Young Loire and Mature Cali

Our most recent dinner with Sudip and his family continued the tradition of tasting Californian wines from the 1977 vintage.  While I deal with the older bottles, I put out the 2014 Xavier Weisskopf, Le Rocher des Violettes, Petillant Originel, Montlouis-sur-Loire.  This refreshing bubbly offers spiced flavors in a young frame.  I would recommend cellaring it until this winter at the least.

Rutherford Hill Winery was founded in 1976, just one year before the vintage of our 1977 Rutherford Hill Winery, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley.  It became a partnership of winemakers and growers who had previously sold off their fruit to other wineries.  The roots of the winery date back even earlier and was known for a time as Souverain of Rutherford.  The original Souverain Winery was founded by Lee Stewart who ran it until 1970 when he sold it to Pillsbury Co.  Pillsbury maintained the original Souverain of Rutherford in Napa Valley as well as a new winery in the Alexander Valley of Sonoma County.  When Pillsbury sold off its wine assets in 1976, Rutherford Hill Winery was born of Souverain of Rutherford.  This is a particularly flavorful wine, I would guess some other varieties were included with the Pinot Noir.  It is savory and dark flavored but it is a bit on the simple side with a short finish.

The 1977 Estrella River Winery, Zinfandel, San Luis Obispo is only the second time I have drunk a bottle from this estate.  I do not come across many bottles so I was happy to pick this one up from Reid Wines of Bristol, England.  If this seems an odd place to find the wine, this bottle came from John Avery’s cellar.  Avery’s Wine Merchants was founded in the 18th century and became famous for importing New World wines during the 1960s and 1970s.  Estrella Rivery Winery received many awards for its wines during the 1970s but was rather under the radar.  Check out my post Three Californian Wines from the 1970s for just a tiny bit more detail.

For this particular bottle, the label was a bit beat up and the fill was just below the neck so not ideal.  Fortunately, the bottle stink rapidly blew off and over the course of half an hour, it blossomed in the decanter.  At best, it is an old-school bottle with lively, cranberry flavors and sweet wood notes.  Incredibly, it will drink at its peak for several more years.

Both bottles of 1977 were finished off.  While not exciting, they were nevertheless enjoyable which I count as a success.

2014 Xavier Weisskopf, Le Rocher des Violettes, Petillant Originel, Montlouis-sur-Loire – $25
Imported by Vintage ’59 Imports. This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc with zero dosage.  Alcohol 12.5%. Spiced flavors with a racy vein. The firm bubbles are intertwined with spices and a touch of apple. It is balanced with fresh acidity that makes it refreshing. *** Now – 2024.

1977 Rutherford Hill Winery, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.7%. It immediately offers dark and robust flavors. This bottle is in good shape with flavors evocative of a blend. It is savory and saline with bottle age reflected by the old leather and wood box flavors. It is ultimately a little simple and fades. ** Now.

1977 Estrella River Winery, Zinfandel, San Luis Obispo
Alcohol 12.5%. This benefits from half an hour of air becoming redder with sweaty notes and a spine of acidity. Cranberry flavors mix with cedar and sweet redwood. It is a mid-weight wine with old-school flavors. Pretty good! **(*) Now but  will last.

Top values from Bordeaux: Marsau and Clos Marsalette

Phil at MacArthur Beverages recommends the two wines featured in this post and so must I.  The 2015 Chateau Marsau, Cotes de Francs is a highly mineral, savory wine with an attractive nose of herbs.  It is a top value at $22, offering both personality and the ability to age for several years.  For me, the 2014 Clos Marsalette, Pessac-Leognan is all about satisfyingly deep aromas and supple, dark flavors.  This may be a forward wine but it still has tension.  It is the sort of wine I want to drink glass after glass of and worth every bit of $25.

2015 Chateau Marsau, Cotes de Francs – $22
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Merlot.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose of herbs evokes sage and thyme.  In the mouth there is a savory edge to this highly mineral wine.  There is a focused vein or core of ripe and dense black fruit.  There is  subtle perfume in the end with a cool, zippy finish.  The supportive structure leaves ripe, gum coating tannins and a spicy note.  It has strong personality!  ***(*) Now – 2025.

2014 Clos Marsalette, Pessac-Leognan – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 60% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Cabernet Franc fermented in wooden and concrete vats then aged for 18 months in 40% new oak.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A good nose of deep aromas.  In the mouth this is dark with licorice and cassis, a bit gravelly with tense freshness.  With air it is decidedly dark fruited with cassis and a eucalyptus/greenhouse hint.  The tannins are present yet completely integrated.  It takes on a cooler tilt with air.  This is a very satisfying, supple wine to be drunk now.  ***(*) Now – 2023.

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.

New selections from Day and Ojai

The pair of wines in this post were recently recommended by Andy at MacArthur Beverages.  The 2016 Day, Zinfandel, Sonoma County is a recent project of Ehren Jordan.  It is a pure style of wine which could be called elegant for Zinfandel.  I would drink it as a refresher over the next summer or two.  The 2014 The Ojai Vineyard, Grenache, John Sebastiano Vineyard, Santa Barbara County offers up a bit more complexity.  Given the age, I was a bit surprised that this is a serious wine in need of several more years in the cellar.  While it is of interest now, you will be best served by waiting.

2016 Day, Zinfandel, Sonoma County – $27
This wine is a blend of 95% Zinfandel and 5% Petite Sirah. Pure framboise (jelly!) and other red fruits with an edge of acidity. The flavors sharpen by the finish where it becomes tart, almost tense with a little spice.  A clean, fresh, almost elegant rendition of Zinfandel.  *** Now – 2021.

2014 The Ojai Vineyard, Grenache, John Sebastiano Vineyard, Santa Barbara County – $33
This wine is 100% Grenache.  Alcohol 13.5%. Dense with structure that is intertwined with the fruit. The textured, dry feeling in the mouth morphs into fine, almost bitter tannins by the finish. The wine is a touch savory with dense flavors of red and black fruits, firm acidity, and a pinon note. ***(*) 2021-2026.

Impressive Lirac from Mordoree

The 2016 Domaine de la Mordoree, La Dame Rousses, Lirac is a good wine from Lirac, a bit strong with some of the appellation’s hardness. However, Jenn and I soon moved on to and stayed with the 2016 Domaine de la Mordoree, Reine des Bois, Lirac.  I do not think I have previously tasted a Lirac this good.  The amount of flavor, depth, and balance are more akin to Chateauneuf du Pape.  You certainly will not confuse it for CdP but this wine is contemporary Lirac at a new level of quality.  I bought my two bottles at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Domaine de la Mordoree, La Dame Rousses, Lirac – $22
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils. This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. Alcohol 14.5%. The good, dense ripe fruit of blue and black fruit has an intense edge. There is strength in this wine through the baking spiced and structured finish. It is best drunk in one go. *** Now – 2024.

2016 Domaine de la Mordoree, Reine des Bois, Lirac – $40
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils. This wine is a blend of 40% Syrah, 30 Grenache, and 30% Mourvedre.  This has slow building depth with a plummy middle and finish of dark, concentrated berries. It is not intense like La Dame Rousses, rather it offers ample, balanced floral and creamy flavors. The tannins are ripe and impeccably integrated providing unintrusive support.  An impressive wine from Lirac. ****(*) Now – 2029.

A pair of Tablas Creek

Andy pointed out the 2017 Tablas Creek, Marsanne, Paso Robles because this is the first time the store has carried this wine and he thought it is quite good.  I agree!  Whenever my friends taste white Rhone wines, they always comment on how they should be drunk more frequently.  While not from the Rhone, this bottle of Tablas Creek should be on your list of wines to try.  It is exotic and complex on the nose with rounded and dense flavors that persist through the long finish.

White wine is always followed by red in my house so I accompanied the Marsanne with the 2007 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel, Paso Robles.  I found this a treat as well, for there are earthy, savory flavors delivered with verve.  It is just coming into mid-life so give it a good decant if you try it out this year.  You may find the Marsanne along with other bottlings at MacArthur Beverages.

2017 Tablas Creek, Marsanne, Paso Robles – $36
This wine is 100% Marsanne.  Alcohol 12.2%. An attractive golden color. The nose is floral and complex with stone fruits, lemon, and pineapple. The flavors are of focused white nuts, rounded with body. The stone fruits last through the long finish where dense, chalky flavors come out. This is a pure, fresh wine with excitement from the acidity. **** Now – 2024.

2007 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel, Paso Robles
This wine is a blend of 44% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 21% Syrah, and 6% Counoise.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Almost crisp with a touch of earth from the Mourvedre. Blue and mineral in the middle with some leather. It still has structure and is just entering mid-life. The cola-like verve matches the articulate and textured fruit. Satisfyingly savory. **** Now – 2029.

More Saint-Joseph: Gaillard and Paris

I’ll admit to being a little underwhelmed with the two bottles of Saint-Joseph featured in this post. The 2016 Pierre Gaillard, Saint-Joseph offers some intrigue with the earth and vintage perfume but there is more structure than flavor. A few years of age might dissolve this concern.  It is worth stocking away a few bottles at this price. The 2016 Domaine Vincent-Paris, Saint-Joseph les Cotes is grapey, fresh, and tart. It does not offer up much right now but there is pinon incense that I like. Neither bottle budged much over a few days. My recommendation is to cellar a few years before trying again.

2016 Pierre Gaillard, Saint-Joseph – $25
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 12.5%. The blue and red fruit flavors are earth upon opening then develop a note of vintage perfume. It is a brighter wine with an herbaceous edge to the fruit. The watering acidity matches the elegant flavors, which, at this point are surrounded by structure. If the fruit persists and the structure resolves, this could be quite interesting in a few years. *** 2021 – 2028.

2016 Domaine Vincent-Paris, Saint-Joseph les Cotes – $27
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 12.5%. Grapey and fresh this is a tart wine with crisp concentration and very fine tannins. It is not offering up much right now but I do like the pinon incense. **(*) 2021-2026.