We enjoyed several big reds over the past few weeks, and while there wasn’t a dog in the bunch, I only managed to take notes on two of them. It seems that I’m less inclined to record impressions when we’re with a group of revelers than I once was, what with all the food and hoopla, but this pair was just for Kim and this taster. Perhaps not surprisingly, they were from two of our very favorite wine regions. (Click images to enlarge.)
2006 Domaine Tempier Bandol, 75% Mourvèdre, 14% Grenache, 9% Cinsault, 2% Carignan, 11-14% alc.: Deep and dark in color, with no discernible bricking as of yet. Maturing nicely, with lovely Tempier character; a little earthy, with a bit of the barnyard and a big rich core of dense, dark Mourvèdre-dominated fruit. Nevertheless, at 10 years old, this is still a relatively young wine, not close to its peak and built for many years of further development. Give it an hour in a decanter if you’re going to open one now; better yet, give it at least another 5 years in the cellar. This will deliver everything you want from a regular bottling from this great producer. Find this wine
This was our first experience with Chateau La Nerthe’s second label Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and it is a solid “Red Wings and Red Rhônes” selection, although Detroit did not play particularly inspired hockey on the night we imbibed it.
2013 Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape ‘Les Granieres de la Nerthe’, 33% Cinsault, 31% Syrah, 22% Grenache Noir, 11% Mourvèdre, 3% Other, 14% alc., $29.99: A bit lighter in color than most, almost Pinot Noir-like, but it’s all Chateauneuf-du-Pape on the nose, with earth, iron and black fruit. Flavors echo and expand with much more weight and intensity than the hue might lead one to expect, very earthy and seriously structured for several years in the cellar. Textbook Chateauneuf, and if it’s not quite as refined as the regular bottling, it’ll be a darned good one in about 7-10 years. Find this wine
Happy New Year from Day-twah!
For our first entry of the New Year, we hereby submit our third and final report on the review samples sent to us by Donna White Communications, two Italian reds from decidedly different locales. We don’t drink as much Italian wine as we might like here at Gang Central, so it’s always a treat to taste something worthy that’s out there, and these are both solid selections.
Cecchi Chiantis were always a mainstay in the inventories of the wine retail outlets that I worked in not so very long ago, and I had a chance to try a few back then. The low-end Chianti was serviceable, if boring, as I remember, while the Chianti Classico was, as one would expect, a good deal more taster friendly. The current CC model reinforces those earlier impressions.
2014 Cecchi Chianti Classico, 90% Sangiovese, other grape varieties 10%, $22.00 SRP: Clean, dark color; typical sticks-y dried cherry aromatics lead into a fairly generous entry with echoing earthy fruit and underbrush, and finishing with drying tannins. Full bodied and structured for at least five years in the cellar, and a good match for Kim’s mostaccioli. A second glass after dinner was good, but not as good as the first was with dinner, so while this doesn’t “need” food, it wants food, likes food and will show best with food. Find this wine
Like the Cecchis, I’ve also tried some of the wines from the Sicilian producer Cusumano, and even reviewed one some years back, although, in retrospect, that Nero d’Avola suffered from being placed at the end of a long afternoon of tasting. Happily, we got to spend plenty of time with this one.
2014 Alta Mora Etna Rosso DOC, 100% Nerello Mascalese, 14% alc., $24.00 SRP: A new project from the Cusumano family, this wine shows clean, dark color, and offers a pleasant, if slightly muted cherry berry nose, following through with earthy dried cherry and underbrush flavors, and while my descriptors may seem similar to those of the Chianti Classico noted above, the wines are rather different in character. Full bodied and structured for at least three-to-five years of aging and development, this is rich and flavorful, finishing totally dry. It’s a versatile wine that will pair with a wide variety of foods, including just about any grilled red meat, pasta with a tomato sauce, pizza and our choice, a mushroom, onion, red pepper and cheddar dinner frittata. This seems like a fine alternative to the red Rhônes that I love so well, and I will buy it the next time I see it on a retail shelf. Find this wine
Both wines are imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Il.
Happy New Year!
Thanksgiving was a laid back, low key affair here at Adams, Heritier & Associates. We kept to ourselves, stayed at home and took things real easy. We did have a somewhat traditional holiday dinner, with a Bell & Evans Organic Turkey Breast (bone in), red skin potatoes with a red wine and mushroom sauce, stuffing and haricot verts. I even had the annual Detroit Lions football scrum playing on the big screen, although I paid closer attention to my Forge of Empires game.
As I mentioned in my last report, Donna White Communications sent us several of their clients’ wines samples for review over the last month or so, and among them were two from Oregon’s Left Coast Cellars, with whom we have some very positive history. Kim had suggested that they would be excellent choices for our holiday dinner menu, and so they were! Here are our impressions of each.
2015 Left Coast Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Gris The Orchards, 13.7% alc., $18.00: Pale to medium straw in color, with a pleasant if not overly effusive nose of citrus and tree fruit that follows through and explodes on the palate with lots of green apple, pear and lime. Rich, intense and quite tasty; medium-to-medium full bodied, with finely balanced acids and very good length. I don’t drink a lot (or enough) Pinot Gris, but this is certainly one of the very best domestic American specimens that I’ve had to date, and an impressive glass of wine indeed. Find this wine
2014 Left Coast Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Cali’s Cuvée, 13.5% alc., $24.00: Clean ruby garnet color; pure, lovely Pinot Noir character, rich and fairly intense. It’s “a little green,” according to Kim, who adds, “not saying I don’t like it, but it’s a touch stemmy and green.” I do detect a little of that, but these are minor aspects that lend positive, rather than negative attributes; mostly, I get somewhat earthy black cherry and cranberry. Medium full bodied, and structured for at least 3-5 years in the cellar, but more than just approachable already. Find this wine
I saved the last few sips of a glass of Pinot Gris to try with the holiday fare, and it worked beautifully. Needless to say, the Pinot Noir is a consummate turkey companion as well, making these two a solid 1-2 punch for any dinner starring turkey, duck or even a smoked chicken. Best of all, both offer great QPR (quality-price ratio), so you can buy multiple bottles of each without breaking the bank.
Reporting from Day-twah,
In August of 2015, we were contacted by Donna White Communications to see if we were interested in meeting Luke McCollom, the winemaker and viticulturist of one of their client wineries in Oregon, Left Coast Cellars. We were, we did and we quite liked Luke and the wines he opened for us. Fast forward to last month, when DWC contacted us again to ask if we would like to receive samples from wineries in the Terlato Wines portfolio. We’re always up for trying new things, so of course, we replied to the affirmative, and a few weeks later, we received three separate packages. Three of the wines were from California, so we’ll file the first of three reports on these. (There are two others from Italy and a pair from the aforementioned Left Coast Cellars.)
As far as I can recall, the last time we had a Hanna Sauvignon Blanc was during the epic “Blast Me Off to Sonoma” adventure in ’97. That one was from the ’95 vintage, and was delicious. This one proved to be just as impressive.
2015 Hanna Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley, 13.2% alc., SRP $20.00: Clean medium color, with a grapefruit, boxwood and garlic sweat nose; the rich flavors echo with intensity, a hint of lime and some underlying mineral. More than medium bodied, with zippy acids and good length. Drinks just as well on the second night as it does on the first, and is a good match for the usual fish and fowl suspects. A fine example of California Sauvignon that I could drink on a regular basis, which should come as no surprise, as it’s from the Russian River Valley. Find this wine
The onslaught of premium wines continues with this release showcasing more great wines from California, Italy and Australia. As with the last release, there are several wines priced for those with lower budgets so everyone should be happy. Niagara reds wines from the 2012 vintage are making their way to the shelves. After tasting a couple, I believe it is going to show it is clearly a benchmark vintage. Please read on…
131037 STRATUS RED 2012 Niagara-on-the-Lake $44.20
A brilliant and skillfully crafted wine from Stratus that offers both power and elegance. The blend of 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, 13% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, and 3% Tannat is brimming with sweet cherry, blackcurrant, plum, Asian spice, star anise, vanilla and coal dust. It has a solid structure and is showing some peppery tannin. The texture is velvety texture, it has fine-tuned acidity and great length. Find this wine
142638 STRATUS PETIT VERDOT 2012 Niagara-on-the-Lake $38.20
Super ripeness, showing lovely dark fruit, blueberry, damson, mineral, clay and floral notes. Way more tannic than its sister red, but super concentration of fruit and again, perfectly balanced acidity. This is a serious wine that will be best laid down and forgotten about for a number of years. Find this wine
We received a selection of review samples from our friends at Bonny Doon Vineyards last month, and after giving them the requisite two weeks to rest from their cross-country journey, we were looking for the earliest opportunity to break into them and see what these latest bottlings had to offer. Happily, just such an opportunity reared its pointy little head with a visit from our partner-in-crime, Alan Kerr aka Canadian Zinfan. The three of us have some history with the Le Cigare range of Doon, so we knew exactly which bottles to select to welcome his arrival.
2013 Bonny Doon Vineyards Le Cigare Blanc Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard, 57% Grenache Blanc, 27% Roussanne, 16% Picpoul, 14.5% alc., $28.00: Bright medium straw in color; classic Le Cigare Blanc character of white tree fruit and lanolin, rich, fairly ripe and mineral driven. Full bodied, with excellent acids and nice length. As we reported recently, these are quite cellar worthy, so while it’s delicious and very food friendly now, it’ll only get better over the next several years.
Randall Grahm: “A bit of a richer style than the lean, taut ’11, this is nevertheless a superb gastronomy wine, with excellent ageing potential.” Find this wine
November‘s release always brings the big boys to the front line in readiness for Christmas and the holidays. Those looking for some special bottles, a simple stocking stuffer or a much-needed post-election drink/drinks, will have plenty to choose from. These are a few notes on some of the many splendid wines on offer that I was able to taste.
505610 HIDDEN BENCH TERROIR CACHÉ MERITAGE 2012 Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment $38.00
2012 was a stellar growing season for Niagara Meritage grapes and given the high-level sorting standards at Hidden Bench; one should expect wine from this vintage to be outstanding. This bottle exudes aromas of blackberry confit, blueberry, currant and vanilla backed with layers of mineral, leather and forest floor. On the palate, the texture is silky, despite the tannins that do their best to impede immediate enjoyment. It is intense, the acidity is lively, red and dark fruits go crazy, and the finish is long with a hint of cherry liqueur. Find this wine
127324 THE FOREIGN AFFAIR CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 Niagara Peninsula $39.95
Interesting notes of blackcurrant cordial, dark fudge, dark rum, brown sugar, cedar and bacon. Plum and blackcurrant are complimented by streaks of vanilla and chocolate. The Appassimento process used by Foreign Affair, when producing their wines, does leave the finish a trifle sweet, but no overly so. Find this wine
It’s been about six years since we last had any of Sean Thackrey’s non-vintage multi-varietal red blend. Pleiades XIX wasn’t quite up to previous versions of what Kim once used to describe as “my wine,” and maybe that’s why we stopped buying it, along with the fact that the price kept creeping upward. By the time Thackrey’s wines finally became available at retail in Day-twah a few years ago, the prices were just plain stupid. I saw a bottle of Pleiades (probably XXII or XXIII) about a year and a half ago in an area wine shop priced at around $43, and I just shook my head.
Since that time, Thackrey changed distributors, and Little Guy Wine Company has the wines priced much more reasonably, so when I saw a bottle of the Pleiades XXIV on the shelf at Mudgies a few weeks ago, I figured “what the hell” and picked one up for Kim and me to find out what was going on with it. I’m pleased to report that this one has a lot more stuffing than that XIX we were only lukewarm towards.
Sean Thackrey “Pleiades XXIV Old Vines” California Red Blend, 14.5% alc., $29: Clean, dark color; mint gets the better of a little barnyard over black and red plum and berry on the moderately expressive nose, and a hint of cereal sneaks in with a little air. Very much in the same style and character as all of those from the past that we remember so fondly, being intense and well-structured. The multi-vintage solera-styled wine shows earthy, leathery and, yes, slightly funky black and red fruit. Good stuff here; this is a wine that can age and develop for several years, and I’d actually lay it down for another 3-5 years before opening another. Tannin pigs’ mileage may vary. Bottled in April, 2015, a blend of Sangiovese, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Mourvedre, “to name a few.” Find this wine
Reporting from Day-twah,
Since filing my report on the delicious 2013 Edmeades Mendocino Zinfandel, I’ve been checking out a few other Zins, and found two that really caught my fancy.
I’ve enjoyed several selections from the Terre Rouge/Easton lineup over the years, but, oddly, I’ve never posted any notes on them. Allan Bree aka califusa reviewed some of Bill Easton’s Terre Rouge selections for us back in his Rhone Ranger Tasting 2000 report, and Alan Kerr aka Canadian Zinfan had good things to say about the 2011 Easton Amador Zinfandel (a wine I recommended and sold LOTS of in my retail days), but by and large, these wines have not been given the attention they deserve in these pages, an oversight I plan to rectify in the coming months. I’ve never met Bill Easton, but we are “Facebook friends,” and I’m guessing we’d get along quite well, because not only am I a fan of his wines, we’ve also had friendly back-and-forths on more than just wine-related subjects on that social network site.
2009 Easton Zinfandel Fiddletown Rinaldi Vineyard Old Vines, 14.5% alc., $28.99: Clean and dark in color, with a pure, effusive Zinfandel nose, all spicy black raspberry; plenty more of the same on the palate, with enough earthiness underneath to make it more than just a fruit bowl kind o’ wine. Full bodied and well-structured for several years of further development. This one pushes the envelope for what I’ll tolerate in ripeness, but never crosses the line or goes over the top, thanks to that earthy anchor. I like this wine, and have no doubt that my partner in crime, Canadian Zinfan, will too, and I have another stashed to open with him the next time we get together. Aged in French oak. Find this wine
We received a package from our friends at Vineyard Brands a few weeks ago. In it were five bottles of recently released wines from Tablas Creek. We’ve reviewed wines from this producer many times over the past several years, and I can’t remember a single one that we didn’t like a lot. That’s probably the reason that they’re on a very short list of our favorite North American wineries, the wines are that good on a very consistent basis.
This particular package contained four whites and one red. We gave them a little over a week to rest from their cross-continent journey, then we tried them one by one over the next week and a half. We started with one from what is essentially TC’s entry level Patelin de Tablas range, their only wines that don’t use grapes exclusively from estate vineyards, but also include fruit from some of Paso Robles’ top Rhône vineyards.
2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard Patelin de Tablas Blanc Paso Robles, 56% Grenache Blanc, 23% Viognier, 12% Roussanne, 9% Marsanne, 13.5% Alc., $25.00: Clean, medium color; somewhat pungent on the nose, with flavors of citrus, white tree fruit, some mineral and a hint of lanolin, being ever-so-slightly musky, yet very refreshing. Full bodied and fairly dense; rich and intense, with excellent acids and length. I love the way the refreshing citrus quality plays off the muskier element. Very fine indeed.
25% Grenache Blanc from Coyote Moon Vineyard in Estrella District
23% Viognier and Grenache Blanc from Fralich in El Pomar District
18% Marsanne and Roussanne from Cass Vineyard in Geneseo District
10% Grenache Blanc from Adelaida in Adelaida District
9% Viognier from Clautiere in Geneseo District
6% Grenache Blanc from Dawson’s Creek Vineyard in El Pomar District
3% Viognier from Glenrose in Adelaida District
3% Viognier from Paso de Record in Estrella District
3% Roussanne and Marsanne from the Tablas Creek cerified organic estate vineyard
Find this wine