I had a string of tasty, affordable Rhones over this long weekend.
2005 Bastide Saint Dominique, Cotes du Rhone – $10
This Cotes du Rhone is a blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache. It is sourced from 6 Ha owned by the domaine. A vibrant ruby in the glass. A lights nose of syrah and red berries. In the mouth more syrah flavors for this medium bodied wine, with fine tannins, and good acidity. It opens up after several hours and drank well on the second day. A good buy.
2004 Bastide Saint Dominique, Reserve, Lirac – $14
This is 65% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre. This is ruby with hints of purple. There are subtle red berries on the nose. In the mouth there is assertive red berries and cranberry flavors. A light to medium-bodied wine, lighter than the Cotes du Rhone. There are super fine tannins and acidity that provides a juicy finish.
2005 Domaine des Amouriers, Cuvee Les Hautes Terrasses, VDP – $26
Domaine des Amouriers is located in Vacqueyras and is run by Igor Chudzikiewicz and Patrick Gras. The estate started bottling their own wines in the mid 1990s. The Cuvee Les Hautes Terrasses is a 100% Syrah wine labeled as VDP and only produced in the best vintages. Alcoholic fermentation is finished in barrel then it is aged for up to 24 months in new through three year old barrels and demi-muids. A vibrant purple/red with medium opacity. An immediate creamy mouthfull of fresh red cherries with some blue fruits. There are some minerals in this supple, medium-bodied wine. There are fine tannins, wood, and syrah flavors that then develop. It leaves a nice aftertaste. It is a very good young wine worthy of buying.
2004 Domaine de la Garrigue, Vacqueyras – $17
This is an old domaine in Vacqueyras with the vines planted in the late 1940s. It is a blend of 75% Grenach and 25% Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault. Garnet in color with medium opacity. An attractive perfurmed berry nose. In the mouth there are round fruits, spice, and grip from well integrated tannins. Some minerality does come out in this assertive Vacqueyras. A good buy.
2005 Clos du Mont-Olivet, Cuvee Montueil-La Levade, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Rhone – $12
This is an ancient estate that I always associate with Chateauneuf du Pape. This wine is 80% Grenache, 15% Carignan, and 5% Syrah. The vines are 50-60 years of age. A good garnet color with medium opacity. Blue fruits and spice from a nose immediately after opening the bottle. In the mouth there are dark fruits, spice, a minerally core that provide juicy flavors. This wine is medium-bodied with a good finish of fruit and mouth coating tannins. A very satisfying young wine and very cheap. The best buy out of these five wines.
I recommend all but the 2001 Cristia. While I prefer the Alary and the Clos des Fess, the Mourgues des Gres is a good value. I’d consider it a notch down in preference because I was not particularly fond of the winey, fruit-driven syrah flavor it had. I’m not sure how to describe it.
2001 Domaine de Cristia, Cotes du Rhone Villages – $12
Although the domaine was founded in 1942, it wasn’t until 1999 that the wines were bottled at the domaine. This is an 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah blend. A light, brick color in the glass. A light nose of mature red/blue fruits. A simple, light to medium-bodied with that tastes fully mature now. I’d drink this now, I don’t see it gaining anything.
2005 Domaine Alary, La Font d’Estevens, Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne – $22
In 1983 Domaine de L’Oratoire St-Martin split with 19 ha controlled by Daniel and Denis Alary. Alary’s top red wine, La Font d’Estevens is named after the vineyard site in Cairanne. It is a blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache & Counoise. The Syrah vines came from Hermitage and were planted 40 years ago. Some of the Grenache vines are over 100 years old. This wine is purple/ruby with medium opacity in the glass. There is a good nose of peppery syrah. In the mouth blue fruits mix with pepper. The flavors slowly expand to become mouthfilling, with a fine but thorough amount of tannins and a good aftertaste. This is a fine wine that I would wait a few years before drinking.
2004 Chateau Mourgues du Gres, Terre d’Argence, Costieres de Nimes – $15
Chateau Mourges du Gres is located right at the southern edge of the Rhone. The estate originally belonged to the Convent of Ursulines of Beaucaire. In 1993 Francois Collard bottled his first red wine at the estate. The Terre d’Argences comes from an area where there are more chalk-clay marls on small hills. This wine is predominantly Syrah with old-vine Grenache. The Syrah vines are over 40 years old. It is aged 9-12 months in concrete tanks. This wine is a very opaque purple/garnet. A light, distinct syrah nose that is repeated on the palate. Dark fruits integrated with immediate acidity and assertive, fine tannins. This young wine has medium-bodied syrah flavors and is mouthfilling. It is already throwing a lot of sediment. I’d give it at least a year to develop more aromatics.
2003 Cloes des Fees, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Roussillion Villages – $20
Herve Bizeul produced his first wine in 1998. This wine is 30% Carignan, 30% Syrah, 15% Grenache, 15% Lladuner Pelut, and 10% Mourvedre. (According to The Oxford Companion to Wine, Lladuner Pelut is also known as Grenache Poilu or Velu. It resembles Grenache except the underside of the leaves are downier and it is less suspectible to rot.) The vines are between 50 – 100 years old and grow on limestone/clay hills that require hand harvesting. It is fermented in barrels and aged 18 months in French oak. It is purple/ruby with medium opacity in the glass. Blue fruit and spice on the nose. In the mouth there are blue/dark fruits, minerals, and grippy tannins from all of the wood. It is a medium-bodied wine, with good mouth feel. It is still a bit young. I’d buy a few of these to hold for a few years. Recently noted in The Hedonists Gazette and back in 2005 by The Lord Rodney.
It is hard to shift gears from all of my French wine drinking to Australian wine drinking. To satisfy my curiosity I thought I’d give these recent releases a go.
2005 Izway, Mates, Barossa Valley – $29
This is a relatively new venture from Craig Isbel and Brian Conway. Craig Isbel is a winemaker at Torbreck. He worked a vintage in Beaujolais in 2002. Their first barrel of wine was produced in 2003. The Mates is a 60% Grenache, 25% Shiraz, and 15% Mataro blend. The Grenache comes from 80 year old vines. I believe the Grenache and Mataro is from Greenock and the Shiraz is from Ebenezer. The 2004 vintage saw no oak and the 2005 tastes that way. Medium, opaque in the glass. A sweetish nose of brighter red berries and raw meat. In the mouth it is bright with flavors of red and dark berries and no noticeable tannins. There is a bright attack of fruit, followed by some juicy acidity then a fading finish. There is no underlying complexity and tastes like a wine to drink over the next year or two. It drank great on the second day and I preferred it over the Craneford. I’d personally wish there was more acidity to focus the fruit.
2005 Craneford, Quartet, Barossa Valley – $27
The Quartet is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 8% Shiraz, and 2% Cabernet Franc. It is matured in American and French oak for 16 months. Medium-dark in the glass, more opaque than the Izway. There are ripe blueberries in the mouth, some juicyness, and no noticeable tannins. It is a medium-bodied wine that on the second day developed a nose of raspberry fruit roll-up. The fruit roll-up is meant to convey sweet fruit with a touch of sourness. Not my style of wine, I’d rather drink the Izway or the Solitary Block.
2004 Solitary Vineyards, Solitary Block Shiraz, Barossa Valley – $55
Solitary Vineyards is another young project started in 2003 by Australian Domaine Wines. The goal is to produce single varietal wines from the best parcels of fruit they can find. The wines are produced by Neil Pike at Pikes Winery. This grapes for this wine come from Greenock Block 560. It was aged in 2-3 year old French barriques for 18 months. The 2004 is the first vintage of the Shiraz. Production for any of their wines is limited to 300 cases. A medium purple/ruby in the glass with a calm nose of red berries and spice. A medium to full-bodied wine with dark berries, creamy, and full in the mouth. There are very fine, elegant tannins and a slight amount of acidity. This wine is so easy drink! The first couple of glasses slipped down before I mustered the strength to save some for the next day. The wine is concentrated in its primary flavors and needs a number of years to develop more complexity. If you are looking for a wine to enjoy now, you can find something more interesting for the price. Otherwise buy this to drink in 5+ years.
I’m finding that there are many affordable French wines out there that offer satisfaction for a good price. Of the two I suspect the Montpezat has greater promise for the future.
2004 Chateau de Caladroy, Cuvee Les Schistes, Cotes du Roussillon Villages – $11
Chateau de Caladroy has a long history with the oldest building being a 12th century fortress. This is a Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, and Mourvedre blend. Ruby/purple in the glass with dark fruit on the nose. Red cherry flavors, medium-bodied, smooth in the mouth with fine tannins. There is good flavor but is not complex. I found it easy drinking and satisfying. A Vintage ’59 wine.
2001 Domaine de Montpezat, Cuvee Prestige, Vin de Pays d’Oc – $12
Domaine de Montpezat has been producing wine for over a century. It is now a 40 ha estate with 5 ha used to produce the Cuvee Prestige. The vines were planted in 1979 and 1983. This is a 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah blend that is aged for 1 year in barrels. Darker berries and tobacco on the nose. A cool fruit rush that becomes mouthfilling. The tannins from oak subtly come out and finely coat mouth. The finish has the mouth-watering acidity and a good aftertaste. The wine is still young, it needs several hours of air or more age. A Robert Kacher wine.
I decided to switch it up this weekend. I apologize for the thin Richter tasting note but I have minimal experience with German wines.
1989 Max. Ferd. Richter, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Spatlese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer – $32
Although the family has been producing wine for more than 300 years, they only started buying parcels in Wehlener Sonnenuhr in 1972. Wehlener Sonnenuhr was registered in 1913 as a 10 ha site but has now grown to 65 ha. This bottle came, via the store, from the winery cellar. Beautifully smelling cork came out in one solid piece. Yellow with the tiniest touch of amber, very vibrant in the glass. Light to medium nose of riesling, slightly sweet, lovely to smell. An initial offering of good fruit and acidity then the flavors and vibrancy drop off. A long lasting, pleasant aftertaste then takes hold.
1995 Seven Hills, Seven Hills Vineyard, Merlot, Walla Walla Valley – $16
Seven Hills Winery started off in Oregon but recently moved several miles to Washington. The Seven Hills Vineyard is located in Oregon and on this bottle the wine labeled as from Oregon. Between 1980 and 1986 24 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were planted. The vines are “own rooted.”
It is a very opaque garnet in the glass. Dark berries, chocolate, and a burnt-roasted aroma become sweeter with air. In the mouth there are black cherries, a slight burnt/roasted flavor to this savory, almost salty wine. The flavors are short and the finish fades away quickly. The remains of the bottle did not survive to the second day. This is certainly worth a try if you want to sample inexpensive, aged NW merlot.
1999 Cristom, Mt. Jefferson Cuvee, Pinot Noir, Willamete Valley – $20
I don’t have any details for this wine (is it mostly from Eola Hills?). In the glass it was garnet, dark, slightly opaque. A nose of scortched earth and a stale tobacco ash that developed with air. On the second day the stale tobacco ash had subsided. Dark berry fruit that quickly fades off leaving a subtle, juicy fruit after taste. There are the slight remnants of tannin. This held up well on the second day. A bit lean on the fruit so perhaps best to spend your money on a different Cristom.