Archive for March, 2016

I quickly finished my two bottles of 2011 Mark Herold, Flux

Lou picked up several bottles of the 2011 Mark Herold Wines, Flux from Last Bottle.  He shared two bottles with me, the second of which I drank within a few days of tasting the first bottle. My introduction to this particular wine occurred at the MacArthur Beverages California Barrel Tasting back in 2013.  I am a fan of this wine now just as I was three years ago.  It is a juicy, rugged wine with a lot to offer.


2011 Mark Herold Wines, Flux
This wine is a blend of 68% Grenache, 17% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre.  Alcohol 14.7%.  The nose is full of blue fruit aromas.  In the mouth is a juicy start of berry fruit.  The spine of acidity is integrated with a dry, tannic texture from the very start.  The blue fruit flavors pick up some luxurious cream with acidity to match.  This is still youthfully rugged with a dry spices and a cola hint in the finish.  *** Now – 2019.


Old-vine Crozes-Hermitage from Etienne Becheras

Crozes-Hermitage can offer a grapey, more approachable, and more affordable example of Northern Rhone Syrah.  The 2013 Etienne Becheras, Le Prieuré d’Arras, Crozes-Hermitage is an exception for it steps up the level of fruit without losing typicity of the region.  It drinks well over two nights providing an attractive balance of fruit, acidity, and structure that you will not mistake for any other area.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2013 Etienne Becheras, Le Prieuré d’Arras, Crozes-Hermitage – $25
Imported by Neal Rosenthal.  This wine is mostly Syrah from very old vines aged for 18 months in demi-muids.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There is a fine nose of grapey floral fruit with notes of white pepper.  In the mouth is surprisingly ripe black, grapey, floral fruit which is immediately accessible.  The watering acidity is perfectly integrated moving the wine towards the more linear, drier, appropriately tannic finish and grapey aftertaste.  *** Now – 2021.


Californian wines for Easter

March 28, 2016 1 comment

We kicked things off with Californian red wines for this Easter holiday which marks the start of spring break for the entire family.  Both of the wines featured in this post are full of flavor and made from a variety of grapes.  The 2012 Maldonado Family Vineyards, Farm Worker, Red Wine, Napa Valley leans towards the red and tart spectrum yet it still has the obvious yet supportive, oak influence.  I give it a preferential nod due to the acidity and raciness.  It should open up further over the next year or two.  The 2012 Bootleg Wine Works, Red Wine, Napa County leans towards the lush, sweet, blue fruited end of things.  If that is what you are looking for then pick up a bottle.  It drinks well from start to finish, effortlessly gliding down your throat.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 Maldonado Family Vineyards, Farm Worker, Red Wine, Napa Valley – $26
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel which was aged for 18 months in French oak. Alcohol 14.4%.  The flavors of tart, red powdery fruit, turns blacker towards the finish as it picks up soft cocoa flavored tannins.  The wine becomes  a little racy and rounded through the black fruited finish.  *** Now – 2020.


2012 Bootleg Wine Works, Red Wine, Napa County – $30
This wine is a blend of 36% Merlot, 28% Petite Sirah, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, and 4% Zinfandel.  Alcohol 15%.  The wine is almost thick with the extract of blue fruit and spices.  This lush and approachable wine leaves gum coating ripe tannins and cocoa flavors.  It is unabashedly from California.  **(*) Now.


So What About Those 2003 Chateauneufs

March 26, 2016 1 comment

My friend David is a member of the local tasting  group I mentioned in my previous post An amazing tasting of 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape including Rayas and Bonneau.  He is a long-time advocate of the 2003 vintage of which you may read about in his post below.

So Am I Wrong for Thinking the 2003 wines of Chateauneuf du Pape are Great?


Spending a few weeks in France and Switzerland that summer I simply couldn’t believe the relentless heat. I remember being in Paris in August and feeling almost a continual wall of heat building throughout the day and reaching extremes that were meteorologically impressive. The heatwave and accompanying drought engulfed most of Western Europe and the prognosis for the wine industry was not a good one. But winemakers oftentimes triumph over Mother Nature’s cruelty.

A lot of hard work – and some luck perhaps, was needed to bottle wines that were otherwise not overly alcoholic, raisinated, pruney or just sunbaked and sun-burned. French vigneron had to cope by managing a harvest that yielded fruit from the torrid heat of the growing season and from vines stressed from lack of hydration. The heat retentive galets in vineyards throughout the Rhone hardly dropped in temperature in the night. And the results? Well, the naysayers were quick to dismiss the vintage as a failure because of the climatic conditions. I think time has shown us that certain vineyard practices and just plain old great winemaking yielded some of the most profound wines ever from the region, vintage notwithstanding.

So what about those 2003 Chateauneufs? Well, many of the wines have turned out to be stellar examples of what makes Chateauneuf so great. Delicious southern Rhone Grenache, or Grenache with other varietals. Kirsch. Spice. Gamy. Earth. And that unmistakable Provencal garrigue. And more importantly, some of the 2003 Chateauneufs have proven to be just plain “great” wines, not just comparatively amongst its vintage peers in France, but in a decade of many stylistic changes in a region that continues to reinvent itself, these wines have stood the test of time over the last decade+ and are fabulous examples of what makes Chateauneuf du Pape such a special wine.

My favorites from the vintage: Usseglio Cuvee de Mon Aieul, Clos des Papes, Pegau, and Marcoux. I have also liked Cuvee du Vatican Sixtine, Vieux Telegraphe, and Vieux Donjon. Just a couple of weeks ago, and owing to the generosity of a friend, I had Rayas and Bonneau’s Marie Beurrier. Rayas is truly a singular wine and really can’t be compared to other wines of the appellation. Great stuff. And the Bonneau would rank among the greats of this much maligned vintage. What struck me most about this recent tasting was the freshness and youthfulness of the wine we tasted (I refer you to my friend Aaron’s notes for the specific wines we consumed). As a whole, none of the wines displayed signs of heat, nor were they boozy and overblown. In fact, structurally, they reminded me of the 2005s, but with more fruit and depth. And some of these wines were still quite young. The fruit will support further development on what we discovered were tannins that have proven themselves to be neither rough nor clunky, but rather sensual. These wines were a pleasure to drink. And thirteen years after the vintage, they have proven to be just stellar. The top wines of the vintage will drink for another decade, easy. That’s just how I feel.

An amazing tasting of 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape including Rayas and Bonneau

Due to the generosity of Roland and Andy, I have now tasted two bottles each from the legendary estates of Chateau Rayas and Henri Bonneau.   This double-barreled set of names should give you an indication of the type of wine these guys like to drink.  I first met them several years ago as a guest attendee of a local wine tasting group.  In this group, the host is responsible for selecting and presenting the wines blind as well as cooking dinner.  Both Roland and Andy are in this group for which I recently found myself at Andy’s house facing 11 brown-bagged bottles of wine.


Determining the theme of the tasting is always great fun.  In this case I was completely baffled after the first several wines.  The first wine came across as rather mature whereas others tasted very young.  A number of them were certainly Southern Rhone with Chateauneuf du Pape apparent once or twice.  It was clear to say there was enough diversity to prevent this from being a vertical but the variation in maturity precluded, in my mind, this from being a horizontal.  Needless to say I was surprised to find all of the wines were 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape!  This vintage is renowned for its warmth which produced many larger than life wines.  While many of these wines were very generous, none were overly ripe, raisinated, or simply over the top.  My clear favorites were the 2003 Chateau Rayas, Reserve, Chateauneuf du Pape and 2003 Henri Bonneau, Marie-Beurrier, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The Rayas is a real treat with both elegance and breath-taking complexity.  There is nothing un-Rayas about this wine, I even noted “Rayas like” while working through the bagged wines.  The Bonneau is similarly elegant but with more structure and need for age.  It was my second favorite of the night, if only because it is less evolved.  While we had a dude and a few underperforming bottles, as a whole it was it was a great tasting.  For a fruitier, mature wine to drink now I strongly suggest the 2003 Domaine Charvin, Chateauneuf du Pape.

Many thanks to Andy for generously opening up so many awesome wines.  For a general perspective of these wines please see David Bloch’s post So What About Those 2003 Chateauneufs?


2003 Domaine Charvin, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Adventures in Wine.  With a mature color this is also rather mature on the nose.  The wine is lovely in the mouth with black fruit, nice complexity, integrated acidity, and a mineral finish.  Upon revisiting this still shows sweet fruit which is purple in the finish but is it also the most advanced. ****


2003 Le Vieux Donjon, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Premier Cru.  Alcohol 14%.  The youthful color matches the purple, grapey aromas on the nose.  In the mouth this is a dense wine with hints of sweet, cherry fruit, and some herbs with a fine, dry dose of tannins.  It has a bitter and puckering finish with a black fruited aftertaste.  ***(*)


2003 Domaine de Vieux-Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The subtle nose makes way to sweeter flavors of blue fruit and garrigue.  The wine builds from a bitter note to one of a beautiful finish with a  sweet, ripe aftertaste and very fine tannins.  ***(*)


2003 Domaine du Pegau, Reservee, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 14%.  The good nose makes way to a ripe, fruity start.  Though there is dark, red fruit and spices, this does not show the same depth of the other bottles.  It ends with very fine, super strong tannins.  Not as good and must be an underperforming bottle.  Not Rated.


2003 Domaine de la Janasse, Vieilles Vignes, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 15%.    The ripe, blue fruit flavors tasted cool and clean with an attractive garrigue note.  The wine gathers strength and complexity towards the finish with good fruit and a dose of tannins.  Slightly evocative of the sea. ****


2003 Henri Bonneau, Cuvee Marie-Beurrier, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Alain Junguenet Selection imported by Wines of France.  Alcohol 14%.  The old school aromas are a touch spicy.  In the mouth the are flavors of red fruit and Big Red which expand in the middle, filling the mouth with elegant flavors.  This young wine has good acidity, somewhat dry flavors then fine, ripe tannins.  There is good complexity from the start.  In comparison this shows more structure than the Rayas.  ****(*).


2003 M. Chapoutier, Barbe Rac, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Bordeaux Wine Locators. Alcohol 15.5%.  This is an aromatic wine with plenty of attractive, sweet, ripe fruit flavors in the mouth.  There is a hint of licorice as the finish reveals even more power.  There is a dose of tannins at the end but the fruit easily matches it.  This chewy and sappy wine is forward drinking but lacks the depth of others.  ***(*)


2003 Domaine Bois de Boursan, Cuvee De Felix, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This tastes young with fresh red fruit, a hint of earth, and tons of very fine tannins.  Very nice but also very young. ***(*)


2003 Usseglio, Cuvee de mon Aieul, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Alain Junguenet Selection imported by Wines of France.  The good nose reveals red strawberry aromas.  There is a gentle, ripe strawberry flavored start which is sexy with great quality of fruit.  The wine builds depth with good strength and watering acidity to propel it along.  Fine tannins eventually move in along with a hint of heat. ****


2003 Chateau Rayas, Reserve, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Martine’s Wines.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose is so different being evocative of cardamom and flowers.  In the mouth this gorgeous, elegant wine is not about power.  It is a touch linear now from youth.  The flavors are driven by almost watering acidity effortlessly bringing up flavors of camphor and complex earth all the way through the aftertaste.  This will age very well.  ****(*)


2003 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The muted nose made way to a puckering wine of simple tight red fruit.  Not right.  Not Rated.

A pair of young Rhones

I have just a quick post for today.  The 2013 Lavau, Gigondas is a clean, contemporary Gigondas which you can drink right now.  It still sports some robustness to carry you through these chilly Spring days.  I think there is a touch more potential with the 2014 Domaine de Berane, Les Blaques, Cotes de Ventoux.  With air it shows an appealing mixture of intensity, weight, and creaminess.  If you can only afford one bottle then grab this one.  It will show best in a year or two so if you try it now then give it several hours of air.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2013 Lavau, Gigondas – $20
Imported by Monsieur Touton.  This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This is a creamy with fruit that tastes of young vines.  The tart flavors mix with baking spices and plenty of ripe tannins which provide for a somewhat robust finish.  Quite appealing in an easy drinking way.  **(*) Now – 2021.


2014 Domaine de Berane, Les Blaques, Cotes de Ventoux – $15
Imported by Wine Traditions.  This wine is a blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache which is fermented and aged in cement tanks.  There is intensity to the grapey, black fruit which is supported by mid palate weight.  With it there is a Big Red and citrus pith note in the middle.  With air it takes on a little cream and a touch more weight.  **(*) Now – 2022.


First signs of maturity in the 2008 Ferrari-Carano, Prevail

I remember drinking early vintages of Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon purchased from the Village Corner wine shop in Ann Arbor.  This was during my university days when my friend and I would purchase a bottle or two of wine for the weekend.  I have not drunk much from Ferrari-Carano since then.  Most recently, Andy recommended the 2008 Ferrari-Carano, Prevail, West Face, Alexander Valley.  I double-decanted the wine, which after a few hours of air became a rather good wine with more complexity than I expected.  This Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blend works well with the new French oak.  It is a savory wine to enjoy over the next several years. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2008 Ferrari-Carano, Prevail, West Face, Alexander Valley – $35
This wine is a blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon and 44% Syrah that was aged for 22 months in a mixture of new and used French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.8%.  The rounded savory flavors already show good complexity.  The wine mixes licorice, leather, and baking spices with tangy fruit. It needs a few hours of air but will greatly benefit from another year or two in the cellar.   ***(*) Now – 2022.



Steller NY Gewurztraminer, CA Carignan, and one more

Lou and I squeezed in a tasting this past week based around New York Gewurztraminer and California Carignan.  Lou purchased his bottle of 2007 Red Newt Cellars, Gewurztraminer, Sawmill Creek Vineyards, Finger Lakes when he visited the winery last year.  Lou enjoyed it at the winery and I certainly enjoyed it at his house.  This is a top-notch, special wine.  It is mature in aroma and flavor but the wine is still very fresh with a seductive mouthfeel.  It is an eye-opening wine from the Finger Lakes but more importantly, it is a great glass of wine!


For the reds we started with 2012 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Patelin de Tablas, Paso Robles.  There was a time when Jenn and I drank the Cotes de Tablas as our daily table wine.  Prices eventually crept up so we now drink Tablas Creek wines with less frequency.  The 2012 vintage of the Patelin de Tablas is a fruity, forward wine which you may drink or gulp from the very first glass.   There is even good complexity to hold up to scrutiny and a friendly price.  The 2012 Sandlands Vineyards, Carignane, Sonoma County was certainly my favorite red wine of the night.  With a meaty nose, this floral flavored wine combined both power and elegance.  All of the Sandlands wines are fascinating!  From the same vintage, the 2012 Lioco, Indica, Mendocino County offers tart, citric, red fruit but also has a rounded body.  This bottle is completely different expression of Carignan, that being of pure fruit flavors.


2007 Red Newt Cellars, Gewurztraminer, Sawmill Creek Vineyards, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 13.8%. The nose was immediately aromatic with honeysuckle.  The acidity is present from the very start as nut accented, tropical flavors develop.  The wine is very fresh with a seductive, glycerin mouthfeel.  Drinking very well right now.  **** Now – 2021.


2012 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Patelin de Tablas, Paso Robles
This wine is a blend of 53% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 18% Mourvedre, and 2% Counoise.  Alcohol 13.8%.  The dusty red fruit aromas took on some cherry and plum notes.  In the mouth this gentle, ripe flavored wine is an all-round good drinker for the next few  years.  It is a touch soft with only a moderate amount of tannins.  Why hold back?  **(*) Now – 2017.


2012 Sandlands Vineyards, Carignane, Sonoma County
This wine is 100% Carignane.  Alcohol 14.2%.    The meaty aromatic nose makes way to somewhat firm, red fruited start in the mouth.  There is more intensity with fuzzy, fruitier flavors matched by good acidity and structure.  The mouthfeel is attractive.  The wine develops a polished wood note, showing more fruit, a strong floral component, and certainly more power.  ***(*) Now – 2021.


2012 Lioco, Indica, Mendocino County
This wine is 100% old-vine Carignan that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 11 months on the lees in neutral oak.  Alcohol %.  Aromatic.  In the mouth there is a somewhat tart fruited start.  The citrus and floral flavors  mix with more acidity as it continues into the tart middle.  The wine becomes a touch rounded with a tangy middle, fuzzy citrus pith, and red fruit.  The fruit is actually quite good and pure.  The wine does take on a lipsticky finish with rather fine, drying tannins.  *** Now – 2019.


A new Petite Sirah from Ridge

We typically see the usual selection of Ridge wines in Washington, DC, so it was a no brainer to grab a bottle of 2013 Ridge, Lytton Estate, Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley.  Ridge wines can be fascinating to taste both young and mature.   Petite Sirah wines can be quite a mouthful and evolve at a glacial pace. Indeed, the back label of the bottle states “This is one of the most structured petite sirahs we have made from Lytton Estates.” It certainly is compared to the 2010 vintage, which you may read about here.  Despite that reference, the 2013 vintage is an overall elegant Petite Sirah in a larger context.  It is both concentrated and forward.  It may not become too expansive but I think it will open up with some much needed age.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2013 Ridge, Lytton Estate, Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County – $24
This wine is a blend of 97% Petite Sirah and 3% Zinfandel which was aged for 16 months in American oak.  Alcohol 13.9%.  The nose offers up inky, purple aromas mixed with buttered loaf and some smoke.  In the mouth, this is a black, grapey, flavorful wine with acidity that is certainly present.  The wine becomes savory with an umami, salt combination.  It is textured with extract and ripe, chocolate flavors tannins.  It is rather elegant for this variety.  *** Now – 2031.


A trio of excellent 2010 Chianti Classico

By all accounts the 2010 vintage in Chianti Classico was uneven but it did produce some stunning wines.  For this post I asked Tim to recommend several of these wines priced at or below $20.  After trying all three wines I am quite excited.  The 2010 Carpineto, Chianti Classico Riserva tilts towards the red fruit spectrum.  The weighty flavors are pleasing now but there is a depth and structure which will allow even more flavor with age.   The 2010 Podere il Palazzino, Argenina, Chianti Classico is attractively dark fruited and flavorful but also the tightest.  While the flavors are there it really needs a year or two for the structure to integrate more.   Finally, the 2010 Fattoria Rodano, Chianti Classico is the most forward of the three.  It combines dark cherry flavors, minerals, and an earthy note.  The last bottle I tried was singing so it took all of my self-control to leave some for the second night.  I recommend you stock up on all three of these wines!  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2010 Carpineto, Chianti Classico Riserva – $20
Imported by Opici Wines.  This wine is 100% Sangiovese that was aged in oak for over one year.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The red fruit aromas mix with some meat.  In the mouth it is primarily red fruit that comes through.  The wine has a certain thickness which matches the bright acidity.  The wine has weight on the tongue, leaving ripe and textured tannins on the gums.  It already has more depth but really calls for further development.  With air the cool fruit takes on earth, orange-red hints, and even a suggestion of maturity.  ***(*) Now – 2026.


2010 Podere il Palazzino, Argenina, Chianti Classico – $17
Imported by de Grazia Imports.  This wine is 100% Sangiovese that was fermented in stainless steel then aged in small oak casks.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The low-lying, dark nose is outmatched by the ample flavors in the mouth.  The dark fruit begins with rounded edges and watering acidity before it firms up through a dose of drying tannins.  There are hints of sweet fruit at the beginning followed by tart, black fruit in the finish.  Though flavorful, this wine could really use a year or two of age.  *** Now – 2021.


2010 Fattoria Rodano, Chianti Classico – $17
Imported by Enotec Imports.  This wine is 100% Sangiovese that was aged for over two years in large Slavonian casks.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Meaty aromas make way to deep flavor in this young but accessible wine.  The dark cherry, mineral flavors mix with ripe, textured, and drying tannins.  The flavors turn blacker and more mineral towards the finish which is a little aggressive.  This attractive, mouthfilling wine even takens on an earthy hint.  *** Now – 2021.