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A Fine Surprise: 1974 Trefethen Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon

December 30, 2019 Leave a comment

The Trefethen family moved to Napa Valley in 1968 where they acquired several small farms to form a single wine estate.  After the inaugural vintage of 1973, Trefethen Vineyards soon became known as a small producer of fine wines.  Thanks to Carole Hicke’s interview of Janet and John Trefethen in 1997, we know just how remarkable it is that the 1974 Trefethen Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley I recently enjoyed remains a fine wine to this day.

Janet and John Trefethen planned their marriage around their very first crush in 1973.  John had made wine on a private scale in 1971 and 1972 but the 1973 vintage, produced at the 19th century Eschol Ranch winery, was their first commercial effort.  Built in 1886, the winery had last been used for storage in the 1940s and for producing wine even further back, perhaps the 1920s.  When the Trefethen’s purchased the property in 1968, the winery still had dirt floors and stood in the middle of 280 acres of mass producing grape vines.  For the first vintage, they cemented over part of the ground floor, brought in a press and had storage for some 2,000 gallons of wine.  Curious enough, Domaine Chandon was located on the second floor!

There were just 25 wineries in Napa Valley when the Trefethen’s arrived.  Between 1968 and 1973, they replanted the vineyard.  For the 1973 vintage, they produced 2,000 cases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  In 1974, they added in Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon.  1974 turned out to be an excellent vintage for Cabernet Sauvignon and it  caught the eye of Harry Waugh.  He purchased a stock of it to be served on the Queen Elizabeth II.

This bottle had good fill and deep color.  In the glass it was in fresh condition, developing with air and proving to be an enjoyable drink.  It is rounded and balanced, confidently mature with bottle aged flavors yet still offering cherry fruit.  This is a remarkable achievement given that this is the first release of Cabernet Sauvignon.

1974 Trefethen Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  An aromatic wine, herbaceous with a touch of roast.  Fresh in the mouth with a rounded edge to the flavors which are carried by fresh, watering acidity.  It is saline with old wood notes mixing with cherry fruit and baking spices.  It is quite solid with air for it proves satisfying and does not crack up.  *** Now but will last.

A pair of 1960s Oleggio and Beccaro from Alto Piemonte

December 28, 2019 Leave a comment

On a dark December night, Sudip and I tried two old bottles of wine from the Novara-Vercelli hills of Alto Piemonte, home to such wines as Gattinara and Ghemme.  I can find little on the 1961 Cantina Sociale Cooperativa di Oleggio, Vino Vecchia Collina Riserva.  It probably has a base of Spanna with some amount of Bonarda and Vespolina, all three of which were certainly blended together for our second wine.  We know more about the 1964 Armando Beccaro, Vino Mesolone since this Mesolone was solely made by Armando Beccaro and son, of whom Mario Soldati recounted his visit in “Vino al Vino.”

The Oleggio has promise with its attractive and pervasive earthy note which matches its vinous nature.  Perhaps in a vintage like 1964, if it sports more fruit, then the acidity will be balanced out.  For now this is a solid table wine to consume with a meal.  The Beccaro opens up with air.  Regarded as a full-bodied wine in its youth, the dense, sweet flavors of fruit compote come out, anchoring the wine with pleasure as wood-box notes and spices add to the pleasure.  It is a successful blend, showing a profile different than that of pure Spanna, and definitely a wine I would be happy to drink again.

1961 Cantina Sociale Cooperativa di Oleggio, Vino Vecchia Collina Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Earthy at first.  Fresh menthol flavors in the mouth with tart acidity driving earthy red fruit into a vinous, old bottled aged wine middle.  The fruit is sweeter in the finish, likewise the attractive earthy note is longish in the aftertaste.  A solid wine whose acidity is taking over the flavors.  ** Now.

1964 Armando Beccaro, Vino Mesolone
Imported by T. Elenteny. A blend of roughly 50% Spanna, 30% Bonarda, and 20% Vespolina exclusively from family vines.  It was fermented for three weeks then racked once a year until it was bottled in the third or fourth year. Alcohol 13%.  A fresh nose with menthol notes.  This builds sweetness with air forming a sweet, fruity middle with a wood box finish.  A mid-weight wine, it is mixed with spices which become slightly spicy by the finish.  It responds well with air becoming dense in the middle with a compote of sweet, textured fruit extract.  *** Now.

A Clos du Mont-Olivet Vertical: 2017 Cotes du Rhone back to 2005 La Cuvee du Papet

November 9, 2019 Leave a comment

I was a guest at the most recent blind tasting held by Phil’s tasting group.  Of the eight wines we tasted blind, one was a stinker, so we were left with seven bottles to deduce the theme.  Two of the wines, #5 and #8, were clearly Chateauneuf du Pape but the firmness of the younger vintages and stylistic difference of the ringer through me for a loop.  I will fess up that I had recently drunk wine #2 but I was still stumped.  In retrospect, the theme of Clos du Mont-Olivet can be appreciated.

The Sabon family have been making wine at Clos du Mont-Olivet since 1932 with the estate now run by Thierry  Sabon.  The tasting featured one vintage of Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes, one vintage of Châteaneuf du Pape, and five vintages of Châteauneuf du Pape La Cuvee du Papet.  The Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes we tried is a typical blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 10% Carignan mostly sourced from vineyards planted in 1950.  The fruit is partially destemmed then fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks followed by aging in used foudre, demi-muids, and tanks.  The Châteaneuf du Pape is a typical blend of 80% Grenache with Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault rounding things out.  The fruit is partially destemmed then fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks.  It is aged in in foudre.  The top wine of the estate is La Cuvee du Papet which is only made in the best vintages.  It is a typical blend of 75% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah sources from multiple parcels.  The vines range in age from 30 to 100+ years of age since the oldest parcel of Grenache was planted in 1901.  The fruit is partially destemmed then fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks followed by aging in used foudre and demi-muids.

The 2017 Clos du Mont-Olivet, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Rhone is an excellent follow-on to the 2016 vintage.  It is, however, a wine which needs time to develop and should drink well for a few years.  The best wine to drink now and one of my favorites of the tasting is the awesome 2005 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape.  Even better is the 2010 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape.  This superlative pair offers a wine that has just hit its mature phase, the 2005, and a wine shedding its youth, the 2010.  I went back to these bottles multiple times simply to drink them.  I recommend you buy some so you can as well!  Worth cellaring, is the very young yet outstanding 2016 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape.  It has all the components for developing but is still firm.  I’d give it several years of age at which point it should be obvious if it is as great as the 2010.  Many thanks to Phil for hosting such an excellent tasting.

Blind #1 – 2017 Clos du Mont-Olivet, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Rhone –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 14.5%.  Grapey scents on the nose.  A young wine in the mouth with flavors of black and purple fruit with fine, dry and bitter structure in the end.  With air it rounds and balances out.  The ripe fruit has a touch of sweetness from a vanilla component.  The flavors of blueberries and violets is carried by watering acidity.  This is a mid-term ager that should significantly improve over the winter.  *** Now – 2027.

Blind #2 – 2016 Clos du Mont-Olivet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 15%.  A good nose of red fruits.  In this mouth this is a big wine with a spine of acidity.  With air it opens up a touch offering creamy flavors of violets, black fruit, and a little wood box.  With good depth it becomes firm in the end as a spicy structure comes out.  It should be cellared.  This bottle is tighter than a previous bottle I tried.  ***(*) 2023- 2034.

Blind #3 – 2016 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 15%.  An aromatic nose of blue fruits.  In the mouth this is a big wine with fine, strong tannins, and a powerful wave of flavor through the finish.  Like the regular CdP, this is closely packed and in need of age.  With air the wine has all of the components clearly focused for development.  It is savory, intense, and even a little spicy.  ****(*) 2024- 2039.

Blind #4 – 2015 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 15%.  A deeper, meaty nose.  A watering start then the wine falls flat, compared to other vintages, offering vintage perfume notes, wood box, and baking spice.  There are ample, fine and dry tannins.  With air it improves to be lush yet not voluptuous with a deep, dry finish.  The structure remains prominent compared to the fruit weight.  A good wine in all respects but clearly overshadowed by the 2016. For the mid-term. ***(*) Now – 2029.

Blind #5 – 2010 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 15%.  Saline and dense, this wine packs in tons of flavors right through the powerful end.  though powerful, it keeps focused with creamy bits, luxurious fat, and wood box maturity.  It is still so young but is clearly a great wine.  Unlike the outstanding 2005, this has the intensity of youth which hits the throat with a dose of fruity raspberries.  ***** Now – 2034.

Blind #6 – 2010 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Polished on the nose.  In the mouth it is a little saline, dry and tart with red, citric fruit.  It has fine focus for the long-haul with polished wood tannins.  With air there is a subtle, lifted hint of fat, wood box, and a killer finish.  This wine will be slow to develop.  **** 2023-2039.

Blind #7 – 2006 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 14%.  A stinker, smells like air make it through the cork.  Can’t stand it.  Not Rated.

Blind #8 – 2005 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 14%.  Taking on some garnet in the glass.  A good nose.  The ripe fruit and fine wood box notes are clearly part of a more complex Southern Rhone wine.  It lovely with young power that comes through.  Fat and weighty flavors drape on the tongue with a sweet middle.  This is a Chateauneuf du Pape with tons of future potential but you can enjoy it now became it has some bottle age flavor and concentrating ripeness.  ****(*) Now – 2034.

An Additional Blind Wine – 1998 Domaine Bois De Boursane, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Alcohol 13.5%.  Some umami mixing with red fruit and watering acidity into the salty, firm finish.  There is good flavor for drinking right now.  If you decant drink quickly.  *** Now.

Another tasting with Lou, from maturing Chablis to old Boeger wines

November 5, 2019 Leave a comment

While it was still warm, I met up with Lou and another friend for grilled steak and a variety of wines.  Two favorite wines from the evening include the lush 2005 Domaine Vrignaud, Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume and young 2010 Scholium Project, The Courier, Shake Ridge Ranch, Amador County.  I found the 2006 Domaine Saint-Damien, Vieilles Vignes, Gigondas young and capable of much further development.  Though it did become a bit hot with air (and perhaps some warmth).

We then moved on to a trio of old California wines from Boeger Winery.  Founded by Greg and Sue Boeger in 1972, Boeger Winery was the first commercial winery in El Dorado County since Prohibition.  It is located in the old Elmo Fossati Ranch winery built in 1870s and operated until the 1920s. It remained in the Fossati family until it was sold in 1972.

Boeger Winery was part of an expansion of vineyard acreage in the county from 11 largely experimental acres in 1967 to 380 by 1981.  Greg Boeger felt El Dorado County was special with a better climate than in Napa Valley.  The vineyards are located at a higher elevation, the temperature is cooler, and the area is without fog so grapes may ripen without mildew.  Boeger was ready for its first crush in 1974 and by 1977, he doubled capacity to 12,000 gallons.  It is from this period that our three oldest bottles stem from.  The NV Boeger Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon Lot No. 3, El Dorado County is a solid drink, still in firm shape.  The 1979 Boeger Winery, Merlot, El Dorado County steps up the quality with savory, strong flavors.  Sharing a common savory quality, the 1978 Boeger Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, El Dorado County has a clear, blue fruited vein.  While not mind-blowing, these bottles were in fine shape with the vintage dated ones exhibiting a common personality.

2005 Domaine Vrignaud, Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume
Imported by KV Imports.  Alcohol 13%.  A light, gold-straw color.  Aromatic on the nose with some ripe orchard notes.  More rounded that the nose belies, it is even lush with a touch of softness, wood hint, and underlying maturity.  With air the wine comes into focus with dense lemon flavor, flint, and quite the mouthfeel.  ***(*) Now – 2025.

2010 Scholium Project, The Courier, Shake Ridge Ranch, Amador County
This wine is a blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Granche.  Alcohol 14.8%.  A young, lifted Syrah nose which is articulate and aromatic.  Complex, tense, and young. Needs time.  ***(*) Now – 2029.

2006 Domaine Saint-Damien, Vieilles Vignes, Gigondas
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  Alcohol 15%.  Young but there is a savory focus for future development.  A licorice note comes out.  Strong with a touch of heat after extended air.  Will it remain balanced or should you pop and pour?  *** Now – 2029.

1990 Giuseppe Contratto, Solus Ad, Barbera d’Asti
Imported by Bedford Brands Ltd. Alcohol 12.8%.  Mature on the nose and on the cusp of falling apart. Not Rated.

NV Boeger Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon Lot No. 3, El Dorado County
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from vines located at 1400 ft in elevation in the Gold Hill district.  It was aged in small French Never oak barrels.    Alcohol 12.5%.  Still good color.  Sweet wood notes on the nose.  Tart and firm red fruit supported by black fruit flavors.  A solid wine with good, citric acidity.  ** Now.

1979 Boeger Winery, Merlot, El Dorado County
This wine is 100% Merlot sourced from the highest ridge at the winery. Alcohol 13.2%.  A bricking color.  Savory in the mouth with a big start.  In a strong state with supportive acidity throughout.  **(*) Now.

1978 Boeger Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, El Dorado County
This wine is a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot sourced from vines at 2300 ft in elevation.  It was aged for 2 years in small oak barrels.  Alcohol 13.2%.  A little stink.  Rounder and softer yet there is a good edge in there.  Good flavor with developing blue fruit.  A savory wine.  *** Now.

Chinon from Alliet, Baudry, and Joguet

November 4, 2019 Leave a comment

I followed all three of these Chinon over the course of two days.  For immediate drinking, I highly recommend you try the 2017 Domaine Bernard Baudry, Le Domaine, Chinon.  I love an earthy hint in my wine and the Baudry provides just that both in aroma and flavor.  It is a compelling example of Chinon.  The 2018 Philippe Alliet, Chinon is young right now as it remains firm in the glass. There is good material in there so lay it down for a year.  I found the 2017 Charles Joguet, Cuvee Terroir, Chinon tart yet full of stone notes.  It is, perhaps, an early drinking wine but with the price similarity I’d grab the Alliet and Baudry.

2018 Philippe Alliet, Chinon – $22 at MacArthur Beverages
A Thomas Calder Selection imported by Potomac Selections.  Alcohol 13%.  A dark, grapey purple.  Not quite as tart as the Joguet, there is a fine vein of dark red fruit, juicy acidity, and hints of pastilles.  It is mineral in the end with a bit of lift in the aftertaste.  With air, the fruit remains clean flavored but it picks up some salt before the firm finish.  *** 2021-2026.

2017 Domaine Bernard Baudry, Le Domaine, Chinon – $24 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from 30-35 year old vines, fermented in cement vats then aged 15 months in concrete and wood vats.  Aromas of bright fruit with earth then scented black pepper and herbs.  Similar flavors in the mouth with juicy acidity.  The earth mixes well with the black fruit.  There is a good cut of acidity throughout with minerals and earth in the finish.  Young yet very good.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

2017 Charles Joguet, Cuvee Terroir, Chinon – $22 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Alcohol 13%.  Tart red and black fruit with tart acidity before it develops minerals and stone notes.  There is some ethereal weight. ** Now – 2022.

A tasting with Lou: Sandlands, Sanguis, Soumade and more

November 3, 2019 Leave a comment

Lou and I gathered quite a while ago to drink some randomly selected wines.  A new wine for me is the NV Phillippe Tessier, Phil’en Bulle.  It is a little sweet for me so perhaps better with dessert.  Of particular note is the white wine 2017 Linne Calodo, Contrarian, Paso Robles.  I should also note the very young 2016 Domaine la Soumade, Cuvee Prestige, Rasteau which, with several years of age, will become a very good wine.  2017 Sandlands Vineyards, Red Table Wine, Contra Costa County is a young wine for drinking now.  A solid bottle of 1989 Raymond Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve, Napa Valley delivered surprise and pleasure.  A pair of Sanguis offered a fun comparison even if they should have been drunk up a few years ago. The 2011 Sanguis, 11-A, John Bastiano is very clean, chalky, and full of verve.  For a brief bit, I preferred the luxury of the 2011 Sanguis, 11-B, Bienacido but it sadly cracked up after a short period.

NV Phillippe Tessier, Phil’en Bulle, Loire
A Zev Rovine Selection imported by Fruit of the Vine. Alcohol 12.5%. A slightly hazy, light straw yellow. Very fine and strong bubbles carry the ripe, sweetish start. Some yeast the short finish.  **(*) Now.

2017 Linne Calodo, Contrarian, Paso Robles
This is a blend of 50% Grenache Blanc, 30% Picpoul Blanc, and 20% Viognier. Alcohol 13.7%. Refreshing with good acidity white nuts and expansive flavor. A core of tropical fruit remains but the gum, coating texture adds presence. Notes of pastilles in the finish. **** Now – 2022.

2011 Sanguis, 11-A, John Bastiano, Santa Rita  Hills
Alcohol 14%. A very light color with a green tinge. A little toast on the nose eventually blows off. Tart with some berry toast. Clean with chalk and yellow fruit. Plenty of verve. ** Now.

2011 Sanguis, 11-B, Bien Nacido, Santa Maria Valley
Alcohol 14.8%. A touch more fruit and weight, oily in the middle with a steely finish. Racy with good balance, it has some toast flavors. With air it begins to crack up revealing acidity and heat.  *** at best but Past Prime.

2017 Sandlands Vineyards, Red Table Wine, Contra Costa County
A blend of Carignan and Mataro. Alcohol 12.9% Grapey with cranberry flavor and chalky tannins. Tart with crunchy acidity this sports an interesting mineral, fruit blend.  *** Now – 2022.

2016 Domaine la Soumade, Cuvee Prestige, Rasteau
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 14.5%. A grapey, young color and tight, grapey nose. Tight in the mouth but there is a lovely vein of fruit through the linear structure. Beautiful fat from the ripeness, it is powerful, building flavor. ***(*) 2024-2034.

1989 Raymond Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve, Napa Valley
Mature with Eucalyptus. Some firmness in the mouth but the Cab flavor comes out. In fresh shape this is a tasty wine with focused, ripe fruit, some dry wood notes, and structure in the end. *** Now.

A trio of interesting wines featuring Macabeau, Lledoner Pellut, and Carignan

November 1, 2019 Leave a comment

The three wines featured in this post are all imported by Cason Love of the new firm Terres Blanches Wine Merchants.  I have never tried a wine from any of these producers which is not surprising given Love’s focus on small production vignerons from the south of France.  The No. 18 La Soula, Trigone white hails from Fenouilledes in French Catalonia.  It is an interesting blend of both grapes and vintages.  Once open, it drinks well for several days consistently delivering an interesting progression of mouthfeel from start to finish.  It tastes good too!  Also from Fenouilledes is the 2018 Domaine Benastra, La Petite Soeur, Cotes Catalanes.  It is a brighter cherry and strawberry flavored wine, which will develop through the winter.  From Hautes-Corbieres, the 2018 Domaine des Deux Cles, Cles en Main sports darker fruit and youthful ruggedness yet is bright in acidity.  With a good nose and some herbs and fat in the finish, I recommend tracking the progression of this wine.  Overall, good wines at strong prices for a new portfolio.

No. 18 La Soula, Trigone white – $22 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Terres Blanches Wine Merchants.  This wine is a blend of 45% Macabeau, 31% Vermentino, 22% Sauvignon blanc, and 2% Grenache blanc, Marsanne, and Roussane from vines on soils of decomposed granite.  It is blended from the 2018 and 2017 vintages.  It was raised in a mixed of tank, oak tanks, and oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%. A very light, straw color.  Fresh in the mouth with good acidity lifting the bright, white fruit.  As the wine progresses it develops into a weighty, creamy middle followed by a lemon flavored finish with chalk and stones.  With air it takes on a touch of earth and good body.  Articulate in flavor this is my favorite of the trio.  ***(*) Now – 2023.

2018 Domaine Benastra, La Petite Soeur, Cotes Catalanes – $15 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Terres Blanches Wine Merchants.  This wine is a blend of 40% Lledoner Pellut, 20% Carignan, 20% Syrah, and 20% Grenache Noir fermented in stainless-steel and concrete tanks then aged in concrete tank and oak casks.  .  Alcohol 13%. A little bit of cherry and strawberry at the start then tart, citric acidity mixes to become more acidity driven and dry in flavor by the finish.  It develops a black cherry flavor and some baking spices.  The pithey structure on the gums should help see this open up with a bit of age.  *** Now – 2023.

2018 Domaine des Deux Cles, Cles en Main – $18 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Terres Blanches Wine Merchants.  This wine is a blend of Carignan and Syrah fermented and aged in a mixture of concrete and stainless-steel tanks. Alcohol 14%.  Mulberry on the nose and dark red fruit in the mouth.  Medium bodied with bright acidity and tart flavor it brings on attractive herbs and a touch of fat by the finish and baking spices in the aftertaste.  It is a little rugged in its youth, lending attraction, and should develop over the winter.  *** Now – 2023.

Favorites from Vacqueyras

While I enjoy the rugged nature of Gigondas, it is to Vacqueyras that I look for fruity delight.  For this post we tasted through several current offerings from the power packed duo of vintages: 2015 and 2016.  Priced between $22 and $30 these wines offer excellent quality and personality.  In general, I prefer the 2016 vintage, the wines have denser fruit and excellent acidity, which makes them more exciting to drink.  They also have the stuffing for age.  The 2015 have deep flavor but are less fruity with a dry and structured nature.  I suspect that they will last a long time but the peak drinking window will be shorter.

The 2016 Domaine les Amouriers, Signature, Vacqueyras is a modern styled, best buy.  It needs a few hours of air before the satisfying, deep note of flavor comes out.  You really must buy both the 2016 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras and 2016 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Floureto, Vacqueyras for drinking now and laying down.  Both of these are savory wines with the Bouissiere offering up kirsch and the Sang des Cailloux mixed berries.  The Bouissiere is a bit more exciting to drink right now but the Sang des Cailloux will unfurl with age.  The 2015 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras and 2015 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras are good too.  They are certainly more structured and I hope in an awkward state.  The Sang des Cailloux has an incredible, deep earthy flavor that I have come to love from this domaine.  Yet the wine holds back, preventing ultimate pleasure.

These wines can age well too.  This year alone I have probably drunk five bottles of 2000 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras.  It is perfectly mature, balanced, yet in no decline.  It is a fine example of what aged Vacqueyras brings.  All of these wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Domaine les Amouriers, Signature, Vacqueyras – $22 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by DS Trading Co. Inc. This wine is a blend of 56% Grenache, 34% Syrah, 7% Mourvedre, and 3% Cinsault. Alcohol 15%.  Clean and modern with somewhat robust fruit flavors.  With air an attractive, low-lying deep bass note of flavor is revealed.  Blue fruited at first, it is largely offers black fruit through the finish.  No earth notes to speak of but some herbs instead.  *** Now – 2030.

2016 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras – $27 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Dionysos. This wine is a blend of 51% Grenache, 33% Syrah, and 16% Mourvedre which is fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks.  It is then aged in a mixture of cement tank, barrels, and demi-muids.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Dark and grapey in color.  Fresh, lifted grapey aromas.  In the mouth this is a savory, weighty wine with a dense vein of grapey fruit.  With air it offers pure kirsch flavor and complicated perfume.  With mid-weight fruit, very fine and slightly spicy structure, this wine will develop over the short term then last for some time further.  ***(*) Now – 2035.

2015 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras – $30
Imported by Dionysos. This wine is a blend of 42% Grenache, 50% Syrah, and 8% Mourvedre which is fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks.  It is then aged in a mixture of cement tank, barrels, and demi-muids.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Dark aromas of damp soil.  Drier in flavor, matched by herbs, with tense acidity.  The flavors are focused through the long, spicy finish where tangy pithe from the fine structure comes out.  *** Now – 2030.

2016 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Floureto, Vacqueyras – $30 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre & Cinsault which is fermented in cement tank then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Savory and saline flavors of mixed berries.  The flavors are rounded, somewhat dense and creamy in the middle with a bit of juicy acidity in the end.  Cherries mix with a little wood note before fine structure coats the gums.  ***(*) Now – 2035.

2015 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras – $32 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre & Cinsault which is fermented in cement tank then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 14%.  Familial nose of berries with a touch of earth.  Dry flavors follow with cherry carried by watering acidity into a finish of strawberry candy and kirsch.  It is of good, deep flavor yet restrained in the palate preventing that next level of enjoyment.  Tangy in the finish it sports a fine structure that might outlast the fruit.  *** Now – 2024.

2000 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras –
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre & Cinsault which is fermented in cement tank then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 13.8%. Balanced, mouth filling flavors of blue fruit, minerals, and garrigue which are matched by supportive acidity.  Some earthy depth too.  It is fully mature with resolved structure but nowhere near decline.  **** Now but will last.

Good Wines Abound in Sicily

October 1, 2019 2 comments

What is remarkable about these four red wines from Sicily is that the even the two least expensive bottles, made primarily from Nerello Mascalese, are great!  The 2017 Calabretta, Gaio Gaio, Etna is my favorite for drinking right now.  Calabretta consistently releases top-notch wines at low prices and this particular bottling is beautiful.  The 2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso is also approachable now.  It offers more stuffing up front but then a chalky, floral finish speaks of the island.  The 2017 Occhipinti, SP68, Sicily is a different blend being Frappato with Nero d’Avola. It is not offering as much as I would like so try it again in a year.  The 2014 Calabretta, Pinot Nero, Etna needs time too but it has the goods!  I recently bought these wines at MacArthur Beverages.

2017 Calabretta, Gaio Gaio, Etna – $17
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced from old vines.  It was aged in large, old oak containers.  Alcohol 14%. Aromatic berries on the nose. Crunchy, rosemary infused strawberry flavors. This is a beautiful wine with good presence and length in the finish. It has the structure and acidity for some years. *** Now – 2024.

2014 Calabretta, Pinot Nero, Etna – $25
Imported by Williams Corner Wines. Fairly robust at first, the intensity is surprising but then this is clearly an outstanding vintage. There is a core of fruit and puckering acidity which will see this through development. It remains tight so a good candidate for the cellar. *** 2022-2027.

2017 Occhipinti, SP68, Sicily – $26
Imported by Louis/Dressner. A blend of mostly Frappato with Nero d’Avola which was fermented then aged in concrete tanks.  Alcohol 12.5%. Scented red fruit on the nose. Bright in the mouth, a little earth, certainly tart with modest structure. Lively but the tart, ripe structure needs to resolve.  **(*) 2020-2025.

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso – $19
Imported by deGrazia Imports.  This wine is a blend of 95% Nerello Mascalese and 5% Nerello Cappuccio Alcohol 14%.  Flavorful, almost robust, certainly impressive for the stuffing. Firm red candy then a mineral, chalky vein before the lifted, floral finish. *** Now – 2024.

An Honest Pair from Domaine de Fontsainte

September 29, 2019 Leave a comment

This pair of recent offerings from Domaine de Fontsainte exhibit distinct personalities at low prices. That is no easy feat.  The 2016 Domaine de Fontsainte, Reserva la Demoiselle, Corbieres  is mostly Carignan sourced from 100+ year old vines.  It is a wine to drink now and though generous in flavor, it has supportive acidity, and a good dose of provencal herbs.  The 2018 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres is crisp with an interesting blend of brown sugar and mineral, black fruit.  I like the flavor and the acidity profile.  It should be even better this winter.  If you can only purchase on bottle then I would just grab the one which sounds more like your style.  I bought these two bottles at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Domaine de Fontsainte, Reserva la Demoiselle, Corbieres – $17 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 60% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, and 10% Mourvedre.  The Carignan vines were planted in 1904 and the fruit alone undergoes carbonic maceration. The wine is then aged in a mixture of cement tank and French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  Effusive and approachable from the very first glass.  It is blue fruited at first then turns towards tart raspberry and blackberry in flavor.  It is a tangy wine with some supportive structure but is largely a wine that is ready to drink.  It is dense in the middle with lemon/citric acidity, and solid finish. It evokes the south with its provencal herbs.  *** Now – 2020.

2018 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres – $15 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 60% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, and 10% Syrah aged in French oak barrels.  Again, the Carignan undergoes carbonic maceration.  Alcohol 14%.  There is a core of brown-sugared, ripe, black fruit which leans towards a mineral, blacker fruited finish.  There is good freshness from the watering acidity.  It takes on hints of cream and stone.  Though a crisp wine it should improve over the short-term.  **(*) Now – 2023.