A case of perfectly stored 1986 Chateau Bel Air, Cotes de Castillon showed up at MacArthur Beverages last week. You can tell because the fills are all in the neck, the corks are age-defying, and the color of the wine is deep. The wine itself is simple with flavors of hard cherry and eventually polished wood. And that’s about it!
The wines of Les Champ Libres are produced by René-Jean Dard and Hervé Souhaut. Both of these men produced northern Rhone wines, the latter of which have appeared on this blog. The 2015 Les Champs Libres, Lard, des Choix is a wine of great energy. Both the nose and palate offer deep, grapey, young fruit that is quite remarkable. I kept expecting some Pilsner/yeast aspect to break out but it did not. Instead, this is a personality rich wine that any lover of the Northern Rhone must try. These wines are (or were!) available at MacArthur Beverages.
1986 Chateau Bel Air, Cotes de Castillon – $10
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co. Alcohol 12%. The nose remains subtle. In the mouth the flavor of hard cherry remains firm. The structural components are still around and the watering acidity reminds you that this wine is very much alive. It needs some air before gaining a touch more interest from a polished wood note. *(*) Now but well-stored bottles will last.
2015 Les Champs Libres, Lard, des Choix – $22
Imported by Louis/Dressner. Alcohol 13%. The aromatic nose offers up grapey aromas and deep young fruit. In the mouth are lively, deep flavors of floral, purple fruit. The initial acidity on the tongue tip leads to a textured wine that leaves an ethereal, perfumed coating of fat-infused flavor. **** Now – 2018.
Frank Morgan is in town and having organized a Virginia Versus Other Regions tasting with David White, I found myself taking the Metro across the Potomac River to Crystal City to join them. While I have driven through Crystal City over the years the last time I walked around was over two decades ago. Of course I was hopelessly turned around. Fortunately Frank texted my way to an intersection where we met up to begin the evening. A small group of us gathered at the Washington Wine Academy to taste the seven white and seven red wines blind. The goal had been to taste wines of matching vintages and to open them all up at the start of the tasting so as to even things up as much as possible. Not that there was an expectation that a particular vintage in Virginia was similar in California or Burgundy. While we managed to have all white wines from the 2010 vintage, the red wines were another story so we ended up with 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. Present for the tasting were six people all with websites: Frank Morgan (Drink What You Like), David White (Terroirist), Christian Schiller (Schiller-Wine), Annette Schiller (Ombiasy Wine Tours), Isaac James Baker (Reading, Writing & Wine), and myself (Hogshead Wine). Many thanks to Jim Barker, President of the Washington Wine Academy for graciously letting us taking over his facility.
All of the wines were served blind in brown paper bags. The white wines were simply popped and poured. The red wines were popped and poured save for the two Bordeaux which had been double-decanted an hour or two ahead of time. Being at the Academy we each had our own table and two glasses to taste from. After completing a flight we individually revisited any wine of interest. We were asked to rank the wines from 1 being our favorite to 7 being our least favorite using our own criteria. Once everyone had completed their rankings we read them off to Frank who tabulated the results. You may read about Frank’s view on ranking in Results from the Oregon vs. Virginia Viognier and Cab Franc Tasting. For Frank’
You may read about Isaac’s experience at Virginia vs. The World – A Blind Taste-Off. For Frank’s post about this tasting please check out The Virginia Wine Trials, Con’t – Virginia Chardonnay and Red Blends Take On France and California. You may read Christian Schiller’s post Virginia versus The World – A Blind Taste-Off.
The overall rankings were:
- 1st – 2010 Domaine des Moirots, Le Vieux Chateau, Montagny 1er Cru
- 2nd – 2010 Linden, Hardscrabble Chardonnay and 2010 Ankida Ridge, Chardonnay
- 4th – 2010 Domaine Luquet Roger, Vieilles Vignes, Pouilly-Fuisse
- 5th – 2010 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Karia, Chardonnay
- 6th – 2010 Ox-Eye Vineyards, Chardonnay
My personal top three wines and those of the group were the same. I was pleased to see the Domaine des Moirots come out on top as they produce accessible and affordable wines. While Linden and Ankida Ridge were tied in the group results, I preferred the Linden. This vintage of Linden reflects the heat of the year but also flavors which come from the specific parcels planted in 1985 and 1988. While it is drinkable now I imagine it should develop over the short-term. On a much younger front, the Ankida Ridge is produced from 25% estate from a vineyard which was only two years old at the time. I thought it a good inaugural wine. Below you will find my white wine tasting notes presented in tasting order.
1 – 2010 Gloria Ferrer Vineyards, Chardonnay, Carneros – $20 – (Not Ranked)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the estate vineyard. The fruit was whole-cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with 29% undergoing malolactic fermentation. It was aged for nine months in 27% medium-toast French oak barrels. Batonnage occurred every three weeks for six months. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a similar light yellow gold as #2. Off bottle. Not Rated.
2 – 2010 Ankida Ridge Vineyards, Chardonnay, Virginia – $32 – (My #3, Group #2)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay of which 25% is estate fruit from the Tablas Creek clone La Vineuse and 75% fruit from Bedford County. It was whole-cluster pressed and fermented in oak barrels with inoculated yeasts of which 50% underwent malolactic fermentation. It was aged for nine months in barrel where it underwent regular batonnage. The color was a light yellow gold. The subdued nose had a hint of toast. There was good weight to the start with a bit of acidity then some creamy and a touch ripe fruit and toast. This was driven by the mouthfeel with white fruit and ripeness in the finish. ** Now.
3 – 2010 Linden, Hardscrabble, Chardonnay – $33 – (My #2, Group #2)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was lightly pressed then fermented in new and used barrels with cultured and indigenous yeasts. Some barrels underwent malolactic fermentation. It was aged for 10 months on the lees with batonnage. Alcohol 14.2%. The color was a light to medium gold yellow. The nose bore subdued heavier aromas. The flavors were more expansive from the start showing some barrel toast which was well-integrated. The wine was weighty but crisp with chewy acidity. There were sweet spices, interesting flavors, and a richer style which was done well. *** Now-2018.
4 – 2010 Domaine des Moirots, Le Vieux Chateau, Montagny 1er Cru – $25 – (My #1, Group #1)
Imported by Weygandt- Metzler. This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from half of the 9 ha Le Vieux Chateau vineyard. Alcohol 12.5%. The color was a light straw yellow. The subdued nose was a touch flora with a hint of the sea. The flavors were the brightest yet with apples, a tart finish, and salivating acidity. This tastes a bit young. Eventually some clove came out in the long aftertaste. *** 2014-2019.
5 – 2010 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Chardonnay, Karia, Napa Valley – $30 – (My #6, Group #5)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from vineyards in and near the Oak Knoll District. The fruit was fermented in 83% barrels and 17?% stainless steel tanks of which 55% underwent malolactic fermentation. It was aged for 8 months on the lees in 29% new French oak. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a light yellow. There were barrel toast aromas at first. In the mouth the flavors were a bit flabby then turned hollow towards the finish. The yellow fruit lacked verve. * Now.
6 – 2010 Domaine Luquet Roger, Vieilles Vignes, Pouilly-Fuisse – $30 – (My #5, Group #4)
An Alfio Moriconi Selection imported by Saranty Imports. This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from vines 40-65 years of age. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a light yellow gold. There was not much on the nose. In the mouth there was a crisp, focused start with tangy grapefruit and yellow flavors. The aftertaste bore some texture. Young. *(*) 2014-2018.
7 – 2010 Ox-Eye Vineyards, Chardonnay, Shenandoah Valley – $18 – (My #4, Group #6)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from vines at 1,830 feet. It was fermented in stainless steel then aged in barrels. Alcohol 13.2%. The color was a light straw yellow. There was a light but decent fruit nose. There was some lively acidity followed by white nuts, juicy fruits, some toast, and spice. ** Now.
The overall rankings were:
- 1st – 2008 RdV Vineyards, Rendezvous
- 2nd – 2009 Chateau d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Castillon
- 3rd – 2008 Dry Creek, Meritage
- 4th – 2006 Baron de Brane, Margaux
- 5th – 2008 Barboursville, Octagon
- 6th – 2007 Boxwood Winery, Topiary
- 7th – 2008 Chateau O’Brien, Padlock Red
My personal top four selections were the same as the group but there was generally strong consensus amongst them all. I did clearly prefer the top two wines and had convinced myself that wine #1 was RdV Vineyards and wine #3 was a Bordeaux. What fun to be wrong and prefer the inaugural vintage of RdV! I would recommend cellaring it a few more years. Below you will find my red wine tasting notes presented in tasting order.
1 – 2009 Chateau d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Castillon – $35 – (My #2, Group #2)
Imported by Pearson’s Wine & Spirits. This wine is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from 28-year-old vines. The fruit was destemmed and fermented in temperature controlled wooden vats for 25-30 days. It underwent malolactic fermentation then was aged on the lees in up to 80% new oak barrels for 15-20 months. Alcohol 14.5%. The color was a medium cherry. The nose revealed berries then a ripe blackness with air. The mouth was similar with some racy, ripe fruit and minerals. A decent wine with good expansion, chewy tannins, and a fresh finish. It tightened up some in the finish. I guessed RdV Vineyards. **(*) Now-2018.
2 – 2007 The Boxwood Winery, Topiary, Virginia – $25 – (My #5, Group #6)
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec. Alcohol 13.8%. The color was a medium garnet, looking of age. On the mouth there was red fruit and a greenhouse, menthol aspect. The flavors were similar in the mouth with focus and quite a nice mouth feel. There was tart acidity on the tip of the tongue. I guessed Boxwood Winery. ** Now-2016.
3 – 2008 RdV Vineyards, Rendezvous – $55 – (My #1, Group #1)
This wine is a blend of 62% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. The color was a medium to dark cherry garnet. The nose was light and tight with brine aromas. In the mouth the fruit was wrapped in structure with plenty of acidity, and some good mouthfeel. There were fine, spicy tannins in this decent but young wine. I guessed Bordeaux. **(*) Now-2023.
4 – 2008 Barboursville Vineyards, Octagon – $48 – (My #6, Group #5)
This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. It was fermented in stainless steel tank, macerated for 10-20 days, then aged 12-14 months in new Gamba barriques. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a light to medium cherry. The light nose bore some fruits along with old perfume, and greenhouse notes. There was ripe fruit in the mouth then focused black and red fruit. It tasted like a Virginian wine. The acidity was there followed by a short finish with black and red fruit. The dry tannins were present on the lips. *(*) Now-2015.
5 – 2008 Chateau O’Brien, Padlock Red, Virginia – $24 – (My #7, Group #7)
This wine is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 12% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 13.9%. The color was a light to medium garnet showing age. There was mixed fruit on the nose and just a hint of greenhouse. In the mouth there was a mature aspect with soft, expansive overripe fruit. The finish was soft with some tannins. * Now.
6 – 2008 Dry Creek Vineyards, Meritage, Sonoma County – $25 – (My #3, Group #3)
This wine is a blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 14% Malbec, and 6% Petit Verdot which was aged for 22 months in French and American oak. Alcohol 14.5%. The color was a medium cherry. The nose was subdued. In the mouth there was sweet fruit with a touch of ripeness as it softened up with black cherry that filled the mouth. There was a core of fruit in the finish along with vanilla, and drying, coating citric tannins. ** Now-2018.
7 – 2006 Baron de Brane, Margaux – $36 – (My #4, Group #4)
Imported by Saranty Imports. This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot which was aged for 12 months in 20% new barriques. Alcohol 13%. The color was a medium garnet with some age. There was red and black cherry flavors in the mouth, some maturity, and a lighter aspect which hinted at being hollow. There was a cool, gentle finish with some ripe tannins. ** Now-2015.
This past weekend Lou and I attended a Best of Virginia tasting organized by Robert Ford and hosted by Weygandt Wines. I came in late to the organization so I thought it best to let Rob describe the origins of the tasting.
Inspiration for the Tasting
About three years ago my Fiancee Megan and I were eating breakfast on a lazy sunday morning, wondering what to do with our day. At this point we were surprisingly novice wine geeks, early in the stages of tasting anything and everything to develop context for our palates. We did however, through our tasting, seem know what we enjoyed and were respectable in judging quality. We had heard about Virginia wine country and had nothing better to do, so after a bit of internet research we hopped on I-66W and headed west. It seemed that in Northern Virginia (if not Virginia as a whole) Linden had been the forerunner in quality and vision when it came to virginia wine. I still remember arriving on our first visit. The GPS had taken us on wild ride, traversing several miles of unpaved roads to reach the Linden sign. From our first sip of the day, it was clear the wines were special. They had balance, authentic fruit, direction, freshness, and evolution on the palate. The care used to craft the wine was palpable. They embodied the qualities we had come to look for in a wine.
We are now full on wine geeks, but as any other wine geek knows, the more you learn and taste, the more there is to learn and taste. And while virginia has settled into a limited role in our wine drinking, it remains an important one. When we open a Linden wine we find ourselves comparing it to chardonnays and bordeaux blends from around the world, remarking how well they would likely compete in a global context. Therefore we always had the idea of a blind tasting, pitting the Linden and other best of Virginia, against equal competition from more established wine regions. And after a long period of idle contemplation, seemingly like usual, everything simply fell into place. It started with a thread on Wineberserkers regarding RdV Vineyards, and morphed into a “what if” tasting idea. As I was going to be in DC over the weekend, inspiration struck, and I began to organize the Best of VA vs World tasting. Interest was a bit slow over the first day, but quickly it appeared the tasting would be rather large and comprehensive. It was one of those events that was meant to happen, as everything simply fell into place. Many participants were available on the proposed date, we were easily able to use Weygandt Wines as a fantastic tasting space, and everyone seemingly had excess wine to contribute. By Friday morning we had more interest than we could accommodate, and had put together a surprisingly large and complete line up of wines. The stage was set … how would Virginia fare?
The Virginian wines were known ahead of time to the participants with the ringers only known to Rob and those who brought them. The wines were brown-bagged and served in four flights: Whites, Mature Reds, Young Cabernet Franc or Merlot dominated reds, and Young Cabernet Sauvignon dominated reds. All of the wines were opened just prior to tasting except for #17 RdV, Rondevous which was decanted one hour ahead and the #25 Yannick Amirault which was opened one hour ahead. Tasting sheets were provided and we were asked to rate the wines so that group results could be tallied. After tasting through all of the wines they were revealed.
Many thanks to Jim Law of Linden Vineyards who opened his cellar so that Rob could purchase the 1997 Reserve Red, to Jon Gonzales of RdV Vineyards who brought the 2009 Rendesvous and Lost Mountain, to Ed Boyce of Black Ankle Vineyards who provided the 2007 Crumbling Rock, and Michelle Gueydan of Early Mountain Vineyards who brought the 2011 Ankida Ridge, Chardonnay along with a few ringers. Also to everyone’s generosity for bringing so many wines and to Warren, Sarah, and Weygandt Wines for allowing us to take over part of the store.
Rob tallied up the results from eight participants. In some cases a wine received only seven scores but in most cases it was eight. Of the 33 wines tasted 16 were from Virginia, 8 from France, 2 from California, 2 from Maryland, 1 from Washington, 1 from Italy, 1 from Malta, 1 from New Zealand, and 1 from South Africa. In this section I have listed the top three wines from each flight. For the remaining average scores you will find them in my tasting notes.
One cannot draw serious conclusions from such a tasting but I can point out the generally strong breadth of the Linden wines, the seriousness of RdV, and the strengths of Black Ankle. When I hear about local wine it seems to be in the context of Virginia but hopefully after this tasting a few more people will cross the Potomac River to Maryland. I am also curious to try other selections from King Family Vineyards and Pearmund.
Flight 1 – Whites
1. 2008 Linden, Chardonnay, Avenius Vineyard (86.88)
2. 2009 Ataraxia, Chardonnay, South Africa (86.38)
3. 2011 Ankita Ridge, Chardonnay (85.13)
Flight 2 – Mature Reds
1. 1997 Linden, Reserve Red (89.13)
2. 1995 Chateau Troplong Mondot (87.13)
3. 1993 Robert Craig, Affinity (86.25)
Flight 3 – Young Reds (Cabernet Franc or Merlot Dominant Blends)
1. 2005 Chateau Joanin Becot (89.00)
2. Tied: 2009 RdV, Rendezvous and 2006 Black Ankle, Crumbling Rock (87.38)
Flight 4 – Young Reds (Cabernet Sauvignon Dominant Blends)
1. 2007 Gramercy Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon (87.29)
2. 2009 Cliff Lede, Cabernet Sauvignon (86.86)
3. 2009 Barboursville, Octagon (85.43)
It took steady effort to taste through all of the wines in the time alloted. As the time advanced past the normal closing time there was a bit of a dash to finish off the tasting. My notes capture the wines during a brief few minutes so bear that in mind. Normally I would not rate wines during such a tasting but as part of the group exercise and general fun of it, I did. At the end of each note you will find the average group score in parenthesis.
FLIGHT 1 – WHITE WINES
I thought the white wines from Virginia showed very well. While several of the wines had obvious barrel notes, my two favorites the 2010 Pearmund showed good integration along with fruit, weight, and acidity and the 2008 Linden showed lively fruit with an attractive gravelly quality. Wines like these make me think a Virginia white wine tasting should be in order.
1 – 2011 Ankida Ridge, Chardonnay
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from a two acre vineyard at 1,800 feet. It was fermented in 100% neutral French oak barrels of which 50% underwent malolactic fermentation. It was then aged for nine months on the lees. The light to medium nose was textured with barrel roast notes. The barrel note continues in the mouth with rich, slightly perfumed fruit,a bit of weight in the finish. There were some tart apple flavors and acidity. (85.13) ** Now.
2 – 2009 Linden, Chardonnay Hardscrabble
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from 15-25 year old vines in the Hardscrabble Vineyard. The free run juice was fermented with both cultured and indigenous yeasts, some barrels underwent maolactic fermentation, followed by 10 months of aging on the lees in new and used French oak barrels. Alcohol 13.8%. The color was a very light straw yellow. The light fruit nose had some barrel notes along with heavier, yellow fruit aromas. In the mouth there was crisper fruit to start then tropical fruit which mixed with barrel flavors, some apple, and Christmas spice. The aftertaste was a little coarse and shorter compared to #1. (84.57) ** Now-2013.
3 – 2010 Pearmund, Old Vine Chardonnay, Meriwether Vineyard
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from 25+ year old vines. It under went 100% malolactic fermentation then was aged for eight months in French oak. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was light yellow. The light+ nose revealed heavier yellow fruit, better integration of the barrels notes, and fine texture. In the mouth there was sweet tropical fruit which was delivered with an initial burst of acidity. Then old perfume, good weight, and a core of ripe fruit. There was ripe fruit and spices in the finish and a good aftertaste. (84.50) **(*) Now-2017.
4 – 2008 Linden, Chardonnay Avenius
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the Avenius Vineyard planted in 1996 at 1,300 feet. It was barrel fermented in older French oak, did not undergo malolactic fermentation, and was aged on the less for 10 months. Alcohol 13.7%. The color was a very light yellow. The nose bore ripe, concentrated yellow fruit. In the mouth the flavors were lively on the tongue with integrated acidity, followed by gravelly white, ripe fruit. There was an ethereal quality to the aftertaste. (86.88) **(*) Now-2015.
5 – 2009 Domaine Bernard Defaix, Vaillons, Chablis 1er Cru
Imported by Winebow. This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from both young and old vines. The color was light yellow. The light to medium nose offered up perfumed, white and yellow fruit with a hint of something. In the mouth there were flavors of bread at first followed by a hollow, citric finish, and a barely detectable hint of foxy flavors in the aftertaste. (83.00) * Now.
6 – 2009 Ataraxia, Chardonnay, Western Cape
Imported by Worthwhile Wine Company. This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was barrel fermented then aged for ten months in Burgundian oak barrels. 13.5% Alcohol. The color was light yellow. There was a light+ ripe, yellow nose. In them mouth there were lively white, heavy fruit which was acidity driven. There was a good mouthfeel, fine stoney, texture, and a drying finish with tart citrus flavors. (86.38) ** Now-2015.
FLIGHT 2 – MATURE RED WINES
This was a somewhat disjointed flight in terms of the wines tasted but it did reveal a complete 1997 Linden, Reserve Red. I am glad that Rob was able to work with Jim Law on this selection. It is drinking very well right now. I did not guess it was from Virginia for I thought the 1999 Chateau Barde-Haut was!
7 – 1994 Roccadoro, Chianti Classico
Imported by Winebow. This. Alcohol 12%. The color was light-medium tawny, showing extreme age. The nose was over the hill with thin, delicate berry fruit in the mouth. (Flawed) Flawed.
8 – 1999 Chateau Barde-Haut, St. Emillion Grand Cru
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of mostly Merlot and Cabernet Franc sourced from 30+ year old vines. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts, underwent malolactic fermentation then was aged for 18 months in new oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a light to medium garnet-cherry. In the mouth there were cedar box flavors, a touch of menthol, then cherry and raspberry. There was a core of racy red fruit then blue flavors but then it completely thinned out. (82.00) * Now.
9 – 1997 Linden, Reserve Red
This wine is a blend of 44% Cabernet Franc, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petit Verdot, and 11% Merlot. Alcohol 13.9%. The color was a light to medium ruby. The light nose was followed by focused, black and red fruit in the mouth. There was black fruit acidity,with mature flavors in the finish. A complete little wine. (89.13) ** Now.
10 – 1993 Robert Craig, Affinity, Napa Valley
This wine is a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. The nose was light with mature red fruit. In the mouth there were brighter red fruit, texture, plenty of acidity, and a little powdery red candy. (86.25) * Now.
11 – 1995 Chateau Troplong Mondot, St Emillion Grand Cru
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co. This wine is a blend of mostly Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from 50 year old vines. It was fermented in stainless steel tanks, underwent malolactic fermentation then was aged 12-24 months in new oak barrels. The color was a medium ruby. The nose offered up cedar and vanilla. In the mouth there was finely textured black cherry fruit, a little menthol, spicy finish, and a lifted, incensed aftertaste. (87.13) ** Now-2015.
FLIGHT 3 – YOUNG REDS (Cabernet Franc or Merlot Dominated Blends)
The King Family Vineyard and Chateau Joanin Becot were the standouts for me in this flight. I do not if it is a pure varietal or blend but it was attractive all around without a hint of underripe fruit. The 2006 Black Ankle, Crumbling Rocks had pebbly texture and the 2008 RdV, Rendezvous while tight, had an interesting earthy flavor which was new to me in my Virginian wine experience. Both of these wines deserve revisiting.
12 – 2009 RdV, Rendezvous
This wine is a blend of 35% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, and 12% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 14.5%. The color was medium purple ruby. The medium strength nose was of black fruit and low-lying vanilla aromas. In the mouth this finely textured wine had black and red fruit, expansive flavors as the wine progressed, and a touch of greenhouse towards the finish. The tart red fruit had plenty of tannins which coated the lips and teeth along with a certain perfumed flavor. Upon revisiting it was a bit loose. (87.38) ** Now-2017.
13 – 2006 Black Ankle, Crumbling Rock, Frederick County
This wine is a blend of 38% Cabernet Franc, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot which was aged for 16 months in 75% new French oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a medium garnet-ruby. The light to medium strength nose was initially mature with a bit of wood box. In the mouth there were tangy red fruit, acidity, then fine, pebbly texture. The fruit became tart, citric red and drier towards the finish. There was textured aftertaste to this complete wine. A touch up from #12. Upon revisiting this showed good weight. (87.38) ** Now-2015.
14 – Linden, Boisseau Red
This wine is a blend of 44% Cabernet Franc, 34% Merlot, and 22% Petit Verdot sourced from the Boisseau Vineyard planted in 2000 at 600 feet. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 20 months in French, American, and Hungarian oak. Alcohol 14.4%. The color was a medium ruby with hints of grape. The medium strength nose was fruit driven. The wine tasted young and confident with bright, tart red and blue fruit, citric tannins, and acidity on the tip and sides of the tongue. It was a bit expansive in the aftertaste but was less integrated than #13. (85.29) ** Now-2015.
15 – 2006 Clos L’Eglise, Pomerol
Imported by R&R Marketing LLC. This wine is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc sourced from 35 year old vines. It was aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak barrels. Alcohol 14%. The color was medium ruby. The light nose was a touch mature with almost gravelly red fruit. In the mouth there was more concentrated, attractive black and red fruit with acidity. Then plenty of fine wood tannins, which were a touch spicy, came out. Actually there were lots of powerful tannins. (85.86) ** 2015-2019.
16 – 2005 Chateau Joanin Becot, Cotes de Castillon
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc. Alcohol 14%. The color was medium garnet-ruby. The light nose was of high-toned red and some black fruit. In the mouth there were tangy, citric red fruit, very fine, drying tannins, and better integration. Quite young but nice. (89.00) **(*) 2017-2022.
17 – 2008 RdV, Rendezvous
This wine is a blend of 62% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 14.5%. The color was a medium+ grapey ruby. The light nose revealed nice fruit, red and black berries. In the mouth the fruit was slightly earthy, which was interesting, but was not giving up much. This young wine had drying, ripe tannins. Upon revisiting it showed better concentration, along with tannins, than the 2009. (84.14) ** 2014-2018.
18 – 2010 King Family Vineyards, Cabernet Franc, Monticello
The color was a light, grapey ruby. The light nose was interesting and concentrated. In the mouth there was lots of flavor and delicacy to the riper red fruit. It was perfumed and showed attractive integration. (85.14) *** Now-2014.
19 – 2011 Clos Roche Blanche, Cuvee Pif, Touraine
Imported by Louis/Dressner. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cot. Alcohol 12%. It was a light to medium purple ruby color. The light to medium nose smell like a European Cabernet Franc dominated wine. The mouth followed the nose with powdery, red candy fruit, drier flavors, and a little orange citrus. It firmed up a touch in the finish as tannins were left on the lips. (83.00) ** Now-2015.
20 – 2007 Pearmund, Ameritage
This wine is a blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 17% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Petit Verdot. The color was light to medium garnet. The light nose revealed raspberry candy and greenhouse aromas. In the mouth there were ripe and sweeter red fruit which turned into black fruit. There was a little weight, candy notes, along with minimal, spicy tannins which were integrated. (82.57) * Now.
21 – 2009 Barboursville, Cabernet Franc, Reserve
This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc, from five different clones, which was fermented in stainless steel then aged up to 14 months in new and used French oak barriques. Alcohol 13%. The color was a light to medium garnet. The light to medium strength nose was scented with greenhouse aromas. In the mouth there were ripe, sweet, black and red fruit. It was rather sweet, the ripe tannins, some head in the finish, and less integration than #20. (82.14) * Now.
22 – 2009 Chateau de la Bonneliere, Les Cornelles, Chinon
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This Alcohol 12.5%. The color was light to medium grapey ruby. The light nose smelled thinner, like wet Cabernet Franc, and salt water. In the mouth the light fruit sat in a structure with flavors of old vintage perfume, and tangy red citrus in the finish. There were fine+ tannins, a touch spicy, as flavors thinned out. Better than #21 and #22. (83.00) * Now.
23 – 2007 Black Ankle, Crumbling Rock, Frederick County
This wine is a blend of 34% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvingon, 22% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, and 3% Syrah which was aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak. Alcohol 14.9%. The light to medium strength nose was of higher-toned, mixed berries. In the mouth the mixed fruit was concentrated with some sweetness, good integrated then a touch of heat in the finish, and a lifted aftertaste. Upon revisiting this showed enjoyable ripe fruit. (84.43) ** Now-2016.
24 – 2008 Puriri Hills, Pope, Clevedon
Imported by Nice Legs LLC. This wine is a blend of 52% Cabernet Franc, 32% Merlot, and 16% Carmenere. Alcohol 14.2%. The color was a light to medium garnet. The light+ nose revealed finely scented berries along with a greenhouse/pine aromas. In the mouth the black and red fruit initially mixed with acidity then remained lively throughout. There were almost juicy black fruit with a tannins structure for aging. (85.43) * Now-2015.
25 – 2009 Yannick Amirault, Les Quartiers, Bourgueil
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This is 100% Cabernet Franc fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 12 months in tonneaux. Alcohol 13%. The color was a medium ruby-garnet. The light nose revealed overly ripe fruit and some stink. In the mouth the black and red fruit felt clumsy and flavor with a line of very drying, fine wood tannins. Below #24 by a touch. (80.67) * Now.
FLIGHT 4 – YOUNG REDS ( Cabernet Sauvignon Dominated Blends)
The tasting speeded up during this last flight. The Cliff Ledge was my favorite followed by the Gramercy Cellars, which in this case, suffered from lack of decanting. Of the Virginian wines the Linden, Hardscrabble was the most interesting followed by the Glen Manor.
26 – 2007 Gramercy Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. The color was a medium garnet. The light nose was finely textured but played it close. In the mouth there was focused, tangy black fruit which was integrated with acidity and ripe tannins. The flavors became riper towards the finish where there was a little warmth. Upon revisiting this showed fine, dense flavors. (87.29) ** Now-2015.
27 – 2009 RdV, Lost Mountain
This wine is a blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, and 9% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 14.5%. The light nose was of ripe, sweet dark fruit. In the mouth there was riper black fruit and watering acidity before it thinned out a bit. The finish firmed up with dry tannins. (83.29) ** Now-2015.
28 – 2008 Glen Manor, Hodder Hill
This wine is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, and 7% Cabernet Franc. Alcohol 13.8%. The color was a medium ruby garnet. The light nose had a bit of roasted red fruit. In the mouth there was very tart, acidic red fruit, with a tannic structure. There was watering acidity and a little rough finish. Upon revisiting this showed citric, red fruit. (84.67) ** Now-2016.
29 – 2009 Barboursville, Octagon
This wine is a blend of mostly Merlot with some Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot which was fermented in stainless steel then aged 12-14 months in new French oak Gamba barriques. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a light to medium purple ruby. The light nose revealed tamales and red fruit. In the mouth the wine was tighter with balanced black and red fruit, firm structure, and very fine tannins. It is hard and needs time to unfold. (85.43) *(*) 2015-2018.
30 – 2007 Linden, Hardscrabble
This wine is a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot, and 4% Carmenere sourced from vines planted between 1985 and 2006 at the Hardscrabble Vineyard at 1,300-1,400 feet. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 18 months in used French and Hungarian oak barrels and puncheons. Alcohol 14.2%. The color was a medium grapey ruby. The light nose was interesting. In the mouth the tangy fruit initially mixed with acidity then drier black and red fruit flavors developed. It was a little gravelly with powdery, redder fruit towards the finish. (85.29) ** Now-2017.
31 – 2005 Melqart, Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot, Malta
Imported by First Vine. This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot which was aged for five months in barrels. Alcohol 12.5%. The nose was light with seaside aromas. In the mouth, oh cr*p, no! (75.23) Poor.
32 – 2009 Boxwood, Topiary
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec which was fermented in stainless steel then aged up to 12 months in French oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a medium garnet. The light to medium strength nose was lifted with old perfume aromas. In the mouth there was a little CO2 with interesting, stinky fruit. It was a bit racy with lipstick, drier flavors in the finish, and a long greenhouse aftertaste. (82.00) * Now-2015.
33 – 2009 Cliff Lede, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
This wine is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec, 1% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc which was aged for 17 months in 60% new French oak. Alcohol 14.9%. The color was a medium+ garnet.. The light now was of good, pure red fruit. In the mouth there was good mouthfeel, controlled ripeness, a little spice, and some firmness. There was citric acidity. I would see what happens with age. (86.86) **(*) Now-2018.
Lou and I took advantage of some quiet time this past holiday weekend to taste a random selection of wines. Lou brought two wines from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The Summerhill Pyramid Winery was interesting for it was my first time tasting the Ehrenfelser grape. This is a German cross between Riesling and Silvaner. A far more interesting drink was the Stag’s Hollow red wine. While I have tasted both Canadian white and dessert wines I am confident that the Stag’s Hollow is my first experience with a Canadian red. There was a slightly underripe, greenhouse nose somewhat in contrast to the mouthfeel and alcohol level. With my last glass of the wine it managed to take the essential turn for I unknowingly cast aside all analytical thoughts and simply enjoyed the wine for what it was.
The Maison Bleue, Au Contraire is not my particular favorite style of white wine but it is impeccably balanced and I suspect will live for many years. The ungassed, unrefrigerated leftovers were still strong on the third day. The Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel is a lovely, deep wine which requires several hours of air for current consumption. I highly recommend cellaring it another 3-5 years. I can readily sum up the Colline St Jean, Vacqueyras as a young wine confident with blueberries and pepper. This too should be stuck in the cellar for several years. We wrapped the tasting up with the Clos Les Lunelles. Lou had purchased some of the 2009 vintage so thought it would be fun to try the 2001. At eleven years of age there are mature notes with the ample roast aromas and flavors. The color is almost impenetrable and the structure is still significant against the fruit so perhaps this is best to drink sooner?
The Tablas Creek, Colline St Jean, and Clos Les Lunelles were double-decanted about two hours prior to tasting. The other wines were opened up right before we tasted them. As usual the leftover were split up between Lou and I, gassed with Private Preserve, then tasted on the following night.
2010 Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Ehrenfelser, Okanagan Valley –
This wine is 100% Ehrenfelser sourced from organic vineyards and fermented with indigenous yeasts. It was Pyramid Cellared. Alcohol 11.0%. The wine is a very light straw color. There is a sweet, floral nose mixed with tropical notes. In the mouth the wine is moderately sweet with immediately mouthfeel from the residual sugar. The mouth follows the nose tropical fruits and floral notes with a good mouthfeel. The flavors dry up in the finish where, perhaps, a touch of chalk exists. Well developed flavors but not much depth and it could stand to have more acidity. ** Now.
2010 Maison Bleue, Au Contraire, Yakima Valley – $20
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from a 9 acre block of the French Creek Vineyard planted in 1980. It was fermented and aged sur-lie for seven months in a 50% stainless steel and 50% oak. 50% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. Alcohol 13.2%. The color is a light yellow. The light nose reveals white fruit. In the mouth this wine is very precise with light, focused flavors. It is a little chalky. The acidity powers the entire wine even as it puts on a little weight. There is a good mouthfeel and a decent, lengthy aftertaste which leave some ripe tannins on the teeth. On the second night there were some yellow fruit, yeast, and barrel notes. *** Now-2017.
2009 Stag’s Hollow, The Heritage Block, Okanagan Valley –
This wine is a blend of 63% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from estate and purchased fruit. It was fermented with selected yeasts and underwent malolactic fermentation before aging 18 months in American and French oak. TA 6.6g/L, pH 3.63, RS 2 g/L Alcohol 14.1%. The color is a light to medium cherry ruby. The nose was tight with some greenhouse notes. In the mouth this Bordeaux blend showed some violet fruit then a touch of tart, red fruit. It was a little racy with some supportive licorice flavors and cherry notes. At first I thought the finish was a bit medicinal but that impression faded. Later that night and the next day the wine fleshed out nicely with some sweet spices along with dry tannins. In the end a satisfying glass. *** Now-2015.
2007 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel, Paso Robles –
This wine is a blend of 44% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 21% Syrah, and 6% Counoise sourced from the 120 acre organic estate vineyard. It was fermented in stainless steel using indigenous yeasts then aged in French oak foudres. Alcohol 14.5%. The color is a medium ruby. The light to medium nose bore aromas of sweet ripe fruit, a little bramble, and tilts towards red fruit. The flavors immediately start off concentrated with a good mouthfeel. There are bluer fruits with power, very fine drying tannins, and some initial let-loose heat in the aftertaste. Still young with some carbon dioxide. After several hours the wine came together with garrigue, some sweet spice, and captivating dark, earthy notes which hang low through the aftertaste. The herbs are quite nice. A lovely wine but still tight. **** 2016-2030.
2010 Domaine de la Colline St Jean, Vacqueyras – $23
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils. This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre sourced from a 14 hectares of 50 year old vines on soils of clay and limestone. The fruit was fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement vats before aging in 70% cement vat and 30% used oak barrels. Alcohol 14%. The medium strength nose reveals young pure fruit with a powerful pepper note and eventually blueberry jam. In the mouth the pepper fruit shines through as the wine puts on complexity in to the aftertaste. There are strong, fine+ drying tannins and sweet spices. On the second night the wine remains young with an added graphite note to the blueberry fruit, a racy aspect, and a dark note in the aftertaste. There is prominent structure to this modern styled wine. ***(*) 2017-2025.
2001 Clos Les Lunelles, Cotes de Castillon – $35
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is an approximate blend of 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc.Alcohol 13.5%. The darkest of wines with a very dark core showing some garnet and brick on the thin rim. The medium strength nose carries older fruit, some roast, a little sour red fruit, wood, and dried tobacco. I also noted aromas of grilled hot dogs. In the mouth there are strong flavors of herbs and roast delivered in a surprisingly round manner. With air the dry red fruit mixes with fig and dried fruit. The acidity is balanced and the aftertaste is good. Plenty of life ahead but I suspect the tannic structure will outlive the fruit. *** Now-2020.