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Italian Barbera from 1964 to 2013

The gray weather parted allowing a small group of us to taste through a range of Barbera on my back deck. Unspoken etiquette ensured we had bottles of Champagne and white wine to occupy ourselves as the bottles of Barbera were opened and I fussed with the grill. Both starter bottles were excellent. Having now tasted NV Demiere Ansiot, Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs I can state that I want to drink it again. This is surprisingly complex Champagne with frothy bubbles and balance such that it should be drunk up right now. If you like mature Champagne go buy several bottles. The 2007 Red Newt, Gewurztraminer, Curry Creek Vineyard, Finger Lakes is comparatively younger in profile with its dense flavors of nuts and tropical fruit. It is a lot of wine.

We began the Barbera tasting with a trio of four old wines, one of which was bagged. My favorite is the 1967 Casa Vinicola Antonio Vallana, Barbera del Cantina di Bacco. Some did not like it which meant I was left with the lion’s share of old-school sweaty aromas and sweet, concentrated, silky fruit. From the same vintage I also liked the 1967 Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani, Castello di Gabiano Riserva which with one “b” is one of Italy’s smallest DOCs from Monferrato and not to be confused with the estate from the south of Florence. The brighter fruit and blood are gently delivered making for a different expression of Barbera. This brightness could be attributed to the wine containing up to 10% Freisa and Grignolino.  Our oldest bottle of 1964 Poderi di Luigi Einaudi, Barbera is a survivor for I drank a glass of leftovers the next night with only slightly diminished pleasure. It is bright, tart, and bit acidic making it more of a curiosity. The brown-bagged 1974 Angelo Papagni, Barbera is a wine that is simply too old.

Our next two bottles were flawed. It is a shame because the 1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Conca Tre Pile, Barbera D’Alba has the potential to be very good. There is not telling what the 1999 Elio Grasso, Vigna Martina, Barbera D’Alba should be like.

In young territory the 2005 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti is young primary and attractively floral. In contrast the 2006 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti sports heft, brawn, and good flavor. It is one to age for many more years. Also promising is the elegant and impeccably balanced 2008 Bartolo Mascarello, Barbera D’Alba. The last bottle of 2013 Coppo, Pomorosso, Barbera d’Asti proved to be the youngest and most modern wine. It is a good, articulated wine but not of my preferred style.  Based on these wines I would like to repeat the tasting but focus in on 1990s and older.

NV Demiere Ansiot, Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs
Becky Wasserman selection imported by USA Wine Imports. This wine is 100% Chardonnay. Alcohol 12%. The nose begins with a yeast hint then toast and apple orchard aromas which together make for a very satisfying nose. In the mouth are racy flavors of delicate berries, definitely fruity, and frothy bubbles. The fizz is not hard rather it is subtle. This is an excellent wine for drinking now, it is complex with baking spices and a clean finish.  **** Now.

2007 Red Newt, Gewurztraminer, Curry Creek Vineyard, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 14.7%. The color is bright and golden with a green hint. The flavors mix nuts with tropical fruit with a tilt towards sweet flavors. This fine, dense wine has a minerally middle.  Good stuff! **** Now – 2020.

1964 Poderi di Luigi Einaudi, Barbera
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%. The nose is musky at first morphing to old leather as it cleans up and with air adds in cinnamon. The wine itself is earthy with bright acidity and a clean flavor profile of tart cherry and cranberry red fruit. It is a little tired towards the finish but the tart fruit persists in the aftertaste. ** Now.

1974 Angelo Papagni, Barbera (brown bagged mystery wine)
Alcohol 12.5%. A garnet color but one sniff and taste tell that this wine is way past prime. Not Rated.

 

1967 Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani, Castello di Gabiano Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. This wine is probably a blend of 90%-95% Barbera with the rest Freisa and Grignolino.  Alcohol 11%-14%. The nose smells of blood. In the mouth this is a bright, forward wine with nice bright acidity and up-front grip. It sports an old-school gentleness and softness. Notes of polished wood eventually come out. The blood returns in the aftertaste. *** Now but will last.

1967 Casa Vinicola Antonio Vallana, Barbera del Cantina di Bacco, Colline Novaresi
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12.5%. The nose is old-school, sweaty and sweet. In the mouth the ripe fruit is sweet with concentration. This silky, smooth wine gains focus and length with air. There is fine texture and weight to the core of fruit which is surrounded by sweaty notes and wood. **** Now but will last.

1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Conca Tre Pile, Barbera D’Alba
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%. Sadly cooked on the nose. In the mouth though are gobs of mouth filling fruit with a fine, ripe texture from the tannins. There are tart red fruit flavors in the finish. Correct bottles should be quite good. Not Rated.

1999 Elio Grasso, Vigna Martina, Barbera D’Alba
Alcohol 14.5%. Bad bottle! Not Rated.

2005 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti
Alcohol 14%. The nose is still young and clean with finely scented aromas of violets. Still youthful in the most this primary wine is fresh with watering acidity. ***(*) Now – 2027.

2006 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti
Alcohol 14%. The color is darker with a purple tinge. The nose sports more heft to the aromas. In the mouth the flavors are brawnie and matched by additional tannins. There is dark red fruit, rounded feel, and a good personality. This will age for a long time. ***(*) Now – 2032.

2007 G. D. Vajra, Barbera D’Alba Superiore
Imported by The Country Vintner. Alcohol 14.5%. It is hard to get past the over-ripe, full-bore fruit. The wine becomes tangy with serious weight.  ** Now.

 

2008 Bartolo Mascarello, Barbera D’Alba
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 14%. An elegant nose moves on to bright red fruit over a black fruit foundation. This wine is balanced with grippy personality, texture and some ink. The structure is finely integrated with the fruit. ***(*) Now – 2027.

2013 Coppo, Pomorosso, Barbera d’Asti
Imported by Folio Wine Partners. Alcohol 14.5%. This is an articulated, young, modern wine that is not without attraction. Not really my style but I can appreciate it.  *** Now – 2025.

2015 Domaine Georges Vernay, Syrah De Mirbaudie

The 2015 Domaine Georges Vernay, Syrah De Mirbaudie,Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes is a strong effort by Christine Vernay.  What I like is that it is not overdone for this vintage, instead it is forward, and it retains a clear Northern Rhone personality.  I would drink this over the next several years.

2015 Domaine Georges Vernay, Syrah De Mirbaudie,Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes  – $22
Imported by Simon “N” Cellars.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 20 year old vines located adjacent to Condrieu. Alcohol 12.8%.  This floral, light black fruit flavors are supported by minerals underneath.  There is a controlled vein of fat and some fine tannins with grip.  With air a ripe, orange citrus note comes out in the finish.  *** Now – 2022.

Rhone lovers should drink the 2012 Massaya, Terrasses de Baalbeck

The 2012 Massaya, Terrasses de Baalbeck, Bekaa Valley is an enjoyable wine that is the result of is a project between Massaya, the Brunier brothers of Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, and Dominique Hébrard of Bordeaux who formerly made wine at Chateau Cheval Blanc. The results in the glass are quite enjoyable.  I find blue and black fruit flavors delivered in a fresh manner with attractive texture from the ripe tannins.  It is in a great spot right now so why wait?

2012 Massaya, Terrasses de Baalbeck, Bekaa Valley – $20
Imported by Winebow Inc.  This wine is a blend of 55% Grenache Noir, 30% Mourvedre, and 15% Syrah that was aged for 18 months in French oak vats.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The wine is minerally with ripe blue and black fruit flavors.  The grip and vigor is immediately noticeable.  The wine conveys a sense of freshness, not quite crisp, with ripe textured tannins balanced by acidity that adds to the mouth feel.  It is very much a wine to drink now.  *** Now – 2020.

Grenache Blanc from California

This past week we tried three bottles of California Grenache Blanc from three different regions.  The 2015 Priest Ranch, Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley  is a good value.  You first notice salinity and stone dust which is soon followed by fruit and  a mouth-coating aftertaste.  This wine responds well to air and some warmth which will make you pleased with the wine and $20 price.

Two of the wines have an interesting connection in that the vineyard which sources the Three Clicks fruit is planted with cuttings that came from Tablas Creek.  The 2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles is locked down.  I kept an open bottle in my refrigerator for a week and the wine barely changed.  Right now it is evocative of lemons but it needs to shake off its firmness before it should be drunk.  On the other hand the 2015 Three Clicks, Grenache Blanc, Branham Vineyard, Sonoma County is expressive.  I have enjoyed tasting the last several vintages of this wine at the annual MacArthur Beverages California Barrel Tasting and the current released vintages is just as good.  You taste the white fruit and the stones but it is crispness that captures my attention.  If you can only afford one bottle then grab the Three Clicks.  Add in the Priest Ranch if you want to compare wines.

 

2015 Priest Ranch, Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley – $20
Alcohol 14.8%.  This saline and stone dust infused wine has a dense start followed by ripe, white fruit flavors in the middle, and a pervasive, mouth-coating aftertaste.  It is well structured and balanced for further life.  *** Now – 2020.

2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles – $30
Alcohol 14.4%. Tasted over several nights this wine remained largely unevolved.  The flavors of white fruit, lemon, and baking spices are supported by lemon-like acidity, fine texture, and some density.  It adds a lifted, floral note in the finish.  This will last! **(*) Now – 2032.

2015 Three Clicks, Grenache Blanc, Branham Vineyard, Sonoma County – $28
Alcohol 14.3%.  There is a slightly weighty yet crisp start with good white fruit that overlays chalk.  The liveliness makes you return for another glass. *** Now – 2020.

A saline 1990 Longue-Toque, Gigondas

I cut my teeth on Gigondas when it first came to bottles of mature Rhone wine.  Though I have since been seduced by the complexities of Chateauneuf du Pape, I still get excited by old bottles of Gigondas.  At the time of the 1990 vintage, Domaine de Longue-Toque was run by Serge Chapalain the son of Roger Chapalain, who was once the Mayor of Gigondas. Roger Chapalain founded the estate in 1962 building a reputation for supple wines rather than rustic. Throughout the 1980s Serge Chapalain tried to bring back more weight into the wine than the vintages he produced under his father, making them more in line with the firmness of the region.  He blended mostly Grenache with some Syrah, Cinsault, and a bit of Mourvedre and Clairette.  Time in cask was limited to a year on average.  These efforts paid off for Robert Parker found the 1989 and 1990 vintages the best of the 1980s.

I, of course, did not read about this wine ahead of time so I had my doubts.  Since I have recently drunk both robust and bland Gigondas from the 1998 vintage, I was suspicious about even older bottles.  I popped and poured the 1990 Domaine de Longue-Toque, Gigondas to find it in fine shape.  There is a particularly attractive saline component, garrigue, and good fruit.  Some of that trademark suppleness might remain as a round feeling.  I would say the wine is just beginning to decline.  The estate was sold off in 1995 after which three cuvees were produced.  If you see a bottle of 1989 or 1990 you might as well try them as they reflect the best efforts of Serge Chapalain.

1990 Domaine de Longue-Toque, Gigondas
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color is a light to medium cherry garnet.  There is a distinctly saline flavor to the rounded start.  Initial flavors of cedar box and garrigue are followed by building weight coupled with an inky note and an ethereal aftertaste.  This wine is in fine shape with ripe fruit throughout that with air oscillates with dry, firm, red fruit.  It is starting to show its age but the slightly tart red fruit and fresh plums bring back confident.  *** Now.

An interesting trio of reds from Garage Wine Co

Upon returning from MacArthur Beverages with the latest selections brought in by Phil, I diligently packed my bottles into the wine fridge.  That same evening I pulled out the 2013 Garage Wine Co., Lot #45, Sauzal Vineyard, Maule Valley and 2013 Garage Wine Co., Lot #47, Truquilemu Vineyard, Maule Valley.  Unlike the 2011 vintage, this pair from 2013 is decidedly locked down.  I recorked the bottles for the next night.

Had I not tried these bottles a second time I never would have determined why my hands became covered with dark yellow marks as if attacked by a giant Crayon.  I had completely ignored the yellow waxes capsules as I was solely focused on coaxing flavors out of my glasses.  Of the two Lot wines #45 never gave up much, even after three nights.  Lot #47 reveals good potential.  It is a higher-toned, red fruited wine with almost puckering acidity.  Coupled with good body and weight this wine will certainly develop over the next several years.  It truly requires this time so you should bury these bottles.

It is the least expensive offering that I am most excited about.  The 2016 Garage Wine Co., Pais, Second Salvo Ferment, Secano Interior exudes grapey, young, mouth filling flavors.  Additional personality comes from the pastille and mineral notes.   These flavors are in contrast to Luyt’s extremely old-vine Pais which is a bit too spritzy and yeasty for my preferences.  The Second Salvo Ferment Pais is meant to be drunk right now with your friends.  It provides instantaneous satisfaction and if you can only purchase one of these wines then this is the one to get.

2016 Garage Wine Co., Pais, Second Salvo Ferment, Secano Interior – $20
Imported by Elixir Wine Group.  Alcohol 13%.  This is a young, fruity wine with very fine, grapey extract for texture.  It becomes more focused with air mixing pastilles and minerals with the black fruited finish.  It slides down the throat leaving lingering sensation of texture. ***(*) Now – 2018.

 

2013 Garage Wine Co., Lot #45, Sauzal Vineyard, Maule Valley – $34
Imported by Elixir Wine Group.  This wine is a field-blend of Carignan, Garnacha, and Mataro.  Alcohol 13.2%.  There is a good, Carignan driven nose.  In the mouth this is an impressively structured wine with watering acidity, dry fruit, and a certain amount of powdery dry tannins.  It is somewhat expansive yet ultimately tight such that the flavors come across shorter due to the structure.  *** 2020-2030.

 

2013 Garage Wine Co., Lot #47, Truquilemu Vineyard, Maule Valley – $34
Imported by Elixir Wine Group.  This wine is a field-blend of Carignan and Mataro.  Alcohol 14%.  The scented nose moves on to higher-toned flavors coming from a core of dense, powdery tart red fruit over black fruit.  There is just a hint of wood box already with almost puckering acidity.  It is clear that the good weight, good body, and perfumed fruit with bear out and benefit from a few years of age.  ***(*) 2019-2028.

1980s Beaucastel and Burgundy at the Woodberry Kitchen

Darryl and Nancy organized a small wine dinner at the Woodberry Kitchen in order to partake in ramps and old Châteauneuf du Pape.  Roland, Richard, and I joined them one fine evening this week.  Fortunately we had extra bottles in tow for this evening was marked by an unfortunate series of off and underperforming bottles.  A shame then that two vintages of 1983 and 1985 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser, from two different sources were off.  A 1981 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape had a bad cork and despite a heroic effort by the wine to correct itself, it remained ultimately marred.  The 1978 Chateau Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe was more advanced than I had expected.

Thus the white wine highlight of the evening included the fine 1992 Zind Humbrecht, Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain, Alsace which still needs air for full pleasure.  It has a kiss of petrol followed by nuts and lively acidity.

For the red wines my favorites include a 1982 Thorin, Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Chambolle-Musigny.  This represents a smaller and gentler example of an old-school mature Burgundy.  I enjoyed my glass and would happily have this as a house wine.  The mature Burgundy set the stage for a well-cared bottle of 1981 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The last time I tasted this wine, my glass came from the dregs.  This time I had a proper pour which I kept around for an hour or so.  Good stuff!  This deep wine should drink at its peak for several more years.  In complete contrast the 1986 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape is yet to reach full maturity, instead it offers brighter, fruitier red flavors.  It will not achieve the depth of the 1981 but it does have that Beaucastel familiarity.

 

2011 Champy, Chassagne-Montrachet
Imported by Schneider’s of Capitol Hill.  Alcohol 11%.  A golden straw color greets.  The flinty nose makes way to a rounded, slight dense start backed by glycerin.  There are yeast and chalk flavors but the wine lacks verve from enough acidity.  ** Now.

NV Bereche, Vallee 66 Mois de Cave, Champagne
This wine is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay.  Bottled 07/07/2010.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose is slightly oxidized with aromas of apple orchard.  The bubbles quickly become creamy with a fine vein of prickle.  The flavors have strength with chalky, fruit, and a slightly bitter finish.  It tastes fully mature.  *** Now.

1985 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser, Riesling Spatlese Abtsberg, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Consigned from a private source to Zachy’s 2016 Rieslingfeier auction. Imported by Wine Cellars LTD.  Alcohol 11%-14%.  The nose is very aromatic and smells exactly like pure gasoline.  There is a fruity start backed by the petrol note a bit of grip then the wine completely fades off.  There is a strange lack of acidity.  Not Rated.

1992 Zind Humbrecht, Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain, Alsace
This also sports a bit of petrol on the nose.  In the mouth is a nutty, bitter, and coconut start.  This wine has ample acidity providing a lively start then drier middle before the acidity returns in the end.  With air it fleshes out a bit to bring the acidity in balance.  *** Now but will last.

1982 Thorin, Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Chambolle-Musigny
Acquired from private collection by Acker Merrall & Condit.  Alcohol 11.9%-13.9%.  There is sweet fruit on the nose then violets and attractive, sweaty leather aromas.  In the mouth are sweet flavors that coat the tongue and a slight vibrancy.  A small example of a well-tasting old Burgundy.  *** Now.

1981 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Robert Haas Selections imported by Vineyard Brands.  This is in fine condition with sweet aromas and wood box complexity.  In the mouth are gently sweet flavors of perfumed strawberry which eventually take on fat.  There are pervasive flavors of leather, animale notes, blood, and an old-school perfumed aftertaste. **** Now – 2023.

1981 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape
No signs of seepage but cork was loose with a bit of wine on top of it.  Prominent volatile acidity and band-aids on the nose.  With air it cleans up a bit but can’t shape it.  The wine is fruity, supple, and weight but is marred by a band-aid flavor.  Not Rated.

1986 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  Lighter in color than the 1981.  In the mouth are surprisingly young, reddish fruit flavors, a grippy nature, and brighter acidity.  This wine has both more structure and youthful grip.  It is not yet at full maturity but is gaining fat.  ***(*) Now – 2027.

1978 Chateau Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe – $18.95
Shipped by Les Vieux Celliers.  Imported by  The Stacole Co.  Dried banana on the nose.  In the mouth this is more advanced with red fruit, bananas, old greenhouse infused flavors, and a short finish.  ** Now.

1983 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser, Reisling Auslese Abstberg  No. 125, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Acquired from a private collection by Chambers Street Wines.  Imported by Schenk USA.  Alcohol 9%.  Signs of seepage and the cork dropped in the bottle.  A beautiful orange color and attractive, scented marmalade nose.  Sadly it is undrinkable.  Not Rated.