Archive for the Tasting Notes from the Underground Category

Two Well-priced Loire Cabernet Francs

As a wine producing region, France’s Loire Valley flies under the radar of a lot of North American wine drinkers. I’m willing to bet that most would not recognize the names of any of the Loire appellations, with the possible exception of Sancerre, and many wouldn’t not know that region is located in the far eastern end of the 170 mile long river valley. While probably best known for the Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc produced there, there’s a good deal of red wine coming out of the area as well. We’ve been drinking a lot of Loire Cabernet Franc lately, one coming from Bourgueil and the other from Chinon. Both wines offer exceptional value, and are deserving of greater recognition.

I first heard about the wines of Bourgueil, approved as an AOC in 1937, about 6 or 7 years ago; the buzz at that time was that these well-priced reds were all the rage in Paris bistros. We tried a few at that time, but never really found one that caught our fancy until we happened upon this little gem at Ferndale’s Western Market, from a cooperative that was founded in 1931.
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A Cornerstone Quartet

We got together not too long ago with our partner in crime, Alan Kerr aka Canadian Zinfan, to indulge in our favorite collective activity, that being eating and drinking great food and wine. We invaded Chez Kerr with four bottles sent to us for review from our friends at Cornerstone Cellars; we opened the two Cabs on the first night of our visit, and the Sauvignon and Bordeaux Blend on the second. We were joined by our old MoCool buddy Howie Hart and his friend Mary Jo Giambelluca on night one. Alan created a terrific dinner around a leg of lamb, which paired beautifully with the two Cabs.

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Two Great QPR Sparklers From Rotari

Despite the fact that we both love fine wines of almost every kind, Kim and I have something of a disconnect when it comes to bubbly. I love them, while she can take them or leave them. Because of this, when a cork is pulled from a sparkler on any given occasion, she may have a glass, or opt for a still wine instead, so that the bubble-heads have more to enjoy. I mention this only because such was decidedly not the case with one of the two wines in this report.

I’m of the opinion that sparkling wine is not just for celebrations, but rather, they fit almost any occasion, much like most fine wines. I enjoy them at least twice a week, often more, and until very recently, my go to every day sparkler has been the Mionetto Prosecco, which I’ve been buying at our local Costco since 2009, for $9.99. It has remained remarkably consistent since then, and while I still enjoy it, I’ve found two selections from the Trentino producer Rotari that I like even more, and both are every bit as well-priced.

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More Red Wings and Red Rhônes 2015

Following up on the 6 wines I reported on earlier this week, here’s the Rhône-down on the rest of what we’ve been enjoying lately, starting with our house red. (Click images to enlarge.)

2012 Domaine Sainte Anne Rouge Côtes du Rhône, 14.5% alc., $12.99: We’ve been fans of this producer for some time now; we went through quite a bit of the 2011 version of this wine over a two-year period, and we loved every bottle, but it finally dried up and we couldn’t find any more. This vintage showed up during the past summer, and in the short time since I first tried it in August, it has really come around nicely. At that time, it was a bit tight and quite earthy, but in just five months, the earthiness has softened some, and that violet character that I love so much has really come to the fore, along with a lovely core of dark plum and berry fruit and a subtle herbaceous note. Full bodied, well-structured and very nicely balanced, this is delightful now, and it should continue to age and develop gracefully over the next five years or more. This is my favorite everyday red, period. Frankly, I’d rather drink this than many more expensive selections. It has everything I could want from a good red wine. Find this wine

Imported by A.H.D. Vintners, Warren, MI

2012 Domaine La Garrigue Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Romaine, 14.5% alc., $13.97: Past vintages of this wine have been well-received here at Gang Central, so it’s always fun to see what new versions have to offer. This one shows clean, dark color, with rich, earthy black fruit on the nose that echoes and expands nicely on the palate. Big and burly, but by no means rough, it’s rich and delicious, with the earth and fruit playing terrific counterpoint to each other. Structured to age and improve for several years, but it’s so good already, from the moment the cork is pulled, and it just gets better and better as it opens over 4 hours or so. Take the journey yourself or give it an hour in a decanter; either way, I’m betting you’ll like this, as it’s one of the best Côtes-du-Rhônes I’ve had in the last year or more. Find this wine

Imported by European Cellars, Charlotte, NC
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Red Wings and Red Rhônes 2015

We’re always on the lookout for red Rhônes we haven’t tried before, and our explorations often take us back to Ferndale’s Western Market, where our buddy Jarred Gild has a knack for coming up with out-of-the-way selections that, more often than not, are most enjoyable with not only Red Wings hockey, but with good food as well. (Food and wine, what a concept!) And so it was that we found the six wines noted here in the last month or so; all are good, with some being clearly better than others.

Domaine Saint Amant, located in the Beaumes de Venise AOC, is comprised of 32 acres of small plots of steep slopes, facing South-East, at an altitude of 1640 feet. Owned by the Jacques Wallut family, the domaine produces nearly 50,000 bottles a year. We tried the Grangeneuve bottling first, and when we liked that, went back to see what else Jarred had for us. Apparently, he had rescued the four Saint Amant wines from languishing in a local distributor’s warehouse. I was particularly intrigued by the fact that all four are somewhat older vintages than you’ll find on most area retail shelves.

2005 Domaine Saint Amant Beaumes-de-Venise Grangeneuve, 13.5% alc., $15.99: deep and dark in color; rich, earthy and intense, with lots of black plum, berry and currant, all shaded with a good dose of mineral. Mouth coating and still quite tannic, almost burry, this really wants a good hour in a decanter before serving. Once it opens up, it delivers more than enough fruit to pair well with a variety of grilled red meats, and there’s no reason to think that it won’t age effortlessly for 5-8 years and beyond. Kim commented that “it’s a little poopier than the Saint Jaume,” noted below. This is our clear favorite of the four Saint Amants we tried, and we went back and bought the last four bottles in the store. A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Viogner. Find this wine
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Three from Cornerstone Oregon

Now that Christmas and New Years Eve/Day have come and gone, it occurred to me that I really should report on the wines we indulged in on Thanksgiving. (That’s right, no flies on me, folks.) Dinner was enjoyed at the home of our dear friends Brian and Anne Klump. It was traditional holiday fare, and deliciously so, which created what seemed to me to be the perfect opportunity to open two wines that were sent to us for review by our friends at Cornerstone Cellars. Our previous experiences with samples from Cornerstone’s Oregon operation had been positive, and these turned out to be every bit as good as their predecessors. After a glass or two of a tasty Delamotte Champagne Anne poured us, we moved on to the Chardonnay. (Click images to enlarge.)

2012 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Chardonnay, 13.5 % alc., $40.00: Clean medium straw in color, with a nice little spicy touch from the oak that is the driving force for the wine’s personality at this point; otherwise, the fruit is somewhat under-ripe and austere, but in a good way. Brian commented on a note of pinewood, adding that he finds it very “fall-y,” as in autumn-like. Lean and crisp, this opens nicely as it warms in the glass, and I found it more to my liking than the Morey Chassagne-Montrechet that Anne opened. Nice with appetizers and dinner now, and it should drink well for at least the next few years. Find this wine

Once we sat down to dinner, it was time for some Pinot Noir.
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A Six Pack of Le Cigare

Recently, we had the opportunity to taste through 6 wines from Bonny Doon Vineyard’s Le Cigare range. The reds, designated “Le Cigare Volant,” are probably better known than the whites, “Le Cigare Blanc,“ but whether pale or dark, the wines in this series are some of the finest, and most underrated, produced anywhere on the Left Coast, in my not-so-humble opinion. They are also some of the most Euro-styled wines produced anywhere in North America, not surprising when one considers Doon head honcho-winemaker Randall Grahm’s vinous preferences.

We tried both regular and reserve bottlings of the 2011 Le Cigare Blanc , and likewise for both the 2009 and 2010 vintages of Le Cigare Volant. We started with the two whites, on one of the last comfortable evenings that we could still comfortably grill and dine out on the back deck.
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A Tasty Riesling From Tawse

We spent last weekend back on Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, hanging out with our partner in crime, Alan Kerr aka Canadian Zinfan. As you might imagine, there was a lot of good food and wine consumed, and I plan on filing a report in the very near future. The one wine that I simply can’t wait to talk about here, however, is the very first that Alan poured for us on Saturday. Tawse Winery, located in Vineland, is on our very short list of favorite Niagara producers, and we never miss the chance to stop in and taste when we’re in the neighborhood. Chef Kerr has followed them from the very beginning, and always opens at least one Tawse something or another when we’re at Gang Central Niagara. This time, he greeted us with glasses of the following. (Click image to enlarge.)

2011 Tawse Riesling VQA Twenty Mile Bench Wismer Vineyard Foxcroft Block, 10% alc., $24.95 Can.: Clean pale-to-medium color, with a nice note of petrol that drives the aromatics and carries over onto the palate, where it mingles with pure, rich and lovely Riesling fruit, which registers somewhere between off-dry and semi-sweet. Medium bodied, with excellent acids, nice underlying minerality and a long, lingering finish, this is utterly delicious and delightful.

We produce some very fine Riesling here in Michigan, but I’ve never had one that’s as good this; come to think of it, I’ve had precious few from California this good (only some from Chateau Montelena come to mind), and none from Oregon, Washington or New York, though my experience with the variety from those four states is admittedly somewhat limited. True to our usual m. o., we visited the Tawse facility the day after trying this, and purchased a few bottles to bring back with us; unfortunately, it was the 2012 vintage, as the ’11 is sold out. If you’re touring Niagara, be sure to stop in and taste the wines. We think you’ll be glad you did, and tell them that Gang of Pour sent you. Find this wine

Reporting from Day-twah,
geo t.

Red Wings and a Red Rhône QPR All Star

2012 Caves Saint-Pierre Vacqueyras, 11-14% alc., $12.99: I was quite impressed with the 2011 version of this wine when I happened upon it at our local Trader Joe’s last spring, so when I saw this one, I didn’t hesitate in picking a few up and bringing them home. I’m not sure that this new vintage is the better of the two, but I certainly can testify to the fact that it’s the brighter, more immediately accessible. Showing deep, dark color, it offers up nice, earthy black plum, black currant and blackberry on the nose, shaded with a little leather. There’s plenty more of the same on the palate, along with a good dose of iron-like minerality. This delivers pleasurable drinking right from the get-go, and gets better as it opens in the glass. Full bodied and structured for several years of cellaring, yet so good already, it’s hard to keep hands off. It’s a great choice to pair with all the usual culinary suspects, including grilled red meats, especially of the lamb variety, and a good hearty cassoulet, and, bottles we’ve enjoyed have also made for some excellent Red Wings and Red Rhônes mojo. At $12.99, it’s a QPR All Star, to be sure. (Click image to enlarge.) Find this wine

Imported by Latitude Wines, Inc., Danville, CA

Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.

Red Wings and Red Rhône Rangers

While preparing this report, the following thought occurred to me; man, I’ve been doing these Red Wings-Red Rhônes for quite a while now! Sure enough, a quick check on the old site shows that our very first RW-RR was posted in October of 1997, 17 years ago. Here is the premise as originally stated at that time: “Come October, this taster’s thoughts turn to Red Wings hockey and big red wines from France’s Rhone Valley. While I never mind the Wings’ season extending into June, as it did this past summer, the same can’t be said for the enjoyment of the heavy traditional winemaking styles that are typical of the southern Rhone. There’s something almost oppressive about these wines, for me, when consumed between the bookend holidays of Memorial and Labor Days. With the first inkling of autumn, however, a magical change seems to occur, when they regain all of their considerable charm and appeal.” (Click image to enlarge.)
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