Archive for August, 2011

The Final Three Old Tasting Notes For the Week

Here are links to the final set of old tasting notes that I am publishing this week.  I think I might still have a bottle or two of the German wines that I tasted.  If so I shall make sure to try them again soon and report back!

Four From Germany

Four Zinfandels From California

Three From 1997

Domaine Bila-Haut

This week I was able to taste through a selection of wines from Michel Chapoutier’s Domaine de Bila-Haut.  Domaine Bila-Haut is imported by HB Wine Merchants of New York.  Mike Riego was pouring the wines at MacArthur’s where I was allowed to join in on the fun.  This selection represents strong value as a quick use of wine-searcher reveals that the white and red wines I tasted often retail for $20 or less.  These wines were opened right before the tasting.

Vineyard of L'esquerda, Image from HB Wine Merchants

Michel Chapoutier purchased Domaine de Bila-Haut in 1999.  The domaine is located in Latour de France and is composed of 75 hectares of vineyards.  Michel purchased the estate so that he would have access to the older vineyards and sites he felt would make great wine in Roussillon.  The estate is large enough to support new planting and experimentation.  The winery was renovated over the first several years and now has its capacity expanded annually. Vats are being added as well to keep up with increased production.   This biodynamic domaine produces a range of wines including a white from made from Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, and Macabeau along with reds from Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan.

Vineyard for Occultum Lapidum, Image from HB Wine Merchants

I really enjoyed the L’esquerda.  It was the most interesting wine both on the nose and in the mouth and I felt, a step up over the other wines.  I think the Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rouge would show better after several hours of air as it showed development after half an hour.  The IGP Cotes Catalanes is well done and I believe attractively priced.  I look forward to revisiting some of these wines once they are in stock.  This will allow me to post more thorough tasting notes and actually drink a few glasses!

2010 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut, Blanc, Cotes du Roussillon
This wine is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, and Macabeau.  Macabeau is also called Viura and is used in the production of Spanish Cava.  The grapes are sourced from vineyards in the Valle de l’Agly that contain limestone and clay soils and higher altitude vineyards at L’esquerda with granite soils.  These later vineyards lie at 500 meters.  This wine is both vinified and aged for a few months in stainless steel tanks.  This wine had a delicate, floral nose with some grassy notes.  In the mouth the apple-like fruit, grapefruit, and floral flavors were supported by bright acidity.

2010 La Croix de Bila-Haut, IGP Cotes Catalanes
This wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan sourced from vineyards throughout Roussillon.  These vineyards are planted with younger vines and represent sites that might be leased in the future.  This wine was produced in stainless steel as the there was not enough vats.  This inaugural release showed a youthful, tasty nose of grapey aromas.  There were bright red fruit flavors, plenty of acidity, and tart red fruit in the finish.  This lively wine would be refreshing to drink cool on a warm summers night.

 2009 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut, Rouge, Cotes du Roussillon Villages
This wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan.  The majority of the grapes are sourced from vineyards in Valle de l’Agly with schist soils.  The wine is raised in cement vats.  This sports a darker nose than the Cotes Catalanes.  There are blueberry and dark berry flavors throughout the wine with some Syrah notes.  Within half an hour this developed an enjoyable racy quality that mixed with the fine grape tannins.  This wine leaned towards firm finesse.

2008 Domaine de Bila-Haut, L’esquerda, Cotes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerda
This wine is a blend of 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, and 20% Carignan.  The grapes are all sourced from vineyards in the cru Lesquerda.  This vineyard lies at 350 meters on hill tops and slopes with granite soils.  As a result the grapes are harvested between the middle of September and middle of October, which is later than the other sites.  Horses are used due to the rugged terrain and inaccessibility.   The vines average 30 years of age with a few newer parcels and one parcel of very old vines.  The wine is aged 90% in cement vats and 10% in oak barrels.  This vintage was produced before Michel Chapoutier had control over the vineyard.  The nose immediately reminded me of a Grenache-based Southern Rhone blend.  It had the most attractive nose out of all of the wines with aromas of dark, complex berries, and herbs.  Though it showed more structure than the previous wines, the lifted, mouthfilling flavors were delicious and easily approachable.

2008 Domaine de Bila-Haut, Occultum Lapidem, Cotes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France
This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, and 20% Carignan.  The grapes are sourced from the vineyard located in the cru Latour-de-France.  They have been working these vineyards since 1999.  Horses are used for some of the work.  This area is a higher altitude vineyards that contain older vines that are 20-35 years of age with some parcels that are even older.  50% of the wine is matured in vats and the rest in casks.  This also revealed dark fruits on the nose but was not aromatically expressive like the L’esquerda.  The dark fruits mixed with pleasing minerals and stones but the overall profile was not as dynamic as the L’esquerda.  The structure in this wine was dominated by ample, fine tannins.  I found the fruit flavors a bit too closed down compared to the level of tannins.

1999 Domaine de Bila-Haut, Rivesaltes
This wine is made from Grenache.  This wine is aged for 24 months with 50% in vats and the rest in oak casks.  There was an earthy nose mixed with sweet berries.  In the mouth this supple wine repeated the earthy, sweet, red berries delivered in a completely balanced manner that was not confected nor overbearing.  I have no experience with Rivesaltes so notes were quite short!

Old Tasting Notes For Wine From France, Portugal, and Spain

 Here are two older posts covering France, Portugal, and Spain:

Wines From Portugal, France, and Spain

Affordable Rhones

Syrahs From Washington and France

I picked these two Syrah wines because they are both wonderful wines yet completely different.  I special ordered the Syncline Wine Cellars bottle from City Cellars in Seattle for $30.   The Domaine Faury is currently available at MacArthur’s for $18.   While I recommend both of these wines I am most excited about the Domaine Faury.  It is lovely to drink, tastes like a Northern Rhone Syrah, and at $18 it may be a daily or weekly drinker.  If you have access to both of these you should cellar the Syncline while you drink the Faury.  For those with good memory Lou, Jenn, and I previously tasted the 2009 Domaine Faury, St-Joseph Blanc and I concluded that it was a wine worth seeking out.  Domaine Faury is imported by Kermit Lynch so there should be good availability.

2009 Syncline Wine Cellars, Syrah, McKinley Springs Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills
This wine is 100% Syrah from vines planted in 2000 at the McKinley Springs Vineyard.  Note, previous vintages were cofermented with 2% Viognier so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is 98% Syrah.  The vineyard lies at 335 meters of altitude on sandy silt loam soils.  These grapes are harvested during mid-October.  The wine was aged for 16 months in neutral French oak. It was fined with egg whites from Syncline’s own organic eggs.  There were 230 cases produced.  The bottle is sealed with a glass stopped.

On the second day there was a light nose of sweet, blue-cream aromas with a little “sharpness” detected by Jenn.  In the mouth the crisp, blue fruits mixed with controlled creaminess that disappeared abruptly mid-palate.  There were blue fruits, minerals, and some ink in the aftertaste.  This wine has good, enjoyable flavors, with an effortless delivery of flavor but there are some rough edges, such as a hint of alcohol.  Though the tannins are light this wine needs a few more years to come together. 

2010 Domaine Faury, Syrah, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes
This wine is 100% Syrah from vines located on le plateau rhodanien.  IGP Collines Rhodaniennes is a region that surrounds Cote-Rotie, Saint Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage,  Hermitage, and Cornas. In an email from Lionel Faury he explains that the vineyards for this wine are grown on top of hillsides, with deeper soils, and not the best sun exposure.  These vines were planted between 1995 and 2007 on granite soils.  He is allowed to produce 65hl/ha instead of the 40 hl/ha for St-Joseph so this enables the lower price for the wine. The wine was aged for 7-8 months in 7-20 year old demi-muids.   To “preserve the  freshness and the Syrah aromas” he used a short 10 day maceration time, lower fermentation temperature, and aging in the old demi-muids.

Right out of the bottle there are waves of youthful, Syrah grape aromas mixed with notes of pepper.  In the mouth there are pure flavors of fresh, dark grapes supported by juicy acidity, tart berries, and hints of sweet, powdery spice.  This wine has stuffing!  With air the grapey flavor continues to jump into your mouth and are eventually joined by notes of butter.  This is a lovely drink right now.

Two More Old Tasting Notes

Here are two more old posts from February 2008.  I believe I still have some Solitary Vineyards wine from Australia so I shall have to see if my suggestion of cellaring the wine is holding up.  And it is good to see my earliest note on Clos de Fees published in the French post.

Three Recent Australian Releases

Four From France

Two More Wines From The Bunnell Family Cellar

I was curious to try more of Bunnell’s wines after tasting the 2007 Syrah, Clifton Hill Vineyard that I had purchased on an earlier trip.  With Michael’s help at City Cellars in Seattle I was able to obtain these two selections.  The 2007 vif was purchased for $34 and the 2006 Syrah, Clifton Hills Vineyard for $42.

Jenn and I opened these bottled together.  Both wines were quite closed for the first half of an hour but then continued to open up over the next several hours.  You will be missing out if you drink a glass early on, these wines really do need air!  I recommend both of these wines.  If you have never drunk a Bunnell wine before then start with the vif.  Even though it is almost $10 cheaper it is a cracking good wine.  Actually, I give a slight tilt towards the vif since it does not have the sweet notes I found in the 2006 and 2007 Syrahs.

2007 The Bunnell Family Cellar, vif, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 60% Syrah, 27% Mourvedre, and 13% Petite Sirah.  The Syrah was sourced from the Horse Heaven Hills and the Wahluke Slope.  The Mourvedre and Petite Sirah were sourced from the Wahluke Slope.  The specific vineyards are the Andrews-Rowell, Northridge, and Stonetree.  The wine was aged for 17 months in American and Hungarian oak.  There were 367 cases produced.  The nose eventually revealed focused aromas of lavender, herbs de Provence, and roasted earth.  According to Jenn, the wine was medium-bodied but was light in fruit-weight.  There were some flavors of smoke, a salty profile, and a savory aftertaste.  With air it put on weight and became a little spicy.  Good stuff!  This is more approachable right now than the Syrah.

2006 The Bunnell Family Cellar, Syrah, Clifton Hill Vineyard, Wahluke Slope
This wine is 97% Syrah and 3% Viognier that were cofermented.  The grapes were sourced from the Clifton Hill Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope.  The wine was aged in American and Hungarian oak.  There were 204 cases produced.  On the first night there were some banana notes mixed with Bazooka Joe.  The fruit is more concentrated than the vif.  On the second night the fruit was pleasingly weighty with flavors of sour cherry mixed with smoky earth.  The tannins are soft and integrated in this harmonious wine.  I would age this another year or two but if you drink it now then decant the wine for several hours.

Old Tasting Notes

It has been two months since I last published Old Tasting Notes.  So as not to clog subscriber’s inboxes I will be publishing ten sets of notes throughout the week.  These notes were written from December 2007 through April 2008 and were posted on eBob.  While I started consistently writing  notes in 2005 it was not until 2007 that I started to post them online.  This period predates my habit of taking pictures of bottles so these posts are just plain text.  I hope you enjoy them!

Five Wines From France

Three Wines With Some Age

Two Affordable French Wines


2004 and 2007 Domaine Saint-Damien, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Rhone

August 9, 2011 1 comment

Domaine Saint-Damien is run by Joel and Amie Saurel.  The Saurel family had been tending vineyards for four generations and selling all of the grapes to negociants.  In 1978 Joel and his brother began to bottle wine produced from their vineyards.  The brothers split in 1987 with Joel staying at the domaine.  Because he primarily worked the vineyards the grapes were once again sold to negocients.  In 1996 he resumed producing wine at the estate and in 1998 they brought on consulting winemaker Philippe Cambie.  Today the estate is comprised of 42 acres of vineyards of which 30 are in Gigondas.  The domaine has started the biodynamic certification process which should be completed in 2013.

Joel Saurel, Image from Dme St-Damien

They produce two Cotes du Rhone cuvees Vieilles Vignes and La Bouveau.  In this post I review two vintages of the Vieilles Vignes.  This cuvee is a blend of ~80% Grenache, ~15% Carignan, and ~5% Mourvedre.  The grapes are sourced from parcels located on the Plan de Dieu near the commune of Violes.  The Plan de Dieu is a vast, wind-swept plain that extends west of Gigondas.  The soils are stony with deposits.  The Grenache vines were planted in 1959, the Carignan in 1948, and the Mourvedre in 1978.  The grapes are fermented in concrete vats then aged for six months in concrete vats.  The wine is bottled without fining or filtering.

Plan de Dieu, Image from Au Plaisir du Vin

I bought both of these wines from MacArthur’s.  The 2004 was purchased four years ago for $11 whereas the 2007 is currently available for $15.  We have drunk several bottles of 2007 since release and it is slowly opening up.  I think these are interesting, affordable wines from Cotes du Rhone that benefit from aging.  I would recommend trying the 2007 again in two to four years.  Note, some people might find the spritz off-putting.

2007 Domaine Saint-Damien, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Rhone
This wine threw sediment similar to the 2004.  There is a ripe nature to the aromas that jump out of the glass.  There is a subdued spritzy feeling that was consistent throughout the evening.  Every bottle I have drunk has been a little prickly or spritzy.  There are plenty of red and blue flavors that are sweeter and riper than the 2004.  Notes of incense come out as gobs of fine, drying tannins coat the mouth.

2004 Domaine Saint-Damien, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Rhone
This wine has thrown healthy amount of very fine tannins.  There is a nose of red plums.  In the mouth it is very youthful, with slightly chewy flavors of cranberry and red fruits with a hint of grapefruit.  The delicate spice mixed with fine coating tannins.   With air the fruit fades a bit as grapey flavor develop along with more spices.  There are hints of mature flavors.  This wine will clearly drink for many years to come.

Bubbles from Bugey

If there has been one house wine this year it is Patrick Bottex’s bubbly La Cueille from Bugey-Cerdon.  Since I published a tasting note during the earliest days of this blog we have drunk numerous bottles.  It has proved pleasing in all weather from the darkest downpours to triple-digit temperatures.  The price has creeped from $19 to $20 per bottle but it is still a great drink.

A Vineyard in Cerdon, Image by Pays du Cerdon

MacArthur’s recently put out bottles of Renardat-Fâche’s Bugey-Cerdon.  His cuvee is a blend of 90% Gamay and 10% Poulsard.  The Patrick Bottex wine is a blend of 80% Gamay and 20% Poulsard.  Both wines are made according to Methode Ancestrale.  This involves partially fermenting the grapes until the wine reaches approximately 6% ABV.  It is then lightly filtered and poured off into bottles to complete fermentation.  The result in a rose sparkling wine that has 7-8% ABV, is demi-sec due to the residual sugar, and offers up ample berry aromas and flavors.  In contrast, the Methode Champenoise involves the addition of yeast for a secondary fermentation in the bottle followed by riddling and disgorging to remove the lees and the addition of a dosage before the final corking.

This bottle is imported by Louis/Dressner Selections and available at MacArthur’s for $20.  I prefer the Bottex bottle as it is more complex in flavor and the bubbles are not so excessive.  However, if you are itching to try some Bugey-Cerdon and the store or restaurant only serves Renardat-Fache, it is worth the purchase.

NV Domaine Renardat-Fache, Bugey-Cerdon
This wine is a pink-amber color that is richer than the Bottex.  There is a sweet nose with some earthiness.  There are ripe, sweet flavors of strawberries and almost overwhelming carbonation that is mouthfilling.  Eventually the carbonation subsides to fine, creamy bubbles.  There are sweet berries in the aftertaste.

Two Californian Wines From 1999

I do not believe in only posting tasting notes about good wines.  By omitting any tasting note there is less information about that particular wine and an incomplete profile of my tasting preferences.  If I cannot find a review about a wine then I do not know if it was awful, strange, or so good that people are being secretive.  The Washington, DC area has a tremendous selection of wines and this exciting variety means that the various wine merchants may not have up to date knowledge or any knowledge about a particular selection.  Even quick internet searches may be unfruitful.  As a result the tasting notes in this blog will cover all of the wines that I drink, both good, awful, and past prime. 

These two wines were purchased last month from MacArthur’s.  The Philippe-Lorraine cost $20 and the Lane Tanner cost $18.  The Philippe-Lorraine is a decent buy for a fully mature Napa Cab but the lack of acidity distracted me a bit.  Avoid the Lane Tanner.

1999 Philippe-Lorraine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
This wine is produced at Baxter Winery by Phil Senior and Phil Junior.  The wines are a tribute to maternal grandparents Philippe and Lorraine.  This wine started with a meaty nose combined with roast earth.  There were initial flavors of black fruits in this medium-bodied wine.  The flavors bordered on savory with chewy, ripe tannins.  There was not enough acidity so the flavors became soft as hints of stone came out.  The mouthfilling aftertaste revealed cedar, a bit of green blackcurrant, and some spice.  The flavors did grow with air.  I would venture that this bottle is just past its peak and is in gentle decline so drink up.

1999 Lane Tanner, Syrah, French Camp Vineyard, San Luis Obispo
This wine is 100% Syrah from the French Camp Vineyard which is located on a high-plateau in the mid-eastern portion of the county.  The grapes are aged for 12 months in 30% new French and American oak barrels.  One or two barrels were heavy char to give a “smoky-bacon fat smell” to the wine.  The goal is to produce an elegant, accessible wine.  This wine had volatile aromas on the nose that acted as a warning sign.  In the mouth there were flavors of sour fruits.  This wine was clearly over the hill and not pleasant to taste.  I corked the bottle and dumped the rest of my glass.