My wife and I drink wine on a daily basis. If I can save money on our daily drinkers then I can spend more money on older vintages. In my area an $11 bottle represents the lowest price achievable for a wine of quality. The 2015 Camille Cayran, Le Pas de la Beaume, Cotes du Rhone is one of those wines. It requires a few hours of air after which it is an exuberant, black fruited wine. You should buy it by the case then drink it over the next few years. The 2015 Domaine de Belle Feuille, Cotes du Rhone is another solid wine at this budget price point. It is quite focused perhaps in need of six months of age. My recommendation is to buy the Cayran. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2015 Camille Cayran, Le Pas de la Beaume, Cotes du Rhone – $11
Imported by G&B Importers. This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 30% Cinsault. Alcohol 14%. Tasted over two days this eventually reveals exuberant flavors of black grapey fruit which are subtly ripe. With good grip at the start, the acidity keeps the wine crisp matching the level of ripe structure which provides texture to the flavor in the finish. It wraps up with black/purple fruit, dry stones, and a racy suggestion. **(*) Now – 2021.
2015 Domaine de Belle Feuille, Cotes du Rhone – $11
Imported by Winebow. This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Cinsault, and 10% Carignan. Alcohol 13.5%. This wine remains very focused with a black fruited start that moves to a core of ripe black, powdery flavors then a slightly bitter and mineral finish. ** Now – 2019.
The 2014 Lionel Faury, Saint-Joseph will satisfy you on the second night for it is simple and closed on the first. It eventually reveals floral berries on the nose and an almost bracing start of red fruit and acidity. The structural components exist to support development over a few years at which point it should be an elegant, pure wine. It is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2014 Lionel Faury, Saint-Joseph – $27
Imported by Kermit Lynch. This wine is 100% Syrah that was aged for 12 months in 10% new and 90% used oak. Alcohol 13%. The nose offers floral, aromas of tangy berries and cherries. In the mouth is an almost puckering start of red fruit and watering acidity. The wine has moderate weight with a supportive structure that comes out in the middle. It wraps up with a slightly smoky hint in the red and black fruited finish. ***(*) 2018 – 2025.
The history of Mount Eden Vineyards reaches back to the final years of World War II when Martin Ray purchased several hundred acres of mountaintop land for a vineyard. Here he planted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Martin Ray eventually took on investors creating the Mount Eden Vineyard Corporation in 1960. The next two decades were a turbulent time until operations steadied in 1983 when Jeffrey Patterson became head winemaker. According to the winery website the 1980s was a period of replanting in the vineyard and experimenting in the winery.
From this early modern period hails my bottle of 1985 Mount Eden Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains. Despite the bin soiled label the fill was in the neck and cork perfectly firm. As usual when I encounter a new mature wine, I do not decant it. The nose cleans up to reveal aromas of sweet wood and berries. At first the wine is billowy, loose and marked by some bell pepper in the mouth, making me think it remained in bottle too long. With air, blue fruit develops and the whole becomes framed by structure which balances everything out. Despite this improvement the finish remains quite short. If you have any bottles lying about I suggest you drink them up.
1985 Mount Eden Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Alcohol 13%. After breathing there is a pleasing nose of some sweet wood and berries. In the mouth is a billowy start accented by a touch of bell pepper. The billowy red fruited flavors remain but wine does gain better focus with underlying blue fruit flavors and more noticeable acidity and structure towards the finish. It definitely balances out but the finish ultimately remains short. ** Now.
The 1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage is at a state where it drinks perfectly. There are mature wine flavors, spices, and wood box delivered with a seductive round mouth feel. The structure is fully resolved with enough acidity to leave a fresh impression. In short, there is no reason to hold onto this Late Bottled Vintage any longer. You may pull the cork and start drinking to satisfaction but if you give it a bit of air, it will improve a notch.
1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage Port
Imported by Robert Hass Selections. Alcohol 20%. There is an ample volume of round, berry fruit with quite a lot of body present from the very beginning. It is in a fully integrated state with vintage wine flavor, christmas spices, wood box, and some ripe brown sugar flavor. Perhaps there is a softness to the round quality but the wine is still very fresh. With air the sweet cream and Christmas spice is carried with a glycerin mouthfeel. The rounded structure is fully resolved. **** Now but will last.
Today’s pair of wines recently hit the shelves thanks to Phil Bernstein. Always interested in expanding my Northern Rhone experience I excitedly popped open the 2011 Jean-Michel Gerin, Champin Le Seigneur, Cote-Rotie. Jean-Michel Gerin first worked under the advisement of Jean-Luc Colombo whose modern 2013 Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Bartavelles, Chateauneuf du Pape I recently tasted. From the onset Gerin employed “modern” ways including new oak some of which was American. The Champin Le Seigneur is a blend of Syrah and Viognier sourced from all of his parcels. Fortunately, this particular vintage is not evocative of oak. Instead, it is a gentle, pure wine of mixed fruits, floral notes, and stones. It is quite tasty right now but will develop with further age.
From Corsica comes the 2013 Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Cuvee Faustine. This blend of Sciaccarellu and Niellucciu provide attractive flavors of tart red fruity and dry floral notes. There are not many Corsican wines available in Washington, DC so this wine is worth a try. The balance tilts towards the structure with air so I suspect now might be the time to drink it. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2011 Jean-Michel Gerin, Champin Le Seigneur, Cote-Rotie -$45
Imported by Esprit du Vin. This wine is a blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier. Alcohol 13%. There are gentle clouds of ripe aroma. In the mouth the smooth, dense entry combines red and black fruit with an inky, mineral, stone infused middle. The interest continues as fat infused strawberry and floral flavors develop with air. ***(*) Now – 2027.
2013 Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Cuvee Faustine – $25
Imported by Kermit Lynch. This wine is a blend of 70% Sciaccarellu and 30% Niellucciu raised in stainless steel and cement. Alcohol 14%. The red fruited start defines itself with tart red fruit bound in a tangy structure. There are dry floral and herb notes but the structure really blooms in size. I Like the flavor profile with its very delicate and ethereal ripe berries on the gum and persistent herbs. *** Now – 2022.
A case of perfectly stored 1986 Chateau Bel Air, Cotes de Castillon showed up at MacArthur Beverages last week. You can tell because the fills are all in the neck, the corks are age-defying, and the color of the wine is deep. The wine itself is simple with flavors of hard cherry and eventually polished wood. And that’s about it!
The wines of Les Champ Libres are produced by René-Jean Dard and Hervé Souhaut. Both of these men produced northern Rhone wines, the latter of which have appeared on this blog. The 2015 Les Champs Libres, Lard, des Choix is a wine of great energy. Both the nose and palate offer deep, grapey, young fruit that is quite remarkable. I kept expecting some Pilsner/yeast aspect to break out but it did not. Instead, this is a personality rich wine that any lover of the Northern Rhone must try. These wines are (or were!) available at MacArthur Beverages.
1986 Chateau Bel Air, Cotes de Castillon – $10
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co. Alcohol 12%. The nose remains subtle. In the mouth the flavor of hard cherry remains firm. The structural components are still around and the watering acidity reminds you that this wine is very much alive. It needs some air before gaining a touch more interest from a polished wood note. *(*) Now but well-stored bottles will last.
2015 Les Champs Libres, Lard, des Choix – $22
Imported by Louis/Dressner. Alcohol 13%. The aromatic nose offers up grapey aromas and deep young fruit. In the mouth are lively, deep flavors of floral, purple fruit. The initial acidity on the tongue tip leads to a textured wine that leaves an ethereal, perfumed coating of fat-infused flavor. **** Now – 2018.
Last night Lou and I gathered to blindly taste through several bottles of Californian Cabernet Sauvignon. For fun, we each unknowingly threw in an Australian blend of Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon. Perhaps this is unfair given the stature of our main selections but it was for fun. As we settled down to cheese, charcuterie, and cork removal we checked out a bottle of 2002 Huet, Le Haut-Lieu, Sec, Vouvray. I do not have enough experience with Huet so I found the lifted, aromatically textured nose a delight. It starts off in the fruit spectrum eventually to take on a honey character. In the mouth this is a fresh, grippy wine with a nice balance of fruit supported by hints of yeast and oxidation. Fine stuff! I look forward to finishing my leftover glass tonight.
It was then on to the bagged red wines. Guessing is fun when you are not pressured. Wine #1 is firm at first though you can detect some maturity and herbaceousness. It is the most structured wine out of all tasted and I, admittedly clueless, narrowed in to the 1979-1981 vintages. For those who enjoy structured, rather than opulent wines the 1984 Duckhorn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley will develop for years to come. It eventually reveals a bit more of its bottle aged maturity.
Wine #2 showed signs of old seepage under the capsule but the fill was where the neck met the shoulder. You could get a sense of this on the nose which leaned towards meat rather than fruit but in the mouth the flavor and delivery of the fruit flavor is gorgeous! What luxury it is to drink glass after glass of 1991 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains. This is a sophisticated wine of ideal balance with youthful, complex fruit flavors that seek out every part of your mouth with wave after wave of flavor. Also excellent is wine #4. After some bottle stink blew off, this is highly aromatic of eucalyptus. In the mouth an impressive amount of energy unfurls dark fruit, ripe structure, and wood box. The 1986 Joseph Phelps Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Napa Valley is perhaps more mature in flavor than the Ridge but the Phelps needs more time to open up. It is fascinating pair to drink together. No one spat these two wines!
Just a few final thoughts with regards to wines #3 – 2004 Penfolds, Koonunga Hill, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Eastern Australia, avoid, and #5 – 1978 Wakefield River Estates, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia. Wakefield River Estates was founded in 1972 by Dr. Douglas Hewitson who planted just over 2,100 Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the wheatbelt area of Balaklava. The wines were made by the highly regarded James Irvine who still produces wine today. James Irvine got his start at a young age having developed the Siegersdorf brand in 1959 as winemaker at Hardy’s. As the Wakefield winery had no buildings the wine was made at Saltram, an historic Barossa Valley winery founded in 1859. Wakefield River Estates was short-lived and curious enough, the label on the bottle tells the history including the demise indicating this bottle was imported in the mid 1980s. It was in 1982 that all of the fruit was eaten by starlings and in 1983, due to severe drought conditions, there was a sparse crop. The fruit was sold off and the winery ceased. As for the vintage Decanter states the wines are of “richness and longevity” with the wines around Adelaide being “robust”. So perhaps it was a bit unfair to include this wine with the Ridge and Phelps but the potential is there.
2002 Huet, Le Haut-Lieu, Sec, Vouvray
Imported by Robert Chadderdon. Alcohol 12%. It is the color of a light apple cider. On the nose are finely textured, lifted aromas of dried apricots and apple cider. With air the nose reveals honey aromas. In the mouth this is a mildly weight wine with a vein of acidity and hint of yeast towards the finish. It wraps up with a fresh and grippy finish. Additional complexity is gained from a hint of oxidation. ***(*) Now – 2027.
#1 – 1984 Duckhorn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.9%. This is less dark than #2 but of similar color. The nose offers hints of maturity with the slightest hint of herbaceousness. A lively start brings a little tang and firmness of flavor. There is still structure in the end which contributes to the lasting sensation. With air the wine begins to open up maturity becoming more evident. It also develops a mineral note and a dusty, wood box flavor. ***(*) Now – 2022.
#2 – 1991 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
This wine is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 13.3%. This garnet wine is still fairly opaque in the middle. The nose is a bit meaty. In the mouth this wine packs in the flavor with a plum hint at first, mineral middle, then a younger, fresh eucalyptus finish. There is sophistication to the purple and black fruits There is still a very fine tannic structure and acidity throughout. Impeccably balanced and impressive. ****(*) Now – 2027.
#3 – 2004 Penfolds, Koonunga Hill, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Eastern Australia
Imported by FWE Imports. This wine is a blend of 64% Shiraz and 36% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in oak. Alcohol 13.5%. The subtle nose is followed by candied and pruned flavors in the mouth. The acidity stands separate from the core of simple fruit flavors. Tastes like a cheap domestic port. Poor.
#4 – 1986 Joseph Phelps Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.3%. Some bottle stink at first but that blows off to reveal a highly aromatic, eucalyptus nose. In the mouth is dark flavor, more structure, and a touch of ruggedness in the finish. But over the course of several hours this wine unfurls itself. It adds both wood box and blood. The energy is impressive as framed, ripe, inky fruit coats the mouth. ****(*) Now – 2027.
#5 – 1978 Wakefield River Estates, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia
Imported by San Francisco Traders LTD. This wine is a blend of mostly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in oak puncheons. Alcohol 12%. A mature garnet color. There is a ripe fruit start but the wine quickly turns soft only to end at the short finish. Simply too old at this point. Fair.