A pair of Spanish wines purchased in MoCo

I was in need of some beer to bring to my mom’s annual Shark Week BBQ.  This gave me cause to stop by local beer and wine stores in Montgomery County which is an exceedingly rare event for me.  To my surprise I found a couple of bottles imported by The Rare Wine Co which are, of course, priced high given the county I live in.  At the correct price the 2014 Olivares, Altos de la Hoya, Jumilla is a fine bargain which will continue to develop through the end of the year.  It is a bit tight and structured right now but it is still enjoyable at this time.  The 2014 Bernabeleva, Camino de Navaherreros, Madrid is far more open and generous than the previous vintages I have tasted.  You can drink the Bernabeleva while the Olivares ages!

2014 Olivares, Altos de la Hoya, Jumilla
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is 90% Monastrell sourced from old ungrafted vines and 10% Grenache fermented in stainless steel then aged 6 months in French oak barrels. Alcohol 14%.  Black fruited, fresh, and structured this left the impression that it could stand another half year to open up.  **(*) 2018-2021.

2014 Bernabeleva, Camino de Navaherreros, Madrid
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is old-vine Garnacha fermented in foudre.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The mixture of red and blue fruits is completely open and generous from the first pour.  There are no hard edges since the wine combines supple and juicy aspects.  **(*) Now – 2018.

I like my Sutter Home Zinfandel red and from the 1970s

Our dinners with Sudip have come to a reasonable arrangement for all.  The kids play for hours, Sudip provides the meal, and I provide the old wine.  Though purely by coincidence it is worth noting that Sudip has won handsomely at poker on days when his games begin or end on our dinner evenings.

One theme we continue to visit at each dinner are the Californian wines from the 1977 vintage.  In picking the wines for our latest dinner I could not but help to bring the 1977 Sutter Home Winery, Zinfandel, Amador County.  As we last had success with Martin Ray I also included the NV Martin Ray, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Montana, Cuvee 5 and to match the lack of vintage date I paired it with the NV Preston Vineyards, Red Table Wine, Sonoma County.

Sutter Home has a history dating back to the late 19th century but for our bottle, produced by the Trinchero family, that history begins in 1946.  It is then that the family purchased the old winery then set about revitalizing it such that they produced over 40 different wines including the one gallon variety.

Bob Trinchero became winemaker in 1960.  When he made his first zinfandel in 1968 he knew that was the direction he wanted the winery to go.  The wine was released with great success in 1971.  By 1973 only red Zinfandel, white Zinfandel, and Muscat were being produced.

Throughout the 1970s Sutter Home Zinfandels were amongst the highest rated Zinfandels at the Los Angeles County Fair and as such frequently appear in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post.  The earliest vintages saw up to three years of age in wood.  The aging period was reduced, in an effort to gain complexity, with the 1978 vintage achieving the desired results.

When Bob Trinchero first began to make Zinfandel, it was viewed as a lesser grape and the fruit did not command the same prices as Cabernet Sauvignon.  Amador County Zinfandel sold for $68 per ton in 1968 climbing up to $400-$500 per ton in 1980.  By this point Amador County Zinfandel was considered “the biggest, richest, spiciest, and most intensely flavored red wines” produced in America.[2]

There is little in print about the specific bottling of 1977 Sutter Home Zinfandel we tried.    Bob Trinchero notes that winemakers were producing big, alcoholic wines almost to the point of “absurdity” at the time.  It is the intense heat of Amador County which regularly produced wines of alcohol content starting at 14%.  Trinchero does state that Sutter Home made one Zinfandel in 1977 with an alcohol content of 17%.[3]  This wine “stained enamel”.  Sadly the 1977 was not included in the 11 vintage lineup of Sutter Home Zinfandel tasted by William Rice in 1980.

The need for age is a common description found for young Sutter Home Zinfandels from the 1970s.  Our bottle of 1977 Sutter Home Winery, Zinfandel, Amador County still contains obvious structure and cherry flavors delivered in a firm manner.  It is not the most complex wine but all of those years of oak aging will enable it to readily live on for a long time.

Not of the same staying power is the NV Martin Ray, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Montana, Cuvee 5.  This bottle was originally offered during the early 1980s.  It is a generous and interesting blend of old-school funk with modern clean fruit.  I found the combination appealing.  Most likely from the same period the NV Preston Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon Red Table Wine, Sonoma County is a fun drink for the first hour.  During this period the tangy and weighty red fruit is thoroughly enjoyable.  While not as complex as the Martin Ray it is quenching and deserves marks for that.

1977 Sutter Home Winery, Zinfandel, Amador County
Alcohol 13%.  This is structured and firm with predominant cherry flavors which are accompanied by black fruit in the end.  There is a bit of zip and certainly a structure of fine, drying textured tannins.  With air a decent nose develops.  The wine remains solid but has some grip and certainly tart, cherry candy notes.  ** Now but will easily last.

NV Martin Ray, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Montana, Cuvee 5
This wine is a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Merlot.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose combines enjoyable old-school funk with modern dark fruit aromas.  In the mouth this is very lively with rounded, old school flavors that come across as juicy and weighty.  There is even some earth.  The blue-fruited finish shortens up a bit but it is balanced overall.  *** Now.

NV Preston Vineyards, Red Table Wine, Sonoma County
This wine is perhaps mostly Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose offers tart cherry and incense.  This is a very strong offering right out of the bottle with tangy red fruit that is delivered with some authoritative weight.  The fresh tang leaves an impression a good impression.  The wine is quite good for the first hour then it fades and falls apart a bit.  *** Now for the first hour.


[1] Rice, William. WINE: Zinfandels Find A Home at Sutter WINE. The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Washington, D.C. [Washington, D.C]27 Apr 1980: K1.

[2] THE NEW AMERICAN WINES: Intense Zinfandels Of the Sierra Nevada Wine Talk
By TERRY ROBARDS. New York Times (1923-Current file); Jun 11, 1980; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. C1

[3] Hicke, Carol.  Interview with Louis “Bob” Trinchero in 1991. “California Zinfandels, A Success Story”.  The Wine Spectator Californian Winemen Oral History Series.

I mistake Oregon Pinot Noir for Spatburgunder

Lou asked me to bring just one bottle to a blind Pinot Noir themed tasting.  The weather was temperate so we started off with 2009 Pichler-Krutzler, Gruner Veltliner, Frauengarten, Wachau while we moved our food, bottles, and glasses outside.  Made by the son-in-law and daughter of F. X. Pichler this bottle has killer aromas that alone warrant opening a bottle.  I guess Gruner can age!

All of the wines were brown bagged save the 1983 Prince Florent de Merode, Corton Clos du Roi.  The cork fell in when Lou stood it up so we tried it out of curiosity.  Proper bottles are probably good.

The first blind wine was certainly of an earlier generation.  Schug Winery was founded in 1980 by Walter Schug who was the founding winemaker at Phelps in the 1970s.  The 1981 Schug Cellars, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley is an early example of his efforts which will continue to last for many years thanks to the impressive structure.  It is a bit curious but still a respectable glass of wine.  Much younger and in complete contrast the 2002 Cameron, Clos Electrique offers impressive amounts of sweet, strawberry compote flavors.  This bottle is in peak shape and prime drinking.

In retrospect the 2007 Albert Morot, Beaune Toussaints 1er Cru is clearly French with its aromas.  There is a bit of everything but the linear personality restrains the pleasure.  The 2006 Antica Terra, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley is in taller bottle but I mistook it for Austrian Spatburgunder due to the plentiful, bright fruit.  It continued to evolve, gaining complexity even on the second night.  Also from Oregon, the 2005 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley is the youngest of all the wines we tasted.  It reminds me of an Oregon Pinot Noir, in my limited experience, and suggest you wait a bit longer in case it relaxes.

Thanks again to Lou for such a fun evening!

2009 Pichler-Krutzler, Gruner Veltliner, Frauengarten, Wachau
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This is 100% Gruner Veltliner from 15-35 year old vines, fermented and aged on the lees in stainless steel.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The light golden color does not suggest the excellent nose full of textured aromas.  In the mouth there is a focused, almost crisp start with white fruit, chalk, and stones by the middle.  There is a nice amount of acidity in this mature wine.  With air it develops nutty flavors and sports a moderate amount of weight from nuts and fat.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

1983 Prince Florent de Merode, Corton Clos du Roi
Imported by Robert Haas.  The cork fell in when the bottle was stood up leaving a stinky nose but surprisingly round, sweet fruit in the mouth.  Not Rated.

A) 1981 Schug Cellars, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
This smells mature with a hint of menthol.  In the mouth is up-front dense fruit flavors followed by a wintergreen freshness and perfumed aftertaste.  What is striking is the whopping structure of drying tannins which seems like a combination of stem inclusion and oak.  On the second night it remains firm with tangy red fruit and of course the structure.  ** Now-2027.

B) 2002 Cameron, Clos Electrique
Alcohol 13.3%.  The nose is quite mature.  In the mouth are quickly building flavors of sweet strawberry compote.  The quantity and quality of fruit is excellent and in great shape.  This is matched by juicy acidity and a little spicy hint in the softer finish.  Good bottle.  ***(*) Now – 2019.

2007 Albert Morot, Beaune Toussaints 1er Cru
Imported by Robert Kacher.  Alcohol 12%.  Some sweet aromas, oak, mushrooms, and a touch of earth.  With air there is a wood incense note.  The mouth reveals dark red fruit, watery acidity, and a tight core of black fruit leaving a linear impression.  It eventually sports some grip and a little cola and spice note.  It remains firm.  **(*) Now – 2023.

2) 2006 Antica Terra, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
Alcohol 14.4%.  The darker and younger looking in color.  The interesting, ample nose is very fresh and clean.  In the mouth are gobs of fruit flavors that slowly open to reveal ripe, complex flavors.  Substantial in a way but not heavy at all thanks to the brightness.  The acidity is perfectly balanced.  The flavors persist in the aftertaste.  **** Now – 2027.

3) 2005 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley
Alcohol 14%.  This is a light grapey red color.  In the mouth are controlled flavors of ripe and perfumed black fruit.  Fine tannins develop by the finish as does a bitter, citrus note.  This tastes the youngest of all the wines and with extended air remains structured compared to the Antica Terra. *** Now – 2025.

Lou guesses Italian, I guess Bordeaux

I went over to Lou’s house a few weeks ago.  We each brown bagged a few wines for each other to guess.  We only skirted with brilliance, informally I would say we are closer in guessing vintages than the regions the wine came from.  I brought the Rhone trio because negociants were still in their heydey at the end of the 1970s.  This clearly evident in the basic 1979 Paul Jaboulet-Aine, Crozes-Hermitage which is in absolutely fine shape today.  My brother-in-law’s guess that the bottle contained mature Cotes du Rhone is on the mark.  From an excellent vintage the 1978 Paul Jaboulet Aine, La Grand Pompee, Saint-Joseph is deeply aromatic and powerful.  Today it is very bloody on the nose and simpler in the mouth but I suspect it was a brute in youth.  It fell apart before the Crozes.  In case we needed confirmation that the Jaboulet Aine Crozes is a good wine I opened the miserable bottle of 1979 Cave des Clairmonts, Crozes-Hermitage.

I guessed Washington state for the 1996 Ridge, Grenache ATP, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley.  Clearly an excellent wine, it remains attractively aromatic yet continues to expand in flavor for hours.  After a few hours of air it becomes racy and texture.  I suspect this wine will develop for another year or two.  The 1998 Meerlust, Merlot, Stellenbosch confused me.  The salty start reminded me of certain Syrah based wines but the herbaceousness had me leaning towards a minor wine from Bordeaux.  It is surprisingly unevolved but it may never actually arrive at maturity.

1979 Paul Jaboulet-Aine, Crozes-Hermitage
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons.  Alcohol 12%.  There is a good nose of mature Rhone fruit that persists until the bottle is finished.  In the mouth are rounded, perfumed flavors with a clear amount of good blue fruit and spices still present.  It finishes with some menthol gum freshness.  *** Now.

1978 Paul Jaboulet Aine, La Grand Pompee, Saint-Joseph
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose is metallic at first then it remains deeply aromatic evoking blood and iron.  It is tangy on the nose.  There is a bright fruit start then a black fruited middle moved by watering acidity.  The wine has power but the flavors become simpler towards the end.  The strength of the vintage comes through but the wine has seen better days.  * Now.

1979 Cave des Clairmonts, Crozes-Hermitage
This smells disjointed and tastes clunk, as if sweetness was added.  Poor.

1996 Ridge, Grenache ATP, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley
This wine is a blend of 92% Grenache, 6% Zinfandel, and 2% Petite Sirah.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This is a touch lighter in color making it medium garnet.  The wine changes with air for several hours, all the while maintaining a lovely nose of mixed berries and spice.  In the mouth is a ripe and perfumed start followed by a brief period of austerity.  It soon becomes racy with ripe flavors and power complemented by a fine texture and spiced finish.  This is a enjoyable wine just about to enter its mature plateau.  **** Now – 2023.

1998 Meerlust, Merlot, Stellenbosch
Imported by Cape Classics.  Alcohol 13%.  This looks young in the glass and still has a purple, grapey dark core.  The dark, salty start is interesting then the wine turns almost bitter with bits of green herbaceousness and very fine, drying tannins. It remains firm, never opening up.  ** Now but will last.

Continue to cellar your 2011 Rudius Wines, Fion Bainise

Lou kindly shared this bottle of 2011 Rudius Wines, Fion Bainise, North Coast with me.  Good timing as I had tasted some Rudius Syrah not too long ago with Mannie Berk.  I tried this particular bottle of Fion Bainise on the second and third nights.  At first it came across as a firm, clean take on a Grenache and Mourvedre blend.  On the third night is was quite enjoyable leaving the strong impression that this wine will develop and open up over the next couple of years.

2011 Rudius Wines, Fion Bainise, North Coast
This wine is a blend of 75% Grenache, 23% Mourvedre, and 2% Syrah.  Alcohol 14.8%. The nose is generally higher toned with hints of dust but the Grenache richness is there.  With extended air there is focused ripeness but it takes some effort to work out the black fruit and spices.  The flavors turn black towards the finish with a hint of bitterness.  It wraps up by leaving fine plus drying tannins on the gums and a spicy impression. Cellar further.  *** 2018-2027.

2015 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Petalos, Bierzo offers a cloud of good flavor

I am completely buried by work and our kitchen renovation, the former of which is unfortunate as it has taken me a week to post my impressions of the 2015 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Petalos, Bierzo.  This Petalos is another serious vintage of Mencia.  The black fruit, minerals, and violet notes are attractive now but this is a wine which will certainly improve with time.  If you like to cellar your wine then this is a great value.  It is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Petalos, Bierzo – $25
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. This wine is 100% Mencia. Alcohol 14%.  This wine possesses lurking power that moves the flavors of black fruit and minerals.  There is a powdery texture with hints of a very fine structure.  With air you are presented with an up front flavor cloud that adds in violets towards the end.  It tastes younger with air and I suspect will open up during the winter.  ***(*) Now – 2027.

The 2016 Saint Cosme, Cotes du Rhone is an exciting preview of a new vintage

The 2016 Saint Cosme, Cotes du Rhone is an exciting introduction to the excellent 2016 Rhone vintage.  This wine is 100% Syrah which was aged for six months in cement tanks making it one of the earliest examples of the vintage available to drink.  It offers deep grapey, fresh flavors with additional complexity from hints of fat and minerals. That is a lot to offer at $13 per bottle!  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Saint Cosme, Cotes du Rhone – $13
Imported by Winebow.  This wine is 100% Syrah which was fermented in then aged in cement vats for six months.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This grapey, fresh wine has a fine texture that makes it palpably thick with suggestions of racy flavors.  It wraps things up with a minerally blue finish.  There are some tannins and fat but the grapey flavor indicates it should be drunk young.  With air the depth of the flavor is evident throughout.  *** Now – 2019.