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“The [illustrated] effects of medicine and wine-drinking compared.”

October 18, 2019 Leave a comment

I came across this drawing while perusing the Wellcome Collection to stock an anatomy display at my house for our Halloween party.  On the left, is a thin, gaunt man suffering from the blue devils despite his three bottles of physic.  On the right is a jolly, robust man, holding up a glass of wine, surrounded by wine bottles.  As there are two wine glasses and six bottles of wine, I suspect the thin, gaunt man switched from wine to physic for the worse!

“The effects of medicine and wine-drinking compared.” [1]

Two three bottle men. Wine and physic. What I was. What I am. A hint to jolly dogs.


[1] The effects of medicine and wine-drinking compared. Ink drawing, 18–.. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY. URL: https://wellcomecollection.org/works/hta2mhfq/items?langCode=eng

Thirst Quenching 2018 Le Sincette, Gropello

October 17, 2019 Leave a comment

If you are looking for a refreshing glass of wine to calm trembling arms from raking fall leaves then grab the 2018 Le Sincette, Gropello, Garda.  Even if you have not performed any physical activity and simply want some wine in the vein of a young Beaujolais, then grab a bottle as well.  The flavors are grapey, as if from young wines, but the wine is seriously made. Check it out!


2018 Le Sincette, Gropello, Garda – $19 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by La Storie Wines.  This wine is 100% Gropello Gentile fermented and aged for four months in small cement tanks and oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  This is a juicy, young, thirst-quenching wine that is grapey yet serious.  The flavors are rounded with a grapey style throughout and a baking spiced finish.  An honest wine of good length.  **  Now.

An intense and dark 1979 Calafia Cellars, Merlot

October 16, 2019 Leave a comment

I pulled the cork on the 1979 Calafia Cellars, Merlot, Napa Valley not knowing one bit of its history.  Founded by Randle and MaryLee Johnson, this bottle is from their inaugural vintage which happens to be the same year the winery was founded.  Just five years earlier, in 1974, Johnson graduated from UC Davis then a year later begin work with Phil Baxter at Chateau Souverain in 1975. In 1977, Johnson started work under Bob Travers at Mayacamas Vineyard which is located on Mount Veeder.  Fascinated with this mountain fruit, Johnson opened Calafia Cellars in 1979.

Johnson explored the terroir of Mount Veeder.  In the early years at Calafia Cellars, he produced Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel from both the southeast-facing and west-facing slopes.  I do not know any background details of this wine but as it is marked Napa Valley, it could be Merlot sourced from the southeastern slopes of Mount Veeder.  Calafia Cellars was a winery in name only so I wonder if this inaugural vintage was made at Mayacamas.  This bottle was showing a bit of its age but the dark and intense flavors bear all the hallmarks of Mount Veeder.  What a treat!

1979 Calafia Cellars, Merlot, Napa Valley
Alcohol 14.1%.  Dark in color with a lovely nose.  Ripe and dark in the mouth with firm, dense and polished flavors carried by watering acidity.  In good condition, this wine is integrated all around.  It fleshes out a bit taking on some spice.  It eventually shows its age being a touch hollow in the end.  **(*) Now.

Articulate Garnacha from Spain

October 15, 2019 Leave a comment

Telmo Rodriguez is perhaps commonly known for his work at his family winery Remelluri in Rioja.  However, he also spends time exploring Spain for historic vineyards which he restores then produces exceptional wine from.  In 1999, he discovered old Garnacha bush vines on the slopes near the village of Cebreros located in Sierra de Gredos west of Madrid.  Incredibly, the vines were abandoned.  Some of the vines are located on slate whereas others are on granite.  The entry-level 2016 Pegaso, Zeta, Sierra de Gredos, Castilla y Leon stems from vines located on both types of soil.

I found the wine fresh to begin with and quite drinkable.  After an hour the various components come into play.  The fresh fruit and acidity match the textured structure.  The understated complexity speaks of future development.  I strongly recommend you give it a try, for it is unusually expressive at such a price.

2016 Pegaso, Zeta, Sierra de Gredos, Castilla y Leon – $19 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by de Maison Selections.  This wine is 100% Garnacha sourced from 60% year old vines located on soils of red slate and granite at ~900m.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts in French barrels then aged in a mixture of foudre, stainless steel tanks, and barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This is a finely textured wine which is bright with stone-infused red fruit.  With air it builds to become mid-weight yet remains fresh with understated complexity.  It is black flavored towards the finish with some grip and pebbly textured structure on the gums.  ***(*) Now – 2029.

Favorites from Vacqueyras

While I enjoy the rugged nature of Gigondas, it is to Vacqueyras that I look for fruity delight.  For this post we tasted through several current offerings from the power packed duo of vintages: 2015 and 2016.  Priced between $22 and $30 these wines offer excellent quality and personality.  In general, I prefer the 2016 vintage, the wines have denser fruit and excellent acidity, which makes them more exciting to drink.  They also have the stuffing for age.  The 2015 have deep flavor but are less fruity with a dry and structured nature.  I suspect that they will last a long time but the peak drinking window will be shorter.

The 2016 Domaine les Amouriers, Signature, Vacqueyras is a modern styled, best buy.  It needs a few hours of air before the satisfying, deep note of flavor comes out.  You really must buy both the 2016 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras and 2016 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Floureto, Vacqueyras for drinking now and laying down.  Both of these are savory wines with the Bouissiere offering up kirsch and the Sang des Cailloux mixed berries.  The Bouissiere is a bit more exciting to drink right now but the Sang des Cailloux will unfurl with age.  The 2015 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras and 2015 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras are good too.  They are certainly more structured and I hope in an awkward state.  The Sang des Cailloux has an incredible, deep earthy flavor that I have come to love from this domaine.  Yet the wine holds back, preventing ultimate pleasure.

These wines can age well too.  This year alone I have probably drunk five bottles of 2000 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras.  It is perfectly mature, balanced, yet in no decline.  It is a fine example of what aged Vacqueyras brings.  All of these wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Domaine les Amouriers, Signature, Vacqueyras – $22 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by DS Trading Co. Inc. This wine is a blend of 56% Grenache, 34% Syrah, 7% Mourvedre, and 3% Cinsault. Alcohol 15%.  Clean and modern with somewhat robust fruit flavors.  With air an attractive, low-lying deep bass note of flavor is revealed.  Blue fruited at first, it is largely offers black fruit through the finish.  No earth notes to speak of but some herbs instead.  *** Now – 2030.

2016 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras – $27 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Dionysos. This wine is a blend of 51% Grenache, 33% Syrah, and 16% Mourvedre which is fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks.  It is then aged in a mixture of cement tank, barrels, and demi-muids.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Dark and grapey in color.  Fresh, lifted grapey aromas.  In the mouth this is a savory, weighty wine with a dense vein of grapey fruit.  With air it offers pure kirsch flavor and complicated perfume.  With mid-weight fruit, very fine and slightly spicy structure, this wine will develop over the short term then last for some time further.  ***(*) Now – 2035.

2015 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras – $30
Imported by Dionysos. This wine is a blend of 42% Grenache, 50% Syrah, and 8% Mourvedre which is fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks.  It is then aged in a mixture of cement tank, barrels, and demi-muids.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Dark aromas of damp soil.  Drier in flavor, matched by herbs, with tense acidity.  The flavors are focused through the long, spicy finish where tangy pithe from the fine structure comes out.  *** Now – 2030.

2016 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Floureto, Vacqueyras – $30 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre & Cinsault which is fermented in cement tank then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Savory and saline flavors of mixed berries.  The flavors are rounded, somewhat dense and creamy in the middle with a bit of juicy acidity in the end.  Cherries mix with a little wood note before fine structure coats the gums.  ***(*) Now – 2035.

2015 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras – $32 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre & Cinsault which is fermented in cement tank then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 14%.  Familial nose of berries with a touch of earth.  Dry flavors follow with cherry carried by watering acidity into a finish of strawberry candy and kirsch.  It is of good, deep flavor yet restrained in the palate preventing that next level of enjoyment.  Tangy in the finish it sports a fine structure that might outlast the fruit.  *** Now – 2024.

2000 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras –
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre & Cinsault which is fermented in cement tank then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 13.8%. Balanced, mouth filling flavors of blue fruit, minerals, and garrigue which are matched by supportive acidity.  Some earthy depth too.  It is fully mature with resolved structure but nowhere near decline.  **** Now but will last.

Good Wines Abound in Sicily

October 1, 2019 2 comments

What is remarkable about these four red wines from Sicily is that the even the two least expensive bottles, made primarily from Nerello Mascalese, are great!  The 2017 Calabretta, Gaio Gaio, Etna is my favorite for drinking right now.  Calabretta consistently releases top-notch wines at low prices and this particular bottling is beautiful.  The 2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso is also approachable now.  It offers more stuffing up front but then a chalky, floral finish speaks of the island.  The 2017 Occhipinti, SP68, Sicily is a different blend being Frappato with Nero d’Avola. It is not offering as much as I would like so try it again in a year.  The 2014 Calabretta, Pinot Nero, Etna needs time too but it has the goods!  I recently bought these wines at MacArthur Beverages.

2017 Calabretta, Gaio Gaio, Etna – $17
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced from old vines.  It was aged in large, old oak containers.  Alcohol 14%. Aromatic berries on the nose. Crunchy, rosemary infused strawberry flavors. This is a beautiful wine with good presence and length in the finish. It has the structure and acidity for some years. *** Now – 2024.

2014 Calabretta, Pinot Nero, Etna – $25
Imported by Williams Corner Wines. Fairly robust at first, the intensity is surprising but then this is clearly an outstanding vintage. There is a core of fruit and puckering acidity which will see this through development. It remains tight so a good candidate for the cellar. *** 2022-2027.

2017 Occhipinti, SP68, Sicily – $26
Imported by Louis/Dressner. A blend of mostly Frappato with Nero d’Avola which was fermented then aged in concrete tanks.  Alcohol 12.5%. Scented red fruit on the nose. Bright in the mouth, a little earth, certainly tart with modest structure. Lively but the tart, ripe structure needs to resolve.  **(*) 2020-2025.

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso – $19
Imported by deGrazia Imports.  This wine is a blend of 95% Nerello Mascalese and 5% Nerello Cappuccio Alcohol 14%.  Flavorful, almost robust, certainly impressive for the stuffing. Firm red candy then a mineral, chalky vein before the lifted, floral finish. *** Now – 2024.

An Honest Pair from Domaine de Fontsainte

September 29, 2019 Leave a comment

This pair of recent offerings from Domaine de Fontsainte exhibit distinct personalities at low prices. That is no easy feat.  The 2016 Domaine de Fontsainte, Reserva la Demoiselle, Corbieres  is mostly Carignan sourced from 100+ year old vines.  It is a wine to drink now and though generous in flavor, it has supportive acidity, and a good dose of provencal herbs.  The 2018 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres is crisp with an interesting blend of brown sugar and mineral, black fruit.  I like the flavor and the acidity profile.  It should be even better this winter.  If you can only purchase on bottle then I would just grab the one which sounds more like your style.  I bought these two bottles at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Domaine de Fontsainte, Reserva la Demoiselle, Corbieres – $17 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 60% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, and 10% Mourvedre.  The Carignan vines were planted in 1904 and the fruit alone undergoes carbonic maceration. The wine is then aged in a mixture of cement tank and French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  Effusive and approachable from the very first glass.  It is blue fruited at first then turns towards tart raspberry and blackberry in flavor.  It is a tangy wine with some supportive structure but is largely a wine that is ready to drink.  It is dense in the middle with lemon/citric acidity, and solid finish. It evokes the south with its provencal herbs.  *** Now – 2020.

2018 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres – $15 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 60% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, and 10% Syrah aged in French oak barrels.  Again, the Carignan undergoes carbonic maceration.  Alcohol 14%.  There is a core of brown-sugared, ripe, black fruit which leans towards a mineral, blacker fruited finish.  There is good freshness from the watering acidity.  It takes on hints of cream and stone.  Though a crisp wine it should improve over the short-term.  **(*) Now – 2023.