Between work, family, wine research, and the new turntable I am short on free time. Thus over the past month I have generally drunk inexpensive French and Italian wine for I need not take down any notes. I have peppered these same weeks with a handful of younger bottles from California. One recent release is the 2013 Coquerel Family Wines, Le Terroir, Chardonnay, Oakville Block A, Napa Valley. This bottle showed very well after a few hours of air as well as on the second night. It is a style of wine that has not swung too far in either direction, providing balanced white fruit flavors with both lovely mouthfeel and tautness.
I have never tasted the 2009 Ridge, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County since release. I was surprised by the amount of flavor packed in and the lack of evolution. It is quite tasty but should be cellared further to open up. I suppose, in retrospect, I can understand why Lou and I enjoy decades old bottles of Ridge. The 2005 Karl Lawrence, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is a solid wine full of black fruit and graphite. It is supple and tasty, just not as exciting as I hoped at this stage. Finally, there is the gigantic 1997 Williams Selyem, Pinot Noir, Olivet Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley which caught me off guard. Ripe, dark, and alcoholic it is simply not my type of wine.
2013 Coquerel Family Wines, Le Terroir, Chardonnay, Oakville Block A, Napa Valley – $30
This was fermented in 25% oak barrels with the remaining in stainless steel after which is was aged 7 months sue lie. Alcohol 14%. With a bit of warmth and air this is an attractive wine of white fruit with a pleasing body of glycerin and nut flavors. The tautness of the wine builds as the acidity becomes more noticeable, simultaneously evolving a finely textured, ripe grip. ***(*) Now – 2020.
2009 Ridge, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
This wine is a blend of 71% Zinfandel, 23% Petite Sirah, and 6% Carignane. Alcohol 14.5%. This is both surprisingly unevolved and packing a tremendous level of flavor. It is a richly textured, dense wine of dark fruit that may not have any hard edges but does have structure for significant aging. Given the level of stuffing I would wait another five years to try again. **** Now – 2027.
2005 Karl Lawrence, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 14.2%. The nose remained subtle and the flavors of graphite-infused black fruit remained gentle. This is a low-lying, almost laid back wine. It remains very black in terms of flavor with inky hints and eventually develops some additional complexity from a wood box flavor. There is some texture but it is generally supple with low-acidity. Solid. *** Now.
1997 Williams Selyem, Pinot Noir, Olivet Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.9%. This is a thick, dark flavored, very ripe wine of body and scope which seems to defy the varietal. It was heady with noticeable heat in the finish that I found too distracting. Not my style. Not Rated.
We typically see the usual selection of Ridge wines in Washington, DC, so it was a no brainer to grab a bottle of 2013 Ridge, Lytton Estate, Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley. Ridge wines can be fascinating to taste both young and mature. Petite Sirah wines can be quite a mouthful and evolve at a glacial pace. Indeed, the back label of the bottle states “This is one of the most structured petite sirahs we have made from Lytton Estates.” It certainly is compared to the 2010 vintage, which you may read about here. Despite that reference, the 2013 vintage is an overall elegant Petite Sirah in a larger context. It is both concentrated and forward. It may not become too expansive but I think it will open up with some much needed age. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2013 Ridge, Lytton Estate, Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County – $24
This wine is a blend of 97% Petite Sirah and 3% Zinfandel which was aged for 16 months in American oak. Alcohol 13.9%. The nose offers up inky, purple aromas mixed with buttered loaf and some smoke. In the mouth, this is a black, grapey, flavorful wine with acidity that is certainly present. The wine becomes savory with an umami, salt combination. It is textured with extract and ripe, chocolate flavors tannins. It is rather elegant for this variety. *** Now – 2031.
With the end of the year approaching I thought it appropriate to start drinking some of the lesser bottles that I have as well as those of which I have several. The 1991 A. Rafanelli Winery, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County came from the Earthquake Cellar. Though in stellar condition it initially tasted of rather acidic, bright red fruit. I thought it a goner so I switched to the double-decanted 2007 Chateau Pesquie, Quintessence, Ventoux. This bottle of Pesquie delivered the goods both with aromas and in the saline accented flavors. It is a large-framed, robust wine that does not fall victim to the high alcohol level. Many hours later, the Rafanelli fleshed out with cherry flavors that balanced the acidity along with attractive wood notes from age. It ultimately came across as reasonably youthful with only the menthol aspect confirming its age.
Also from the 1990s is the 1998 Viking Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon which we last tasted in 2008. This soft, old wine still sported jammy berries with enough acidity to keep it together. The two wines from the 1990s were enjoyable enough to finish and while worthy of the experience, I would not bother seeking them out. Finally, the 2004 Domaine des Espiers, Cuvee Tradition, Gigonda remains a solid enough, modern wine as it did when last tasted in 2011. Perhaps not the most exciting quartet of wines but I do not mind. I just received a slew of wines from 1947 through 1985 which I will be opening up this winter. These bottles should be tons of fun!
1991 A. Rafanelli Winery, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
Alcohol 13.8%. After a few hours of air the nose became attractive with sweet, old scents of leather and wood box. Though acidic at first this wine fleshed out with cherry fruit, some weight, and watering acidity through the back of the toast. It showed hints of ripe wood and a menthol finish. ** Now.
1998 Viking Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. Alcohol 12.8%. This licorice flavored wine was rounded and a little soft with jammy berries in the finish. The flavors mixed with old wood, old perfume, and a finish of minimal tannins and menthol freshness. The acidity was bound in the softness, giving it just enough liveliness. ** Now.
2004 Domaine des Espiers, Cuvee Tradition, Gigondas
Imported by the Country Vintner. Alcohol 14.5%. Though this developed some nuanced flavors, it largely remained firm. It was quite tannic at first then firm black and red fruit came out. The watering acidity transitioned to a modern finish with a good dose of fine, drying tannins on the tongue. Not too interesting of a wine. ** Now – 2022.
2007 Chateau Pesquie, Quintessence, Ventoux
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars. This wine is a blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache. Alcohol 15%. Aromatic on the nose and rich in the mouth with saline infused black and red fruit. Weighty but not overbearing, this wine is taking on bottle aged complexity but still has the vigor of youth. It has some attractive raciness right now but I think it will benefit from several more years of age. ***(*) Now – 2025.
Our beach week has ended and the first day of class at my daughter’s new school has begun. Do not be surprised if there are some gaps in my posting as I settle into our new schedule.
We drank some enjoyable wines at the beach this year. The pair of white Burgundies from Christophe Cordier were in the dump bin to make space for new vintages. The 2012 vintage was marked by yield reductions due to hail damage. The 2012 Christophe Cordier, La Verchere, Vire-Clesse emerged unscathed and is an outright treat of a wine at such a low price. I would wait another year before drinking it again. The 2012 Edmunds St. John, Rocks and Gravel, Dry Creek Valley is a spritely, lighter bodied wine that already shows good complexity. It should improve with short-term cellaring but I certainly recommend you try a bottle or two first!
We also tried two wines from Northern Rhone. I will admit an overall preference for the 2013 Domaine Georges Vernay, Sainte-Agathe, Cotes du Rhone not just because it tastes great but that it will clearly develop over the next several years. The 2012 Lionel Faury, Syrah, L’Art Zele, Collines Rhodaniennes does have some structure but it is a more forward, fruity wine that gives the impression it should be drunk young. Perhaps it may not develop the same level of complexity but the fat-like quality is seductive. You should try both wines. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2012 Christophe Cordier, Vieilles Vignes, Bourgogne Blanc – $17
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections. This wine is 100% Chardonnay. Alcohol 13.5%. There was similar texture to La Verchere at the start but this showed rounder flavors with a hint of cream in the finish. The acidity was completely integrated with the white fruit, drier finish, and chalky aftertaste. ** Now-2017.
2012 Christophe Cordier, La Verchere, Vire-Clesse – $16
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections. This wine is 100% Chardonnay. Alcohol 13.5%. There was a rich, apple nose followed by focused richness in the mouth. The gravelly, ripe apple flavors had good texture with toast-like notes on the gums. The structure and apple acidity suggest that this enjoyable wine will develop in the short term. **(*) Now-2018.
2012 Edmunds St. John, Rocks and Gravel, Dry Creek Valley – $25
This wine is a blend of 55% Grench, 27% Syrah, and 18% Mourvedre. This round wine offered up flavors of mandarin oranges and red fruit that was made spritely by the acidity. The wine progressed to blue fruits with a spice and cola like ripeness that added complexity to the young flavors. A treat to drink this wine is well poised for development. *** Now – 2020.
2013 Domaine Georges Vernay, Sainte-Agathe, Cotes du Rhone – $27
Imported by Simon “N” Cellars. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 40 year old vines located near Condrieu. It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for one year in use barrels. Alcohol 12.5%. Clearly a northern Rhone Syrah this wine sported lighter blue and red flavors that slowly built weight and savoriness in the mouth. With impeccable balance the fine and ripe textured tannins matched the savory and cool fruit elements. *** Now – 2025.
2012 Lionel Faury, Syrah, L’Art Zele, Collines Rhodaniennes – $30
Imported by Kermit Lynch. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 18 year old vines located near Cote Rotie. It was fermented in cement vats then aged for 15 months in used demi-muid. Alcohol 12.5%. The nose was clearly ripe with fruitier aromas backed by floral notes. In the mouth the black fruit had weight on the tongue and fat that laid over a low note of structure. The wine became firm in the finish with dry baking spices. *** Now – 2020.
Lou texted me that he tried one of the wines he received in the inaugural shipment from Sandlands Vineyards. It was special. Sandlands Vineyards is the project of Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua. Tegan has been making wine at Turley Wine Cellars for some time. These Sandlands wines are made with fruit from old, head-trained and dry-farmed vines in California. Lou mentioned he had a bottle of the Trousseau Noir so I knew I had to acquire a bottle of William Allen’s Two Shepherds Trousseau Gris. We then added in wines of Fausse Piste from Washington, Linden Vineyards from Virginia, and Edmunds St John from California. Our tasting was born.
I will keep this brief by just posting my thoughts. The wines of Sandlands are indeed special and exciting. You must get on the waiting list right away! I am digging Trousseau Gris and Trousseau Noir from California. Those in Washington, DC, are fortunate that you can buy the Two Shepherds wines at Weygandt Wines. Ask Tim or Warren if there is any Trousseau Gris left because William Allen has no more of the 2012 vintage. While you are at the shop pick up the Edmunds St John, Rocks + Gravel. You will be strongly satisfied drinking it now but be sure to cellar some as well. Over the years I have felt there was a certain funk or lurking flavor that I did not like in the red wines of Virginia. The Linden, Claret moves beyond that and lives up to the classic Claret name. Thanks to Phil at MacArthur Beverages for putting this in my sights.
2012 Two Shepherds, Trousseau Gris, Fanucchi Vineyard, Russian River Valley
This wine is 100% Trousseau Gris. Alcohol 13.8%. The color was of a bright copper kettle. The nose was beautiful with ripe, floral aromas. In the mouth the round flavors became racy in the middle then took on dry red flavors with integrated acidity. The flavors were well supported becoming ripe and gentle in the finish. On the second night there was a lovely, dense body to this unique wine. ***(*) Now-2017.
2013 Fausse Piste, Garde Mange, Columbia Valley
This wine is 100% Syrah. Alcohol 14.1%. This began with raisin-like, savory flavors, integrated acidity, and structure in the finish. It even had a little thickness. On the second night this showed better balance with bramble, some herbs black fruit, and ruggedness. ** Now-2017.
2012 Sandlands Vineyards, Trousseau, Sonoma County
This wine is 100% Trousseau Noir. Alcohol 13.2%. The color was a light garnet. The nose was aromatic with vintage perfume and aromas familiar to the Trousseau Gris. In the mouth were serious flavors. The structure was there and matched the flavors in the finish. It was a little salty, expansive, and beautiful. It took on a little tart fruit. The acidity was lovely, crisp and matched the eventually tangy flavors. **** Now-2019.
2012 Edmunds St John, Rocks + Gravel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
This wine is a blend of 55% Grenache, 27% Syrah, and 18% Mourvedre. Alcohol ? The nose had some enjoyable funk with red fruit but remained tight. There were lively flavors of ripe, mixed berries that picked up intensity. It continued to drink like a brighter Rhone-styled wine. *** Now-2025.
2011 Linden, Claret
This wine is a blend of 44% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Cabernet Franc. Alcohol 13.2%. The nose revealed dried herb and wood overlaying bright fruit and some meat. The flavors followed the nose with bright acidity, ripe tannins, and some Big Red notes. This was a youthful wine with young tasting fruit. It became a little herbacious with black graphite, and spicy, drying tannins that coated the mouth. With air this showed dry flavors of bright fruit. **(*) 2015-2019.
2010 Sandlands Vineyards, Mataro
This wine is 100% Mataro. Alcohol 13.6%. The nose remained right. In the mouth there was more fruit than the Trousseau Noir along with an interesting note of polished old wood. In a sense it was similar to the Trousseau Noir in profile. There were enjoyable dense aromas, a little savory flavor, black fruit, attractive graphite, and old-wood notes. Needs cellar time. Lou reported this was great on the third night. ***(*) 2016-2026.
A week or so ago Jenn and I tasted two of Eric Asimov’s wine school selections. I must admit I was somewhat confused by the 2011 Ridge, Zinfandel, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley. At first I thought the prickle on the tongue and high-toned notes indicated a wine that would crack-up on the second day. But there was a beguiling earthy note which I thought needed a chance to develop. This bottle was perfectly fine on the second night, though still clearly young, the tart red fruit was complemented by an earthy, animale finish. If this can age for a few years it should become something! The 2012 Dashe, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley is much lower in price. While it does not have the same level of complexity it is both forward drinking and in possession of a vein of black, mineral fruit which I imagine will blossom this winter. I would pick up several bottles of the Dashe to track their development as the Ridge slumbers. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2011 Ridge, Zinfandel, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley – $32
This wine is a blend of 82% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah, and 2% Carignane which was aged for 14 months in 25% new American oak barrels. Alcohol 14.4%. The nose was earthy with predominantly high-toned aromas. In the mouth the flavors were tingly on the tongue tip. There were mouth filling flavors of earthy, tart red cranberry fruit, wood polish, and a dose of drying tannins. The wine continued with blacker fruit, firm acidity, and an assertive finish. With extended air there were low-lying flavors of an earthy, animale nature. ***/***(*) 2015-2022.
2012 Dashe, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley – $18
This wine is a blend of 92% Zinfandel and 8% Petite Sirah aged for 10 months in 100% French oak casks. Alcohol 14.5%. This was a fruit forward and generous wine with an interesting vein of blue and black mineral fruit. The flavors were mouthfilling. There were some citric tannins and extract on the gums followed by a spicy kick of a finish. It could use a little age. **(*) 2014-2018.
I continue to purchase the wines that are featured on this blog. Hopefully this gives you a good sense of my interests one of which led me to pick up the 2007 Ridge, Zinfandel, York Creek. There is an uncanny ability for Ridge wines to develop and age but I feel this particular bottle drank at its peak. Indeed the back label reveals a development forecast to 2014-2016. The wine was a bit soft at first but once it firmed up the fruit, minerals, acidity, and structure were in pleasing balance.
Andy has been recommending wines as of late including the 2010 Chateau Ste Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canoe Ridge Estate, Horse Heaven Hills. This bottle must sport the largest ratio of mouthful-of-flavor to price out there. It is a seamless wine with dense, dark fruit matched by a chocolate vein. This will surely be a crowd pleaser, it was a bit too much for me though not fatiguing. Another recommendation from Andy is the 2011 Sbragia Family Vineyards, Zinfandel, Gino’s Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley. I had never heard of Sbragia before so if you have not then try this wine. It is more elegant but has complexity. I particularly liked the subtle orange and tobacco flavors. If you drink it now give it a few hours in the decanter otherwise try it at the end of the year. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2007 Ridge, Zinfandel, York Creek – $23
This wine is a blend of 78% Zinfandel and 22% Petite Sirah sourced from vines planted between the 1970s and 1990. It was fermented with indigenous yeast then aged for 12 months in new and used American oak barrels. Alcohol 14.6%. There were rather ripe aromas of macerated fruit. In the mouth there was a certain softness at first but the wine firmed up with air. There were minerally flavors of red and black fruit, appropriate acidity, and a supportive structure. The maturity came through with the cedar and wood-box infused finish. Drinking well right now. *** Now-2015.
2010 Chateau Ste Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canoe Ridge Estate, Horse Heaven Hills – $22
This wine is a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 2% Syrah, and 1% Malbec which was fermented with both indigenous and inoculated yeasts in French oak barrels then aged sur lie for 10 months. Alcohol 14.5%. The nose revealed dense, ripe aromas of musky chocolate. Tasted over four nights the silky flavors of dense, dark fruit mixed with moderately ripe tannins and had no edges at all. This completely integrated wine was rich, smooth, and full of flavors including chocolate. The ample oak influence was matched by the fruit. *** Now-2016.
2011 Sbragia Family Vineyards, Zinfandel, Gino’s Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley – $30
This wine is a field blend of 85% Zinfandel, 10% Carignan, and 5% Petite Sirah sourced from 55 year old vines on the 5 acre Gino’s Vineyard. It was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. Alcohol 14.4%. The lighter but complex nose made way to brighter red fruit in the mouth. The flavors were slightly tart but still ripe with strawberry notes and an orange hint. There was some tobacco as well as freshness from a little menthol. With air a lipstick component came out. *** 2014-2019.