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An exploratory tasting of mature Nebbiolo 1975-1954

December 1, 2017 1 comment

A small group of us gathered to explore modestly priced old Nebbiolo of which little is known about the producers in general or the wines in specific.  This meant no Vallana and no Nervi, for example.  We selected 10 different red wines from 1975 back to 1954 but were sure to include flights from the excellent 1964 and 1958 vintages.  The wines hailed from Barolo, Carema, Gattinara, Ghemme, and simply Alto Piemonte.  Before we tasted the red wines we tucked into a bottle of NV Ruinart, Champagne Brut Rose and a trio of German wines from 1976.

Sticking with the theme of little known, the German trio included Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Optima.  As may be expected the 1976 Gebruder Schneider, Riesling Auslese, Martiner Schloss Ludwigshohe, Rheinpfalz is the best of the lot.  The deep nose perks interest and in the mouth it is mature yet rounded so as to provide good mouthfeel.  It falls a bit flat since it lacks the electric acidity I would like.   The 1976 Gebruder Schneider, Gewurztraminer Auslese, St. Martiner Zitadelle, Rheinpfalz smells and tastes like Gewurztraminer yet is a bit monolithic.  Finally the 1976 Gebruder Schneider, Optima Beerenauslese, St. Martiner Baron, Rheinpfalz is a strange combination of fruit and florals as if it could not decide what to be.  This grape is a Riesling and Silvaner cross that was crossed with Muller-Thurgau.  That fact is more interesting than the wine.

From the shadows of Mont Blanc the 1975 Produttori di Carema, Carema Etichetta Rosso is the brightest, most acidic, and nearly most tannic of all the wines tasted.  You get hints of its maturity but you are left wondering when will it ever be ready to drink?

The 1964 flight was a mixed bag but the wines improved across the flight.  Our bottle of 1964 Agostino Brugo, Colline Novaresi Spanna Riserva is clearly way past good drinking.  The 1964 Agostino Brugo, Ghemme smells proper but there is a bit of roasted earth indicating it is over the hump of prime drinking.  I suspect it was always a modest wine.  Much better is the 1964 Cantine Curti, Spanna.  It is pungent and still has concentration from age.  Quite good if not the most exciting wine.

I found the wines from the 1950s of the most interest primarily from the successful flight of 1958 Vini Valsesia.  The 1958 Vini Valsesia, Gattinara still has incensed red fruit and tangy grip.  This bottle and the 1958 Vini Valsesia, Ghemme Riserva were the two most consumed.  The Ghemme is very good and a clear step up in quality.  It is ripe and mouth filling with sweaty, earthy notes.  If I had to guess, it is this wine which saw the addition of fruit from Southern Italy.  It took several hours for the 1958 Vini Valsesia, Spanna Riserva to clean up.  It has moved passed fruit to old leather and dried oregano notes.  Both the Gattinara and Spanna Riserva had similar weight and acidity.  A fun flight.

The final flight of wines sported two very powerful yet boring Barolo: 1959 Cavalier Felice Abbona & Figli, Barolo and 1958 Pistone Luigi, Barolo Riserva.  The former is clean with simple flavors of tart, red fruit and the later, a bit stinky with blood and iron flavors.  Neither wine changed over three nights.  The nose of our 1954 Avondo, Gattinara is volatile, but still with hints of perfume.  The flavors are completely clean and electric with fresh red fruit.  There is depth and character here such that this could have been the wine of the night.

Thanks to everyone for their contributions.  I had a lot of fun tasting through wines that I had no idea what they would be like.   There was also a slew of dessert wines but I will write those up in a separate post.

1976 Gebruder Schneider, Riesling Auslese, Martiner Schloss Ludwigshohe, Rheinpfalz
A honied, deep nose.  In the mouth are round flavors, black tea notes, and fresh acidity before the lighter flavored middle.  There is nice body, floral notes, and rounded finish with watering acidity.  ** Now.

1976 Gebruder Schneider, Gewurztraminer Auslese, St. Martiner Zitadelle, Rheinpfalz
Gewurz on the nose and in the mouth but with density and white nuts.  Full of flavor yet not that complex and in need of acidity.  *(*) Now.

1976 Gebruder Schneider, Optima Beerenauslese, St. Martiner Baron, Rheinpfalz
A strange combination of tropical fruit and floral notes.  Very rounded in mouth, could stand more acidity. Weird.

1975 Produttori di Carema, Carema Etichetta Rosso
Alcohol 12%.  It is a brick, tawny color.  Blood on the nose.  There is bright red fruit in the mouth, some leather and some age evident in the bit of roasted earth flavor.  There is strong, citric acidity and very fine structure in the finish.  Will this ever develop?  **  Now but will last.

1964 Agostino Brugo, Colline Novaresi Spanna Riserva
Founded in 1894 the wines are raised in oak and chestnut.  Brown in color with a nose of roast earth, must, and cheese.  Tastes old.  Past.

1964 Agostino Brugo, Ghemme
The tawny color has hints of cherry.  The subtle nose reveals deeper, sweaty notes.  In the mouth are red fruit flavors, cranberry, and that slightly sweaty complexity.  There is some roasted earth speaking of age but the bottle comes across as well stored with freshness and citric grip in the finish.  ** Now.

1964 Cantine Curti, Spanna
Alcohol 13%.  It is a light to medium tawny brick color.  The first proper smelling wine with pungency and old concentration.  There is a core of ripe red fruit with good flavor.  The bottle is in fine condition, tasting fresh with some density up front but becoming lighter towards the finish.  There is a modest amount of the sweaty funk in the end.  *** Now.

1958 Vini Valsesia, Gattinara
The Valsesia family have produced wine since the 1920s when Alessandro Valsesia purchased the Perucca family of wine and grain licenses. In the 1950s, Anselmo Valsesia takes control of the winery and begins to bottle Novaresi wines. It is not until 1960 that new land and a new cellar is built.  Alcohol 13%.  The lightest color yet being a brown tawny.  The nose is gentle with bloody hints.  In the mouth is delicate, incensed flavors of bright red fruit.  There is fine texture, electricity acidity, and a lifted finish.  I like the tangy grip.  ***  Now.

1958 Vini Valsesia, Ghemme Riserva
Alcohol 12.5%.  A medium+ tawny brick.  Clearly a good nose with sweet and sweaty concentration.  This is a ripe, mouth filling wine with fruit, earth, and even some vigor.  There is gentle spice, sweet leather, and more weight in the finish.  I like the ethereal nature of the ripeness.  It picked up a menthol note in the finish.  **** Now but well stored bottles will last.

1958 Vini Valsesia, Spanna Riserva
Alcohol 13%.  Not up to the other wines and in need of much air to clean up.  This is less about fruit than old wood, dried oregano, and blood.  The acidity is fresh and the wine is grippy.  ** Now.

1959 Cavalier Felice Abbona & Figli, Barolo
The Abbona family has produced wine for this firm located in the center of Barolo since at least 1873. In 1929 the Abbona family acquired the Marchesi di Barolo winery and vineyard.  Alcohol 13%.  A dark tawny color.  The subtle nose is meaty.  In the mouth this remains a focused and decidedly tart red fruited wine with lively acidity and power.  To match the power is the structure and puckering finish.  No real complexity.  * Now but will last.

1958 Pistone Luigi, Barolo Riserva
Around since at least 1890.  Alcohol 13%.  A light brown color.  A stinky nose of meat. In the mouth is a tight core of grippy red fruit, bloody, and iron that fill the mouth with flavor.  There is plenty of fresh drying structure that coats the gums.  * Now.

1954 Avondo, Gattinara
Caesar Avondo of Lozzolo exhibited his 1874 Spanna at the Paris Exposition of 1878.  There is some volatility on the nose but also perfume.  The wine is clean in the mouth with plenty of lively fruit delivered with an electric, vibrant mouthfeel.  I agree with Lou’s comment of, “fresh crushed berries”.  It would have been wine of the night but for the nose.  *** Now.

Mature Middle Mosel Riesling

October 24, 2017 Leave a comment

A small number of old German wines recently hit the shelves of MacArthur Beverages.  The owner had passed away so the bottles were sold off.  As they were well-stored Phil picked them up and being of fine vintages, I bought a handful.  I tried two of the bottles from the middle Mosel the other evening with my brother-in-law.

The 1983 vintage is perhaps the best since 1976.  However, the old vintages of Kesten were of largely unremarkable quality except the Paulinshofberg wines which once commanded high prices.  The 1983 Weingut Jakob Wintrich, Kestener Paulinshofberg, Riesling Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer showed an attractive, weighty apricot flavor but it was generally puckering and tart.  This distracted me.

The 1976 vintage is considered outstanding for the Mosel.  My experience is limited to the 1976 Herman Freiherr von Schorlemer, Bernkasteler Badstube, Riesling Beerenauslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer shared by Phil a few years back.  I know not of Weingut Egon Studert but in the 1950s and 1960s Zeltinger Sonnenuhr was considered one the top vineyards amongst the expansive sea of Zeltingen.  The quality of the vintage and the vineyard come through in the 1976 Weingut Egon Studert, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer.  There is a gorgeous mature color, a nose of honey, and enjoyable flavors of honey, baking spices, smoke, and leather.  The lively acidity is worth mentioning as well.   I even drank it over two nights without any loss of pleasure.  The one weakness is that the finish is short.

1983 Weingut Jakob Wintrich, Kestener Paulinshofberg, Riesling Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
This  is a brilliant, golden yellow color with a tinge of amber.  A tart, rounded, and weighty start soon resolves to flavors of apricot with black tea.  There are wood notes too.  The acidity sharpens the wine up until the puckering, tart finish.  With air a bit of  botrytis comes out. *(*) Now.

1976 Weingut Egon Studert, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
A gorgeous, brilliant color of amber and honey. The nose also smells of honey.  In the mouth is an acidity driven start, clearly riper fruit at first then with air, it is honey flavored as well.  It mixes baking spices, smoke, and leather.  Flavors of black tea come near the finish which is shorter than desired but a fine texture is left in the aftertaste.  With air the body takes on a honied textured and a flavor of petrol comes out.  ** Now but will last.

Lou guesses Italian, I guess Bordeaux

I went over to Lou’s house a few weeks ago.  We each brown bagged a few wines for each other to guess.  We only skirted with brilliance, informally I would say we are closer in guessing vintages than the regions the wine came from.  I brought the Rhone trio because negociants were still in their heydey at the end of the 1970s.  This clearly evident in the basic 1979 Paul Jaboulet-Aine, Crozes-Hermitage which is in absolutely fine shape today.  My brother-in-law’s guess that the bottle contained mature Cotes du Rhone is on the mark.  From an excellent vintage the 1978 Paul Jaboulet Aine, La Grand Pompee, Saint-Joseph is deeply aromatic and powerful.  Today it is very bloody on the nose and simpler in the mouth but I suspect it was a brute in youth.  It fell apart before the Crozes.  In case we needed confirmation that the Jaboulet Aine Crozes is a good wine I opened the miserable bottle of 1979 Cave des Clairmonts, Crozes-Hermitage.

I guessed Washington state for the 1996 Ridge, Grenache ATP, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley.  Clearly an excellent wine, it remains attractively aromatic yet continues to expand in flavor for hours.  After a few hours of air it becomes racy and texture.  I suspect this wine will develop for another year or two.  The 1998 Meerlust, Merlot, Stellenbosch confused me.  The salty start reminded me of certain Syrah based wines but the herbaceousness had me leaning towards a minor wine from Bordeaux.  It is surprisingly unevolved but it may never actually arrive at maturity.

1979 Paul Jaboulet-Aine, Crozes-Hermitage
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons.  Alcohol 12%.  There is a good nose of mature Rhone fruit that persists until the bottle is finished.  In the mouth are rounded, perfumed flavors with a clear amount of good blue fruit and spices still present.  It finishes with some menthol gum freshness.  *** Now.

1978 Paul Jaboulet Aine, La Grand Pompee, Saint-Joseph
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose is metallic at first then it remains deeply aromatic evoking blood and iron.  It is tangy on the nose.  There is a bright fruit start then a black fruited middle moved by watering acidity.  The wine has power but the flavors become simpler towards the end.  The strength of the vintage comes through but the wine has seen better days.  * Now.

1979 Cave des Clairmonts, Crozes-Hermitage
This smells disjointed and tastes clunk, as if sweetness was added.  Poor.

1996 Ridge, Grenache ATP, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley
This wine is a blend of 92% Grenache, 6% Zinfandel, and 2% Petite Sirah.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This is a touch lighter in color making it medium garnet.  The wine changes with air for several hours, all the while maintaining a lovely nose of mixed berries and spice.  In the mouth is a ripe and perfumed start followed by a brief period of austerity.  It soon becomes racy with ripe flavors and power complemented by a fine texture and spiced finish.  This is a enjoyable wine just about to enter its mature plateau.  **** Now – 2023.

1998 Meerlust, Merlot, Stellenbosch
Imported by Cape Classics.  Alcohol 13%.  This looks young in the glass and still has a purple, grapey dark core.  The dark, salty start is interesting then the wine turns almost bitter with bits of green herbaceousness and very fine, drying tannins. It remains firm, never opening up.  ** Now but will last.

Italian Barbera from 1964 to 2013

The gray weather parted allowing a small group of us to taste through a range of Barbera on my back deck. Unspoken etiquette ensured we had bottles of Champagne and white wine to occupy ourselves as the bottles of Barbera were opened and I fussed with the grill. Both starter bottles were excellent. Having now tasted NV Demiere Ansiot, Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs I can state that I want to drink it again. This is surprisingly complex Champagne with frothy bubbles and balance such that it should be drunk up right now. If you like mature Champagne go buy several bottles. The 2007 Red Newt, Gewurztraminer, Curry Creek Vineyard, Finger Lakes is comparatively younger in profile with its dense flavors of nuts and tropical fruit. It is a lot of wine.

We began the Barbera tasting with a trio of four old wines, one of which was bagged. My favorite is the 1967 Casa Vinicola Antonio Vallana, Barbera del Cantina di Bacco. Some did not like it which meant I was left with the lion’s share of old-school sweaty aromas and sweet, concentrated, silky fruit. From the same vintage I also liked the 1967 Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani, Castello di Gabiano Riserva which with one “b” is one of Italy’s smallest DOCs from Monferrato and not to be confused with the estate from the south of Florence. The brighter fruit and blood are gently delivered making for a different expression of Barbera. This brightness could be attributed to the wine containing up to 10% Freisa and Grignolino.  Our oldest bottle of 1964 Poderi di Luigi Einaudi, Barbera is a survivor for I drank a glass of leftovers the next night with only slightly diminished pleasure. It is bright, tart, and bit acidic making it more of a curiosity. The brown-bagged 1974 Angelo Papagni, Barbera is a wine that is simply too old.

Our next two bottles were flawed. It is a shame because the 1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Conca Tre Pile, Barbera D’Alba has the potential to be very good. There is not telling what the 1999 Elio Grasso, Vigna Martina, Barbera D’Alba should be like.

In young territory the 2005 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti is young primary and attractively floral. In contrast the 2006 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti sports heft, brawn, and good flavor. It is one to age for many more years. Also promising is the elegant and impeccably balanced 2008 Bartolo Mascarello, Barbera D’Alba. The last bottle of 2013 Coppo, Pomorosso, Barbera d’Asti proved to be the youngest and most modern wine. It is a good, articulated wine but not of my preferred style.  Based on these wines I would like to repeat the tasting but focus in on 1990s and older.

NV Demiere Ansiot, Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs
Becky Wasserman selection imported by USA Wine Imports. This wine is 100% Chardonnay. Alcohol 12%. The nose begins with a yeast hint then toast and apple orchard aromas which together make for a very satisfying nose. In the mouth are racy flavors of delicate berries, definitely fruity, and frothy bubbles. The fizz is not hard rather it is subtle. This is an excellent wine for drinking now, it is complex with baking spices and a clean finish.  **** Now.

2007 Red Newt, Gewurztraminer, Curry Creek Vineyard, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 14.7%. The color is bright and golden with a green hint. The flavors mix nuts with tropical fruit with a tilt towards sweet flavors. This fine, dense wine has a minerally middle.  Good stuff! **** Now – 2020.

1964 Poderi di Luigi Einaudi, Barbera
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%. The nose is musky at first morphing to old leather as it cleans up and with air adds in cinnamon. The wine itself is earthy with bright acidity and a clean flavor profile of tart cherry and cranberry red fruit. It is a little tired towards the finish but the tart fruit persists in the aftertaste. ** Now.

1974 Angelo Papagni, Barbera (brown bagged mystery wine)
Alcohol 12.5%. A garnet color but one sniff and taste tell that this wine is way past prime. Not Rated.

 

1967 Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani, Castello di Gabiano Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. This wine is probably a blend of 90%-95% Barbera with the rest Freisa and Grignolino.  Alcohol 11%-14%. The nose smells of blood. In the mouth this is a bright, forward wine with nice bright acidity and up-front grip. It sports an old-school gentleness and softness. Notes of polished wood eventually come out. The blood returns in the aftertaste. *** Now but will last.

1967 Casa Vinicola Antonio Vallana, Barbera del Cantina di Bacco, Colline Novaresi
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12.5%. The nose is old-school, sweaty and sweet. In the mouth the ripe fruit is sweet with concentration. This silky, smooth wine gains focus and length with air. There is fine texture and weight to the core of fruit which is surrounded by sweaty notes and wood. **** Now but will last.

1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Conca Tre Pile, Barbera D’Alba
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%. Sadly cooked on the nose. In the mouth though are gobs of mouth filling fruit with a fine, ripe texture from the tannins. There are tart red fruit flavors in the finish. Correct bottles should be quite good. Not Rated.

1999 Elio Grasso, Vigna Martina, Barbera D’Alba
Alcohol 14.5%. Bad bottle! Not Rated.

2005 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti
Alcohol 14%. The nose is still young and clean with finely scented aromas of violets. Still youthful in the most this primary wine is fresh with watering acidity. ***(*) Now – 2027.

2006 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti
Alcohol 14%. The color is darker with a purple tinge. The nose sports more heft to the aromas. In the mouth the flavors are brawnie and matched by additional tannins. There is dark red fruit, rounded feel, and a good personality. This will age for a long time. ***(*) Now – 2032.

2007 G. D. Vajra, Barbera D’Alba Superiore
Imported by The Country Vintner. Alcohol 14.5%. It is hard to get past the over-ripe, full-bore fruit. The wine becomes tangy with serious weight.  ** Now.

 

2008 Bartolo Mascarello, Barbera D’Alba
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 14%. An elegant nose moves on to bright red fruit over a black fruit foundation. This wine is balanced with grippy personality, texture and some ink. The structure is finely integrated with the fruit. ***(*) Now – 2027.

2013 Coppo, Pomorosso, Barbera d’Asti
Imported by Folio Wine Partners. Alcohol 14.5%. This is an articulated, young, modern wine that is not without attraction. Not really my style but I can appreciate it.  *** Now – 2025.

A pair of polar-opposite wines

February 13, 2017 Leave a comment

A case of perfectly stored 1986 Chateau Bel Air, Cotes de Castillon showed up at MacArthur Beverages last week.  You can tell because the fills are all in the neck, the corks are age-defying, and the color of the wine is deep.  The wine itself is simple with flavors of hard cherry and eventually polished wood.  And that’s about it!

The wines of Les Champ Libres are produced by René-Jean Dard and Hervé Souhaut.  Both of these men produced northern Rhone wines, the latter of which have appeared on this blog.  The 2015 Les Champs Libres, Lard, des Choix is a wine of great energy.  Both the nose and palate offer deep, grapey, young fruit that is quite remarkable.  I kept expecting some Pilsner/yeast aspect to break out but it did not.  Instead, this is a personality rich wine that any lover of the Northern Rhone must try.  These wines are (or were!) available at MacArthur Beverages.

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1986 Chateau Bel Air, Cotes de Castillon – $10
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose remains subtle.  In the mouth the flavor of hard cherry remains firm.  The structural components are still around and the watering acidity reminds you that this wine is very much alive.  It needs some air before gaining a touch more interest from a polished wood note. *(*) Now but well-stored bottles will last.

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2015 Les Champs Libres, Lard, des Choix – $22
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  Alcohol 13%.  The aromatic nose offers up grapey aromas and deep young fruit.  In the mouth are lively, deep flavors of floral, purple fruit.  The initial acidity on the tongue tip leads to a textured wine that leaves an ethereal, perfumed coating of fat-infused flavor.  **** Now – 2018.

Tasted blind: 1991 Ridge Monte Bello, 1986 Phelps Backus, and 1984 Duckhorn

February 9, 2017 1 comment

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Last night Lou and I gathered to blindly taste through several bottles of Californian Cabernet Sauvignon.  For fun, we each unknowingly threw in an Australian blend of Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon.  Perhaps this is unfair given the stature of our main selections but it was for fun.  As we settled down to cheese, charcuterie, and cork removal we checked out a bottle of 2002 Huet, Le Haut-Lieu, Sec, Vouvray.  I do not have enough experience with Huet so I found the lifted, aromatically textured nose a delight.  It starts off in the fruit spectrum eventually to take on a honey character.  In the mouth this is a fresh, grippy wine with a nice balance of fruit supported by hints of yeast and oxidation.  Fine stuff!  I look forward to finishing my leftover glass tonight.

It was then on to the bagged red wines.  Guessing is fun when you are not pressured.  Wine #1 is firm at first though you can detect some maturity and herbaceousness.  It is the most structured wine out of all tasted and I, admittedly clueless, narrowed in to the 1979-1981 vintages.  For those who enjoy structured, rather than opulent wines the 1984 Duckhorn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley will develop for years to come.  It eventually reveals a bit more of its bottle aged maturity.

Wine #2 showed signs of old seepage under the capsule but the fill was where the neck met the shoulder.  You could get a sense of this on the nose which leaned towards meat rather than fruit but in the mouth the flavor and delivery of the fruit flavor is gorgeous!  What luxury it is to drink glass after glass of 1991 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains.  This is a sophisticated wine of ideal balance with youthful, complex fruit flavors that seek out every part of your mouth with wave after wave of flavor.  Also excellent is wine #4.  After some bottle stink blew off, this is highly aromatic of eucalyptus.  In the mouth an impressive amount of energy unfurls dark fruit, ripe structure, and wood box.  The 1986 Joseph Phelps Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Napa Valley is perhaps more mature in flavor than the Ridge but the Phelps needs more time to open up.  It is fascinating pair to drink together.  No one spat these two wines!

Just a few final thoughts with regards to wines #3 – 2004 Penfolds, Koonunga Hill, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Eastern Australia, avoid, and #5 – 1978 Wakefield River Estates, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia.  Wakefield River Estates was founded in 1972 by Dr. Douglas Hewitson who planted just over 2,100 Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the wheatbelt area of Balaklava.  The wines were made by the highly regarded James Irvine who still produces wine today.  James Irvine got his start at a young age having developed the Siegersdorf brand in 1959 as winemaker at Hardy’s.  As the Wakefield winery had no buildings the wine was made at Saltram, an historic Barossa Valley winery founded in 1859.  Wakefield River Estates was short-lived and curious enough, the label on the bottle tells the history including the demise indicating this bottle was imported in the mid 1980s.  It was in 1982 that all of the fruit was eaten by starlings and in 1983, due to severe drought conditions, there was a sparse crop.  The fruit was sold off and the winery ceased.  As for the vintage Decanter states the wines are of “richness and longevity” with the wines around Adelaide being “robust”.  So perhaps it was a bit unfair to include this wine with the Ridge and Phelps but the potential is there.

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2002 Huet, Le Haut-Lieu, Sec, Vouvray
Imported by Robert Chadderdon.  Alcohol 12%. It is the color of a light apple cider.  On the nose are finely textured, lifted aromas of dried apricots and apple cider.  With air the nose reveals honey aromas.  In the mouth this is a mildly weight wine with a vein of acidity and hint of yeast towards the finish.  It wraps up with a fresh and grippy finish.  Additional complexity is gained from a hint of oxidation. ***(*) Now – 2027.

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#1 – 1984 Duckhorn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.9%.  This is less dark than #2 but of similar color.  The nose offers hints of maturity with the slightest hint of herbaceousness.  A lively start brings a little tang and firmness of flavor.  There is still structure in the end which contributes to the lasting sensation.  With air the wine begins to open up maturity becoming more evident.  It also develops a mineral note and a dusty, wood box flavor. ***(*) Now – 2022.

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#2 – 1991 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
This wine is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 13.3%.  This garnet wine is still fairly opaque in the middle.  The nose is a bit meaty.  In the mouth this wine packs in the flavor with a plum hint at first, mineral middle, then a younger, fresh eucalyptus finish.  There is sophistication to the purple and black fruits There is still a very fine tannic structure and acidity throughout. Impeccably balanced and impressive. ****(*) Now – 2027.

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#3 – 2004 Penfolds, Koonunga Hill, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Eastern Australia
Imported by FWE Imports.  This wine is a blend of 64% Shiraz and 36% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in oak.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The subtle nose is followed by candied and pruned flavors in the mouth.  The acidity stands separate from the core of simple fruit flavors.  Tastes like a cheap domestic port.  Poor.

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#4 – 1986 Joseph Phelps Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.3%.  Some bottle stink at first but that blows off to reveal a highly aromatic, eucalyptus nose.  In the mouth is dark flavor, more structure, and a touch of ruggedness in the finish.  But over the course of several hours this wine unfurls itself.  It adds both wood box and blood.  The energy is impressive as framed, ripe, inky fruit coats the mouth. ****(*) Now – 2027.

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#5 – 1978 Wakefield River Estates, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia
Imported by San Francisco Traders LTD.  This wine is a blend of mostly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in oak puncheons.  Alcohol 12%.  A mature garnet color.  There is a ripe fruit start but the wine quickly turns soft only to end at the short finish.  Simply too old at this point.  Fair.

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A pair of Ridge and a blind Caronne Ste Gemme

January 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Lou and I managed to squeeze in several quick glasses of wine between our kids’ basketball games and dinner.  We kicked off with a bottle of NV (bottled in Dec 2000) Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coast Range, Sonoma County.  Both the capsule and label are darker, perhaps indicating this is a non-vintage winemaker’s blend.  It is clearly a Bordeaux blend on the nose with the greenhouse aromas indicating some cooler vintage(s) in the blend.  It is actually well made with an interesting finish and aftertaste, I just wish there was more depth to the fruit flavor.  The 2001 Ridge, Carignane, Buchignani Ranch, Sonoma County is a completely different beast.  The back label indicates that the sugar levels rose on the grapes and what we found in the glass were sweet, over ripe flavors.  I enjoyed it more on the initial pour but then found it too sweet.

Finally, Lou served a bottle blind.  I guessed it was either early 1980s California Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend or 1990s Bordeaux from a cooler vintage.  I was close as it turned out to be 1996 Chateau Caronne Ste Gemme, Haut-Medoc.  Caronne Ste Gemme was a daily drinker for Lou so he thought it fun to try a one.  This particular bottle bears its age very well.  With better balance than the NV Ridge, it is a lively drink at 21 years of age.

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NV (bottled in Dec 2000) Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coast Range, Sonoma County
This wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 13.3%.  The nose is finely scented with greenhouse aromas and red/black fruit.  In the mouth this wine has fine grip and focus, showing tart red fruit and leather.  It builds flavor with air as well as a hard wood note, more leather, and delicate cranberry red fruit.  The aftertaste is surprisingly good.  ** Now but will last

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2001 Ridge, Carignane, Buchignani Ranch, Sonoma County
This wine is a blend of 99% Carignane and 1% Zinfandel.  Alcohol 14.3%.  There is a sweet, ripe dusty nose of fruit.  In the mouth the flavor is of very ripe berries, tea flavors, chocolate, and sweet fruit.  On re-tasting it tastes of over-ripe fruit.  Though there is still some grip. * Now.

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1996 Chateau Caronne Ste Gemme, Haut-Medoc
Imported by Adventures in Wine.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The color shows some age and the nose reveals greenhouse accented fruit.  In the mouth is a focused cloud of fruit with some purple flavors and ink.  It taste of a cool vintage but the attractive structure is in balance, there is some wood box, and an inky hint.  **(*) Now but will last.

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