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Posts Tagged ‘Tasting Notes and Wine Reviews’

A disintegrating label yet solid 1966 Lafite Rothschild

A widow recently sold off the small remains of her wine cellar.  The wines were originally purchased from MacArthur Beverages a long time ago, then stored in the basement of her house. There was nearly a case of 1966 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac with labels varying from largely intact to disintegrating.  I picked bottles with the best fills, which coincidentally had the worst labels.  Last month, I opened a bottle with the lowest fill to gauge what I had purchased.

The 1966 vintage of Lafite was available in Washington, DC for several years.  In 1970, you could purchase 1966 Lafite for $9.50 a bottle.  By 1971, the price had crept up to $12 before skyrocketing to $20 in 1972.  You can understand how this massive increase in French wine prices, in part, led to more people buying Californian wine.

Under the capsule, the top of the cork was covered with mold which was working its way down the long cork.  While not the best preserved cork, at least half of it was still in business.  I decanted the wine into a flask then took a sniff of a freshly poured glass.  It smelled clean.

Edmund Penning-Rowsell writes that Lafite went through a bit of a bad spell between 1964 and 1974.  David Peppercorn reports that 323 tonneaux were produced that vintage which is a greater than in 1982.  I relay this information because I found this bottle just moderately good.  It did smell and taste of good condition despite the fill and label.  My impression seems to follow others on Cellar Tracker.  While the wine is now in a tertiary state with cigar box, earth, and meat, there is good weight and even a sense of fat.  I happily drank it with relishing thoughts of what is in the other bottles.

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1966 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac
Shipped by Laurent Lescure.  Imported by Capitol City Liquors Co.  This is a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.  Upper to top shoulder fill.  A garnet-mahogany color.  A slight herbaceous edge to the nose but also earth and meat.  The flavors are light yet the body is weighty and develops a round edge.  With air, flavors of tart red fruit take on cigar box by the middle and graphite in the end.  A pretty wine, completely smooth, which becomes meaty with luxurious, ethereal fat in the finish.  **(*) Now.

Deep and mature Kalecik Karasi from Turkey

This 2014 Vinkara Winery, Kalecik Karasi, Kalecik is a fine follow-on to the 2013 vintage which I reviewed here.  In fact, I like it even better for it is deep and mineral without the prickle.  I imagine that if you like a maturing, dark Cotes du Rhone then you will enjoy this wine very much.  I find it drinking well right now but will last a few more years.  It is a steal at $15.  Thanks to John for pointing this out at MacArthur Beverages.

2014 Vinkara Winery, Kalecik Karasi, Kalecik, Ankara – $15
Imported by Fine Terroir Selections. This wine is 100% Kalecik Karasi that was aged for 12 months in stainless steel tanks. Alcohol 14%.  Deep aromas on the nose followed by deep fruit in the mouth with fresh acidity and some tang to keep it lively.  This is a well-balanced wine with a mineral cut in the middle followed by good, robust fruit.  Dark and different, it even takes on some licorice.  *** Now – 2023.

Magnums at a friend’s gathering

July 30, 2019 1 comment

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Last week I went over to a friend’s house to hang out and drink some wine.  He had invited his neighbors over and to quench our thirst he opened five different magnums from his cellar.  With two glasses in hand we first compared two different Chardonnay wines from the 2004 vintage.  Repeated assessments to determine the different qualities of the 2004 Bernard Morey, Puligny-Montrachet La Truffiere 1er Cru and 2004 Vincent Dauvissat, Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses meant the magnums were largely finish by evening’s end.  With air and warmth, both magnums continued to exhibit fresh aromas and flavors defying their age.  These pristine examples revealed themselves to be quite different.  The Morey is the more mature, more hedonistic of the pair since it offers more mid-palate ripeness and grip.  The Dauvissat is precise with stone-infused focused flavors.  I liked them both though I give a nod to the Dauvissat.  It really is incredible at how fresh these wines can remain.

The second flight compared two mostly Cabernet Sauvignon based wines from the 1996 vintage.  The 1996 Chateau Montelena, Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Napa Valley reveals berries on the nose with more fruit and substance through the middle.  It is, no doubt, very good and while generous, it remains controlled.  My preference lies with the 1996 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac. The deep nose is killer with mineral, tart black flavors that are highly focused.  I would drink it now because the aromas are so attractive.  I can easily image it will last another 10-20 years but it might become too austere at that age whereas the Montelena will continue to offer more fruity, flavorful drinking.

Dessert was in the form of 2005 Clos des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape.  Sadly, it came across as rather unevolved and underperforming so after a quick taste I returned to the other wines.  Due to my friend’s generosity in providing magnums, we were insured there still more to enjoy with the other selections.

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2004 Bernard Morey, Puligny-Montrachet La Truffiere 1er Cru en magnum
Imported by Atherton Wine Imports. Alcohol 13.5%.  A vibrant yellow-green with a fine, smoke hint on the nose.  Mineral with tart lemon flavors and mid palate presence from gravelly fruit with hints of ripeness.  Lovely and mature, it might develop a bit more.  I found it generally precise with a little spice and long aftertaste.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

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2004 Vincent Dauvissat, Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses en magnum
Imported by Wine Cellars LTD.  Alcohol 13%.  A lighter, brighter straw yellow color.  A beautiful, tense wine with a fine layer of fat into the end.  Fresh with lifted acidity with lower-lying flavors that become subtle in the fat infused finish.  It remains focused with lemon flavors before wrapping up with a pure and tart, persistent aftertaste.  **** Now – 2030.

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1996 Chateau Montelena, Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Napa Valley en magnum
Alcohol 13.5%.  Berries on the nose.  Fresh, weighty flavors with a good core of black rurant then a mineral hint in the end.  It takes on more weight and while richer, it is framed out and always in control.  It is mouth filling with flavors that cling to the gums.  **** Now – 2025.

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1996 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac en magnum
Shipped by Bernard et Meneret.  Imported by Vintage Trading.  This is roughly a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 13%.  Deep on the nose with graphite and minerals.  A mineral, tart black fruited start is carried by watering acidity.  It is lighter in weight, remaining focused with taut, fresh flavors and a long lasting aftertaste.  **** Now – 2035.

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2005 Clos des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape en magnum
Alcohol 15%.  The waves of rounded, mouth filling fruit, came across as monolithic and not having developed any complexity.  A seemingly underperforming bottle that was just not my style this evening.  Not Rated.

The First Release: 1974 Sonoma Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander’s Crown

July 25, 2019 2 comments

When Rodney Strong created Sonoma Vineyards in the 1960s, he already had years worth of experience at multiple wineries.  In fact, Sonoma Vineyards represents the rebirth of his successful Windsor Vineyards.  Based on his winemaking experiences Strong built a new, practically designed winery in which he installed the latest winemaking equipment including temperature controlled stainless steel tanks made by his own company.

The Sonoma Vineyards name was inspired by Strong’s increasing acquisition of vineyards throughout Sonoma County.  Strong believed, based on European ideas, that each vineyard should be planted with the grape variety best suited for it.  Two of his vineyards were of particular high quality, Chalk Hill for Chardonnay and Alexander’s Crown for Cabernet Sauvignon.  As a result of his terroir driven interests, Strong began his vineyard designated series with Chalk Hill in the 1960s.  This was followed by the Alexander’s Crown Cabernet Sauvignon series in the 1970s.  In fact, the 1974 Sonoma Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander’s Crown, Sonoma County represents the first release of this series.

By releasing the 1974 Alexander’s Crown, Strong created the first single-vineyard wine from Alexander Valley.  The AVA was to follow some 10 years later.  For this vineyard, Strong had purchased 180 acres of which 61 acres was planted in 1971.  He felt the red, iron oxide soil produced big, forward Cabernet wines.

This bottle of 1974 Sonoma Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander’s Crown, Sonoma County had fill in the neck with a beautiful, well-seated cork for its age.  One quick sniff and taste confirmed it was in fine condition.  It is a deep flavored wine with a fine mineral note.  It is generously fruity, berrylicious in fact, with all structure resolved as it is in the last stage of its fully mature plateau.  It is a lovely surprise to discover this wine.

The background information in this post comes from Carole Hicke’s 1993 interview of Rodney Strong which you may find here.

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1974 Sonoma Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander’s Crown, Sonoma County
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in 60 and 120 gallon French oak barrels.  Alcohol 13.7%.  Immediately deep in flavor with minerals and earth evident, followed by full flavored, cherry core.  There is good complexity from the first pour.  With air the flavors become bluer and more minerals come out.  If I find fault it is with the finish that is a touch soft but this is likely due to it being near the end of its fully mature plateau.  It remains berrylicious and satisfying to the last drop.  **** Now but will last.

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A Solid Drink: 1985 Clos Du Bois, Marlstone

When a new friend was recently in town and expressed delight in trying older vintages of wine, I quickly returned with a mature bottle.  Unfortunately, this did not happen until a few minutes before we were set to leave the house so I grabbed the less precious 1985 Clos du Bois, Marlstone Vineyard, Alexander Valley. My experience with Californian wine from the 1980s is rather limited compared to the wines of the 1970s.  The first release from Clos du Bois came in 1974 with that of Marlstone in 1978.  Marlstone is intended as a classic Bordeaux blend hence the thoughtful inclusion of Cabernet Franc and Malbec.  This particular vintage is less heralded in Sonoma than Napa which might speak to the herbaceous edge to this wine both on the nose and in the mouth.  However, it is deep in aroma with ethereal ripeness in the mouth and juicy acidity.  Given the time constraint, I ended up drinking most of it on the second night.  While fully mature, it shows good staying power and freshness.

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1985 Clos du Bois, Marlstone Vineyard, Alexander Valley
This wine is a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Malbec that was aged for nearly 3 years in 60 gallon French oak barrels.  Alcohol 13.7%.  A deep nose with an herbaceous aroma rising out.  Maturing in the mouth, it fluffs out after a few hours.  With age have come some wood box notes.  The ethereal, ripe, mouth coating nature is balanced by firm, juicy acidity.  It is a good wine in an herbaceous way.  ** Now but will last.

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Jimenez-Landi’s old-vine, high-altitude Spanish Garnacha

The 2015 Jimenez-Landi, Las Uvas de la Ira, Mentrida is made from Garnacha located on granite soils west of Madrid.  This area is a mountain range known as Sierra de Gredos.  I have previously enjoyed a few of the wines Jimenez-Landi made for the Commando G label which also come from this area.  This particular wine is very fresh, with lovely strawberry flavor and plenty of presence in the mouth.  This is a fresh wine to drink over the next year.

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2015 Jimenez-Landi, Las Uva de la Ira, Mentrida – $24
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.  This wine is 100% Garnacha sourced from vines averaging 60 years of age on Granite soils.  It was fermented in vat then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 14.5%. Very fresh in the mouth reinforced a hint of spritz on the tongue.  Open flavors of ripe, textured strawberry fruit tastes of a natural wine with fleeting hints of yeast.  Good presence with mid-weight and mid-density.  It finishes with complex flavors of a Manhattan with a cherry.  *** Now – 2020.

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To drink now, 2012 Domaine de Verquiere, Vacqueyras

I see from my posts that I first drank the 2012 Domaine de Verquiere, Vacqueyras nearly five years ago.  It has now shed its baby fat taking on complex bitters and wood box flavors.  I find it a solid choice for a mature Vacqueyras.  A few bottles resurfaced on the shelves at MacArthur Beverages.

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2012 Domaine de Verquiere, Vacqueyras – $27
Imported by Esprit du Vin.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20$ Syrah, and 10% Cinsault fermented in concrete vats then aged in a mix of tanks and foudre.  Alcohol 14%.  Cherry fruit propelled by clear watering acidity moves through this focused wine.  It is an inky, lipsticky wine with complex flavors of bitters and spiced tannins.  It is entering maturing with some wood box, though still retains a bit of structure.  Of modest weight.  *** Now – 2022.

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