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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!

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.

Random French oldies

February 22, 2019 Leave a comment

At an impromptu, informal gathering of several wine drinkers, I decided to clear out several oldies and offer one decent wine.  The 1975 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac smelled passed prime on the nose and tasted as such in the mouth.  Others were more tolerant.  Up next came a pair of 1988 Gigondas which came from a cellar of oddities picked up by MacArthur Beverages.  I cannot say I drank 1988 Gigondas before, being a modest vintage, but these two bottles were obviously well stored.  The 1988 Guigal, Gigondas is the modest surprise, compact and still retaining a core of fruit. The 1988 Domaine Santa Duc, Gigondas has an edge up.  It is less fruity but more complex.  I would not seek any of these wines out but they served a purpose that night.  For Lou, I served the 1990 Olga Raffault, Les Picasses, Chinon.  It is a lovely wine, in full prime.

1975 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
Shipped by Rineau.  Imported by The Rineau Wines.  Alcohol 11%.  Advanced on the nose, it remains a bit stinky and is passed prime in flavor.  Drinkable I suppose.  Not Rated.

1988 Guigal, Gigondas
Imported by Classic Wine Imports.  Obviously well-stored.  Initially a bit stinky on the nose it cleans up with air.  A surprisingly rugged, pure core of bluer fruits and compact structure.  A simpler, modern style that provides decent drinking at 30 years of age.  ** Now.

1988 Domaine Santa Duc, Gigondas
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  More complex with a blend of cool blue fruits and structure.  Robust with mouth coating tannins and good acidity.  Evocative of Gigondas.  Less fruity but more expansive.  ** Now.

1990 Olga Raffault, Les Picasses, Chinon
A good, medium-body with some density yet there is also levity.  With mature flavors of earth, tobacco, and leaves there is still fruit and life to last a long time.  It slowly unfurls in the glass.  Concentrated in a way yet elegant.  **** Now – 2029.

Saperavi for a Snowy Day

January 13, 2019 Leave a comment

If you spent part of your day shoveling snow then you should recuperate by a fire.  A hearty meal and a glass or two of Georgian Saperavi will shake off any remaining coldness.  Of the trio featured in this post, the label of the 2016 Zurab Topuridze, Iberieli, Saperavi Light Bodied, Kakheti leaves something to be desired but the wine does not.  Though the lightest colored and lightest bodied, it requires a full day in the decanter to open up.  You are then treated to a nose of berry fruit and more interestingly, black tea and floral flavors.  It is almost zippy which keeps it fresh.  It becomes a touch yeasty with extended air so my recommendation is to drink between 24-48 hours in the decanter.  It is my favorite of the three being a lighter wine,which makes it easier to experience the various flavors.  I have tried two bottles of 2016 Tanini, Qvevri Saperavi, Kakheti.  Decanting is required as well.  This wine exhibits the inky intensity that I have only experienced with Saperavi raised in qvevri.  This is a more mineral wine with one bottle exhibiting floral notes.  Though it should be drunk after decanting, I believe it should be cellared for another year.  The 2016 Pheasant’s Tears, Saperavi, Kakheti represents the most amount of flavor for the cost.  If you want a fully immersive experience then grab a bottle.  Despite the packed in flavors of black fruit and minerals there is spot-on zippy acidity.  You may find these wines at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Zurab Topuridze, Iberieli, Saperavi Light Bodied, Kakheti – $22
Imported by Terrell Wines. This wine is 100% Saperavi that was fermented and raised in qvevri. Alcohol 13.%.  A medium, cranberry-cherry color.  Brighter berry fruit, almost delicate on the nose.  In the mouth the acidity is lively almost zippy on which the flavors of black tea are floral accented.  Actually quite attractive with extended air.  Unique with a long aftertaste.  *** Now – 2029.

2016 Tanini, Qvevri Saperavi, Kakheti – $20
Imported by Terrell Wines. Alcohol 15%.  An almost black cherry color, bordering on completely opaque.  An intense fruit start mineral middle with focused fruit flavors textured by fruit extract. One bottle showed more floral tones. Lively acidity with a nutty undertone.   **(*) 2020 – 2029

2016 Pheasant’s Tears, Saperavi, Kakheti – $17
Imported by Terrell Wines. This wine is 100% Saperavi that was fermented and raised in qvevri. Alcohol 14%. This is surely, completely opaque in the glass.  An intense wine with black fruit and minerals.  The fruit is focused with a zippy personality then watering acidity by the finish.  The flavor is closely played right now but it is clearly packed in.  Incredible amounts of flavor but a bit much for me.  ** Now to whenever.

An Afternoon with Mature Wine – Part 2 Old Cali

November 19, 2018 Leave a comment

After four largely good bottles of old Nebbiolo, the three of us needed more wine to taste so out came several bottles of old Californian wine.  The 1977 Franciscan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, by way of Reid Wines of Bristol, was a mess of herbaceous, evergreen notes.  The pair of 1975 Harbor Winery bottles proved more interesting with the 1975 Harbor Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley a clear favorite of this grouping.

Harbor Winery was founded in 1972 by Charles Myers of Sacramento with a goal “of bottling wine from a particular terrain”.  Myers was an amateur winemaker and English instructor at Sacramento City College.  His first 1,000 gallons of commercial wines were released in 1973 and by 1980, output hit 3,000 gallons.

Myers first produced a “terrible” zinfandel in 1954 but two years later, when he had moved to Sacramento, he was making 200 gallons of drinkable wine on an annual basis.  The Corti Brothers encouraged Myers to go commercial and they even advertised the sale of his first wine in 1974.  Harbor Winery, being the only small commercial winery in Sacramento, attracted frequent coverage in the Sacramento Bee from which this brief history stems. The Harbor Winery selections were soon sold not just locally, but in Los Angeles and San Francisco with a rare appearance at The Ritz London.

Darrell Corti felt the local Sacramento grapes were no good, a sentiment shared by Myers.  Myers first turned to Amador County in 1964 when he was looking for Muscat and in the process was introduced to the Zinfandels.  It was one decade later, in 1974, that Myers first purchased Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from the Deaver Ranch in Amador County. The 1975 we drank would then be Myers’ second commercial vintage of this wine.  He felt the future of the 1974 looked “very good” at the time and this must have extended to the 1975.  I found it deep fruited with tension from acidity.  There is still the coarseness or absence of “subtlety and elegance” Myers attributed to Amador County.

The 1975 Harbor Winery, Zinfandel, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley is not as good as the Cabernet Sauvignon.  As I have described in other posts, Amador County Zinfandel was “discovered” during the wine boom. Myers utilized carbonic maceration to make a Zinfandel for immediate drinking which is the opposite of what Sutter Home and Montevina were releasing at the time.  I found our bottle hollow.

We finished up with a soft, simple 1974 Charles Krug, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.  It is a little wine where the volume is fading.

1977 Franciscan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Imported by Peter Eckes. Alcohol 12%.  Tons of herbaceous, evergreen aromas and flavors.  Ugh.  Not Rated.

1975 Harbor Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  Scented on the nose.  In the mouth, deep fruited, fresh, with a soda-like tension.  The nice acidity keeps the edges sharp to the sweet, lifted, fruit.  There is even a note of cedar.  There is a sense of coarseness but the settles down and lies low.  *** Now.

1975 Harbor Winery, Zinfandel, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  Red berries on the nose.  Wood notes with black fruit greet but the middle is hollow followed by a cola-like finish.  There is grip and a lipsticky finish.  too bad.  Drinkable but only of minor interest.  *(*) Now.

1974 Charles Krug, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12%.  A soft, gentle wine in need of more acidity.  Flavors of leather, gentle red fruit, and cedar fade towards the finish.  Simple but not flawed.  The nearly full bottle tasted exactly the same on the second day.  ** Now drink up.

After Afternoon with Mature Wine – Part 1 Nebbiolo

November 16, 2018 Leave a comment

Sudip, Lou, and I recently spent an afternoon following several bottles of mature wine.  The quartet of “little” Nebbiolo from Chambers St Wines proved the most interesting that day.  All of the wines were double-decanted to seperate off the sediment and even the minor wines benefited from air.

The youngest wine, 1973 Crissante Alessandria, Barolo, is from a rather weak vintage in Barolo.  It is the biggest surprise for me, medium weight flavors, zippy acidity, rounded luxury, and some fruit.  It is also the most alcoholic wine tasted which, perhaps, contributes to the weight it imparted.  The 1967 Franco Fiorina, Barolo was simple at best, with its citric, tart & sweet cherry flavor.  The inexpensive, cooperative bottle of 1964 Cantina Sociale Vini Sizzano & Ghemme, Ghemme held on for hours worth of drinking.  It is a subtle, old-school flavored wine of moderate flesh which is a good foil for better wines to follow.  The 1952 Cantine Diver, Tipico Spanna, Gattinara is another surprise.  I like the red fruit, earth, and leather but it is the quality of the acidity which caught my attention.  This is clearly from an excellent vintage but also an older wine.  Whereas the 1964 chugged along the 1952 had a peak then declined.  Good fun while it lasted!

1973 Crissante Alessandria, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 13.8%.  Fruity and floral with a wood-polish note.  In the mouth it is tense with sharp acidity and moderately round body with an ethereal, oil quality for luxury.  A spiced edge is ripe with a zippy, baking spiced finish.  This medium weight wine is full of life!  ***(*) Now but will last.

1967 Franco Fiorina, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 12%.  A touch of roast on the nose.  There is good mouth-feel with sweet baking spices and a fresher aspect.  Flavors of tart and sweet cherries have a citric presence in the mouth.  There is a round mouthfeel and some fat but overall a simple wine.  ** Now drink up.

1964 Cantina Sociale Vini Sizzano & Ghemme, Ghemme
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Old leather with old-school flavors immediately greet.  With a modest amount of air the body fleshes out and takes on nut flavors.  There is even some structure.  The entire wine remains in balance.  A subtle wine which provides a solid experience for hours.  **(*) Now.

1952 Cantine Diver, Tipico Spanna, Gattinara
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Hints of leather on the nose.  In the mouth crisp, red fruit, and a touch both of earth and leather.  There is a spine of acidity and an herbal-oil hint throughout.  The ripe, citric acidity mixes with compelling baking spices.  Quite good, clearly an excellent vintage, but of a shorter life-span once opened.  ***(*) Now but will last.

A pair of rosé for more warm weather

September 19, 2018 Leave a comment

With warm, sunny weather returning to the Washington, DC, area, here are two bottles of rosé you might consider.  The 2017 Reichstrat von Buhl, Spatburgunder Rose Trocken Pfalz will cater towards those who prefer dry rosé with a kick of acidity.  The profile is all about dried florals with a clean finish.  I find the 2017 Puech-Haut, Prestige Rosé , Languedoc-Roussillon more satisfying with its mixture of peach and florals. I like a bit of fruit in my rosé, which this bottle delivers, without leaving freshness behind.  You may find them at MacArthur Beverages.

2017 Reichstrat von Buhl, Spatburgunder Rose Trocken Pfalz – $18
Imported by Cellars International. Alcohol 12%. A medium-dark, dried rose and salmon color. Dried florals with dried red fruit persist in this acidity driven wine. There is some ethereal ripeness that pops up in the end but this is a dry wine throughout with a bit of tang. ** Now but will last.

2017 Puech-Haut, Prestige Rosé, Languedoc-Roussillon – $18
Imported by European Cellars. This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Cinsault.  Alcohol 13%. Fresh yet with floral weight. Flavors of peach mix with white, ripe fruit, and dry roses. This is all about the floral fruit and enjoyable as a result. *** Now.

A modest López de Heredia tasting

I recently met up with Sudip to taste seven wines from López de Heredia; three Viña Gravonia, three Viña Bosconia, and one Viña Tondonia as a reference.  López de Heredia dates back to the 19th century in Rioja but for our purposes we concentrated on relatively young vintages back to 1998.  I was most curious to see how much vintage variation there is.

Of the trio of 2004, 2002, and 1998 Viña Gravonia I much preferred the oldest vintage.  All of the wines bear oxidized, apple orchard aromas and flavors but the 1998 sports the least being the most vinous.  It has zippy acidity with some ripeness to the flavors.  The 2000 was pungent, evocative of mushrooms and the simplest.  The 2004 is clearly the youngest.  It is crisp with tart lemon and clean flavors.  I found it a bit tight and think it will drink better several years down the road.  Once these wines develop they should hold well for years.  For those who have yet to taste Gravonia it is unique.

All of the red wines were double-decanted.  The 1999 Viña Bosconia quickly became and remained my favorite Bosconia for current drinking, in fact it is still young!  It combines both fruit, damp earth, and bottle age, all delivered with tension.  I expect further cellaring to be beneficial.  The 2000 is muted and mature.  The 2005 is young but already sports some earthy funk like the 1999.  The structure and acidity is there for development, which is certainly will do, but our bottle of 1999 reveals greater potential.

Finally, the 2005 Viña Tondonia shows great potential.  It is savory, young and dense in a way that there is stuffing for decades of aging supported by the structure.  It is drinkable now but remains closely played.  It is worth the extra $5 over the 2005 Viña Bosconia.

2004 López de Heredia, Viña Gravonia, Rioja Blanco
Imported by Think Global Wine Selections. This wine is 100% Viura  Alcohol 12.5%.  The most aromatic with yeasty, apple orchard aromas.  A touch more acidity in the mouth, tart lemon, clean, good body, and wood-like texture.  Crisp.  **(*) Now – 2023 then will last.

2002 López de Heredia, Viña Gravonia, Rioja Blanco
Imported by Think Global Wine Selections. This wine is 100% Viura  Alcohol 12.5%.  A pungent nose of orchard fruit.  A soft entry of mushroom-like flavor, then acidity and apple-orchard in the finish.  The simplest of the trio.  ** Now.

1998 López de Heredia, Viña Gravonia, Rioja Blanco
Imported by USA Wine Imports. This wine is 100% Viura  Alcohol 12%.  A golden honey color.  Good nose.  An oxidized hint though the wine is more vinous with apple-like, zippy acidity.  There is modest body to the ethereal ripe flavors which cover the mouth but leave the middle slightly hollow. There less noticeable acidity in the end.  *** Now but will last.

2005 López de Heredia, Viña Bosconia, Rioja Riserva – $35
Imported by Think Global Wine Selections. This wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 3% Graciano, and 2% Mazuelo.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Good fruit, cherry flavors, and a little earth have grapey density into the tart, cranberry middle. A young natured wine but already some attractive funk is present.  With air a supporting, fine dry structure becomes evident with dry, black and red flavors in the finish.  *** Now – 2028.

2000 López de Heredia, Viña Bosconia, Rioja Riserva
Imported by Polarn Selections. This wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 3% Graciano, and 2% Mazuelo.  Alcohol 13%.  The most muted nose of the four reds with a bit of stink.  A bit more mature in the mouth, red fruit, watering acidity, a touch of ink then sharper in the finish.  With air it is dusty in the mouth with a similar profile but more pronounced sour cherry flavor.  Not the best of the trio.  *(*) Now.

1999 López de Heredia, Viña Bosconia, Rioja Riserva
Imported by USA Wine Imports. This wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 3% Graciano, and 2% Mazuelo.  Alcohol 13%.  Aromatic with attractive damp earth notes.  Fruiter in the mouth, cedar, bottle age flavors, and fine textured tannins add presence.  There is citric tension and grip to add life.  With air there remains a core of flavor which carries through the end with an aftertaste of sour cherries and acidity.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2005 López de Heredia, Viña Tondonia, Rioja Riserva – $40
Imported by Think Global Wine Selections. This wine is a blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 5% Graciano, and 5% Mazuelo.  Alcohol 13%.  Young, fruity, and dense.  With air this savory wine shows body but also has the acidity and structure for it to age.  Strong future potential.  **** Now – 2038.