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Favorites from Vacqueyras

While I enjoy the rugged nature of Gigondas, it is to Vacqueyras that I look for fruity delight.  For this post we tasted through several current offerings from the power packed duo of vintages: 2015 and 2016.  Priced between $22 and $30 these wines offer excellent quality and personality.  In general, I prefer the 2016 vintage, the wines have denser fruit and excellent acidity, which makes them more exciting to drink.  They also have the stuffing for age.  The 2015 have deep flavor but are less fruity with a dry and structured nature.  I suspect that they will last a long time but the peak drinking window will be shorter.

The 2016 Domaine les Amouriers, Signature, Vacqueyras is a modern styled, best buy.  It needs a few hours of air before the satisfying, deep note of flavor comes out.  You really must buy both the 2016 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras and 2016 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Floureto, Vacqueyras for drinking now and laying down.  Both of these are savory wines with the Bouissiere offering up kirsch and the Sang des Cailloux mixed berries.  The Bouissiere is a bit more exciting to drink right now but the Sang des Cailloux will unfurl with age.  The 2015 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras and 2015 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras are good too.  They are certainly more structured and I hope in an awkward state.  The Sang des Cailloux has an incredible, deep earthy flavor that I have come to love from this domaine.  Yet the wine holds back, preventing ultimate pleasure.

These wines can age well too.  This year alone I have probably drunk five bottles of 2000 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras.  It is perfectly mature, balanced, yet in no decline.  It is a fine example of what aged Vacqueyras brings.  All of these wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Domaine les Amouriers, Signature, Vacqueyras – $22 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by DS Trading Co. Inc. This wine is a blend of 56% Grenache, 34% Syrah, 7% Mourvedre, and 3% Cinsault. Alcohol 15%.  Clean and modern with somewhat robust fruit flavors.  With air an attractive, low-lying deep bass note of flavor is revealed.  Blue fruited at first, it is largely offers black fruit through the finish.  No earth notes to speak of but some herbs instead.  *** Now – 2030.

2016 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras – $27 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Dionysos. This wine is a blend of 51% Grenache, 33% Syrah, and 16% Mourvedre which is fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks.  It is then aged in a mixture of cement tank, barrels, and demi-muids.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Dark and grapey in color.  Fresh, lifted grapey aromas.  In the mouth this is a savory, weighty wine with a dense vein of grapey fruit.  With air it offers pure kirsch flavor and complicated perfume.  With mid-weight fruit, very fine and slightly spicy structure, this wine will develop over the short term then last for some time further.  ***(*) Now – 2035.

2015 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras – $30
Imported by Dionysos. This wine is a blend of 42% Grenache, 50% Syrah, and 8% Mourvedre which is fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks.  It is then aged in a mixture of cement tank, barrels, and demi-muids.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Dark aromas of damp soil.  Drier in flavor, matched by herbs, with tense acidity.  The flavors are focused through the long, spicy finish where tangy pithe from the fine structure comes out.  *** Now – 2030.

2016 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Floureto, Vacqueyras – $30 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre & Cinsault which is fermented in cement tank then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Savory and saline flavors of mixed berries.  The flavors are rounded, somewhat dense and creamy in the middle with a bit of juicy acidity in the end.  Cherries mix with a little wood note before fine structure coats the gums.  ***(*) Now – 2035.

2015 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras – $32 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre & Cinsault which is fermented in cement tank then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 14%.  Familial nose of berries with a touch of earth.  Dry flavors follow with cherry carried by watering acidity into a finish of strawberry candy and kirsch.  It is of good, deep flavor yet restrained in the palate preventing that next level of enjoyment.  Tangy in the finish it sports a fine structure that might outlast the fruit.  *** Now – 2024.

2000 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras –
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre & Cinsault which is fermented in cement tank then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 13.8%. Balanced, mouth filling flavors of blue fruit, minerals, and garrigue which are matched by supportive acidity.  Some earthy depth too.  It is fully mature with resolved structure but nowhere near decline.  **** Now but will last.

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.

Must-Try Gigondas from Domaine Palon

September 23, 2019 Leave a comment

Domaine Palon is a small estate with vineyards in Gigondas and Vacqueyras.  The family has produced wine since the 1930s but only began to bottle under their own label in 2003.  The two bottles featured in this post are my first experience with their Gigondas.  I will admit to being surprised when I took my first sip of the 2015 Domaine Palon, Gigondas.  Gigondas can be a bit of a beast when young, yet the 2015 vintage is drinking very well with the cool, rugged nature of the appellation.  It is deep in flavor and already complex with earth and stones.  The 2015 Vacqueyras is very good too so perhaps this should not be surprising.  The 2018 Domaine Palon, Gigondas is a different wine.  It revels in clean, fresh fruit with texture on the palate and crunchy acidity.  It requires several hours to open up.  The elevage appears to have changed so I suspect this will be a different sort of wine in three years as compared to the 2015.  Grab the one which is more appealing to your palate! These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Domaine Palon, Gigondas – $27
Imported by Misa Imports.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Aromas of spiced cherries and Kirsch.  In the mouth it immediately strikes a deep note with earthy blue minerals and very good maturing flavors from the start.  It is slightly spicy from the fine structure but it develops, showing Kirsch, spices, and cool fruit in the stone finish.  Dense yet beginning to mature, this is a wine to drink over the next decade.  **** Now – 2029.

2018 Domaine Palon, Gigondas – $25 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Misa Imports.  This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre of which 1/3 was aged for 6 months in foudre.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The grapey, concentrated fruit benefits from a few hours of air.  The wine reveals ripe textured tannins, creamy blue fruit, weighty flavor and deep black fruit.  There is a pebbly finish with crunchy acidity.  The wine is all in balance with a cool, fresh tilt.  Flavors of red and blue fruit oscillate with minerals into the finish.  ***(*) 2021-2031.

A Savory 2015 Fabrizio Pratesi, Carmione, Carmignano

September 21, 2019 Leave a comment

I always look forward to a bottle of Carmignano from Tuscany.  Once a bottle starts shedding its tannins, the blend of Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon can be deep and enjoyable.  The 2015 Fabrizio Pratesi, Carmione, Carmignano is one such example.  This delicious wine is on the upslope of development and will be enjoyable for several years to come.  I bought it at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Fabrizio Pratesi, Carmione, Carmignano – $28 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Degrazia Imports. This wine is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%. There are softening edges to the blue fruit but the stand-up acidity and supportive, woodsy structure will allow this wine to develop for several more years. The focused core of fruit persists through this savory, weighty wine. Deliciously Carmignano. ***(*) Now – 2029.

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 Solid Northern Rhone Value: 2018 Faury, Syrah

September 17, 2019 Leave a comment

The 2018 Lionel Faury, Syrah, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes balances both freshness and ripe fruit in the unmistakably Northern Rhone fashion.  It is a wine which is cool and elegant at first then you notice the expected floral notes followed by the desired, surprising suggestion of fat.  It could stand half a year in the cellar.  You may find this fine value at MacArthur Beverages.

2018 Lionel Faury, Syrah, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes – $22
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Alcohol 12%.  Slightly spiced flavors of black fruit gain subtle complexity from floral notes.  The wine is supported by just the right amount of ripe tannin and integrated acidity.  A fresh wine yet the ripeness contributes a layer of fat. It comes across as an early drinker but there is hesitation in the expression.  I suggest trying again in the depths of winter.  ***(*) Now – 2024.