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A wine dinner with aged Chardonnay, Sonoma County oldies, and decades old Spanna

February 24, 2019 1 comment

A mixed group of wine drinkers and wine lovers recently met up at the house for a wine dinner.  We drank the sparkling and white wines while introductions were made and dinner was prepared.  It is with dinner that we tucked into three flights of red wine.  If the first flight of reds was a mixed bag the final two flights, featuring a pair of 1970s Sonoma County reds and a pair of 1960s Italian Spanna were my stars of the night.  Please find my notes below.

Sparkling

NV Ruinart, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Moet Hennessy USA. Alcohol 12.5%.  A copper rose color.  A strong wine with fine, firm bubbles, red fruits, and a biscuit flavor.  Robust in a way.  *** Now – 2024.

2014 Dirty & Rowdy, Sparkling White Wine, El Dorado County
Alcohol 12.4%.  Sweet, floral tree fruits with bubbles.  Solid but not my favorite. ** Now but will last.

White Wines

The white wines were of more interest.  On their own the 2009 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Drake Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley and 2008 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Hawk Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley are quite different.  The 2009 is the bigger, rounder yet also a softer wine.  The 2008 is mature in flavor yet young in delivery.  If you could merge the two of them the results might be quite good.  The 2002 Maison Louis Latour, Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot was the first bottle of white finished.  The nose is its strength yet while the flavors do not quite match, the balance and youthful delivery are admirable.  This wine should develop slowly for some years to come.  Almost everyone was drawn to this wine.

2009 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Drake Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.4%.  Verging on full-bodied, certainly rounded, with good mouth feel.  Youthful flavor but leaves an impression of softness due to the lower acidity.  *** Now.

2008 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Hawk Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.9%.  Mature in flavor but young in delivery.  Nearly crisp acidity, bright.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

2002 Maison Louis Latour, Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot
Imported by Louis Latour Inc.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A lovely nose which is not quite matched by the flavor.  Balanced all around, this is surprisingly young in profile and remains that way throughout the evening.  Is it evolving at a glacial pace?  **** Now – 2029.

A Variety of Reds

This first flight of red wines was a bit of a mixed bag.  The 1996 Faiveley, Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale seems like it is locked down but of solid material.  The nose of the 1997 Ridge, Zinfandel, York Creek was sadly reminiscent of dust.  Though better in the mouth, I was too distracted.  The magnum of 1998 Domaine Paul Autard, Chateauneuf du Pape should have been drunk promptly after double-decanting.  At that point it is a solid, mature Rhone red but after a few hours it is too bloody.

1996 Faiveley, Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale
Imported by Wilson Daniels LTD.  Alcohol 12%.  Bright red fruit, slightly spiced then black fruit flavors in the finely textured finish.  Firm flavor with a spine of acidity and taut structure.  It has yet to open up but will be greatly improved if it does.  *** Now – 2029.

1997 Ridge, Zinfandel, York Creek
Alcohol 15%. An herbaceous nose mixes with dust.  In the mouth the cherry flavors are rounded with controlled ripeness.  There is a hint of Kirsch.  The fruit is balanced by the acidity and the structure is resolving.  The nose never cleans up with the dustiness becoming more dirty. An off bottle.  Not Rated.

1998 Domaine Paul Autard, Chateauneuf du Pape en magnum
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 15%.  A modest, mature mix of blue and red fruits, garrigue, and spice.  But after an hour or so it picks up hints of blood and iron until it becomes evocative of liquid meat.  A solid wine if drunk upon opening when it is ripe and big bodied.  At best a ** Now.

Sonoma County Oldies

My first experience with the 1977 Ernie’s, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Select, Zellerbach Vineyard, Sonoma County was with a regular bottle. It was a bit dirty but underneath lurked some interesting material.  This magnum improved over several hours, until there was no more left, and captured the attention of more than a few people.  I have had good luck with Ernie’s lately.  This magnum and the 1974 Round Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon highlight the quality of wine he purchased.  The 1978 Louis J. Foppiano, Zinfandel, Sonoma County is infinitely better than the bottle of 1974 that I tried several weeks back.    It delivers ample flavor from the very first glass.  It does not have the complexity of the Ernie’s but it is more hedonistic.  On the following evening, the remains were nearly as pleasurable.

1977 Ernie’s, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Select, Zellerbach Vineyard, Sonoma County en magnum
Alcohol 13%.  Aromatic with eucalyptus and bright fruit but then it turns deeper and a touch darker.  In the mouth is good body with cool flavored fruit, a spine of acidity and a finish of leather.  This is a good, clean, fresh example that after several hours reveals its complexity.  Notes of fat and oily whole nuts add to the attractiveness.  **** Now – 2029+.

1978 Louis J. Foppiano, Zinfandel, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12.5%.  Some animale notes mix with cherry-berry aromas.  Beautiful berry fruit greets and with that ripe fruit comes a hint of raisin.  However, this zippy wine is in great shape, effortlessly delivering waves of flavor.  With air it develops baking spices and comforting notes of sweaty, old leather evocative of old Californian wines. Pure pleasure.  ***(*)  Now – 2024.

Old Spanna

Surely one of the coolest labels I have seem in some time is on the 1967 Cantina Cooperative Villa Bianzone, Valtellina. The graphic drawing of Dionysus with hair of vines with leaves and beard of grapes is reason alone to purchase the wine.  There is little background information on this cooperative in the Wasserman’s book.  Despite other negative reviews of the 1967 they felt it is a “very fine vintage”. For being a basic Valtellina DOC wine it is actually quite good.  Moving west of Valtellina to the Novara-Vercelli Hills, the 1964 A. Brugo, Romagnano Riserva stems east of Gattinara.  According to the detailed Wasserman’s, this is a blend of Bonarda, Croatina, Spanna, and Vespolina, the later of which is sourced from Ghemme.  This is quite good as well.  I found my preference oscillating between the two wines as the developed in my glasses.  In the end, I would say the Bianzone has the more complex nose with brighter, controlled flavors.  The Brugo delivers that sweaty, old-school character with more grip.  I was happy to have separate glasses of each!

1967 Cantina Cooperativa Villa Bianzone, Valtellina
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Aromas of dried, old leather with balsamic notes make for a complex nose.  It is a cool nose that reminds me of the inside of the Air & Space Museum in DC.  In the mouth are very bright flavors with an earthy/leather note that cuts through.  Beautiful in the mouth. ***(*) Now but will last.

1964 A. Brugo, Romagnano Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Deep and slightly sweaty red fruits on the nose…smells old-school.  In the mouth are sweaty flavors of red, grippy fruit and bright acidity.  In great condition with watering acidity carrying through to the still-structured finish.  ***(*) Now but will last.

Exciting wine from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia

February 20, 2019 Leave a comment

At MacArthur Beverages, John recently recommended two wines made from indigenous varieties which I must recommend that you try out.  The 2017 Vilinka Cellars, Zilavka, Bosnia-Herzegovina is a very fine white wine.  Think white fruit, nuts, lively acidity, and some chalk.  I do not usually drink much white wine but I felt compelled to start every night with a glass.  It dances on the tongue with plenty of fruit to back it; these are qualities I find in good German Riesling.  If that is lively and youthful, the 2015 Ivika Pilizota Winery, Babic, North Dalmatia, Croatia is hitting its mature phase.  There is some earth, lifted ripeness, and a floral, black tea finish.  In short, a mature wine to drink this year.  These unique wines are adeptly made and outperform their pricing.  Stock up!

2017 Vilinka Cellars, Zilavka, Bosnia-Herzegovina – $20
Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 12.7%.  A pale, yellow straw color.  Articulate on the nose with bright white fruit and nuts.  In the mouth are lively herbaceous flavors reminiscent of the nose, white fruit and nuts but also lychee with baking spices.  There is density to the mouth feel.  It wraps up with chalk and a woodsey/stemmy bit.  Once open, it drinks in top form for days.  ***(*) Now – 2022.

2015 Ivika Pilizota Winery, Babic, North Dalmatia, Croatia – $17
Imported by Vinum USA.  This wine is 100% Babic.  Alcohol 13%.  Earthy and maturing aromas greet.  In the mouth is a rounded start with dense fruit that is integrated with the minimal tannins.  The flavors turn bluer in the marshmallow-like ripe finish.  This is a smooth wine for drinking now.  With air it shows a floral, spiced middle, lifted ripeness, and a little floral black tea in the finish.  *** Now – 2020.

A blind tasting featuring wines from Yvon Clerget and Duroche

February 12, 2019 Leave a comment

I was fortunate to be Phil’s guest at the lastest blind tasting he held for the group.  Phil had smoked some chuck for dinner, providing a savory reminder of what was to come after the blind tasting.  First up, we sampled the 2017 Chateau L’Ermitage, Auzan, Costieres de Nimes.  It is a good wine to drink this year and a reminder that I do not drink enough Rhone-style white wines.

I do not drink enough red Burgundy to have even remotely narrowed in on the six blind wines we tasted.  Beyond the particularly tasty bottles, Domaine Yvon Clerget and Domaine Duroche represent wines made by a young generation.  Thibaud Clerget produced his first wines in 2015 and Pierre Duroche took over his father’s estate in 2005. It is quite something then, that the 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Volnay 1er Cru Carelle sous la Chapelle is in the best spot for a wine to drink now or cellar for the future.  It is tasty from the first pour but develops over an evening.  I will admit the ripeness of the 2016 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin Champ had me guessing New Zealand Pinot Noir!  Despite that grave error, this is satisfying being the most fruited, forward wine we tasted.  The 2015 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Champeaux  is another fine wine for drinking now.  There is maturity already reflected in palate with additional complexity from the earth.  It is the most expensive wine of the evening yet also the most attractive.  I found these three wines the most enjoyable that evening.  I guess that the others did as well for these bottles were completely finished.  For those with patience, do not overlook the 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens.  It has an impressive future ahead.

With dinner we drank a bottle of 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja.  While not the most impressive wine, it was consumed quickly and I suspect it would benefit from further decanting.  I typically like Rabaja very much.  The final wine of the night is a library release that was recorked in 2018. At 27 years of age the 1992 Weingut Wegeler, Vintage Collection, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, Mosel is a modest, fully mature wine.  It is quite lively on the tongue which keeps it refreshing.

Starter

2017 Chateau L’Ermitage, Auzan, Costieres de Nimes
Imported by Terrison Wines.  This wine is a blend of 60% Roussanne, 20% Grenache Blanc, and 20% Viognier.  Aromas of flowers and nuts.  Modest in body and light in weight.  Quite floral in flavor with tree fruits, stones, and a very floral finish.  A solid wine to drink once the spring weather arrives.  *** Now – 2021.

Burgundy

1 – 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Volnay – $59
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13.5%.  A young color with a touch of VA on the nose.  The young flavors in the mouth are tart with ripe fruit soon developing.  Some concentration, slightly chewy, young structure, and tart acidity.  Becomes tighter with air.  **(*) Now – 2024.

2 – 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Volnay 1er Cru Carelle sous la Chapelle – $69
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13.5%.  A young color with violet.  A touch more aromatic.  In the mouth are expansive flavors of blue and black fruit supported by fine and drying tannins.  It picks up more weight in the finish.  Clearly more serious than #1.  This remains the easiest drinking of the six blind wines, taking on hints of spice and some lifted, ripeness in the finish. ***(*) Now – 2029.

3 – 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens – $119
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13%.  Tart, young, and dry structured yet clearly possess power for the flavors to develop.   Younger in profile than #2, it has a big future ahead.  Though primary and grapey with a mineral, black fruited finish, the fine almost bitter tannins make it trying to drink at this point.  It is best left in the cellar for several more years.  **(**) 2022-2037.

4 – 2016 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin – $59
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Aromas of sulphur never blow off but there is some grapiness.  In the mouth it tastes like a natural wine with cranberry fruit, crunch acidity, and light finish.  In no way like the other wines so must be off.  Not Rated.

5 – 2016 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin Champ – $69
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  A lovely nose.  Very ripe and sweet fruit with just enough acidity and supportive structured.  Perhaps a hint of heat in the end.  It develops citrus notes.  Structured.  Tart acidity. *** Now – 2024.

6 – 2015 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Champeaux – $129
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Kirsch on the nose.  A hint of maturity in the mouth make this the most drinkable of the Duroche.  A ripe core of fruit, cherries, and a hint of earth make this a beautiful wine. **** Now – 2024.

Dinner Wines

2004 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja
Imported by Vias Imports.  Alcohol 14%.  Starting to mellow, maturing but focused with ripeness and grip to support future life.  Balanced.  Served immediately from a decanter, it was consumed quickly.  ***(*) Now – 2034.

1992 Weingut Wegeler, Vintage Collection, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, Mosel
Imported by Comete Wines.  Alcohol 8%.  A little spritz on the tongue then fully mature flavors are evident.  Dense lemon with modest ripe yellow fruit are fresh but the finish is short.  A slightest hint of tea.  *** Now but will last.

A Pair of 2015 Lionel Faury, Saint-Joseph

February 11, 2019 Leave a comment

The 2015 Lionel Faury, Saint Joseph Rouge and 2015 Lionel Faury, La Gloriette Vieilles Vignes, Saint Joseph exemplify elegant wines made during a ripe vintage.  Both are generally floral, black fruited wines with the ripeness exhibited as a coating of seductive fat.   A deft hand is evident.  What I find crazy is that La Gloriette Vieilles Vignes is only $3 more than the Rouge.  I recommend you load up on as much as you can afford for I would not be surprised it drinks at a higher level in just two or three years.   I found these wines at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Lionel Faury, Saint-Joseph Rouge – $32
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from vines planted between 1979 and 2007.  It was aged 12 months in oak foudres. Alcohol 13%.  Floral with a youthful, Syrah nose.  In the mouth are flavors of pure, black floral fruit propelled by watering acidity.  With air the structure slowly reveals itself along with a hint of fat in the finish.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

2015 Lionel Faury, La Gloriette Vieilles Vignes, Saint-Joseph – $35
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from vines planted between 1949 and 2014.  It was fermented with indigenous yeast in concrete vats then aged for 18 months in large oak casks.  Alcohol 13%.  Floral with black fruit but more so than the regular rouge.  It is initially citric with bright fruit baking spices and quite the mineral finish.  It is an attractive, saline wine with a berry core infused with fat throughout.  It is more floral in flavor and clearly more complex.  The very fine tannins are starting to integrate yet will support development.  I imagine this will hit the next stage in a few years.  **** Now – 2029.

A hearty 2007 Calabretta, Nerello Mascalese Vigne Vecchie

January 18, 2019 Leave a comment

The 2007 Calabretta, Nerello Mascalese Vigne Vecchie, IGT (Etna Rosso)  is a surprisingly robust example of a red wine from Etna.  It is made from old vines located in a single vineyard that is bottled as IGT instead of Etna Rosso.  This done because various vintage of this wine were found to be atypical.  I find that it will stand up to the cold weather as well as any hearty meal.  Priced at only $26, it a strong value for a wine already showing maturity.  You may find it at  MacArthur Beverage.

2007 Calabretta, Nerello Mascalese Vigne Vecchie, IGT (Etna Rosso) – $26
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  This wine is a blend of Nerello Mascalese & Nerello Cappuccio sourced from vines primarily 60-80 years old with some more than 100 years old and ungrafted.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged  36-42 months in large Slavonian oak casks.  Alcohol 15%.  A flavorful, maturing wine that is deep with notes of leather.  The watering acidity carries the flavor through the very good middle and into the slightly coarse tannins of the finish.  This is a medium bodied wine, full of flavor, that develops additional notes of vintage perfume and berries.  ***(*) Now – 2025.

Guillaume Gilles’ Gamay from near Cornas

January 17, 2019 Leave a comment

I seem to be drinking a lot of Gamay lately.  I might be excused since this includes such wines as the 2016 Guillaume Gilles, Combeaux Massardieres.  Gilles may be known for his Syrah from Cornas but he should also be known for his Gamay.  I have been itching to try the 2016 wines of Gilles so I conveniently paired the 2016 Massardieres with the 2015.  The 2015 was quite ripe yet tense from the beginning, which made it immediately accessible.  The 2016 vintage reveals the need for a touch of time in the cellar.  There is still some ripeness and oily nature but it is somewhat closed with more noticeable structure.  I think you should cellar it until the summer.  In the meantime drink the 2015!  Phil imports these at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Guillaume Gilles, Combeaux Massardieres – $27
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Gamay.  Alcohol 14%.  Bright and articulate with aromas of candied roses.  Bright in the mouth as well with a fresh edge from acidity that leads to textured, grapey extract.  Less ripe than the 2015 but more mouthfeel with a mineral, dry end.  With air the ripeness shows focus with oily fruit weight lurking under the structure.  The wine is not quite zippy, perhaps a touch juicy.  I believe it needs six months in the cellar.   ***(*) Now – 2022.

2015 Guillaume Gilles, Les Massardieres – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Gamay.  Alcohol 13%.  Riper flavors with vintage perfume and hints of furniture polish.  It is now better on the second day having cleaned up and developed flavors of black cherries and other dark fruits.  Perhaps not the best analogy but the ripeness of the fruit has a cola-like tension from the acidity as it rolls into a ripe, chalky finish.  It appears to be in mid-age with a good low-note to its flavor.  **** Now – 2020.

Young Syrah for Cold Weather – Darnaud and Durand

January 13, 2019 Leave a comment

The 2016 Emmanuel Darnaud, Les trois chenes, Crozes-Hermitage and 2016 Domaine Durand, Les Coteaux, Saint-Joseph  are two wines you might consider drinking for lunch on a snowy day such as we are having in Washington, D.C.  They are lower in alcohol with fresh flavors suitable for midday.  The Darnaud is a new wine for me.  It is the grapier of the two, juicy, with an ethereal finish.  Its quite good for a Crozes-Hermitage.  The Durand is darker in fruit flavor, sports more structure, and actually requires air to open up.  Both are wines to be drunk over the next five years or so.  The Darnaud is silky and the Durand is taut which make for an interesting contrast.  You may find them at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Emmanuel Darnaud, Les trois chenes, Crozes-Hermitage – $25
Imported by Fruit of the Vines. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 25-60 year old vines on glacial, pebbly soils raised in cement tanks and demi-muids. Alcohol 12%. A nose of grapey scents and smoke. Dense and grapey in the mouth, a modest structure and silky body lead to an ethereal ripe finish. Flavors of black fruit, juicy acidity, and grapiness are about youth. There is a mineral bit and slightly savory finish. Clean. ***(*) Now – 2025.

2016 Domaine Durand, Les Coteaux, Saint-Joseph – $25
Imported by Fruit of the Vines. This wine is 100% Syrah. Alcohol 13.5%. Fresh with sweet black fruit and some vanilla on the nose. Taut black fruit with minerals exist before the focused, sweet, and ripe middle. Rounded with fine tannins and good spiced flavors in the finish. It needs time to open up in the glass but will not be long-lived. ***(*) Now – 2026.