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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.

Ethiopia and Mexico

My neighbor and his coworkers constantly travel all over the world.  They bring back wine from the countries they visit and from time to time they get together to share them.  This past weekend I met up them where I was surprised by the quality of the 2016 Castel Winery, Chardonnay, Cuvee Prestige, Rift Valley, Ethiopia.  Castel Winery was founded in 2007 by French billionaire Pierre Castel with 2012 first vintage produced from these Ethiopian vines.  Though the winemaking is still young at the winery, there is clearly expertise and investment behind this effort.  Tasted blind, I would have never thought this Ethiopian.  Whether there is a particularly terroir to be found in the glass, I do not know, but the curious will be tickled.  Across the globe to Mexico hailed the bottle of 2013 Vinicola Mundano, Syrah, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico.  The savory nature and racy quality certainly impress but I was ultimately distracted by the overripe fruit flavors. An interesting evening!

2016 Castel Winery, Chardonnay, Cuvee Prestige, Rift Valley, Ethiopia
Alcohol 13%.  White fruit, some grip, and a toast note throughout.  A drier style but all is in balance with fresh acidity.  Carefully made, no faults at all.  ** Now – 2021.

2013 Vinicola Mundano, Syrah, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
Alcohol 13.5%.  The ample body takes on savory, mineral notes through the finish.  Almost racy with attractive mouth feel.  It would be rather impressive but the fruit has crossed into overripe territory reminding me of raisins. *(*) Now but will last.

Budget Bordeaux from 2012

October 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Every curious to expand my selection of affordable daily drinkers I ventured into the 2012 Bordeaux section at MacArthur Beverages. This is regarded as a Merlot vintage and the four wines we tasted contain at least 70% of it.  Jenn and I preferred one of the least expensive wines 2012 Petit Paveil, Bordeaux. It is a tasty wine to be enjoyed now. Next up is the 2012 Chateau Belle Colline, Cotes de Bordeaux Blaye which require much air to shed a greenhouse aspect. It becomes a solid, almost juicy, dark-fruited wine. The 2012 Chateau Grimont, Cotes de Bordeaux is too firm to be enjoyed and I did not like the 2012 Chateau Roquet, Bordeaux.

2012 Chateau Belle Colline, Cotes de Bordeaux Blaye – $17
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Malbec.  Alcohol 13.5%. The nose is of greenhouse and plums. In the mouth are a fine, powdery texture of dark fruit and greenhouse flavors. The wine dramatically improves on the second night with greenhouse aspect largely gone. Instead this is a solid wine, almost juicy in flavor with dark fruit flavors, a moderate structure, and general ability to satisfy. For the short-term. ** Now – 2020.

2012 Chateau Grimont, Cotes de Bordeaux Cadillac – $17
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 13%. The nose remained mute. The moderate structure is echoed in the dry, firm flavors, watering acidity and dry finish which is particularly noticeable on the tongue. Some tart red and black fruit comes out but this remains a modest, firm wine. *(*) Now – 2022.

2012 Petit Paveil, Bordeaux – $13
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet.  Alcohol 13%. The nose is attractive with dark fruit. The dark fruit continues in the mouth with just a hint of greenhouse. There is some depth to the fruit that carried into the dry, black mineral finish. It is here that the dry, supporting structure is noticeable, though, there is a touch of softness too. Solid! ** Now – 2020.

2012 Chateau Roquet, Bordeaux – $13
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Alcohol 13.5%. I did not like this wine so after two nights I never bothered to take a note. Poor.

A pair of Italian reds, one of which is very good

October 10, 2017 Leave a comment

From an excellent vintage the 2010 Colpetrone, Montefalco Sagrantino is a rare bargain that provides immediate drinking pleasure yet is capable of development for several years to come.  With the expected structure come robust flavors of generous dark fruit which morphs into a mineral vein that will have you revisit your glass time after time.  I recommend you pick up a few bottles for this weekend.  While the 2014 Castiglion del Bosco, Rosso di Montalcino clearly needs age, I do not foresee it improving.  Avoid.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2010 Colpetrone, Montefalco Sagrantino- $21
Imported by Vias Imports. This wine is 100% Sagrantino which was aged for 12 months in French oak barriques. The fruit is sourced from 35 hectares of vineyards on soils of limey soil with clay deposits at 350 meters.  Alcohol 14.5%. There is a deep fruited nose. In the mouth are red fruit flavors then generally dark fruit with a prominent mineral vein. The wine is robust in a way. The move from fruit to minerality engages the palate. This would not be Sagrantino without the strong structure of very fine grained tannins. However, the weight of the fruit generally covers it. ***(*) Now – 2027.

2014 Castiglion del Bosco, Rosso di Montalcino – $19
Imported by Maisons Marques & Domaines. Alcohol 14%. The wine finally opens up on the second night revealing black fruit and licorice aromas. In the mouth the wine is upfront flavors of bright plums. There is a tangy middle and short finish. It is a clean wine in need of some age as it is not moving at this point. *(*) 2019-2027.

A very tasty wine from Umbria

Simply put if you need a red wine for daily drinking or a large party then look no further than the 2011 Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio,  MonVi, Colli Perugini Rosso.  This is a Sangiovese based Bordeaux blend with a bit of bitterness and cocoa but it is very tasty.  It delivers a lot of satisfaction at only $13 per bottle.  I must thank Tim for pointing it out to me.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2011 Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio,  MonVi, Colli Perugini Rosso – $13
Imported by Vini Inc.  This wine is a blend of 55% Sangiovese, 22% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc which is fermented in stainless steel then aged in a mixture of stainless steel and oak.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This is really tasty.  For those in search of more information this a  moderately ripe wine with ripe texture, a black bitter element, and cocoa aftertaste.  It has watery acidity and a billowy structure which should support development for a year.  But why wait?  **(*) Now – 2019.

2015 Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio,  Villa, Umbria – $10
Imported by Vini Inc.  This is 100% Sangiovese made from the youngest vines and raised entirely in stainless steel.  Alcohol 14 %.  This is a firm wine with slightly bitter black fruit, acidity, and fine texture.  *(*) Now.

Two blends from Bulgaria and Armenia

Both of the wines featured in this post are blends featuring an unusual variety.  You will find a small proportion of Regent, a cool-weather grape created in the 1960s, in the 2014 Saedinenie Winery, F2F, Bulgaria.  I could not tell you what Regent smells or tastes like.  The wine, though, is a gentle, blue-fruited, low-acidity wine that should please many.  The 2014 Tierras de Armenia, Karas, Armenia features a splash of the native grape Khndoghni.  I wish there was more, so I could taste it, but this is a crazy international blend which also includes Syrah, Tannat, and Montepulciano amongst other varieties.  It is made by Gabriel Rogel, who comes from Argentina, with consulting help from Michel Rolland.  This is a wine worth checking out.  It is flavorful, lively, and has texture.  It might even develop over the short-term to better integrate the cocoa notes.   These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2014 Saedinenie Winery, F2F, Bulgaria – $15
Imported by VP Brands International.  This wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, and 10% Regent.  Alcohol 13%.  There are rounded blue fruit flavors, gentle supporting structure, and just enough acidity to move things along.  There are no edges to the blue fruit.  There is a bit of interest in the finish where black fruit and minerals come out.  *(*) Now – 2018.

2014 Tierras de Armenia, Karas, Armenia – $13
Imported by G+B Imports.  This wine is a blend of 40% Syrah, 18% Tannat, 15% Cabernet Franc, 14% Petit Verdot, 10% Montepulciano, and 3% Khndoghni.  Alcohol 14%.  Chocolates and blue fruit precede the ripe textured middle.  This is a good, flavorful wine with lively acidity, some weight, and cocoa.  **(*) Now – 2019.

Casual notes on four Sicilian red wines

February 2, 2016 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago we were joined by another family for a late afternoon gathering.  The kids played while we tasted through a selection of Sicilian wines.  It was a casual evening so I only jotted down brief impressions.  To cut to the chase, the 2014 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso must be the most forward and generous vintage yet.  It is a fruity, affordable wine from Etna to drink right now for our bottle seemed tired by the end of the evening.   Still, it made for an enjoyable drink while we waited for the other bottles to come around.  Whereas the 2013 COS, Pithos, Vittoria Rosso remained distractingly tannic and the 2013 Tenuta da Aglaea, Aglaea, Etna  too simple, the 2013 Tenuta da Aglaea, Talia, Etna surprised us all. After 3-4 hours it became aromatic with an elegant style of complexity that had us all proclaiming it as our favorite as we then rapidly drained the bottle.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

Italians1

2013 COS, Pithos, Vittoria Rosso – $34
Imported by Domaine Select Wines.  This wine is a blend of 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato. It is fermented in terracotta amphora of 250 and 400 liter capacities. The fermentation is allowed to take its own course so there is no temperature control and it typically lasts for seven months.  Alcohol 12%.  The somewhat floral nose is followed by tart red fruit and a wall of very fine tannins.  It remained distractingly tannic, even with extended air, leaving the impression the structure will outlast the fruit.  *(*) 2020? – 2026?

Italians2

2014 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso – $17
Imported by deGrazia Imports.  This wine is a blend of 95% Nerello Mascalese and 5% Nerello Cappuccio sourced from 5-50 year old vines on volcanic soils. It was fermented then aged for 11 months in large French oak barrels then aged a further month in stainless steel. Alcohol 14%.   Generous flavors of ripe red fruit tastes young in nature.  Perhaps the most forward vintage yet it drinks well from the very first glass with supporting acidity and tannins.  ** Now.

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2013 Tenuta da Aglaea, Talia, Etna – $26
Imported by Simon N Cellars. This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced from 40-50 year old vines planted on volcanic ash soil located at 2250 feet in elevation. It was aged for 8 months in old oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%.  After several hours of air the nose became very aromatic with floral and herb aromas.  In the mouth were fine, red and black fruit flavors with a vein of lively acidity.  The complexity and depth for aging is there but requires hours to come out.  *** 2018 – 2024.

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2013 Tenuta da Aglaea, Aglaea, Etna – $18
Imported by Simon N Cellars.  This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced from 10-30 year old vines planted on volcanic ash soil located at 2250 feet in elevation. Alcohol 13%.  Brighter, more acidity, and simpler than the other bottling. *(*) Now – 2017.