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A diverse set of wines: Armenia, Macedonia, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, and others

It was over the bottle of Ethiopian Chardonnay, brought by Jacques several weeks ago, that he proposed the idea of hosting a wine dinner to include bottles from Macedonia and Lebanon.  The origins of the wines we tried were nearly as diverse as the guests he hosted, who together represent nine different nationalities.  Jacques supplied a number of wines he had acquired over the years, bringing them from his home cellar to the Washington, DC, area.

A few other wines were added, including those I had purchased from MacArthur Beverages, from which we started with the 2017 2016 Domaine Neferis, Rose Magnifique, Sidi Salem, Tunisia.  A solid rose from Tunisia, how can you not try it?

My favorite red wines all came from Jacques.  It took me several minutes to realize I had drunk an earlier vintage of the 2012 Domaine des Tourelles, Syrah, Grand Cuvee, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.  The 2012 vintage is clearly much better than the 2009 I had drunk earlier with Taz, which was also supplied by Jacques.  The 2012 is a dark flavored wine with strong development potential.  I would try it again in a few years.  My favorite wine is the 2005 Chateau Musar, Rouge, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.  It is mouth filling with mature flavors that do not weigh you down and capable of further development.  Purchased pre-war, the 2008 Domaine de Bargylus, Syria struck me as the biggest surprise of the night.  The 2008 vintage is only the third for the domain.  It is very well-made and drinkable, perhaps a nod must be given to consulting oenologist Stephane Derenoncourt.  The family produces wine in both Syria and Lebanon but I believe Jacques prefers their Syrian wine.

Our final wine was sat for most of the evening in a decanter.  Complete with wooden presentation box and metal label, the 2013 Kamnik, Vranec, Terroir Grand Reserva, Macedonia is big both in bottle and in alcohol.  I notice power more than terroir but it is a good drink with the alcohol integrated.

Thanks again to Jacques and his wife.  Please find my tasting notes for these and the other wines I tasted below.

2017 2016 Domaine Neferis, Rose Magnifique, Sidi Salem, Tunisia
Imported by Travis Wine Imports. This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache. Alcohol 13.5%.  A medium, dry rose color.  In the mouth is a moderate body, floral middle, watering acidity, and a lighter finish.  Light and bright in flavor, it takes on a creamy mouthfeel and notes of pastilles in the finish. ** Now.

2017 Minuty, Rose M, Cotes de Provence
Imported by Chateau & Estates. Alcohol 13%.  A rather light dry rose color.  This light, acidity driven wine bears just a touch of texture but plentiful stone notes.  ** Now.

2013 Yacoubian-Hobbs, Aghavnadzor, Vayots Dzor, Armenia
Imported by Paul Hobbs Selections. This wine is a blend of Voskehat, Khatuni, Qrdi, and Garan Demak. Alcohol 12.8%.  Both a light color and a light nose.  Improves with warmth to reveal white nuts, hints of wood but is overall modest in flavor.  Interesting but left me wanted for more.  *(*) Now – 2019.

2003 Chateau Musar, Blanc, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This wine is 100% Merwah.  Alcohol 12%.  A copper-yellow color.  Mature in the mouth with an oxidative note then Sherry flavors with some toast.  At first moderate in body with watering acidity it eventually develops an enjoyable lanolin roundness through the long aftertaste.  Certainly an acquired taste.  **(*) Now but will last.

2010 Tsantali, Xinomavro Reserva, Naoussa, Greece
Imported by Fantis Imports. Alcohol 13%.  Quite nice actually with initially dry flavors of black cherry then an engaging racy bit.  *** Now – 2020.

2004 Domaine Ferrando, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is 100% old-vine Grenache.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Fully mature with wood box, black cherry, and Kirsch all delivered in a rounded style.  Very good finish.  *** Now.

2012 Domaine des Tourelles, Syrah, Grand Cuvee, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This wine is 100% Syrah. Alcohol 14.5%.  Very dark in the glass with dark flavors of incense.  There is extract and tannins structured for a requisite few more years of development.  I like the dark fruit profile and mouthfeel.  The new oak needs to integrate but strong potential.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2005 Chateau Musar, Rouge, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, and Carignan aged in cement vats, French oak barrels, and finally vats.  Alcohol 14%.  Mature with mouth filling flavors of cherry, good acidity, and animale bits adding complexity.  The citric tannins and acidity will see further development.  Unique!  **** Now – 2028.

2008 Domaine de Bargylus, Syria
This wine is a blend of 45% Syrah, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Merlot. Alcohol 14.5%.  Very dark in color.  Some roast on the nose but mature overall.  In the mouth are good flavors and fine extract.  A successful blend that opens up to a modern profile with good length.  *** Now – 2023.

2013 Stobi, Vranec, Veritas, Tikves, Macdeonia
Imported by Winebow. This wine is 100% Vranec aged 24 months in 80% new Slavonian oak casks and 20% Slavonian oak barrels. Alcohol 14%.  Modern flavors of cherry with some brightness, certainly clean and balanced with no hard edges.  Could use a year or two to open up.  ** Now – 2023.

2013 Kamnik, Vranec, Terroir Grand Reserva, Macedonia
This wine is 100% Vranec sourced from 17 year old vines aged 28 months in French and American oak barrels. Alcohol 16.3%.  An intense, yet flavorful wine with powerful ripe dark fruits and a long, powerful finish.  One notices power and not alcohol.  A bit unevolved at this point so come back in a few years.  *** 2020-2028.

Mostly 1970s Californian red wines

The Memorial Day weekend kicked off with several wines from the 1970s tasted over at Lou’s house.  After a sweeter than expected start with the fully mature 1998 Domaines Schlumberger, Pinot Gris, Alsace Grand Cru Kitterle four of us ventured down to his tasting room.  The fills on 1970 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien and 1975 Chateau Branaire, Saint-Julien, both from less than ideal storage, had decreased since purchase so were quickly dispatched as bad bottles.  Our first red was a good intro, not too old, rather it was quite young.  The 1993 Glen Carlou, Grand Classique Reserve, Paarl is a modest wine which may be drunk for a few more years.  Think clean and tart flavors with just a hint of earth.

We then moved on to a quartet of old Californian wine.  Two of the bottles proved undrinkable or not worth drinking.  The 1974 Woodside Vineyards, La Questa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains had some stink and certainly plenty of power.  I actually thought it would blow off and improve but instead it fell apart.  Shame as this is an historic wine.  The 1976 The Firestone Vineyard, Red Wine, Santa Ynez Valley represents the second vintage of this winery.  The winery was still under construction at the time of harvest and it was not anticipated to be until 1980 that operations would normalize.  Sadly the 1976 vintage suffered from heavy rains and it is evident in the wine.  This bottle is drinkable but simple, soft, and monolithic.

The final two bottles provided plenty of satisfaction.  The 1974 Arroyo Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County is all about cranberry fruit, crisp acidity, and an animale note.  It is clearly of a different winemaking style and I enjoyed it for that.  The final bottle of 1974 Raymond Vineyard & Cellar, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is a very good wine from, incredibly, an inaugural vintage.  The key is that Roy Raymond Sr worked for decades at Beringer, even marrying into the family.  Both his long experience in the industry and the practice of discarding substandard bottlings are evident in this wine.  There is plenty of good, deep fruit, and ample body.  It is also more alcoholic than the other wines tried.  In any event, a very fine end to the evening.

1998 Domaines Schlumberger, Pinot Gris, Alsace Grand Cru Kitterle
A rich and honied start morphs to stone flavors in the middle then lychee by the finish.  This wine has a good amount of residual sugar but also dense texture backed by acidity in the finish.  Gentle in the finish.  **(*) Now.

1993 Glen Carlou, Grand Classique Reserve, Paarl
This wine is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 16% Cabernet Franc matured in French oak barrels.  Imported by The Hess Collection. Alcohol 13.2%.  Tart and clean flavors of cranberry red fruit are followed by good tannic structure with a fresh finish.  A bit more complexity comes from an earthy undertone.  This should drink well for several more years.  **(*) Now – 2023.

1974 Woodside Vineyards, La Questa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Founded in 1963 by Bob Mullen, the fruit for this wine was sourced from La Questa vines first planted by Emmet Rixford in 1884 These old vines are purported to come from cuttings brought from Chateau Margaux.  In the 1940s Martin Ray propagated vines at Mt. Eden which were eventually planted by Ridge at Monte Bello.  Alcohol 12%.  Bright and volatile aromas of stinky feet.  There are powerful flavors backed by citric tannins but instead of improving it quickly falls apart then becomes weird. Past.

1976 The Firestone Vineyard, Red Wine, Santa Ynez Valley
The 2850 acre property was originally a beef-cattle ranch which was acquired by the Firestone family in 1972.  The winery was run by Brooks Firestone, son of the former Ambassador to Belgium, and grandson to the founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.   Some 345 acres were aside for premium varieties and in 1973 they were planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer.  The first crush was with the 1975 vintage which was the first commercial level achievement in this area.  The fermentation tanks were in place for this inaugural vintage but the winery was still under construction in 1978.  This 1976 vintage was troubled by heavy rains. Could this be a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Merlot???  Alcohol 12.5%.  A soft, monolithic wine with simple flavors of cherry cola that show more advancement as coffee and caramel note mix in.  There is watering acidity but this is simple wine.  * Past.

1974 Arroyo Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
Bandiera Winery was founded in 1937 by Emilio Bandiera.  This was largely a bulk winery until new owners sold wine under the Arroyo Sonoma label amongst others.  Alcohol 12.5%.  This builds ripe, tart fruit that has plenty of crisp flavor and crisp acidity.  Cranberry notes mix with the tannins and so does an animale note.  *** Now but will last.

1974 Raymond Vineyard & Cellar, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Roy Raymond Sr. worked for Beringer beginning in 1933, eventually marrying Jacob Berginger’s granddaughter Martha Jane Beringer.  In the early 1970s the Raymond family bought 90 acres south of St Helena and in 1974 opened their new winery.  Early bottlings were discarded if they did not meet the family’s standards.  Alcohol 13.7%.  Good fruit and deep flavors abound in this wine.  It reveals focused and bright notes of blue fruit with some coffee.  Has body and staying power.  A treat to drink.  **** Now – 2028.

A pair of Oregon Pinot Noir

If you are interested in Pinot Noir then I strongly recommend you try the 2016 Walter Scott, La Combe Verte, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley.  It is best left to age for a year or two but if you are tempted now then give it a long decant.   It is a serious wine with deep flavor and sappy acidity all at a great price.  Stock up!  The 2014 Bryn Mawr Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley could use a touch of age as well, though I suspect it will always be closely played.  There is a certain old-school quality to it.  Thanks to Andy at MacArthur Beverages for the recommendations.

2016 Walter Scott, La Combe Verte, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley – $26
Alcohol 13.6%.  Fine, ripe varietal aromas on the nose make way to fresh, yet weighty flavors and almost sappy acidity.  Blue fruit flavors develop over a moderately ripe structure with a hint of fresh greenness at the end.  Tasted over two days this young wine already has good depth but remains tight as it needs to develop for a year or two before you should drink it.  ***(*) 2020-2025.

2014 Bryn Mawr Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley – $22
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir aged 9 months in 30% new French oak.  Alcohol 13.3%.  A firm profile with slightly zippy, citric acidity mark this closely played wine with flavors of black cherry.  There is some spice, a stemmy nature, and an old-school herbal note.  **(*) 2019-2022.

A trio of 2016 from Domaine des Pasquiers

Rhone wines often form the backbone of our weekly drinking for which I will soon adopt the three selections featured in this post.  These wines are imported by Phil Bernstein which explains why you may find such good natured wines at such a reasonable cost.  New to the Pasquiers lineup in Washington, DC, is the 2016 Domaine des Pasquiers, VdP de Vaucluse.   Right now it is a youthful wine, with juicy acidity, and will make for great mid-week drinking over the next few years.  A real wine for only $11.  The 2016 Domaine des Pasquiers, Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu proves why I love Plan de Dieu.  There is a lot of personality here.  Of complete surprise is the quality of the 2016 Domaine des Pasquiers, Cotes du Rhone Villages Sablet.  It is deep and luxurious.  I find it hard to believe that it is priced the same as the Plan de Dieu.  I recommend you try all three wines which you may find at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Domaine des Pasquiers, VdP de Vaucluse – $11
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 14%.  Youthful with grapey tannins which cling to the gums leaving a ripe texture.  Combined with juicy acidity this purple and blue flavors wine will develop over the next few years.  **(*) Now – 2021.

2016 Domaine des Pasquiers, Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu – $15
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Young with scrappy acidity, there are finer tannins structuring the wine for certain development.  There is, however, good tension between the acidity and the flavor.  The depth of the flavor stands up to the structure with a good mineral vein providing further satisfaction.  It has an enjoyably rugged nature right now.  *** Now – 2025.

2016 Domaine des Pasquiers, Cotes du Rhone Villages Sablet – $15
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Deep, grapey flavors combined with black fruit greet from the beginning.  There is a ripe, floral touch and fine, yet ripe textured density to this wine.  With air it takes on a luxurious creamy flavor and savory saltiness.  It over delivers for the price point.  ***(*) Now – 2025.

A pair from Brouilly

My daughter’s Monday evening soccer practice is conveniently located near Weygandt Wines.  It is here that I picked up the bright and pure 2016 Pierre-Marie Chermette, Pierreux, Brouilly.  It acts as a good foil for the 2016 Daniel Bouland, Cuvee Melanie, Cotes de Brouilly.  While the Bouland has a bit more heft it also offers more complexity in an understated way.

2016 Pierre-Marie Chermette, Pierreux, Brouilly – $25
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is 100% Gamay from 30 year old vinces on granitic scree.  Alcohol 13%.  There are tangy berries followed by an interesting cranberry and raspberry middle.  This wine is about pure fruit flavors.  It also has a bright tilt.  *** Now – 2020.

2016 Daniel Bouland, Cuvee Melanie, Cotes de Brouilly – $26
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 70 year old vines on volcanic blue schist.  Alcohol 13%.  An herbal hint on the nose is not repeated in the mouth.  Flavors of focused fruit are supported by a fine structure from the start.  The cool and tangy red and black fruit has good, moderate weight which pairs with the juicy acidity.  The wine becomes a touch drier in the finish.  This has an understated complexity to it.  ***(*) Now – 2023.

A pair of 2014 Blaufrankisch from Burgenland

The 2014 vintage in Austria was difficult and short but the robust and thick-skinned Blaufrankisch fared reasonably well.  This weekend Jenn and I tried a pair of Blaufrankisch from Burgenland.  The 2014 Prieler, Blaufrankisch, Johanneshohe, Burgenland is our favorite of the two.  An exuberant start brings dark fruit and with air, the wine shows good length.  This vintage resulted in the addition of declassified high-quality fruit for this wine and it makes this a good value.  The 2014 Steindorfer, Blaufrankisch Selection, Burgenland seems to be in an awkward phase.  The flavors are firm and austere but there is an attractive density and persistent coating of fat. I preferred it on the second night and suggest you hold off on drinking this until the next winter.  These two wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2014 Prieler, Blaufrankisch, Johanneshohe, Burgenland – $17
Imported by Skurnik Wines.  Alcohol 12%.  Very ripe and generous with fruit aromas.  In the mouth are dark, ripe red and black fruit flavors with a touch of lively acidity to keep it in balance.  In fact, the start is almost exuberant.  The dark fruit has a hint of wood/stem structure and with air the wine lengthens out.  *** Now – 2020.

2014 Steindorfer, Blaufrankisch Selection, Burgenland – $17
Imported by Select Wines.  This wine is 100% Blaufrankisch vinified in stainless steel then aged for 10 months in used barriques.  Alcohol 13%.  This is tart and clearly the more structured of the two wines.  The flavors lean towards the red spectrum but there is a surprising amount of density and fat.  With air the wine remains firm but takes on a roundness from the fat.  The flavors are of black fruit, graphite, and black pepper which I find appealing.  Though austere, it has a good finish.  In need of short-term aging.  **(*) 2019-2023.

A pair of interesting whites made from Garganega and Arrufiac

March 8, 2018 1 comment

The grape variety Garganega may not make you think of Soave, but this blend of early and late picked fruit shows to good effect in the 2014 Bertani, Vintage Edition Soave.  The dark gold color matches the aromas of wild flower and apricot followed by weighty flavors.  This wine even has staying power for it drank well over several nights.  It is a good contender for a weekday bottle.  Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Sec is the  white wine appellation for Madiran and is often made with the Arrufiac variety.  I had heard of neither before Lou brought the bottle over to my house.  The color leans towards the amber and gold spectrum but the wine is lively with flavors of lemon citrus matched by a cut of acidity.  I have no experience with this wine before but I would be tempted to try a bottle in the fall.  Until then treat this as an aperitif or food wine.

2014 Bertani, Vintage Edition Soave – $26
Imported by Palm Bay International.  This wine is 100% 100% Garganega which was harvest first in September then in later October for more hang time then aged in concrete tanks.  Alcohol 12.5%.  A dark, straw gold.  The exotic nose reminds me of wild flowers, apricot fruit, and baked apples.  As conveyed by the nose, there is a weighty start in the mouth with ripe yellow fruit, white flowers, white nuts, and a mineral/flint finish.  The bottle drank well over a few nights.  *** Now – 2020.

2015 Chateau Viella, Pacherenc, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Sec – $19
Imported by Petit Pois Corp.  This wine is a blend of Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, and Arrufiac.  Alcohol 13.5%. An amber tinged gold color.  In the mouth are focused flavors of ripe, lemon citrus cut by a smokey and sharp acidity line through the finish.  It might be worth waiting until the fall for it to open up more.  **(*) Now – 2020.