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Four From France

March 27, 2013 1 comment

I need to clear out some recent tasting notes.  This is a good thing for these four wines were all enjoyable.  The Domaine Clos du Rouge Gorge was purchased at Chambers Street Wines with the rest at MacArthur Beverages.

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2011 Terrasses du Frigoulet, Coteaux du Languedoc – $11
Imported by Monsieur Touton.  This wine is a blend of 35% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre.  The color was a light, grapey ruby.  The light nose was fresh and young with grapey fruit aromas.  The mouth follows the nose with some density, integrated acidity, and black berries.  There were some fine, spiced ripe tannins in the finish.  It shows some lift and good power.  *** 2014-2018.

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2011 Domaine de Fondreche, Fayard, – $15
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 20% Mourvedre.  Alcohol 14%.  The light to medium strength nose came out of the glass with pungent aromas of berries.  There was ripe, almost sweet, mixed fruits in the mouth. It was a mouthful of flavor which was a little spicy, mixing with the robust berries.  The flavors turned blacker with some raciness.  Drying, ripe tannins came out in the sweet, spicy finish.  The aftertaste carried a spicy cinnamon note.  **(*) Now-2019.

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2011 Domaine Clos du Rouge Gorge, Cotes Catalanes – $18
Imported by Fruit of the Vines.  This wine is 100% Grenache sourced from 25-year-old vines.  It was pressed by foot, vinified for three months in old wooden vats, then aged for eight months in stainless steel.  Alcohol 13%.  The color was an almost medium grapey ruby.  The light nose bore purple, grapey fruit and cherry perfume.  The mouth had grapey fruit with a medium bodied, young nature.  There was some lightness which matched the acidity on the tip of the tongue.  The flavors became drier towards the finish.  It eventually takes on a little, attractive earthy note.  **(*) 2014 – 2018.

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2005 Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes, Vacqueyras – $25
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is a blend of 90% Grenache sourced from 90+ year old vines and 10% Syrah sourced from 30-year-old vines.  It was aged for one year in old oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose was light with black fruit and smoke.  In the mouth there was blue and black fruit along with Big Red flavors.  Despite the healthy dose of wood this was an attractive wine with its spicy oak notes.  There were fine, strong coating tannins and a little warmth in the finish.  It firmed up with air with the fruit becoming dense and leaving impressions of rough, wood box flavors.  *** Now-2023.

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Three Affordable French Red Wines

September 11, 2012 Leave a comment

I plan to use this week to catch up on various tasting notes from August.  It is not that I tasted more wine over the summer, rather I spent more time relaxing rather than typing up tasting notes on my computer.  I picked up these three French wines during my recent trip to Unwined on King Street. With all of these priced the same I would recommend purchasing the Domaine Lafage followed by the Clos du Mont-Olivet. The Domaine Lafage shows the warmth of the Roussillon with its generous forward nature. The Clos du Mont-Olivet, Font de Blanche is a base-level blend that seems to be in an awkward stage right now. It certainly needs another year in the cellar and could possibly improve in that period. The Domaine de Saint Siffrein is without flaw but then does not inspire much thought upon drinking. These wines are available at Unwined.

2009 Domaine Lafage, Cuvee Nicolas, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes Catalanes – $15
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars. This wine is 100% Grenache which was fermented in open-top containers followed by aging on the lees in barrel. The light to medium strength nose reveals blueberries and red grapefruit. In the mouth the fruit is bluer with a racy vein, smooth mouthfeel, and chalky, dusty tannins. The flavors become lifted and perfumed in the finish. The aftertaste leaves perfumed flavors with some lipstick, red grapefruit, and a powdery sweetness. This is a solid, forward drinking effort. *** Now-2017.

2009 Clos du Mont-Olivet, Font de Blanche, Cotes du Rhone – $15
Imported by Dionysos Imports. This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 38% Syrah, and 2% Cinsault. It was aged in cement tank. Alcohol 14%. Philip Cambie is an advisor to the estate. Tasted over two nights the nose remains light. In the mouth there are notes of pepper, graphite, and stone-framed blue fruit which is lifted and expansive. The flavors turn towards red fruit with focused notes of pepper, all in a structured delivery. There are lots of fine+ drying tannins. This was much better on the second night but still seems tight. **(*) 2013-2016.

2010 Domaine de Saint Siffrein, Cotes du Rhone Villages – $15
Imported by J.A.O Wine Imports. This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. The fruit is destemmed then fermented and aged in vat. Alcohol 14.5%. There is a light, contemporary nose. This solid-drinking Rhone starts with slightly tart flavors. It gains a little weight and creamy mouthfeel as fresh, red fruit comes out. The flavors are delivered with a grapey concentration. There are sweeter tannins in the finish. While this tastes very young right now it should be drunk over the short-term. ** 2015-2018.

The Textured 2010 Clos des Fees, Grenache Blanc, Vieilles Vignes

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Photo de Vendanges 2011, Image from Clos des Fees

Herve Bizeul of Clos des Fees kindly provided many images for me to include in this post.  I have selected three images of the Grenache Blanc to include and will provide the other images in a subsequent post.

Grenache Blanc, Image from Clos des Fees

While I have been drinking the wines of Clos des Fees for several vintages I have never tried the Grenache Blanc.  Recommended by Phil at MacArthurs I opened a bottle earlier this week.  I was immediatedly excited by my first sip.  Beyond the flavors and mouthfeel, there is an engaging texture to the finish that persists in the aftertaste.  This should not be drunk at refridgerator temperature for too much is muted.  Let the bottle or glass warm up.  I suspect this wine will improve over the next year.  Whether you drink this now or next year, you will be pleased for this is a unique wine at an a reasonable price.  Give a bottle a go!

Grenache Blanc, Image from Clos des Fees

The Grenache Blanc, Vieilles Vignes is produced from fruit sourced from a 2.5 hectare plot that contains vines over 100 years old and old vines of Grenache Gris from plots known as grains meles.  The Grenache Blanc is fermented in stainless steel tanks where as the Grenach Gris is fermented in two-year old barrels.  After malolactic fermentation the wine is matured on the lees for eight months.

2010 Domaine du Clos des Fees, Grenache Blanc, Vieilles Vignes, VdP Cotes Catalanes – $27
Imported by Simon “N” Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 90% Grenache Blanc and 10% Grenache Gris   The wine is a light straw color.  The flavors are round in the mouth with sweeter tropical fruits at first followed by a broad swathe of acidity.  The young, white peach flavors are almost tart.  Things warm up in the finish where sweet, spiced tannins dry on the lips with flavors persisting for a long time in the aftertaste.  A very good, interesting wine. Though quite drinkable now it might benefit from 6-12 months of age.

Champagne Day at Weygandt Wines

October 31, 2011 7 comments

This past Friday I was invited to spend #ChampagneDay at Weygandt Wines. Tim O’Rourke reached out to the local community of wine and food bloggers by offering a Champagne tasting with some appetizers from Ripple.  There was also a bottle of Chermette, Cramant de Bourgogne for those willing to taste non-Champagne bubbles.  By 7:30pm a decent crowd had showed up.  Of the Champagnes I really enjoyed the Nathalie Fermet, La Val Cornet followed by the Nicolas Maillart, Platine.  I thought these two bottles were a notch up from the others.

I enjoyed meeting Derek Swanson (The Weekly Wine Pick),  Jessica Orquina and her husband (Jessica In Search Of), Rachel and Brett (DMV Dining), and Joon (Vinicultured).    There were enjoyable wines, new people to meet, and good energy.  Hopefully Weygandt Wines and other merchants will continue to actively reach out to the local bloggers. Thanks again to Tim for hosting all of us.  I will certainly return soon to pick up some Champagne and other French wines.

NV J.L. Vergnon, Conversation Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Champagne
A light yellow straw color with a yeasty, apple like nose.  An initial burst of green fruit/citrus flavor with great bubbles and a strong yeast component.  Not Rated.

NV Philippe Prie, Brut Tradition, Champagne
Richer than the Vergnon, the bubbles were more aggressive with a stronger yeast component.  Not Rated.

NV Nathalie Falmet, Brut Nature, Champagne
A yellowish color.  A strong nose followed by an aggressive start in the mouth.  There was a lovely, continual stream of bubbles with minerals in the midpalate and a long, yeasty aftertaste.  Not Rated.

NV Nathalie Falmet, Cuvee Le Val Cornet, Champagne
This was really quite nice.  The soft, rich Champagne had an awesome, racy, minerally, rich finish.  Drinking perfectly!  My favorite of the Champagnes.  Not Rated.

NV Nicolas Maillart, 1er Cru Brut, Platine, Champagne
This wine is a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay.  This was almost as good as the Falmet, Le Val Cornet but softer overall and a little less fruit.  Not Rated.

The five Champagnes clearly wetted appetites as bottles of red wine started appearing at the tasting area.  Tim offered up a bottle of Jann Chave, Le Rouvre, Crozes-Hermitage that I neglected to take a note on though I certainly enjoyed a taste.  Of the red wines I enjoyed the 2010 Boulard, 2009 Font Sarade, and the 2010 Domaine des Soulanes.

1983 Domaine des Lambrays, Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru
This was a recent $20 bin-end wine that Dereck bought from MacArthurs.  The cloudy, brown color did not bode well but the nose and mouth were better than expected.  Soft, gravelly, and clearly a flawed bottle but drinkable.  Not Rated.

2007 Domaine Savoye, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, Cote du Py, Morgon, Beaujolais
This was minerally, more mature, a decent finish, and reasonably interesting.  Not Rated.

2010 Daniel Bouland, Chiroubles, Beaujolais
This wine is 100% Gamay.  Restrained fruit, good fresh acidity, stones, and fine tannins.  Easy to drink and my favorite of the two Beaujolais.  Not Rated.

2009 Alfredo Maestro, Tejero Vina Almate, Tierres de Leon
This wine is 100% Tempranillo sourced from a 10-year-old vineyard.  The wine was aged for four months in barrique.  Fresh, nuts, lots of acidity driven flavors.  Not the most interesting to me.  Not Rated.

2009 Domaine Font Sarade, Les Hauts de La Ponche, Vacqueyras
This wine is 50% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, and 25% Syrah.  This was the richest of all the wines tasted with ripe fruit, minerality, an intense midpalate, and integrated tannins.  Vacqueyras on steroids!  Not Rated.

2010 Domaine des Soulanes, Kaya, Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes
This wine is 100% Carignan.  There was a pretty perfumed nose.  In the mouth, flavors of sweet raspberry with dark notes and roast coming out midpalate.  Not Rated.

Domaine Bila-Haut

This week I was able to taste through a selection of wines from Michel Chapoutier’s Domaine de Bila-Haut.  Domaine Bila-Haut is imported by HB Wine Merchants of New York.  Mike Riego was pouring the wines at MacArthur’s where I was allowed to join in on the fun.  This selection represents strong value as a quick use of wine-searcher reveals that the white and red wines I tasted often retail for $20 or less.  These wines were opened right before the tasting.

Vineyard of L'esquerda, Image from HB Wine Merchants

Michel Chapoutier purchased Domaine de Bila-Haut in 1999.  The domaine is located in Latour de France and is composed of 75 hectares of vineyards.  Michel purchased the estate so that he would have access to the older vineyards and sites he felt would make great wine in Roussillon.  The estate is large enough to support new planting and experimentation.  The winery was renovated over the first several years and now has its capacity expanded annually. Vats are being added as well to keep up with increased production.   This biodynamic domaine produces a range of wines including a white from made from Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, and Macabeau along with reds from Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan.

Vineyard for Occultum Lapidum, Image from HB Wine Merchants

I really enjoyed the L’esquerda.  It was the most interesting wine both on the nose and in the mouth and I felt, a step up over the other wines.  I think the Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rouge would show better after several hours of air as it showed development after half an hour.  The IGP Cotes Catalanes is well done and I believe attractively priced.  I look forward to revisiting some of these wines once they are in stock.  This will allow me to post more thorough tasting notes and actually drink a few glasses!

2010 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut, Blanc, Cotes du Roussillon
This wine is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, and Macabeau.  Macabeau is also called Viura and is used in the production of Spanish Cava.  The grapes are sourced from vineyards in the Valle de l’Agly that contain limestone and clay soils and higher altitude vineyards at L’esquerda with granite soils.  These later vineyards lie at 500 meters.  This wine is both vinified and aged for a few months in stainless steel tanks.  This wine had a delicate, floral nose with some grassy notes.  In the mouth the apple-like fruit, grapefruit, and floral flavors were supported by bright acidity.

2010 La Croix de Bila-Haut, IGP Cotes Catalanes
This wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan sourced from vineyards throughout Roussillon.  These vineyards are planted with younger vines and represent sites that might be leased in the future.  This wine was produced in stainless steel as the there was not enough vats.  This inaugural release showed a youthful, tasty nose of grapey aromas.  There were bright red fruit flavors, plenty of acidity, and tart red fruit in the finish.  This lively wine would be refreshing to drink cool on a warm summers night.

 2009 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut, Rouge, Cotes du Roussillon Villages
This wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan.  The majority of the grapes are sourced from vineyards in Valle de l’Agly with schist soils.  The wine is raised in cement vats.  This sports a darker nose than the Cotes Catalanes.  There are blueberry and dark berry flavors throughout the wine with some Syrah notes.  Within half an hour this developed an enjoyable racy quality that mixed with the fine grape tannins.  This wine leaned towards firm finesse.

2008 Domaine de Bila-Haut, L’esquerda, Cotes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerda
This wine is a blend of 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, and 20% Carignan.  The grapes are all sourced from vineyards in the cru Lesquerda.  This vineyard lies at 350 meters on hill tops and slopes with granite soils.  As a result the grapes are harvested between the middle of September and middle of October, which is later than the other sites.  Horses are used due to the rugged terrain and inaccessibility.   The vines average 30 years of age with a few newer parcels and one parcel of very old vines.  The wine is aged 90% in cement vats and 10% in oak barrels.  This vintage was produced before Michel Chapoutier had control over the vineyard.  The nose immediately reminded me of a Grenache-based Southern Rhone blend.  It had the most attractive nose out of all of the wines with aromas of dark, complex berries, and herbs.  Though it showed more structure than the previous wines, the lifted, mouthfilling flavors were delicious and easily approachable.

2008 Domaine de Bila-Haut, Occultum Lapidem, Cotes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France
This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, and 20% Carignan.  The grapes are sourced from the vineyard located in the cru Latour-de-France.  They have been working these vineyards since 1999.  Horses are used for some of the work.  This area is a higher altitude vineyards that contain older vines that are 20-35 years of age with some parcels that are even older.  50% of the wine is matured in vats and the rest in casks.  This also revealed dark fruits on the nose but was not aromatically expressive like the L’esquerda.  The dark fruits mixed with pleasing minerals and stones but the overall profile was not as dynamic as the L’esquerda.  The structure in this wine was dominated by ample, fine tannins.  I found the fruit flavors a bit too closed down compared to the level of tannins.

1999 Domaine de Bila-Haut, Rivesaltes
This wine is made from Grenache.  This wine is aged for 24 months with 50% in vats and the rest in oak casks.  There was an earthy nose mixed with sweet berries.  In the mouth this supple wine repeated the earthy, sweet, red berries delivered in a completely balanced manner that was not confected nor overbearing.  I have no experience with Rivesaltes so notes were quite short!