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Saint-Joseph from Domaine des Amphores

I am pleased that Michael Teer introduced me to the wines of Domaine des Amphores.  Founded by Veronique and Philippe Grenier in 1992, this estate has expanded over the years to produce a variety of wines from a variety of grapes.  Of the four wines from Saint-Joseph three are red including my bottle of 2013 Domaine des Amphores, Cuvee 2013, Saint-Joseph.  This is a finely made, grapey Saint-Joseph which should be cellared until next year.  This wine is available at Pike and Western Wine Shop.

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2013 Domaine des Amphores, Cuvee 2013, Saint-Joseph – $27
Imported by Barrique Imports.  This wine is 100% Syrah fermented with indigenous yeasts in tank then aged for 12 months in neutral oak.  Alcohol 12.5%.  This is a grapey, tangy wine with a fine texture to the ripe berry flavor.  The wine is still a bit firm from youth with very fine tannins and watering acidity.  With air it takes on a white pepper note. *** 2017-2020.

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Four Northwest Wines from Jørgensen, ORR, Savage Grace, and Southard

June 28, 2016 2 comments

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If there is one wine store in Seattle that I make sure to visit then it is Pike & Western Wine Shop.  During my most recent trip I asked Michael Teer for several recommendations.  Of the Northwest quartet of wines, the 2015 Savage Grace, Cabernet Franc, Copeland Vineyard, Rattlesnake Hills is my favorite.  This is a lively wine with bright red fruit and no sense of greenness.  It is a fun wine to drink now but I suggest you let this age through the winter so that it will open up.  Combining both character and value is the 2013 Southard Winery, Syrah, Columbia Valley.  With air the grapey flavors become more floral and take on hints of smoke.  The final two wines will benefit from some age.  Drunk over a week, the 2015 ORR, Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley shows a respectable amount of tropical, floral, and nut flavors to be an elegant wine leaning towards the ripe side.  The 2014 Leah Jørgensen Cellars, Malbec, Crater Lake Vineyard, Rogue Valley is from Oregon.  It is a tense and focused wine best left in the cellar.

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2015 ORR, Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley – $25
This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc fermented with indigenous yeasts.  Alcohol 12.9%.  Though very pale in the color, the nose is rounded with aromas of slightly tropical white flowers.  The offers a taut start with vibrant acidity moving through similar flavors.  There are hints of nuts matching the tropical, floral, white fruit.  It shows some lifted and controlled ripeness.  It will benefit from a year in the cellar.  **(*) 2017 – 2020.

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2014 Leah Jørgensen Cellars, Malbec, Crater Lake Vineyard, Rogue Valley – $32
Alcohol 14.34%.  The nose is slightly black and floral.  The flavors begin with tart red fruit moving into a citric and black middle and a tangy finish.  The structure eventually comes out with a moderate amount of focused tannins.  There is more of an acidity driven wine that comes out as tension.  It certainly has a future potential. **(*) Now – 2020.

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2015 Savage Grace, Cabernet Franc, Copeland Vineyard, Rattlesnake Hills – $27
This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc that was aged for 5 months in neutral oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  This lively wine has a slightly electric start of brighter, red fruit.  A fuzzy ripeness builds as an underlying inky spine becomes apparent.  There are no green nor black pepper flavors.  It is all bright red fruit, with subtle, bright red berry ripeness in the finish.  With good acidity and fine texture, this is a fine wine.  I would only age to let it open up.  *** Now – 2018.

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2013 Southard Winery, Syrah, Columbia Valley – $18
Alcohol 14%.  There are some flavors of dark, red fruit, a touch of tang, and a ripe haze.  There is plenty of watering acidity which matches the grapey hints.  With extended air the wine develops a smokey start and becomes more floral. **(*) Now – 2020.

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The Fruity 2015 Enkidu, Shamhat Rosé

With the 2015 Enkidu, Shamhat Rosé, Russian River Valley, Phillip Staehle has produced a pleasing rosé on the fruitier side of the spectrum.  With the rainier weather of the Washington, DC, area this more substantial offering hits the spot.  It also has enough stuffing to be drunk over several nights.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2015 Enkidu, Shamhat Rose, Russian River Valley – $18
This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 35% Grenache, and 25% Mouvedre.  Alcohol 14.1%.  With a fruity start this wine has good grip and a racy, mineral finish.  The fruit is sweeter than other rose but it is not out of balance in the wine.  It will please many. ** Now – 2017.

The Rock Star 2015 Bevan, Sauvignon Blanc

The 2015 Bevan Cellars, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Stack Vineyard, Sonoma County could only come from California.  It is a rich, ripe, and textured wine that will appeal to those who love a more substantial Sauvignon Blanc such as those which are traditionally blended with Semillon.   With this richness comes the grassy elements you expect and plenty of acidity.  This wine reveals additional complexity with air such that you can enjoy a glass a day over the course of a week.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2015 Bevan Cellars, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Stack Vineyard, Sonoma County – $32
Alcohol ?  The nose is aromatic with ripe fruit and grassy notes.  In the mouth this racy, vibrant wine has a textured start of rich, white fruit.  It is slightly nutty with seashell notes and plenty of mid palate presence before the very long aftertaste.  There is a glycerin infused body supported by spot-on acidity.  With extended air the wine develops additional nut flavors, lemon, and waxy fruit.  **** Now – 2019.

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A Surprising Magnum From Friuli

Michele Moschioni makes only red wine in a part of Friuli where more than twice as much white wine is produced. He typically uses such varieties as Pignolo, Schioppettino, and Refosco. However, his 1999 Moschioni, Celtico Rosso, Collie Orientali del Friuli is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  It is a blend that works to great effect for this magnum showed an attractive level of maturity, delivered in a mouth filling, racy, full-flavored style.  At 15.5% alcohol it is a big wine but there is no heat at all.  While it drinks fine over two nights, the first is the best so grab some friends then pull the cork!  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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1999 Moschioni, Celtico Rosso, Collie Orientali del Friuli –
Imported by Vinifera Imports.  This wine is a blend of 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged for several years in both new and used barriques, large barrels, and stainless steel.  Alcohol 15.5%.  The nose is mature but there is plenty of strength in the mouth.  The mouth filling start brings black, floral fruit, and plum flavors all delivered in a racy manner.  An underlying cedar note comes out, accenting the wine through the expansive finish.  The flavor continues into the aftertaste where the wine gains more levity.  The wine continues to deliver weighty, spice infused ripe blue and black fruit, never losing density yet there is watering acidity balancing it out.  **** Now – 2020.

A excellent 2011 Maxime Magnon, Rozeta from Corbieres

The 2011 Maxime Magnon, Rozeta, Corbieres is an exciting wine which you must try.  When I wrote about the 2010 vintage in my post Maxime Magnon from Haut Corbieres I suggested trying future vintages.  I am glad I did.  This bottle reminds me of Rayas and des Tours styled wine which I particularly love.  Specifically, this wine offers rich, mouth filling flavors that are ethereal, capable of development, and absent of any yeasty character.  What a treat! This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2011 Maxime Magnon, Rozeta, Corbieres – $20
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  The fruit is sourced from a field blend of mostly Carignan along with Grenache, Syrah, Grenache Gris, Mcabou, and Terret sourced from 50-60 year old vines from two parcels on soils of limestone and schist.  All of the varietals are whole clustered fermented together then aged in used barrels from Chassagne-Montrachet. Alcohol 13.5%.  The lighter nose of red fruit and cranberries entices you.  The deep red fruit offers surprising richness yet never loses an ethereal quality.  The flavors mix with bluer fruit and minerals with impeccably balanced acidity and minimal tannic structure.  The ethereal quality continues with extended air as notes of old wood come out.  ***(*) Now – 2021.

A Strong Trio of Rhone Wines Priced $11-$14 Each

The trio of Rhone wines featured in today’s post will please many.  For a wine that you can and will want to drink throughout the week, look no further than the 2012 Frederick Arnaud, CDR, Cotes du Rhone.  This is a youthful, grapey wine that offers a level of complexity not usually found in the $11 price point.  It is a wine to drink this year and you can be assured that I will pick up more when I return to the store.  I have now drunk through several bottles of 2012 Andre Brunel, Cuvee Sabrine, Cotes du Rhone Villages.  This is a step up in seriousness and longevity.  If the Arnaud is a grapey wine then the Brunel is a more mature wine.  This is another wine you can drink throughout the week but also age it for a few more years. The 2014 Chateau Unang, Ventoux provides a third fantastic choice for a daily drinker.  It moves back to the youthful, grapey side of things but the aromatic nose and supple flavors clearly reflect the effort put into this wine.  I recommend you try them all! These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2012 Frederick Arnaud, CDR, Cotes du Rhone – $11
Imported by Domaine Select Wine Estates.  Alcohol 14%.  This is an attractive, grapey wine with good grip.  It opens up well with air revealing slightly racy strawberry flavors, youthful grapey complexity which will hold your interest.  I would not cellar this for development, instead just for a few months so the wine opens up some more.  ** Now.

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2012 Andre Brunel, Cuvee Sabrine, Cotes du Rhone Villages – $14
Imported by Robert Kacher.  This wine is a blend of mostly Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. Alcohol  14%.  The nose is scented with stony, black fruit.  The red and black fruit flavors sport some rough and tumble qualities of the Cotes du Rhone.  This wine has a bit of everything, some density, some grip, water acidity, and a mineral hint in the finish.  The dry black flavors are framed by fine, dry tannins before hints of stone come out again in the aftertaste.  It tastes drier with air.  **(*) Now – 2019.

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2014 Chateau Unang, Ventoux – $14
Imported by Vintage ’59 Imports.  This wine is a blend of 65% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 5% Cinsault.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The aromatic nose of youthful fruit is reflected in the supple, weighty grapey fruit flavors in the mouth.  The flavors lean towards black fruit, with fine tannins that make for a little bitter and dry finish.  This should develop over the short term.  ** Now – 2018.

Early Candidates for WOTY Whites!

David Bloch describes an incredible pair of white wines.

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2007 Vincent Dauvissat, Chablis 1er Cru Le Forest
A remarkably great bottle of wine.  White Burgundy (and I do include Chablis as it too has suffered from the various ills of the bottles from that region) can be very hit or miss.  This was a direct hit.  A wine that transcends the vintage and is “just” a Premier Cru.  This is a wine with a hugely powerful nose of tidal pool; that ocean/sea water that gives away place.  The wine is silky and exhibits notes of saline and citrus in the mouth, along with some bracing acidity and a mineral spine carrying through the mid-palate.  Very long and complete.  A great perkiness and tang linger in the mouth long after the last sip is gone.

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2013 Domaine Vacheron, Sancerre
This is one of the best wines I’ve had in 2016.  Salty rocks.  Flint.  Crushed stones.  Minerals galore.  Then a heavy dose of various citrus flavors and aromas.  Virtually no resemblance to the Sauvignon Blanc grape that one expects from the Loire.  Long, long, long.  This wine is so unique, so captivating.  The empty glass smells great well after the bottle is emptied.  I would love to see the vineyard where these grapes grow.  It must resemble a rock quarry!  This could pass for a top-flight bone dry German Kabinett.  Go figure.  But buy as much as you can.  A most unique and pleasurable rendition of a so-called Sancerre.

A lovely 1964 Mommessin, Clos de Tart followed by other mature wines

June 14, 2016 1 comment

No one could remember where the bottle of 1964 J. Mommessin, Clos de Tart came from.  It had been in the store for at least several years.  The label was in perfect shape but the ullage was 5cm down and the color was wearily light in the bottle.  I bought it anyways.  The 1964 vintage is still quite strong and I do not see Burgundy from the 1960s that often.  I am glad that I bought the bottle for it turned out to be my favorite wine over seven other old selections.

David and I gathered at Lou’s house last week.  Having acquired a number of bottles from the moving remnants cellar, I thought it would be fun to serve six of the bottles blind.  After secretly cutting capsules, extracting corks, and brown bagging the wines we gathered everything up to taste outside by Lou’s pool.

The air was fresh, there were minimal clouds, and we were partially shaded by a maple tree.  I had sniffed the bottle of Mommessin and did not detect anything wrong.  The cork was very long, exceeding the length of my Durand.  Perhaps it was impossibly long for the top of the cork had mushroomed over the lip of the bottle as if it refused to be shoved in all of the way.  It was a little alarming to see but the bottle smelled proper.

I took a quick sniff and taste.  I was completely excited to find that not only was the wine sound, it was very good.  The color was very light but the wine was flavorful.  It reminded David of old Barolo, light in color yet mouthfilling in flavor.  Mommessin acquired the Clos de Tart vineyard in 1932 keeping on M. Cyrot as regisseur who was only succeeded by Alfred Seguin in 1965.  Thus our bottle was produced under Cyrot’s tenure during which excellent wines were made in the 1940s and 1950s.  According to Clive Coates, the wine was produced using the chapeau immerge technique.  In this technique a grill is placed two-thirds of the way up the vat to prevent the cap from rising.  Thus there are no punch-downs only pumping over.  This apparently produces a wine of more elegance with less color and tannin extraction.  It could also explain why our wine was so light in color.

I kept pouring additional wine in my glass so that I could continue to taste it.  It was a lovely bottle of old Burgundy with a sense of lightness, sweet fruit flavors, and no fragility.

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1964 J. Mommessin, Clos de Tart
Imported by Capitol City Liquors Co.  Alcohol 13%.  It is a very pale color in the glass.  The nose remained bloody and meaty through the end.  In the mouth were plenty of ripe cherry and strawberry fruit that had a sweetness to it.  This lively wine had a good mouthfeel, some texture, and some spice.  It did not fade over three to four hours.  **** Now.

After drinking a good share of the Mommessin, we not only moved on to the six blind wines but to a completely different style of red Burgundy.  The bottle of 1979 Domaines Jaboulet-Vercherre, Beaune Clos de l’Ecu threw everyone into a state of confusion as to what it was.  The Jaboulet-Vercherre firm has early 19th century origins in the Rhone with their expansion to Burgundy occurring a century later in the 1920s.  I agree with Robert Parker agreeing with Hubrecht Duijker that the Rhone origins of the estate resulted in colorful and full bodied wines.  Our bottle was certainly dark in color, dark in flavor, and remarkably well preserved.  It is not a wine of finesse like the Mommessin, rather a hypothetical blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah.  It is a sturdy wine that will easily make age 50.

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1979 Domaines Jaboulet-Vercherre, Beaune Clos de l’Ecu
Imported by Beitzell & Co.  This color is quite dark with some garnet hints.  The nose initially smelled of barnyard but cleaned up.  In the mouth this salty wine offered full flavors of darker fruit bound seamlessly with acidity.  The finish is simple and a bit short.  This solid wine is age-defying.  ** Now.

The first pair of Bordeaux were quite different.  The 1980 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves is an attractive greenhouse infused wine both on the nose and in the mouth.  It is quite lively with acidity driven flavors making it a solid wine from a very poor vintage.  In contrast, the 1979 Chateau Beychevelle, Saint-Julien is from a slightly better vintage.  The wine needed some air to blow of its stink.  It has an attractively taut, burst of flavor at the beginning with no hint of greenness.  There is no reason to cellar the La Mission Haut Brion any further but I suspect it will not change much in case you do.  The Beychevelle should be drunk up.  Perhaps double-decant off the sediment then drink with your friends.

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1980 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves
Shipped by Vignobles Internationaux.  Imported by Julius Wile Sons & Co.  Alcohol 12%.  The initial greenhouse aromas are followed by finely scented aromas and even an animale note.  The acidity driven red fruit takes on green pepper then red grapefruit flavors.  There are minimal tannins at this point but the wine is still very lively.  ** Now.

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1979 Chateau Beychevelle, Saint-Julien
Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.  Alcohol 12.2%.  The nose is a bit subtle with initial dirty aromas blowing off to reveal deep aromas of Old Bay seasoning and wood box.  There is a taut burst of flavor in this savory wine.  It is initially a touch thin in flavor with some fine, bitter tannins.  But with air the wine subtly expands through the moderate finish and old-school flavored aftertaste.  ** Now.

The pair of 1978s offered a marked improvement in quality.  The 1978 Chateau Trotte Vieille, Saint-Emilion has many attractive qualities from coffee aromas, racy, savory flavors, and a good reaction with air.  It is a good, mature wine.  The estate had changed hands in 1949 and David Peppercorn writes that the wines of the 1950s and 1960s were quite good but then they became largely disappointing.  So it appears we were fortunate.  There is clearly more vigor and strength in the 1978 Chateau Bahans Haut-Brion, Graves.  This is a second wine of Chateau Haut-Brion.  Originally a non-vintage wine, Bahans Haut-Brion was sold exclusively to the Bordeaux market.  In 1976 a vintage version was released as well.  The non-vintage production was discontinued in 1982.  So this wine was produced during a brief period when there were two second wines!  I liked this bottle too.  Both of these wines held up well to extended air.

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1978 Chateau Trotte Vieille, Saint-Emilion
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons.  Alcohol 12%.  The older smelling nose cleans up to reveal coffee and caramel aromas.  The wine starts with an animale hint.  This racy, savory wine is quite tasty and fully mature.  It responds well to air with a little ink, firmness, and good acidity. Nice wine.  *** Now.

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1978 Chateau Bahans Haut-Brion, Graves
Shipped by Nathaniel Johnston & Fils.  Imported by Forman Brothers.  Alcohol 11.5%.  This is an interesting old-school wine that is clearly quite vigorous with earthy flavors.  The blend of fruit, acidity, and tannins makes for a lively, good wine that coats the gums with bits of sweet fruit in the aftertaste.  *** Now.

I knew the 1974 Chateau Haut Brion, Graves. was doomed when I cut of the top of the perfect capsule to find a depressed cork covered by gobs of fluffy white mold.  As I pulled the cork out the sides appeared muddy, which is a sign of cork failure.  The final quarter-inch looked fine but was not enough of a bastion.  I was looking forward to this wine because 1974 is a miserable vintage.  However, Haut Brion harvested the grapes before the rains started and reportedly made an excellent wine.  Lou brought out a bottle of 1970 Chateau Canon la Gaffeliere, Saint-Emilion which coincided with the grilling of some lamb.  The bottle had some melted crayon or rubber on it but the insides turned out fine.  The wine was a touch smelly at first but started to clean up and become more expressive.  I meant to give it enough air before taking a note but alas I forgot to take a note!  I did not forget to have another glass of the 1964 J. Mommessin, Clos de Tart which was still just as good as when opened.

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1974 Chateau Haut Brion, Graves.
Shipped by Barton & Gustier. Imported by Chateau & Estate Wines Co.  Alcohol 12%.  Bad bottle. Not Rated.

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1970 Chateau Canon la Gaffeliere, Saint-Emilion
Shipped by Solter, Schneider & Co.  Imported by Consolidated Distilled Products.  Alcohol 11% to 14%.  Oops, no note!

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Dump bin surprises from the 1970s

A small selection of wines recently hit the dump bin at MacArthur Beverages.  These bottles are the remnants of a collection accumulated by a person that is leaving Washington, DC.  They were stored in a wine fridge which gave some assurance.  In general the wines are in strong condition with very good labels, corrosion free capsules, and high fills.  The wines themselves are all French from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.  It is a strange lot featuring from decent to off vintages, both negociants and major producers, and several different regions.  My first action was tasting the two worst looking bottles.

The 1978 Jean-Pierre Brotte, Cotes-du-Ventoux is from a negociant once known for their Chateauneuf du Pape.  The company operated under the Brotte and Pere Anselme names.  The later name you might recall from my night at Bern’s Steak House.  This particular wine was produced before the company made a transition towards domaine named wines.  The bottle had slight signs of old seepage, yet the color and fill were good.  The 1978 vintage in the Southern Rhone is a great one so given the price this seemed like a good test of the cellar.  It was dry under the capsule, the cork was very easy to pull out, yet it was still solid.  The wine inside was quite lively!

The second test bottle came from Bordeaux.  David Peppercorn writes in Bordeaux (1991) that Chateau de Camensac would have been a very strong contender for the least known of the classified growth.  The estate was purchased by the Forner family in 1965.  They also owned Larose-Trintaudon, a frequent wine of my youth, and Marques de Caceras in Rioja.  The family put considerable effort into improving the vineyards and winery, they even hired Emile Peynaud.  Peppercorn writes that he liked the 1973 and 1975.  There are no Cellartracker notes for the 1973 vintage but there are favorable and contemporary notes for the 1975.  This must have been the peak of the estate because Stephen Brook writes in Bordeaux (2006) that numerous vintages from 1975 and onwards are disappointing.  The 1973 vintage had “quite good” weather but not the best vineyard work resulting in wines that could have been better.  Perhaps then the good weather, initial efforts at the Chateau, and Peynaud’s guidance resulted in a trifecta causing the 1973 Chateau de Camensac, Haut-Medoc to be a decent wine.

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The mid-shoulder fill did not bode well for this bottle but the cork was solid and so was the wine.  I knew nothing of the 1973 vintage in Bordeaux so I honestly expected the wine to be undrinkable.  Once described as “delicate and velvety” there is, instead, a substance to the red fruit, complexity from leather notes, and a sweaty/savory middle.  There is an appropriate amount of green pepper notes too.  In comparing the two wines, the 1978 Jean-Pierre Brotte, Cotes-du-Ventoux is nervy from acidity and the 1973 Chateau de Camensac, Haut-Medoc is a mature, savory claret.  Pleased by the results I next took a group of wines to serve blind to Lou and David.  Stay tuned!

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1978 Jean-Pierre Brotte, Cotes-du-Ventoux – $6
Imported by Chrissa Import.  Alcohol 12%.  For about two hours there were clean red, acidity driven fruit flavors.  The wine is tangy and still has ripe, citric pith tannins.  The minerally red fruit is bright, perhaps a little thin due to age, but some strawberry flavors come through.  *(*) Now.

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1973 Chateau de Camensac, Haut-Medoc – $4
Imported by Robert Haas Selects.  This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Merlot.  Alcohol 11%-14%.  There are aromas of green pepper, red fruit, and eventually leather.  In the mouth there is surprising depth to the red fruit supported by fresh acidity.  The surprise continues with a sweaty, savory mouth filling middle.  The tannins are largely resolved but the structure does come out by the finish.  It finishes with both leather and earth flavors.  After a few hours it takes on a greenhouse characteristic.  ** Now.

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