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“How long will our reds last? I don’t know.”: 1978 Parducci, Merlot Special Bottling plus some table wine

December 11, 2018 Leave a comment

The label of the 1978 Parducci, Merlot Special Bottling, Mendocino County magnum was only slightly soiled. The fill was excellent and underneath the plastic capsule, the firmly seated cork was pristine. After double-decanting, to remove the sediment, the wine bore deep aromas proper for a good Californian wine from the 1970s.

Grapes have been grown in Mendocino County since the 19th century when there were a few dozen growers. Located north of Sonoma, the slow arrival of rail lines meant this was a region of smaller enterprises rather than ones on a commercial scale. During Prohibition grapes were grown for home winemaking in San Francisco and bootlegging on the East Coast. By 1938, the number of bonded wines hit eight with Parducci the largest of them all. Most of the Parducci wine was sold off to other major wineries but eventually a new generation sought to bottle under their own label during the wine boom. It is in 1973 that Nathan Chroman, writing for the Los Angeles Times, found Parducci was just beginning to establish their identity.

Like Robert Mondavi, John Parducci advocated unfined and unfiltered wine. He did differ from Mondavi in these early years by avoiding any contact with oak. Parducci also felt strongly about growing the best grapes for the site rather than what was in demand. Articles from the 1970s share a common theme of Parducci’s unique style, affordable price, and drinkable red wines. If there was preference for fresh, fruit flavored red wines, there was also an economic side to it. The French and Yugoslavian oak barrels were too expensive for the family. That is not to say no wood was used, the Cabernet was aged in tall, thin redwood vats.

It must be remembered that 1976 and 1977 were drought years in California. The 1978 vintage yielded large numbers of healthy, sugar-filled grapes. Excitement was widespread with John Parducci commenting on the new wines, “Some of the most fantastic wines California has ever seen.” The principal vineyards of Parducci were Talmage, Largo, and Home Ranch. This is not where the fruit came from for the 1978 Merlot Special Bottling. The back label states the “grapes were grown by small growers on the slopes of Mendocino County”.

In 1974, the Special Bottling of Cabernet Sauvignon sold for $7.99 per bottle in Washington, DC. That put this Special Bottling in the range of Chappellet and Clos du Val pricing.  The nose is generous and in Parducci style, the wine offers up berries, freshness, and levity.  The alcohol level is noticeably low.  Together these traits make it a highly drinkable wine.  In fact, the magnum drank very well for several hours at which time it started to fade. To answer the title question, this magnum lasted 40 years with ease.

I wish I could write more about the 1974 Foppiano Vineyards, Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County.  Founded in the 19th century, very little was written about it save short mention of the periodically medal-winning Cabernet Sauvignon.  William Rice of The Washington Post found the 1972 Foppiano , Zinfandel as “very fruity” and though pleasantly aromatic, it lacked in tannin.  Ours, though, was from a better vintage but my gut-feeling is that the regular 1974s are fading away which did not help this wine.  The flavors are beginning to turn with no supporting structure left.

We tried two other wines that night from California. The magnums of 1984 and 1985 Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Red were found in the dump bin at MacArthur Beverages. Priced at $3 each I had to try them for the historic note. A closer look at the label reveals these were made at the Woodbridge Winery. Created in 1979, the Woodbridge Winery was destined to produce large volumes of affordable, oak aged wines. A basic non-vintage table wine had been made at Mondavi since 1976 but quality had slipped.  The Woodbridge Winery was one of multiple prongs designed to improve the table wine quality.

The new Mondavi Red was primarily a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Gamay, Petite Sirah, and Merlot aged in small oak barrels. Carignan, Thomson Seedless (!!!), and Columbard were largely jettisoned as they were considered in the territory of jug wine.  Mondavi believed in long aging in oak but $300 French oak barres were to expensive for use at Woodbridge. Instead, he “retired” his older French oak barrels used in his premium wines to Woodbridge.  He then employed American coopers to use American oak to form new barrels using the French method of charing rather than steaming. Unlike other inexpensive table wines these were new table wines based at Woodbridge winery were regarded as more complex and capable of some aging.

As for the wines, the 1984 was green, herbaceous and way past prime.  Not really surprising.  I was hoping to pull a rabbit out of a hat and the 1985 almost obliged. The nose was good but the flavors too herbaceous.  I suspect it would have drunk fine a decade ago.

1978 Parducci, Merlot Special Bottling, Mendocino County
Alcohol 12.5%.  Definitely a brick-brown color.  Deep, comforting aromas are evocative of the period.  In the mouth fresh acidity bearing mixed flavors of wood box, deep berries, and maturity.  A lighter bodied wine of moderate length it is fresh and very drinkable.  It fleshes out a bit with air becoming more saline.  It has good staying power.  *** Now but will last

1974 Foppiano Vineyards, Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12%.  The cork smelled balsamic but none of that transferred to the wine.  A slight hint of roast indicates its past prime.  In the mouth this is a fully mature wine, aging fruit is a touch sour but it remains supple.  A lighter style of Zinfandel that was likely elegant to begin with the structure entirely integrated.  *(*) Drink Up.

1984 Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Red
Alcohol 12%.  Green veggies and other herbaceous aromas.  An herbaceous edge to the bright and tart red fruit.  Short, simple, and not of interest. Past Prime.

1985 Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Red
Alcohol 12%.  Some depth to the nose, dark fruit, wood box, and spices.  A certain hint of that carries into the mouth but herbaceousness comes out as well.  In much better poise than the 1984. * Now but drink up.

An Afternoon with Mature Wine – Part 2 Old Cali

November 19, 2018 Leave a comment

After four largely good bottles of old Nebbiolo, the three of us needed more wine to taste so out came several bottles of old Californian wine.  The 1977 Franciscan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, by way of Reid Wines of Bristol, was a mess of herbaceous, evergreen notes.  The pair of 1975 Harbor Winery bottles proved more interesting with the 1975 Harbor Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley a clear favorite of this grouping.

Harbor Winery was founded in 1972 by Charles Myers of Sacramento with a goal “of bottling wine from a particular terrain”.  Myers was an amateur winemaker and English instructor at Sacramento City College.  His first 1,000 gallons of commercial wines were released in 1973 and by 1980, output hit 3,000 gallons.

Myers first produced a “terrible” zinfandel in 1954 but two years later, when he had moved to Sacramento, he was making 200 gallons of drinkable wine on an annual basis.  The Corti Brothers encouraged Myers to go commercial and they even advertised the sale of his first wine in 1974.  Harbor Winery, being the only small commercial winery in Sacramento, attracted frequent coverage in the Sacramento Bee from which this brief history stems. The Harbor Winery selections were soon sold not just locally, but in Los Angeles and San Francisco with a rare appearance at The Ritz London.

Darrell Corti felt the local Sacramento grapes were no good, a sentiment shared by Myers.  Myers first turned to Amador County in 1964 when he was looking for Muscat and in the process was introduced to the Zinfandels.  It was one decade later, in 1974, that Myers first purchased Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from the Deaver Ranch in Amador County. The 1975 we drank would then be Myers’ second commercial vintage of this wine.  He felt the future of the 1974 looked “very good” at the time and this must have extended to the 1975.  I found it deep fruited with tension from acidity.  There is still the coarseness or absence of “subtlety and elegance” Myers attributed to Amador County.

The 1975 Harbor Winery, Zinfandel, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley is not as good as the Cabernet Sauvignon.  As I have described in other posts, Amador County Zinfandel was “discovered” during the wine boom. Myers utilized carbonic maceration to make a Zinfandel for immediate drinking which is the opposite of what Sutter Home and Montevina were releasing at the time.  I found our bottle hollow.

We finished up with a soft, simple 1974 Charles Krug, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.  It is a little wine where the volume is fading.

1977 Franciscan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Imported by Peter Eckes. Alcohol 12%.  Tons of herbaceous, evergreen aromas and flavors.  Ugh.  Not Rated.

1975 Harbor Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  Scented on the nose.  In the mouth, deep fruited, fresh, with a soda-like tension.  The nice acidity keeps the edges sharp to the sweet, lifted, fruit.  There is even a note of cedar.  There is a sense of coarseness but the settles down and lies low.  *** Now.

1975 Harbor Winery, Zinfandel, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  Red berries on the nose.  Wood notes with black fruit greet but the middle is hollow followed by a cola-like finish.  There is grip and a lipsticky finish.  too bad.  Drinkable but only of minor interest.  *(*) Now.

1974 Charles Krug, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12%.  A soft, gentle wine in need of more acidity.  Flavors of leather, gentle red fruit, and cedar fade towards the finish.  Simple but not flawed.  The nearly full bottle tasted exactly the same on the second day.  ** Now drink up.

A modest López de Heredia tasting

I recently met up with Sudip to taste seven wines from López de Heredia; three Viña Gravonia, three Viña Bosconia, and one Viña Tondonia as a reference.  López de Heredia dates back to the 19th century in Rioja but for our purposes we concentrated on relatively young vintages back to 1998.  I was most curious to see how much vintage variation there is.

Of the trio of 2004, 2002, and 1998 Viña Gravonia I much preferred the oldest vintage.  All of the wines bear oxidized, apple orchard aromas and flavors but the 1998 sports the least being the most vinous.  It has zippy acidity with some ripeness to the flavors.  The 2000 was pungent, evocative of mushrooms and the simplest.  The 2004 is clearly the youngest.  It is crisp with tart lemon and clean flavors.  I found it a bit tight and think it will drink better several years down the road.  Once these wines develop they should hold well for years.  For those who have yet to taste Gravonia it is unique.

All of the red wines were double-decanted.  The 1999 Viña Bosconia quickly became and remained my favorite Bosconia for current drinking, in fact it is still young!  It combines both fruit, damp earth, and bottle age, all delivered with tension.  I expect further cellaring to be beneficial.  The 2000 is muted and mature.  The 2005 is young but already sports some earthy funk like the 1999.  The structure and acidity is there for development, which is certainly will do, but our bottle of 1999 reveals greater potential.

Finally, the 2005 Viña Tondonia shows great potential.  It is savory, young and dense in a way that there is stuffing for decades of aging supported by the structure.  It is drinkable now but remains closely played.  It is worth the extra $5 over the 2005 Viña Bosconia.

2004 López de Heredia, Viña Gravonia, Rioja Blanco
Imported by Think Global Wine Selections. This wine is 100% Viura  Alcohol 12.5%.  The most aromatic with yeasty, apple orchard aromas.  A touch more acidity in the mouth, tart lemon, clean, good body, and wood-like texture.  Crisp.  **(*) Now – 2023 then will last.

2002 López de Heredia, Viña Gravonia, Rioja Blanco
Imported by Think Global Wine Selections. This wine is 100% Viura  Alcohol 12.5%.  A pungent nose of orchard fruit.  A soft entry of mushroom-like flavor, then acidity and apple-orchard in the finish.  The simplest of the trio.  ** Now.

1998 López de Heredia, Viña Gravonia, Rioja Blanco
Imported by USA Wine Imports. This wine is 100% Viura  Alcohol 12%.  A golden honey color.  Good nose.  An oxidized hint though the wine is more vinous with apple-like, zippy acidity.  There is modest body to the ethereal ripe flavors which cover the mouth but leave the middle slightly hollow. There less noticeable acidity in the end.  *** Now but will last.

2005 López de Heredia, Viña Bosconia, Rioja Riserva – $35
Imported by Think Global Wine Selections. This wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 3% Graciano, and 2% Mazuelo.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Good fruit, cherry flavors, and a little earth have grapey density into the tart, cranberry middle. A young natured wine but already some attractive funk is present.  With air a supporting, fine dry structure becomes evident with dry, black and red flavors in the finish.  *** Now – 2028.

2000 López de Heredia, Viña Bosconia, Rioja Riserva
Imported by Polarn Selections. This wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 3% Graciano, and 2% Mazuelo.  Alcohol 13%.  The most muted nose of the four reds with a bit of stink.  A bit more mature in the mouth, red fruit, watering acidity, a touch of ink then sharper in the finish.  With air it is dusty in the mouth with a similar profile but more pronounced sour cherry flavor.  Not the best of the trio.  *(*) Now.

1999 López de Heredia, Viña Bosconia, Rioja Riserva
Imported by USA Wine Imports. This wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 3% Graciano, and 2% Mazuelo.  Alcohol 13%.  Aromatic with attractive damp earth notes.  Fruiter in the mouth, cedar, bottle age flavors, and fine textured tannins add presence.  There is citric tension and grip to add life.  With air there remains a core of flavor which carries through the end with an aftertaste of sour cherries and acidity.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2005 López de Heredia, Viña Tondonia, Rioja Riserva – $40
Imported by Think Global Wine Selections. This wine is a blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 5% Graciano, and 5% Mazuelo.  Alcohol 13%.  Young, fruity, and dense.  With air this savory wine shows body but also has the acidity and structure for it to age.  Strong future potential.  **** Now – 2038.

Old Italian Wines 1996 – 1949 | Part 3 Largely Unknown

In this third and last post about the Old Italian Wines tasting, I cover the group of largely unknown wines.

Mostly Unknown

The goal of this grouping was to taste wines from unknown producers or wines of known producers without published tasting notes.  I thought it was the most interesting set.  The 1971 Lungarotti, Torgiano Rubesco is my favorite of this group for it is aromatic, fruity, and crisp.  I should very much like to try a Riserva.  From the same excellent vintage, it is not surprising that the 1971 Giovanni Scanavino, Barolo Riserva drinks well.  What is surprising is that the 1961 Molinelli Giuseppe, Valtidone Gutturnio will outlive all of the wines we tasted.  This is a zippy, red fruited wine given life by the acidity.  It is bottled in heavy, substantial glass.  From the same vintage I also enjoyed the more linear 1961 Cantine di Venosa, Aglianico del Vulture, Riserva Enoselezone.  It is a dry wine with sappy acidity and a foxy note.  While it will not develop further it is very much alive.  By far the oldest Sangiovese I have tasted is the 1949 Fattorie del Piceno, Cantine di Montefano, Montefano Sangiovese “Dry”, Rosso Piceno Extra.  This is a label created just one year prior to the vintage.  I thought the wine had faded off but then it came back to life and hung around for a few days.  It is a gentle old wine with interest from the menthol and old leather.

In the end, the average quality of the wines tasted, as well as the peak quality did not match those we tried at An exploratory tasting of mature Nebbiolo 1975-1954.  This is not surprising.  However, the oldest wines tasted, made from Raboso, Aglianico, Barbera, and Sangioviese (!) while simpler in flavor than Piemonte wines, certainly have longevity.  I can imagine these wines lending life-lengthening qualities to the Alto-Piemonte bottles we tasted before.

1979 Angelo Gaja, Nebbiolo del Piemonte
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  Not attractive on the nose, actually it stinks.  Robust tart red and cherry fruit, some animale notes then it becomes undrinkable.  Not Rated.

1971 Giovanni Scanavino, Barolo Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 13%.  Concentrated aromas of sweaty, sweet old fruit on the nose.  In the mouth spearmint greats.  This wine still has grip and structure with sweet mint, slightly racy in the middle, bits of minerals and lipsticky finish.  Watering acidity throughout.  Holds up well.  ** Now but will last.

1971 M. Mascarello, Nebbiolo d’Alba
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  Not right compared to other bottles of this wine.  Not rated.

1971 Ricasoli, Chianti
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  Tart, simple, and short with wood notes.  Not undrinkable, rather a survivor of very simple flavor. * Now.

1971 Lungarotti, Torgiano Rubesco
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  A light to medium color.  Sweet, concentrated aromas on the nose of old wine then it freshens up with air.  Still fruity in the start with a fresh personality, old-school flavors in the middle, and a crispy finish.  Satisfying.  *** Now.

1967 Giacomo Conterno, Freisa
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  A medium, brick color.  Roasted aromas on the nose.  In the mouth is tart, red fruit, strong acidity, then a finish of gentle red strawberry.  The roast returns indicating this is past prime.  *(*) Now.

1966 Cantina Sociale Ponte di Piave, Raboso Piave
Cantina Sociale Ponte di Piave was founded in 1948 by a small group of winemakers trying to survive during the tough postwar years.  A new facility was built in 1955 and by 1964, there were more than 360 members of the cooperative.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 13%.  Nuts on the nose.  Plenty of tart, red fruit in the mouth, acidity, still structured, and acidic end.  A blood note develops.  This wine drank the same for days, it appears to be true to the grape.  *(*) Now but will last.

1966 Cantina Centrale Cooperativa, Cacc’e Mmitte, Riserva Enoselezone
Cacc’e Mmitte, located in Puglia, is named after an ancient vinification technique where the farmhouses equipped with tanks for the crush rented them out.  Tenants had to be finished by the end of their term for the next person.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  A very light, browning color.  Delicate, sweet old fruit in the mouth.  A gentle wine with low acidity, sweet red fruit in the finish.  Appealing in a way but soft, simple, short, and solid.  *(*) Now.

1961 Cantine di Venosa, Aglianico del Vulture, Riserva Enoselezone
Cantine di Venosa was founded in 1957 by 25 members and today has more than 400.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  Good nose with dry, linear flavors in the mouth.  Sappy acidity, a polished wood note, and dry extract.  This is a good, sharp with with an attractive foxy presence. ** Now but will last.

1961 Molinelli Giuseppe, Valtidone Gutturnio
Most likely a blend of Barbera with Croatina (Bonardo).  Guttornio is located in Emilio-Romagna.  Imported by T. Elenteny.  Powdery flavor with noticeable, zippy acidity, and red cranberry flavors.  There is a firm wood note.  In amazing shape, the red flavors match the zippy, crisp nature.  Drank well for hours.  ** Now – 2028.

1949 Fattorie del Piceno, Cantine di Montefano, Montefano Sangiovese “Dry”, Rosso Piceno Extra
The “Cantine di Montefano” brand was registered in 1948.  Montefano is located in the Marche.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12-13%.  Dry and linear but dimension comes from dry extract.  Solid and initially appears to not hold up but then it breathes back to life.  Hints of menthol mix with finely textured red fruit and leather.  Modest body.  ** Now.

Patent for “Cantine di Montefano” business mark granted in 1948.

Old Italian Wines 1996 – 1949 | Part 2 Barbera

This is the second post about the Old Italian Wine tasting.  This grouping focuses in on Barbera, in part due to an interesting tasting of Italian Barbera from 1964 to 2013 held last summer.

Barbera

These wines proved to be of rather miserable performance with only two out of six Italians Barbera wines being of any interest.  Of these two, the nose of the 1978 Alfredo Prunotto, Barbera d’Alba is deep and consistently attractive.  In fine shape it is a fresh bottle with more acidity than the aromas lead on to.  I only wish the flavors were as complex as the aromas.  Acidity is also present in the 1970 Scarpa, Barbera d’Asti Superiore.  It is, by far, the lightest in color of the 1970, 1964, and 1961 Scarpa trio.  The color difference is so remarkable that either some issue with the 1964 and 1961 bottles, perhaps some VA, fixed the color or winemaking changed in the late 1960s.  In the end, the 1970 takes on some sweetness which balances out some of the acidity.

1978 Franco-Fiorina, Barbera d’Alba
Founded in 1925, this wine was made from purchased fruit as they owned no vineyard at the time.  They did not make any single-vineyard wines so this would have been a blend from multiple areas.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%. Strong aromas of volatile acidity. It is possible to find some core of fruit in the middle but the wine is undrinkable. Not Rated.

Mystery Wine – 1977 Sebastiani Vineyards, Prioprietor’s Reserve Barbera, Northern California
Alcohol 12.6%. A light to medium bricking color. Smells like redwood or some different wood with sweet fruit and just a touch of V.A. Similarly sweet flavors at the start, modest body, and modest acidity. Second time tasted and I believe it was never that complex to begin with. *(*) Now.

1978 Alfredo Prunotto, Barbera d’Alba
Prunotto was founded in 1904 and purchasing all of their grapes at the time of this vintage.  It is possible this wine was aged in chestnut and Slavonian oak.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%. A deep nose of sweet old aromas, and mature red fruit. Good structure with fresh acidity. Actually, more acidity than I expected. The best so far. **(*) Now.

1964 Alfredo Prunotto, Barbera Riserva Cru Pian Romualdo
Prunotto only designated the cru of a wine when they felt the vintage warranted it.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%. Smells of must and menthol. Undrinkable.  Not Rated.

1970 Scarpa, Barbera d’Asti Superiore
Scarpa was founded in 1870.  Imported by T. Elenteny. The lightest of the Scarpa trio by far. A little stinky on the nose but it cleans up. In the mouth, there is initially red fruit followed by a short finish with acidic kick at the end. With a bit of air some sweetness develops with a touch too much citric acidity. Good persistence of flavor. **(*) Now.

1964 Scarpa, Barbera d’Asti
Imported by T. Elenteny. Very dark, the darkest. Cheese aromas on the nose and some old-school flavors like the Sebastiani. But then it cracks up becoming undrinkable. Not Rated.

1961 Scarpa, Barbera d’Asti
Imported by T. Elenteny. Almost as dark as the 1964. The nose is clearly of grass and V.A. A good acidic crunch at first then the wine becomes too high-toned with red flavors. * Now.

Old Italian Wines 1996 – 1949 | Part 1 Dolcetto

 

Half a year ago a small group of us gathered for An exploratory tasting of mature Nebbiolo 1975-1954.  The wines from Alto Piemonte were largely good so we gathered again to try an even more diverse selection of Italian wines dating from 1996 back to 1949.  The selections were organized into three groups: Dolcetto, Barbera, and Largely Unknown.  The Italian wines were brought by a few and all but one of the bottles came from Chambers St Wines.  Given the expected low hit rate we went through a larger than normal set of wines.  In this post I cover the Champagne and Dolcetto wines.

Champagne

We started and finished the tasting with Champagne.  I brought the 1977 Moet & Chandon, Silver Jubilee Cuvee Champagne from Reid Wines of England.  Based on the 1971 vintage, this cuvee was released for the silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.  Despite the excellent fill, the cork came out readily, no doubt the cause for the dissipation of all bubbles.  It was still enjoyable as a still white wine and as one other person noted, there are some flavors reminiscent of Madeira!  Of the other three Champagnes I was particularly impressed by the NV Savart, Champagne Premier Cru Bulle de Rosé once it warmed up.

1977 Moet & Chandon, Silver Jubilee Cuvee Champagne
A honied amber color with sweet fruits on the nose. The cork came out readily so there are no bubbles at all, just a moderately silky body. Essentially a mature white wine but with chalk and hints of grip. The texture alone gives the faintest impression of a mousse. With air, quite attractive flavor develops which is evocative of Madeira in the finish. *** for flavor alone.

2011 Chartogne-Taillet, Chemin de Reims, Champagne Extra Brut
Imported by Envoyer. This wine is 100% Chardonnay that was fermented and aged in old oak from Anne Gros.  Alcohol 12%. Disgorged August 2017. Pale yellow in the glass. Ripe yellow fruit at first, very balanced with a gently sweet aftertaste. Hints of wood.  *** Now.

2008 Moet & Chandon, Grand Vintage Brut Chamapgne Brut
This wine is a blend of 46% Pinot Noir, 32% Chardonnay and 22% Meunier aged for seven years on the lees.  20% of the Pinot Noir is wine.  Alcohol 12.5%. A colorful wine of dried rose. Very fine in the mouth. Solid with plenty of ripe, red fruit and a tarter finish.  Flavorful but not that complex.  *** Now – 2023.

NV Savart, Champagne Premier Cru Bulle de Rosé
This wine is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir, 22% Chardonnay, and 8% wine of Pinot Noir. Alcohol 12.5%. A fabulous nose is followed by a unique flavor. Becomes stellar with air and warmth, revealing ripe berry and floral fruit. It builds both chalk and pastille flavors. Overall a racy and grippy wine once it has opened up. **** Now – 2028.

Dolcetto

The Dolcetto flight proved moderately good at best.  The 1996 Falleto di Bruno Giacosa, Dolcetto d’Alba is fully mature in flavor but still retains structure.  It lacked the verve to move up in quality.  I thought the 1978 Giuseppe Mascarello, Dolcetto d’Alba Bricco Gallo smelled good, it certainly engaged me but was tired in the mouth.  Sadly the 1978 Giuseppe Mascarello, Dolcetto d’Alba Ginestra was a bad bottle with its musty smell.  That left the 1968 Pio Cesare, Dolcetto d’Alba as the most interesting bottle.  Rather light in color with gentle flavors of strawberry and blood, this held up well and is evocative of the 1960s.

1996 Falleto di Bruno Giacosa, Dolcetto d’Alba
Founded in 1900, Bruno Giacosa purchased the 8.4 Ha Falletto vineyard in 1982.  At the time it was planted with just some Dolcetto.  Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 12%. At first a core of mature fruit that is astringent but interesting. There are just hints of very fine tannins. With air it is confirmed that this is fully mature yet still a bit firm by the middle. Notes of old leather add to the bitter flavors which extured over a textured and tannic finish. It wraps up with some eucalyptus freshness.  ** Now.

1978 Giuseppe Mascarello, Dolcetto d’Alba Bricco Gallo
Giuseppe Mascarello & Figlio was founded in 1881.  If am I correct, his great-grandson Mauro took over the winery in 1967.  According to the Wasserman’s he produced some 16,000 bottles of Dolcetto D’Alba annually.  They considered his approach to Barolo as traditional.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%. Quite dark in color with grapey and cherry highlights. After an attractive nose, there are flavors of sweet fruits and oak. The wine is certainly tired or rather firm with black fruit marked by a bitter finish. *(*) Now.

1978 Giuseppe Mascarello, Dolcetto d’Alba Ginestra
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%. Quite dark with grapey color as well. Smells like musty wood. Nope! Not Rated.

1968 Pio Cesare, Dolcetto d’Alba
Pio Cesare was founded in 1881.  At one point the wines of Dolcetto d’Alba represented around 10% of their production or 24,000 bottles per year.  At the time of this vintages, the Wasserman’s considered them a very traditional producer.  Their Barolo was fermented in wooden vats where it was in contact with skins for two and a half months then kept outdoors during the winter.  Imported by T. Elenteny.  A light to medium bricking color. Delicate flavors greet with strawberry, bloody, and iron. This wine sports gentle weight, modest acidity, and a cola-like refreshing finish. A solid wine that held up for hours. ** Now.

A diverse set of wines: Armenia, Macedonia, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, and others

It was over the bottle of Ethiopian Chardonnay, brought by Jacques several weeks ago, that he proposed the idea of hosting a wine dinner to include bottles from Macedonia and Lebanon.  The origins of the wines we tried were nearly as diverse as the guests he hosted, who together represent nine different nationalities.  Jacques supplied a number of wines he had acquired over the years, bringing them from his home cellar to the Washington, DC, area.

A few other wines were added, including those I had purchased from MacArthur Beverages, from which we started with the 2017 2016 Domaine Neferis, Rose Magnifique, Sidi Salem, Tunisia.  A solid rose from Tunisia, how can you not try it?

My favorite red wines all came from Jacques.  It took me several minutes to realize I had drunk an earlier vintage of the 2012 Domaine des Tourelles, Syrah, Grand Cuvee, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.  The 2012 vintage is clearly much better than the 2009 I had drunk earlier with Taz, which was also supplied by Jacques.  The 2012 is a dark flavored wine with strong development potential.  I would try it again in a few years.  My favorite wine is the 2005 Chateau Musar, Rouge, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.  It is mouth filling with mature flavors that do not weigh you down and capable of further development.  Purchased pre-war, the 2008 Domaine de Bargylus, Syria struck me as the biggest surprise of the night.  The 2008 vintage is only the third for the domain.  It is very well-made and drinkable, perhaps a nod must be given to consulting oenologist Stephane Derenoncourt.  The family produces wine in both Syria and Lebanon but I believe Jacques prefers their Syrian wine.

Our final wine was sat for most of the evening in a decanter.  Complete with wooden presentation box and metal label, the 2013 Kamnik, Vranec, Terroir Grand Reserva, Macedonia is big both in bottle and in alcohol.  I notice power more than terroir but it is a good drink with the alcohol integrated.

Thanks again to Jacques and his wife.  Please find my tasting notes for these and the other wines I tasted below.

2017 2016 Domaine Neferis, Rose Magnifique, Sidi Salem, Tunisia
Imported by Travis Wine Imports. This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache. Alcohol 13.5%.  A medium, dry rose color.  In the mouth is a moderate body, floral middle, watering acidity, and a lighter finish.  Light and bright in flavor, it takes on a creamy mouthfeel and notes of pastilles in the finish. ** Now.

2017 Minuty, Rose M, Cotes de Provence
Imported by Chateau & Estates. Alcohol 13%.  A rather light dry rose color.  This light, acidity driven wine bears just a touch of texture but plentiful stone notes.  ** Now.

2013 Yacoubian-Hobbs, Aghavnadzor, Vayots Dzor, Armenia
Imported by Paul Hobbs Selections. This wine is a blend of Voskehat, Khatuni, Qrdi, and Garan Demak. Alcohol 12.8%.  Both a light color and a light nose.  Improves with warmth to reveal white nuts, hints of wood but is overall modest in flavor.  Interesting but left me wanted for more.  *(*) Now – 2019.

2003 Chateau Musar, Blanc, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This wine is 100% Merwah.  Alcohol 12%.  A copper-yellow color.  Mature in the mouth with an oxidative note then Sherry flavors with some toast.  At first moderate in body with watering acidity it eventually develops an enjoyable lanolin roundness through the long aftertaste.  Certainly an acquired taste.  **(*) Now but will last.

2010 Tsantali, Xinomavro Reserva, Naoussa, Greece
Imported by Fantis Imports. Alcohol 13%.  Quite nice actually with initially dry flavors of black cherry then an engaging racy bit.  *** Now – 2020.

2004 Domaine Ferrando, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is 100% old-vine Grenache.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Fully mature with wood box, black cherry, and Kirsch all delivered in a rounded style.  Very good finish.  *** Now.

2012 Domaine des Tourelles, Syrah, Grand Cuvee, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This wine is 100% Syrah. Alcohol 14.5%.  Very dark in the glass with dark flavors of incense.  There is extract and tannins structured for a requisite few more years of development.  I like the dark fruit profile and mouthfeel.  The new oak needs to integrate but strong potential.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2005 Chateau Musar, Rouge, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, and Carignan aged in cement vats, French oak barrels, and finally vats.  Alcohol 14%.  Mature with mouth filling flavors of cherry, good acidity, and animale bits adding complexity.  The citric tannins and acidity will see further development.  Unique!  **** Now – 2028.

2008 Domaine de Bargylus, Syria
This wine is a blend of 45% Syrah, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Merlot. Alcohol 14.5%.  Very dark in color.  Some roast on the nose but mature overall.  In the mouth are good flavors and fine extract.  A successful blend that opens up to a modern profile with good length.  *** Now – 2023.

2013 Stobi, Vranec, Veritas, Tikves, Macdeonia
Imported by Winebow. This wine is 100% Vranec aged 24 months in 80% new Slavonian oak casks and 20% Slavonian oak barrels. Alcohol 14%.  Modern flavors of cherry with some brightness, certainly clean and balanced with no hard edges.  Could use a year or two to open up.  ** Now – 2023.

2013 Kamnik, Vranec, Terroir Grand Reserva, Macedonia
This wine is 100% Vranec sourced from 17 year old vines aged 28 months in French and American oak barrels. Alcohol 16.3%.  An intense, yet flavorful wine with powerful ripe dark fruits and a long, powerful finish.  One notices power and not alcohol.  A bit unevolved at this point so come back in a few years.  *** 2020-2028.