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A Solid Drink: 1985 Clos Du Bois, Marlstone

When a new friend was recently in town and expressed delight in trying older vintages of wine, I quickly returned with a mature bottle.  Unfortunately, this did not happen until a few minutes before we were set to leave the house so I grabbed the less precious 1985 Clos du Bois, Marlstone Vineyard, Alexander Valley. My experience with Californian wine from the 1980s is rather limited compared to the wines of the 1970s.  The first release from Clos du Bois came in 1974 with that of Marlstone in 1978.  Marlstone is intended as a classic Bordeaux blend hence the thoughtful inclusion of Cabernet Franc and Malbec.  This particular vintage is less heralded in Sonoma than Napa which might speak to the herbaceous edge to this wine both on the nose and in the mouth.  However, it is deep in aroma with ethereal ripeness in the mouth and juicy acidity.  Given the time constraint, I ended up drinking most of it on the second night.  While fully mature, it shows good staying power and freshness.

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1985 Clos du Bois, Marlstone Vineyard, Alexander Valley
This wine is a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Malbec that was aged for nearly 3 years in 60 gallon French oak barrels.  Alcohol 13.7%.  A deep nose with an herbaceous aroma rising out.  Maturing in the mouth, it fluffs out after a few hours.  With age have come some wood box notes.  The ethereal, ripe, mouth coating nature is balanced by firm, juicy acidity.  It is a good wine in an herbaceous way.  ** Now but will last.

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A Pair of Wines from Arizona

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During our recent trip to Arizona, I stopped by Vino Loco in Flagstaff to pick up a few bottles of wine.  Both of the wines I selected are Rhone blends made from vines located at 4,300 feet in the Willcox AVA.  I found the wines enjoyable but my preference lies with the 2017 Chateau Tumbleweed, Dr. Ron Bot, Willcox.  It comes across as a lighter wine with stone notes.  The 2017 Caduceus Cellars, Merkin Vineyards, Chupacabra, Willcox reveals more intensity and ripe fruit flavors.  If you find yourself in Flagstaff, grab them both for a comparison  You will find other interesting selections at Vino Loco including Dirty + Rowdy.

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2017 Chateau Tumbleweed, Dr. Ron Bot, Willcox –
This wine is a blend of 33% Syrah, 34% Mourvedre, and 33% Grenache which was aged for a year in used French oak.  Alcohol 14.2%. A light to medium cherry color.  Cool and fresh in the mouth with not quite firm fruit.  The flavors turn blacker towards the finish with black tea notes and stones.  Light and clean with a touch of heat in the end.  An enjoyable combination of red and black fruit with a tart edge.   **(*) Now – 2021.

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2017 Caduceus Cellars, Merkin Vineyards, Chupacabra, Willcox –
This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre aged for 11 months in new and used French oak.    Alcohol 13.5%.  Hints of ripeness at first then cool, focused black fruit.  It is firm with a vein of acidity.  An interesting flavor with more intensity than balance.  ** Now – 2022.

A Vertical Tasting of Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba 2006-2012

With the last set of 900 pages read through, I have moved on to another group of letterbooks regarding the Madeira wine trade.  These letters are from the early 19th century.  While much of content is dedicated to the flour and corn trade, the Madeira wine bits scattered throughout, can be quite detailed.  I find a strong desire to keep reading through each page to see what I come across. Today I take a break from reading to post about some wines I recently tried.

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One month ago, I was the guest of Alessandro for his group’s monthly wine tasting.  With plates of attractive Gorgonzola we sat down to a blind grouping of wines.  There were one or two wines which stood out to me as Barbera but I was certainly confused as to what the theme was.  An all Giacomo Conterno Barbera tasting, I certainly did not hone in on.  The inclusion of two bottles of Scarpa certainly added to the confusion!

I have already proved to myself that Barbera of great age, that of 50 to 60 years, may survive but not be too pleasurable.  If there was a theme tonight, I would say the older vintages were a little unsettled with the younger ones, 2009-2012, my preferred grouping.  It is the 2011 vintage I found to be the best, nearing its peak with slowly increasing power, complexity, and easily approachable strawberry flavors that fill the mouth.  This is the wine to buy closely followed by the 2012 and then the 2010.

The Scarpa wines are of a different nature which I like as well.  This is in part due to Scarpa’s La Bogliona vineyard being sourced in Monferrato and Conterno’s Cascina Franca in Serralunga.  Sadly, a bottle of 2009 Conterno, Cascina Franca Barolo was cooked.  Many thanks to Alessandro for including me.

2006 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
There is concentration and a savory aspect to the focused, tart black fruit.  There is a good aftertaste present from the first pour.  With air this becomes a substantial, weighty wine with some developing sweet-tartness. *** Now – 2024.

2006 Scarpa, La Bogliona Barbera d’Asti
A nose of blood then a sweet wood box note.  Also a big wine but with sappy acidity, wood box, and an oily nature.  It is ripe, sweet with fruit, and round, yet the acidity keeps things fresh.  It is taking on age.  *** Now – 2022.

2007 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
Dark with a young core of color.  A ripe nose that of modern, concentrated aromas.  The flavors are really packed in, with extract on the tongue, and a stand-out personality.  It is less elegant as a result.  **(*) Now – 2025.

2008 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
There is a dark core with a garnet hint.  Mixed herbs on the nose followed by tangy fruit in the mouth.  The red fruit flavors fill the mouth.  Modern, in a way, like the previous wine. **(*) Now – 2023.

2009 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
Nearly as dark as the 2008 vintage.  In the mouth dark with berry extract, ripe fruit, and ripe structure.  Astringent in the end, not my favorite.  ** Now – 2027.

2009 Scarpa, La Bogliona Barbera d’Asti
The lightest color of what we’ve tried.  Aromatic on the nose and elegant in the mouth.  Not as complex as I’d like but the tart strawberry and candied red fruit are enjoyable.  The acidity is support, the finish short yet clean.  With time it builds glycerin-like body and ethereal power.  ***(*) Now – 2027.

2010 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
A dark, grapey core.  Very youthful, certainly the youngest tasting yet with youthful concentration.  (You get the idea).  Ripe, grapey weight with a lively texture from the acidity.  Mostly red berries and grapes.  Not quite to the level of the 2011. ***(*) Now – 2026.

2011 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
Slowly building power with flavors of ripe strawberries that fill the mouth.  The wine is hitting its prime with more complexity than any vintage yet tasted.  A delight.  **** Now – 2024.

2012 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
This is finely articulated with mixed red fruit and acidity which brightens everything.  Lovely to drink.  It need a year or two to show best at which point it will deliver more and not doubt be rated higher.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

2009 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barolo
This looks very old in color, as if from the 1960s.  Turns out it is a cooked bottle. Not Rated.

Young Loire and Mature Cali

Our most recent dinner with Sudip and his family continued the tradition of tasting Californian wines from the 1977 vintage.  While I deal with the older bottles, I put out the 2014 Xavier Weisskopf, Le Rocher des Violettes, Petillant Originel, Montlouis-sur-Loire.  This refreshing bubbly offers spiced flavors in a young frame.  I would recommend cellaring it until this winter at the least.

Rutherford Hill Winery was founded in 1976, just one year before the vintage of our 1977 Rutherford Hill Winery, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley.  It became a partnership of winemakers and growers who had previously sold off their fruit to other wineries.  The roots of the winery date back even earlier and was known for a time as Souverain of Rutherford.  The original Souverain Winery was founded by Lee Stewart who ran it until 1970 when he sold it to Pillsbury Co.  Pillsbury maintained the original Souverain of Rutherford in Napa Valley as well as a new winery in the Alexander Valley of Sonoma County.  When Pillsbury sold off its wine assets in 1976, Rutherford Hill Winery was born of Souverain of Rutherford.  This is a particularly flavorful wine, I would guess some other varieties were included with the Pinot Noir.  It is savory and dark flavored but it is a bit on the simple side with a short finish.

The 1977 Estrella River Winery, Zinfandel, San Luis Obispo is only the second time I have drunk a bottle from this estate.  I do not come across many bottles so I was happy to pick this one up from Reid Wines of Bristol, England.  If this seems an odd place to find the wine, this bottle came from John Avery’s cellar.  Avery’s Wine Merchants was founded in the 18th century and became famous for importing New World wines during the 1960s and 1970s.  Estrella Rivery Winery received many awards for its wines during the 1970s but was rather under the radar.  Check out my post Three Californian Wines from the 1970s for just a tiny bit more detail.

For this particular bottle, the label was a bit beat up and the fill was just below the neck so not ideal.  Fortunately, the bottle stink rapidly blew off and over the course of half an hour, it blossomed in the decanter.  At best, it is an old-school bottle with lively, cranberry flavors and sweet wood notes.  Incredibly, it will drink at its peak for several more years.

Both bottles of 1977 were finished off.  While not exciting, they were nevertheless enjoyable which I count as a success.

2014 Xavier Weisskopf, Le Rocher des Violettes, Petillant Originel, Montlouis-sur-Loire – $25
Imported by Vintage ’59 Imports. This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc with zero dosage.  Alcohol 12.5%. Spiced flavors with a racy vein. The firm bubbles are intertwined with spices and a touch of apple. It is balanced with fresh acidity that makes it refreshing. *** Now – 2024.

1977 Rutherford Hill Winery, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.7%. It immediately offers dark and robust flavors. This bottle is in good shape with flavors evocative of a blend. It is savory and saline with bottle age reflected by the old leather and wood box flavors. It is ultimately a little simple and fades. ** Now.

1977 Estrella River Winery, Zinfandel, San Luis Obispo
Alcohol 12.5%. This benefits from half an hour of air becoming redder with sweaty notes and a spine of acidity. Cranberry flavors mix with cedar and sweet redwood. It is a mid-weight wine with old-school flavors. Pretty good! **(*) Now but  will last.

Diverse Italian wines

I admit to being behind in posting my tasting notes.   In an effort to clear some backlog, you will find nine notes from recent Italian bottles in order of preference.  I would try anything rated *** or **(*).  These selections are priced between $15 and $25 at MacArthur Beverages which is quite an affordable range.

2015 Rainoldi, Inferno, Valtellina Superiore – $25
Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 13%. A darker flavored wine with a ripe vein in it. There is some stemmy, supportive structure but it becomes rounder towards the end. The underlying black fruit picks up the chewy tannins to good effect. Satisfying. *** Now – 2024.

2010 Vigne Marina Coppi, Castellania, Colli Tortonesi – $25
Alcohol 14.5%. This wine has power to the black fruited, slightly puckering flavor. There are some astringent tannins and a sour tilt in the finish but this is thoroughly enjoyable. *** Now – 2029.

2015 Pertimali, La Querciolina, Montecucco Rosso – $17
Imported by Le Storie Wines.  Alcohol 14%.  Dark fruited with some red flavors as the slightly lively acidity comes into play.  There is a crisp edge to the mineral flavor but this is a robust wine with cola-like verve before the drier, baking spiced finish.  **(*) Now – 2029.

2015 Conte Guicciardini, Massi di Mandorlaia, I Massi, Morellino di Scansano – $19
Imported by Michael R. Downey. Alcohol 14.5%. There are dark, floral berry aromas on the nose. Rounded flavors of mixed red and blue berries are almost earthy with a stone note. There is fine structure and watering acidity framing the wine. The fruit focuses in the finish. **(*) Now – 2023.

2014 Tolaini, Al Passo, Tuscany – $18
Imported by Banville Wine Merchants. Alcohol 14.5%.  An herbaceous edge before the ripe, blue and black fruit.  The flavors are carried on a dry, acidic edge which makes it fresh in the middle.  This is attractive in a cooler, tannic way.  **(*) Now – 2024.

2010 Villa S’Anna, Chianti Colli Senesi – $20
A maturing wine with firm aromas of cherry and soil. In the mouth it is focused with firm, black cherry flavor and watering acidity. It is still structured but in an enjoyable, integrated way. It wraps up with dry, earthy soil notes. **(*)  Now – 2024.

2017 Coppo L’Avvocata, Barbera d’Asti – $15
A good nose. In the mouth is lively red fruit, red tart fruit with black fruit underlying it. This is acidity driven with a mineral zip at the end. Flavorful with ripe hints of rolly polly stones and some heat. **(*) Now – 2022.

2016 Benanti, Etna Rosso – $20
Imported by RWK Imports. This wine is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio. Alcohol 13.5%. A good nose with floral perfume. Robust nerello flavors greet but they are a bit simple. The wine is clean and while it retains focus it does reveal some weight which becomes integrated with the dry structure and acidity.  ** Now – 2024.

2016 Leone de Castris, Villa Santera, Primitivo di Manduria – $17
Imported by Winebow.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Sweet vanilla and bakery aromas.  In the mouth are blue fruits with a rounded edge.  This is a ripe wine, bordering on sweet but fortunately becomes more mineral and balanced towards the finish. ** Now – 2021.

Good value in Bordeaux


Jenn and I tasted through several value recommendations from Phil and John at MacArthur Beverages. At the budget end you cannot go wrong with the 2016 Chateau Croix-Mouton, Bordeaux Superieur or 2015 Chateau Camino Salva, Haut-Medoc. The Croix-Mouton is fresh, somewhat herbaceous with a slightly juicy core of fruit. It has balance. The Camino Salva offers a touch more fruit and fat with a saline aspect that I like. You should drink both of these wines over the next few years.  The 2015 Les Brulieres de Beychevelle, Haut-Medoc is more expensive but finer with creamy blue fruit and a juicy spiced finish. There are no coarse edges in this bottle. Jenn remarked on her enjoyment several times.

2016 Chateau Croix-Mouton, Bordeaux Superieur – $17
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 14%. Bright with an herbaceous edge and spine of acidity. There are fresh flavors of black and red fruit supported by ripe, herbaceous tannins in the form of modest structure. It needs half an hour to an hour of air before it shows best, offering a fresh, slightly juicy core of fruit and grip. ** Now – 2022.

2015 Chateau Tour St Bonnet, Medoc – $20
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 65% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 13.5%. An herbaceous nose. This is a bright wine has bright fruit, bright acidity, and dry flavor through the solid aftertaste. There is some grip and mouthfeel from the slight structure. Lurking underneath are blue fruits and cassis. ** Now – 2022.

2015 Chateau Camino Salva, Haut-Medoc – $15
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13.5%. Black fruit, greenhouse, and vanilla are delivered with almost crisp acidity. With air this improves, offering modest density to the flavor of cassis. It shows a slightly saline and savory edge that I find attractive. The freshness coupled with modest structure and fat should make for a good drink over the next several years. **(*) Now – 2023

2015 Les Brulieres de Beychevelle, Haut-Medoc – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13.5%. A fine nose. In the mouth are weighty, almost creamy flavors of blue fruit and cinnamon before the juicy, baking spiced finish. The cool fruit flavors are of blue and black berries, though it becomes more black with air. A finely flavored wine carried by watering acidity into the modestly grip at the end. Closely played right now, but will open up over the next year or two. *** Now – 2025.

A tasting of Château Léoville Poyferré 2015-1990

February 25, 2019 Leave a comment

On January 18, 2019, Panos Kakaviatos (https://wine-chronicles.com/) gathered together a group of DC wine lovers for one of his biannual Bordeaux dinners. This was one was at Le Petit Bouchon Restaurant in the French Embassy and featured the wines of Léoville Poyferré.

As in the past he invited a guest from the Chateaux and had a vertical representation of multiple vintages. Also, as always, Panos was a wonderful host who obviously took great care in the menu and the wines to make sure everything showed at its best, and that the guests all had a great time. From the Chateau was Sara Lecompte-Cuvelier, who provided great commentary on the wines and was a charming ambassador for the estate.

The wines were served in five flights preceded by a variety of Champagne. For me the highlights were a 2002 Piper Heidsieck Rare and a 2002 Dom Perignon. Both were in a great place with bracing acidity, citrus fruit and a rich body. I give the edge to the Dom.

My general impressions of the wines were very positive, with a few very great ones. They all showed a nice structure that was never over the top. They were balanced and fresh, even in the riper vintages.

First Flight: 2014, 2012, 2010. Paired with Snails Croque Monsieur.

My favorite dish of the night and a smart pairing for these vintages.

2014 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
I liked this a lot and still think that 2014 Bordeaux overall may be the vintage to buy, given the balance of quality and price. This wine was very deep and rich, with cassis, cedar and a drying finish. Maybe a little austere in the middle. ***(*)

2012 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
My least favorite of the flight. Less polished, a little musty and earthy in the middle with some heat at the end. I do like the concentration and acidity. **(*)

2010 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
This is a very great wine. Very concentrated. Cassis, graphite, a spicy herbal note all balanced by some mineral and balanced acidity. Medium tannins and great structure. A terrific future. ****(*)

Second Flight: 2011, 2008, 2002. Paired with a lobster “purse” in a carrot ginger sauce.

While this was an unusual choice, I actually think it worked well.

2011 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
This reminded me of the 14 but a notch below in quality. Still very good. Tasting very young with hard tannin but great fruit and structure. I think it needs some time to come together a bit more. ***

2008 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
An expressive wine with hints of dried berry, lavender and mint on the nose. The fruit is there but more contained. I like it very much and can see this coming around sooner than some of the other wines. ***(*)

2002 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
The weakest of the flight. Leaner, with some green notes. Actually may be drinking at its peak now. Shows way better with the food. ** to *** ?

Third Flight: 2001, 2000, 1990. Lamb loin.

All these wines showed very well with the 1990 my favorite of the night.

2001 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Some green herbaceousness, dill, some earth. Classically styled. ***

2000 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
A great nose with balanced notes of fruit, herbs and cassis. A long life ahead. ****

1990 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Very fresh nose. Bright, rich. Creamy, silky fruit in the mouth. Perfect acidity and concentration.****(*)

Fourth Flight: 1989, 1985, 1982. Cheeses.

2006 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
A sharp, somewhat shrill nose is a deceptive start to what is actually a balanced wine. It likely just needs a bit of time to smooth the coarseness and fully integrate. ***

2005 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
A huge wine showing as very locked in at present. It is very rich and concentrated, very complex but desperately in need of time to show its best. ***(*)

2004 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Showing better than I expected, this is a concentrated wine with strong notes of cedar and cassis. A pleasant surprise. ***

Fifth Flight: 2003, 2009, 2015. Chocolate Dessert.

An ok pairing. I remain skeptical about big red wines and chocolate.

2003 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Very fond of this tonight. Not showing as roasted or overripe, except some coffee notes. Actually some green, minty notes present. Very fresh and complex. Another surprise. ****

2009 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Still fairly primary. Black fruits, some wood and earth but smooth tannins. Needs lots of time. Impressive wine. ****(*)

2015 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
The greatest potential of all the wines tonight but now very primary with only the hints of what this will be. Very concentered blue fruits, vanilla, smoke and liqueur. I really like this. Is it better than the 1990? I’m not sure but can’t wait to see how it is after another couple of decades. The 2010 will certainly give it a run for its money. ****(*)

Thanks Panos for including me in a great event!