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Italian Barbera from 1964 to 2013

The gray weather parted allowing a small group of us to taste through a range of Barbera on my back deck. Unspoken etiquette ensured we had bottles of Champagne and white wine to occupy ourselves as the bottles of Barbera were opened and I fussed with the grill. Both starter bottles were excellent. Having now tasted NV Demiere Ansiot, Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs I can state that I want to drink it again. This is surprisingly complex Champagne with frothy bubbles and balance such that it should be drunk up right now. If you like mature Champagne go buy several bottles. The 2007 Red Newt, Gewurztraminer, Curry Creek Vineyard, Finger Lakes is comparatively younger in profile with its dense flavors of nuts and tropical fruit. It is a lot of wine.

We began the Barbera tasting with a trio of four old wines, one of which was bagged. My favorite is the 1967 Casa Vinicola Antonio Vallana, Barbera del Cantina di Bacco. Some did not like it which meant I was left with the lion’s share of old-school sweaty aromas and sweet, concentrated, silky fruit. From the same vintage I also liked the 1967 Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani, Castello di Gabiano Riserva which with one “b” is one of Italy’s smallest DOCs from Monferrato and not to be confused with the estate from the south of Florence. The brighter fruit and blood are gently delivered making for a different expression of Barbera. This brightness could be attributed to the wine containing up to 10% Freisa and Grignolino.  Our oldest bottle of 1964 Poderi di Luigi Einaudi, Barbera is a survivor for I drank a glass of leftovers the next night with only slightly diminished pleasure. It is bright, tart, and bit acidic making it more of a curiosity. The brown-bagged 1974 Angelo Papagni, Barbera is a wine that is simply too old.

Our next two bottles were flawed. It is a shame because the 1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Conca Tre Pile, Barbera D’Alba has the potential to be very good. There is not telling what the 1999 Elio Grasso, Vigna Martina, Barbera D’Alba should be like.

In young territory the 2005 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti is young primary and attractively floral. In contrast the 2006 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti sports heft, brawn, and good flavor. It is one to age for many more years. Also promising is the elegant and impeccably balanced 2008 Bartolo Mascarello, Barbera D’Alba. The last bottle of 2013 Coppo, Pomorosso, Barbera d’Asti proved to be the youngest and most modern wine. It is a good, articulated wine but not of my preferred style.  Based on these wines I would like to repeat the tasting but focus in on 1990s and older.

NV Demiere Ansiot, Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs
Becky Wasserman selection imported by USA Wine Imports. This wine is 100% Chardonnay. Alcohol 12%. The nose begins with a yeast hint then toast and apple orchard aromas which together make for a very satisfying nose. In the mouth are racy flavors of delicate berries, definitely fruity, and frothy bubbles. The fizz is not hard rather it is subtle. This is an excellent wine for drinking now, it is complex with baking spices and a clean finish.  **** Now.

2007 Red Newt, Gewurztraminer, Curry Creek Vineyard, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 14.7%. The color is bright and golden with a green hint. The flavors mix nuts with tropical fruit with a tilt towards sweet flavors. This fine, dense wine has a minerally middle.  Good stuff! **** Now – 2020.

1964 Poderi di Luigi Einaudi, Barbera
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%. The nose is musky at first morphing to old leather as it cleans up and with air adds in cinnamon. The wine itself is earthy with bright acidity and a clean flavor profile of tart cherry and cranberry red fruit. It is a little tired towards the finish but the tart fruit persists in the aftertaste. ** Now.

1974 Angelo Papagni, Barbera (brown bagged mystery wine)
Alcohol 12.5%. A garnet color but one sniff and taste tell that this wine is way past prime. Not Rated.

 

1967 Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani, Castello di Gabiano Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. This wine is probably a blend of 90%-95% Barbera with the rest Freisa and Grignolino.  Alcohol 11%-14%. The nose smells of blood. In the mouth this is a bright, forward wine with nice bright acidity and up-front grip. It sports an old-school gentleness and softness. Notes of polished wood eventually come out. The blood returns in the aftertaste. *** Now but will last.

1967 Casa Vinicola Antonio Vallana, Barbera del Cantina di Bacco, Colline Novaresi
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12.5%. The nose is old-school, sweaty and sweet. In the mouth the ripe fruit is sweet with concentration. This silky, smooth wine gains focus and length with air. There is fine texture and weight to the core of fruit which is surrounded by sweaty notes and wood. **** Now but will last.

1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Conca Tre Pile, Barbera D’Alba
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%. Sadly cooked on the nose. In the mouth though are gobs of mouth filling fruit with a fine, ripe texture from the tannins. There are tart red fruit flavors in the finish. Correct bottles should be quite good. Not Rated.

1999 Elio Grasso, Vigna Martina, Barbera D’Alba
Alcohol 14.5%. Bad bottle! Not Rated.

2005 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti
Alcohol 14%. The nose is still young and clean with finely scented aromas of violets. Still youthful in the most this primary wine is fresh with watering acidity. ***(*) Now – 2027.

2006 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti
Alcohol 14%. The color is darker with a purple tinge. The nose sports more heft to the aromas. In the mouth the flavors are brawnie and matched by additional tannins. There is dark red fruit, rounded feel, and a good personality. This will age for a long time. ***(*) Now – 2032.

2007 G. D. Vajra, Barbera D’Alba Superiore
Imported by The Country Vintner. Alcohol 14.5%. It is hard to get past the over-ripe, full-bore fruit. The wine becomes tangy with serious weight.  ** Now.

 

2008 Bartolo Mascarello, Barbera D’Alba
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 14%. An elegant nose moves on to bright red fruit over a black fruit foundation. This wine is balanced with grippy personality, texture and some ink. The structure is finely integrated with the fruit. ***(*) Now – 2027.

2013 Coppo, Pomorosso, Barbera d’Asti
Imported by Folio Wine Partners. Alcohol 14.5%. This is an articulated, young, modern wine that is not without attraction. Not really my style but I can appreciate it.  *** Now – 2025.

A pair of 1977 wines from the historic Winery Lake Vineyard

I brought backup wines just in case my selections for our latest dinner with Sudip and Melanie were not drinkable.  Though my two old bottles had high fills, I had no idea what to expect of the 1977 Merlot and 1977 Pinot Noir from the Winery Lake Vineyard.

Founded around 1960 by Rene di Rosa, Winery Lake Vineyard is important in the history of Carneros.  The site dates back to the 1880s when it was known as the Talcoa Vineyard.  Like much of California, the vinous ties were broken as a result of Prohibition.  Replanting in Carneros only began in the late 1950s and Rene di Rosa’s efforts helped re-launch the region.  He planted primarily Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, along with a few other varieties,  selling the fruit off to other wineries in Napa and Sonoma.  Some of these wines were highly regarded, causing new interest in the area.  Carneros Creek arrived in 1971, Buena Vista moved here in 1974, Ravenswood was soon to arrive in 1976, and Acacia was founded in 1979 just to name a few.

By the 1980s, such was the fame of Di Rosa’s fruit that Charles L. Sullivan writes they were the most expensive grapes in the state.  The two bottles I opened were made using Di Rosa’s fruit but the two wineries could not be more different.  Martin Ray needs no introduction. However, this vintage was not made by him as he had passed away the previous year.  Wine and the People was founded by Peter Brehm in an old warehouse in Berkeley in 1970.  This was a home winemaking and homebrew store.  He not only sold equipment but apparently scouted out fruit and even made wine at his warehouse.

The 1977 Martin Ray, Merlot, Winery Lake Vineyard has a lead capsule.  Our bottle had a perfect cork with very dark staining and weinstein only at the business end.  The 1977 Wine and the People, Pinot Noir, Winery Lake Vineyard cork was a touch softer, dark throughout, and smelled appropriately of old wood.  The Martin Ray is a bit stinky at first and while it does clean up, the nose remains the most mature aspect of the wine.  In the mouth it is flavorful, luxurious feeling, and full of life.  There is a certain sweetness to the flavors which I felt was initially distinct.  With air the parts come together and this 40 year old wine is nothing but fun to drink.  If tasted blind, I would guess The Wine and the People is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon blend.  There is darker fruit, balanced acidity, and a classic wood box aspect to the aromas and flavors.  It does not have the staying power of the Martin Ray but for an hour or two you will have trouble faulting this bottle of Pinot Noir.  I should add that both of these wines have fair amount of body.  Whether that is due to the vintage and/or the vineyard I do not know.

1977 Martin Ray, Merlot, Winery Lake Vineyard
Alcohol 13%.  The initial bottle stink eventually blows off revealing mature flavors, coffee, and some old notes.  Despite the mature nose the wine is flavorful and full of life in the mouth.  There are sweet, baking spiced fruit flavors, glycerin, and cinnamon towards the finish.  The sweetness of the fruit is a bit separate at first but with air this wine really shapes up to become balanced.  In the end this is a fuller bodied, berrylicious wine with a luscious mouthfeel.  **** Now – 2027.

1977 Wine and the People, Pinot Noir, Winery Lake Vineyard
Alcohol 12.5%.  Smoke and leather aromas develop into a good nose made more complex by wood and spice scents.  In the mouth is a rounded start of blue and black fruit.  The wine is weighty and a little soft in the middle but with air it becomes correct with the acidity supporting throughout.  It only last for one to two hours before turning sour. **(*) Now.

1980s Beaucastel and Burgundy at the Woodberry Kitchen

Darryl and Nancy organized a small wine dinner at the Woodberry Kitchen in order to partake in ramps and old Châteauneuf du Pape.  Roland, Richard, and I joined them one fine evening this week.  Fortunately we had extra bottles in tow for this evening was marked by an unfortunate series of off and underperforming bottles.  A shame then that two vintages of 1983 and 1985 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser, from two different sources were off.  A 1981 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape had a bad cork and despite a heroic effort by the wine to correct itself, it remained ultimately marred.  The 1978 Chateau Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe was more advanced than I had expected.

Thus the white wine highlight of the evening included the fine 1992 Zind Humbrecht, Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain, Alsace which still needs air for full pleasure.  It has a kiss of petrol followed by nuts and lively acidity.

For the red wines my favorites include a 1982 Thorin, Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Chambolle-Musigny.  This represents a smaller and gentler example of an old-school mature Burgundy.  I enjoyed my glass and would happily have this as a house wine.  The mature Burgundy set the stage for a well-cared bottle of 1981 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The last time I tasted this wine, my glass came from the dregs.  This time I had a proper pour which I kept around for an hour or so.  Good stuff!  This deep wine should drink at its peak for several more years.  In complete contrast the 1986 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape is yet to reach full maturity, instead it offers brighter, fruitier red flavors.  It will not achieve the depth of the 1981 but it does have that Beaucastel familiarity.

 

2011 Champy, Chassagne-Montrachet
Imported by Schneider’s of Capitol Hill.  Alcohol 11%.  A golden straw color greets.  The flinty nose makes way to a rounded, slight dense start backed by glycerin.  There are yeast and chalk flavors but the wine lacks verve from enough acidity.  ** Now.

NV Bereche, Vallee 66 Mois de Cave, Champagne
This wine is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay.  Bottled 07/07/2010.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose is slightly oxidized with aromas of apple orchard.  The bubbles quickly become creamy with a fine vein of prickle.  The flavors have strength with chalky, fruit, and a slightly bitter finish.  It tastes fully mature.  *** Now.

1985 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser, Riesling Spatlese Abtsberg, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Consigned from a private source to Zachy’s 2016 Rieslingfeier auction. Imported by Wine Cellars LTD.  Alcohol 11%-14%.  The nose is very aromatic and smells exactly like pure gasoline.  There is a fruity start backed by the petrol note a bit of grip then the wine completely fades off.  There is a strange lack of acidity.  Not Rated.

1992 Zind Humbrecht, Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain, Alsace
This also sports a bit of petrol on the nose.  In the mouth is a nutty, bitter, and coconut start.  This wine has ample acidity providing a lively start then drier middle before the acidity returns in the end.  With air it fleshes out a bit to bring the acidity in balance.  *** Now but will last.

1982 Thorin, Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Chambolle-Musigny
Acquired from private collection by Acker Merrall & Condit.  Alcohol 11.9%-13.9%.  There is sweet fruit on the nose then violets and attractive, sweaty leather aromas.  In the mouth are sweet flavors that coat the tongue and a slight vibrancy.  A small example of a well-tasting old Burgundy.  *** Now.

1981 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Robert Haas Selections imported by Vineyard Brands.  This is in fine condition with sweet aromas and wood box complexity.  In the mouth are gently sweet flavors of perfumed strawberry which eventually take on fat.  There are pervasive flavors of leather, animale notes, blood, and an old-school perfumed aftertaste. **** Now – 2023.

1981 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape
No signs of seepage but cork was loose with a bit of wine on top of it.  Prominent volatile acidity and band-aids on the nose.  With air it cleans up a bit but can’t shape it.  The wine is fruity, supple, and weight but is marred by a band-aid flavor.  Not Rated.

1986 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  Lighter in color than the 1981.  In the mouth are surprisingly young, reddish fruit flavors, a grippy nature, and brighter acidity.  This wine has both more structure and youthful grip.  It is not yet at full maturity but is gaining fat.  ***(*) Now – 2027.

1978 Chateau Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe – $18.95
Shipped by Les Vieux Celliers.  Imported by  The Stacole Co.  Dried banana on the nose.  In the mouth this is more advanced with red fruit, bananas, old greenhouse infused flavors, and a short finish.  ** Now.

1983 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser, Reisling Auslese Abstberg  No. 125, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Acquired from a private collection by Chambers Street Wines.  Imported by Schenk USA.  Alcohol 9%.  Signs of seepage and the cork dropped in the bottle.  A beautiful orange color and attractive, scented marmalade nose.  Sadly it is undrinkable.  Not Rated.

A generous 17 year old Cotes du Rhone Villages

I was down to my last bottle of 2000 Domaine Les Aphillanthes, Cuvee du Cros, Cotes du Rhone Villages so when I saw it available on WineBid I grabbed a few bottles.  This is a dark, flavorful wine drinking at its peak which means it is very satisfying.  I love how Rhone wines can be pleasurable both in youth and maturity!

2000 Domaine Les Aphillanthes, Cuvee du Cros, Cotes du Rhone Villages –
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This is 100% Syrah aged in demi-muids. Alcohol 14.7%.  This is a generous wine with minerally black and red fruit accented by garrigue.  It still has power in reserve at this stage.  The fruit is plentiful and deep with the structure only noticeable towards the end.  Only bits of dry wood flavor peak through so the wine presents itself as a harmonious mouthful.  **** Now – 2019.

Old-school 1979 De Forville Barbaresco

I opened the 1979 De Forville, Barbaresco on a whim when I found out a dinner guest at our house is another wine lover.  I picked up this bottle from Chambers Street Wine a year or two ago on the recommendation of Jamie.  De Forville is a 19th century estate which, according to the Wasserman’s, produced this wine using the traditional methods of long skin contact and long cask aging.  The 1979 vintage was uneven but I suspect the traditional winemaking and careful storage ensured that it arrived at my table in fine shape.  This bottle fleshed out then peaked after 15 to 30 minutes.  It is more complex in the mouth and when opened up, reveals mouth filling old-school flavors.  I happily savored the last glass while I read a mystery book.

1979 De Forville, Barbaresco
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  Alcohol 13%.  The cranberry with mixed red fruit nose reveals that the wine is very much alive.  In the mouth the flavors of leather and red fruit soon flesh out a bit.  This is an old-school wine with plenty of grip and acidity.  It becomes more complex in the mouth adding black fruit, wood notes, and an inky bit.  It wraps up with ethereal ripeness in the aftertaste.  **** Now but will last.

A Blind Tasting of 2000 and 1996 Bordeaux with bottles of Dunn and Chave too

A few weeks back I was lucky to be a guest when Sotiris hosted his tasting group. We tasted seven wines blind of which one was a ringer.  Now I could not peg that we were tasting 2000 and 1996 Bordeaux but the 2001 Dunn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley did stick out for it is certainly different.  Though the flavor is good, the structure is rather intense at this point so I suggest cellaring it for years to come.

The 2000 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien is a particularly fine wine which you may drink now and over the coming years.  From the nose to the flavor and mouth feel I could not help but to enjoy it. I thought the 1996 Chateau Calon Segur, Saint-Estephe showed well too.  The nose demonstrates how it is entering a mature phase but the power and acidity will see this through for some time.  As for the other bottles, the 2000 Chateau Quinault, L’Enclos, St-Emilion is a wine to drink now whereas the 1996 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien needs time to come into its own. Our bottle of 1996 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Graves was sadly musty but the  2000 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage was spot on.  This group loves Rhone wines so what a treat to finish up with Chave.  This is a fine, impeccably balanced wine that is still very young in flavor but the saline and fat notes hint at future complexity.

1) 2000 Chateau Quinault, L’Enclos, St-Emilion
Imported by Wine Markets Intl.  Alcohol 13%.  A garnet hint in the glass.  There are hints of maturity on the nose, ripe fruit, minerals, and Kirsch.  The mature ripe start soon brings minerals but is not as expansive as I expected.  There is a prominent vein of acidity, some herbaceous flavors, floral middle then less apparent acidity and spices in the finish. ***(*) Now – 2022.

2) 2000 Chateau Magdelaine, St-Emilion
Imported by Maison Marques et Domaines. Alcohol 13%.  The nose is more subtle.  This is a redder wine with fuzzy cranberry and red berry flavors.  It has a core of sweet fruit in the middle then takes on more body, grip, and an herbaceous bit. *** Now – 2022.

3) 2000 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien
Imported by Bordeaux Wine Locators. Alcohol 13%.  This is a dark violet garnet color with an elegant nose.  There is power in the mouth which builds until the very finely textured flavors fill the mouth.  It also coats the mouth with structure.  Despite the strength this is an elegant wine with red fruit, minerals, and quite the aftertaste. **** Now – 2027.

4) 2001 Dunn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%.  There is a eucalyptus start followed by a red fruit burst with acidity.  The flavor is interesting and different than the others.  This is a powerful wine with very, finely coating flavor.  With air flavors of blue fruit develop, warmth, and fresh grip.  The very fine structure is intense and there is a bit of a rough patch with heat right before the finish. ***(*) 2020 – 2030.

5) 1996 Chateau Calon Segur, Saint-Estephe
Imported by Ginday Imports. Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose is fine and mature with a eucalyptus component.  The wine is bright with focused flavors of red fruit that takes on a citric hint in the middle.  With good power, the vein of acidity will see this wine develop for some time.  A lovely wine. **** Now – 2027.

6) 1996 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien
Imported by Calvert-Woodley. Alcohol 13%.  There is a tough of cream to the nose.  The tangy and ripe, powdery blue fruit builds grip as it leaves flavor on the gums.  Powerful structure.  With air the wine develops attractiveness as the components balance out. ***(*) 2020 – 2030.

7) 1996 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Graves
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13%.  The musty nose makes with to a mature, mouth filling wine.  The flavor is lighter, the structure is there, as is mineral and cedar box but no denying this is flawed.  Too bad.  Not Rated.

2000 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage
Imported by Langdon Shiverick.  This is a tense wine with a saline note that adds complexity to the red fruit.  The structure is perfectly integrated, the balanced impeccable.  With air a very fine perfumed finish makes way to an aftertaste of gently coating fat. **** 2022-2032.

For drinking now, the 1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage

February 19, 2017 Leave a comment

The 1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage is at a state where it drinks perfectly.  There are mature wine flavors, spices, and wood box delivered with a seductive round mouth feel.  The structure is fully resolved with enough acidity to leave a fresh impression.  In short, there is no reason to hold onto this Late Bottled Vintage any longer.  You may pull the cork and start drinking to satisfaction but if you give it a bit of air, it will improve a notch.

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1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage Port
Imported by Robert Hass Selections.  Alcohol 20%.  There is an ample volume of round, berry fruit with quite a lot of body present from the very beginning.  It is in a fully integrated state with vintage wine flavor, christmas spices, wood box, and some ripe brown sugar flavor.  Perhaps there is a softness to the round quality but the wine is still very fresh.  With air the sweet cream and Christmas spice is carried with a glycerin mouthfeel.  The rounded structure is fully resolved.  **** Now but will last.

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