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Archive for May, 2018

Mostly 1970s Californian red wines

The Memorial Day weekend kicked off with several wines from the 1970s tasted over at Lou’s house.  After a sweeter than expected start with the fully mature 1998 Domaines Schlumberger, Pinot Gris, Alsace Grand Cru Kitterle four of us ventured down to his tasting room.  The fills on 1970 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien and 1975 Chateau Branaire, Saint-Julien, both from less than ideal storage, had decreased since purchase so were quickly dispatched as bad bottles.  Our first red was a good intro, not too old, rather it was quite young.  The 1993 Glen Carlou, Grand Classique Reserve, Paarl is a modest wine which may be drunk for a few more years.  Think clean and tart flavors with just a hint of earth.

We then moved on to a quartet of old Californian wine.  Two of the bottles proved undrinkable or not worth drinking.  The 1974 Woodside Vineyards, La Questa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains had some stink and certainly plenty of power.  I actually thought it would blow off and improve but instead it fell apart.  Shame as this is an historic wine.  The 1976 The Firestone Vineyard, Red Wine, Santa Ynez Valley represents the second vintage of this winery.  The winery was still under construction at the time of harvest and it was not anticipated to be until 1980 that operations would normalize.  Sadly the 1976 vintage suffered from heavy rains and it is evident in the wine.  This bottle is drinkable but simple, soft, and monolithic.

The final two bottles provided plenty of satisfaction.  The 1974 Arroyo Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County is all about cranberry fruit, crisp acidity, and an animale note.  It is clearly of a different winemaking style and I enjoyed it for that.  The final bottle of 1974 Raymond Vineyard & Cellar, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is a very good wine from, incredibly, an inaugural vintage.  The key is that Roy Raymond Sr worked for decades at Beringer, even marrying into the family.  Both his long experience in the industry and the practice of discarding substandard bottlings are evident in this wine.  There is plenty of good, deep fruit, and ample body.  It is also more alcoholic than the other wines tried.  In any event, a very fine end to the evening.

1998 Domaines Schlumberger, Pinot Gris, Alsace Grand Cru Kitterle
A rich and honied start morphs to stone flavors in the middle then lychee by the finish.  This wine has a good amount of residual sugar but also dense texture backed by acidity in the finish.  Gentle in the finish.  **(*) Now.

1993 Glen Carlou, Grand Classique Reserve, Paarl
This wine is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 16% Cabernet Franc matured in French oak barrels.  Imported by The Hess Collection. Alcohol 13.2%.  Tart and clean flavors of cranberry red fruit are followed by good tannic structure with a fresh finish.  A bit more complexity comes from an earthy undertone.  This should drink well for several more years.  **(*) Now – 2023.

1974 Woodside Vineyards, La Questa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Founded in 1963 by Bob Mullen, the fruit for this wine was sourced from La Questa vines first planted by Emmet Rixford in 1884 These old vines are purported to come from cuttings brought from Chateau Margaux.  In the 1940s Martin Ray propagated vines at Mt. Eden which were eventually planted by Ridge at Monte Bello.  Alcohol 12%.  Bright and volatile aromas of stinky feet.  There are powerful flavors backed by citric tannins but instead of improving it quickly falls apart then becomes weird. Past.

1976 The Firestone Vineyard, Red Wine, Santa Ynez Valley
The 2850 acre property was originally a beef-cattle ranch which was acquired by the Firestone family in 1972.  The winery was run by Brooks Firestone, son of the former Ambassador to Belgium, and grandson to the founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.   Some 345 acres were aside for premium varieties and in 1973 they were planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer.  The first crush was with the 1975 vintage which was the first commercial level achievement in this area.  The fermentation tanks were in place for this inaugural vintage but the winery was still under construction in 1978.  This 1976 vintage was troubled by heavy rains. Could this be a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Merlot???  Alcohol 12.5%.  A soft, monolithic wine with simple flavors of cherry cola that show more advancement as coffee and caramel note mix in.  There is watering acidity but this is simple wine.  * Past.

1974 Arroyo Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
Bandiera Winery was founded in 1937 by Emilio Bandiera.  This was largely a bulk winery until new owners sold wine under the Arroyo Sonoma label amongst others.  Alcohol 12.5%.  This builds ripe, tart fruit that has plenty of crisp flavor and crisp acidity.  Cranberry notes mix with the tannins and so does an animale note.  *** Now but will last.

1974 Raymond Vineyard & Cellar, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Roy Raymond Sr. worked for Beringer beginning in 1933, eventually marrying Jacob Berginger’s granddaughter Martha Jane Beringer.  In the early 1970s the Raymond family bought 90 acres south of St Helena and in 1974 opened their new winery.  Early bottlings were discarded if they did not meet the family’s standards.  Alcohol 13.7%.  Good fruit and deep flavors abound in this wine.  It reveals focused and bright notes of blue fruit with some coffee.  Has body and staying power.  A treat to drink.  **** Now – 2028.

Highly aromatic 1970 Bodegas Alavesas, Solar de Samaniego, Rioja

Bodegas Alavesas was founded in 1972 by the wealthy industrialist Miguel Angel Alonso Samaniego. A new winery was completed in 1973 in which wines were made from some several hundred hectares of owned vineyards and locally purchased fruit.  In the early 1980s, the 1968 and 1970 vintages were considered amongst the best.  Given these dates, it is clear that the winery jump-started production by bringing in purchased wine for maturation.

The two wood-aged red wines are named after 18th century Spanish poets.  The top wine, Solar de Samaniego, was produced both as a Rioja Reserva and Rioja Gran Reserva.  The 1970 Bodegas Alavesas, Solar de Samaniego, Rioja featured in this post represents the Reserva.  As such it is a blend of approximately 90% Tempranillo with 10% Viura sourced from the Alavesas.  The fruit for this wine was destemmed, fermented in concrete tank then spent 30 months in tank followed by 18 months in cask.  The terroir, blend, and production  contribute to the historic view that Bodegas Alavesas produced elegant wines.

This particular bottle offers up some of the most engaging aromas I have come across recently.  Whereas I found campfire, red meat, and tangerines a friend succinctly stated “mesquite”.  Upon drinking this elegant wine I was left wanting for more length but I did not mind as much for I kept returning to the nose.  That is until we finished the bottle.

1970 Bodegas Alavesas, Solar de Samaniego, Rioja
Imported by The Rioja Wine Co.  The nose smells of campfire and red meat then reveals aromas of red fruit, ripe oranges, and tangerines.  The nose is the strong part of this wine, almost capable of capturing your full attention.  In the mouth the flavors are elegant and very short, leaving me to wish for more length.  Revisiting the nose time after time yields sweet, concentrated fruit aromas.  **** for the nose alone but overall ** Now.

A pair of Oregon Pinot Noir

If you are interested in Pinot Noir then I strongly recommend you try the 2016 Walter Scott, La Combe Verte, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley.  It is best left to age for a year or two but if you are tempted now then give it a long decant.   It is a serious wine with deep flavor and sappy acidity all at a great price.  Stock up!  The 2014 Bryn Mawr Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley could use a touch of age as well, though I suspect it will always be closely played.  There is a certain old-school quality to it.  Thanks to Andy at MacArthur Beverages for the recommendations.

2016 Walter Scott, La Combe Verte, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley – $26
Alcohol 13.6%.  Fine, ripe varietal aromas on the nose make way to fresh, yet weighty flavors and almost sappy acidity.  Blue fruit flavors develop over a moderately ripe structure with a hint of fresh greenness at the end.  Tasted over two days this young wine already has good depth but remains tight as it needs to develop for a year or two before you should drink it.  ***(*) 2020-2025.

2014 Bryn Mawr Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley – $22
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir aged 9 months in 30% new French oak.  Alcohol 13.3%.  A firm profile with slightly zippy, citric acidity mark this closely played wine with flavors of black cherry.  There is some spice, a stemmy nature, and an old-school herbal note.  **(*) 2019-2022.

A trio of 2016 from Domaine des Pasquiers

Rhone wines often form the backbone of our weekly drinking for which I will soon adopt the three selections featured in this post.  These wines are imported by Phil Bernstein which explains why you may find such good natured wines at such a reasonable cost.  New to the Pasquiers lineup in Washington, DC, is the 2016 Domaine des Pasquiers, VdP de Vaucluse.   Right now it is a youthful wine, with juicy acidity, and will make for great mid-week drinking over the next few years.  A real wine for only $11.  The 2016 Domaine des Pasquiers, Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu proves why I love Plan de Dieu.  There is a lot of personality here.  Of complete surprise is the quality of the 2016 Domaine des Pasquiers, Cotes du Rhone Villages Sablet.  It is deep and luxurious.  I find it hard to believe that it is priced the same as the Plan de Dieu.  I recommend you try all three wines which you may find at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Domaine des Pasquiers, VdP de Vaucluse – $11
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 14%.  Youthful with grapey tannins which cling to the gums leaving a ripe texture.  Combined with juicy acidity this purple and blue flavors wine will develop over the next few years.  **(*) Now – 2021.

2016 Domaine des Pasquiers, Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu – $15
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Young with scrappy acidity, there are finer tannins structuring the wine for certain development.  There is, however, good tension between the acidity and the flavor.  The depth of the flavor stands up to the structure with a good mineral vein providing further satisfaction.  It has an enjoyably rugged nature right now.  *** Now – 2025.

2016 Domaine des Pasquiers, Cotes du Rhone Villages Sablet – $15
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Deep, grapey flavors combined with black fruit greet from the beginning.  There is a ripe, floral touch and fine, yet ripe textured density to this wine.  With air it takes on a luxurious creamy flavor and savory saltiness.  It over delivers for the price point.  ***(*) Now – 2025.

A fine rose for warm weather

The start of the long holiday weekend has finally afforded me a break from work.  Given the weather in Washington, DC, I highly recommend you purchase many bottles of the 2017 Der Pollerhof, Rose vom Zweigelt.  I know I will this weekend.  I like some fruit in my rosé, which this bottle offers, but there is additional complexity from pastilles and a chalky quality.  The lively acidity ensures this remains a refreshing drink.  It is imported by and for sale at MacArthur Beverages.

2017 Der Pollerhof, Rose vom Zweigelt – $15
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 12%.  The lively acidity drives bright, ripe red berries the more moderate flavors of ripe pastilles.  The second half brings dry, chalky flavors through the finish where it becomes drier.  The aftertaste is quite long with noticeable acidity on the tongue.  *** Now – 2019.

A most impressive Crozes-Hermitage, 2015 Jaboulet Thalabert

May 15, 2018 1 comment

The 2015 Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine, Domaine de Thalabert, Crozes-Hermitage  raises the bar for serious, age-worthy Crozes-Hermitage.  While it is full-bodied, smooth, and inky, it is also balanced, savory, and long in flavor.  It is quite drinkable now but I would wait a few years for it to open up and improve.  It is still available by the magnum at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine, Domaine de Thalabert, Crozes-Hermitage – $35
Alcohol 13.5%.  Full-bodied, smooth, inky, and savory are what first come to mind when tasting this perfectly balanced Crozes.  One of the most substantive I have yet to taste from this appellation, there are ripe flavors of blue and black fruit, salivating acidity, and some supportive oak tannins.  It wraps up with a long spiced aftertaste. The grapey notes speak to the appellation and primary state of the wine.  It will slowly develop for many years.   **** Now – 2035.

A pair of Cotes du Rhone

May 14, 2018 1 comment

In retrospect, I can see how the 2016 Raymond Usseglio, Les Claux, Cotes du Rhone uses fruit from a site next to Lirac.  There is that firm structure yet there is enough fruit to support development over the next few years.  There is no need to hold back on the 2015 Domaine Alary, La Brunote, Cairanne.  This dark fruited, creamy wine has much to offer now but still manages to develop in the glass.  While it is a forward wine, it should be even better in a year or two.  You may find these wines at Weygandt-Wines.

 

2016 Raymond Usseglio, Les Claux, Cotes du Rhone – $20
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is an equal blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre sourced from a lieu dit next to Lirac.  Alcohol 14%.  Mixed berries, brambly fruit, fresh acidity, and citric tannins all merge together in this young wine.  There is brightness to the blue and black fruit with the flavors becoming even blacker with air.  The structure also comes out providing enough dry, framework for the fairly exuberant flavors.  *** Now – 2027.

2015 Domaine Alary, La Brunote, Cairanne – $20
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, and 10% Carignan raised in concrete.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There are creamy and rounded flavors of blue fruit in this modest bodied wine.  It soon reacts to air with the blue fruit complemented by stones, a smoke hint, and a supportive structure of promising tannins for development.  There is savory weight through the very mineral and black/graphite aftertaste.  ***(*) Now – 2024.