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A Clos du Mont-Olivet Vertical: 2017 Cotes du Rhone back to 2005 La Cuvee du Papet

November 9, 2019 Leave a comment

I was a guest at the most recent blind tasting held by Phil’s tasting group.  Of the eight wines we tasted blind, one was a stinker, so we were left with seven bottles to deduce the theme.  Two of the wines, #5 and #8, were clearly Chateauneuf du Pape but the firmness of the younger vintages and stylistic difference of the ringer through me for a loop.  I will fess up that I had recently drunk wine #2 but I was still stumped.  In retrospect, the theme of Clos du Mont-Olivet can be appreciated.

The Sabon family have been making wine at Clos du Mont-Olivet since 1932 with the estate now run by Thierry  Sabon.  The tasting featured one vintage of Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes, one vintage of Châteaneuf du Pape, and five vintages of Châteauneuf du Pape La Cuvee du Papet.  The Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes we tried is a typical blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 10% Carignan mostly sourced from vineyards planted in 1950.  The fruit is partially destemmed then fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks followed by aging in used foudre, demi-muids, and tanks.  The Châteaneuf du Pape is a typical blend of 80% Grenache with Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault rounding things out.  The fruit is partially destemmed then fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks.  It is aged in in foudre.  The top wine of the estate is La Cuvee du Papet which is only made in the best vintages.  It is a typical blend of 75% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah sources from multiple parcels.  The vines range in age from 30 to 100+ years of age since the oldest parcel of Grenache was planted in 1901.  The fruit is partially destemmed then fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks followed by aging in used foudre and demi-muids.

The 2017 Clos du Mont-Olivet, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Rhone is an excellent follow-on to the 2016 vintage.  It is, however, a wine which needs time to develop and should drink well for a few years.  The best wine to drink now and one of my favorites of the tasting is the awesome 2005 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape.  Even better is the 2010 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape.  This superlative pair offers a wine that has just hit its mature phase, the 2005, and a wine shedding its youth, the 2010.  I went back to these bottles multiple times simply to drink them.  I recommend you buy some so you can as well!  Worth cellaring, is the very young yet outstanding 2016 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape.  It has all the components for developing but is still firm.  I’d give it several years of age at which point it should be obvious if it is as great as the 2010.  Many thanks to Phil for hosting such an excellent tasting.

Blind #1 – 2017 Clos du Mont-Olivet, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Rhone –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 14.5%.  Grapey scents on the nose.  A young wine in the mouth with flavors of black and purple fruit with fine, dry and bitter structure in the end.  With air it rounds and balances out.  The ripe fruit has a touch of sweetness from a vanilla component.  The flavors of blueberries and violets is carried by watering acidity.  This is a mid-term ager that should significantly improve over the winter.  *** Now – 2027.

Blind #2 – 2016 Clos du Mont-Olivet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 15%.  A good nose of red fruits.  In this mouth this is a big wine with a spine of acidity.  With air it opens up a touch offering creamy flavors of violets, black fruit, and a little wood box.  With good depth it becomes firm in the end as a spicy structure comes out.  It should be cellared.  This bottle is tighter than a previous bottle I tried.  ***(*) 2023- 2034.

Blind #3 – 2016 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 15%.  An aromatic nose of blue fruits.  In the mouth this is a big wine with fine, strong tannins, and a powerful wave of flavor through the finish.  Like the regular CdP, this is closely packed and in need of age.  With air the wine has all of the components clearly focused for development.  It is savory, intense, and even a little spicy.  ****(*) 2024- 2039.

Blind #4 – 2015 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 15%.  A deeper, meaty nose.  A watering start then the wine falls flat, compared to other vintages, offering vintage perfume notes, wood box, and baking spice.  There are ample, fine and dry tannins.  With air it improves to be lush yet not voluptuous with a deep, dry finish.  The structure remains prominent compared to the fruit weight.  A good wine in all respects but clearly overshadowed by the 2016. For the mid-term. ***(*) Now – 2029.

Blind #5 – 2010 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 15%.  Saline and dense, this wine packs in tons of flavors right through the powerful end.  though powerful, it keeps focused with creamy bits, luxurious fat, and wood box maturity.  It is still so young but is clearly a great wine.  Unlike the outstanding 2005, this has the intensity of youth which hits the throat with a dose of fruity raspberries.  ***** Now – 2034.

Blind #6 – 2010 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Polished on the nose.  In the mouth it is a little saline, dry and tart with red, citric fruit.  It has fine focus for the long-haul with polished wood tannins.  With air there is a subtle, lifted hint of fat, wood box, and a killer finish.  This wine will be slow to develop.  **** 2023-2039.

Blind #7 – 2006 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 14%.  A stinker, smells like air make it through the cork.  Can’t stand it.  Not Rated.

Blind #8 – 2005 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 14%.  Taking on some garnet in the glass.  A good nose.  The ripe fruit and fine wood box notes are clearly part of a more complex Southern Rhone wine.  It lovely with young power that comes through.  Fat and weighty flavors drape on the tongue with a sweet middle.  This is a Chateauneuf du Pape with tons of future potential but you can enjoy it now became it has some bottle age flavor and concentrating ripeness.  ****(*) Now – 2034.

An Additional Blind Wine – 1998 Domaine Bois De Boursane, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Alcohol 13.5%.  Some umami mixing with red fruit and watering acidity into the salty, firm finish.  There is good flavor for drinking right now.  If you decant drink quickly.  *** Now.

Seriously good: 2017 J.L. Chave Selection, Mon Coeur, Cotes du Rhone

November 2, 2019 Leave a comment

Cotes du Rhone prices seem to be ticking up this fall (independent of new tariffs).  If I must spend more on a daily-drinker then I want something serious.  The 2017 J.L. Chave Selection, Mon Coeur, Cotes du Rhone fits the bill.  Ultimately recommend by a fellow wine friend, this is ideal Cotes du Rhone: it drinks well right now and will continue to do so for years to come as it gains bottle age complexity.  I have already gone through several bottles myself!  Though not in one sitting.

2017 J.L. Chave Selection, Mon Coeur, Cotes du Rhone – $18 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Erin Cannon Selections.  This wine is a blend of Syrah and Grenache sourced from vines both in and around Chateauneuf du Pape.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Earth notes with some sweet wood box.  A structured wine with wood tannins which frame fresh and juicy fruit flavors.  Firm flavors of black cherry start then a red fruit component gets lift from the the tart acidity.  Though attractive now, with easy-going generous fruit, these flavors are balanced by structural components which will support further age.  ***(*) Now – 2029.

A trio of interesting wines featuring Macabeau, Lledoner Pellut, and Carignan

November 1, 2019 Leave a comment

The three wines featured in this post are all imported by Cason Love of the new firm Terres Blanches Wine Merchants.  I have never tried a wine from any of these producers which is not surprising given Love’s focus on small production vignerons from the south of France.  The No. 18 La Soula, Trigone white hails from Fenouilledes in French Catalonia.  It is an interesting blend of both grapes and vintages.  Once open, it drinks well for several days consistently delivering an interesting progression of mouthfeel from start to finish.  It tastes good too!  Also from Fenouilledes is the 2018 Domaine Benastra, La Petite Soeur, Cotes Catalanes.  It is a brighter cherry and strawberry flavored wine, which will develop through the winter.  From Hautes-Corbieres, the 2018 Domaine des Deux Cles, Cles en Main sports darker fruit and youthful ruggedness yet is bright in acidity.  With a good nose and some herbs and fat in the finish, I recommend tracking the progression of this wine.  Overall, good wines at strong prices for a new portfolio.

No. 18 La Soula, Trigone white – $22 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Terres Blanches Wine Merchants.  This wine is a blend of 45% Macabeau, 31% Vermentino, 22% Sauvignon blanc, and 2% Grenache blanc, Marsanne, and Roussane from vines on soils of decomposed granite.  It is blended from the 2018 and 2017 vintages.  It was raised in a mixed of tank, oak tanks, and oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%. A very light, straw color.  Fresh in the mouth with good acidity lifting the bright, white fruit.  As the wine progresses it develops into a weighty, creamy middle followed by a lemon flavored finish with chalk and stones.  With air it takes on a touch of earth and good body.  Articulate in flavor this is my favorite of the trio.  ***(*) Now – 2023.

2018 Domaine Benastra, La Petite Soeur, Cotes Catalanes – $15 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Terres Blanches Wine Merchants.  This wine is a blend of 40% Lledoner Pellut, 20% Carignan, 20% Syrah, and 20% Grenache Noir fermented in stainless-steel and concrete tanks then aged in concrete tank and oak casks.  .  Alcohol 13%. A little bit of cherry and strawberry at the start then tart, citric acidity mixes to become more acidity driven and dry in flavor by the finish.  It develops a black cherry flavor and some baking spices.  The pithey structure on the gums should help see this open up with a bit of age.  *** Now – 2023.

2018 Domaine des Deux Cles, Cles en Main – $18 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Terres Blanches Wine Merchants.  This wine is a blend of Carignan and Syrah fermented and aged in a mixture of concrete and stainless-steel tanks. Alcohol 14%.  Mulberry on the nose and dark red fruit in the mouth.  Medium bodied with bright acidity and tart flavor it brings on attractive herbs and a touch of fat by the finish and baking spices in the aftertaste.  It is a little rugged in its youth, lending attraction, and should develop over the winter.  *** Now – 2023.

Thirst Quenching 2018 Le Sincette, Gropello

October 17, 2019 Leave a comment

If you are looking for a refreshing glass of wine to calm trembling arms from raking fall leaves then grab the 2018 Le Sincette, Gropello, Garda.  Even if you have not performed any physical activity and simply want some wine in the vein of a young Beaujolais, then grab a bottle as well.  The flavors are grapey, as if from young wines, but the wine is seriously made. Check it out!


2018 Le Sincette, Gropello, Garda – $19 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by La Storie Wines.  This wine is 100% Gropello Gentile fermented and aged for four months in small cement tanks and oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  This is a juicy, young, thirst-quenching wine that is grapey yet serious.  The flavors are rounded with a grapey style throughout and a baking spiced finish.  An honest wine of good length.  **  Now.

Articulate Garnacha from Spain

October 15, 2019 Leave a comment

Telmo Rodriguez is perhaps commonly known for his work at his family winery Remelluri in Rioja.  However, he also spends time exploring Spain for historic vineyards which he restores then produces exceptional wine from.  In 1999, he discovered old Garnacha bush vines on the slopes near the village of Cebreros located in Sierra de Gredos west of Madrid.  Incredibly, the vines were abandoned.  Some of the vines are located on slate whereas others are on granite.  The entry-level 2016 Pegaso, Zeta, Sierra de Gredos, Castilla y Leon stems from vines located on both types of soil.

I found the wine fresh to begin with and quite drinkable.  After an hour the various components come into play.  The fresh fruit and acidity match the textured structure.  The understated complexity speaks of future development.  I strongly recommend you give it a try, for it is unusually expressive at such a price.

2016 Pegaso, Zeta, Sierra de Gredos, Castilla y Leon – $19 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by de Maison Selections.  This wine is 100% Garnacha sourced from 60% year old vines located on soils of red slate and granite at ~900m.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts in French barrels then aged in a mixture of foudre, stainless steel tanks, and barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This is a finely textured wine which is bright with stone-infused red fruit.  With air it builds to become mid-weight yet remains fresh with understated complexity.  It is black flavored towards the finish with some grip and pebbly textured structure on the gums.  ***(*) Now – 2029.

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.

An Honest Pair from Domaine de Fontsainte

September 29, 2019 Leave a comment

This pair of recent offerings from Domaine de Fontsainte exhibit distinct personalities at low prices. That is no easy feat.  The 2016 Domaine de Fontsainte, Reserva la Demoiselle, Corbieres  is mostly Carignan sourced from 100+ year old vines.  It is a wine to drink now and though generous in flavor, it has supportive acidity, and a good dose of provencal herbs.  The 2018 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres is crisp with an interesting blend of brown sugar and mineral, black fruit.  I like the flavor and the acidity profile.  It should be even better this winter.  If you can only purchase on bottle then I would just grab the one which sounds more like your style.  I bought these two bottles at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Domaine de Fontsainte, Reserva la Demoiselle, Corbieres – $17 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 60% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, and 10% Mourvedre.  The Carignan vines were planted in 1904 and the fruit alone undergoes carbonic maceration. The wine is then aged in a mixture of cement tank and French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  Effusive and approachable from the very first glass.  It is blue fruited at first then turns towards tart raspberry and blackberry in flavor.  It is a tangy wine with some supportive structure but is largely a wine that is ready to drink.  It is dense in the middle with lemon/citric acidity, and solid finish. It evokes the south with its provencal herbs.  *** Now – 2020.

2018 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres – $15 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 60% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, and 10% Syrah aged in French oak barrels.  Again, the Carignan undergoes carbonic maceration.  Alcohol 14%.  There is a core of brown-sugared, ripe, black fruit which leans towards a mineral, blacker fruited finish.  There is good freshness from the watering acidity.  It takes on hints of cream and stone.  Though a crisp wine it should improve over the short-term.  **(*) Now – 2023.