As happy as I am to continue drinking the 2014 Fornacina, Rosso di Montalcino I thought it best to get Tim’s advice on other wines from the region. He first recommended the affordable 2013 Tenuta Vitanza, Le Paturnie, Rosso di Montalcino. This is a firm wine of black fruit that mixes in pleasing herbal notes. It could stand a few years of development to open up perhaps becoming elegant and focused. The 2012 Le Ragnaie, Rosso di Montalcino is a step up in quality and price. The deep nose will excite you and the lively flavors will only add to the positive impression. I highly recommend you drink a few bottles over the next several years. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2013 Tenuta Vitanza, Le Paturnie, Rosso di Montalcino – $17
Imported by Tenth Harvest. This wine is 100% Sangiovese fermented in stainless steel then raised for six months in Slavonian oak. Alcohol 13.5%. This is a firm wine that remains focused with air. There is black fruit with dry herbal notes, polished wood, and an ethereal ripe finish. It remains tight with watering acidity. **(*) 2019-2024.
2012 Le Ragnaie, Rosso di Montalcino – $26
Imported by Vine Street Imports. This wine is 100% Sangiovese fermented in concrete then aged for 24 months in Slavonian oak. Alcohol 14%. The nose is deep and a touch pungent. The red and blue fruit quickly takes on polished wood notes before the brighter, red middle. There is fine acidity and grip in the end. With air this becomes a lively wine with controlled ripe fruit, a dry and bright middle, stone accented finish, and wood tannin aftertaste. Delicate floral notes even come out. This has strong development potential over the short-term. *** Now – 2026.
The 2015 Thierry Germain, Saumur Champigny and 2015 Bernard Baudry, Les Granges, Chinon are fun to taste together for they are different expressions of the Cabernet Franc grape. Since I last tasted the Germain in the fall, it has opened up in flavor as well as shed weight and roundness. This is a light, ethereal wine that manages to move in flavor from red to black fruit. The wine reminded Jenn of a rose which I think is the best, single word description of this wine. The Baudry offers a bit more strength as well as lively zip from acidity and attractive texture as if extract were floating about. It is a bit dry and structured making me think it will drink better in the fall. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2015 Thierry Germain, Saumur Champigny – $20
Imported by Elite Wines Imports. This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from 25+ year old vines, fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for seven months in tank. Alcohol 13%. There are herbaceous aromas supported by bright red fruit. In the mouth this wine is lighter in body with cranberry and strawberry flavors, and watering acidity. The light body conveys delicate flavors, which are ethereal and gently ripe, as they move from red to black fruit flavors. It picks up floral notes with air. **(*) Now – 2019.
2015 Bernard Baudry, Les Granges, Chinon – $18
Imported by Louis/Dressner. This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from young vines that is both fermented and aged for 7-10 months in cement tanks. Alcohol 12%. The nose reveals finely textured herbaceous aromas. The dry, linear entry of black fruit has strength picking up good zip in the mid palate. With air this becomes an inky and herbaceous wine with a cool ripeness and texture from extract in the end. **(*) Now – 2019.
My wife and I drink wine on a daily basis. If I can save money on our daily drinkers then I can spend more money on older vintages. In my area an $11 bottle represents the lowest price achievable for a wine of quality. The 2015 Camille Cayran, Le Pas de la Beaume, Cotes du Rhone is one of those wines. It requires a few hours of air after which it is an exuberant, black fruited wine. You should buy it by the case then drink it over the next few years. The 2015 Domaine de Belle Feuille, Cotes du Rhone is another solid wine at this budget price point. It is quite focused perhaps in need of six months of age. My recommendation is to buy the Cayran. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2015 Camille Cayran, Le Pas de la Beaume, Cotes du Rhone – $11
Imported by G&B Importers. This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 30% Cinsault. Alcohol 14%. Tasted over two days this eventually reveals exuberant flavors of black grapey fruit which are subtly ripe. With good grip at the start, the acidity keeps the wine crisp matching the level of ripe structure which provides texture to the flavor in the finish. It wraps up with black/purple fruit, dry stones, and a racy suggestion. **(*) Now – 2021.
2015 Domaine de Belle Feuille, Cotes du Rhone – $11
Imported by Winebow. This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Cinsault, and 10% Carignan. Alcohol 13.5%. This wine remains very focused with a black fruited start that moves to a core of ripe black, powdery flavors then a slightly bitter and mineral finish. ** Now – 2019.
In the late 1970s, during the height of the American wine boom, Sebastiani was the volume leader in the wine production for Sonoma. Sebastiani was founded in 1904 by Samuele Sebastiani but it was his son August Sebastiani who saw the winery through Prohibition and the rise of the California wine industry. Much of the production was jug wine but premium wine was produced as well. The general emphasis on varietals meant that the Barbera and Zinfandel offerings were regarded with popularity which is precisely why I opened the 1977 Sebastiani, Barbera, Proprietor’s Reserve, Northern California. This was among the last vintages produced by August Sebastiani who passed away in 1980. August Sebastiani did not fully adopt stainless steel nor French oak rather it was his two sons who began the transition to modernity in the 1970s. You can imagine August Sebastiani’s hand in making this wine for there is nothing modern tasting about this bottle of Barbera. It smells and tastes of sweaty leather, though is sweeter in the mouth. It reminds me of the 1960s Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignons. It is quite forward until it fades so drink rapidly once you pop the cork.
Buena Vista Winery is another historic winery in Sonoma but it predates Sebastiani by some 50 years. When General Charles de Gaulle visited America in 1960 he was served both French and American wines with his meals. For his meal of roast fillet of beef with truffle sauce he was served Buena Vista, Pinot Noir. This is quite amazing given that in the 1960s and 1970s Pinot Noir was considered “difficult and temperamental” to grow in California. Nathan Chroman, writing for the Los Angeles Times, concluded that in California this varietal produced less “Pinot characteristics”. Pinot Noir ripens early and given the widespread warmth and sun of California very few areas were regarded as suitably cool enough for proper ripening. After tasting through several dozen Californian Pinot Noirs, he concluded that while the 1968 Buena Vista was a “very good glass of wine” it had less of the Pinot Noir characteristic he looked for.
I pop and pour most old wine which I have not drunk before. In retrospect I should have decanted the 1977 Buena Vista Winery, Haraszthy Cellars, Pinot Noir, Cask 22, Sonoma. This is a robust wine that with air shows more blue fruit and substantial structure evocative of the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon. This may not be surprising for John Winthrop Haeger writes in North American Pinot Noir (2004) that between 1969 and 1971 Buena Vista planted 84 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon near Pinot Noir. I followed the wine over several hours and in the process, kicked up a fair amount of sediment which contributed to a loss of focus. I have the suspicion that my mishandling did not allow this wine to show its best. I will be sure to write about the next decanted bottle.
1977 Sebastiani, Barbera, Proprietor’s Reserve, Northern California
Alcohol 12.6%. There is an aromatic nose of sweaty leather. In the mouth is a big wine of sweet flavors, leather, and supportive oak. It is evocative of other Sebastiani wines from the 1960s and 1970s except that it faded within one hour. ** Now.
1977 Buena Vista Winery, Haraszthy Cellars, Pinot Noir, Cask 22, Sonoma
Alcohol 12.5%. The color is a medium, cranberry garnet. The nose is sweet and sweaty, evocative of sweet, old wood. In the mouth is a soft start before menthol fresh flavors supported by a fine vein of acidity. The old-school flavor becomes bluer with air, taking on body with a good, ethereal finish. It is a fairly substantial wine which still has supportive, dry structure that coats the gums. It tastes like a blend of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. **(*) Now – 2022.
The 2015 Domaine La Garrigue, Cuvee Romaine, Cote du Rhone is the latest iteration of a wine I commonly open up at home. The 2015 vintage reminds me, in part, of the 2009 vintage, in which there was no Mourvedre. Whatever the 2015 is composed of, it offers less of the common dark, earth note and more pepper and structure. As such, it is a grapier wine which should develop over the short term and drink for longer. The 2014 Domaine de Mourchon, Cote du Rhone also offers pepper accented youthful flavors. Both of these are solid, week day wines you can drink over the next several years. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2015 Domaine La Garrigue, Cuvee Romaine, Cote du Rhone – $15
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah. Alcohol 14.5%. Pepper notes on the nose make way to powerful, grapey flavors of moderate weight and grip. There are white pepper and ink notes with a mineral underpinning and very fine structure of tannins. The combination of structure and rapier acidity will allow this to mature for a few years. **(*) Now – 2022.
2014 Domaine de Mourchon, Cote du Rhone – $13
Imported by Oenos Imports. This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah sourced from vines averaging 40 years of age which was raised entirely in concrete. Alcohol 14%. The nose is a bit lifted and certainly youthful. In the mouth are flavors of youthful tasting tart red fruit then tooty fruity mixed with white pepper. The wine has textured grip and a youthful structure of fine tannins. The wine is not quite grapey so perhaps young and primary. ** Now – 2019.
Lou and I managed to squeeze in several quick glasses of wine between our kids’ basketball games and dinner. We kicked off with a bottle of NV (bottled in Dec 2000) Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coast Range, Sonoma County. Both the capsule and label are darker, perhaps indicating this is a non-vintage winemaker’s blend. It is clearly a Bordeaux blend on the nose with the greenhouse aromas indicating some cooler vintage(s) in the blend. It is actually well made with an interesting finish and aftertaste, I just wish there was more depth to the fruit flavor. The 2001 Ridge, Carignane, Buchignani Ranch, Sonoma County is a completely different beast. The back label indicates that the sugar levels rose on the grapes and what we found in the glass were sweet, over ripe flavors. I enjoyed it more on the initial pour but then found it too sweet.
Finally, Lou served a bottle blind. I guessed it was either early 1980s California Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend or 1990s Bordeaux from a cooler vintage. I was close as it turned out to be 1996 Chateau Caronne Ste Gemme, Haut-Medoc. Caronne Ste Gemme was a daily drinker for Lou so he thought it fun to try a one. This particular bottle bears its age very well. With better balance than the NV Ridge, it is a lively drink at 21 years of age.
NV (bottled in Dec 2000) Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coast Range, Sonoma County
This wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 13.3%. The nose is finely scented with greenhouse aromas and red/black fruit. In the mouth this wine has fine grip and focus, showing tart red fruit and leather. It builds flavor with air as well as a hard wood note, more leather, and delicate cranberry red fruit. The aftertaste is surprisingly good. ** Now but will last
2001 Ridge, Carignane, Buchignani Ranch, Sonoma County
This wine is a blend of 99% Carignane and 1% Zinfandel. Alcohol 14.3%. There is a sweet, ripe dusty nose of fruit. In the mouth the flavor is of very ripe berries, tea flavors, chocolate, and sweet fruit. On re-tasting it tastes of over-ripe fruit. Though there is still some grip. * Now.
1996 Chateau Caronne Ste Gemme, Haut-Medoc
Imported by Adventures in Wine. Alcohol 12.5%. The color shows some age and the nose reveals greenhouse accented fruit. In the mouth is a focused cloud of fruit with some purple flavors and ink. It taste of a cool vintage but the attractive structure is in balance, there is some wood box, and an inky hint. **(*) Now but will last.
There was a time when much of the Vintage Port sold at MacArthur Beverages was English bottled. These wines were purchased by the case upon which the vintage and house were labeled. But as Mark Wessels and Andy Creemer recently related, the bottles inside were unmarked. Despite efforts to organize or tag the bottles, some bottles strayed losing any outwardly visible identification. I purchased what must be the last two of these stray bottles.
Vintage Port corks are largely branded. I cut the bottom of the lead capsule on the youngest of the two bottles. Despite scrubbing the neck of the bottle and using various flashlights, I could not make out any brand on the cork. The mystery was revealed when I extracted the cork using my Durand. This English bottle of 1970 Warre Vintage Port was in fine condition. It offered elegant flavors of fruit, wood, spice, and even a bit of grip on the tongue. There is no sense of power, rather that of a wine which has crested peak drinking and should be drunk up. Which is what we did, making me all the more happy to solve my mystery.
1970 Warre, Vintage Port
The good, clear color reflected in the clean, elegant flavors of this wine. It begins with fruity flavors, fig and hints of wood with a touch of warm spice in the finish. The wine grips the tongue leaving an impression of white nuts in the aftertaste. *** Now.