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A tasting with Lou: Sandlands, Sanguis, Soumade and more

November 3, 2019 Leave a comment

Lou and I gathered quite a while ago to drink some randomly selected wines.  A new wine for me is the NV Phillippe Tessier, Phil’en Bulle.  It is a little sweet for me so perhaps better with dessert.  Of particular note is the white wine 2017 Linne Calodo, Contrarian, Paso Robles.  I should also note the very young 2016 Domaine la Soumade, Cuvee Prestige, Rasteau which, with several years of age, will become a very good wine.  2017 Sandlands Vineyards, Red Table Wine, Contra Costa County is a young wine for drinking now.  A solid bottle of 1989 Raymond Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve, Napa Valley delivered surprise and pleasure.  A pair of Sanguis offered a fun comparison even if they should have been drunk up a few years ago. The 2011 Sanguis, 11-A, John Bastiano is very clean, chalky, and full of verve.  For a brief bit, I preferred the luxury of the 2011 Sanguis, 11-B, Bienacido but it sadly cracked up after a short period.

NV Phillippe Tessier, Phil’en Bulle, Loire
A Zev Rovine Selection imported by Fruit of the Vine. Alcohol 12.5%. A slightly hazy, light straw yellow. Very fine and strong bubbles carry the ripe, sweetish start. Some yeast the short finish.  **(*) Now.

2017 Linne Calodo, Contrarian, Paso Robles
This is a blend of 50% Grenache Blanc, 30% Picpoul Blanc, and 20% Viognier. Alcohol 13.7%. Refreshing with good acidity white nuts and expansive flavor. A core of tropical fruit remains but the gum, coating texture adds presence. Notes of pastilles in the finish. **** Now – 2022.

2011 Sanguis, 11-A, John Bastiano, Santa Rita  Hills
Alcohol 14%. A very light color with a green tinge. A little toast on the nose eventually blows off. Tart with some berry toast. Clean with chalk and yellow fruit. Plenty of verve. ** Now.

2011 Sanguis, 11-B, Bien Nacido, Santa Maria Valley
Alcohol 14.8%. A touch more fruit and weight, oily in the middle with a steely finish. Racy with good balance, it has some toast flavors. With air it begins to crack up revealing acidity and heat.  *** at best but Past Prime.

2017 Sandlands Vineyards, Red Table Wine, Contra Costa County
A blend of Carignan and Mataro. Alcohol 12.9% Grapey with cranberry flavor and chalky tannins. Tart with crunchy acidity this sports an interesting mineral, fruit blend.  *** Now – 2022.

2016 Domaine la Soumade, Cuvee Prestige, Rasteau
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 14.5%. A grapey, young color and tight, grapey nose. Tight in the mouth but there is a lovely vein of fruit through the linear structure. Beautiful fat from the ripeness, it is powerful, building flavor. ***(*) 2024-2034.

1989 Raymond Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve, Napa Valley
Mature with Eucalyptus. Some firmness in the mouth but the Cab flavor comes out. In fresh shape this is a tasty wine with focused, ripe fruit, some dry wood notes, and structure in the end. *** Now.

A pair of Tablas Creek

Andy pointed out the 2017 Tablas Creek, Marsanne, Paso Robles because this is the first time the store has carried this wine and he thought it is quite good.  I agree!  Whenever my friends taste white Rhone wines, they always comment on how they should be drunk more frequently.  While not from the Rhone, this bottle of Tablas Creek should be on your list of wines to try.  It is exotic and complex on the nose with rounded and dense flavors that persist through the long finish.

White wine is always followed by red in my house so I accompanied the Marsanne with the 2007 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel, Paso Robles.  I found this a treat as well, for there are earthy, savory flavors delivered with verve.  It is just coming into mid-life so give it a good decant if you try it out this year.  You may find the Marsanne along with other bottlings at MacArthur Beverages.

2017 Tablas Creek, Marsanne, Paso Robles – $36
This wine is 100% Marsanne.  Alcohol 12.2%. An attractive golden color. The nose is floral and complex with stone fruits, lemon, and pineapple. The flavors are of focused white nuts, rounded with body. The stone fruits last through the long finish where dense, chalky flavors come out. This is a pure, fresh wine with excitement from the acidity. **** Now – 2024.

2007 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel, Paso Robles
This wine is a blend of 44% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 21% Syrah, and 6% Counoise.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Almost crisp with a touch of earth from the Mourvedre. Blue and mineral in the middle with some leather. It still has structure and is just entering mid-life. The cola-like verve matches the articulate and textured fruit. Satisfyingly savory. **** Now – 2029.

“There is no such thing as Round Hill”: 1974 Round Hill, 1970 LMHB, and 1978 Mastantuono

January 4, 2019 3 comments


Sickness and scheduling issues meant I was never able to host any tastings this holiday break. I did manage to meet up at Lou’s house for an impromptu tasting of mature wine.  I was given several bottles of 1970 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves from that odd DC cellar years back.  With ratty labels (the 1970 is still visible though) and good fill, the cork came out in good shape.  Just a brief bit of bottle stink soon blew off to reveal deep aromas.  It is deep flavored as well, yet also lifted, quickly showing fully mature flavors.  Equally good, the 1974 Round Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley lived up to my hopes.

It is due to these two wines that I stayed at Lou’s for nearly five hours as we finished off both bottles.  Two years ago I mentioned Round Hill in the context of some old Ernie’s bottles I had opened.  Ernie Van Asperen ran a chain of more than 80 liquor stores in California.  He also operated a negocient business, purchasing up extra wine from wineries who bottled it for him under the Round Hill and Ernie’s labels.  Round Hill wines could be highly regarded and won medals at the Los Angeles County Fair.  Frank J. Prial, a judge at the fair, wrote in The New York Times that he found this “amusing because there is no Round Hill.”

As for what was in our bottle we do have some clues.  In 1980, the Underground Wine Journal wrote that the 1974 Ernie’s “Special Selection” Cabernet came from old Souverain stocks that were sold off in the 1970s.  In 1974, Souverain was sold by J. Leland Steward to a group of investors.  They in turn sold Souverain to Pillsbury Co. under which the new winery was constructed in Alexander Valley.  It was not a profitable deal, for Pillsbury sold off the Souverain winery and its assets in 1976.  Round Hill was founded in 1977.  That same year Frank J. Prial noted that wine from Sonoma Vineyard and Souverain were bottled under the Round Hill label.

There is a strong chance, then, that the 1974 Round Hill is actually Souverain.  Whatever it is, Ernie knew what he was doing for it is an excellent wine at the height of maturity.

I do love a good surprise and the 1978 Mastantuono, Zinfandel, Dusi Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County represents just that.  I refrained from any prior research so was quite impressed with the savory and saline profile of this full-bodied, red fruited wine.  Founded in 1976, Mastantuono is the fifth oldest winery in Paso Robles.  The Dusi Vineyard was planted in 1923 so even at the time, the Mastantuono was made from old vines.  The 1978 vintage was a hot year producing “intensely flavored” Zinfandel according to Robert Parker Jr. in The Washington Post during 1981.  This bottle is intense yet savory, lending interest as it reflects both the vintage and vineyard.  It lasted about two hours in a decanter before it started to fade.

The wines that evening were a treat!

1970 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves
Deep flavored with ripe hints and goof lift.  Additional notes of low-lying leather and minerals adds complexity.  The watering acidity weaves through the palate as the wine grips the sides of the gums, turning redder in flavor.  With air it offers up deep flavors of cranberries and other bright fruit.  **** Now but will last

1974 Round Hill Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  A deep, black cherry color offers more pigment than the LMHB.  Immediately striking as medium-bodied with good fruit weight and rounded nature.  This wine is rich in flavor with no hard edges due to fully integrated structure.  It is dense and gravelly with minerals and grip by the middle.  It took half an hour to open up in the decanter, eventually offering big mouth feel and flavor for hours.  A touch of structure comes out in the end. **** Now but will last.

1978 Mastantuono, Zinfandel, Dusi Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County
Alcohol 12.5%. A fresh nose with an herbaceous hint.  A savory, salty start soon yields bright red fruit that is deep in flavor.  This is a medium to full-bodied wine with quite the weight to the fruit.  Flavors of candied berry and old leather mix with good watering acidity, actually zippy acidity.  A very solid wine.  The savory personality makes it stand out.  *** Now but will last.

Grenache Blanc from California

This past week we tried three bottles of California Grenache Blanc from three different regions.  The 2015 Priest Ranch, Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley  is a good value.  You first notice salinity and stone dust which is soon followed by fruit and  a mouth-coating aftertaste.  This wine responds well to air and some warmth which will make you pleased with the wine and $20 price.

Two of the wines have an interesting connection in that the vineyard which sources the Three Clicks fruit is planted with cuttings that came from Tablas Creek.  The 2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles is locked down.  I kept an open bottle in my refrigerator for a week and the wine barely changed.  Right now it is evocative of lemons but it needs to shake off its firmness before it should be drunk.  On the other hand the 2015 Three Clicks, Grenache Blanc, Branham Vineyard, Sonoma County is expressive.  I have enjoyed tasting the last several vintages of this wine at the annual MacArthur Beverages California Barrel Tasting and the current released vintages is just as good.  You taste the white fruit and the stones but it is crispness that captures my attention.  If you can only afford one bottle then grab the Three Clicks.  Add in the Priest Ranch if you want to compare wines.

 

2015 Priest Ranch, Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley – $20
Alcohol 14.8%.  This saline and stone dust infused wine has a dense start followed by ripe, white fruit flavors in the middle, and a pervasive, mouth-coating aftertaste.  It is well structured and balanced for further life.  *** Now – 2020.

2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles – $30
Alcohol 14.4%. Tasted over several nights this wine remained largely unevolved.  The flavors of white fruit, lemon, and baking spices are supported by lemon-like acidity, fine texture, and some density.  It adds a lifted, floral note in the finish.  This will last! **(*) Now – 2032.

2015 Three Clicks, Grenache Blanc, Branham Vineyard, Sonoma County – $28
Alcohol 14.3%.  There is a slightly weighty yet crisp start with good white fruit that overlays chalk.  The liveliness makes you return for another glass. *** Now – 2020.

Steller NY Gewurztraminer, CA Carignan, and one more

Lou and I squeezed in a tasting this past week based around New York Gewurztraminer and California Carignan.  Lou purchased his bottle of 2007 Red Newt Cellars, Gewurztraminer, Sawmill Creek Vineyards, Finger Lakes when he visited the winery last year.  Lou enjoyed it at the winery and I certainly enjoyed it at his house.  This is a top-notch, special wine.  It is mature in aroma and flavor but the wine is still very fresh with a seductive mouthfeel.  It is an eye-opening wine from the Finger Lakes but more importantly, it is a great glass of wine!

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For the reds we started with 2012 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Patelin de Tablas, Paso Robles.  There was a time when Jenn and I drank the Cotes de Tablas as our daily table wine.  Prices eventually crept up so we now drink Tablas Creek wines with less frequency.  The 2012 vintage of the Patelin de Tablas is a fruity, forward wine which you may drink or gulp from the very first glass.   There is even good complexity to hold up to scrutiny and a friendly price.  The 2012 Sandlands Vineyards, Carignane, Sonoma County was certainly my favorite red wine of the night.  With a meaty nose, this floral flavored wine combined both power and elegance.  All of the Sandlands wines are fascinating!  From the same vintage, the 2012 Lioco, Indica, Mendocino County offers tart, citric, red fruit but also has a rounded body.  This bottle is completely different expression of Carignan, that being of pure fruit flavors.

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2007 Red Newt Cellars, Gewurztraminer, Sawmill Creek Vineyards, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 13.8%. The nose was immediately aromatic with honeysuckle.  The acidity is present from the very start as nut accented, tropical flavors develop.  The wine is very fresh with a seductive, glycerin mouthfeel.  Drinking very well right now.  **** Now – 2021.

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2012 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Patelin de Tablas, Paso Robles
This wine is a blend of 53% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 18% Mourvedre, and 2% Counoise.  Alcohol 13.8%.  The dusty red fruit aromas took on some cherry and plum notes.  In the mouth this gentle, ripe flavored wine is an all-round good drinker for the next few  years.  It is a touch soft with only a moderate amount of tannins.  Why hold back?  **(*) Now – 2017.

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2012 Sandlands Vineyards, Carignane, Sonoma County
This wine is 100% Carignane.  Alcohol 14.2%.    The meaty aromatic nose makes way to somewhat firm, red fruited start in the mouth.  There is more intensity with fuzzy, fruitier flavors matched by good acidity and structure.  The mouthfeel is attractive.  The wine develops a polished wood note, showing more fruit, a strong floral component, and certainly more power.  ***(*) Now – 2021.

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2012 Lioco, Indica, Mendocino County
This wine is 100% old-vine Carignan that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 11 months on the lees in neutral oak.  Alcohol %.  Aromatic.  In the mouth there is a somewhat tart fruited start.  The citrus and floral flavors  mix with more acidity as it continues into the tart middle.  The wine becomes a touch rounded with a tangy middle, fuzzy citrus pith, and red fruit.  The fruit is actually quite good and pure.  The wine does take on a lipsticky finish with rather fine, drying tannins.  *** Now – 2019.

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One Time Spaceman @OneTimeSpaceman

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The Moon Duck by One Time Spaceman is not the product of astronauts but rather musician and winemaker Mark Adams.  In this case from the winemaker side of Mark Adams who you might know from Saxum or Ledge. There is not much written about these wines.  The One Time Spaceman is a negociant line.  Wines from this line may be a blend of purchased juice and that Mark fermented in-house himself.  This was a rather interesting wine with an attractive nose and mouth of delicate, fresh berries that in no way reveal any heat.  I thought our bottle showed better on the second night which confirms my view that it is best to cellar this wine for a few years.  Jenn liked it on both nights.  I often think of Rhone blends when it comes to Paso Robles.  In a manner this is but with a good twist.  Give it a try.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2010 One Time Spaceman, Moon Duck, Paso Robles – $30
This wine is a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, and Tempranillo which was aged mostly in neutral French oak.  Alcohol 15.5%.  The color is a medium grapey garnet.  The light nose is fresh with delicate berries.  The mouth follows the nose with very fresh berries, spices, and perhaps a hint of nutmeg.  It is light in aspect with some tart acidity on the tongue and minerals in the finish.  There is a persistent aftertaste of ripe, black fruit.  With air this continues to show balance, good acidity, and gentle ripe tannins.  ***(*) 2015-2023.

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California, Rhode Island, Macedonia, and More

December 17, 2012 1 comment

For the most part I take pictures of all of the wines I drink, be it by the glass or bottle.  I write down tasting notes for the vast majority of these wines but in social settings I find taking notes prevents me from joining the conversation.  I want to maintain a history of everything I drink, not to tout trophy bottles (which rarely cross my lips) but to provide material for a vinuous biography later in life.  The first two wines were brought by my Uncle to Thanksgiving dinner.  He served the 2009 Etude, Pinot Noir Estate in a decanter with the bottle squirreled away.  In a feat of sheer luck and brilliance I deduced 2009 Californian Pinot Noir.  I do not drink many Californian Pinot Noirs but this worked well in the general hub-bub of dinner which was punctuated by a few crackles from the fireplace.  I believe everyone enjoyed it for it was tasty to drink.  We then moved on to the 2007 Albert Morot, Beaune Cent-Vignes.  Still showing firmness this wine encouraged you to take small sips then reflect upon them.  I think it should be cellared a few more years but I did not mind its current state.

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2009 Etude, Pinot Noir Estate, Carneros
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from various vineyards and aged in French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.4%.  There was a light to medium strength nose of dark red fruit.  In the mouth the flavors were spicy with brambly Pinot fruit then brambly bluer fruit.  The wine became racy towards the finish where a sweeter side and some spice came out.  This was forward, pleasing, and drinking well out of a decanter.

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2007 Albert Morot, Beaune Cent-Vignes, Beaune 1er Cru
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This wine is 100% Pint Noir which was fermented in stainless steel and is raised in some new oak.  There was a light nose of wild, red fruit.  In the mouth the black cherry flavors were framed with blacker fruit in the finish.  It was still a touch firm with integrated acidity which kept the wine lively and matched by a sense of levity.  There was texture in the finish and orange juicy acidity.  Should drink for a decade but needs a few more years.

We recently popped over to Shane’s for a roasted chicken dinner.  I brought over the Cornelissen and the Tikves in brown bags for the fun of it.  I poured small tastes of the Frank Cornelissen, Susucaru 4 to which Shane wondered if it was something like a Movia wine.  It did not come across too well with exclamations, spitting, and dumping occurring all at once.  This sparked an idea in Shane’s head so he chilled down a Rhode Island Riesling.  The current release is 2010 so his bottle of 2008 Newport Vineyards, Vintner’s Select Riesling has a few years of age on it.  It was a perfectly acceptable wine, while a bit sterile and lacking flavor in the finish, it smelled and tasted like Riesling.  And it was from Rhode Island, how cool.  The 2010 Tikves, Barova, Red showed well reflecting the studious attention paid to the vineyards and winemaking.  Philippe Cambie is the consulting winemaker.  He has helped create a modern wine with fruit flavors that make you scratch your head and wonder what varietals the wine was made from.  Lastly, there was the 2007 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel.  I thought the color and nose were a bit more advanced than its age.  Unsure of vintage I guessed it a French wine made from Syrah and Grenache perhaps from Gigondas.  I got 50% of the varietal composition correct!  And being Tablas Creek a guess of France was not too off base.  To Shane the fruit had a purity which reminded him of California.  I really like the wines of Tablas Creek but am remiss that the Cotes de Tablas Rouge became too expensive for a daily wine.

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Frank Cornelissen, Susucaru 4, Dry Rose, Etna
Imported by Fruit of the Vines.  Produced from the free-run juice of various indigenous varietals.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Rather cloudy in the glass which is not surprising given the clumps in the bottle.  Beautifully texture, aromatic nose is very enticing.  Then in the mouth it started with pure tart, thin, dry flavors.  Very tart at first but after an hour or two the flavors were of pure, dry, grapefruit juice followed by a yeasty Pilsner finish.  Strange disconnect between the nose and mouth.

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2010 Tikves, Barova, Red, Republic of Macedonia
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 85% Kratosija and 15% Vranec sourced from 35-year-old vines located on soils of Smolnik with humus and Povilna wyth fern and mountain flora biomass.  It was aged in stainless steel. Alcohol 14.5%.  There were well made flavors of lightly powdery black and red fruit, a little woodsy tannin, plenty of well done acidity.  Young, nice, and well made.  Should drink well over the short-term.  Contemporary but with a flavor profile I cannot put my finger on.

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2008 Newport Vineyards, Vintner’s Select Riesling, Rhode Island
This wine is 100% Riesling.  Alcohol 12%.  There was a light Riesling nose. In the mouth the white fruit was somewhat ripe at first with clean Riesling fruit.  There was a decent start with some acidity then the wine muted and faded off with no acidity and loss of flavor.  A pleasant enough drink which made a favorable introduction to the wines of Rhode Island.

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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%.  It smelled a bit older on the nose with rich, clean mixed fruit which reminded me of Gigondas.  In the mouth there was a dense mixture of black fruit, spices, and a long, lifted aftertaste that left dark flavors of wood box in the mouth.