The history of Mount Eden Vineyards reaches back to the final years of World War II when Martin Ray purchased several hundred acres of mountaintop land for a vineyard. Here he planted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Martin Ray eventually took on investors creating the Mount Eden Vineyard Corporation in 1960. The next two decades were a turbulent time until operations steadied in 1983 when Jeffrey Patterson became head winemaker. According to the winery website the 1980s was a period of replanting in the vineyard and experimenting in the winery.
From this early modern period hails my bottle of 1985 Mount Eden Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains. Despite the bin soiled label the fill was in the neck and cork perfectly firm. As usual when I encounter a new mature wine, I do not decant it. The nose cleans up to reveal aromas of sweet wood and berries. At first the wine is billowy, loose and marked by some bell pepper in the mouth, making me think it remained in bottle too long. With air, blue fruit develops and the whole becomes framed by structure which balances everything out. Despite this improvement the finish remains quite short. If you have any bottles lying about I suggest you drink them up.
1985 Mount Eden Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Alcohol 13%. After breathing there is a pleasing nose of some sweet wood and berries. In the mouth is a billowy start accented by a touch of bell pepper. The billowy red fruited flavors remain but wine does gain better focus with underlying blue fruit flavors and more noticeable acidity and structure towards the finish. It definitely balances out but the finish ultimately remains short. ** Now.
Today’s pair of wines recently hit the shelves thanks to Phil Bernstein. Always interested in expanding my Northern Rhone experience I excitedly popped open the 2011 Jean-Michel Gerin, Champin Le Seigneur, Cote-Rotie. Jean-Michel Gerin first worked under the advisement of Jean-Luc Colombo whose modern 2013 Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Bartavelles, Chateauneuf du Pape I recently tasted. From the onset Gerin employed “modern” ways including new oak some of which was American. The Champin Le Seigneur is a blend of Syrah and Viognier sourced from all of his parcels. Fortunately, this particular vintage is not evocative of oak. Instead, it is a gentle, pure wine of mixed fruits, floral notes, and stones. It is quite tasty right now but will develop with further age.
From Corsica comes the 2013 Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Cuvee Faustine. This blend of Sciaccarellu and Niellucciu provide attractive flavors of tart red fruity and dry floral notes. There are not many Corsican wines available in Washington, DC so this wine is worth a try. The balance tilts towards the structure with air so I suspect now might be the time to drink it. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2011 Jean-Michel Gerin, Champin Le Seigneur, Cote-Rotie -$45
Imported by Esprit du Vin. This wine is a blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier. Alcohol 13%. There are gentle clouds of ripe aroma. In the mouth the smooth, dense entry combines red and black fruit with an inky, mineral, stone infused middle. The interest continues as fat infused strawberry and floral flavors develop with air. ***(*) Now – 2027.
2013 Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Cuvee Faustine – $25
Imported by Kermit Lynch. This wine is a blend of 70% Sciaccarellu and 30% Niellucciu raised in stainless steel and cement. Alcohol 14%. The red fruited start defines itself with tart red fruit bound in a tangy structure. There are dry floral and herb notes but the structure really blooms in size. I Like the flavor profile with its very delicate and ethereal ripe berries on the gum and persistent herbs. *** Now – 2022.
The 2013 Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Bartavelles, Chateauneuf du Pape is available at a close-out price placing it just above that of Cotes du Rhone. If you enjoy a modern style of wine this is an excellent value with grapey, black fruit flavors, texture, and salivating acidity. It will drink well for a number of years. It is available at MacArthur Beverages.
Domaine Pierre Andre is regarded as a “very traditional producer” by John Livingstone-Learmonth. Pierre Andre did not use pesticides or herbicides in his vineyards which contain vines over 100 years of age. He produced organic wines since 1980 and Demeter certified since 1992. Today his daughter Jacqueline Andre runs the estate who continues the use of cement vats and old wood. Her father had a preference for late harvesting which comes through in the 1998 Domaine Pierre Andre, Chateauneuf du Pape. The nose is complex with fruit and in the mouth I am reminded of dry Port flavors. This is a substantial wine but it tastes good with a good sense of minerals, cedar, and pleasing texture.
2013 Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Bartavelles, Chateauneuf du Pape – $22
Imported by Palm Bay International. This wine is a blend of 45% Syrah, 35% Grenache, and 20% Mourvedre. Alcohol 13.5%. This is a modern style of wine with concentrated flavors of grapey, black fruit delivered with some grainy texture, density, and weight. It is bright in a sense with citric, puckering tannins, and a salivating black flavored finish with a hint of bitterness. *** Now – 2022.
1998 Domaine Pierre Andre, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Lauver Imports LTD. Alcohol 15%. The nose reveals blackberry and bramble fruitiness overlaying compote. In the mouth there are clean, grainy flavors of black fruit followed by a mineral middle and finish. The flavors are ripe, bordering on raisined, perhaps better described as a dry Port flavor. It is a bit heady but the wood box and cedar note, sense of density, and ripe tannins left on the gums are attractive. ***(*) Now – 2022.
It is possible that my introduction to the wines of Julien Sunier could not have been better given that they are from the 2015 vintage. I really like all three of his offerings and strongly suggest you buy them all. The 2015 Julien Sunier, Regnie is the wine to drink right now. It is dark and earthy in flavor with plenty of texture and even fat. You will return for glass after glass of tasty goodness. The 2015 Julien Sunier, Fleurie possess the most intensity with gobs of grip and structure which will see this wine through many years of development. You can drink it now, as an interesting comparison, but it is best left to age for another two to three years. The 2015 Julien Sunier, Morgon strikes a middle point, crisp yet textured with deep-red rather than dark fruit. It is not as fruity as the 2015 Lapierre, Morgon. It offers more structure for development but I do not think it will develop as long as the Fleurie will. Try them all! These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2015 Julien Sunier, Regnie – $30
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. Alcohol 13.5%. A bit earthy at first then raspberry candy and perfume. In the mouth is a somewhat rounded start which builds to impressive flavor which slowly expands until the finish. This is a supple wine, the weightiest of the trio, which matches the inky perfumed and dry aftertaste. There is a balance of texture, fruit, and stuffing such that this wine will live for years but the the fat and dark, coating flavors are attractive right now. ***(*) Now – 2021.
2015 Julien Sunier, Fleurie – $30
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. Alcohol 13.5%. This is a more mineral wine with a dry start of dark red fruit which exhibits gobs of grip. This is the most tannic and dry with a touch more yeasty flavor. There are notes of stones before the citric, almost tangy finish. It wraps up with a nice low, earthy tone (somewhat reminiscent of the Regnie) in the aftertaste. **** 2017 – 2026.
2015 Julien Sunier, Morgon – $30
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. Alcohol 13.5%. The brighter nose is perfumed. In the mouth is deep red fruit, minerals, and good grip. The tannins are there but so is a crisp acidity. The wine is full of character with some density to the bright, crisp, and subtly spiced flavor. **** Now – 2026.
I just tried, for the first time, the special 2013 Domaine Faury, La Gloriette, Saint-Joseph. Cuvee La Gloriette is the original old-vine Saint-Joseph cuvee of the Faury family. A traditional vinification in concrete vats with indigenous yeasts followed by oak aging results in a wine that entices you from the first sniff. To me this wine is all about a blend of fat covered red berries and stones. It drinks well after one to two hours of air but I suspect it will be even better next year. Produced from less than 1 hectare of vines there are only 400 cases of this wine available so be sure to snag some for your cellar or wine fridge while it is still available. You may find it at MacArthur Beverages.
2013 Domaine Faury, La Gloriette, Saint-Joseph – $35
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced largely from 40-60 year old vines on granite soils, fermented in concrete with indigenous yeasts then aged in oak. Alcohol 13%. The nose is engaging with aromas of fat draped red berries. There is a similar flavor in the mouth but more mineral. The flavors wind through the mouth becoming blacker and more stone infused until the end where some smoke comes out. The wine is in perfectly balanced and integrated at this point. ***(*) Now-2021.
A few of the Californian Chardonnays that I drink on a frequent basis were raised entirely in stainless steel. I find these wines can provide both the texture and weight that I enjoy. The 2015 Melville, Chardonnay, Clone 76 – Inox, Santa Rita Hills is another excellent example of this type of wine. The fruit is sourced from a 1.8 acre block of vines located on very sandy soils. The Melville wines were originally made by Greg Brewer but after his departure last year the wines are made by Chad Melville. This particular wine is charming once it warms up a bit. It is zippy with weight, picking up more fruit as it progresses. I preferred the wine on the first night rather than the second but do not be fooled, this wine will develop over the next few years. It is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2015 Melville, Chardonnay, Clone 76 – Inox, Santa Rita Hills – $35
This wine is 100% Chardonnay that was fermented for three months then aged on the lees in stainless steel tanks for 5 months. Alcohol 14%. With a rounded start, this grippy and zippy wine has nice weight to the mouth filling flavors. The flavors move through the finish where it picks up some berry fruit, fat, and nuts. ***(*) Now – 2021.
One should really drink all of the Chateau des Tours wines possible including the 2010 Chateau des Tours, Cotes du Rhone Blanc. Since tasted last summer, it is now drinking at its peak. This is a substantial white wine that delivers a luxurious mouthfeel which does not fall flat due to the acidity. I think it is perfect for a fall evening. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2010 Chateau des Tours, Cotes du Rhone Blanc – $30
This wine is 100% Grenache blanc. Alcohol 14%. There is the slightest yeast hint on the nose which is predominantly full of orchard fruit. The nose leaves you unprepared for the tropical fruit flavors that exist in a dense, glycerin filled body. Flavors of white nuts contribute to the luxury but there is also texture and fine acidity cutting through to the finish. It even develops a ripe berry note. **** Now.