Sunday, December 25, 2011

2006 DeLisio Grenache

Stumbled on this wine, in the 2006 vintage rather than the legendary (in my mind) 2004, for $17 (regular price more like $50) in Hells Kitchen, Manhattan. The wine is strikingly similar with the cherry/strawberry plus vanilla plus pine tar elements. Just not quite as deep in aromas and flavor and color as the 2004. Fun to taste this one again and see the difference the vintage year makes.

Parker gives this 91 points (the 2004 was 95):
The 2006 Grenache was sourced from 45- and 80-year-old McLaren Vale vineyards and aged for 17 months in French oak, only 15% new. Medium ruby-colored, it offers up a fragrant perfume of kirsch, cassis, cherry, and earth notes. Full-bodied (16.5% alcohol), plush, layered, and forward, this savory Grenache will drink well over the next eight years.

1986 Pichon Lalande

At Christmas Eve dinner, 2011, at 701 Restaurant (food ok at best, poorly prepared at worst, service not very good). WIth Francie, Max and Emily. This 25 year old Pauillac is still drinking perfectly. THe color shows evolution but plenty of dark red-purple and a surprisingly small redbrick edge. On the palate and nose this is a prototypical bordeaux with blackberry, mint, cigar box, cedar, spicy vanilla oak. After some time the aroma took on the classic "St Julien nose" quality of leather/tobacco that makes sense since Pichon is on the border of St Julien and Leoville Las Cases. Acid is nicely balanced with the fruit and tannins have mostly melted away. Very long finish with a touch of heat. I'd think this has the fruit, acid and tannin to be drunk as late as 2018 with great pleasure. 94 points from me.

Parker's latest (2003) note:
Also 94 points. Just now emerging from a very clumsy dormant period, Pichon-Lalande’s dense ruby/purple-colored 1986 still has the color of a 4 or 5 year old wine. This is the most tannic and backward Pichon-Lalande after 1975 and before 1996. The wine was completely closed down until just recently. The wine shows notes of cedar, black currants, earth, spice box, and licorice, followed by a medium to full-bodied, very concentrated, intense palate with a still noticeable tannic structure, a relatively big, muscular style for Pichon-Lalande. Anticipated maturity: Now-2015. Last tasted, 5/02.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2008 herman story nuts and bolts syrah

As readers or at least I will recall, I'm a big fan of Herman story from Santa Barbara area.
Big, rich but well made; fruity but still not a mere fruit bomb. This one is
not just blackberry but intense spice, vanilla and pepper. Also very long finish with
Good alcohol and acid. Parker gave it 95 points.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

2001 Pierre Usseglio Cuvee Mon Aieul

This came highly recommended from Parker and it is quite a treat. Blackberry, vanilla, very silky and totally mature. Color is brick on the rim and light purple in the center. There is a bit of alcohol on the nose but not unpleasantly. Some wood sap, pine too, and maybe lavender. This is mostly grenache, and it is reminiscent of the big Aussie grenaches I like. With time more of a cherry aroma. A great balance of fruit, acid and very sweet silky tannin. 95-96 points.

Parker 97 points: The 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de Mon Aieul (85% Grenache and equal parts Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault) tips the scales at a prodigious 15.8% alcohol. Half of the wine is aged in neutral wood foudres and the other half in tank prior to being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The sources for Mon Aieul are three vineyard parcels with vines averaging between 75 and 87 years of age. The 2001 is much more structured and backward than the 2000, 1999, or 1998. The color is a dense purple, and the bouquet offers sweet but reserved aromas of blackberries, raspberries, crushed rocks, and kirsch liqueur. It possesses superb texture, enormous body, and tremendous purity as well as overall symmetry. The tannin is high, but it is largely concealed by the wealth of fruit and extract. Give it 3-4 years of cellaring, and drink it over the following 15-18. This fabulous 2001 will provide fascinating comparisons when tasted alongside the 2000, 1999, and 1998 over the next 10-15 years.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

2005 Le Bon Pasteur

Per one of my very first entries in this blog series, I continue to love the '05 Bon Pasteur, a Pomerol made by Michel Rolland, a world-renowned winemaking consultant, from his home vineyard. What's notable on this tasting is the melting of the tannins. The wine is much more approachable esp on the palate than before. The aromatics are lovely: initially strawberry, then chocolate/cocoa, plum, cherry, and spicy vanilla in approximately that order of appearance. Mouthfeel continues to be notably silky soft. The finish is moderate and the acid appears esp prominent at that point, which is a good sign for longevity. I've put 2/3 of the bottle under gas for retesting tomorrow. Right now I'd give this a 93+.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

1989 Beychevelle (St Julien)

Opened this bottle, almost exactly the age of Emily who was born 9/11/89. It was drinking very nicely, perhaps a bit of fade in the fruit but still round, fragrant, with enough acid and alcohol to balance. Tannins melted away. Aroma was classic St Julien cigar-box, with black cherry/kirsch, woodsy, toasted oak and a nice balanced finish. I'm sure the fruit will continue to fade but I'm guessing Parker is right to say it'll still be drinking well for another year or so. Not a celestial wine but a fine one. I'd say 90+ judging against other older Bordeaux.

Herman Story Nuts and Bolts 2008 Syrah

As usual, this is a very big and delicious wine. After a few minutes of airing, I especially enjoyed the spearmint or wintergreen element added onto the deep blackberry and huckleberry essence. The wine is very dark purple, highly extracted. Tannins are soft and actually barely noticeable given how ripe and sweet the fruit is. Alcohol is high according to label but goes down without much hotness, again due to fruit. I'm sure some would deride this as over-ripe fruit bomb, but not me. I stand with fruit. I agree with Parker's rave:

The compelling 2008 Syrah Nuts & Bolts falls short of being bombastic. Its opaque purple color is accompanied by a knock-out nose of graphite, incense, blackberries, acacia flowers, and tar. This multilayered, full-bodied effort is the most backward of any of the Herman Story wines, and the tannins, while prominent, are sweet and well-integrated. Layered, pure, and stunningly rich, it should drink well for a decade or more. Readers looking for super-concentrated, extroverted, exuberant, powerhouse wines from California's Central Coast need look no further than the Herman Story estate. 95 pts.

I think Parker's "incense" what what I interpreted as spearmint/wintergreen.

2008 Stonestreet Chardonnay Gravel Bench

Thanksgiving Day, 2011, while Max and Francie cook, Emily and I vegging on the couch, watching "Work of Art," which is actually a pretty good "reality" show pitting artists against each other. One of Em's favs.

So, re: the wine, on first opening, caramel, butterscotch with quite a bit of alcohol on nose, and also on palate-I found it hot. Decided to let it air for 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, even hotter and more one dimensional. So far quite a disappointment. WIll let it air some more. After total of an hour, did get better, smoother and more dimensional. Still not more than 90+ points for me.

Below is map of the vineyard area, obviously quite mountainous. Above is a beautiful photo of the area, and it is a spectacular site. Not sure where exactly the gravel bench is.

This is how Stonestreet describes the site:

High above California's Alexander Valley stand the towering Mayacamas Mountains, home to Stonestreet's rugged Alexander Mountain Estate. This epic, untamed landscape is both challenging and rewarding when it comes to growing grapes. Here, we are truly a guest of nature, subject to both its bounty and its whims, which serve as a constant reminder that we are merely custodians to this remarkable place.

With less than 800 of our 5,100 acres planted to vine, this extreme expanse doesn't take kindly to direct orders. Comprised of 400 separate vineyard blocks aligned with the contours of the mountain, the Estate is an intricate puzzle of peaks, valleys and ridges that create a broad spectrum of aspects and facings. The story of Stonestreet is the story of our commitment to uncovering the true potential of this special land.

Parker 95 points:
As hard as it is to believe, the 2008 Chardonnay Gravel Bench is even better. A prodigious effort, it tastes like liquid rocks intermixed with tropical fruits, shortbread, subtle butterscotch, caramelized oranges, and candied apples. This beautifully textured, stunningly pure, loaded, long Chardonnay can be enjoyed over the next 6-10 years (till 2020!).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Notes from Visit to Stonestreet visit in 2010--Various wines

Chardonnay Grandstone 2007

50% oak. Honey prominent on nose, some tea, peach hazelnut. Classic chard from CA. 93.
Upper Barn Chard2007
Also 50% aged in oak, also honey, very harmonious opening on the palate for many grapey nuances on a very long finish, a bit of heat and moderately low acid. More restrainted nose than Grandstone. An oily component with peach/pear/vanilla. 93+.

Gold Run Chard 2007
100% new oak aging. Very long finish with peach/pear. Acid is smoother. Honeysuckle, tea. Vineyard at 1400' soil district. Deeply complex nose. Some lime and sweet citrus. Actually more subtle than Upper Barn! 94 points.

Black Cougar Ridge Cab 2005
100% cab., 64% new oak. Licorice, black cherry, a bit of cheese and pine Very complex indeed with the licorice, blackberry and a bit of plum and prune and camphor.

Christopher's Cab 2005 (9% Syrah)

Piney/woodsy. Oh boy! Like L'Aventura. Soft tannins. The fruit and acid nicely balanced. Has a touch of green vegetable w/o too much of the vegetal quality i don't like--this does have even cabbage and broccoli. 96 from Parker!

Christopher's Cab 2006

Absolutely first-rate. Blackberry, huckleberry. Unbelievably complex berry compote with very long ripe finish.

Legacy 2006 Cab

Very juicy, soft tannin and low acid. Blackberry and blueberry, strawberry. Very fruit forward, plum, prune with a hint of eucalyptus. Aboslutely lovely nose with a touch of spice. 91+.

Lost Pine Merlot 2007

This is a serious merlot. It's black cherry with a strong wine--a serious merlot. Parker 89+.

Rockfall 2007 cab from the Bear Point vineyard. Fabulous. Everything in perfect balance. Plum, black cherry, blackberry, currant, huckleberry. Ripe and no sharp edges. A bit of woodsy pines--close to a Harlan. Got a 95 point from Parker.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

2008 Salanques (Mas Doix Priorat)

A reliable good performer at the less expensive end of the Priorat spectrum this one featured chocolate and thyme, a most unusual nose and palate. Silky, sweet tannins. 90+ is what I'd give it. Extremely pleasant and it went very well with sparerib dinner.

Parker says The entry level is Salanques with an annual production ranging from 18-25,000 bottles. The 2008 Salanques is made up of 65% Garnacha, 20% Carinena, and the balance Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The owners consider 2008 to be one of the top 3 vintages of the decade, “a great vintage with low yields and vibrant acidity”. Its older vines were aged for 12 months in 50% new French oak while the younger vines were aged in second year barrels. Medium purple in color with a fragrant nose of cedar, mineral, spice box, lavender, black cherry, and blueberry, on the palate it is smooth-textured, intense, and concentrated with 2-3 years of aging potential. It will perform optimally from 2014 to 2023.

Friday, November 4, 2011

2000 Domaine de la Janesse VV

Garden flowers, blackberry/blueberry, a bit of spicy musk and what Parker likes to call "toasty oak" highlight the aroma and palate of this excellent, mature wine. Tannins are all smoothed out, and there is no alcohol heat, just about everything in perfect balance from first sniff through good but not extra long finish. The color is an interesting red-purple. 93+. probably drinks nicely for another 5 years. I'm going to guess that it's More syrah than Grenache and only a bit of the other varietals. As Parker writes below however the wine is mostly grenache and the pepper and kirsch he mentions don't seem quite right to me, but the plain fact is that the wine evolves through varied tastes as it sits in glass and no doubt over years in bottle too. So maybe earlier it was more peppery. Tanzer says chocolate, which might be right.

Parker in 2003 wrote, giving the wine 96 points: The limited production Cuvee Vieilles Vignes (70% Grenache and 30% Syrah and Mourvedre) was rocking when I tasted it. The 2000 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Vieilles Vignes represents the essence of kirsch liqueur intermixed with pepper. Sexy, full-bodied, layered, and multidimensional, it exhibits great intensity, even more length than the Chaupin, sweet fruit, adequate acidity, and ripe tannin. This is a flawless as well as seamless blockbuster to drink now and over the next 15-20 years.


($60) Dark red-ruby. Distinct surmaturite on the nose: roasted red fruits, roasted herbs, chocolate, earth and minerals. Lush, sweet and layered, with classic superripe grenache flavors of chocolate and spice cake. Very smooth wine, finishing with toothcoating tannins and the quintessential warmth of a wine from the South. "In an outstanding vintage like 2000, I tried to preserve freshness of fruit and finesse, and thus did not try to do a big extraction," noted Sabon. 93 points.
Importer: Eric Solomon, European Cellars, Charlotte, NC; tel. (704) 358-1565

Saturday, October 29, 2011

2007 O'Shaugnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet

I believe this is the first I've tasted of this outstanding cabernet since wine tasting in Napa at the vineyard in 2010. Oh boy. Profoundly deep in color and aroma--a celestial array of cabernet flavors featuring creme de cassis, blueberry, blackberry, mint, eucalyptus, graphite, pine woods, vanilla and a hint of cocoa. Very soft tannins with plenty of acid in balance with the intense fruit. The latter marks this wine as New World, but that doesn't mean it lacks elegance and nuance at all. Alcohol is substantial and helps to carry the long finish without excessive heat. This is a medium to full bodied wine with perfect silky mouthfeel that makes this liquid go down mighty easily. 95-96.

During the visit with BFFs Clay and Wib in 2010, we thoroughly enjoyed the tour of their real caves dug into the mountainside and the beautiful surroundings of Howell Mountain. Pretty much as good as it gets. The picture below may look doctored but it's not. The light and the vineyard slopes are that beautiful.

48 hours later the wine was drinking almost as well--more depth and complexity on the nose, just a slight touch more acid. And 72 hours later (with no added gas after the first opening) it was still heavenly, with the cherry and smoke & violet/lavender component (from the malbec and merlot?) coming more to the fore. I'd love to have a few cases of this one.

Here is Parker (95 points)

The stunning 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain (83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, and the rest Malbec and Petit Verdot) is the finest Cabernet this estate has yet produced from their Howell Mountain holdings. A dense purple color to the rim as well as an exquisite bouquet of black raspberries, blueberries, camphor, creme de cassis, smoke, and crushed rocks are followed by sweet fruit, gorgeous density, a full-bodied mouthfeel, and a layered, multidimensional mid-palate and length. With no hard edges, this flawless wine should drink well for 20-25 years.

Friday, October 21, 2011

2008 Morlet Pinot Noir En Famille

This is as good as Pinot Noir gets in the US. From Sonoma Coast vineyard, made by Luc Morlet who's from an old winemaking family in the Champagne region. We had dinner with him last year at a wonderful tasting/dinner featuring his wines. Wib, Clay and I also visited the Morlet winery (a facility they shared with a couple of others till this year when they renovated an old building in the area and moved their winery in--haven't visited that yet). On that visit I purchased this bottle and a bunch of chardonnays which are also at the pinnacle of US chardonnay. Not surprisingly these wines resemble in their taste and aroma profile real burgundies.

This one is silky, perfumed with strawberry, a bit of the sweet sugary fruit drink smell I associate with good pinot, some obscure spice along with burnt wood taste accented by toasted vanilla oakiness. A touch of red licorice-- that cherry twist chewy candy they used to sell at movie theaters. The finish is long, complex, and tannins are sweet and soft enough to be virtually unnoticeable. I get some heat on the finish though this has been a general feature of my palate since I was ill in the spring--very sensitive to spicy or alcohol flavor.

Parker gives this only 91 points! I'd give it 94. Here are some of his descriptions:

The 2008 Pinot Noir En Famille reveals sweeter forest floor notes intermixed with plum sauce, pomegranate, black currants and spring flowers. A more complex, richer effort than the Coteaux Nobles, it should drink well for 6-10+ years....

The Pinot Noirs, which tend to come from suitcase clones taken from several of the most famous vineyards in Vosne-Romanee, are all destemmed. The vines are planted between 1,000 and 1,250 feet on high ridges in the Sonoma Coast. The 2008 Pinots are a good beginning, but the 2009s show where Luc Morlet wants to go.

Tanzer gives it a 92 which is equivalent to a Parker 94:

Good deep red-ruby. Sexy aromas of raspberry, kirsch, strawberry and smoke. Silky-sweet and seamless on the palate, showing a thicker texture and more concentration than the Coteaux Nobles, with strawberry and smoke flavors complicated by a saline nuance. Showing less of the high-pitched fruitiness of the Coteaux Nobles today but this is broader and equally fresh, spreading out impressively on the very long aftertaste.

Vineyard's website description:

On the Sonoma Coast, near Cazadero, on the Western hillside of the second ridge from the Pacific Ocean, Coteaux Nobles vineyard enjoys both maritime influence and mountain climate.

Paul and Claire each have their own 600 liter puncheon of Pinot Noir from Coteaux Nobles to stomp. This fruit eventually becomes ‘En Famille’, exclusively crafted and aged in French oak.

Propietary Name En Famille
Name Meaning With the family (with kids’ help) 5 generations with Pinot Noir
Varietal composition Pinot Noir (100%)
Type of wine Vineyard designated
Appellation Sonoma Coast, by Cazadero
Vineyard singularity On the 2nd ridge off
Pacific Ocean
1,100 feet of elevation
Goldridge sedimentary soil
Typical harvest date October
Picking Manual, small lugs, refer truck
Sorting Cluster by cluster, berry by berry
Fermentation Through native yeast.
Punch downs
Puncheons only.
Upbringing 14 months
French oak from artisan coopers
Bottling Unfiltered, 100 cases
Cellaring time 10+ years
Serving Slightly below room temperature
No decanting

Winemaker notes:

For generations our family has been growing the Pinot Noir grape in France. Each harvest, we love to celebrate this time-honored commitment while our children stomp a small vat of Pinot Noir from California’s Sonoma Coast. As for any family celebration or casual gathering, this handcrafted wine is to be appreciated ‘En Famille.’

Intense raspberry, wild strawberry, forest floor and earthy notes (graphite), very rich and complex with a leathery lingering finish. Will age gracefully for over a decade.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dinner at the Fearrington House featuring 2000 Du Tertre and Auteur Durrell Chard

At a kind of going-away dinner with dear friends, the ravishing Connie Renz and the distinguished Hans Warner, we enjoyed superb food, as good as the best in this area of fine restaurants on Friday Sept. 23. And for the occasion opened the last of my 2000 Du Tertre, from the Marguax area of Bordeaux. Quintessentially Margaux: a lavender/violet perfume, lovely dark purple color with just a bit of lightening at the rim after 11 years. Du Tertre also showed a chocolate & cocoa dust aroma, wonderful fruit-acid balance with soft tannins and a mellow oak adding some vanilla to go with blackberry taste. Tannins faded nicely into the background. Alcohol just right to carry a long finish. 2000 was a hyped vintage that was then eclipsed by even more hyped 2005. I've found it somewhat uneven at the levels I could afford to buy, but Du Tertre was just terrific, a textbook example of how 10 years or so of age creates a miracle in the bottle for good bordeaux. Wish I'd bought 3 cases back then.

From the winelist we chose an Auteur chardonnay from Durrell VIneyard grapes (Sonoma County) 2009. it offered a wonderful amalgam of tropical fruit, butterscotch, & caramel, with good acid and some citrus too; this new winery is absolutely up there with top California chard producers. I recommend it for those who like the buttery/oaky chardonnay in moderation with plenty of other aromas and tastes. The wine went beautifully with the fish-related dishes in our feast.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

2008 Matrot Meursault

Not sure if what I had was Thierry Matrot or Joseph Matrot but I really enjoyed it and think it's a relative bargain for white burgundy. Writing from memory, having this wine at Dahlia Lounge in Seattle on 9/1/11 with Andy Rojecki, it was the typical reluctant white burgundy for first half hour. With time, the wine developed a pleasant perfume that was I think typically Burgundy and typical Meursault--not as fruity and oaky and California-like as for a Puligny-- but more complex and nuanced than most California chards. Again, for a relatively low-priced white burgundy this one is worthwhile. 90 points.

2008 Januik Chardonnay Cold Creek Vineyard (Washington)

Eating at Etta's in Seattle, with Regina Lawrence, Scott Althaus, Jack Yeager and Amber Boydston at APSA. It's apparently a legendary local eatery that indeed has outstanding seafood. Reluctantly ordered a Washington State chardonnay. Good choice. It is fruity with pear overtones, a mild dose of oak, nutmeg and other spices. Medium body, straw-green color, good acid-alcohol-fruit balance. As the waitperson insisted, it's not a big California chard, but it's also not an austere cold climate chard either. For the price one can do better when buying chard at the wine store but in a restaurant this is a pretty good bet. 89+

Parker: 89 points

The 2008 Cold Creek Vineyard Chardonnay displays a nose of poached pear, apple, and white peach. Medium-bodied, round, and spicy on the palate, this nicely balanced, lengthy offering will also drink nicely over the next 3-4 years. It is an excellent value.

All Mike Januik does is make good wine, year after year, without a lot of fanfare or glitz.

Chateau St. Michelle 2008 Horse Heaven Hills Merlot

This is a simple but thoroughly enjoyable wine from Washington State. Drank a glass with John Tryneski at Urbane in Seattle (APSA meeting). Warm black cherry and vanilla scents. Soft, silky, medium body on the palate, balanced and ready to drink with a short but pleasant finish. Not sure what this wine costs but if it can be had for $10-12 it would make a great daily red wine.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

2005 Haut Bergey

This Pessac-Leognan was a wine I thought I'd purchased as a 2005 future. Unfortunately the store where the futures were ordered went out of business. So tonight was my first taste of the '05 Bergey, from a half bottle at Brabo in Alexandria, VA. Sat two tables away from Jim Brady (Reagan's paralyzed former press secretary, shot during the assassination attempt*) and his wife (gun control activist) and their friend. Anyhow, the wine: still young looking but tannins pretty sweet and soft. Dark in color and very silky on the palate. On nose, started off with blackberry and very little cherry, then developed an intriguing and enticing mint, spearmint in particular, and maybe hint of eucalyptus and other spices. Perhaps a hint of licorice and cocoa/mocha. The acid, fruit and tannin in good balance with the alcohol. Will be better, with a more open aroma, in a couple years and last another 8-10. It's a classic bordeaux worth 91 points.

*I have a story about just missing that March 1981 event at the Washington Hilton, previously best known as the frequent site of the APSA annual meeting. I was in DC to tape a Charlie Rose show (then a syndicated day-time talk show) and to do a signing of my first book at Kramerbooks. The signing was spoiled as Reagan was shot midday and was in bad shape at GW Hospital; the city almost shut down. With me on Rose show was Lou Cannon, Reagan's biographer and Wash Post White House reporter, and he invited me to go with him to Reagan's speech at the Hilton right after the taping. Cannon was later an eyewitness to the shooting. I turned down Lou's invitation, which was a mistake.

Parker says 92 points:
One of the finest under-the-radar estates in Pessac-Leognan, Haut-Bergey’s 2005 (a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot) offers up aromas of scorched earth, wet stones, burning embers, charcoal, and copious black currant and cherry fruit. The sumptuous bouquet is accompanied by a full-bodied wine displaying dazzling purity, sweet tannin, and a long, opulent finish. This beauty will be drinkable at a relatively early age for a 2005. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2025.

Here are 3 notes from Tanzer, showing his varied responses in '06, '07 and '08 as the wine matured--though most recent is obviously 3 years ago:

By Stephen Tanzer
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May/Jun 06
Full ruby-red. Expressive aromas of cassis, dark chocolate, loam, truffle and smoke. Ripe and dense but not at all overly sweet, with harmonious acidity framing and intensifying the flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate, burning tobacco and smoke. I like the fruit/acid balance here. Finishes with firm, slightly drying tannins, sexy oak tones and very good length. 88-91 points
By Stephen Tanzer
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May/Jun 07
Deep medium ruby. Blackberry, violet and a hint of dark chocolate on the nose. Impressively dense and primary, with flavors of blackberry and smoked meat complicated by a suggestion of bonfire. Chewy, dry and classic wine, finishing with substantial building tannins. 90-92 points
By Stephen Tanzer
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May/Jun 08
($33-$38) Good full, deep red. Superripe aromas of redcurrant, plum, cherry, flowers and beefsteak tomato. Sweet, fat and full, but less wild and expressive today than the 2006. Distinct notes of milk chocolate and roasted berries. The major tannins currently cut off the wine's fruit. Impressively rich but lacks a spark: is this too ripe for its own good? 90? points

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2006 Trial of John Montford Cabernet (Padthaway, Australia)

This fine cabernet came from the wine club that was gifted by Almenia Garvey. All of the club's bottles have been excellent quality but this one is especially good. Definitely a New World cab, very ripe but with acid to match the grapey fruit and a deep, complex nose of black currant, cassis, violet, vanilla, licorice with some pleasant herbal notes. I'd say almost anyone would recognize this as a classic cabernet bouquet. The alcohol is pretty restrained (14.5%) to me, and I've been very sensitive to alcohol since my hepatitis so to me these days, when a wine doesn't have much hotness on the palate it's a mark of a well-made bottle. There isn't much tannin and I don't think this is a long-term wine but for 2-3 more years it will be a pleasurable drink. This could pass for a nice Napa valley cab, perhaps not surprisingly. This is a 90+ point wine. These are the people who make Henry's Drive Shiraz.

Parker is slightly less enthusiastic but similar, giving it 89 points:

The higher end of the portfolio starts with the 2006 The Trial of John Montford Cabernet Sauvignon, harvested at a modest two tons of fruit per acre. Cherry red in color, it has a fragrant perfume of bouquet garni, cassis and black currant. On the palate it reveals an elegant personality but is lacking the depth and concentration needed for an outstanding score. Nevertheless, it is a fairly priced effort for drinking over the next five years.

Here's a nice little history of the area in southeast Australia:

Historical evidence shows that sea once covered the Padthaway region, with the ranges running parallel to the coast being coastal sand dunes. This is evident from the limestone now found beneath our soil.

In the mid 1800’s this land was covered by freshwater for much of the year and referred to as “Mosquito Plains”.
Robert Lawson, a Scottish immigrant, took out a pastoral lease in 1847 which covered an area of 47 square miles. He named his new home, “Padthaway Station” and the original stone cottage of Robert and Eliza Lawson is still in use today.

In 1872 the government reclaimed parts of the Lawson’s run, then offered blocks of land for sale at the “Village of Cockatoo Lake” which was later renamed “Keppoch”. This land was gradually cleared for cropping and grazing with sawmills and timber workers processing the huge red gums in the area for use as sleepers to support railway lines.

Another large group of farming blocks was taken up in 1936 by farmers in the Hundred of Glenroy. Following World War 2, soldier settlement blocks were allocated closer to the Padthaway Station homestead and irrigation began being developed using the underground water resource.
Today, Padthaway is a versatile agricultural region with outstanding production being achieved by both dryland and irrigated methods. The variety of commodities produced includes grapes, onions, cereals, pulses, pasture seeds, vegetables, sheep and cattle.

Friday, August 19, 2011

La Janasse Cuvee Chaupin 2007

From one of my favorite winemakers, in the Rhone region of Chateauneuf du Pape, and in a great year. Francie and I visited the winery pictured above and had an absolutely wonderful tasting, one that along with Beaucastel convinced me that Chateauneuf is one of the world's greatest wines. This one has an unusually intense aroma of sweet, almost candied, raspberry/cherry. Yet I'd say it's barely begun to evolve and the intensity is more of the deep sort that requires swirling and sniffing rather than jumping out of the glass. It is very dark in color and quite young--really shouldn't be drinking this for another 4-5 years. There are also aromas of licorice, tar, 5-spice powder, and a touch of a sweet herb like lavender. It offers complex tastes and big fruit, with plenty of acid, alcohol and tannin in good balance. But I'm not touching my other bottle till 2016 or so. It will, I predict, be a stupendous wine then and on for another decade. Chapin is a vineyard of 100% Grenache vines 60-80 yrs old. As far as Grenache goes, this is about as good as it gets. Enjoyed this with Laurie and Bob, celebrating Laurie's birthday. Also opened another bottle of the very fine 2007 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay (Carmel Road), which is also wonderful and also needs some more time to expand and integrate fully.

I must say it's a huge pleasure to be able to have wine again after laying off for 4+ months. Life's too short to drink no wine.

Parker gives the Chaupin 98 points, Tanzer 94. Parker is more attuned to a young wine's potential so I can't dispute his score; Tanzer is usually 2-4 points below Parker. I'd split the difference at 96 but think it may well be even better with some time to develop bottle bouquet. Parker's take:

Made from 100% Grenache (60- to 80-year-old vines) aged largely in neutral oak foudres with a small amount in new barrels, the inky/ruby/purple-hued 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape Chaupin is the greatest example of this offering since the 1998, but it is even more concentrated than that wine. A cold terroir and sandy/clay soils have given the wine an extraordinary amount of acidity and freshness that serve it well in buttressing the fabulously concentrated, massively extracted, old vine Grenache. This blockbuster wine possesses enormous richness and density as well as an incredibly unevolved, young personality. Everything is there, including awesome aromatics, unbelievable layers of kirsch, raspberries, licorice, incense, and blacker fruits, and a finish that goes on for close to a minute. However, I would age this wine for 2-4 years and drink it over the following two decades or more. It is a tour de force in old vine Grenache as well as one of the vintage’s most compelling wines.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to Priorat 2005 batllet gratallops

First post since March 2011. I know my many fans (n=8) have missed my tasting notes, so here goes. I was sidelined by hepatitis as some of you know.

So this wine is a very pretty mixture of cherry, spring flowers, pine/cedar and chicory on the nose. Dark and fulll bodied, with tannins still in evidence 6 yrs after the harvest. This has majority Carignan i believe. I can taste the grenache and cabernet, or so i convince myself. But it is the flowers that are esp noteworthy for a red with plenty of tannin. In other words, this is drinkable now but should last another 5-6 yrs.

Gratallops (pictured above) is a small hill town in Priorat, the small exquisite wine area about an hour south of Barcelona. Wines of priorat (priory) combine the French varietals merlot, syrah and cab with more traditionally spanish(but slso french) carignan, mourvedre, and grenache--a wonderful match. I think Priorat is my second favorite region (bordeaux is #1 for me).

I know Parker gave this wine 94 and tanzer90+. I would say 92+. a very fine wine for $20 from CH Wine Co.

Here is the Parker review:
2005 Closa Batllet is a blend of 65% Carinena, 22% Garnacha, and the balance Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. It was aged for 15 months in French and American oak. It offers up a classy nose of cedar, liquid minerals, lavender, cinnamon, blueberry, and black cherry. Layered on the palate with silky tannin, this rich, full-flavored effort has great concentration and a lengthy, pure finish. Give it 2-3 years of additional cellaring and drink it through 2020.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2005 La Vieux Cure Fronsac

Had this a couple times before and it's softening nicely. It has a real perfume tonight, a soft, slightly spicy and flowery cherry with some other berries like raspberry. Also a bit of vanilla and cocoa. A long and soft finish is merlot to a tee. This one is a great 2005 for drinking now, though probably about a year or two before peaking. There's enough tannin and acid to maintain it for another 5 years. 93 points from me tonight.

2001 Beaucastel

Enjoyed this at the excellent Corduroy restaurant in DC last Saturday, in celebration of Max's birthday. Beaucastel is one of my favorites, a special Chateauneuf du Pape. It was great to have it in a mature state and was delighted that it was relatively affordable for a wine list wine. So, a wine with 13 component grapes I believe, it's dominated by Mourvedre and Grenache and has the spicy strawberry/cherry/huckleberry fruit. Finish was incredibly complex and evolving. Parker gave it 96 and I agree. I'd go back to Corduroy to have the wine again. Food there excellent.

D'Arenberg Grenache 2007

I've been negligent in recording my impressions for the past couple of months so notes that appear will be sketchy from memory. I had this wine twice last week at the great Vidalia restaurant in DC, truly a wonderful place. The grenache is a lovely Aussie example, the great cherry fruit making it prototypical. It isn't deep and complex, simply pleasurable. It's a 90 pointer. It's not the special vineyard bottling just the standard Grenache.