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A pair of recently arrived French wines

February 15, 2017 Leave a comment

Today’s pair of wines recently hit the shelves thanks to Phil Bernstein.  Always interested in expanding my Northern Rhone experience I excitedly popped open the 2011 Jean-Michel Gerin, Champin Le Seigneur, Cote-Rotie.  Jean-Michel Gerin first worked under the advisement of Jean-Luc Colombo whose modern 2013 Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Bartavelles, Chateauneuf du Pape I recently tasted.  From the onset Gerin employed “modern” ways including new oak some of which was American.  The Champin Le Seigneur is a blend of Syrah and Viognier sourced from all of his parcels.  Fortunately, this particular vintage is not evocative of oak.  Instead, it is a gentle, pure wine of mixed fruits, floral notes, and stones.  It is quite tasty right now but will develop with further age.

From Corsica comes the 2013 Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Cuvee Faustine.  This blend of Sciaccarellu and Niellucciu provide attractive flavors of tart red fruity and dry floral notes.  There are not many Corsican wines available in Washington, DC so this wine is worth a try.  The balance tilts towards the structure with air so I suspect now  might be the time to drink it.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2011 Jean-Michel Gerin, Champin Le Seigneur, Cote-Rotie -$45
Imported by Esprit du Vin.  This wine is a blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier.  Alcohol 13%.  There are gentle clouds of ripe aroma.  In the mouth the smooth, dense entry combines red and black fruit with an inky, mineral, stone infused middle.  The interest continues as fat infused strawberry and floral flavors develop with air.  ***(*) Now – 2027.

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2013 Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Cuvee Faustine – $25
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Sciaccarellu and 30% Niellucciu raised in stainless steel and cement.  Alcohol 14%.  The red fruited start defines itself with tart red fruit bound in a tangy structure.  There are dry floral and herb notes but the structure really blooms in size.  I Like the flavor profile with its very delicate and ethereal ripe berries on the gum and persistent herbs.  *** Now – 2022.

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A pair of Chateauneuf du Pape

February 8, 2017 Leave a comment

The 2013 Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Bartavelles, Chateauneuf du Pape is available at a close-out price placing it just above that of Cotes du Rhone.  If you enjoy a modern style of wine this is an excellent value with grapey, black fruit flavors, texture, and salivating acidity.  It will drink well for a number of years.  It is available at MacArthur Beverages.

Domaine Pierre Andre is regarded as a “very traditional producer” by John Livingstone-Learmonth.  Pierre Andre did not use pesticides or herbicides in his vineyards which contain vines over 100 years of age.  He produced organic wines since 1980 and Demeter certified since 1992.  Today his daughter Jacqueline Andre runs the estate who continues the use of cement vats and old wood.  Her father had a preference for late harvesting which comes through in the 1998 Domaine Pierre Andre, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The nose is complex with fruit and in the mouth I am reminded of dry Port flavors.  This is a substantial wine but it tastes good with a good sense of minerals, cedar, and pleasing texture.

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2013 Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Bartavelles, Chateauneuf du Pape – $22
Imported by Palm Bay International.  This wine is a blend of 45% Syrah, 35% Grenache, and 20% Mourvedre.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This is a modern style of wine with concentrated flavors of grapey, black fruit delivered with some grainy texture, density, and weight.  It is bright in a sense with citric, puckering tannins, and a salivating black flavored finish with a hint of bitterness.  *** Now – 2022.

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1998 Domaine Pierre Andre, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Lauver Imports LTD.  Alcohol 15%.  The nose reveals blackberry and bramble fruitiness overlaying compote.  In the mouth there are clean, grainy flavors of black fruit followed by a mineral middle and finish.  The flavors are ripe, bordering on raisined, perhaps better described as a dry Port flavor.  It is a bit heady but the wood box and cedar note, sense of density, and ripe tannins left on the gums are attractive.  ***(*) Now – 2022.

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A Californian quartet

February 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Between work, family, wine research, and the new turntable I am short on free time.  Thus over the past month I have generally drunk inexpensive French and Italian wine for I need not take down any notes.  I have peppered these same weeks with a handful of younger bottles from California.  One recent release is the 2013 Coquerel Family Wines, Le Terroir, Chardonnay, Oakville Block A, Napa Valley.  This bottle showed very well after a few hours of air as well as on the second night.  It is a style of wine that has not swung too far in either direction, providing balanced white fruit flavors with both lovely mouthfeel and tautness.

I have never tasted the 2009 Ridge, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County since release.  I was surprised by the amount of flavor packed in and the lack of evolution.  It is quite tasty but should be cellared further to open up.  I suppose, in retrospect, I can understand why Lou and I enjoy decades old bottles of Ridge.  The 2005 Karl Lawrence, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is a solid wine full of black fruit and graphite.  It is supple and tasty, just not as exciting as I hoped at this stage.  Finally, there is the gigantic 1997 Williams Selyem, Pinot Noir, Olivet Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley which caught me off guard.  Ripe, dark, and alcoholic it is simply not my type of wine.

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2013 Coquerel Family Wines, Le Terroir, Chardonnay, Oakville Block A, Napa Valley – $30
This was fermented in 25% oak barrels with the remaining in stainless steel after which is was aged 7 months sue lie.  Alcohol 14%. With a bit of warmth and air this is an attractive wine of white fruit with a pleasing body of glycerin and nut flavors.  The tautness of the wine builds as the acidity becomes more noticeable, simultaneously evolving a finely textured, ripe grip.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

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2009 Ridge, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
This wine is a blend of 71% Zinfandel, 23% Petite Sirah, and 6% Carignane.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This is both surprisingly unevolved and packing a tremendous level of flavor.  It is a richly textured, dense wine of dark fruit that may not have any hard edges but does have structure for significant aging.  Given the level of stuffing I would wait another five years to try again.  **** Now – 2027.

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2005 Karl Lawrence, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 14.2%.  The nose remained subtle and the flavors of graphite-infused black fruit remained gentle.  This is a low-lying, almost laid back wine.  It remains very black in terms of flavor with inky hints and eventually develops some additional complexity from a wood box flavor.  There is some texture but it is generally supple with low-acidity.  Solid.  *** Now.

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1997 Williams Selyem, Pinot Noir, Olivet Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.9%.  This is a thick, dark flavored, very ripe wine of body and scope which seems to defy the varietal.  It was heady with noticeable heat in the finish that I found too distracting. Not my style.  Not Rated.

A mix of vintages 82, 78, 69, and 62

January 28, 2017 Leave a comment

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Over this winter I tried a few odd bottles of old Bordeaux, this post reflecting the lesser of them. The 1982 Chateau d’Issan, Margaux bore good fill and color but the corrosion on the capsule indicated a problem. Old seepage was confirmed by cutting the capsule but the wine itself was good shape, though fresh with sweet fruit, it is a wine that should be drunk up.  I did not expect much of the 1978 Chateau Labegorce-Zede, Margaux.  I opened it because it is a wine I drunk with my mom in the mid 1990s.  We bought a bottle along with cheese, charcuterie, and bread to eat at a picnic in sight of the Clifton Suspension Bridge off of Sion Hill in Bristol.

Of great surprise are several bottles from the miserable Bordeaux vintage of 1969.  Michael Broadbent does not even award the vintage any stars.  Still, these bottles proved that well-stored bottles from the worst vintages can still be drunk with pleasure.  The 1969 Chateau Boyd-Cantenac, Margaux certainly has vegetable aromas on the nose but in the mouth are perfectly preserved flavors, most likely by the lively acidity, of cranberry red fruit.  There is even grip and a suggestion of weight.  I do not suggest you seek this wine out but the good storage conditions came through.  From the same vintage and cellar came three bottles of 1969 Chateau Leoville Las Cases, Saint-Julien.  These showed some bottle variation.  Two were deep fruited on the nose with one brighter and more pungent.  There is less obvious acidity and more leather, wood, and bacon type of flavors.  Fun stuff!  Finally, the lowest fill of a group of 1962 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac proved satisfying.  It did not have the depth of the bottle drunk with Darryl and Lou but was complete and enjoyable.  To have drunk two bottles of Lafite in one month.  Incredible! 😉

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1982 Chateau d’Issan, Margaux
Imported by Ginday Imports LTD. Alcohol 11%-13.5%.  A lively wine that combines freshness and some attractive sweet flavors.  The tannins are fully resolved and when combined with the hints of roast earth, suggests it should be drunk up.  *** Now.

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1978 Chateau Labegorce-Zede, Margaux
Fully mature, if not just past but it still manages to offer a mixture of blue and red fruit, wood box, and fully resolved tannins.  Pleasant enough for a few glasses.  *(*) Now.

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1969 Chateau Boyd-Cantenac, Margaux
Shipped Mestrezat-Preller. Imported by John Gilbert Jr. Co. Alcohol 11% – 14%.  Across two bottles are clean red fruit flavors along with a distinct vegetal, as in celery, aromas as if from unripe fruit.  One bottle had some old funk which blew off.  In the mouth are surprisingly well preserved, clean and lively flavors of red fruit.  There is even some weight and fresh grip in the mouth.  Clearly well stored, this is surprisingly solid with good acidity and a fine, polished wood note.  ** Now.

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1969 Chateau Leoville Las Cases, Saint-Julien
Shipped Mestrezat-Preller. Imported by John Gilbert Jr. Co. Alcohol 11% – 14%.  Of three bottles tasted, at best a nose of deep, earthy fruit then fresher aromas with cedar.  Leather notes develop becoming more prominent than the earth.  In the mouth this is a lively wine of bright red then blacker fruit.  The flavors shorten quickly but a bacon infused finish carries a wee bit of fruit.  The structure is still drying and present.** Now.

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1962 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac
Shipped by Mestrezat-Prellar. Imported by Whitehall Company Ltd. Alcohol 11% – 14%. Mid-shoulder fill.  A fine nose of meat, graphite, and flowers.  In the mouth is a bright undeniably savory wine with a fresh, almost eucalyptus start.  The low fill has obviously taken a toll but this remains a savory, fine albeit smaller version of what this wine can achieve.  *** Now.

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The lively 2014 Fornacina, Rosso di Montalcino

January 26, 2017 Leave a comment

I am pleased by one of the latest releases of Fornacina for the 2014 Fornacina, Rosso di Montalcino is a perfect follow up to the savory 2013 vintage.  The 2014 vintage is particularly lively with plenty of juicy, almost rugged fruit supported by a very fine supportive structure.  I enjoyed it youthful state but some might want the tannins to mellow for another year or two.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2014 Fornacina, Rosso di Montalcino – $18
This wine is 100% Sangiovese fermented in stainless steel then aged in Slavonian oak. Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose is of moderately deep plums.  In the mouth there is an almost prickly start making for a lively entry of tart red fruit then black fruit.  The structure is obvious throughout leaving a layer of very fine tannins on the gums.  With air the wine builds a ripe, juicy start followed by a mulberry middle and firm, stone accented finish.  *** Now – 2023.

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A blind tasting of 2003 Northern Rhone wines

January 23, 2017 1 comment

It is a treat to blindly taste through eight wines of quality which I was recently able to do at Andy’s house.  One year ago Andy managed to stump us with a horizontal of 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape.  This year he served up 2003 Northern Rhone.  There was certainly confusion at first, particularly after the first several wines showed a level of ripe fruit concentration that had me thinking we were tasting Southern Rhone.  Then the final wines shifted my impression up to the Northern Rhone.  In retrospect it is the generous 2003 vintage that lead to this confusion and a surprise.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the 2003 Joel Durand, Les Coteaux, Saint-Joseph.  Though fruity, the flavors are not over ripe, the wine is lively, and backed by earth.  It is certainly generous and enjoyable to drink as a result.  Also from Saint-Joseph, the 2003 Yves Cuilleron, Serines, Saint-Joseph steps up the level of elegance.  Made from old-vines which see new oak, the quality of the fruit shines through with great grip and bacon flavors!  Finally, the most seductive wine of the night turned out to be the 2003 Guigal, Chateau d’Ampuis, Cote-Rotie.  Fat, glycerin, even more fat surround coiled, black fruit flavors. You can now imagine why I stayed a bit later than I intended to simply drinking these wines.

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1 – 2003 Eric et Joel Durand, Cornas
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  Alcohol 14%.  A medium garnet color with a mature and robust nose.  In the mouth are racy, mouth filling flavors.  This is a big wine with hints of alcohol.  There are flavors of prune, baking spice, and a wood note but not much in the way of tannin.  With air the sappy fruit takes on some fat and develops a longer finish.  In a way this is young and taught.  *** Now.

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2 – 2003 Joel Durand, Les Coteaux, Saint-Joseph
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A similar dark colored core as #1.  The nose is more expressive with mixed, dark fruits.  The flavors show more concentration with a hint of earth and plenty of presence.  It is a very good wine with ripe fruit, continued animale and earth notes, and an earthy aftertaste.  Nice.  **** Now – 2023.

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3 – 2003 Alain Voge, Les Vieilles Vignes, Cornas
Imported by Adventures in Wine.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A little less garnet than the previous wines.  This wine plays it close both on the nose and in the mouth.  It has hints of rather mature, old-school flavor which is delicate with earthy and red berry aspects.  The flavors become more black towards the finish where the subtle, structured finish brings out a wood note. *** Now.

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4 – 2003 Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes, Les Roches, Saint-Joseph
A darker color makes way to wood box aromas, dark blue and red fruit, and good mature hints. In the mouth there is a younger, fruitier start, assertive tannins, and a bitter finish.  There is good, tart flavor in the but ultimately taste more like a Southern Rhone.  Or perhaps I should write, I pegged this as a Tardieu-Laurent wine. *** Now.

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5 – 2003 Guigal, Brune & Blonde, Cote-Rotie
Imported by Ex Cellars.  Alcohol 13%.  Meaty flavors with a dose of tannins start off this thick, mouth filling wine.  It is a little rough and simple with dark roast and rather fine and strong structure.  More toast is apparent with air. *** Now – 2023.

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6 – 2003 Yves Cuilleron, Serines, Saint-Joseph
Imported by Neal Rosenthal.  Alcohol 13%.  The floral, purple fruit aromas clearly speak of the Northern Rhone.  In the mouth are cool, young fruit flavors on entry followed by a pervasive bacon flavor.  It is a youthful wine with watery acidity, great grip, and accented by citrus flavor (but not citric acidity).  This will continue to develop.  **** Now – 2027.

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7 – 2003 Rene Rostaing, Cote-Rotie
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 12.5%.  There is a light garnet color.  The nose is weird, lactic and fishy with fish flavors in the mouth.  One taster commented “sardine dine”.  Not Rated.

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8 – 2003 Guigal, Chateau d’Ampuis, Cote-Rotie
Imported by Ex Cellars.  Alcohol 13%.  Mmm, meat on the nose.  This wine sports more body and glycerin then all of the previous wines.  The black core of fruit is coated with fat, coiled and willing to unfurl in the middle with a bright lift.  Did I mention the very seductive fat? **** Now – 2027.

A mystery bottle of 1970 Warre Vintage Port

There was a time when much of the Vintage Port sold at MacArthur Beverages was English bottled.  These wines were purchased by the case upon which the vintage and house were labeled.  But as Mark Wessels and Andy Creemer recently related, the bottles inside were unmarked.  Despite efforts to organize or tag the bottles, some bottles strayed losing any outwardly visible identification.  I purchased what must be the last two of these stray bottles.

Vintage Port corks are largely branded.  I cut the bottom of the lead capsule on the youngest of the two bottles.  Despite scrubbing the neck of the bottle and using various flashlights, I could not make out any brand on the cork.  The mystery was revealed when I extracted the cork using my Durand.  This English bottle of 1970 Warre Vintage Port was in fine condition.  It offered elegant flavors of fruit, wood, spice, and even a bit of grip on the tongue.  There is no sense of power, rather that of a wine which has crested peak drinking and should be drunk up.  Which is what we did, making me all the more happy to solve my mystery.

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1970 Warre, Vintage Port
The good, clear color reflected in the clean, elegant flavors of this wine.  It begins with fruity flavors, fig and hints of wood with a touch of warm spice in the finish.  The wine grips the tongue leaving an impression of white nuts in the aftertaste.  *** Now.

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