Monday, July 15, 2013

2005s maturing: La Croix St Georges (Pomerol) and Pontet Canet (Pauillac)

I bought a case of Croix St Georges back in 2008 based on strong reviews from Parker, hoping it would mature into a fine Pomerol as the Le Bon Pasteur promised to do. The first tasting was very tannic, much less open and rewarding than the Bon Pasteur. So I opened another bottle last week. It has indeed softened and opened. It does resemble the Bon Pasteur more, but it's still more tannic and less developed. I'd say it needs another couple years. It's got exotic spices to go with the cherry plum fruit and perhaps in 2 years it'll be a more interesting wine than Bon Pasteur. It's pretty good and fresh drunk tonight about 4-5 nights after first opening, with a cedary and saline component quite noticeable now but still plenty of plum and spice. I'm looking forward to watching St Georges develop.

Meanwhile, tonight is half-price wine night at old favorite 411 West Restaurant. Emily was supposed to accompany me and Francie but wasn't up to it, so we went and brought her take-home. I've been eyeing the most expensive wine on their list for a few years: 2005 Pontet Canet, a Pauillac that was long mediocre but which new ownership brought up to potential in recent years (reports Parker). So it was 96+ points from Parker and 95 from Tanzer in the great year of 2005. 411 has it on the menu for $250 normally, or $125 on Monday nights, which is a price below retail in a wine store (it's $139 at MacArthur in DC). I hoped it would be sufficiently mature to drink at nearly 8 years old and, to compensate for various recent stresses, finally ordered it tonight.  It's a great Bordeaux. It's deep, complex, blue and black berry melded with oak vanilla and exotic spice. It's a very tannic wine, with tannins softening but at glacial pace. Needs another 3-4 years to really drink to its potential. And to his credit Parker says it won't be ready till 2017. Still it was a hell of a glass of Pauillac even tonight, and characteristically so--dramatically less "feminine" than the 2005 St Georges.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

2005 Vieille Cure

Great nose of blueberry compote, plum and cherry. Deep purple color. On palate pretty austere, some veg. Not what one would hope-90 pts right now. It has enough tannin to last a good while but I'm not sure the fruit will outlast it. On the other hand there's also a good acid backbone so there's hope. 

Parker was very big on this one 93 points in 2008: 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+

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

1989 Meyney (St Estephe)

This may be the last of our 1989 bordeaux purchased in honor of Emily's birth that year. Meyney was esp good in that year. Unfortunately the prior bottle we opened about 5 years ago was corked. This one was not. It was past its prime but very nice nonetheless. Opened at Medium Rare (essentially all you can eat steak and fries of surprisingly good quality) with Max, Laura, Emily and Taylor in attendance. What this bottle showed was how a bordeaux tastes when there's just no detectable tannin left. It was all berry fruit, a bit of spice and vanilla and pretty low acid. I suppose it could be called flabby, but I enjoyed it. Too bad we didn't have it 3 years ago, but it was by no means a mediocre bottle. Hard to rate it given its age; I suppose 89 points?

2007 Chateauneuf de Pape Janasse Cuvee Chaupin

Parker raved about this year and this particular bottle so procured 3 about 4 years ago. First one tasted was very good but young. 3 years later quite a difference. Just a beautiful expression of old vine grenache, intense cherry and strawberry fruit, sort of like fruit candy drops, overlaid by wintergreen and other spices and maybe lavender or other flowery notes. Tannin barely detectible and acid pretty low. All in all what I'd call a pretty glass of wine. The aromas are still a bid subdued compared to the up-front fruit on the palate. Don't know if this will get better with a couple more yrs in bottle. Probably. Meanwhile, I look forward to future bottle of '07 and also have a couple of '10's to drink. 94 points from me.

By the way I visited this wonderful Janasse vineyard with Francie, enjoyed generous personal tasting (no charge) and warm welcome from the owner family. Great memory.

Says IWC/Tanzer: Opaque ruby. Spicy raspberry and cherry aromas are complicated by garrigue and Asian spices. Sweet, focused red fruit flavors are given spine by zesty minerality and pick up an exotic floral quality with air. Expands nicely on the finish, leaving behind sweet lavender pastille and raspberry notes. 94 points.

The less restrained Parker 98 points==he says drink til 2031:
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, June 13, 2013

La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva 2004

Rioja Alta clearly my favorite Rioja, very consistently excellent, a blend of older style and newer style Rioja, which means (to me) not too much oak that overwhelms the fruit. This one is 20% grenache which melds beautifully with the tempranillo to yield a wine of complexity, grace, a lovely spicy blueberry/blackberry. Medium body, soft tannin, bit of cocoa/coffee. Excellent value on a restaurant wine list, tonight with former students and RA's and now friends, Morgan Dibble and Lauren Martens. Ate charcuterie at Estadio, a really outstanding Spanish place on 14th St near Logan Circle with a superb Spanish wine list. I'd give this one 92+ points.

WA: 93 points. The 2004 Vina Ardanza is a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha from 30-year-old vines in Fuenmayor and Cenicero. It is aged for 36 months in four-year-old American oak. It has a very enticing bouquet with dark cherry, Christmas cake, dried fig and espresso with fine delineation and bags of exuberance. The palate is medium-bodied with taut tannins, underpinned by a keen citric thread that cuts through the licorice-tinged, dark berry and allspice-tinged fruit with style. It is simply delicious on the bittersweet finish. Drink now-2020+ 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Giscours 2000

94 points. Amazingly dark and young looking--hardly any brick edge. Medium-full body, long spicy finish. Vanilla, blackberry. Pine, tar. Not a lot of Margaux perfume--still a bit young and restrained. Yet after 20 minutes more sweet perfume came out but much more promised. I'm afraid I don't have any more bottles; this would have to be one of the best 2000 Bordeaux I've had.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Some skimpy notes for the record: Giscours 2000; Bon Pasteur 2005; Andrew Will 2007 Ciel du Cheval

Had Bon Pasteur 2005 and Andrew Will '07 C.d.Cheval last night with Connie and Hans. Both performed great. This was first Bon P. I've had for 3 years or so, and it was smashing. Has matured and softened into a totally pleasing, round, complex blueberry and blackberry and black cherry fruit with cocoa and vanilla overtones and a long finish. Tannins have really receded though still there. 94 seems a good score.

The Andrew Will from Wash State is composed of St Emilion mix of Cab Franc with merlot and cab sauv. Really fresh, vibrant, spicy balanced wine. 92+.

Giscours 2000 had this in DC, if I recall properly, earlier in May. Absolutely wonderful with the Margaux perfume at the peak of maturity right now. Everything in fine balance giving pleasure with aromas and tastes. 93+

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Incredible tasting of Tuscan wines at the Pitti Palace, Florence, May 17, 2013 (after Political Psych conference at European Univ Institute, Fiesole)

It just so happened that Wine Town, an annual festival in Florence, took place while I was there for a conference. Francie, Tom Banks and I didn't know this but were visiting the Boboli Gardens at the Pitti Palace and there were signs about this festival and people setting up tasting stations. So of course we went and had maybe 10 excellent glasses of Chianti or Brunello. I took brief notes and here they are:

Sesti 2007 Phenomena (reserve Brunello). A favorite since visited here for a couple hours of touring and tasting with owners in 2007 with Wib and Clay. Very balanced and drinkable. Toasty, strawberry. Medium body and finish. Seems as good as it's going to get right now. There is tannin on finish, so it'll last for some years. Got better in glass, of course. I wrote down 94 points but by this time I'd had quite a few glasses so might have been getting generous, and sentimental about the visit to the vineyard, perhaps the most beautiful I've been too.

2007 Sesti Castello--made of cab and merlot. Ripe fruit, cherry vanilla, good finish, soft tannin. Not esp complex but nice. 90 points.

Montsanto 2007 Chianti Classico Reserva. Big nose, cherry fruit with a long finish, full body, soft tannin. 92+.

Fattoria dei Barbi 2007 Brunello
Fairly tannic and full body. CLosed initially on nose but a little better with air, with a nice rose/flower aroma. 88.

Fattoria dei Barbi, 2007 Brunello Riserva. Fuller body, deeper and more concentrated. A little less perfume now but more potential, more tannin, acid and fruit (strawberry I'd say) than the regular bottling, and longer finish. Like it quite a lot. 94.

Fattoria dei Barbi 2007 Vigna del Fiore--from a single vineyard, in southernmost part of Montalcino and one of the oldest vineyards too. Very open nose, unlike the other 2. Medium body, long finish, blackberry and plum with pine resin and wood. 93+.

Le Chiuse 2008 Brunello. Organic vineyard. Rather elegant and unusual nose with chocolate/cocoa, spicy complexity, strawberry. Sweet finish, light body. 91.

Le Chiuse 2007 Brunello Reserve. Fuller body, much more tannic and needing age. Longish finish with oaky vanilla, plum and strawberry. 91+.

Marroneto 2006 Brunello. Very long finish; wine made from single biodynamic vineyard. Delicate stuff. Toasted oak, pine forest. Didn't write down a point score. From sandy north side of Montalcino, which is more elegant and delicate than from the south where there's more clay.

Fattoria di MonteMaggio 08 Chianti: Very strong strawberry or raspberry on nose; quite lovely. Delicate like a Brunello. 91+.

Fattoria di MonteMaggio 07 Riserva Chianti Classico. Red fruit. Deeper, full body, long finish with tannin and acid to balance the fruit; not much oak I'd say.  Sort of like a really strong, ripe Brunello. This is the best Chianti I had while in Italy this time. 93.

Earlier in the week: tasted 2007 Le Ragnaie Brunello in Panzano, one of the many charming Chianti region hill towns, purchased a bottle there. Really liked it a lot--drank tonight with Wib and Charlotte at Vin Rouge, Durham, a very French bistro. (Had a 2008 at the Pitti Palace tasting and also liked it though can't find my specific notes. La Ragnaie has real finesse. Apparently the smallest of the Brunello producers. Also: visited Querceto and shared a bottle of their Chianti that I purchased there with colleagues at dinner in Florence on May 16.

Visited Vignamaggio, an old noble villa with gardens and breathtaking views (once an important fort in the battles between Siena and Florence for control of Chianti), that also has been making wine since at least 1404. This is also where Mona Lisa was born and was painted by da Vinci (they insisted this is the real woman although apparently several sites in Italy make similar claims).

Tasted a couple excellent Chianti Classico bottles there and wound up purchasing and bringing home a 2006, 2007 and 2008 for a future vertical tasting.

Picture below was of Chianti countryside from the agriturismo where we stayed for about six days, San Leo, and ate great food cooked from the farm's own products.

Varner 2020 Home Block Spring Ridge Chardonnay

Greatly improved from earlier. Now a perfectly balanced caramel oak vanilla nose with plenty of exotic fruit and melon nuances on nose and palate. Perfect acid/fruit balance too, with full body and a medium long finish. 93 points.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

2006 Clarendon Hills Grenache, Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard, Old Vines

This is a spectacular grenache at a great point for drinking right now, though built for another 4-5 years aging. The aromas are deeply complex, ranging from blackberry and cherry to mint and spice and pine, to vanilla, to toffee and hazelnut. Obviously this is too much to digest and distinguish at one or two sniffs so what we have here is basically, a delightful complexity. On the palate there's great balance with a long and somewhat hot finish (14.5% alcohol). There's sweet fruit and acid with soft tannins in equal measure. 94 points.

Apparently Jess Jackson, a major Calif. wine mogul whose portfolio includes the great Stonestreet Winery, bought this vineyard in 2012: The Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard has grown grapes for internationally acclaimed wines, including Penfolds Grange, Eileen Hardy and Clarendon Hills. It is comprised of more than 186 hectares (approximately 455 acres) of land, and is renowned for its elite Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was established in the modern era by the Hickinbotham family, whose patriarch Alan Robb Hickinbotham was the founding father of Australian Oenology education.

Parker is very terse on this, rating it also as 94 points with aromatic complexity and aging potential.

The more rigorous grader Steven Tanzer at IWC says 93 points: Glass-staining purple. Vivid raspberry and candied flowers on the nose, with sexy Asian spices gaining power with air. Deep and sweet but focused, with impressively clean red fruit flavors and slow-building tannins. A spice note kicks in on the back end and adds energy to the deeply concentrated raspberry and candied cherry flavors. As suave as this is right now, I'd hold off on opening mine for another few years.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Calera Mount Harlan Chardonnay 2011

Bought six bottles on rec from Parker's strong review, 93+ points. Opened one last night  and it lives up to the praise. To me it tastes Burgundian though with the new world ripeness or fatness I expect and like. The nose and palate offer caramelized apple, pineapple, pear, maybe apricot and toasted oak. A bit of salty toffee-maybe that's the caramel again. Good minerality and acid. Full body, creamy and quite long finish. I think it'll drink better in a year and will be good for a few more yrs. Delighted to have five more btls.

Had another bottle on Ap. 1, 2013, at Zatinya in DC with old Evanston friends Steve and Susan Wildman--a great reunion dinner. The wine was really wonderful after 30-60 minutes offering an extraordinary kaleidoscope of aromas with nuts, flowers, caramel and tropical fruits. The oak is strong here but the air brought more precision and balance.

WA: The 2011 Chardonnay Mt. Harlan bursts from the glass with expressive apricots, peaches, crushed rocks, French oak and spices. Rich yet weightless, the 2011 is striking from the very first taste. Once again, Calera’s Mt. Harlan Chardonnay is world-class. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018. 

2010 Owen Roe Sinister Hand

This is a Grenache Syrah Mourvedre blend made to resemble southern Rhone. In fact when given a blind taste by a rather aggressive sommelier at Ripple last night in DC with Max and Laura and Francie, I immediately identified it as a Rhone wine. The sommelier was annoyed because I sent back a 2009 Priorat that had been advertised on the menu as the 2008. The Parker ratings were 86 and 91 points respectively. He of course poo-poohed Robt Parker and his ratings but that's bullshit--5 points is a meaningful difference and Parker's palate, whatever one thinks of it, is better than a random sommelier (I'm not sure this guy even is a professional sommelier). In vaguely insulting terms he said essentially "Well if you want a big fruit bomb like [that plebian rube] Parker enjoys, I'll bring you something else." So he brought this Rhone blend, hid the label, poured, and when I asked if it was a Rhone he said it was a new world Rhone from Washington state.  OK, so, it was a pretty good wine. I'd give it 90 points. Initially it was somewhat one dimensional, emphasizing strawberry almost like a gamay (beaujolais grape) and acide, but with air it rounded out, gaining depth, complexity and finishing nicely balanced. It picked up spicy nuances, a touch of white pepper, cherry fruit, maybe some lavender too.

Not a bad recommendation, but poorly delivered. And the only reason I ordered the priorat was because a Rioja Alta Vina Ardenza 2004, listed on the menu, was in fact sold out. So, listing a wine that was out of stock on the menu, then trying to fob off a 2009 as a 2008--that'll be my last trip to Ripple. Though the food is always quite good.

By the way, not Parker but Tanzer reviewed this wine and gave it, tad-dah, 90 points: (71% grenache, 24% syrah and 5% mourvedre):  Bright ruby-red.  Precise, inviting aromas of black cherry, licorice and herbs.  Juicy and sharply delineated, with terrific intensity and lift to its pepper and cherry flavors.  Lively acidity lends this wine a light touch, and firm tannins won't stand in the way of enjoying it soon.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

2008 G D Vajra Barolo Albe

At Glass Half Full last night with Connie and Hans, it was half-price bottle night so got this barolo. Generally this is not of my favorites; usually I find it way too expensive, and for some reason nebbiolo has never got me juiced. But it earned 93+ from Parker so at half price I thought it worth trying. I wouldn't give it so many points, maybe more like 91. It took perhaps an hour to really round out and show its stuff, which was predominantly black cherry and a kind of spiciness that WA below labels "incense." That's not a bad term; I'd say some kind of combo of balsam, eucalyptus, and mint. Very pleasant but not as full bodied, multi-dimensional and long on the palate as I'd like.

Wine Advocate 93+: The 2008 Barolo Albe is flat-out delicious. The Albe has often been a big step below the flagship Barolo Bricco delle Viole, but not in 2008. Although softer and rounder than that wine, there is plenty of vintage character in this vibrant, beautifully articulated Barolo. Sweet dark cherries, incense, licorice and tobacco are all wrapped around a pliant finish. The 2008 is accessible even today, and is a great – and I mean great – introductory Barolo for the year. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2020. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

2005 Anderson's Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Although the Right Bank from this winery in 2005 was a bit disappointing, immediately on opening the cab performed better. It also has some age on the rim but not as much as the Right Bank. The nose is flowery, a certain iron filings nuance, blackberry vanilla jam or perhaps blueberry and cassis. To me it tastes and smells like a classic ripe but balanced California cab--on the model of Beaulieu Private Reserve from the Rutherford Bench. I suppose Conn Valley is not far from the Bench, the former on the eastern edge of Napa Valley, off Silverado Trail. It doesn't taste like a bordeaux, it does taste New World. But it does have the slightest touch of what I call the St. Julien nose (St. J. being about at the middle of the Medoc and halfway between the "masculine" St Estephe and Pauillac to the north, and the more "feminine" Margaux, Graves/Pessac/Leognan and Pomerol/St Emilion to south/southeast). Could the St J. nose be something to do with mushroom + smokey forest floor aromas? I've never quite identified it.  I see Parker says it's a classic Pauillac nose, so maybe that's it not St. Julien. He says it's cedar and tobacco and smoke. I do get the smoke and maybe I call forest what he calls here cedar/tobacco.

The finish is very long and nicely balanced; it's warm but not overly hot with alcohol. The tannins have certainly softened. With time in glass, the aromas are developing very nicely indeed, justifying the positive reviews the Anderson's Conn Valley wines usually get. I'll give it 94 points. The balance between acid and ripe fruit makes me think this one will go a decade. There are tannins in there but they're soft enough to be almost unnoticeable.

I really like this one. I think this is only the 2nd Cal. cab I've had since returning from spending 2012 in Europe (the other being the great O'Shaughnessy '07). In EU CA cabs are virtually impossible to find, though of course there were plenty of other great alternatives (esp. from Spain and France). It's good to have an excellent one.

About 4 nights later, I opened the wine, preserved only with the vacuum pump from Ramon Bilbao. It was damn fine. Makes me think the 2nd day might have been better than the first. And let me say, another 3-4 nights further on, again after only using the vacuum pump, I had a delightful glass that was a dead ringer for a fully mature St Julien or Pauillac, round, elegant, spicy, persistent. It makes me think that some controlled experimentation on exposing wines to oxygen, then pumping air out, re-opening xx hours later, etc. might, along with data about the properties of the specific wine, enable us to sort of speed up aging by deliberately opening a bottle of great young wine, then reopening after pumping out the air xx days later. I've been doing this of course but without controls or careful observation. Anyhow, 3 cheers for the Anderson's Conn Valley Cab '06.

Wine Advocate (Parker) says 96 points as of 2008, and says drink till 2033: The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is showing even better than it did last year, which is not unusual when tasting the wines of Todd Anderson and Mac Sawyer. Dense ruby/purple to the rim, with the classic Pauillac-like nose of creme de cassis, cedar wood, a hint of tobacco leaf, and very subtle smoke, the wine displays charcoal and roasted herbs, full-bodied power, wonderfully sweet tannins, and a long, long finish. This is a 20- to 25-year wine that should just get better and better as it ages, but it is accessible enough to drink now. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bodegas Cepa 21 Hito Ribera del Duero 2009

Had this with dinner at District Kitchen a few days ago; pumped it and put in refrig. I think it's been 4-5 days and opened it this evening with cheese. Chosen because it receives consistently good reviews. So, it's a nice fragrant wine with vanilla blackberry and huckleberry and spice--i'd say wintergreen- overtones. The palate now has some heat and tang from acid that puts it out of balance. But my guess is it would've been better 24 or 48 hours after opening. Unlike other less expensive wines on offer at the restaurant (they actually took the first bottle they brought back because it was essentially undrinkable), this is quite good if nothing special. I think it's fair to give it an 88+, and it could get a bit better with another year in bottle, and 3-4 more years to drink.

90 points from Wine Advocate: The 2009 Hito is 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) aged for 8 months in large French oak. It sports the rich fruit of the great 2009 vintage along with enticing aromas of cedar, mineral, tapenade, violets, and blackberry jam. Savory, ripe, and balanced in the mouth, it is an excellent value for drinking over the next 5-6 years. 

90 too from International Wine/Tanzer: Bright ruby.  Red and dark berry aromas show very good clarity, with spice and floral notes providing added lift.  Juicy and precise on the palate, offering focused raspberry and bitter cherry flavors and a hint of candied rose.  Finishes bright and long, with resonating spice and cherry notes.  This wine is quite suave, and surprisingly drinkable now, but it has the balance to age.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

2005 Anderson's Conn Valley Right Bank (Merlot, Cab Franc)

This is an homage to St. Emilion, made in Napa 70% Merlot, 30% cabernet franc. I think I had this at a tasting once. It always gets good reviews from Parker, and a local liquor store here had it at very low price (near wholesale) so I picked it up. The store is kind of warm so I doubt the wine has been kept below 70 degrees; my hope in purchasing was that it's fully mature but not ruined (obviously).  So, looking at it, sure enough, it's not all that dark in color and has lots of brick red on the rim, suggesting maturity even though it's pretty young at 7+ yrs. On the nose it's a bit reticent at first, but the cab franc component, which lends it a not unpleasant green pepper and spice aroma, shines through, along with vanilla, violet. On the palate it's medium-full bodied, soft tannin and lots of acid, more than I'd like at this stage--that is on first pouring around 6:25--and perhaps suggesting a too-warm storage situation. However as always I want to give this wine some time to develop in glass; sometimes the acid settles down and rounds out with time, sometimes it gets worse. What suspense! The acid does make for a long finish, though also it's pretty hot (alcohol). That isn't to say fruit is lacking, but at the moment I'd call it out of balance relative to a good St Emilion or even California meritage.

6:50: Well, not much different. Maybe a little more fruit balancing the acid. Let's see how it does tomorrow.

Day 2: Very slightly better balance but still not the excellent wine the reviews led me to expect. Ditto Day 3.

Moral: Don't buy wine, especially fancy wine that's probably been on the shelf for years, from a wine store that is noticeably warm--even if it's selling at a great price.

Friday, February 22, 2013

2009 Dosterras Vespres (Montsant)

At Jaleo, dinner with my good friend and first cousin, Mark Entman, up from Houstonin DC for NIH meetings. Ordered this wine after some quick research and glad I did. It is grenache with carignan, and very nicely blended it is. Delicious sweet black cherry with vanilla, pine forest, maybe blackberry, and smoke and spice. Very soft tannin and just right acid to balance the big fruit. Dark in color and, unlike a couple of other recent highly touted wines tasted from the Priorat (Montsant adjoins Priorat)it doesn't taste disjointed and vague to my palate. True, the aromas were somewhat restrained and lacked some complexity; as a general rule Montsant doesn't reach the heights that Priorats can reach. But it's less expensive and prestigious yet pretty damn similar in climate and (I believe) soil, so a good place to look for excellent fruit-driven wines in the Priorat mode. I'm not sure this one will get much better, and think it'll be pretty good drinking, perhaps with some more complexity on the nose developing, over the next 5-7 years. 92 points. $28.

Wine Advocate says: The 2009 Vespres is a blend of Garnacha and Carinena with a bouquet of liquid minerality and confiture of black fruits. Dense, sweet, and incipiently complex, it will reward another 2-3 years of cellaring and offer a drinking window extending through 2024. 92 points.

IWC Tanzer says: Deep violet color.  Exotically perfumed scents of red and dark berries, incense, lavender and smoky minerals.  Bright, tightly focused cherry and dark berry flavors are lifted by a zesty mineral quality and gain spiciness with air.  Leaves licorice and floral pastille notes behind on the long, fruit-driven finish.  This drinks very well now, with some decanting. 91 points.

Saved half bottle and having it 24 hours later right now. It's excellent still, with more nuance and openness in the nose--not just black cherry and blackberry but tea and spice. This doesn't equal the greatest De Lisio or D'Arenberg or Clarendon Hills fruit bomb grenaches from Australia but it's as good as many Priorats, in fact better than the "Black Slate" that Parker hyped with 94 points. I give this 92.

Parker gives it 92 also; IWC gives it 91. It's about $20-30. Worthwhile for $20.

Friday, February 15, 2013

2009 1er Cote de Beaune Louis Jadot 150th anniversary

This is a special cuvee done in only the better years, and it's also a big anniversary. So it got super reviews for a genuine burgundy at a relatively reasonable price (I think it was $30 from Calvert Woodley where I bought six btls). Tonight I opened the first of the six. I'm somewhat disappointed. It's a nice but rather light and simple pinot noir.  But I see that Parker's newsletter says the wine shouldn't be opened until 2019. My experience with pinot noir is admittedly limited and I hope Parker et al are right. To me this is a light, simple wine with a nice strawberry nose and palate but not much else. Though I admit that the longer it sits in the glass the more it seems to thicken up and develop some body and acid and even a bit of tannin. So, a learning experience for me with good burgundy. I'll leave the rest of the bottles alone for 5 years.

Parker 94 points: The 2009 Beaune 150 th Anniversary Cuvee is a commemorative wine created to celebrate Jadot’s 150th birthday. The 150th Anniversary Cuvee is a selection of the maison’s best parcels in the Cote de Beaune. It boasts extraordinary richness and length, not to mention fabulous overall balance. Seemingly endless layers of intensely fragrant dark red fruit build to the effortless, huge finish. This is a fabulous showing from Jadot. It is just as impressive from bottle as it was from barrel. I think it is safe to say Jadot hit it out the park with this effort. Readers will be tempted to drink the 2009 early, so immense is its appeal, but opening a bottle before its tenth birthday is likely to be nothing more than an academic exercise. Anticipated maturity: 2019-2039. 

91 points Allen Meadows - Burghound
  This anniversary wine commemorating Jadot’s 150th year or operation is a much more interesting effort than the name would suggest. I say this because they have blended together some 19 different Beaune premiers crus. I would start by explaining that when I first opened the bottle it was very closed and reticent and this note is based on a decanted bottle that was kept at cellar temperature while seeing approximately 2 hours of air first so please calibrate your impressions accordingly. The natural ripeness of the 2009 vintage is less apparent with the air though at the same time it accentuates the underlying structure. While the nose is certainly ripe it is not over ripe and is actually quite pretty with attractive red berry fruit, earth and very subtle mineral hints. There is good volume and reasonable concentration to the fleshy and delicious medium-bodied flavors that possess fine intensity and detail, all wrapped in a moderately structured, dusty, mouth coating and firm finish that displays a touch of youthful austerity. This should reward 6 to 8 years of upside and need 2 to 3 before it could at least be drunk with pleasure as it’s a bit tight today even with air.   (10/ 2012)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

2009 arnauton (fronsac)

This is 98% merlot from outlying district beyond Pomerol. Parker originally gave this a rave so I bought a case of futures. In bottle it's not as good as he predicted, but still very pleasant. It is round medium bodied, with an aroma and -with air- strong taste of cherry. There's a decent finish with acid and alcohol balancing the ripe fruit. I'm quite sure the wine is at its peak right now. A nice fairly simple effort that I'd give about 86+. Parker says 88 in his last tasting of it. With some artisan goat cheeses it pairs nicely--after my first yoga class since 1972.

Monday, January 28, 2013

1990 Figeac (St. Emilion)

One of my favorite Bordeaux estates, located outside of the charming hill town of St. Emilion. Apparently it was and maybe still is a site for pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

I visited Figeac in 1982 with Tom Banks in the early days of my wine fandom, and then again with Francie in 1985 during the great blizzard of January. Because of the once-every-thirty-years snow, we were the only tourists around. The winemaker at Figeac invited us into his house on the estate and opened a wonderful bottle of the 1975. In '82 Tom and I sneaked into a tour being held for German wine merchants; I translated (some of) what owner Thierry Manoncourt said. He talked about his astonishment ("nous sommes etonne") when Figeac was ranked lower than the highest rank, in 1955.  Figeac is known for using more cabernet sauvignon than most any winery on the right bank.

So, opening our last bottle of Figeac 1990 ($35 in 1993 or so when purchased), to go with a wonderful steak dinner cooked by Max and Laura: fully mature but somewhat withholding aromas at first. With air and warmth aromas of cherry, plum, mint and pine forest, then some licorice, wafted out. On palate, tannin almost totally gone, but good acid to balance ripe fruit and long finish. This reminds me of how special properly matured bordeaux is. There's nothing quite like it, though of course I take nothing away from California cabernet in saying this. I think Parker (below) underrates this wine. Or maybe his wasn't stored as well as mine! No astringency on finish at all. I'd say 93.

In 2009 he writes: 91 points. This is a strong effort for Figeac, but the wine is fully mature and is beginning to fade slightly. It offers a terrific bouquet of roasted herbs, cedarwood, licorice, sweet cherries, and background foresty/underbrush notes, a fleshy attack, medium body, sweet fruit, and plenty of glycerin, but the tannins provide a pinched finish that evaporates quickly leaving only astringency. This wine tires within 45 minutes of opening, so it needs to be drunk over the next 4-5 years, if not sooner. And, do not over-aerate! 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2006 Domaine Guffens Heynen Macon-Pierreclos Premier Jus de Chavigne

Very toasty with lots of different fruits dominated by what I'd call a caramelized pineapple. Full body, long finish with a good acid balance to the fruit, and very burgundy/chardonnay, more so than any Macon I can recall tasting. That is, like a Puligny. Not as complex and subtle as Puligny but pretty damn nice. And this is being tasted a full six+ years after the vintage. THis was obtained from Chrish Peal's Westgate Wine for about 1/3 original price, a bargain for a white burgundy. I'd give this 91 points.

Tanzer IWC: 92 points. Light yellow. Spicy, mineral-dominated and fresh on the nose, with energetic lime and pink grapefruit scents; picks up white flowers and licorice with air. Juicy citrus and green apple flavors flesh out to offer poached pear and peach, without losing their focus. Strikingly pure wine, finishing with admirable lift and cut.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

JC Vizcarra 2010 Ribera 100% Tempranillo

Purchased at CH Wine Co for, I believe, $15, because it had a good write up by Parker. What I get is a very fruity wine with low acid and soft tannins, light-medium body--despite being just over a mere two years old. The aromas combine very ripe plum, tarry burnt oak nuances, a bit of green vegetable or maybe pine sap, a hint of vanilla and blackberry (Parker below calls it creme de cassis). It's round and extremely easy to drink. Enough acid and tannin to hold up for another 3-5 years. The finish is fairly hot and lengthy and lacks the finesse in the very best tempranillos.  I'd give it 91 points.

Parker says 94 points. The 2010 JC Vizcarra, also 100% Tempranillo, was aged 15 months in French and American oak. A truly great wine, it boasts a dense purple color along with notes of camphor, creme de cassis, licorice, damp earth and forest floor. The beautiful fragrance is accompanied by a wine with a full-bodied, opulent texture, and a voluptuous, luxurious mouthfeel as well as finish. Drink this beauty over the next 7-10 years. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Luberri Biga Rioja 2008

Quite an interesting aroma mix: Cinnamon and spearmint with restrained oak initially. Deep red purple. On palate, medium body, soft tannin; finish is fair, short and not as complex as the nose. With air it developed pronounced nuances of licorice and blackberry and spices. I don't understand why the taste doesn't follow the more interesting aromas, but for $17 in Guglhopf (a good Austrian-influenced restaurant in Durham) on Tuesday night with half price wine, it's pretty damn good. I'd give it 88+.

Interestingly Tanzer scores it at 90, and he's usually more conservative than Parker. If I interpret him right, he's saying this wine will better integrate the aroma and palate experiences in a couple more years: (100% tempranillo aged for one year in French and American oak):  Bright ruby-red.  Dried cherry and redcurrant on the pungent nose, with suggestions of cured tobacco, anise and cedar adding complexity.  Juicy and taut on entry, then fleshier in the mid-palate, offering sweet red fruit flavors and a hint of licorice pastille.  Closes on a gently tannic note, with firm grip and lingering spiciness.  This wine drinks well now with some air but will be even better with a couple more years of bottle age