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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.

More Saint-Joseph: Gaillard and Paris

I’ll admit to being a little underwhelmed with the two bottles of Saint-Joseph featured in this post. The 2016 Pierre Gaillard, Saint-Joseph offers some intrigue with the earth and vintage perfume but there is more structure than flavor. A few years of age might dissolve this concern.  It is worth stocking away a few bottles at this price. The 2016 Domaine Vincent-Paris, Saint-Joseph les Cotes is grapey, fresh, and tart. It does not offer up much right now but there is pinon incense that I like. Neither bottle budged much over a few days. My recommendation is to cellar a few years before trying again.

2016 Pierre Gaillard, Saint-Joseph – $25
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 12.5%. The blue and red fruit flavors are earth upon opening then develop a note of vintage perfume. It is a brighter wine with an herbaceous edge to the fruit. The watering acidity matches the elegant flavors, which, at this point are surrounded by structure. If the fruit persists and the structure resolves, this could be quite interesting in a few years. *** 2021 – 2028.

2016 Domaine Vincent-Paris, Saint-Joseph les Cotes – $27
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 12.5%. Grapey and fresh this is a tart wine with crisp concentration and very fine tannins. It is not offering up much right now but I do like the pinon incense. **(*) 2021-2026.

Good value in Bordeaux


Jenn and I tasted through several value recommendations from Phil and John at MacArthur Beverages. At the budget end you cannot go wrong with the 2016 Chateau Croix-Mouton, Bordeaux Superieur or 2015 Chateau Camino Salva, Haut-Medoc. The Croix-Mouton is fresh, somewhat herbaceous with a slightly juicy core of fruit. It has balance. The Camino Salva offers a touch more fruit and fat with a saline aspect that I like. You should drink both of these wines over the next few years.  The 2015 Les Brulieres de Beychevelle, Haut-Medoc is more expensive but finer with creamy blue fruit and a juicy spiced finish. There are no coarse edges in this bottle. Jenn remarked on her enjoyment several times.

2016 Chateau Croix-Mouton, Bordeaux Superieur – $17
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 14%. Bright with an herbaceous edge and spine of acidity. There are fresh flavors of black and red fruit supported by ripe, herbaceous tannins in the form of modest structure. It needs half an hour to an hour of air before it shows best, offering a fresh, slightly juicy core of fruit and grip. ** Now – 2022.

2015 Chateau Tour St Bonnet, Medoc – $20
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 65% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 13.5%. An herbaceous nose. This is a bright wine has bright fruit, bright acidity, and dry flavor through the solid aftertaste. There is some grip and mouthfeel from the slight structure. Lurking underneath are blue fruits and cassis. ** Now – 2022.

2015 Chateau Camino Salva, Haut-Medoc – $15
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13.5%. Black fruit, greenhouse, and vanilla are delivered with almost crisp acidity. With air this improves, offering modest density to the flavor of cassis. It shows a slightly saline and savory edge that I find attractive. The freshness coupled with modest structure and fat should make for a good drink over the next several years. **(*) Now – 2023

2015 Les Brulieres de Beychevelle, Haut-Medoc – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13.5%. A fine nose. In the mouth are weighty, almost creamy flavors of blue fruit and cinnamon before the juicy, baking spiced finish. The cool fruit flavors are of blue and black berries, though it becomes more black with air. A finely flavored wine carried by watering acidity into the modestly grip at the end. Closely played right now, but will open up over the next year or two. *** Now – 2025.

Kakfrankos from Peter Wetzer

February 27, 2019 Leave a comment

I find it hard to believe I last tasted the wines of Peter Wetzer of Hungary nearly seven years ago.  At the time, I tasted the 2009 Kekfrankos or Blaufrankisch.  John (MacArthur Beverages) just brought in two newer vintages of Kekfrankos.  The 2012 Peter Wetzer, Kekfrankos Spern Steiner Sopron is from the top Spern Steiner area.  It reveals a bit more age in color but in the mouth the core of fruit is still developing complexity while maintaining a fresh, citric grip.  There is fine density to it.  Even more fresh and crisp is the 2015 Peter Wetzer, Kekfrankos Beldes Sopron.  This reveals more fruit weight yet keeps a zippy edge throughout.  While I have a slight preference for the 2012, I it is more interesting to taste the two vintages side by side.

2012 Peter Wetzer, Kekfrankos Spern Steiner Sopron – $25
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  This wine is 100% Kekfrankos fermented in open vats then aged on the lees in used barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  The cherry, garnet color reflects the bottle age.  A fine nose of black pepper and herbaceous hints.  In the mouth are rounded flavors with some density to them.  There is some complexity surrounding the core of berry fruit which is carried by watering acidity.  With air, this dry wine develops hard flavors of cherry and strawberry.  The structure leaves citric grip on the gums.  *** Now – 2024.

2015 Peter Wetzer, Kekfrankos Beldes Sopron – $25
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.Alcohol 13.5%.  A cranberry, grapey color.  In the mouth this is a lively wine, almost with spritz on the tongue, which matches the tart, red flavors and fine grapey tannins.  It has youthful heft.  With air the zippy edge remains, perhaps more of a citric edge, red and black fruits come into focus along with ground stones.  Fresh.  **(*) Now – 2023.

A tasting of Château Léoville Poyferré 2015-1990

February 25, 2019 Leave a comment

On January 18, 2019, Panos Kakaviatos (https://wine-chronicles.com/) gathered together a group of DC wine lovers for one of his biannual Bordeaux dinners. This was one was at Le Petit Bouchon Restaurant in the French Embassy and featured the wines of Léoville Poyferré.

As in the past he invited a guest from the Chateaux and had a vertical representation of multiple vintages. Also, as always, Panos was a wonderful host who obviously took great care in the menu and the wines to make sure everything showed at its best, and that the guests all had a great time. From the Chateau was Sara Lecompte-Cuvelier, who provided great commentary on the wines and was a charming ambassador for the estate.

The wines were served in five flights preceded by a variety of Champagne. For me the highlights were a 2002 Piper Heidsieck Rare and a 2002 Dom Perignon. Both were in a great place with bracing acidity, citrus fruit and a rich body. I give the edge to the Dom.

My general impressions of the wines were very positive, with a few very great ones. They all showed a nice structure that was never over the top. They were balanced and fresh, even in the riper vintages.

First Flight: 2014, 2012, 2010. Paired with Snails Croque Monsieur.

My favorite dish of the night and a smart pairing for these vintages.

2014 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
I liked this a lot and still think that 2014 Bordeaux overall may be the vintage to buy, given the balance of quality and price. This wine was very deep and rich, with cassis, cedar and a drying finish. Maybe a little austere in the middle. ***(*)

2012 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
My least favorite of the flight. Less polished, a little musty and earthy in the middle with some heat at the end. I do like the concentration and acidity. **(*)

2010 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
This is a very great wine. Very concentrated. Cassis, graphite, a spicy herbal note all balanced by some mineral and balanced acidity. Medium tannins and great structure. A terrific future. ****(*)

Second Flight: 2011, 2008, 2002. Paired with a lobster “purse” in a carrot ginger sauce.

While this was an unusual choice, I actually think it worked well.

2011 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
This reminded me of the 14 but a notch below in quality. Still very good. Tasting very young with hard tannin but great fruit and structure. I think it needs some time to come together a bit more. ***

2008 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
An expressive wine with hints of dried berry, lavender and mint on the nose. The fruit is there but more contained. I like it very much and can see this coming around sooner than some of the other wines. ***(*)

2002 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
The weakest of the flight. Leaner, with some green notes. Actually may be drinking at its peak now. Shows way better with the food. ** to *** ?

Third Flight: 2001, 2000, 1990. Lamb loin.

All these wines showed very well with the 1990 my favorite of the night.

2001 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Some green herbaceousness, dill, some earth. Classically styled. ***

2000 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
A great nose with balanced notes of fruit, herbs and cassis. A long life ahead. ****

1990 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Very fresh nose. Bright, rich. Creamy, silky fruit in the mouth. Perfect acidity and concentration.****(*)

Fourth Flight: 1989, 1985, 1982. Cheeses.

2006 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
A sharp, somewhat shrill nose is a deceptive start to what is actually a balanced wine. It likely just needs a bit of time to smooth the coarseness and fully integrate. ***

2005 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
A huge wine showing as very locked in at present. It is very rich and concentrated, very complex but desperately in need of time to show its best. ***(*)

2004 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Showing better than I expected, this is a concentrated wine with strong notes of cedar and cassis. A pleasant surprise. ***

Fifth Flight: 2003, 2009, 2015. Chocolate Dessert.

An ok pairing. I remain skeptical about big red wines and chocolate.

2003 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Very fond of this tonight. Not showing as roasted or overripe, except some coffee notes. Actually some green, minty notes present. Very fresh and complex. Another surprise. ****

2009 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Still fairly primary. Black fruits, some wood and earth but smooth tannins. Needs lots of time. Impressive wine. ****(*)

2015 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
The greatest potential of all the wines tonight but now very primary with only the hints of what this will be. Very concentered blue fruits, vanilla, smoke and liqueur. I really like this. Is it better than the 1990? I’m not sure but can’t wait to see how it is after another couple of decades. The 2010 will certainly give it a run for its money. ****(*)

Thanks Panos for including me in a great event!

A wine dinner with aged Chardonnay, Sonoma County oldies, and decades old Spanna

February 24, 2019 1 comment

A mixed group of wine drinkers and wine lovers recently met up at the house for a wine dinner.  We drank the sparkling and white wines while introductions were made and dinner was prepared.  It is with dinner that we tucked into three flights of red wine.  If the first flight of reds was a mixed bag the final two flights, featuring a pair of 1970s Sonoma County reds and a pair of 1960s Italian Spanna were my stars of the night.  Please find my notes below.

Sparkling

NV Ruinart, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Moet Hennessy USA. Alcohol 12.5%.  A copper rose color.  A strong wine with fine, firm bubbles, red fruits, and a biscuit flavor.  Robust in a way.  *** Now – 2024.

2014 Dirty & Rowdy, Sparkling White Wine, El Dorado County
Alcohol 12.4%.  Sweet, floral tree fruits with bubbles.  Solid but not my favorite. ** Now but will last.

White Wines

The white wines were of more interest.  On their own the 2009 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Drake Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley and 2008 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Hawk Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley are quite different.  The 2009 is the bigger, rounder yet also a softer wine.  The 2008 is mature in flavor yet young in delivery.  If you could merge the two of them the results might be quite good.  The 2002 Maison Louis Latour, Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot was the first bottle of white finished.  The nose is its strength yet while the flavors do not quite match, the balance and youthful delivery are admirable.  This wine should develop slowly for some years to come.  Almost everyone was drawn to this wine.

2009 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Drake Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.4%.  Verging on full-bodied, certainly rounded, with good mouth feel.  Youthful flavor but leaves an impression of softness due to the lower acidity.  *** Now.

2008 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Hawk Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.9%.  Mature in flavor but young in delivery.  Nearly crisp acidity, bright.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

2002 Maison Louis Latour, Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot
Imported by Louis Latour Inc.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A lovely nose which is not quite matched by the flavor.  Balanced all around, this is surprisingly young in profile and remains that way throughout the evening.  Is it evolving at a glacial pace?  **** Now – 2029.

A Variety of Reds

This first flight of red wines was a bit of a mixed bag.  The 1996 Faiveley, Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale seems like it is locked down but of solid material.  The nose of the 1997 Ridge, Zinfandel, York Creek was sadly reminiscent of dust.  Though better in the mouth, I was too distracted.  The magnum of 1998 Domaine Paul Autard, Chateauneuf du Pape should have been drunk promptly after double-decanting.  At that point it is a solid, mature Rhone red but after a few hours it is too bloody.

1996 Faiveley, Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale
Imported by Wilson Daniels LTD.  Alcohol 12%.  Bright red fruit, slightly spiced then black fruit flavors in the finely textured finish.  Firm flavor with a spine of acidity and taut structure.  It has yet to open up but will be greatly improved if it does.  *** Now – 2029.

1997 Ridge, Zinfandel, York Creek
Alcohol 15%. An herbaceous nose mixes with dust.  In the mouth the cherry flavors are rounded with controlled ripeness.  There is a hint of Kirsch.  The fruit is balanced by the acidity and the structure is resolving.  The nose never cleans up with the dustiness becoming more dirty. An off bottle.  Not Rated.

1998 Domaine Paul Autard, Chateauneuf du Pape en magnum
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 15%.  A modest, mature mix of blue and red fruits, garrigue, and spice.  But after an hour or so it picks up hints of blood and iron until it becomes evocative of liquid meat.  A solid wine if drunk upon opening when it is ripe and big bodied.  At best a ** Now.

Sonoma County Oldies

My first experience with the 1977 Ernie’s, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Select, Zellerbach Vineyard, Sonoma County was with a regular bottle. It was a bit dirty but underneath lurked some interesting material.  This magnum improved over several hours, until there was no more left, and captured the attention of more than a few people.  I have had good luck with Ernie’s lately.  This magnum and the 1974 Round Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon highlight the quality of wine he purchased.  The 1978 Louis J. Foppiano, Zinfandel, Sonoma County is infinitely better than the bottle of 1974 that I tried several weeks back.    It delivers ample flavor from the very first glass.  It does not have the complexity of the Ernie’s but it is more hedonistic.  On the following evening, the remains were nearly as pleasurable.

1977 Ernie’s, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Select, Zellerbach Vineyard, Sonoma County en magnum
Alcohol 13%.  Aromatic with eucalyptus and bright fruit but then it turns deeper and a touch darker.  In the mouth is good body with cool flavored fruit, a spine of acidity and a finish of leather.  This is a good, clean, fresh example that after several hours reveals its complexity.  Notes of fat and oily whole nuts add to the attractiveness.  **** Now – 2029+.

1978 Louis J. Foppiano, Zinfandel, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12.5%.  Some animale notes mix with cherry-berry aromas.  Beautiful berry fruit greets and with that ripe fruit comes a hint of raisin.  However, this zippy wine is in great shape, effortlessly delivering waves of flavor.  With air it develops baking spices and comforting notes of sweaty, old leather evocative of old Californian wines. Pure pleasure.  ***(*)  Now – 2024.

Old Spanna

Surely one of the coolest labels I have seem in some time is on the 1967 Cantina Cooperative Villa Bianzone, Valtellina. The graphic drawing of Dionysus with hair of vines with leaves and beard of grapes is reason alone to purchase the wine.  There is little background information on this cooperative in the Wasserman’s book.  Despite other negative reviews of the 1967 they felt it is a “very fine vintage”. For being a basic Valtellina DOC wine it is actually quite good.  Moving west of Valtellina to the Novara-Vercelli Hills, the 1964 A. Brugo, Romagnano Riserva stems east of Gattinara.  According to the detailed Wasserman’s, this is a blend of Bonarda, Croatina, Spanna, and Vespolina, the later of which is sourced from Ghemme.  This is quite good as well.  I found my preference oscillating between the two wines as the developed in my glasses.  In the end, I would say the Bianzone has the more complex nose with brighter, controlled flavors.  The Brugo delivers that sweaty, old-school character with more grip.  I was happy to have separate glasses of each!

1967 Cantina Cooperativa Villa Bianzone, Valtellina
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Aromas of dried, old leather with balsamic notes make for a complex nose.  It is a cool nose that reminds me of the inside of the Air & Space Museum in DC.  In the mouth are very bright flavors with an earthy/leather note that cuts through.  Beautiful in the mouth. ***(*) Now but will last.

1964 A. Brugo, Romagnano Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Deep and slightly sweaty red fruits on the nose…smells old-school.  In the mouth are sweaty flavors of red, grippy fruit and bright acidity.  In great condition with watering acidity carrying through to the still-structured finish.  ***(*) Now but will last.

Random French oldies

February 22, 2019 Leave a comment

At an impromptu, informal gathering of several wine drinkers, I decided to clear out several oldies and offer one decent wine.  The 1975 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac smelled passed prime on the nose and tasted as such in the mouth.  Others were more tolerant.  Up next came a pair of 1988 Gigondas which came from a cellar of oddities picked up by MacArthur Beverages.  I cannot say I drank 1988 Gigondas before, being a modest vintage, but these two bottles were obviously well stored.  The 1988 Guigal, Gigondas is the modest surprise, compact and still retaining a core of fruit. The 1988 Domaine Santa Duc, Gigondas has an edge up.  It is less fruity but more complex.  I would not seek any of these wines out but they served a purpose that night.  For Lou, I served the 1990 Olga Raffault, Les Picasses, Chinon.  It is a lovely wine, in full prime.

1975 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
Shipped by Rineau.  Imported by The Rineau Wines.  Alcohol 11%.  Advanced on the nose, it remains a bit stinky and is passed prime in flavor.  Drinkable I suppose.  Not Rated.

1988 Guigal, Gigondas
Imported by Classic Wine Imports.  Obviously well-stored.  Initially a bit stinky on the nose it cleans up with air.  A surprisingly rugged, pure core of bluer fruits and compact structure.  A simpler, modern style that provides decent drinking at 30 years of age.  ** Now.

1988 Domaine Santa Duc, Gigondas
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  More complex with a blend of cool blue fruits and structure.  Robust with mouth coating tannins and good acidity.  Evocative of Gigondas.  Less fruity but more expansive.  ** Now.

1990 Olga Raffault, Les Picasses, Chinon
A good, medium-body with some density yet there is also levity.  With mature flavors of earth, tobacco, and leaves there is still fruit and life to last a long time.  It slowly unfurls in the glass.  Concentrated in a way yet elegant.  **** Now – 2029.