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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.

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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?

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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.

The declining 1975 Chateau Fourcas-Hosten, Listrac

October 13, 2015 Leave a comment

The 18th century estate of Chateau Fourcas-Hosten was acquired by a syndicate in 1971.  The previous owners left unsold vintages in casks in case there were any bulk orders in the future.  Unfortunately, this meant that quantities of 1966 had yet to be bottled when the syndicate took possession in 1972.  Thus the 1970s represent a turnaround period of which David Peppercorn found the 1975 “[a] tremendous wine, very rich and powerful, with considerable weight”.  Sadly, this bottle of 1975 Chateau Fourcas-Hosten, Listrac should have been drunk years ago. This did not come as a great surprise but as I am a curious fellow, I am willing to try a wine at the right price.  This bottle was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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1975 Chateau Fourcas-Hosten, Listrac
Shipped by Rineau.  Imported by The Rineau Wines Co.  A nearly equal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a splash of Cabernet Franc.  This wine would have seen 25% new oak.  Alcohol 11%.  The nose bore roast earth and after some bottle-funk blew off, it was clearly old.  In the mouth was a fresh structure that had a spicy bit from the grippy, ripe tannins.  There was salivating acidity and some heat for the fuzzy, red fruit had mostly faded away.  It did take on some weight but what was left of the fruit remained fuzzy and overpowered by the roast earth and tannins.  *(*) Now.

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Notes from two difference bottles of 1966 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe

There was little mention of the 1966 Bordeaux vintage upon harvest in the American press.  Whereas Cyril Ray was reporting in The Guardian during January 1967, that the Cordier wines of Talbot and Gruauad-Larose were “deep in colour”, there appear to be no similar ongoing coverage in American newspapers.[1]  The 1966 Bordeaux vintage began hitting the American shelves in the fall of 1969 with a full complement by the spring of 1970.[2]  Wine store advertisements provide the majority of the newspaper content about these 1966 wines.  They are full of compliments about the vintage such as “very great” but also contain recommendations to purchase in light of the poor 1968 and over priced 1969 vintages.

True, these were the early years for American wine journalism, but Ruth Ellen Church writing in 1969 for The Washington Post indicates a key reason, that market for fine Bordeaux wine was in development.  Her comments that this vintage did not have enough volume, coupled with increasing prices, might also indicate there was not enough supply to generate reader interest. [3]  However, she continued that the vintages of 1963, 1965, and 1968 were regarded as poor, leaving the “great” vintages of 1966 and 1967 of interest for “the escalating affluent appetite”.  Paul Fortino noted in 1980, that the “quality wine boom” was stirred with the 1966 and 1967 vintages but it was the “copious, high quality vintage ” of 1970 that played to the “very large number of now-dedicated oenophiles.”[4]  This combination of factors appears to explain the absence of reportage.

The 1966 vintage in Bordeaux resulted in yields that were average for this decade of high yields.  Fine September weather produced healthy grapes that made for ripe, full bodied, and colorful wines.  David Peppercorn summarized the wines as, “full, powerful, and harmonious wines of considerable charm.”  Stephen Brook noted for the Medoc and Graves that the “wines are quite tannic and austere, but have great elegance.”  Michael Broadbent rated the vintage four out of five stars, with the description of a “lean, long-distance runner”.

By many accounts, then, the 1966 vintage is one to survive to the present day, giving chance to my first taste of 1966 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe.  Chateau Montrose was a traditional estate at the time with Jean-Louis Charmolue having taken over from his mother in 1960.  The vineyard lies between the chateau and the Gironde some half a mile away.  The soil is composed of gravel and large stones with a high iron content that led Stephen Brook to speculate it is in part responsible for the tannic nature of the wines.  At the time of the 1966 vintage, there were still wooden fermentation vats.  The wines from this earlier period are described as hard and tannic with Edmund Penning-Roswell writing, “deep coloured, strong flavored, and tannic.”  The wines were made mostly from Cabernet Sauvignon followed by a portion of Merlot and a bit of Cabernet Franc.

Binpin Desai, the architect of many a famous wine tasting, focused in on Chateau Montrose at a tasting held in 1982.  Here he poured some 42 vintages of the wine from 1979 back to 1906.  Nathan Chroman, who attended this tasting, echoed what I have often read, “Longevity and consistency are perhaps Montrose’s greatest virtues.”[5] Of the 1966, he wrote that it “showed extremely well too, with a nicely developing aroma and a softening of its hardness, allowing delicious flavor to surface.”

Cases of old wine from a large cellar, of mixed storage conditions, have been on sale for the last few months.  Last week, I opened the lowest-fill of the 1966 Chateau Montrose that I picked up from this cellar.  Bill Moore, a Washington, DC area wine lover, also purchased the 1966 Chateau Montrose from this same cellar.  He opened his bottle, with higher fill than mine, last week.  Bill commented, “Blind, I would have pegged the 1966 as an early 80’s [Bordeaux]. Especially after it breathed up, the acidity settled down and the remaining wisps of fruit peaked out, making for a really classic aged [Bordeaux] experience.”

My experience was no where near as good.  I do not mind, though, with high-fill bottles waiting to be uncorked, I know there is the potential for a great glass of wine thanks to Bill.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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1966 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe –
Shipped by Schroder & De Constants. Imported by Ajax Distributors Inc.  Alcohol 12%.  Looks like the good fill made a huge difference with the Montrose. Breathed up beautifully with a classic, mature BDX nose, and even the dark-fruit and mineral qualities I typically get from Montrose. Got the same, almost juicy acidity on the palate and some grip on the finish. Really remarkable performance considering the storage.  Bill Moore.

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1966 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe –
Shipped by Schroder & De Constants. Imported by Ajax Distributors Inc.  Alcohol 12%.  Mid to low-shoulder fill.  There were roast aromas on the nose.  In the mouth were hints of red fruit that mixed with roast flavors and a hint of coffee.  The fresh structure was immediately attractive and showed good polish. In the end this bottle had less fruit and though the structural components were enjoyable, it was past prime.  *(*) Now.

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[1] The colour of claret Ray, Cyril The Observer (1901- 2003); Jan 8, 1967; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian and The Observer pg. 30
[2] Display Ad 44 — No Title The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] 02 Nov 1969: 30.
[3] Fine Wine Going Up: Wines By Ruth Ellen Church The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973); Aug 14, 1969;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post pg. E6
[4] The Vintage After a Decade By Paul Fortino Special to The Washington Post. The Washington Post (1974-Current file) [Washington, D.C] 28 Aug 1980: E25.
[5] CHROMAN, NATHAN. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Oct 7, 1982; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times pg. M50

Four Barbera d’Alba from the 2012 vintage including the excellent Andrea Oberto

As we continue to seemingly spend all of our money on paint, cleaning supplies, and pillows for staging, we maintain a need for affordable, interesting wines.  The 2012 vintage is a strong one for Barbera d’Alba so in this post I focus in on four selections priced from $13 to $18 per bottle.  These selections were all vinified in stainless steel with all but one aged in wood.  The wines ranged from rather ripe and forward to balanced.  The 2012 Mauro Molino, Barbera d’Alba offers a decent value with subdued flavors of tangerines, red fruit, and bacon fat. The 2012 Rocca Giovanni, Pianromualdo, Barbera d’Alba steps up a bit with better acidity, minerality, and structure leaving the impression of a good wine for the price.  Our hands-down favorite is the 2012 Andrea Oberto, Barbera d’Alba.  From the aromatic nose to the long aftertaste it is a wine you will want to smell and drink.  What’s great is that it is approachable right now, just give it half an hour in the decanter.  It is a clear step up from the other selections so go grab a few bottles! These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2012 Cascina Chicco, Granera Alta, Barbera d’Alba – $17
Imported by Vinifera Imports.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from vines averaging 10 years of age.  It was fermented in in stainless steel then aged in wood casks and used French barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  There seemed to be some volatile acidity on the nose along with linear aromas of fresh floral black fruit.  In the mouth were nice focused flavors of floral citrus fruit, watering acidity, and some rough structure. *(*) 2016-2019.

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2012 Rocca Giovanni, Pianromualdo, Barbera d’Alba – $14
Imported by Monsieur Touton.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from vines planted in 1958 that underwent temperature controlled fermentation followed by 10 months aging in barrique.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose bore very ripe, grainy fruit aromas.  In the mouth the flavors were fruit forward before a tight, ripe core of black fruit came hint.  This had a mineral hint with salivating acidity and a dry, textured finish.  The wine shows some density, a little wood note, and leaves the impression of being a nice wine for the price.  ** Now-2018.

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2012 Mauro Molino, Barbera d’Alba – $13
Imported by J.W. Sieg & Co.  This wine is 100% Barbera that was vinified then aged for six months in stainless steel tanks.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose of black fruit was lifted by both greenhouse aromas and fresh tangerines.  In the mouth were attractive flavors of tangerine red fruit that came across in a slightly creamy and subdued fashion.  It took on some tart flavor but that was tempered by bacon fat flavors.  ** Now-2017.

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2012 Andrea Oberto, Barbera d’Alba – $18
Imported by M R. Downey Selections.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from vines in La Morra.  The fruit was vinified in stainless steel then 60% was aged for 8 months in stainless steel and 40% was aged for 6 months in new barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  This wine had a fine, proper nose.  In the mouth the black and red fruit was slightly brighter than the nose suggested.  There was both a citrus flavor and bacon fat aspect.  There was moderate structure with citric pithe tannins.  The aftertaste left flavor on the inside of the gums. Top-notch.  *** Now-2018.

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Three wines from New Mexico, Mexico, and Greece

December 22, 2014 1 comment

One really should be curious when it comes to trying wines.  We bought the 2009 Gruet Winery, Pinot Noir, New Mexico several years ago after trying an even older, well-preserved example. It may seem surprising at first to find Pinot Noir in New Mexico but do remember that Gruet is famous for their sparkling wines, of which Pinot Noir plays a part.  Our bottle showed a lot of oak influence on the nose followed by primary cherry fruit in the mouth.  This is a solid drinking wine that would be great fun to serve blind at the beginning of a tasting or dinner.   From Mexico, the latest vintage of 2010 L.A. Cetto, Petite Sirah, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California offered solid, modern flavors of dense black fruit.  This bottle took a few days to show well which is not surprising given the grape variety.  Again, not a mind-blowing wine but another fun wine to serve blind.  I would personally be curious to see how it tastes several years from now.  The 2012 Aivalis Wines, Agiorgitiko, Nemea offers plummy, dry, and powerfully structured flavors.  The wine is a bit disjointed right now so stick it in the cellar for a year or two.  It you must try a bottle now (and most likely in the future) then be sure to accompany it by a big hunk of meat.  The L.A. Cetto and Aivalis wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.  The Gruet was purchased at the winery.

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2009 Gruet Winery, Pinot Noir, New Mexico –
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was aged for 16+ months in oak barrels.  Alcohol ?%.  The color was a medium+ red cherry with some garnet.  There were good wood aromas on the notes, some sweet spices, and leather.  In the mouth were cherry fruits in this balanced wine.  The flavors were simple and shorter though the wine has kept well.  Eventually a fruity blue and red core came out.  No need to hold on but will last for years to come.  ** Now-2017.

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2010 L.A. Cetto, Petite Sirah, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California – $10
Imported by International Spirits & Wines.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There were low-lying heady aromas of tart fruit.  In the mouth were dense, inky flavors, some ripe, powdery tannins, and fruit that turned blacker. Needs a little time in the cellar.  *(*) 2015-2018.

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2012 Aivalis Wines, Agiorgitiko, Nemea – $16
Imported by Dionysos Imports.  This wine is 100% Agiorgitiko that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 12 months in 30% new and 70% used French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose remained plummy.  In the mouth were plummy, black fruit flavors that were dry.  The acidity was salivating at first then dry, dark tannins came out towards the finish.  The structure is rather strong in comparison to the fruit.  The finish bore dark fruit that seemed separate from the structure in the end.  Needs time to integrate.  *(*) 2016-2019.

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