Archive for June, 2016

Full-bore Aglianico from Fontefico

You might recall that Tim introduced me to the wines of Fontefico earlier this spring when I tried The earthy and mature 2010 Fontefico, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo.  The 2010 Fontefico, Aglianico, Costetoste, Terre di Chieti is a completely different beast.  The fruit is sourced from a very steep vineyard with a gradient greater than 25%.  This is an unabashed big wine that fills the mouth with fruit, minerals, and tannins.  I cannot recall tasting such a powerful expression of Aglianico.  One glass at a time is all that Jenn and I could handle.  If you enjoy big wines then this is for you.  Otherwise I would stick with the Montepulciano.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2010 Fontefico, Aglianico, Costetoste, Terre di Chieti – $23
Imported by Grappoli Imports.  This wine is 100% Aglianico from the Le Coste vineyard that was aged in both steel and wood.  Alcohol 15%.  This is a strong, ripe texture, mineral rich wine that coats the mouth with fruit and tannins.  The acidity is more supportive than apparent in this undoubtedly big wine.  With air notes of cedar and chocolate come out.  It could stand a touch of cellar time, not for development, but for relaxation.  ** Now – 2019.


A fine 2012 Vacqueyras from Sang des Cailloux

I would drink the wines of Domaine le Sang des Cailloux in Vacqueyras every week if I could.  Last week Jenn and I drank a pair.  Unfortunately, our bottle of 2011 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Doucinello, Vacqueyras was not up to snuff.  However, the newly released 2012 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras  is quite fine.  There is vigor from the acidity.  However, the flavors remain not quite tight, but rather focused until the bottle was finish.  I would check up on this wine next year to get a better idea of what is in store for the future.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras – $25
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and Cinsault fermented in cement then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 14%.  The flavors are delivered with acidity driven vigor.  The wine combines blue and citrus fruits that are finely focused.  With air it the blue and cream flavors reveal density.  *** 2017- 2022.


Vino Nobile di Montepulciano for short-term aging

The 2011 Fattoria Del Cerro, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a wine that is just entering its first drinking window.  The 2011 vintage was hot and some of that warmth comes across on the nose.  In the mouth this flavorful, filling wine has plenty of watering acidity so it does not get bogged down.  I recommend that you grab a few bottles to lay down over the short term.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2011 Fattoria Del Cerro, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – $18
Imported by Vias Imports.  This wine is 95% Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese) with 5% Colorino and Mammolo that was aged in 80% Slavonian oak casks and 20% in French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  The flavors of dried grapes and black stones come with red accents and watering acidity.  The notes of stones carry towards the middle where there is a little, bitter hint and chalky tannins.  This mouthfilling wine is undeniably flavorful.  It could stand a few more years in the cellar as it oscillates between smooth and structured drinking.  *** 2017 – 2025.


No Make-up on this Syrah!

David Bloch drinks a classic wine.


2009 Alain Graillot, Crozes Hermitage
Imported by Europvin.  This is a very honest and authentic Northern Rhone Syrah.   Very dark in color, like a deep magenta.  A spicy nose.  The wine is very pure.  Some meaty and bloody notes in the mouth.  Along with some bay leaf and thyme.  Really long and peppery finish.  The empty glass smells great!  Like the Faury wines, this is just about unmanipulated winemaking and high quality grapes.

A classically mature 1985 Silver Oak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

June 6, 2016 1 comment

Silver Oak Cellars was founded in 1972 by Raymond Duncan and Justin Meyer, a former winemaker at Christian Brothers.  The pair focused in on pure Cabernet Sauvignon wines aged in American oak.  The goal was to have wine that was drinkable upon release but also capable of further aging.  Thus their 1972 Alexander Valley wine was not released until 1977.  Two years later in 1979, they released their first of two Napa Valley wines.

I came across a pair of Silver Oak wines last week in the dump bin at MacArthur Beverages.  The bottle from the 1985 vintage had a ratty label whereas the bottle from 1986 looked great.  As both bottles had similar fill and color, I felt reasonably confident in grabbing the better 1985 vintage.  My brother-in-law came to town so I opened up the 1985 Silver Oak Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley last night. After double-decanting the wine, the cork smelled attractively of tobacco and the nose of the wine was moderate in intensity with a good combination of earth and wood box.  I then knew I had a solid bottle so I took a quick taste.  The wine was better on the palate!  It had both a taut personality and weight to the fruit.  This wine will appeal to lovers of old-school wines of the type that are flavorful, mouthfilling, yet lower in alcohol.  Well stored bottles will drink well for several years to come.


1985 Silver Oak Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 13.1%.  The nose is pleasant with earthy and wood box scents. The wine begins with a taut start of fruit that is still fresh.  It is clearly mature with some sweaty ripe flavors that mix with wood box flavors but the acidity keeps the wine fresh and the red fruit still has good weight.  There is a fine vein of maturity that runs from the start to the finish where the flavors lighten up a bit and more structure is evident.  Drinking well but will last.  ***(*) Now – 2021.


A fresh 1976 Chateau de Beaucastel from one of the last vintage under Jacques Perrin

The oldest bottles that I have tasted of Chateauneuf du Pape date to the 1978 vintage with the oldest wine of Chateau de Beaucastel a more modest 1985.  As I will be out of town during an old Beaucastel tasting to be held this summer in Washington, DC, Darryl kind opened an old bottle of 1976 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape.

The 1976 vintage was produced by Jacques Perrin the father of Francois and Jean-Pierre who made the 1985 vintage I tried.  Jacques famously started using vinification a chaud where the grapes are heated.  Back then this was with wood fires.  The outside of the grapes reaches a hot temperature for only a minute or two such that the inside of the grapes remains moderate.  As a result of this heating, fermentation starts quickly, more color is extracted, and bacteria are killed such that no sulfur is needed.  According to John Livingstone-Learmonth, this process allowed Jacques to make good wine in moderate vintages.


The 1976 vintage was variable in Chateauneuf du Pape due to rain at harvest time.  Robert Parker describes it as part of a “difficult” run of years in the mid 1970s.  I did not know what to think when I saw the bottle in Darryl’s hands.  Nothing came to mind except that Darryl has successfully served Chateauneuf du Pape from odd vintages before.  The nose of the wine did smell a bit end of life.  In direct comparison to a 1971 M. Mascarello, Nebbiolo d’Alba, the Beaucastel had markedly more fruit and body in the mouth, though there was less acidity.  It was better than I expected!  In fact, it was a solid glass of old Chateauneuf that prepared my palate for other more vigorous, though not so mature, Rhone wines.


1976 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  This wine is a blend of mostly Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise, Syrah, and Cinsault.  Alcohol 13.5%.  From a bottle that was popped and poured the nose remained very light with primarily a hint of roast suggesting advanced age.  The flavors surprise with a good amount of fruit and some tang.  The middle is still fresh with both old wood notes and bottle aged flavors.  The structure and acidity fade by the finish leaving a soft ending.  This will please any fan of mature wine. ** Now.

Drinks from the holiday weekend


There was no shortage of grilled food and wine this Memorial Day weekend.  Thanks to many generous people I got to try decades worth of wine.  An inexpensive bottle of NV L.A. Cetto Vino Espumoso from Baja California enlivened a lunchtime sangria.   The first serious wine is a magnum of 2006 Macarico, Aglianico del Vulture which smelled and tasted great from the very first pour.  It still has strength but the tannic edges are receding such that you notice the dark fruit and minerals.  I wish I could age more of these wines.  The 1998 Chapoutier, Hermitage Monier de La Sizeranne showed much better oak integration than when tasted last summer.  It is a substantial wine with a long future.  The 1971 M. Mascarello, Nebbiolo d’Alba held up for several hours after double-decanting.  It was sweaty on the nose, in an attractive old-school way to me, but better in the mouth with lively acidity and a core of flavor.


The 1971 M. Mascarello helped show how a 1976 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape was even fruitier with notes of old wood.  It made for a perfectly good drink.  I will follow this post with a real tasting note.  The magnum of 2007 Domaine Ponsot, Morey St. Denis 1er Cru Cuvee des Alouettes showed on the elegant side of the spectrum with very clean fruit.  Other drinks include a 2003 Le Vieux Donjon, Chateauneuf du Pape that is youthful and packs quite a lot of forward fruit.


Roland opened a slew of bottles including 1990 Alain Graillot, La Guiraude, Crozes-Hermitage.  This wine is made from a selection of the best barrels and is certainly the oldest Crozes-Hermitage that I have tasted.  This was still clean and fresh with that sense of lightness a Crozes can offer.  It was almost suspended in time.


The 2007 Henri Bonneau, Chateauneuf du Pape was quite tight right after double-decanting.  Nevertheless a few minutes of swirling coaxed an elegant wine.  It has quite a bit of focus and certainly more heft than the ethereal Marie Beurrier can have.  The 2001 Domaine Bois De Bourson, Chateauneuf du Pape showed great right out of the decanter.  It is drinking near peak with earthy flavors and garrigue delivered with grip.  A pour from the end of the 1990 Jamet, Cote Rotie provided a really good glass.  There was an aspect of elegance to the maturing and complex flavors.


The 1994 Chateau de Fonsalette, Cotes du Rhone drank quite well.  This is a generous Rayas wine made from Syrah.  It is floral with dark blue fruit, wood notes, and good complexity.


I also tried a surprisingly savory, dense, and fruity bottle of 1996 Chateau Ste Michelle, Merlot Reserve, Columbia Valley.  This came from a mediocre vintage and if this took a toll on the wine it was only that the finish was a bit short.  This wine was made under David Lake MW which probably explains why it is still balanced and lively.  There is not much Charbono around so you should try whatever you can.  The 2011 Calder Wine Company, Charbono, Meyer Vineyard, Napa Valley is still not up to the quality of the 2009 vintage but it reveals vintage perfume unique to the grape.


As for dessert wines the half-bottle of 1983 Zilliken, Saarburger Rausch Riesling Eiswein contained only 7% alcohol.  The undoubtedly high levels of residual sugar were perfectly balanced by the acidity.   It is really easy to drink and is entering the middle of life.  Finally, a double-decanted 1977 Warre’s, Vintage Port needed just a little air before showing dense flavors of dark blue, racy fruit. Good stuff!  There were some other wines I tried but I did not get a look at the bottles.

A Brunello that Won’t Break the Bank

Life is returning to normal after the long holiday weekend.  David Bloch kicks things off with a bottle of Brunello.


2001 La Poderina, Brunello di Montalcino

There are many, many producers of Brunello.  Indeed, there has been an explosion of producers which may have “devalued” Brunello as a special wine.  La Poderina is not a newcomer.  I began to drink Brunello about 20 vintages ago.  There have been some really poor vintages, and many good and some great ones.  2001 is widely regarded as a great vintage.  Is this a great wine – no.  But what La Poderina produces is a real value play in a region with some really overpriced wines.  This 2001 provides all that one wants from an aged Brunello:  notes of sweet fruit and tobacco on the nose; followed by tart sweet cherries, some smoke and leather in the mouth, with a persistent finish.   At under $40 at release, this provides a very authentic Brunello experience.  The wine is now entering its middle age and will easily hold in a cold cellar for another 5 years+.