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A Troon Half Dozen

Troon Vineyard is an Oregon producer that had flown completely under our radar until we first tasted six of their wines last summer. Those were mostly quite good, and we’d been looking forward to trying more from them, so we were pleased to receive six additional samples over the last few months, coming to us two by two. As previously reported, Troon is not a Willamette Valley winery (they are located in Applegate Valley in southern Oregon), and they don’t do Pinot Noir. Instead, their focus is on such seemingly unlikely varieties as Malbec, Tannat and Sangiovese, to name just three; they also grow Rhône grapes as well.

We took our time with them, sampling them over several weeks, and once again, we mostly liked what we tasted. Here are my impressions, listed in the order in which they were opened. We pulled corks from the first two one evening some weeks ago, and enjoyed them with opening appetizers and the main course respectively.

2014 Troon Vermentino Applegate Valley, 12% alc., $29.00: Clean, bright, medium straw color; oddly, this is better by itself than with Kim’s wild sautéed shrimp in butter sauce. When tasted with the shrimp, it takes on a mineral-driven character, racy, devoid of fruit and a bit hot. On its own, a little more citrus peeks out, while the mineral takes on an ever-so-slightly petroleum-like note. Some quince emerges with extended air, but while it’s not unpleasant, neither is it all that outgoing. Overall, it’s a slightly quirky little variation on the Vermentino theme that I wouldn’t be inclined to purchase. Find this wine

2014 Troon Sangiovese Rogue Valley, 13% alc., $29.00: Clean, dark color, with nice red berry cherry flavors and aromas. Soft tannins, balanced acids and good length, almost cherry stick in character, with a little earth underneath. Like the Vermentino, this gets better and better with air, and has plenty more to offer for my tastes. Makes a nice match for grilled lamb lollipops and mixed grilled veggies. Find this wine

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More From Alsace

After filing my last report, I decided to see what else I could find in the way of Alsatian wines that are available in and around Day-twah, and, perhaps surprisingly, I found more than I expected in fairly short order. Selections from the Weygandt-Metzler portfolio are reasonably well-represented here, and after trying six of those, I was able to find a couple of other tantalizing tidbits too. I started my survey with a grape variety that is hardly a household name, but it’s one that I’m quite fond of, thanks to a version that we produce right here in Michigan.

2014 Albert Mann Auxerrois Alsace, 12.5% alc., $18.99: Clean medium color, with river stones, green apple, quince and lime in both flavor and aroma; fairly rich and intense, with a somewhat oily texture on a medium-bodied frame, driven by ample acids right on through the lingering finish. More of the mineral character emerges as the wine opens and warms in the glass, and while it will certainly pair with a wide variety of the usual fish and fowl suspects, I’d like to try it with sushi, keeping the wasabi at moderate levels. It would also be interesting to try this alongside Bel Lago’s version from here in Michigan for comparison’s sake. Find this wine

2015 Albert Mann Pinot Blanc Alsace, 13% alc., $17.99: Clean medium straw color, with a fragrant green apple citrus nose that leads into fairly rich and intense mineral-laced green apple and lime; more and more gravelly character emerges as it opens in the glass. Medium bodied, with active acidity and good length, this is very food friendly, and I’ve already gone back for more. Find this wine

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An Alsatian Trio

While strolling through the wine department of our friendly neighborhood Costco a few weeks ago, I noticed something that I’ve rarely, if ever, seen there before, a bin full of wine from Alsace. It had been quite some time since I’ve had anything from this notable region, and I’ve had previous vintages of this particular bottling, Lucien Albrecht’s Réserve Riesling; it has always been pleasant enough, and the price was certainly right, so I picked one up, brought it home and found it quite to my liking. (Click image to enlarge.)


2015 Lucien Albrecht Réserve Riesling Alsace, 12.5% alc., $12.99: Clean, medium color; pleasant Riesling character reminiscent of red and green apples shaded with citrus, wet stones and subtle floral hints, being not quite bone dry, but close. Medium body, balanced acids and decent length. This offers good value for the price, doing exactly what it’s supposed to, and I’ve been picking up a bottle or two with each return to the aforementioned Costco. I also appreciate the handy twist-off Stelvin enclosure. Find this wine

Imported by Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, NY

So, this wine got me to thinking about how much I used to like Alsatian wines; I reported on one in our first-ever Gang of Pour feature back in ‘97, and several times afterwards. I decided that I’d like to get back to drinking more of this stuff, but after visiting a few area retailers, I was reminded why I had strayed from them in the first place; the available selections have dwindled considerably in this market over the years. I spoke with both retailers and distributors about this, and the reason became clear; they’re a hard sell. For whatever reason, fewer customers ask for them, fewer retailers put them in peoples’ hands and distributors accordingly carry fewer selections. It’s a shame, because many of the wines are so very good. I’m not at all sure if there are any selections from Grand Cru vineyards available in this area, other than perhaps a few from Zind Humbrecht. I found the following two at Plum Market’s Bloomfield location. They fall into what I would have once considered the “usual suspects” category, but now they’re some of the best of what little can be found hereabouts.

2011 Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbes Riesling Alsace, 12.5% alc., $21.97: Clean, medium color, with a mineral-driven nose laced with just a hint of petrol that leads into fairly rich flavors of wet stones, quince and under-ripe green apples. Medium bodied, and slightly oily, with balanced acids; not racy, but more than active enough to work well with a variety of foods. Opens nicely as it warms in the glass, and if it’s perhaps a little shorter on the finish than I would like, overall, it’s a solid specimen of a not-quite everyday Riesling. Find this wine

Imported by Maisons Marques & Domaines USA Inc., Oakland, CA

2012 Domaine Trimbach Pinot Gris Réserve Alsace, 13.5% alc., $23.97: Medium color, with just a hint of that deeper Pinot Gris pigment; rich, intense mineral-laced apple and pear flavors on entry and through the mid-palate, turning almost, but not quite, totally dry on the finish. For some reason, I wasn’t expecting this to be as dee-lish as it is, and I like it a lot. It’s an excellent choice for a variety of fish and fowl type dishes, and drinks really well all by its lonesome. It also leaves a distinct tartrate crystal path from the bottom to the top of the glass after the last sip. Find this wine

Imported by Esprit du Vin, Port Washington, NY

Reporting from Day-twah,

Bastardo

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Big Reds From Southern France

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.)

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, we love Domaine Tempier Bandol at our house. I pulled this one from the cellar to celebrate Kim’s “special day,” and she loved it.

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!

Bastardo

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Two Italian Reds

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!

Bastardo

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Thanksgiving with Left Coast Cellars

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,

Bastardo

A California Trio

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

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Alan Kerr’s November 26th Vintages Release Notes

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…

ONTARIO

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

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Five New Doons

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

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Alan Kerr’s November 12th Vintages Release Notes

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.

ONTARIO

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

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