite light in the middle, hardly any purple left. The currant fruit played nicely against the acid with good body and tannins melted away, good finish. If only one could afford to drink 20 year old excellent bordeaux on a regular basis...92 points.


Parker: 89 points in a 1997 tasting, 91 previous to that:

ine Advocate # 109
Feb 1997
Robert Parker89Drink: 1997 - 2012$70-$132
Both the 1989 and 1990 wines scored slightly lower than in previous tastings. In contrast to the 1990, the 1989 Beychevelle, which usually performs better than it did in the recent tasting, is an elegant, medium-bodied wine with soft tannin, copious quantities of ripe, herb-tinged, blackcurrant fruit, some evidence of toasty oak, and a generous, velvety-textured finish. It appears to be evolving quickly, and can be drunk now as well as over the next 15 years.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

2002 Penfold's Grenache Reserve

As my many, many readers (i.e., somewhere between n=1 and n=2) know, I'm a fan of Australian grenache. It's fruit on top of fruit, yes, but I don't believe in making hedonistic pleasure a sin when it comes to wine (I know I echo Parker in this stance and no doubt he's influenced me; but I find it annoying that somehow the fashion is to condemn wines that are easy to like, as if the truly intelligent and refined wine lover would never stoop to enjoy such wines).

So you look at this 8 year old grenache and it's still very dark, a beautiful purple/red with only a hint of brick red at the edge. The nose is the wonderful blackberry/huckleberry that I love, along with a hint of mocha that comes on strong in mid-palate. There is also the woodsy/pine resin nose that seems more common with grenache than others but can also be found in cabernet and blends thereof. Maybe some spice and flowers; a hint of alcohol also (which is not a bad thing in my view) on the nose. The tannins and acid are there on the finish to keep it balanced and long-lasting. I'd think this one is about at its peak but will also last another 3-4 years given the healthy acid and tannin levels. This one just about equals my 2004 DeLisio Grenache standard: 94 points for this one, just a tad less deep and long than DeLisio. When it comes to all around pleasure, I'd put Australian grenache from old vines like this in the near league with Pomerols.

Had this 24 hrs later, preserved with argon but not refrigerated. It held up very nicely; maybe a shade muted but otherwise in fine drinking shape. I'd gladly drink this weekly.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

2008 Tensley Syrah special cuvee for Chapel Hill Wine Corks for Kids

Strong perfume of strawberry and blackberry with pinewoods, spice, and some toasted oak vanilla quality. On palate maybe a bit of fig? The color is medium, not as deep as the other cuvees I'd guess. On the palate there is fine midpalate, silky feel, moderately long finish carried by moderate acidity and fairly low tannins. The alcohol does its job nicely, producing a round wine with fruit and acid well balanced. This is a typical Syrah, good but not special. 89 points. There is nobody else to review since it's a special cuvee for CH Wine Co's charity. It cost $20 whereas other fine Tensley Syrahs cost $35 and up.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2007 Pierre Usseglio Chateauneuf du Pape

This was a real treat, on sale in St Paul where I was visiting Clay and Inge. Picked this up to drink on our trip to the far north lake country. So, on the first night, it was a bit disjointed (of course it had been shaken up on our 4 hour drive, some of it over bumpy roads). I could tell the plum and black cherry fruit was there but it was overwhelmed by the acid and alcohol. So, as if to confirm Charles's argument (the guy from Lynch Bages in Bordeaux), tasted it 24 hours later with no gas preservation or vacuum pumping and it was wonderful. Drinking from plastic cups, so nose wasn't great. But on the palate a masterpiece of silky balance, with toasted black cherry, blueberry, white pepper and a damn-near Pomerol like roundness. The acid is now in perfect balance with fruit. Maybe a touch of licorice and with air, black raspberry. And a very long finish carried by the acid and alcohol. Tannin soft and drinking great right now, but should help it last for another 5-10 years. Unmistakably a syrah-grenache blend but the grenache gives it the Pomerol roundness. I'd give it 93.


Parker in Oct 2009:
93 points. The 4,400-case blend of 80% Grenache and the rest Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault, the 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape boasts a dense plum/purple color as well as a wonderfully sweet nose of fresh black truffles, incense, blue and black fruits, roasted herbs, and earth. The wine is full-bodied and pure with fresh acids, silky tannins, and a voluptuous mouthfeel. Drink this beauty over the next 10-12 years.

Palmer 1996 and Alter Ego 2007

These are notes from the tasting at Palmer, very near our hotel in Margaux, France a few weeks ago. They are fragmentary since I didn't take detailed notes at the time. Alter Ego is the second wine of Palmer and '07 is considered a mediocre year. The wine was oaky and plummy, certainly not unpleasant. It was a great treat to taste the '96 Palmer which is an expensive bottle of wine from a good year. My notes say sweet Margaux nose, plum and cherry with currant. Very silky tannins and firm acid. I'd say it's about 2 years from peaking.

A Parker taster (not Parker) in March 2010 wrote: 93 points. Deep garnet colour going a little brick. The nose is very forthcoming with a good intensity of earthy loam and black truffle aromas mingled with dark cherry, leather, tar and black olive. Medium to high acidity and a medium+ level of very fine tannins. Great balance. Long finish.

Parker said in 1999:

Wine Advocate # 122
Apr 1999
Robert Parker91Drink: 2007 - 2028$114-$262
This wine, a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot, is performing well after its July, 1998 bottling. It boasts an impressively saturated purple color, in addition to a backward yet intense nose of black plums, currants, licorice, and smoke. Following terrific fruit on the attack, the wine's structure and tannin take over. There is plenty of sweet fruit, and the tannin is well-integrated, but the wine requires 7-8 years of cellaring. Anticipated maturity: 2007-2028.

From a Sept 2009 tasting on Jancis Robinson

55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc (last Cabernet Franc at Palmer), 40% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot. Cooler but sunny summer. Great Cabernet in this vintage in Bordeaux generally. A more classic Palmer.
Deep youthful garnet. Open, sweet dark and spiced fruit. Smell the sun. Spice and truffles coming through as it opens up. You can still smell the sweet toasty oak though this was not the first vintage of new vats. Rich sweet pure fruit. Firm but rounded tannins and long aromatic finish. Fine cedary aftertaste. Very pure and direct and frank, some herbaceousness adding aroma but not greenness. 17+.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

2007 Tensley Syrah Colson Canyon

Tasted immediately after the H. Story Grenache. Since I loved that I didn't expect to like this Tensley syrah so much. But it is, indeed, a slightly better wine. It's not quite as overpoweringly fruit, but it's more complex and nuanced. The nose is damn near ethereal, though it'll be more available in a couple years. It's violet, it's strawberry and red plum, provencal herbs. It's a very long finish. It's higher in acid than the Story Grenache, which carries a very long finish. This is about as good as syrah gets, I'd say. I wouldn't chose it over a 94+ cabernet, but it's damn close to a fine bordeaux in its grace and complexity--it's just a lot more pleasing right on the surface. Doesn't require a whole lot of contemplation. Which is OK with me. 94+, and this one will get better as opposed to the Story Grenache which is pbly as good as it's gonna get.

As with Herman Story, we are members of the Tensley wine club which means we get a bunch of their wines every few months...a good idea, actually. This one will drink nicely for 6-8 yrs.

Parker says 95 pts:
The brilliant 2007 Syrah Colson Canyon is Tensley's biggest production single vineyard Syrah. Like the other wines, it is aged in 80% neutral and 20% new French oak barrels, and is bottled with no fining or filtration. This blockbuster effort is as black as a moonless night. It offers up stunning notes of graphite, blackberry liqueur, creme de cassis, licorice, barbecue smoke, and a deep meaty character. The layered palate feel as well as the enormous richness and length result in one of the finest Syrahs being produced in California's Central Coast. It should evolve over the next 10-15 years.

2007 Herman Story On the Road Grenache

This wine was purchased while we were in Paso Robles, CA tasting at many of the leading vineyards. This one is unusual in that Herman Story's winemaker (Russell From) and owner buys grapes from good local vineyards and vinifies them with great verve. We enjoyed talking wine and that day he was blending one of his 2008's and actually asked for our opinion! He's a specialist in grenache, which is why we sought him out. Herman is the winemaker's grandfather, a colorful guy apparently.

This grenache is outstanding, just slightly less deep and interesting than the baseline standard, 04 De Lisio. THe nose is variegated, including notes of eucaplyptus, mint, plum, black cherry, toasted vanilla. THe mouth feel is silky indeed, and although there's alcohol on the nose and palate (16.1% alch!) the fruit is so thorough and ripe that alch disappears from your senses. What is dominant is the silky fruit cherry/plum/oak/methol-eucalyptus-spice on palate and in the finish. If DeLisio was 95, this is 93+. Lacking just a bit of the depth and complicated finsihes of De Lisio or L'aventure.

Well, Parker gave it 93 and wrote:
The 2007 On the Road Grenache is a sensational example of this varietal. This sexy red is loaded with kirsch liqueur intermixed with notions of lavender, pepper, licorice, and spice box. One of the finest Grenaches being made in the Central Coast, it boasts a deep ruby/purple color, broad, savory flavors, abundant glycerin and alcohol (16.1%), and a seductive, heady finish. This is another full-flavored wine that merits serious attention. It should drink well for 3-5 years. Kudos to winemaker/proprietor Russell From.

These are full-flavored, balls-to-the-walls, beautifully made, intensely flavored wines that are capable of lasting a decade or more (in the case of their biggest Syrahs).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chateaux Palmer and Lynch Bages

Reporting from the Medoc, southwest France: tastings at the great Margaux estate, Palmer, and at Lynch Bages. Had 1996 Palmer and 2009, 2001, and 1997 Lynch Bages, the latter at a 2+ hour BLIND tasting with an expert at Lynch Bages who taught us some new ways of assessing wine. The '09 was surprisingly closed and not all that promising, or so it seemed, but Parker has given it 94-96 points. The '01 and '97 were both excellent and '97 a real surprise since it's reputedly not a good vintage.

2009 Lynch Bages: From the barrel, acid high on attack, OK on mid-palate, very acid on finish. Not too much alcohol on the nose. Long acid finish with tannins drying, not very soft. Not much fruit on finish. Charles, who led the tasting for us (and it was just me and Francie, quite an unusual experience), said the tannin isn't bad. No balance at this point between tannin, acid and alcohol, something he urged us to notice on the nose and on the palate. He said at this stage the strong acid and tannin is a good sign. This one I pegged as a very young wine but didn't think it could be from the heralded 2009 vintage. He also said to notice the brilliance of color, i.e. its reflectivity (which was excellent) and the transparency--could you see your fingers through the wine? The more opaque the better, and this one was opaque.

2003 Haut Bages Averous (second wine): Much more balance and silky, softer tannin; with alcohol not hot like the '09. Alcohol is, says Charles, the referee between acid and tannin. Acid gives freshness, alcohol gives smoothness. In this particular wine he says, alcohol is too prominent on the finish. The wine is too warm, more "rustic" therefore than the Lynch Bages. It is given less age before release, lower age of vines, no new oak, and more merlot for earlier drinking.

2001 Lynch Bages: Better balanced. Alcohol makes for roundness, soft tannins, good mid-palate with balance. This one finishes with the tannin and acid more pronounced than on the first two wines and on mid-palate. Yet the finish was also longer; and he says, shows as a typical vintage of the terroir.

1997 Lynch Bages: Perfect balance. Fresh acid on the attack, balanced middle and finish is just as balanced as the mid-palate (unlike the '01). The finish is long and elegant, as well as complex. '97 seen as a bad year because it came between 1996 and 1998, two hyped vintages. Alcohol here nicely serving to round off the acid and tannin. The lesson says Charles: look for those off-vintages from excellent terroirs with good winemaking practices.

It's interesting to see what Parker wrote in 2000 about the 1997: This wine is jammy black currant fruit intermixed with cedar wood, herbs, spice, and pepper. It is a light-styled yet friendly effort with creamy new oak, low acidity, and a medium-bodied, attractive albeit superficial appeal. Drink it over the next 5-6 years.

Parker gave it 86 points and said it would drink until 2006, yet we tasted it in 2010 and it was really delightful. So one wonders, did the reputation of the vintage actually decrease Parker's scores for 1997, leading him to underestimate its potential?

Above is a picture of Palmer's barrel aging room with workers topping off barrels (which lose about 5% to evaporation, I believe, each month). More info on Palmer in separate posting of July 14.

Monday, June 7, 2010

2003 Troplong Mondot

A very nice St Emilion, spicy, violet-infused and cherry--distinctively NOT cabernet's blackberry and black currant. However as shown below, Parker sees it differently. Nonetheless it's 90% merlot as I suspected and that gives it the cherry overtones. Maybe i'm sensing cherries when parker senses plum and I can see that. I rate this 93. And it needs a couple more years to fully mature in my view. The finish is moderately long on the palette, but on nose, truly a fine aromatic offering.

Here's a nice picture from Troplong Mondot's website. Francie and I stayed in the Troplong Mondot room of Hostellerie de Plaisance in 1985; we're returning to the Hostellerie for lunch on June 12. Rooms there now 10x what they were in 1985 -- then $55, now $550.


Parker: This superb estate, run with impeccable attention to detail by Christine Valette, has produced a formidable, backward wine that will require considerable cellaring. When St.-Emilion’s new classification is announced in several months, it will be a crime if Troplong is not promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classe status. Even by Bordeaux standards this is a weighty vin du garde, with huge density, a backward, masculine style, an inky dark ruby/purple hue, and subtle notions of white chocolate, espresso roast, plums, blackberries, and currants. Full-bodied, powerful, and “closed for business” at present, it exhibits beautiful purity, stunning depth, and a long, persistent finish. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2025+. 92+ points.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

2000 Du Tertre (from Margaux)

I think this is the first 2000-vintage bordeaux i've had that lives up to the hype when the wines came out. In 2001-02 there was much "great vintage" discussion, but that seems to have been forgotten, and for good reason in my experience. Whether the extremely over-hyped (by the out of business wine store in NC) 2000 Terre du Lion, or the Giscours and a horrible previously discussed cru bourgeois whose name thankfully escapes me, i've found the wines acidic and relatively simple. So i was pleased to smell the Du Tertre, which was an old favorite in the 1983 vintage (an outstanding one for the Margaux commune). It has the same deep violet look, aroma and taste I remember from long ago, and nice blueberry, cocoa, vanilla and currant complexity. The finish is moderately long. Though tannins have softened, i'd bet it'll develop a bit more of the Margaux distinctive perfumed bottle bouquet in a year or two and drink well till 2015 or so. I'd give it 91 points.

Jancis Robinson gave it 17/20 when she retasted in March 2010
Dark ruby with quite a bit of evolution. Very rich and rewarding on the nose. Lots of interest and development. Pretty wine. A little sweet and chocolatey underneath. But capable of providing lots of pleasure for not too much money, I'd have thought. Just a tiny suggestion of greenness underneath. I'd drink sooner rather than later.

Parker gave it 91. He certainly has a discerning palate:

A dense purple color is followed by layers of concentrated blackberry fruit intertwined with damp earth, mushroom, and sweet, toasty barrique smells. With ripe tannin, medium to full body, a layered texture, and a concentrated, impressively endowed finish, this is the finest Du Tertre since their 1979. This is a property on the move ... up! Anticipated maturity: 2004-2018. (last tasting note from 2003)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2008 Beckmen TLV(?) 70% Syrah 30% Cabernet

This along with '08 Beckmen Grenache arrived via UPS having spent the day (or more) at 90 degrees or higher temps. Taking wine out of the styrofoam, the wine bottles were more than lukewarm. I thought they'd be ruined. So I opened this bottle on Saturday (yesterday) and after Vinturi oxygenation, was pleasantly surprised that it was quite nice. It is now Sunday evening and wine has held up quite well. Blackberry with lavender overtones and maybe raspberry too. A bit reminiscent of the L'Aventure Estate Cuvee which is a similar blend of cab and syrah, but not as deep, complex and compelling. Still, considering I thought for sure it was essentially cooked at high temp, it's a fine wine. 90+ points. At right is picture
of Beckmen's beautiful vineyards, which we visited, outside
Los Olivos.

Monday, April 26, 2010

2004 Grenache D'Arenberg The Derelict

A very nice grenache with its huckleberry, black cherry, chicory, lavender, violet perfume and taste. Good medium silky body with a good though not spectacular finish. It's the nose that's really pleasing to me. 93+

Sunday, April 18, 2010

1982 Pichon Lalande!

Amazed to find this at bottom of stack of bottles in my old Eurocave wine refrig and took it to Revolution restaurant in downtown Durham for dinner celebrating Francie's birthday on 4/17. What a treat! Initial aroma was strongly influenced by a rosemary/italian herb impression over the cigar box, characteristic St Julien nose (recall that Pichon is on the border, in Pauillac but almost in St Julien). The nose was subtle, complex, nuanced, "elegant" with a long finish, low tannin, good acid, medium bodied and incredibly young looking; could pass for 6 yr old bordeaux.


Friday, April 16, 2010

2002 Penfold's Grenache Reserve

the initial nose on this was amazing, with pronounced rosemary/provencal herbs and lavender. just great on top of the vanilla strawberry/cherry grenache nose and palate. not as deep as my standard (De Lisio) but this is older, at its peak right now with the round bottle bouquet, not any noticeable tannin and medium body, medium finish with enough acid; not any heat either. the striking thing is the combination of the wonderful aromatic spices with the grenache cherry/strawberry/red plum. 93 points.

Follow up on 4/18, 6 pm: after preservation with gas drinking well tonight. very pleasantly spicy/herbs on top of elegant grenache red fruit nose. good acidity and finish.

Parker writing in 2005, 95 points:

The 2002 Grenache Cellar Reserve is a terrific effort. Produced from a 75-year-old Barossa vineyard, and aged completely in old wood, it exhibits a fabulously complex bouquet of licorice, kirsch liqueur, and spice box, a great mouthfeel, huge body, and lovely elegance as well as freshness. It is a terrific example of old vine Barossa Grenache that should drink well for 5-10 years.

From Penfold's website

Cellar reservear rEsErvE

Grenache 2002

The tradition of innovation and experimentation is central to the Penfolds winemaking philosophy and is perpetuated in the form of Penfolds Cellar reserve wines. These sometimes one-off releases emerge periodically when experimental wines, which have been nurtured carefully in the winery cellars, are deemed appropriate for public release.

The wines do not necessarily fit into any particular genre and provide winemakers with the freedom to strive for new styles and definitions of excellence in their expression.

With the 2002 Cellar reserve grenache, a wine has been developed which harnesses one of the world’s most exotic and perfumed red wine grape varieties, presenting it as a single varietal wine in contrast to its more established cousin, the Bin 138 grenache-Shiraz-Mourvèdre blend.

Barossa Valley

regular rains throughout winter resulted in good soil moisture levels and healthy vine growth, but a cool spring and summer reduced potential yields, and in fact left grapes in danger of not ripening. a warm, dry autumn relieved the situation and this, combined with careful vineyard management, resulted in a harvest with smaller than

average yields but of excellent quality. grenache

Matured for 12 months in a 50/50 combination of older French and american oak hogsheads.

alc/Vol: 14.50% acidity: - ph: -

4-Dec-03 Now - 2010 Duck & game, Cheese, Beef

Winemaker comments by

Peter gago

Dense crimson, with an almost black core. a heady, concentrated, fragrant lift of unabashed, youthful grenache fruit, showing primary raspberry and dark stone-fruit conserve aromas, courted by dark spice, licorice and floral notes.

Expansive and intensely opulent. rich, generous blueberry and blackberry fruits, with licorice, dark chocolate and stewed beetroot layered over ripe, subtle tannins. The body is full and round, with a chewy, concentrated rich core. Fully reflective of its old-vine fruit sourcing, this wine has silky softness, yet the concentration, depth and structure to mature over several years in bottle.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Quinta do Vallado 2007 $20

This is the vineyard/winery that has a lovely inn on the Douro in Portugal. I stayed there for a couple of days and thoroughly enjoyed it--including tasting and tour of the winery. This was in 2008 so I might have tasted this wine in barrel sample.

Anyhow, first taste was a bit harsh. The nose is pretty restrained but has layers of complexity that includes some brown and green spices, some vaguely lavender element. THe berry component isn't the normal huckleberry or blackberry, nor is it cherry. Very long finish that's a bit unintegrated for now. Of course the wine was a fairly recent arrival at CH Wine Co. I'll look forward to drinking this in a year or two. At this point, this bottle, I'd say 90.

Here is the URL for this vineyard:

Parker (90 points):

The 2007 TINTO is a Douro blend. It is another fine “regular” Tinto in this very consistent 2007 vintage. This relatively low priced Tinto has a hidden advantage in that a significant portion of its blend (27% this year) is an old vines field blend from 70 year old vines. The young vines portion (defined as 15 years old, which is fine for most people) includes Touriga Franca (25%), Tinta Roriz (20%), Touriga Nacional (20%), Tinta Amarela (5%) and Sousao (3%). Although it does not show a lot of mid-palate depth, noting that the wines from this estate are always on the more elegant side, it has fine structure and complexity, a certain earthy nuance and some brightness. It is gripping on the finish and should develop a medley of flavors as it ages. It is yet another in the string of regular or second wines in this vintage that perform particularly well at excellent price points. Drink now-2017.

There are some price drops here over listed prices last year. The Touriga Nacional in particular has dropped dramatically. Marketing continues to be an unpredictable activity in this economy and with these exchange rates.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Paul Lehner Durrau 2006 Blaufrankisch Reserve (Mittleburgenland)

I picked up this red wine of Austria when I was in Vienna in fall, 2008. As I recall, I had some in a restaurant that was on the outskirts of town and was affiliated with a vineyard that, I believe, surrounded the restaurant. I had scoffed at red wine from Austria (and I'm not all that impressed with the whites I've had either) but tasting this was impressed. So I took a bottle home. It's pretty good. A deep smoky, hazlenut nose with a hint of espresso; silky texture, little tannin and decent acidity. If I didn't know it was Austrian I might think it an inexpensive Italian. It's plenty ripe. I wouldn't pay more than $8 or $10 for it; give it an 86.

After writing this I looked it up in Parker and found quite a different impression and price tag:
Wine Advocate # 181
Feb 2009
David Schildknecht(92-93)Drink: N/A$74 (74)
From some of the heaviest and most iron-rich soils in Horitschon, Lehrner’s 2006 Blaufrankisch Durrau is only now being released, and when I last caught up with it, was not yet bottled. Ripe blackberry, Szechuan pepper, and mint on the nose lead to a liqueur-like richness yet at the same time brightness of fresh fruit on the palate. An infusion of herbs, pepper, and tobacco as well as underlying stony, peaty mineral elements, marrow-like meatiness, and caramelized onions and root vegetables contribute to a thought-provoking level of complexity. Faintly resinous notes of new wood as well as walnut oil and bitter chocolate add to the wealth of flavors in a long, vibrant, palate-staining finish. This should be worth following for more than a decade.

I reported in issue 160 on Paul Lehrner’s style (and wry wit), and in issue 177 reported on two outstanding values, his 2006 Blaufrankisch Gfanger and 2006 Claus (a blend of Zweigelt and Blaufrankisch), because they had been bottled early and I could not restrain my enthusiasm. “I’ve never had a wine reach 14% alcohol, and I don’t intend to,” remarks Lehrner – whose wines are decidedly under-rated by his countrymen – but I do not believe any taster will find his 2006s lacking in ripe flavors.
I agree it's complex on nose but seems over-ripe to me on the palate without the balance and nuance of wines that merit 90 points or more. Different strokes for different folks. And it might be that it was damaged in being carried, put on an airplane, transported from NC to DC, etc. And it wasn't stored esp well in the past few months; it was unrefrigerated in the house at 1114 RI Ave NW.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

2005 Schwarz Thiele Road Vineyard Grenache (Australia)

I see it's been a month since my last entry. That isn't because I haven't been enjoying wine; au contraire, Francie and I had a great tour of Santa Barbara and Paso Robles (CA) wine country and tasted, then ordered, a whole lot of grenache, syrah, and various blends. I will need to collate my notes and put them on the blog.

Meanwhile, here's an Australian grenache, opened 24 hours ago as I write on 3/27. The unmistakable sweet flowery huckleberry on an ethereal nose, a bit of forest floor and violet, and a touch of maybe leather/cigar box/St. Julien. Some candy cherry. Very silky on the palate, with more strawberry on the taste than nose. Against my standard of the 2004 De Lisio Grenache, my all time favorite Aussie (or any) 100% grenache wine, this one is a bit lighter in body, nose, color and shorter in finish. If De Lisio was 95 points, this one is appropriately 92-93. And I'm impressed at how it's drinking better today than 24 hrs ago. Some stuff from the winery website

Thiele Rd 07 HiRes.jpgThiele Road Grenache 2007

Bright ruby red coloured wine with vibrant aromas of red cherry and plummy fruits. It's a spicy little beast with red licorice, heady five spice, grilled meats and kirsch with some lifted raspberry and violet top-notes. There is just a hint of gingerbread in there too.

The palate is awash with liquored red cherry and red plum fruit, enveloped in warm spice flavours - five spice, cardamon and ginger - it's earthy and finishes brightly with a ripe tannin structure and good balance and drive.

"Typically light hue, and typically light-bodied, but has more definition to the spicy red fruits, and less outright confection flavour......better than many barossa counterparts. Rating 91, drink 2013."
... James Halliday, (Australian Wine Companion, 2010)

"....Lovely, lovely wine. Just a great wine to quaff. Earthen and raspberried, jammy and spicy. Silken texture. Fresh acid through the finish. Massaged tannin. A warm-hearted 'earth wine' that's crying out for the dinner table. Rating 92, drink 2009 - 2013."
... Campbell Mattinson, November 2009 (

Winemaker Notes

I used to catch the school bus from the end of Thiele Road. Our family Grenache block is planted along this dusty old track and has been there since my father’s uncle dropped in the cuttings in 1946.

These gnarly old vines now hold up the traditional red gum trellis and the trunks are home to nests of white ants.

The vineyard is spur pruned to reduce vigour and bunch density. Typically small berries and open bunches are this vineyards characters.

Fruit is hand picked and 50% destemmed, 50% crushed to give some carbonic maceration characters.

Soaked for 3 days, yeast is then added and the ferment is allowed to reach 30-32 degrees to increase colour and tannin before reducing the temperature to 18-23 to maintain varietal characters.

Ferment is pumped over gently twice a day and hand plunged so that skins do not desecrate. We undertake and extended maceration on skins for 8- 12 days.

Malo lactic fermentation is then undertaken in old French oak barrels and the wine is purposely unfiltered and racked twice before bottling 20 months later.

Tasting Notes

Bright ruby red.

Vibrant aromas of red cherry and plummy fruits. It’s a spicy little beast with red licorice, heady five spice, grilled meats and kirsch with some lifted raspberry and violet top-notes. There is just a hint of gingerbread in there too.

The palate is awash with liquored red cherry and red plum fruit enveloped in warm spice flavours – five spice, cardamom and ginger – it’s earthy and finishes brightly with a ripe tannin structure and good balance and drive.

Friday, February 26, 2010

2001 Marciliano (Umbria IGT)

Oh boy does this one have a nose. This is why it's really good to let the bottle age till it's ready, even if delicious young. This one has an incredibly complex nose of spicy vanilla, licorice, blackberry, maybe boysenberry or huckleberry. On the palate it's still actually pretty young (i'm afraid it's my last of 2 bottles, very sadly) withjust about a perfect balance of acid tannin and fruit and therefore a very long fruity finish, maybe a touch of sour cherry involved in the finish impression. There's an herbal quality that's pleasant not overwhelming. The finish must last 2 minutes! This one is easily a 95. I don't get to drink many wines that are better than this. I'd say it's not peaked yet, maybe 2012-2018 will be prime years. See earlier posting (which i didn't read).

I see it's 70% cab sauvignon and 30% cab franc which accounts for the nicely herbaceous quality. And there's no merlot which is why I didn't taste merlot (as noted in the prior post which I did just read after writing the first graf above. In teh earlier post i said it was restrained on nose, on first opening, then opened up after a few days. now, perhaps because it's better rested, perhaps because it's a couple months older (though that seems unlikely) it's open and lovely.

On second night, after having put wine in Preservino, the wine was still good but the vegetal quality is now stronger and the wine less complex and elegant. I should have drunk more last night!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ken Wright Pinot Noir Carter Vineyard 2007

Had this with friend Rui Novais of Porto at Mendocino Grille last night. Must write therefore from memory, but it's a good memory. Seemed to me classic Pinot fruit which leans toward the strawberry plus black cherry in my view. There was considerable vanilla oak and "forest floor" in the mix and not much tannin; acid level quite good and sustaining a good finish with no rough edges. It paired very nicely with a NY strip steak that was delicious in its own right. Pinot is not my favorite wine though partly that's due to price/quality ratio being higher than for grenache and even cabernet. Still this was highly pleasurable. I'd guess it'll be good for another 5-6 years. 90+ points from me. Note below the disparity between Parker and Wine Spectator; I split the difference apparently.

Parker gives it 92:
The 2007 Pinot Noir Carter Vineyard is from a 1983 planting. Lovely aromas of smoke, spice, underbrush, incense, and black cherry lead to a round, velvety, sweetly fruited Pinot with enough structure and balance to evolve for 2-3 years. It should provide pleasure from 2012 to 2022.

89 from WS:
Tangy, with firm tannins around a juicy core of peppery raspberry and cherry flavors, lingering on the vibrant finish. Drink now through 2013. 1,317 cases made. –HS

Signargues Cotes du Rhone Vieille Vignes 2007

This is my second bottle apparently. I won't read what i wrote the first time until i dissect this sample. I like this although as usual with Cotes du Rhone, it's on the rustic side. The nose is intriguing though confounded by the damn dish detergent at 1114 Rhode Island, which has flowers/nuts. Trying to get underneath the detergent, impossible on the nose, but on the palate it's quite silky and has the voluptuousness I associate with grenache. I believe since it's called granacha it's all grenache. The fruit on palate is blackberry/blueberry with a hint of cedar and licorice, decent acidity and enough tannin to keep and perhaps improve and round out the wine for 3-4 years. I'd give it 88 points.

Friday, February 19, 2010

2005 Neyers Syrah Old Lakeville Rd

It was entirely unplanned that i opened this bottle next, after having the Tensley syrah. The Tensley is superior in every way but this is a good one in its own right. I neglected to write about it when i first opened and five nights later, after storage in the Preservino (argon gas, unrefrigerated) I'm pleased to say the wine is drinking very nicely. The nose is pretty sweet blackberry and tea, with some pleasant spice overtones. On the palate there's a good acid kick after an initial impression of silky fruit. Not particularly complex or profound; low tannin, ready to drink now and won't be getting better, probably another year or two left of drinkability. I don't know what this cost me but if it was about $15 it's a good drink. 89 points but 30 minutes later with full opening on nose and palate certainly it's a 90 point wine. It's hedonistic and pleasurable though still not a profound experience.

Wine Spectator 87 pts: Offers aromas and flavors of bay leaf, mint, cola and sassafras. Will have its appeal, as this is rich and concentrated, with loads of spice and pepper. Drink now through 2012. 1,155 cases made.

Parker 90-92 pts: The 2005 Syrah Old Lakeville Highway reveals plenty of bacon fat and black olive characteristics in its aromatic, outgoing personality. Medium to full-bodied, deep, rich, and pure, it is best consumed during its first 4-5 years of life.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

2008 Tensley Colson Syrah

This one was recommended to me strongly by David Ramey, the winemaker for the eponymous winery and the guy who crafts my favorite CA chardonnays. Attended the tasting mentioned in previous post and he urged me to buy this one (even though his own Syrah was being sold and it was good too, and more expensive--this one just $31 for 95 pt wine from Spectator).

Anyhow, this one is the proverbial fruit bomb with raspberry and huckleberry predominant on a very intensely fruity nose. On the palate the tannins are well concealed behind a good acid backbone and the huge fruit. The finish is long and mixed berryish. I'm not sure I'd go 95 points given the strong fruit which isn't all that complex. It is however hedonistic and that's something I'm more than happy to endorse. It's also a syrah that doesn't give off the pepper/vegetal element that I don't like. I'm guessing this one will be fine for another 4-5 years but i can't see it getting much better. maybe a little complexity and bottle bouquet will come out with another year or two of age. There isn't the tannin to take this for very many years. but for now it's certainly pleasurable, if not quite up to my benchmark fruit bomb, the 2004 De Lisio Grenache. I just like grenache better than syrah. I do see the minerally finish mentioned below and it's a nice extra dimension.

Spectator 95 pts: Displays gorgeous fruit, with a medley of wild berry, blackberry, huckleberry and boysenberry fruit that's pure, rich and intense, yet elegant, supple and refined. The fruit flavors are sustained on the finish, ending minerally, with fine-grained tannins. Drink now through 2017. 1,610 cases made.–JL

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ramey 2005 Hudson Chardonnay etc

A Triangle Wine Experience dinner at Bloomsbury Bistro paired 4 excellent Ramey wines with 5 courses--very nicely matched. The 2007 Russian River chard started off the evening and it was a good 90 point chard with butter and tropical fruit. The Hyde Vineyard Chard. was much better, very Burgundian and reminiscent of Puligny Montrachet. Can age but wonderful full, complex, long finish toasted oak and stone fruit with gout de terroir. As good as California chardonnay gets tho my memory of Ramey's Ritchie might be even a touch better. (I spoke to Ramey tonight at another tasting, at CH Wine Co, and compared Hyde and 2005 Hudson, which I had tonight, saying that Hudson was more Meursault and Hyde Puligny; he agreed tho said maybe Hudson is more Chassagne Montrachet; in any case Hyde more feminine, Hudson more masculine {and clearly needs more age in bottle}.). Also tasted the 2006 Claret, 2006 Cab, and 2006 Shanel Syrah. All fine, 91-92 points; Syrah perhaps the best. Tonight also had the Cab Vinum ($70) 96% cab with a tiny touch of the other bordeaux varietals. Best of the cabs from him I tasted but I'd have to say Ramey is a chardonnay man and there's no better in CA imho.


Here's Tanzer 93 pts Hudson 2005:

Green-tinged gold. Ripe orange, pear and honeydew on the nose, with iodine and anise adding complexity. Deep and creamy, offering concentrated orchard and pit fruit flavors and bracing minerality. Becomes spicier on the long, vibrant finish. This is strikingly pure and persistent.

Chardonnay Hyde 2006 93 pts
Yellow-gold. Powerful aromas of orange peel, pear, truffle and floral honey, with slow-building minerality adding verve. Deep, spicy, impressively pure orchard fruit and citrus flavors pick up a bitter quinine quality on the back end. Brighter and more vivacious than the Hudson today, with excellent finishing clarity and mineral snap.

Vinum 2006 93 pts:
ncludes 2% petit verdot and 1% each of cabernet franc and malbec) Inky ruby color. Pungent aromas of blackcurrant, cherry preserves, licorice and smoky Indian spices. Really exotic in the mouth, offering mineral-driven dark berry and bitter cherry flavors, with dusty tannins adding grip. The spice and mineral notes build with air and extend through the long, sappy, gently sweet finish. There's a strong suggestion of Pauillac showing today, and I don't think this would be out of place in a flight of high-end Bordeaux of similar age.

Cab 2006 92 pts
Dense ruby-red color. Ripe and smoky, offering powerful raspberry and cherry scents, along with tobacco and roasted coffee. Surprisingly vibrant in the mouth, with zesty red- and blackcurrant flavors, velvety texture and good mineral snap. Finishes clean and brisk, with excellent lift and cut.

2007 Els Pics Bodegas Mas Alta Priorat

This is a low-cost, relatively, Priorat @ $23 from CH Wine Co. It's not a Mogador, but it's reminiscent of it. This one is Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon: "Founded in 1999, Bodegas Mas Alta has the renowned Michel Tardieu from the Rhone and noted French enologist Philippe Cambie consulting for a partnership of Belgian owners. Els Pics is a blend 60% Grenache, 30% Carignan (aka Mazuelo in Spain), and 5% Cabernet from young vines grown at an elevation of 50-350 meters. 55% of the fruit is grown in the llicorella soils of the terraced slopes and the balance from the clay soils of the valley floor. Their approach to vinification is very gentle, this cuvee was aged for 12 months in Allier oak." (The numbers add to 95% so I think 65% grenache)

You have the spicy blackberry/strawberry that marks grenache for me, the marked nutiness that I can't help thinking is like hazelnut,, the old dominant crop of this area of Spain!, and also some interesting melon overtones. Very silky on the palate tho with plenty of acid on finish, which is pleasant, moderately long and warm. Tannins are soft. I'm going to say peak drinking will be 2011-2016. This is a 90+ point, maybe 91 point wine that's a reasonable substitute for the next pricepoint wines like Les Terraces (Palacios) at $40-45 or twice as much. With air added complexity of berries and mocha, somehow calling to mind cabernet and the extra complexity on nose is carignan--would be similar to what Malbec or cab franc does in bordeaux I think.