Plenty of fruit in the 2004 Pierre Usseglio, Cuvee de mon Aieul

The 2004 Pierre Usseglio, Cuvee de mon Aieul, Chateauneuf du Pape is made primarily from Grenache sourced from vines dating back to 1926.  These old vines make quite a strong wine.  In begins with enticing aromas of smoky incense.  In the mouth there is plenty of flavor and strength without the wine coming across as huge for the weight and acidity is balanced.  However, I am a touch distracted by the level of ripeness of the fruit combined with the dried fruit flavor.  Overall a good wine but not one I would purchase again.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2004 Pierre Usseglio, Cuvee de mon Aieul, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 95% Grenache and 5% Syrah sourced from 80+ year old vines.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose mixes rather ripe fruit aromas with smoky incense.  In the mouth is a clear start of blue and red fruit then garrigue in the middle as the strength of the wine builds.  It is a little juicy now with appropriate weight and acidity.  The flavors are still primary, blending grapey notes with seriously ripe fruit flavors with a dried fruit undertone.  *** Now – 2027.

Delicious all Pinot Meunier Champagne from Jerome Prevost

At the young age of 21, Jerome Prevost took over a 2 ha parcel of vines near Reims from his grandmother.  For ten year Prevost sold the fruit to negociants until shortly after he began to work at Jacques Selosse when he began to kept the fruit for himself.  It is here, under the eye of Anselme Selosse, that Prevost begin to make his own wine from his tiny vineyard of Les Beguines in Gueux.  Prevost soon built a cellar near the vineyard where he produced the bottle of NV (2008) Jerome Prevost, Champagne La Closerie Extra Brut Les Beguines Mannie Berk, Rare Wine Co., recently opened for me.

Prevost produced this wine from a single vintage using fruit from his vineyard.  What is particularly unusual is that this wine is made entirely from Pinot Meunier.  Pinot Meunier plantings account for nearly one-third of those in Champagne yet the variety is clearly ranked behind Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Pinot Meunier is often planted in areas where the other varieties struggle to grow.  It is not regarded as aging well.

Prevost vineyard was planted in the late 1950s.  He keeps yields very low, hand harvests, and ferments with indigenous yeasts in oak.  After 18 months in bottle he disgorges and finishes without dosage.

As the chill left our bottle and the wine breathed in the glass, I was treated to a fantastic Champagne.  The bubbles are very delicate at the start followed by a textured mousse and vinous finish which makes it easy to drink.  The fruit is almost juicy to begin with which please the taste buds and the chalky grip makes it alive in the mouth.  This wine, based on the 2008 vintage, is beginning to take on bottle aged flavors.  I imagine it will provide great interest over the next decade.

NV (2008) Jerome Prevost, Champagne La Closerie Extra Brut Les Beguines
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is 100% Pinot Meunier.  Alcohol 12.5%.  It is a light golden straw in the glass.  It is the core of delicate berry flavors first noticed followed by the very delicate bubbles which soon form a textured mousse.  With a brief amount of air this is a lovely, maturing wine with a rounded, almost juicy start.  The wine soons adds a chalky grip by the middle with an underlying wood note adding complexity. With warmth it hits a sweet spot becoming very vinous.  **** Now – 2027.

Another interesting Canary Island wine from Envinate

The 2015 Envinate, Taganan Tino, Tenerife, Vinos Atlanticos requires being open at least one day ahead.  It is made from very old vines of both known and unknown varieties grown in parcels tended by 15 different families!  These are wild vineyards, literally, with no training and vines popping out between rocks.  There are some compelling parts to this wine: the incensed fruit, mineral middle, and aftertaste which clings to your mouth.  At this stage you must coax the wine in your mouth so I recommend you cellar it for another year or two.  If this wine blossoms then it will desire higher marks.  The Taganan is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Envinate, Taganan Tino, Tenerife, Vinos Atlanticos – $28
A Jose Pastor selection imported Llaurador Wines. This is a blend of Listan Negro, Listan Gaucho, Malvasia Negro, and other varieties from very old vines.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts in plastic tubs and and concrete tanks then aged for 8 months in both tanks and used oak barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  After extended air a subtle depth comes out on the nose.  In the mouth are bright, incensed fruit flavors followed by a mineral middle of perfumed black fruit.  The flavors become savory towards the end as the structure of very fine drying tannins is soon matched by dry flavor.  The structure is supportive.  The aftertaste brings good, clinging flavors of delicate ripe fruit.  *** 2019-2025.

A new vintage of an old favorite

There was a several year period in which Jenn and I drank our fair share of wines from Chateau Mourgues du Gres.  With fond memories in mind I opened a bottle of 2014 Chateau Mourgues du Gres, Galets Rouge, Costières-de-Nîmes purchased in downtown Bethesda.  This wine delivers nothing but pleasure from the first glass and is quick to add in complexity from incense and spice notes.  It is a good selection to open several bottles of at your next barbecue.  This wine is available at Capital Beer and Wine in Bethesda.

2014 Chateau Mourgues du Gres, Galets Rouge, Costières-de-Nîmes  – $18
Imported by Simon ‘n Cellars.  This wine is approximately three-quarters Syrah with the rest Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignan that was aged for 7 to 12 months in concrete tanks.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There is a fresh grapey texture supporting generous flavors of bright, red fruit.  The fruit is backed by ripeness and texture before the incensed and spiced finish.  The flavors cling to the gums well into the long aftertaste.  *** Now – 2019.

A Canary Island wine for the cellar

I continue to enjoy the Envinate wines selected by Jose Pastor which are available in the Washington, DC, area.  From the same portfolio Phil recently brought in the 2015 Dolores Cabrera Fernandez, La Araucaria, Valle de le Orotava, Tenerife.  I tried this bottle over the course of two days and I will admit it is a bit shutdown, making it hard to drink. I do like the tangy red flavor and unique profile of the wine but it is best revisited some time next year. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Dolores Cabrera Fernandez, La Araucaria, Valle de le Orotava, Tenerife – $20
A Jose Pastor selection imported by Llaurador Wines.  This wine is Listan Negro.  Alcohol 11% – 14%.  It is a grapey, cherry color in the glass.  Tasted over two days the flavors offer up wood notes mixed with tangy red fruit.  The tang is very much present on the tongue tip with the structure apparent throughout at this stage.  It finishes a bit astringent.  It comes across as closed at this point so maybe give it another year before trying again. ** 2018-2022.

A pair of Spanish wines purchased in MoCo

I was in need of some beer to bring to my mom’s annual Shark Week BBQ.  This gave me cause to stop by local beer and wine stores in Montgomery County which is an exceedingly rare event for me.  To my surprise I found a couple of bottles imported by The Rare Wine Co which are, of course, priced high given the county I live in.  At the correct price the 2014 Olivares, Altos de la Hoya, Jumilla is a fine bargain which will continue to develop through the end of the year.  It is a bit tight and structured right now but it is still enjoyable at this time.  The 2014 Bernabeleva, Camino de Navaherreros, Madrid is far more open and generous than the previous vintages I have tasted.  You can drink the Bernabeleva while the Olivares ages!

2014 Olivares, Altos de la Hoya, Jumilla
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is 90% Monastrell sourced from old ungrafted vines and 10% Grenache fermented in stainless steel then aged 6 months in French oak barrels. Alcohol 14%.  Black fruited, fresh, and structured this left the impression that it could stand another half year to open up.  **(*) 2018-2021.

2014 Bernabeleva, Camino de Navaherreros, Madrid
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is old-vine Garnacha fermented in foudre.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The mixture of red and blue fruits is completely open and generous from the first pour.  There are no hard edges since the wine combines supple and juicy aspects.  **(*) Now – 2018.

I like my Sutter Home Zinfandel red and from the 1970s

Our dinners with Sudip have come to a reasonable arrangement for all.  The kids play for hours, Sudip provides the meal, and I provide the old wine.  Though purely by coincidence it is worth noting that Sudip has won handsomely at poker on days when his games begin or end on our dinner evenings.

One theme we continue to visit at each dinner are the Californian wines from the 1977 vintage.  In picking the wines for our latest dinner I could not but help to bring the 1977 Sutter Home Winery, Zinfandel, Amador County.  As we last had success with Martin Ray I also included the NV Martin Ray, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Montana, Cuvee 5 and to match the lack of vintage date I paired it with the NV Preston Vineyards, Red Table Wine, Sonoma County.

Sutter Home has a history dating back to the late 19th century but for our bottle, produced by the Trinchero family, that history begins in 1946.  It is then that the family purchased the old winery then set about revitalizing it such that they produced over 40 different wines including the one gallon variety.

Bob Trinchero became winemaker in 1960.  When he made his first zinfandel in 1968 he knew that was the direction he wanted the winery to go.  The wine was released with great success in 1971.  By 1973 only red Zinfandel, white Zinfandel, and Muscat were being produced.

Throughout the 1970s Sutter Home Zinfandels were amongst the highest rated Zinfandels at the Los Angeles County Fair and as such frequently appear in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post.  The earliest vintages saw up to three years of age in wood.  The aging period was reduced, in an effort to gain complexity, with the 1978 vintage achieving the desired results.

When Bob Trinchero first began to make Zinfandel, it was viewed as a lesser grape and the fruit did not command the same prices as Cabernet Sauvignon.  Amador County Zinfandel sold for $68 per ton in 1968 climbing up to $400-$500 per ton in 1980.  By this point Amador County Zinfandel was considered “the biggest, richest, spiciest, and most intensely flavored red wines” produced in America.[2]

There is little in print about the specific bottling of 1977 Sutter Home Zinfandel we tried.    Bob Trinchero notes that winemakers were producing big, alcoholic wines almost to the point of “absurdity” at the time.  It is the intense heat of Amador County which regularly produced wines of alcohol content starting at 14%.  Trinchero does state that Sutter Home made one Zinfandel in 1977 with an alcohol content of 17%.[3]  This wine “stained enamel”.  Sadly the 1977 was not included in the 11 vintage lineup of Sutter Home Zinfandel tasted by William Rice in 1980.

The need for age is a common description found for young Sutter Home Zinfandels from the 1970s.  Our bottle of 1977 Sutter Home Winery, Zinfandel, Amador County still contains obvious structure and cherry flavors delivered in a firm manner.  It is not the most complex wine but all of those years of oak aging will enable it to readily live on for a long time.

Not of the same staying power is the NV Martin Ray, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Montana, Cuvee 5.  This bottle was originally offered during the early 1980s.  It is a generous and interesting blend of old-school funk with modern clean fruit.  I found the combination appealing.  Most likely from the same period the NV Preston Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon Red Table Wine, Sonoma County is a fun drink for the first hour.  During this period the tangy and weighty red fruit is thoroughly enjoyable.  While not as complex as the Martin Ray it is quenching and deserves marks for that.

1977 Sutter Home Winery, Zinfandel, Amador County
Alcohol 13%.  This is structured and firm with predominant cherry flavors which are accompanied by black fruit in the end.  There is a bit of zip and certainly a structure of fine, drying textured tannins.  With air a decent nose develops.  The wine remains solid but has some grip and certainly tart, cherry candy notes.  ** Now but will easily last.

NV Martin Ray, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Montana, Cuvee 5
This wine is a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Merlot.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose combines enjoyable old-school funk with modern dark fruit aromas.  In the mouth this is very lively with rounded, old school flavors that come across as juicy and weighty.  There is even some earth.  The blue-fruited finish shortens up a bit but it is balanced overall.  *** Now.

NV Preston Vineyards, Red Table Wine, Sonoma County
This wine is perhaps mostly Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose offers tart cherry and incense.  This is a very strong offering right out of the bottle with tangy red fruit that is delivered with some authoritative weight.  The fresh tang leaves an impression a good impression.  The wine is quite good for the first hour then it fades and falls apart a bit.  *** Now for the first hour.


[1] Rice, William. WINE: Zinfandels Find A Home at Sutter WINE. The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Washington, D.C. [Washington, D.C]27 Apr 1980: K1.

[2] THE NEW AMERICAN WINES: Intense Zinfandels Of the Sierra Nevada Wine Talk
By TERRY ROBARDS. New York Times (1923-Current file); Jun 11, 1980; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. C1

[3] Hicke, Carol.  Interview with Louis “Bob” Trinchero in 1991. “California Zinfandels, A Success Story”.  The Wine Spectator Californian Winemen Oral History Series.