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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.

A pair of Envinate wines from the 2017 vintage

This pair of Envinate wines from the 2017 show good promise for development over the next several years despite being from very different terroirs.  The 2017 Envinate, Benje hails from Tenerife, Canary Islands whereas the 2017 Envinate, Albahra is from Almansa in continental Spain.  Both wines have a sense of lightness and lifted personality but they reflect their soils quite well.  The Benje is dry with long notes of stones and graphite whereas the Albahra offers ethereally ripe fruit flavors.  You may find them on the shelves at MacArthur Beverages priced in the ~$20 per bottle range.


2017 Envinate, Benje, Ycoden-Daute-Isora, Tenerife, Canary Islands
A Jose Pastor Selection imported by Llaurador Wines. This is a blend of high-altitude 70-120 year-old Listan Prieto with some Tintilla that was foot trodden, fermented in concrete and tubs with indigenous yeasts then aged 8 months in neutral oak barrels. Alcohol 12%. Earthy, almost sour red fruit with gossamer ripeness. Light in body, the flavors are lifted and dry marked by stones and graphite. It is underpinned by salinity and dryness but a beautiful ripe elegance floats above. Best on the first night. ***(*) Now – 2022.

2017 Envinate, Albahra, Almansa
A Jose Pastor Selection imported by Llaurador Wines. This wine is 100% Grenache fermented and raised in cement. Alcohol 13%. A nose of delicate berries and flowers. Fine texture with medium-bodied flavors of red fruit, bitters, and a cool finish. There is a touch of zip on the tongue, tart acidity, and modest structure. The wine is slow to open up, revealing an ethereal ripeness which coats the gums and fills the mouth by the aftertaste. ***(*) Now – 2024.

Five Bottles of Beaujolais: Chignard, Dutraive, and Pignard

It was Lou who first mentioned the wines of Jean-Louis Dutraive.  As soon as the bottles arrived in DC we planned to taste them along with a few other bottles. The 2017 Jean-Louis Dutraive, Le Pied de la Rue, Fleurie is excellent.  A unique nose followed by electric flavors of delicate fruit and minerals.  It is unique in my limited experience with Beaujolais.  Sadly, two bottles of 2017 Jean-Louis Dutraive, Carolon, Fleurie proved to be yeasty, undrinkable messes.  So avoid the Carolon but do buy Le Pied de la Rue.  There is a bit of a delicacy which makes me think it is best drunk within a few years.

The 2014 Roland Pignard, Cuvee Tradition, Morgon is my second favorite wine of our evening.  It is a balanced, elegant wine of beauty.  It even takes on a vintage perfume note that makes it stand apart.  The 2014 Roland Pignard, Regnie is bright and a touch herbaceous, evocative of a cooler site.  It is solid but I prefer a bit more fruit material in my wine.  We finished with a bottle of 2013 Domaine Chignard, Julienas Beauvernay that had been opened three days prior.  It still tasted of firm, dense black fruit with some wood.  I imagine this wine will easily reach ten years of age at which point it might open up.

In the end, our five bottles spanned a range of qualities but I am happy.  I now know to look out for more wines from Dutraive and Pignard.

2017 Jean-Louis Dutraive, Le Pied de la Rue, Fleurie – $40
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 40-70 year old vines, fermented in concrete then aged seven months in neutral oak barrels. Alcohol 12.5%. Aromatic. Bright acidity, almost electric, with fine grained yet ripe structure on the gums supports mineral flavors that are almost blue and black in fruit. Beautiful, delicate fruit flavors from pure berries. With air the beauty remains but the berry notes take on density. The finish is lifted with just a touch of yeast followed by a long aftertaste. **** Now – 2021.

2017 Jean-Louis Dutraive, Carolon, Fleurie – $35
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 12.5%. A cloudy, pale cranberry color. At first ,spritz on the tongue with articulate flavors of berries and some roundness in the mouth. But within two hours an undrinkable yeasty, mess. A second bottle was clear in the glass but soon tasted of popcorn and Pilsner. Not Rated.

2014 Roland Pignard, Cuvee Tradition, Morgon
Imported by Fruit of the Vine. This wine is 100% Gamay that was aged in oak for one year. Alcohol 12.5%. Deeper fruit and olive aromas. In the mouth is a good balance between the fruit, structure, and acidity such that is comes across as an elegant, well-balanced wine. There is a beauty that I prefer over the Regnie. With air, vintage perfume develops on the nose. In the mouth it becomes chiseled with grapey flavor and some ripeness in the finish. ***(*) Now – 2024.

2014 Roland Pignard, Regnie
Imported by Fruit of the Vine. This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 60 year old vines.  Alcohol 12%. The brighter red fruit aromas are more herbaceous and a touch dusty. In the mouth this is a bright wine, almost tart, with juicy acidity and fine pithe tannins in the finish. It tastes of cooler site. Attractive in a way but should be drunk soon. *** Now.

2013 Domaine Chignard, Julienas Beauvernay – $18
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 60 year old vines which was fermented in stainless steel then raised for 13 months in old oak foudres.  Alcohol 12.5%. Firm in the mouth with focused black fruit and touch of juicy acidity. It comes across as a young wine, still structured, and does not offer up much until three days after opening. There is some dense, ripe fruit in there, and a firm wood note. I do not see it improving in flavor but imagine it will live a long time. **(*) 2021 – 2029.

A Blind Janasse Vertical: 1999-2016

December 30, 2018 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I tasted through twelve wines blind. That they turned out to be all largely excellent was of no surprise for Roland was the host. The first two wines clearly (and with great comfort) pointed to the Southern Rhone with a level of complexity that indicated Chateauneuf du Pape. While a couple of people narrowed it down to a Janasse vertical by the third wine, I could not achieve such specificity by the final wine. I did, however, achieve confusion for amongst the chronological ordering, waves of similar and dissimilar wines kept me guessing. That we tasted a vertical of three cuvees, Tradition, Chaupin, and Vieilles Vignes from 1999 through 2016 made perfect sense in the end.

The Tradition is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre fermented in tank then aged in foudre and a small proportion of new oak barrels.  The Chaupin is pure Grenache sourced from 100+ year old vines.  It is fermented in tank then aged in foudre and various sized barrels.  The Vieilles Vignes is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and other varieties sourced from 60-110+ year old vines.  It is fermented in tank then aged for 18 months in different sized barrels.

I thought the eldest vintages were 1998 and 2000 but to find them as 1999 and 2003 is a good experience. There has been a loose thread over these various tastings that 2003 produced successful wines in the Rhone which are developing in a satisfying manner. A new thread on the dissatisfaction of the 2007 vintage has appeared.

For current drinking, I recommend the three oldest vintages of Vieilles Vignes.  Of this trio I preferred the 2003 followed by the 2005 and 1999.  The 2010s and 2012s are very good in general but it is the 2012 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes I would lay down for the future.  Not only does it smell great but it has the essential components of fruit, garrigue, and minerals.  If you cannot find that vintage the 2010 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes is right on its heels.  And if you cannot find that vintage then the 2015 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes is probably a safe bet.  I think it has great potential so check on it in 2-3 years.

While I have recommended the Vieilles Vignes wines in specific, the quality of all of the wines we tasted (except the 2007) was very high across the board.    It is one of the most satisfying tastings I have attended in recent memory.

1999 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
Medium garnet in color. Moderate mature aromas with more smoke than the 2003. In the mouth, this mature wine offers up leather, minerals, and structure. The wine is in good shape, showing more focus and structure. There is a sense of levity that matches the flavors which bear moderate ripe weight. Overall, an elegant wine of sweet, ripe fruit, wood block, leather, and structure. **** Now – 2025.

2003 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
Medium garnet. A touch of earthy cheese on the nose. Flavorful and rounder with noticeably more fruit. Clearly a riper vintage than the 1999 but still shows a similar level of maturity. The fruit comes through at the end where it grips the mouth. Tasty. **** Now – 2023.

2005 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
The younger color is matched by the youngest flavors of the first three wines. In the mouth it is dense with young blue fruit. It packs more in including an eventual mature note. It comes across as in mid-life. It is great now with weight and though a bit intense, I wonder how long it will last. **** Now – 2023.

2007 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Chaupin
Almost spritzy to start with blue fruit, plums, and lower acidity. Upon revisiting, clearly the weakest of all the wines tasted.  What’s going on here? * Drink up.

2009 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Chaupin
More berries on the nose and young in the mouth. There are berry flavors in the round start with ripe tannins and some fat soon coming out. It is a little tense with waves of mouthfilling ripe, spiced fruit and licorice. It has concentration for age. ***(*) Now – 2028.

2010 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Chaupin
A hint of meat on the nose. Coming into mid-life with pure blue fruit, it has all of the components for further development. Dense, though with less oomp than the 2009, it is a balanced, elegant wine with lovely, round sweet, weighted flavors. **** Now – 2025.

2010 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
A young ruby, black cherry color. A nose of berries and grapes. In the mouth it is rather youthful with ripe spices, fruit, and ripe tannins. In the first third of its life, it is lovely to revisit for the clear berry flavor. ****(*) Now – 2028.

2012 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape
An interesting nose of tobacco and red, berry fruit. Light and linear in the mouth, watering acidity and ripe tannins move into the drier finish. There is structure in the finish and the sense of dryness remains. *** Now – 2023.

2012 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Chaupin
An interesting nose of elegant red fruit. Excellent, with cooler flavors, fresh and floral. The redder fruit is pretty, balanced by grip and structure. It becomes younger with air. **** Now – 2030.

2012 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
A lovely nose. This wine packs it in with watering acidity, mineral, garrigue, and more black fruit. Youthful. ****(*) Now – 2033.

2015 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
Grenache on the nose. In the mouth, this is young, ripe, and tense. Fresh acidity carries the primary and grapey flavors which are balanced. This has great potential, the weight of the black fruit and dry baking spices will carry it for some time. ***(**) 2021-2031.

2016 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape
Sweet, ripe fruit is cool and elegant. It oscillates in nature, clearly still primary. A lovely wine with power but it is not overdone. ***(*) 2021-2028.

Mature Gigondas for Christmas Eve

December 29, 2018 Leave a comment

I am indebted to Phil at MacArthur Beverages for selling me a few bottles of mature Gigondas.  The labels look a bit ratty as the Santa Duc was leaked upon and the Brusset is ripped but they came from a good cellar.  The fills and corks were spot on. I opened the bottles for our Christmas Eve dinner which included venison backstrap from two deer my brother-in-law hunted in Nebraska.

The 1989 and 1990 vintages in Gigondas, indeed in the Southern Rhone in general, produced excellent wines.  These wines are in fine shape, clearly mature, yet nowhere near declining.    They are evocative of fruit from cooler vineyard sites and rustic tannins compared to Chateauneuf du Pape from the same vintages.  The 1989 Domaine Santa Duc, Gigondas is my favorite of the pair.  It offers more fruit and fruit weight, which, when combined with the fat, earth, and leather, balances out the rustic tannins.  The 1990 Domaine Brusset, Les Hauts de Montmirail, Gigondas is fresher and brighter but does not have the depth of fruit nor complexity.  Both provided many hours of enjoyment, out of decanter, until the wee hours of Christmas Day.  It is a new reference point for mature Gigondas.

1989 Domaine Santa Duc, Gigondas
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This is a blend of 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre source from vines averaging 40 years of age.  It spent 12 months in old oak casks.  Alcohol 13%.  Aromatic with earth and leather.  In the mouth are clean flavors of red and blue fruit made attractive by hints of round fat.  There are still fine and ripe tannins which lend to the rustic, Gigondas personality.  With air it becomes more blue fruited in flavor.  In fine shape with plenty of drinkable fruit and complexity.  **** Now – 2028.

1990 Domaine Brusset, Les Hauts de Montmirail, Gigondas
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections. This wine is a blend of 55% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre, and 5% Cinsault sourced from 25 year old vines.  It was raised for 12 months in 100% new French oak.  Alcohol 13%.  Fresh and bright with an edge of cranberry flavor.  There is lively acidity with the regional gravelly tannins in the end.  Tons of grip with minerals.  ***(*) Now but will last for many years.

An Array of German Wines

December 12, 2018 Leave a comment

My two plans for childcare did not materialize so I had less than the duration of a birthday party to taste through an untold number of German Rieslings. There was naturally Champagne and as we met up at Q by Peter Chang, a constantly refreshed supply of Sezchuan dishes. There were bags packed with bottles and even one guest brought an entire cooler of wine. I knew I would not taste through everything but I also knew I made the right decision to try.

Of the Riesling I managed to taste, there were many solid bottles with just a few duds.  Standouts include the 1934 Hermannshof (Weingut Hermann Franz Schmitt), Niersteiner Kehr Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen which is the oldest wine of the evening.  It is in fine shape.  Lighter in weight, more floral and a fresher spectrum of flavors than the 1915 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen tasted a year ago.  An interesting comparison.  Both the 2009 A. J. Adam, Dhron Hofberg, Riesling Spätlese, Mosel Saar Ruwer and 2009 Willi Schaefer, Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #5, Mosel are spot on.  Both have energy from the acidity with the Adam richer and the Schaefer chalkier.  You might develop a preference but I love the difference.  Exciting wines to taste.  Finally, the 2001 Robert Weil, Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Auslese, Rheingau is unctuous, mature, and racy.  I tasted this straight from the bottle right before I left and wished I could have drunk more.

Thanks to everyone for their generosity.  I know I missed several other wines but it was purely by accident.

Champagne

NV Bourgeois-Diaz, ‘RS, Champagne Rose de Saignee
Imported by Selection Massale. Batch RS14, Disgorged 21/11/17. A cranberry color. Fresh on the nose as if smelling from the vat. The cranberry juice aroma has hints of apple mulling spice. It eventually smells more like apple pie. In the mouth is piercing acidity, spiced flavors, and a very dry personality. Killer nose so the dryness is a bit of a surprise.  Of strong personality but not for everyone.  Drink now while the aromas are preserved.  ***(*) Now.

2008 Henriot, Champagne Brut Millésimé Rosé
Imported by Wine Cellars. Alcohol 12%. A fine vein of bubbles, yet strong acidity and toast, with watering acidity. This is pleasantly chalky with a clean finish. A youthful vintage but is building ripe, bottle-aged flavors with good body. ***(*) Now – 2023.

1996 Dom Perignon, Champagne P2
Finely scented. Strong acidity carries a mature, dry note. Very dry, clean, and light in fruit so opting more towards mineral.  Fresh, capable of long life, and for my taste, in need of further age. ***(*) 2023-2038.

1996 Philipponnat, Champagne Brut Clos des Goisses
Fine stuff! Biscuit on the nose with fresh, crisp mouthfeel, with bottle-age flavors.  In mid-life. **** Now – 2028.

Riesling

1934 Hermannshof (Weingut Hermann Franz Schmitt), Niersteiner Kehr Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines. Imported by Wine Cellars. Alcohol 13%. The Don Stott Cellar. A light golden straw. Rounded body with flavors of green floral and tea convey the freshness of the bottle. A light to mid-weight wine it is supple with an old-school flavor and not quite leather finish. There is a gentle edge from nearly eight decades of age but in no way is this a challenge to drink.  Holds up well in the glass. **** Now but will last.

1961 Langenbach & Co, Zeller Schwarze Katz, Riesling, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Imported by Milton S. Kronheim. Toast! Not Rated.

2008 Trimbach, Riesling, Cuvée Frédéric Emile, Alsace
Imported by Atherton Wine Imports. Alcohol 13%. A light straw color. Floral, greenhouse notes with some maturity. Very dry, tart and light with white fruit flavors on a razor edge. Elegant. *** Now – Whenever?

1981 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Sang Riesling Auslese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
A Rudi Wiest selection imported by Cellars International. Alcohol 8%. A maturing edge with sour white berries, focus, and a bit of lively acidity. Not too interesting.  * Drink Up.

2012 Willi Schaefer, Himmelreich GG, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 12%. Zip in the start with textured, white fruit, lemons, and a tooty-fruity flavored finish.  Not my favorite style.  *** Now – 2028.

2012 Thomas Haag, Schloss Lieser, Jufer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, Mosel
A Rudi Wiest selection imported by Cellars International. Alcohol 7%. A medium straw color. Mid-weight with ripe yellow flavors that drape over the tongue. The lower acidity seemingly adds more weight to the yellow fruit.  Good intensity of flavor but not the most verve.  *** Now – 2028. 

2009 A. J. Adam, Dhron Hofberg, Riesling Spätlese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Shipped by J & H Selbach. A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. Alcohol 7.5%. A medium yellow gold color. Lovely. Textured acidity exists with ripe fruit in energetic balance. There is supple, seductive weight. Richer than the subsequent bottle of Willi Schaefer.  **** Now – 2038.

2009 Willi Schaefer, Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #5, Mosel
Imported by Wine Cellars. Lovely with even finer texture to the zippy acidity driven flavor. An attractive start becomes drier through the finish. A lovely wine, beautiful acidity, with chalky finish .**** Now – 2038

2006 Dönnhoff, Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese, Nahe
Imported by Julienne Importing. Unctuous, not as lively as it is honied with hints of tea spice and suggestions of ripe tannins on the gum. It is flavorful with a developing tart, citrus note. ***(*) Now – 2032.

2001 Dönnhoff, Norheimer Kirschkeck Riesling Spätlese, Nahe
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Turning amber. Rounder and drier in the mouth with herbs, minerals, and honey. A long finish. ***(*) Now – 2032.

2005 Weingut Max Ferd. Richeter, Veldenzer Elisenberg Riesling Spätlese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
A David Shiverick Selection. Imported by Langdon-Shiverick. Black tea mixes with weighty flavors and moderate acidity. There is a mineral vein.  *** Now – 2023.

2007 Fritz Haag, Braunenberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Finely articulated acidity, sweet and soft, with just enough texture. The ripe fruit even takes on some stones. A good sweet wine.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2004 Weingut Max Ferd. Richter, Braunberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
A David Shiverick Selection. Imported by Langdon-Shiverick. A similar flavor profile and density as the Fritz Haag. It is almost oily and racy which I like very much. ***(*) Now – 2028.

2017 Hofgut Falkenstein, Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese, Mosel
Lars Carlberg Selection. Imported by Williams Corner Wine. Alcohol 7%. Very pale in color. An elegant, floral nose, delicate and fine. In the mouth delicate floral flavors. This is a clean wine with a fine acidic edge though slightly short in the finish. ***(*) Now – 2023.

2001 Robert Weil, Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Auslese, Rheingau
Imported by Premier Cru. Alcohol 8%. Unctuous and mature with a sweet tea note, racy vein, and quickly building complexity.  Lovely.  **** Now – 2038.

Red

2005 La Pousse d’Or, Pommard 1er Cru Les Jarollieres
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Decanted into a metal jug which seems to have afflicted the wine.  Not Rated.