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.