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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.

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.

Thirst Quenching 2018 Le Sincette, Gropello

October 17, 2019 Leave a comment

If you are looking for a refreshing glass of wine to calm trembling arms from raking fall leaves then grab the 2018 Le Sincette, Gropello, Garda.  Even if you have not performed any physical activity and simply want some wine in the vein of a young Beaujolais, then grab a bottle as well.  The flavors are grapey, as if from young wines, but the wine is seriously made. Check it out!


2018 Le Sincette, Gropello, Garda – $19 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by La Storie Wines.  This wine is 100% Gropello Gentile fermented and aged for four months in small cement tanks and oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  This is a juicy, young, thirst-quenching wine that is grapey yet serious.  The flavors are rounded with a grapey style throughout and a baking spiced finish.  An honest wine of good length.  **  Now.

Four Barbera from the 2016 and 2017 Vintages

September 20, 2019 Leave a comment

Of the four Barbera featured in this post, the 2016 Giacomo Borgogno et Figli, Barbera d’Alba is the wine to drink now.  It is entering a fine drinking phase and I imagine it will be even better over the winter.  If you can wait one year then lay down a few bottles of 2017 Barale Fratelli, Castle, Barbera d’Alba and 2017 Comm. G. B. Burlotto, Barbera d’Alba.  The Barale leans towards floral fruit whereas the Burlott picks up a fine, firm chalky vein.  I like them both! I picked up these bottles at MacArthur Beverages.

2017 Barale Fratelli, Castle, Barbera d’Alba – $17
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. Alcohol 14%. Some floral aromas. This needs a day to open up at which point focused, sweet core of red and black fruit come out. Even strawberry too. This should drink well in a year. **(*) 2020-2024.

2016 Giacomo Borgogno et Figli, Barbera d’Alba – $20
Imported by DSWS. Alcohol 14%. Aromatic with fruit and flowers. There is weight or an undertone beneath the sweet, lifted flavors. The fruit is bound with juicy acidity taking on blacker flavors and a hint of stones in the end. Vinuous, quite nice. **(*) Now – 2022.

2017 Comm. G. B. Burlotto, Barbera d’Alba – $21
Imported by Elite Wine Imports. Alcohol 14%. Finely scented. More elegant in the mouth and closely played at first with a chalky finish. With air the black red fruit develops, its firm and tart edge suggests a need for short-term aging. **(*) 2020 – 2025.

2016 Palladino, Barbera d’Alba Superiore – $15
Alcohol 13.5%. Brighter with tart red and black fruit. This is a wine for now with a bit of body and increasing weight on the palate through the finish. ** Now – 2020.

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.

ClosDuBois1

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.

ConternoBarbera

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.