Archive for March, 2013

Rulo Winery: Worthy of the Cellar


I have been drinking the wines of Rulo Winery for a few years.  Typically I drink the Syrca and Syrah, usually in my hotel room in Seattle.  With Maryland allowing direct shipping I thought it would be fun to tasted a range of their wines back home with Jenn.  Rulo Winery is the product of Kurt and Vicki.  They built the winery with their own funds, vinifiy the wines themselves, and even distribute them.  The fruit is sourced from strong vineyards and I think this shows in the quality of the flavors.  What also shows in the red wines are an ample dose of very fine, powerful tannins.  It is true that this may be distracting at times but it is best to let these age for the short-term.  If you must try a bottle then do so with food.  These wines were purchased from Rulo Winery.


2011 Rulo Winery, Grenache Blanc, Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley – $25
This wine is 100% Grenache Blanc sourced from the Boushey Vineyard.  Alcohol 13.2%.  The color was a very light straw.  The light to medium nose was evocative of Sauvignon Blanc with its vibrant, fresh grassy aromas.  In the mouth there were similarly crisp flavors of pink grapefruit, vibrant acidity, and a tangy finish.  It revealed some ripe texture in the aftertaste.  ** Now.


2011 Rulo Winery, Chardonnay, Birch Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley – $20
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the Birch Creek Vineyard.  Alcohol 14.1%.  The color was a very light yellow straw.  The light nose was of white and yellow fruit along with some toast.  There was bright white fruit in the mouth which slowly built controlled ripeness.  There was creamy weight, spices, and texture along with vibrant acidity.  With air peach flavors came out and some juiciness.  This showed good integration of acidity and spices.  *** Now-2016.


2009 Rulo Winery, Syrca, Columbia Valley – $16
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills and 30% Syrah sourced from Red Mountain.  It was aged for 26 months in 50% new French oak.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The color was a medium purple, black cherry.  There was tight, dark red fruit in the mouth which left a sense that the wine was firming up.  There was a hint of vanilla, good acidity, and very fine, powerful tannins which coated and dried the cheeks.  **(*) 2014-2018.


NV Rulo Winery, WCF, Columbia Valley – $25
This wine is a blend of 64% 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from The Benches in Horse Heaven Hills and 36% 2009 Syrah sourced from Clifton Vineyard in Wahluke Slope.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The color was a medium+ purple, grapey darkness.  The nose was light and tight with savory aromas of vanilla and black fruit.  In the mouth the Cabernet Sauvignon comes out with black red fruit.  The wine is weighty and a touch savory as some vanilla comes out.  It becomes bigger and riper as a wave of flavor fills the mouth.  There were very fine, tannins which, though riper than the Syrca, still dried the mouth in the aftertaste.  *** Now-2017.


2009 Rulo Winery, Syrah, Columbia Valley – $25
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from River Rock in Walla Walla, Ranch at the End of the Road in Red Mountain, and Clifton Hill Vineyard in Wahluke Slope.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose preceeds the mouth with its slightly creamy blue and black fruit.  There was a little vanilla flavor before spicy tannins from oak came out.  It showed more structure with air in the way of very fine, powerful tannins.  The finish mixed a dark note with Big Red spices.  Stick this in the cellar.  **(*) 2018-2030.


2009 Rulo Winery, Silo, Clifton Hill Vineyard, Columbia Valley – $30
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from the Clifton Hill Vineyard.  Alcohol 14.7%.  The color was a medium+ black cherry with a purple rim.  The start was a little tart with fresh red and black fruits, showing some controlled ripe, red fruit in the middle.  There were concentrated black fruit and minerals that were well integrated with salivating acidity on the sides of the tongue.  The minerally and steely finish made way to an aftertaste with very fine, powerful tannins.  Despite this dose of tannins the fruit readily absorbed it.  *** Now-2025.


Cloudy Bay: An Intimate Lunch with Ian Morden

March 28, 2013 1 comment
Vineyard, Image from Cloudy Bay

Vineyard, Image from Cloudy Bay

Captain Cook set sight on Cloudy Bay on Wednesday, the 7th of February 1770.  In his journal he noted, “…the snowy Mountain S.W. being…abreast of a Deep Bay or inlet called Cloudy bay…”.  Some 200 years later in 1985 the Cloudy Bay Vineyards was founded by David Hohnen.  Cloudy Bay quickly became infamous for its Sauvignon Blanc.  It was served aboard the first British Airways round-the-world flight of the Concorde. Unfortunately, after departing Christchurch a tail rudder incident caused those glasses of Sauvignon Blanc to fly about the cabin.  The trajectory of its popularity continued to ascend such that we find Jamie Goode commenting in 2000 that it was so popular in England that wine merchants were finding all sorts of ways to ration the wine.  Less than one decade later Ian Morden became Estate Manager of Cloudy Bay.

Ian Morden

Ian Morden

I was quick to accept an invitation from Maria Denton, the Moet Hennessey Portfolio Manager at Washington Wholesale Liquor Company, to join her and Ian for a lunch at The Blue Duck Tavern.  I had it in mind I was attending a luncheon tasting with others in the business and I was the blogger.  With bag and Nikon slung over my shoulder I announced to the hostess that I was present for the Cloudy Bay Tasting and Lunch.  She was perplexed, there was no big tasting scheduled.  It began to dawn on me, I was having lunch with just Ian and Maria.

The Blue Duck Tavern was an apt choice for lunch.  With a menu full of locally sourced ingredients it reminded Ian of Forage Cloudy Bay.  In this event four groups set off in cardinal directions to gather ingredients for a meal.  At the end of the day all of the items are placed on a giant table so that the chefs may get to work. The food, of course, is complimented by the wines of Cloud Bay.  One effort to prevent cellar palate is the annual Pinot at Cloudy Bay.  In this event one to dozen Pinot Noirs sourced from around the world are served to an array of international guests in discrete tasting sessions.  Ian certainly drinks diversely and more than once per year.  He was quick to ask Maria and I for suggestions on local wineries he should visit and try.

We started our lunch with two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc both of which are sourced from the same vineyards.  The traditional Sauvignon Blanc was very aromatic and textured, what I would hope for from this wine.  But the mouth was surprising for it contained more texture and weight than I had expected.  Ian believes that Sauvignon Blanc should not just be about aroma and flavor but also of texture.  I can appreciate that desire as I like to pay attention to the feel of the wine on my tongue, gums, cheeks, and throat.  The structural component has been achieved in the last several vintages through barrel fermenting a small portion of the wine in old oak.  Barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc is not new to Cloudy Bay, it has been practiced for many years and is fully expressed in their Te Koko.  Legend has it that the explorer Kupe pursued a giant octopus across the Pacific Ocean ultimately killing it in the Marlborough Sounds.  For food Kupe dredged up oysters with a scoop in Cloud bay.  The Maori called this bay Te Koko-o-Kupe or Kupe’s scoop.  This wine is primarily barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc using indigenous yeasts.  Some of the lots took up to eight months to complete fermentation.  Whereas the traditional Sauvignon Blanc expresses itself best at a cool temperature, the Te Koko blossomed with air and warmth.  I kept my glass around for one hour and it was lovely, truly complex.

Ian is responsible for the management and strategy of Cloudy Bay.  He is also part of the four-person team responsible for the blending of the wines.  Tim Heath, Senior Winemaker, and his team of Nicholas Blampied- Lane and Sarah Burton are responsible for the wine making.  The strength of this team is evident in the first glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  The 2012 vintage was described by Tim Heath as “nerve-wracking”.  After a great start this vintage went on to experience the coolest temperatures and least amount of sunlight in eighty years.  The fruit took two weeks longer to mature but went on to experience one of the sunniest autumns.  Yields were reduced by 25%.


2012 Cloud Bay, Sauvignon Blanc –
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc which was primarily fermented in stainless steel with 3% fermented in old French oak barriques using inoculated yeast.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color was a very light straw with a hint of yellow.  The medium strength nose was aromatic with textured passion fruit.  As it warmed up the aromas became more pungent with notes of grass.  There was a crisp but weighty start to the flavors before the wine fully developed weight and texture midpalate.  There was a long aftertaste which left some citrus notes and fine acidity on the sides of the tongue.


2009 Cloudy Bay, Te Koko, Marlborough –
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc which was fermented using indigenous yeast in 90% used French oak barrels then underwent malolactic fermentation.  It was then aged on the lees.  Alcohol 14%.  The color was a light golden-yellow straw.  The light nose was more heavy with floral and salami aromas (sounds strange but is good).  There was very fresh fruit in the mouth with watering acidity and lifted berry notes in the middle.  The acidity came out on the sides of the tongue.  The finish brought flavors of white nuts, ripe tannins, and some tang.  This continued to develop in the glass over the course of lunch.

Their Chardonnay followed, which was a first for me.  The Chardonnay is sourced from Mendoza clones which provide many small berries that provide a higher skin to juice ratio.  Cloud Bay has already released the 2011 vintage but you should have no fear.  I thought the 2007 vintage drank quite well displaying balance between bottle age, barrel influences, and acidity.  I imagine it should drink well for another few years.


2007 Cloudy Bay, Chardonnay, Marlborough –
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was fermented using indigenous yeasts in mostly barrels with some stainless steel tanks using inoculated yeasts.  It was then aged for 12 months in 25% new French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.0%.  The color was a vibrant light gold.  The light nose revealed heavier, honied aromas with a touch of lees.  There was gentle dense weight to the flavors which were matched by building acidity.  There were slight barrel toast notes and a sense of maturity as stone flavors came out in the mouthfilling finish.

Barracks Block Vineyard, Image from Cloudy Bay

Barracks Block Vineyard, Image from Cloudy Bay

With our entrees arriving it was time to move on to Pinot Noir.  Cloudy Bay has been bottling Pinot Noir since 1989.  They source fruit for all of their wines from four estate vineyards and also growers.  Some of the growers have been providing fruit for over 20 years.  Over the years they have been exploring vineyard sites throughout Marlborough.  This has led them to the free draining soils of the Wairau Valley plains where the Sauvignon Blanc vineyards are located to the clay based soils of the Southern Valleys.  As a result the estate vineyards expanded in 2004 to include the Barracks Block Vineyard.  This was virgin soils which had never seen a vine so there was natural curiosity to taste the results.  They planted the entire vineyard with Pinot Noir choosing to use Burgundian clones.  The estate vineyards generally lie on alluvial gravels with some clay and they experience a maritime climate.  The fruit is cropped at 6 tons per hectare.  The Te Wahi, Maori for The Place,  is produced from vineyards in Central Otago.  Here the soils contains glacial schist with the climate being continental.  The fruit is cropped around 4.5 tons per hectare.  This was an interesting comparison.  The Marlborough Pinot Noir was brighter and redder than the perfumed Te Wahi which was savory with blacker fruit.


2009 Cloudy Bay, Pinot Noir, Marlborough –
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir which was destemmed and fermented using indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks.  It was lightly pressed then aged for 12 months in 50% new French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.1%.    The color was a light to medium garnet cherry.  There was bright red fruit in the mouth then dark red fruit flavors with integrated acidity.  There was long powdery texture and ripe flavors in the finish.


2010 Cloudy Bay, Te Wahi, Central Otago –
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir which was 95% destemmed then fermented in open top stainless steel tanks.  It was lightly pressed then aged for 14 months in 40% new French oak.  Alcohol 13.7%.  The color was a medium dark ruby, more intense than the previous wine.  The black and red fruited nose was very finely textured with aromas of stone and perfume.  There were firmer flavors of hard candy along with black and red fruit.  With air savory herbs developed along with perfume.  This is a young wine with strong potential.  Beautiful.

With our entrees cleared it was time for coffee, sugar cookies, and dessert wine.  If I may sum up their Late Harvest Botrytis Riesling it really tastes like Riesling from New Zealand.  The fruit which is harvested is mostly botrytised.  Whereas the Sauvignon Blanc may be harvested in March the Riesling will be harvested in May or even June.  Some of the fruit is unaffected and used for acidity.


2008 Cloudy Bay, Late Harvest Botrytis Riesling, Marlborough –
This wine is 100% Riesling of which most was botrytised.  The fruit was pressed overnight then fermented for 10 months in old French oak barrels.  Fermentation was arrested with sulphur.  TA 8.8 g/l, 3.2 pH, RS 128 g/l, Alcohol 11%.  There was a light gold color.  The light to medium nose was aromatic with citrus and grass, combining a sense of New Zealand but clearly Riesling.  There was good acidity in the mouth, textured flavors, and a little fresh, citrus note.  There was gentle botrytis flavor, perhaps tea, and acidity which came with a lifted citrus finish.


The wine caps feature a logo inspired by the dolphins which swim nearby.  Cloudy Bay even produces a sparkling wine named after Pelorus Jack, a dolphin which famously swam in the Cook Straight one century ago.  He was so beloved that he was protected by law.  Cloudy Bay is an historic winery which embraces local history.  With the newer vintages I think it is evident that Ian has balanced respect and change to subtly create new wines.

Pelorus Jack, Image from the State Library of South Australia, 1912. (Flickr Creative Commons License)

Pelorus Jack, Image from the State Library of South Australia, 1912. (Flickr Creative Commons License)

Four From France

March 27, 2013 1 comment

I need to clear out some recent tasting notes.  This is a good thing for these four wines were all enjoyable.  The Domaine Clos du Rouge Gorge was purchased at Chambers Street Wines with the rest at MacArthur Beverages.


2011 Terrasses du Frigoulet, Coteaux du Languedoc – $11
Imported by Monsieur Touton.  This wine is a blend of 35% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre.  The color was a light, grapey ruby.  The light nose was fresh and young with grapey fruit aromas.  The mouth follows the nose with some density, integrated acidity, and black berries.  There were some fine, spiced ripe tannins in the finish.  It shows some lift and good power.  *** 2014-2018.


2011 Domaine de Fondreche, Fayard, – $15
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 20% Mourvedre.  Alcohol 14%.  The light to medium strength nose came out of the glass with pungent aromas of berries.  There was ripe, almost sweet, mixed fruits in the mouth. It was a mouthful of flavor which was a little spicy, mixing with the robust berries.  The flavors turned blacker with some raciness.  Drying, ripe tannins came out in the sweet, spicy finish.  The aftertaste carried a spicy cinnamon note.  **(*) Now-2019.


2011 Domaine Clos du Rouge Gorge, Cotes Catalanes – $18
Imported by Fruit of the Vines.  This wine is 100% Grenache sourced from 25-year-old vines.  It was pressed by foot, vinified for three months in old wooden vats, then aged for eight months in stainless steel.  Alcohol 13%.  The color was an almost medium grapey ruby.  The light nose bore purple, grapey fruit and cherry perfume.  The mouth had grapey fruit with a medium bodied, young nature.  There was some lightness which matched the acidity on the tip of the tongue.  The flavors became drier towards the finish.  It eventually takes on a little, attractive earthy note.  **(*) 2014 – 2018.


2005 Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes, Vacqueyras – $25
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is a blend of 90% Grenache sourced from 90+ year old vines and 10% Syrah sourced from 30-year-old vines.  It was aged for one year in old oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose was light with black fruit and smoke.  In the mouth there was blue and black fruit along with Big Red flavors.  Despite the healthy dose of wood this was an attractive wine with its spicy oak notes.  There were fine, strong coating tannins and a little warmth in the finish.  It firmed up with air with the fruit becoming dense and leaving impressions of rough, wood box flavors.  *** Now-2023.


Tasting My First White Wine From Domaine de Mourchon

You will find tastings notes about Domaine de Mourchon throughout this blog.  Despite a good familiarity with this domain I had never tasted their white wine until the other week.  This bottle of 2010 La Source was pretty good!  This wine was sampled at MacArthur Beverages.


2010 Domaine Mourchon, La Source, Cotes du Rhone –
This wine is a blend of 55% Viognier, 25% Roussanne, and 20% Clairette and Bourboulenc sourced from 25-30 year old vines.  Alcohol 13%.  The color was a very light straw.  The light nose was floral with white fruit and honeysuckle.  The mouth follows the nose revealing white and stone fruits that have some weight.  There was fresh acidity throughout in this focused, clean, stone accented wine.  The flavors were mildly ripe with a touch of spice in the finish and decent grip.  It became chiseled with air.  *** Now-2014.

A New Vintage of La Grange de Piaugier

Bottles of La Grange de Piaugier appear frequently in our house.  With the 2011 vintage now available we tried a bottle alongside the previous vintage.  I first wrote about the 2010 vintage in my Two More 2010 Cotes du Rhone post published in May 2012.  Mostly recently the ripe fruit has subsided with the structure more obvious.  It appears to be going through a closed phase.  The 2011, on the other hand, is all about the fruit with almost lush berry flavors.  Tasted side by side you can tell these are sister wines and in a sense, very similar.  I prefer a bit more grip in a young Cotes du Rhone so despite being somewhat closed, I nod my head to the 2010.  If you enjoy the wines of Piaugier like us then drink the 2011 over the next year while the 2010 rests in your cellar.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2011 Domaine de Piaugier, La Grange de Piaugier, Cotes du Rhone – $12
Imported by DST Trading.  This wine is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault, and Syrah sourced from 15-45-year-old vines. The varietals are co-fermented with indigenous yeasts  in concrete vats before aging for 8 months in concrete vats.  Alcohol 14%.  The color was a light to medium ruby garnet.  The light to medium nose seemed reductive with pungent Grenache aromas.  The berry flavors remain strong in this young flavored wine.  It was a touch lush with plenty of juicy fruit, some texture, and grapey ripe tannins.  It eventually developed a tobacco-like note.  The structure is less evident and is not revealed until the end.  ** Now-2017.


2010 Domaine de Piaugier, La Grange de Piaugier, Cotes du Rhone – $12
Imported by DST Trading.  This wine is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault, and Syrah sourced from 15-45-year-old vines.  The varietals are co-fermented with indigenous yeasts  in concrete vats before aging for 8 months in concrete vats.  Alcohol 14%.  The color is a medium ruby purple.  The flavors start with red and black fruit.  Grapey tannins build from the start, covering the gums and lips, letting the structure show.  With air the wine becomes integrated as black fruit, tannins, and good acidity show balance.  **(*) 2014-2018.


A Twist on the Wines of Maury

March 26, 2013 1 comment

I had seen bottles of Orin Swift D66 wine on the shelves of Pete’s East Lake in Seattle.  I never bought a bottle but knew it was some sort of red wine from Roussillon.  If it were not for the price I would have tried this Roussillion wine made by the Californian winemaker Dave Phinny for I rather like the region.  Little did I know I was tasting another of Dave’s wines last week for in my mind D66 and Shatter were produced by two different winemakers.  Though Dave worked on both wines their pedigree is a little bit different.  Dave went on to build a winery in Maury and subsequently told Joel Gott about the region.  According to the website Joel became interested by the unique terroir and the incredibly concentrated fruit which could make the darkest of French wines. Thus excited Dave and Joel created Shatter with the involvement of Trinchero Family Estates.

Maury, Image from Shatter Wines

Maury, Image from Shatter Wines

I was not confused at first for the initial sips revealed a concentrated wine with intense fruit flavors and a black, mineral finish which clearly needed to be chilled down. It showed potential.  With air there was a distinct highly extracted, dried fruit quality to the wine.  It was not the sort of wine you could drink much of, it really was strong stuff.  Why would you make a wine with these sorts of flavors?  Surely this came from the 30 day period the fruit was cold-soaked before fermentation.  Descriptions of “intensely concentrated flavors” in the grape clusters and “further concentrate the wine” are found in the Fact Sheet.  This describes vinification more than intent.  The real answer lies with Maury, the region in the Roussillon where the fruit is sourced from.  Maury is known for fortified vin doux natural produced from primarily Grenache Noir, I make the distinction because Grenache Blanc, amongst others, is allowed as well.  Maury is vinified similar to Port in that fermentation is arrested through the addition of spirits but the initial aging period takes place in glass demi-johns.  After which it may be aged in wood.  A proper Maury must have an alcohol level of at least 15%.  Descriptions of raisin, prune, and fig may be found.

One of Orin's Vineyards in Maury, Image from Shatter Wines

One of Dave’s Vineyards in Maury, Image from Shatter Wines

Dave originally purchased 30 acres of vineyard then expanded his holdings to some 300 acres.  These are old vineyards which include vines planted between the two World Wars.  His yields are low, down to half a ton per acre.  The name of the wine Shatter is an English term for Coulure which is a carbohydrate deficiency in vines that causes the vine to conserve resources instead of developing the fruit.  Grapes may be dropped and sugar levels are reduced thus lowering yield.  I am unsure if they actually produce wine from Coulure affected vines nor if this type of deficiency makes good tasting fruit.  If  both are true then the name of the wine and label are interesting.

I think I approached this wine wrong.  I was not tasting a red wine, I was tasting a twist on the traditional fortified wines of Maury.  In Jancis Robinson’s article The archivist of Roussillon you may read that a Maury wine may not change even after two decades in barrel.  This is different.  It is evocative of Maury but may be drunk young and will certainly last for many days once the bottle is opened.  Do not try this with dinner for you will be perplexed.  Instead you should end your evening with a glass.  This wine was sampled at MacArthur Beverages.


2010 Sarl Fractured, Shatter, VdP Cotes Catalannes
Imported by USA Wine West.  This wine is 100% Grenache which was aged for 12 months in 75% new French oak.  Alcohol 15%.  The nose is eventually of dried fruit, cranberry-raspberry, and extracted aromas.  The flavors are an intense mixture of Christmas spice and berries with a underlying red fruit and blackness.  There were minerals and a little salty, weighty aspect which went with the cherry chocolate note.  I picked up a  dried fruit, concentrated feel.  The tannins were very smooth and ripe making way to a very long aftertaste.  This should last at least one decade.

The 2013 Wine Blog Awards Are Accepting Nominations

The 7th Annual 2013 Wine Blog Awards are now open for nominations.  If you enjoy reading this blog then please consider nominating it at Submit Your Favorite for any appropriate category.  Nominations will be accepted through March 31st.