Almost nine months ago I created this blog and published my first post describing my introduction to wine tasting at Bristol University. Since then I have published over 400 posts and even persuaded my sister-in-law Julie to post about Swiss wines. While these posts primarily discuss contemporary wine notes I have also included old tasting notes from the past two decades, posts about the history of wine, and my personal history with wine. According to WordPress statistics my site visits have increased from approximately 600 in the first month to approximately 3,500 per month. The World Flag Counter reports these visits encompass 108 different countries! While I receive constant hits due to Google searches I believe the growth is primarily attributed to the use of Twitter and Facebook. When the blog approached its sixth month I hired Madd Design to create a new look. Energized by my new logo I continued posting at the rate of six days per week.
It is exciting that family and friends read this blog along with people in the wine business and other enthusiasts. None of this would be possible without the support I receive. I must thank Shane for sourcing single bottles of wine, Phil for constantly bringing in new wines at the store and checking my German spelling, for my mom who has given me many books for research, Lou for sharing fabulous bottles and his willingness to constantly taste wine, and finally to Jenn whose idea it was to create this blog. For every wine I write about Jenn was at my side tasting it as well, listening to my description and offering her own impressions. And to the littlest expert that I know, my daughter Lorelei, who sometimes puts up with my requests to smell a glass of wine and provide a comment.
My daughter loves to watch ballet so she was quite excited to visit Degas’s Dancers at the Barre exhibition which is entering its final week at The Phillips Collection. Ever curious to know what she is going to eat next we mentioned visiting the Shake Shack. In between looking at a few pictures and watching clips from Swan Lake she kept asking for her shake. We made sure to be at the restaurant entrance a few minutes before they opened and found several other people waiting as well.
Discovering that Shake Shack has its own label of wine produced by Frogs Leap Winery I knew I just had to try it with my lunch. I eventually decided that a half bottle of wine was not required for my 11am lunch so I settled on an $8 glass of the Cabernet Franc. Wine is served in the unbreakable, reusable or recyclable, govino glasses. The glass worked out well, it allows you to smell and savor the wine instead of just chugging it. And there is a convenient finger dimple so you can maintain your grip when your fingers are covered in cheese sauce. The wine was a bit warm so I added an ice cube which really helped balance it out. It is a fairly robust wine that stood up to my cheeseburger, fries, hotdog, and condiments. We all walked away pleased, wishing that a branch would open in our neighborhood.
2008 Shake Shack, Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley
Produced by Frogs Leap Winery. This wine has a nose of ripe fruits along with wood notes. In the mouth there are robust black berries which turn high-toned and tart midpalate. Notes of cocoa and stones mix with medium tannins and steely stones in the aftertaste.
I had every intention of publishing this post yesterday but there was no Verizon FIOS service until this morning! I have fallen a bit behind in tasting German Rieslings. This is solely the result of working our way through a wealth of excellent and affordable red wines. Phil recommended I give this new bottle from Peter Lauer a go. I immediately chilled the wine and started drinking it this week. Because I tend to drink Riesling at distinct intervals I am always pleasantly reminded at how beautiful they may be: strong aromatics, rich flavors, precise acidity, and they drink well for several days in a row.
This is my first experience with a wine from Peter Lauer. Florian Lauer, the son of Peter Lauer, is the fifth generation winemaker for this domaine. The domaine is composed of 7.5 hectares primarily located in the single-vineyard Ayler Kupp. In 1971 German wine law grouped 15 different sites into one called Ayler Kupp. Florian maintains the tradition of his father and grandfather by labeling his wines with the original barrel numbers known as “Fass”. His wines focus on dry and off-dry styles, employing indigenous yeasts, long aging sur lie, and the use of old oak fuders and tanks.
The majority of the wines are sold at the hotel-restaurant that Peter and Florian maintain. A portion of the wines are imported by Mosel Wine Merchants. This bottle is available for $19 at MacArthurs. If you want to read more about Peter Lauer then I highly recommend you check out his website, the Mosel Wine Merchants website, and Lyle Fass’ excellent blog Rockss and Fruit. Oh yeah, make sure you open a few bottles to taste while you read. I know that I will try some of his other 2010s!
2010 Peter Lauer, Barrel X, Saar
In Germany this wine is labeled as Alt Scheidt. This wine is 100% Riesling produced from fruit sourced primarily from the Ayler Scheidtberg. The fruit is fermented with indigenous yeasts. The nose contains lovely stones. In the mouth the precise fruit makes way to a beam of acidity as ripe fruit comes out midpalate. The texture is pebbly with plenty of minerals as acidity coats the sides of the tongue. The fruit has appealing weight. With air the fruit takes on pineapple and apricot flavors. Though this is a feinherb (off-dry) style with residual sugar, perhaps resulting in the “ripe fruit” impression I got, this drinks dry. *** Now-2017.
This wine from Bodegas Valsacro is imported by Kysela Pere et Fils and available for $20 at MacArthurs. The estate is located in the southwestern corner of Rioja Baja. The family has been in the wine industry for generations and has worked hard over the last 15 years to transform the estate. The vineyards are a combination of old field blends, 28-year-old Tempranillo parcels, and 25-year-old Mazuela parcels.
The Dioro wine is produced following a four-stage selection process: an initial field selection of fruit, a table selection, a tank selection, and finally a barrel selection. As a result, only the best fruit and wine is used for the Dioro. This is certainly worth drinking if you are looking to try a modern style Rioja. While I prefer more traditional Rioja, I enjoyed this wine and was particularly captivated by the interesting nose.
2005 Bodegas Valsacro, Dioro, Rioja
The previous vintages was produced from 40% Tempranillo, 40% Garnacha, 10% Graciano, and 10% Mazuela. The wine is aged for 12-14 months in new French oak barrels. With a short amount of air this became an interesting wine with a meaty nose containing notes of salty Old Bay seasoning. In the mouth this modern wine has salty dark red fruit and good ripeness that is balanced with acidity. Though it is still quite dense and will benefit from short-term aging, it is quite a good drink right now. **(**) 2015-2020.
This bottle from Domaine Maestracci is imported by Kermit Lynch and available at MacArthurs for $13. I recently grabbed this bottle of Corsican wine off the shelves of MacArthurs. My recent Corsican wine experience is limited to a red by Yves Leccia and a rose by Antoine Arena. This wine is produced from vines located in Vin de Corse-Calvi subregion. This area is located in the north-western portion of Corsica located around the town of Calvi. Domaine Maestracci’s vineyard is located on the granite Reginu plateau. The domaine originated as an olive grove and mill until it was sold to Roger Maestracci in 1945. The domaine was converted to a vineyard and winery and in the 1980s Roger retired and son-in-law Michel Raoust took over.
The flavor profile of this wine was a pleasing surprise. This wine is both light and refreshing but contains a serious undertone throughout. A small portion of the wine comes from the Sciaccarellu varietal which is unique to Corsica. Whereas Niellucciu is the cousin of Sangiovese there are no known cousins for Sciaccarellu. According to “The Oxford Companion to Wine” this varietal can produce deeply flavors but lighter color wine. If you want to try something new or take a refreshing change from the Southern Rhone then grab a few bottles of this well priced wine.
2010 Domaine Maestracci, Clos Reginu, Corse Calvi
This wine is a blend of 30% Niellucciu, 30% Grenache, 15% Sciaccarellu, 15% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre, and 5% Carignan. The fruit is sourced from the domaine’s youngest vines, 5-25 years of age, grown on soils of sandy clay on granite. The wine is aged for six months in stainless steel. This drank well over two nights. The wine is a light ruby color with a grape/purple tinge. There is a light, gritty nose with a rich undertone that is both familiar and different. The flavors initially build to red fruit, pepper, with little waves from the Southern Rhone. These lighter flavors are structured with drying tannins. There are impressions of richness followed by supple black cherry, hard stones, pepper, and a leaner aftertaste. *** Now-2015.
Castilla y Leon is the largest autonomia in Spain. Located in the north-west portion of the country, it contains such Denominacion de Origen (DO) as Bierzo, Toro, Rueda, Cigales, and Ribera del Duero. The Mas de Leda is a Vino de la Tierra (VT) which is technically a quality step down from a DO. While a VT Castilla y Leon may be produced from grapes sourced throughout the autonomia, the Mas de Leda fruit is sourced from vineyards near Ribera del Duero. This region is characterized by flat-topped mountains and hills at altitudes of 700-800 meters. The climate is more moderate with dry summers, wet falls, and short, cold winters. Tempranillo is locally known as Tinta del Pais and does not produce excessively alcoholic wines. Ribera del Duero is located east of the Toro DO where the Cal Blanca vineyard is located. The Toro region is characterized by mostly flat terrain at altitudes of 620 – 750 meters. There is little rain, the summers are dry and hot with the winters hard and full of frosts. The variant of Tempranillo that is grown here is locally known as Tinta de Toro. After centuries of acclimatization Tinta de Toro may naturally produce potent wines of 16 to 17% alcohol.
The Mas de Leda is imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners, locally distributed by Bacchus Importers Ltd, and available for ~$22. The Cal Blanca is imported by Ole, locally distributed by Bacchus Importers Ltd, and available for ~$15. While the Mas de Leda could benefit from a few years of age to tame the tannins there was a bit too many wood notes for my taste. The Cal Blanca is a balanced, thoroughly enjoyable wine that benefits from the high altitude fruit. While it is drinking well now it will develop for a few more years. I definitely recommend you try this well-priced wine.
2007 Bodegas Leda Vina Viejas, Mas de Leda, VDT Castilla y Leon
This wine is 100% Tempranillo sourced from 40 small vineyard plots throughout Castilla y Leon. These plots are typically located near the Ribera del Duero DO through some are from Toro DO. The wine is aged for 12 months in French and American oak barrels. This is a rich Tempranillo with dusty textured fruit. There are initial notes of wood mixed with sweet, grapey tannins that coat the lips in the aftertaste. On the second night there is a Port-like nose followed by a good mouth feel in this structured wine. There are flavors of blackberries, balsamic notes, and grainy drying tannins. *(*) 2014-2017.
2009 Cal Blanca, Toro
This wine is 100% Tempranillo sourced from the Cal Blanca vineyard located in the Cerro del Almendro area in Toro. This vineyard was planted in 1985 at an elevation of 800 meters on soils of chalky, limestone. This is one of the highest vineyards in Toro. The wine is aged for 6 months in two-year old French oak barrels followed by three months in 5,000 liter concrete tanks. This showed dark red fruit that has a pebbly texture. There is good weight to this concentrated wine with supportive acidity coming out in the finish. On the second night the dark red fruit mixed with blue fruit in a smooth, supple manner. The first sip is a bit tart then there steely minerals come out midpalate followed by grapey tannins that coat the lips. **(*) Now-2017.
Being Christmas Lou thought it would be fun to drink some nice wines of his. I am always happy to drink any wine that he brings over so I quickly agreed. When he suggested Aubert, Cayuse, and a Burgundy I became quite excited. A couple years ago I attended a high-end California Chardonnay tasting and absolutely loved the wines of Aubert. I have been itching to drink Aubert with Jenn ever since then. My Cayuse experience was limited (still is) but there was a bottle of 2003 Cayuse, En Chamberlin sitting in my basement, which was a generous gift from Julia, so I made good on an old promise to open the bottle with Lou. The other selections for our tasting solidified rapidly.
We double-decanted all of the red wines except for the 1995 Domaine Chauvent-Chaupin which was simply popped and poured. Due to hectic schedules the 2003 Cayuse had approximately one hour of air before the other red wines were opened. The red wines were served blind with the Pinot Noirs in the first flight and the Syrahs in the second flight. My notes are in the order the bottles were tasted.
This was an enjoyable evening. The Aubert was absolutely irresistible. The two from Cayuse were layered and complex, allowing for innumerable small sips of enjoyment. Towards the end of the evening I found myself drinking the Chauvenet-Chopin because its lighter maturity was refreshing.
The Aubert Starter
2008 Aubert, Larry Hyde & Sons, Carneros
There was the typical, slightly cloudy color of light yellow straw. The rich nose was muted compared to the palate. In the mouth there was initially a little, light spritz followed by tropical white fruit, some sweetness with a rich mouth filling body. Then it turns a little watery midpalate before a tremendous expansion marked by pleasing acidity on the middle of the tongue. The finish showed citrus-like fruit. There was an effortless and long-lasting aftertaste. I was surprised to see 15.8% ABV on the label. This was a beautiful wine that raised Jenn’s bar for Californian Chardonnay. Jenn thought it was an older vintage due to the complexity and type of flavors. Both she and Lou made sure not a single drop was left in the bottle. Lorelei commented “orange.” ****(*) Now-2016+.
The Pinot Noir Flight
I would venture that we all preferred the Chauvent-Chopin for the mature aspect of its nose and palate. While this will last for many years to come it was drinking quite well in the current state. The Firesteed came across as primary in comparison and in need of several years of age. Shane did tell me to cellar it for several more years but as it was the oldest Pinot Noir in my basement I just had to give it a try.
#1 – 1995 Domaine Chauvenet-Chopin, Vieilles Vignes, Nuits-Saint-George
This wine was imported by Robert Kacher Selections and purchased for $30 at MacArthurs. There was a consistent garnet color throughout the glass with a touch of cloudiness. The nose was mature with good notes of cedar. In the mouth it was fruitier and richer than the nose. The structured fruit made way to a racy finish, tannins, and an aftertaste of old ladies’ perfume. There was a fairly consistent profile throughout the evening. Jenn liked the earthniess and “salami” notes. Lorelei commented “brown.” This tasted tired on the second night. ** Now.
#2 – 2001 Firesteed, Citation, Pinot Noir
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels followed by seven years of bottle age before release. A vibrant garnet color with a pigeon blood core and youthful look. There was a fine scent to the nose. In the mouth it revealed richer red fruit but was simpler. Lorelei commented “Strawberry, pink.” In the end it was a nice wine but I gave a nod to the Chauvenet-Chopin. **(*) 2014-2019.
The Syrah Flight
We then moved on to the Syrah Flight. It was a relatively easy matter to identify what each of these three wines were for #3 and #5 bore a familiar resemblance with #4 showing less earthy, more pure, and primary fruit flavors. #3 looked and tasted a bit older than #5. All three wines were enjoyable and seemed to share one component, that of orange aromas in the nose. Though the Cayuse was a step up from the Ross Andrew, the later was still a good drink and counterpoint.
#3 – 2003 Cayuse, Syrah, En Chamberlin Vineyard, Walla Walla
The fruit is sourced from the rocky 10 acre En Chamberlin vineyard planted in 2000. This was quite opaque with a garnet rim that made me guess it was older. There were flavors of roasted fruit, earth, and prominent notes of “olives and herbs” according to Jenn (but not in an underripe manner). There were some orange and mango flavors along with smoke, darker fruit, and roast in this savory wine. On the second night this showed more age. **** Now-2017.
#4 2008 Ross Andrew, Syrah, Boushey Vineyard, Columbia Valley
This wine is 100% Syrah produced from three different clones sourced from the Boushey vineyard. The wine is aged for 14 months in 70% French 320 liter barrels. This was the youngest looking wine in the glass. The medium nose was fruitier, more pure, and higher pitched than #3 and #5. This wine was still primary with a rich, fruity personality, some sweet flavors, nice texture, and a little heat. Still vigorous and lively on the second night. ***(*) Now-2017.
#5 2007 Cayuse, Syrah, Armada Vineyard, Walla Walla
The fruit is sourced from the extremely dense, 16 acre Armada vineyard planted in 2001. This was a little lighter in color than the 2003 but only just. In the mouth the rich, delicately textured fruit was perfumed with a sweetness that Jenn found akin to “chewing gum” but in a good manner. More youthful than the 2003 with a rough finish this wine had an incredibly expansive, persistent aftertaste. I found the wine savory and Jenn loved the saltiness. It was still rocking on the second night. ****(*) Now-2022.