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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.

An intense and dark 1979 Calafia Cellars, Merlot

October 16, 2019 Leave a comment

I pulled the cork on the 1979 Calafia Cellars, Merlot, Napa Valley not knowing one bit of its history.  Founded by Randle and MaryLee Johnson, this bottle is from their inaugural vintage which happens to be the same year the winery was founded.  Just five years earlier, in 1974, Johnson graduated from UC Davis then a year later begin work with Phil Baxter at Chateau Souverain in 1975. In 1977, Johnson started work under Bob Travers at Mayacamas Vineyard which is located on Mount Veeder.  Fascinated with this mountain fruit, Johnson opened Calafia Cellars in 1979.

Johnson explored the terroir of Mount Veeder.  In the early years at Calafia Cellars, he produced Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel from both the southeast-facing and west-facing slopes.  I do not know any background details of this wine but as it is marked Napa Valley, it could be Merlot sourced from the southeastern slopes of Mount Veeder.  Calafia Cellars was a winery in name only so I wonder if this inaugural vintage was made at Mayacamas.  This bottle was showing a bit of its age but the dark and intense flavors bear all the hallmarks of Mount Veeder.  What a treat!

1979 Calafia Cellars, Merlot, Napa Valley
Alcohol 14.1%.  Dark in color with a lovely nose.  Ripe and dark in the mouth with firm, dense and polished flavors carried by watering acidity.  In good condition, this wine is integrated all around.  It fleshes out a bit taking on some spice.  It eventually shows its age being a touch hollow in the end.  **(*) Now.

Good Wines Abound in Sicily

October 1, 2019 2 comments

What is remarkable about these four red wines from Sicily is that the even the two least expensive bottles, made primarily from Nerello Mascalese, are great!  The 2017 Calabretta, Gaio Gaio, Etna is my favorite for drinking right now.  Calabretta consistently releases top-notch wines at low prices and this particular bottling is beautiful.  The 2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso is also approachable now.  It offers more stuffing up front but then a chalky, floral finish speaks of the island.  The 2017 Occhipinti, SP68, Sicily is a different blend being Frappato with Nero d’Avola. It is not offering as much as I would like so try it again in a year.  The 2014 Calabretta, Pinot Nero, Etna needs time too but it has the goods!  I recently bought these wines at MacArthur Beverages.

2017 Calabretta, Gaio Gaio, Etna – $17
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced from old vines.  It was aged in large, old oak containers.  Alcohol 14%. Aromatic berries on the nose. Crunchy, rosemary infused strawberry flavors. This is a beautiful wine with good presence and length in the finish. It has the structure and acidity for some years. *** Now – 2024.

2014 Calabretta, Pinot Nero, Etna – $25
Imported by Williams Corner Wines. Fairly robust at first, the intensity is surprising but then this is clearly an outstanding vintage. There is a core of fruit and puckering acidity which will see this through development. It remains tight so a good candidate for the cellar. *** 2022-2027.

2017 Occhipinti, SP68, Sicily – $26
Imported by Louis/Dressner. A blend of mostly Frappato with Nero d’Avola which was fermented then aged in concrete tanks.  Alcohol 12.5%. Scented red fruit on the nose. Bright in the mouth, a little earth, certainly tart with modest structure. Lively but the tart, ripe structure needs to resolve.  **(*) 2020-2025.

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso – $19
Imported by deGrazia Imports.  This wine is a blend of 95% Nerello Mascalese and 5% Nerello Cappuccio Alcohol 14%.  Flavorful, almost robust, certainly impressive for the stuffing. Firm red candy then a mineral, chalky vein before the lifted, floral finish. *** Now – 2024.

An Honest Pair from Domaine de Fontsainte

September 29, 2019 Leave a comment

This pair of recent offerings from Domaine de Fontsainte exhibit distinct personalities at low prices. That is no easy feat.  The 2016 Domaine de Fontsainte, Reserva la Demoiselle, Corbieres  is mostly Carignan sourced from 100+ year old vines.  It is a wine to drink now and though generous in flavor, it has supportive acidity, and a good dose of provencal herbs.  The 2018 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres is crisp with an interesting blend of brown sugar and mineral, black fruit.  I like the flavor and the acidity profile.  It should be even better this winter.  If you can only purchase on bottle then I would just grab the one which sounds more like your style.  I bought these two bottles at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Domaine de Fontsainte, Reserva la Demoiselle, Corbieres – $17 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 60% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, and 10% Mourvedre.  The Carignan vines were planted in 1904 and the fruit alone undergoes carbonic maceration. The wine is then aged in a mixture of cement tank and French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  Effusive and approachable from the very first glass.  It is blue fruited at first then turns towards tart raspberry and blackberry in flavor.  It is a tangy wine with some supportive structure but is largely a wine that is ready to drink.  It is dense in the middle with lemon/citric acidity, and solid finish. It evokes the south with its provencal herbs.  *** Now – 2020.

2018 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres – $15 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 60% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, and 10% Syrah aged in French oak barrels.  Again, the Carignan undergoes carbonic maceration.  Alcohol 14%.  There is a core of brown-sugared, ripe, black fruit which leans towards a mineral, blacker fruited finish.  There is good freshness from the watering acidity.  It takes on hints of cream and stone.  Though a crisp wine it should improve over the short-term.  **(*) Now – 2023.

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.

Four Good Values From Bordeaux

September 18, 2019 Leave a comment

This quartet of red Bordeaux was recommended by Phil at MacArthur Beverages.  Priced between $13 and $20 these bottles represent good value for current consumption and a short-slumber in the cellar.  For near-term drinking grab the 2014 Chateau Dubourg, Saint Emilion and the 2016 Chateau Francs Magnus, Bordeaux Superieur.  These Merlot dominated blends each have their owner personality, dried herbs with the Dubourg and intense stones with the Francs Magnus.  For drinking over the next decade, after a few more years in the cellar, grab the 2016 Chateau Senejac, Haut-Medoc and the 2014 Chateau du Taillan, Haut-Medoc.  These show a bit more backbone from the Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Senejac is cool, balanced, and spiced whereas du Taillan takes on some earthiness.

2014 Chateau Dubourg, Saint Emilion – $17
Imported by MacArthur Beverages.  This wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Round and creamy with a blue fruited start then a vein of minerals with black fruit.  The low-lying, supple tannin provide subtle support.  The wine wraps-up with a very black, stone laden finish.  Intense in character with a bit of bitterness. **(*) Now – 2014.

2016 Chateau Francs Magnus, Bordeaux Superieur – $13
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 14%.  This reflects a good, youthful state.  The mixture of red and blue fruit is a little tart with flavors of dried herbs, and dry wood box carried by juicy acidity.  This vein of acidity carries into the tart, and citric finish.  With air notes of rosemary come out as does a coating of fat.  Strong value.  *** Now – 2013.

2016 Chateau Senejac, Haut-Medoc – $20
Imported by MacArthur Beverages.  This wine is a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A spiced nose of black berries.  Young with focused flavors of black fruit and exotic spice.  There is a mineral touch with some perfume in the finish.  The spiced tannins take a grip on the gums.  The overall cool tilt to the flavors makes for a fresh wine with supportive acidity and good length.  Will develop and last.  *** Now – 2029.

2014 Chateau du Taillan, Haut-Medoc – $19
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Round and black fruited this has a focused core of fruit.  It takes on some earth before the mineral finish.  This is a mouth filling wine with more structure for development.  It leaves a drying sensation on the gums along with a licorice hint. It should develop for another year or two.  *** Now – 2026.

A Blind Tasting of 2005 Bordeaux with a Rioja

September 16, 2019 Leave a comment

At the very end of the summer, I was a guest of Andy for the monthly wine tasting.  We first gathered around his kitchen to eat from huge wedges of cheese and drink from a bottle of 2017 Matanzas Creek Winery, Chardonnay, Alexander Valley.  It is quite good all around, there is a balanced quartet of yellow fruit, body, acidity, and wood influence. It is a wine I recommend drinking again.

The tasting itself consisted of eight wines served blind. They had been opened some four hours prior. We knew one bottle was corked which logically left us with 6 bottles on theme and 1 ringer. There was a Bordeaux flavor profile to most bottles but the lightness and herbaceous quality of the first two had my sights first set to Chile. Then came the third wine with its ripe fruit, weight, and minerality and I was no longer certain of the theme. It was clear, though, that the last wine was the ringer.

This assortment of 2005 Bordeaux from Pauillac, Saint-Estephe, and Saint-Julien varied in quality. I found the 2005 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien as my clear favorite and very satisfying to drink. It is coming into a fine mid-life which should last for a bit of time. I do not mind the herbaceous note I found in my next two favorites: the 2005 Chateau Saint-Pierre, Saint-Julien a good value which is very mineral and the 2005 Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, Saint Julien. The latter is rounded, yet closely played and in need of several more years in the cellar.  The 2005 Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe under performed and did not exhibit to the potential of the label.  Sadly, the 2005 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac was completely undrinkable.  Finally, the 2005 CVNE, Imperial Rioja Reserva stood out for its young, red fruit.  I found it hard to judge coming after the other wines.

1 – 2005 Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, Saint Julien
Imported by Appellation Imports. Alcohol 13.5%. A dark cherry with garnet color. Aromatic with notes of cedar mixing in blue and red fruit. A good nose somewhat herbaceous. Bordeaux like in the mouth with round black fruit, a dry finish, and some fine structure in the end. Expertly made and closely played, it shows more ripe fruit and structure with air. Best given a few more years in the cellar.  ***(*) 2022-2032.

2 – 2005 Chateau Haut-Bages-Liberal, Pauillac
Imported by Benchmark wines. Alcohol 13%. Very dark. More herbaceous on the nose with blue fruit. A touch more structure yet also more suppleness. Less intensity with watering acidity and more tannins on the gums. A short finish. It could use more time for the structure to resolve but this bottle might now have the fruit for it. *** Now – 2029.

3 – 2005 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien
Imported by Chateaux + Estates. Alcohol 13%. A more complex wine with ripe flavors, weight, and minerals. The primarily blue and black fruit has a green hint but it weighty with good length. A fresh structure throughout it is redder in the middle. My favorite. **** Now – 2034.

4 – 2005 Chateau D’Armailhac, Pauillac
Imported by North Lake Wines. Alcohol 13%. Some brett on the nose. Interesting, tart red fruit with a fine tannic finish that is quite grippy on the gums. Animale flavors in the finish.  *** Now – 2029.

5 – 2005 Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe
Imported by Chateaux + Estates. Alcohol 13.5%. Less aromatic. More licorice-like in the flavor, a touch racy with large amounts of flavor. Dark in the finish. It just does not deliver the balanced goods.  A drinkable bottle but under-performing based on the reveal.  **(*) Now – 2029.

6 – 2005 Chateau Saint-Pierre, Saint-Julien
Imported by Liquidlink. Alcohol 13%. Low-lying on the nose. The wine shows substance but also some herbaceous qualities. Blue and black flavored with a mineral vein. In fact, the mineral vein persisted throughout the tasting. ***(*) Now – 2029.

7 – 2005 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac
Imported by Heritage Wine Cellars. Alcohol 13%. Corked!  Not Rated.

8 – 2005 CVNE, Imperial Rioja Reserva
Alcohol 13.5%. Sweet cranberry and strawberry fruits, unevolved with watering acidity. Sweet oak. Develops intensity with air.  Younger tasting than the other wines despite the completely integrated structure.  *** Now – 2024.