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Florida Jim Cowan’s 2011 Tasting Notes Archive-Part One

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The 2011 archive is presented by date the notes were compiled and submitted. Prior year’s tasting notes may be found here

April 24, 2011

2001 F.X. Pichler, Riesling M:
13% alcohol; this wine has shed the fat and viscosity of its youth to become both more balanced and less powerful. Clean scents of fruit and spring water; balanced in the mouth with solid flavors, some nuance and excellent balance; good length. In its youth, one could see this developing a richness and depth that would stun; instead, it has become more feminine and contained. Not what I expected but very good with “bubble and squeak.” Three days later: after being re-corked and refrigerated, this came out with the texture of Welch’s White Grape Juice mixed with pineapple syrup. I liked it better upon opening. Find this wine

2008 Bedrock, Cuvée Caritas:
14.1% alcohol; fairly expressive nose with fruit and mineral tones, some resin; a pretty good flavor profile that shows a bit too much new wood influence, there aren’t any oak flavors nor does it smell of wood but the mid-palate texture is amped up (as new wood will do) and the fruit is noticeably deadened; medium finish. Later vintages of this wine seem to be more dialed in as far as the oak goes and have better balance. Find this wine

1999 Lafarge, Volnay Vendages Selectionées:
13% alcohol; substantial VA on the nose with an impression of tannin but, even still, the cherry (both black and red) comes through; brooding, tannic and moderately unbalanced in the mouth but the Volnay texture is there and the tannin is not too drying; medium length. A flawed wine but, curiously, an interesting one. Find this wine

Best, Jim

April 20, 2011

2008 Rhys Pinot Noir Skyline Vineyard:
12.2% alcohol; from the label: 2.12 acres of mixed suitcase clones at 2,280’ to 2,375’ with a SE and SW aspect on a 20% to 35% slope in 2-4” of soil over limestone and Lorrenzzo shale yielding 1.24 tons per acre.

I barrel tasted this wine (or its component parts) several years ago and found it one of the more exotic noses and flavor profiles that I had ever gotten from pinot. And while it was rich, it was also svelte in the barrel.

Upon opening, the nose is akin to smelling a good vintage of Cros Parantoux; those vinous spice and earthy tones come through clearly and the fruit, while evident, is understated, savory and mostly dark.

Later in the evening, the nose would open to include more breath and complexity as well as to expand upon these initial elements.

In the mouth, it is medium weight, layered and structured with the same notes of spice and earth apparent on the nose. Initially, I would not describe it as concentrated or intense (although I believe it to be both) because the overall balance is so precise that no one part seems to draw undue attention.

With time, the palate becomes more expressive and the flavors take on nuance and dimension, the wine becomes denser and the finish reveals substantial but not drying, tannin. The finish is of medium length.
An extremely impressive and character driven wine in its infancy. I suspect as this ages, it will gain both complexity and length, as the tannins need time to resolve.

Certainly, of grand cru quality and utterly captivating. Find this wine

Thanks, Jay and Paul.
Best, Jim

April 13, 2011

To begin:
2007 Dom. Chandon, Unoaked Chardonnay Monterey County:
14.1% alcohol; it may be unoaked but it still smells like wood with chardonnay fruit and maybe a little hint of lees; slim in the mouth with flavors that follow the nose; moderate length. There is something vaguely manufactured about this wine although I can’t put my finger on it. Not my style. Find this wine

With vegetable stuffed baked potato:
1999 Bizot, Vosne-Romanee Les Réas:
12.5% alcohol; a complex and interesting nose with fruit, earth and other vinous aromas; feminine on the palate but still intense and complex, it reminds me of walking by restaurants with a different cooking smell coming from each; balanced and long. Not as spicy as I would have expected but savory and something I could drink often. Superb with the dish. Find this wine

With cheeses:
1995 Edmunds St. John, Syrah Durell Vnyd.:
14.4% alcohol; quite feral on the nose, solid fruit and some mineral, very expansive and wonderful to smell; medium bodied and balanced but packed with layers of flavor and complexity, showing some age but not in a tired way, intense and wild; medium length. The development here is remarkable and reminds me why I like good syrah so much.
A recent re-release. (Aside: I recently had this same bottle and it had an unpleasant menthol character so I am now guessing that the previous bottle was corked. This certainly was not and had no menthol note at all.) Find this wine


April 11, 2011

1997 Edmunds St. John, Sangiovese Matagrano:
14% alcohol; there is some cherry in the nose but it runs in the background of a soulful, umami profile that’s all about earth and undergrowth; much the same on the palate, balanced, complex and engaging; medium length finish. A bit of bottle bouquet in with it all. A beautiful wine for the table; maybe best with the flavors of fall but still delightful and engaging with grilled chicken and Caesar salad.  A recent library re-release. Find this wine

2010 Soliste, Sauvignon Blanc Lake County:
13.1% alcohol; this is about as pretty an SB as I have had – deep and ripe but plenty of cut, no cat pee/grass, really complex with salty minerality; ready to drink now. Absolutely delicious.  (I don’t think this has been released yet.) Find this wine

2005 Chignard, Fleurie Les Moriers:
12.5% alcohol; a complete wine on both the nose and palate, round and full flavored, lots of different layers and scents, dense and intense, and very long. Has years to go in the cellar but is so expressive, integrated and succulent, now. Find this wine

2008 Calcareous, Pinot Noir Twisted Sisters:
15.5% alcohol from Paso Robles; thick, smooth and sweet (possibly some RS?); opaque, noticeably alcoholic and monolithic. Approaching dessert wine character. Not for me. However . . . One of the women at the table loved it. She has difficulty with very dry wines and noted that this was something that she could drink on a regular basis. The off-dry sweetness and the smoothness were what she zeroed in on. Another lesson for me; “different strokes . . .” Find this wine

2005 Dom. Vissoux, Fleurie Poncié:
12.5% alcohol; almost painfully intense when first opened so I decanted; black raspberry, black cherry and cream soda nose; similar flavors in the mouth but not sweet; dense and rich, good cut, medium weight and still quite intense; very long. This wine has shed its baby fat and is now a powerful, concentrated and structured example of its place. Let it rest. Find this wine

2002 Gravity Hills, Syrah Killer Climb:
13.9% alcohol from the Westside of Paso Robles; smells like Côte-Rôtie amped up, with that distinctive stem/ash/green olive element in the nose and considerable brooding dark fruit; similar flavors in the mouth, with a worsted texture, complexity and savory richness; very long. Showing very young and needs another decade in the cellar just to stop being so raw. But the material here is exciting and may, given time, live up to its roasted slope nose. Find this wine

Best, Jim

April 8, 2011

A week in CA and a few wines tasted; here are some impressions:

1998 G. Conterno, Barolo:
A beautiful wine with layer after layer of scent and flavor; still quite young but not too tannic to drink. Years to go and a fine future ahead. Find this wine

2002 Peter Michael, Les Pavots:
A Bordeaux blend that was completely open, well-balanced with clear, moderately complex fruit and a good finish. At or near peak and very nice with steak. Find this wine

1995 Pride, Claret:
Also a Bordeaux blend; much too sweet and oaky to be enjoyable (for me); this is not my style. Find this wine

2010 Bevan Cellars, Sauvignon Blanc Monica’s Cuvée:
Another exceptional effort from this producer, perhaps even better than the 2009 and alcohol of less than 13%. No grass or cat pee but rather lovely citrus and papaya/mango flavors with excellent cut. Find this wine

2010 Argot, Rosé (375 ml):
Some RS and considerable acidity, good fruit and a nice color. I like it best at or near room temp and the idea of rosé in 375 I find rather appealing. Find this wine

2009 Porter-Bass, Pinot Noir:
Very nice wine and certainly more in the Pommard style than the Dijon style. Rich and vibrant. Find this wine

Three just bottled wines:

2009 Ceritas, Pinot Noir Escarpa Vineyard:
Under 14% alcohol; about as impressive a new pinot as I have tasted. A Sonoma Coast vineyard that really shows the maritime influence and is sort of wild and feral while at the same time being well-balanced and deep. This will take a decade to be ready but everything is there to make it a potential Grand Cru. John Raytek, former assistant at Copain, is owner and winemaker. Really impressive, albeit pricey at $55/bottle. Find this wine

2009 Ceritas, Chardonnay Ritchie Vnyd.:
Another under 14% wine, this is quite acidic, sulpherous and closed at the moment; more like a Chablis then a CA chard. Judgment reserved. Find this wine

2009 Ceritas, Chardonnay Porter-Bass: Under 14% and shows the signature of the vineyard even while being somewhat closed and sulpherous. I suspect this will be ready sooner but will still last longer than most CA chards. Find this wine

A few others:

2005 Pepière, Granite de Clisson:
Magnificent – no other way to put it. Crystalline but deep, bright but full, complex but complete; a great wine that may last decades but tastes wonderful now. Find this wine

2006 Overnoy/Houillon, Arbois-Pupillin:
Utterly charming; most any other wine on the table is just not as interesting and so, despite its pale color, all else pales. Poulsard at its most complex and ethereal. Find this wine

1995 Edmunds St. John, Syrah Durrell Vineyard:
When first opened, quite thin and dominated with spearmint/menthol aromas; in the decanter over several hours the texture broadened and thickened, and the aromas included smoked bacon, meat, dark fruit and earth. The menthol aspect never went away and, frankly, I did not like it, but the wine is still sound and good. I have other bottles so I will see if this is a single bottle phenomenon or a general characteristic of the wine in the coming weeks. Find this wine

I tasted a number of other cabs and pinots from CA and some other wines that I’ve just forgotten. Keep an eye on Ceritas; these are really different from the mainstream and show a lot of potential.

Best, Jim

March 23, 2011

2005 Baudry, Chinon La Croix Boisée:
14% alcohol; dark fruit and stem aromas, some smoke; big, rich, dense wine with palate weight and the texture of fine sandpaper; very concentrated and long with grip. Certainly young and very slightly disjointed but pretty generous, considering. With a pasta dish with peppers, tomatoes, chicken and cheese, it was twice the wine. (Aside: I recognize this as a fine and distinctive wine; surely an exemplar for its place and type. I’m just not fond of it. It’s the stemmy/cigar box thing, and while it certainly does not overwhelm here, I only really enjoyed the wine when the food seemed to defeat that element of it. I think I will stick with the Les Granges bottling from Baudry; so fresh and fruit driven . . . and no green.) Find this wine

1989 Gastaldi, Rosso:
14% alcohol; I’m guessing it was hot in Neive that year . . .; this smells of tannin and torrefied earth, little fruit, maybe some old roses, plenty of tar; but in the mouth, the texture is all satin, a good balance of fruit and earth, some grip and lots of length. At this point, a wine of interest but not much pleasure. Good with pasta puttenesca. Find this wine

2005 Dom. de Vissoux, Moulin à Vent:
13% alcohol; so . . . you have been in the raspberry patch and you are bringing the berries home and somehow, you slip and your hand crushes some and you breath it in . . . the most intense and extraordinary nose of raspberry/black raspberry you can imagine, absolutely astonishing; the same in the mouth, so incredibly smooth and lively with great depth, perfect balance, deep concentration and an endless finish. On any given day, the best wine you ever had.
Pierre-Marie Chermette has something singular in this vineyard and this vintage shows it. Fantastic wine, with or without food! Find this wine

Best, Jim

March 19, 2011

2006 Fillaboa, Albariño Monte Alto:
12.5% alcohol; an almost peppery nose with white fruit, citrus, brown spice and a sweet resin quality, expansive; that same spiciness in the mouth with solid fruit, spice and mineral flavors, oily intensity, weightless and perfect balance; good sustain. Grapes from a single vineyard at elevation. As this gains time in the cellar it is becoming more intense and flavorful. Similar to the Do Ferreiro, Cepas Vellas bottling. When you can find it, about $20. Excellent with ‘green’ rice and roast chicken. Thanks Victor. Find this wine

2005 Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie:
13% alcohol; as though good wine that is representative of its place were concentrated into a broth; a worsted texture, strong flavors and aromas and lots of length. Bigger than most Fleurie but also balanced and intense. Nice wine at the beginning of its life. Find this wine

2005 Edmunds St. John, Syrah Bassetti Vnyd.:
14.2% alcohol; decanted off some sediment; closed on both the nose and palate but some blueberry/blackberry fruit gets through along with meat, floral and pepper tones; concentrated and grippy. Needs a decade in the cellar and has the structure and fruit to go longer. Steve once mentioned that he thought this was the best syrah he ever made . . . and that is saying something. So, wait, I shall. More generous with pizza. Find this wine

Best, Jim

March 17, 2011

1999 Drouhin, Volnay Clos des Chênes:
13% alcohol; (in honor of the season and you know who) “This wine is awesome, baby!” Beautiful, full aromas of stone, cherry and wild strawberry, not especially complex and showing very young but expansive; dense and full in the mouth with a silken texture, flavors that follow the nose and that same impression of expansion over time; endless finish with grip. Certainly needs another decade in the cellar and has everything one could ask to make the journey. Quintessential Volnay; iron fist, silk glove. Yummy with pasta, marinara and sausage. Find this wine

1999 Nigl, Riesling Piri Privat:
13% alcohol; unripe pineapple, warm gravel, and flowers on the nose; much the same on the palate in a satin smooth, concentrated and generous style with good body, balance and acidity; very long and completely integrated finish. It may last for years in the cellar but its drinking very well today. Excellent with assorted cheeses. Find this wine

2005 de Villaine, Bourgogne La Digoine:
12.5% alcohol; unripe strawberry and black raspberry scents with a substantial stone/mineral component make-up a rather disjointed but attractive nose; tart fruit tastes and that same disjointed impression until it has about two hours in the decanter. With air, it knits together very nicely; no disjointedness left although it’s firm, intense and focused; excellent balance and a longer finish than I expected from this bottling. Decanter time made all the difference as this wine smoothed and gained volume with air. Excellent with homemade pizza. Find this wine

1999 Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie Cuvée Tardive:
13% alcohol; sometimes, only a metaphor will do; like a beautiful woman in her AARP years that can still wear the same size five dress she wore to her prom, femininity undiminished; although now, she fills it out differently and carries herself with a grace and confidence that teenager could only dream of. An honor to be with and a treasure to take home. Drink deeply, now. Find this wine

2007 Overnoy/Houillon, Arbois Pupillin:
12.5% alcohol; translucent red/brown; smells of pomegranate and decaying leaves; tastes similar with rather assertive acidity and not the depth of the 2006 version; still, there is something haunting in the difference. A taste and smell that bring a smile to both face and heart and excellent with “bubble and squeak.” Find this wine

1996 Dom. du Closel, Savennières Clos du Papillon – Cuvée Spéciale:
14% alcohol; completely oxidized with a dark brown color and an oloroso nose. Closure failure. My last bottle. The last two bottles of this have been badly corked. The first nine bottles in the case were perhaps the best Savennières I ever tasted. What a shame. Find this wine

Yeah, I know; more than four. So?


March 14, 2011

2009 Edmunds ST. John, Rocks and Gravel:
13.8% alcohol; 50% syrah, 42% grenache, 8% mourvèdre; we took this to a local restaurant and when our waitperson opened it she exclaimed ‘my god this smells good!’ It does indeed, having emerged from its on-release shell to become a compact wine of finesse and latent energy with a terrific nose. There is still that firm inner core of stone but everything around it (and there is plenty) is open and sociable. Delicious with chicken burritos. Find this wine

1999 Belle Pente, Pinot Noir Wahle Vnyd.:
13.8% alcohol; immense VA with a cough syrup flavor profile; something is badly wrong here. I normally would not report on a flawed bottle but, in this case, since I have had this bottle on several past occasions (and it was good), I offer this comment to prompt others who may have it the cellar, to try it soon. I suspect that some bad critter(s) got in here and if that is even in part due to aging the wine, now is the time to try your bottles. Find this wine

2005 Alain Michaud, Brouilly Prestige de Vieilles Vignes:
13.8% alcohol; closed nose with barely a hint of fruit; much better in the mouth but still somewhat closed; satin texture, old vine fruit and excellent length. May need a decade but still tastes good now, especially with assorted cheeses. Find this wine

1999 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco:
13.5% alcohol; roses and dusty fruit scents; young on the palate and not completely integrated but the flavors are pretty yummy and the overall impression is that of nebbiolo, if not Barbaresco. Not showing me enough (yet) so that I would search it out but one I was pleased to drink along side a pasta dish that had sausage, peppers, fire-roasted tomatoes and mushrooms in it. Find this wine

2009 Triennes, Rosé:
13% alcohol, about $10, a joint venture between DRC and Dujac, mostly cinsault; pale salmon color; lovely fresh nose of fruit and mineral; the same in the mouth where, as it warms, the mineral becomes more prominent and the fruit gets deeper, bone-dry; medium finish. A fine rosé and charming accompaniment to a big salad with crusty bread. (After tasting this twice, I bought several cases.) Find this wine

Best, Jim

March 12, 2011

2006 Pepière, Muscadet Clos des Briords:
12% alcohol; upon opening, good Muscadet with a sour edge – put aside for another day. Day two: a little better but still sour; not my favorite CdB. Find this wine

1999 Thomas, Pinot Noir:
13% alcohol; the nose is bottle bouquet and an October pile of dried leaves left into November and then disturbed, with hints of dried cherries and soy; the palate is so smooth and resolved with tremendous complexity, balance and finesse, more savory than sweet; long and aged finish. Maybe, just past it’s prime, but so close as to keep one quiet when smelling and tasting. With a pasta dish with zucchini and cream, wonderful! Find this wine

1991 Chateau Montelena, Cabernet Sauvignon:
14.01% alcohol (according to the label), bought on release; powerful and expansive aromas of cassis, blackberry and anthracite; the flavors are the same, pure and intense, concentrated, a texture of velvet, completely integrated, good grip, finesse and an endless finish. The texture and purity of this wine are so extraordinary; I can’t remember any other wine like it. Showing fresh and young even though its 20 years old. A masterpiece of CA cabernet! Superb with burgers, oven fries and sautéed mushrooms. (Aside: No mistaking this for Bordeaux; not near the complexity or myriad nuance. Yet this shows how delightful cabernet grown in CA can be on its own. Moreover, the texture here may be unique; it does not slip over into that milk-shake texture that many of the cult cabs made infamous because of its purity and acidity. Finally, a domestic wine well worth cellaring twenty years.) Find this wine

1999 Chevillon, Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Vaucrains:
13.5% alcohol; at first quite closed and maybe, slightly reduced (which seemed to blow off), decanted 1½ hours, opens over the course of the evening, although never completely; full, dark fruit, some iron, smells like a mixture of pinot and mourvèdre; very rich in the mouth with a distinct and nuanced stone/mineral component, more complex than expected, intense and gives the impression of latent power; medium length with good grip. Basso profundo in the pinot chorus and certainly in need of further cellaring but really came alive with grilled mushrooms in marinara with cheese. Find this wine

Best, Jim

March 8, 2011

2007 Edmunds St. John, Gamay Prophyry:
13% alcohol from the Barsotti Ranch in El Dorado County, CA; fresh black cherries on the nose with a background of slate; alive and vibrant in the mouth, flavors follow the nose with depth and focus, great energy and cut; good grip on a fairly long finish. Several years in the cellar has allowed this to open without any loss of verve. Comparable to the best Beaujolais cru wines in a fine vintage and delicious with veggie pizza. Bravo! Find this wine

1999 Chevillon, Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Saint-Georges:
13.5% alcohol; raw and disjointed for the first hour or so but decanter time brings this back to its reality which is big, brooding, stylish, velvety and full of dark fruit; good finesse and yet, it maintains its firm core and clear indicators of NSG. The grip calms with air and the quality and breed become evident. Many years to peak. Find this wine

2001 Bouchard, Volnay Caillerets – Ancienne Cuvée Carnot:
13.5% alcohol; here is a good wine that has been desiccated by its oak treatment; drying with no hope of any juiciness returning. I had this young and thought the oak would integrate; I was wrong. It has dried the wine out to the point where the nose is deadened and the palate is so devoid of moisture as to be all but undrinkable. It does not smell of oak; it’s just the effects of the wood that show.
Bad winemaking. Find this wine

2004 Giacosa, Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore:
13.5% alcohol; young but full on the nose, not complex but not singular either; young on the palate with big fruit and some dusty nuance, rich, clean, powerful flavors, purity, concentrated, well-balanced and long; almost hidden tannin. Clearly not Barolo or Barbaresco but so much more than a simple NdA. With grilled chicken and Caesar salad, excellent. Find this wine

Best, Jim

March 6, 2011

1999 Juge, Cornas Cuvée SC:
13% alcohol; a lovely wine with a fundamental problem; it smells like something musty or rotting got mixed into terrific Cornas; I don’t believe this is corked (and neither does Diane; she being more sensitive to it than I) but whatever it is, the flaw ruins the experience. There is so much great fruit with a distinct sauvage character to it, that I don’t think TCA is the problem. Regardless, a shame; not undrinkable, but close. (BTW, 24 hours in the decanter didn’t make much difference.) Find this wine

1999 Texier, Côte Rôtie VV:
13% alcohol, substantial sediment; the wine that inspired me to make syrah; very expressive nose with syrah fruit, black olive, smoked bacon, ash and all sorts of nuance, but above all else, fruit; much the same on the palate with loads of fruit set-off nicely with nuance, structure and complexity, intense, concentrated, balanced, both sweet and savory, and, achingly long. My benchmark for Côte Rôtie and so wonderfully of its place as to make me want to speak French. With risotto and Rancho Gordo® scarlet runner beans, the stuff of dreams.
A life list wine. Oh my! Find this wine

1996 Roumier, Morey St-Denis Clos de la Bussiere 1er Cru:
13.5% alcohol; a fine nose that is Morey to a tee; similar in the mouth, resolved, elegant, soft (but not flabby) and complex, good fruit, good balance; medium length, pretty finish. A very nice wine . . . but no vitality. Excellent Burgundy, a good Morey, but a blasé 1er. Find this wine

2009 Triennes, Rosé:
13% alcohol, about $10, from a property owned by Aubert de Villaine and Jacques Seysses, primarily made of Cinsault; pale salmon color; smells of flowers, salt and stone-pit fruit; flavors follow the nose and it has a stony/mineral undertone that never lets it cloy. Fresh, clean, bone dry and good for both porch refreshment and light meals. Find this wine

2007 Dom. J. Chamonard, Morgon:
12.5% alcohol; of its place on the nose and palate with focused fruit and a dark, earthen flavor that either lends it distinction or detracts from the fruit, depending on your point of view. Needs time in the decanter but was expressive accompaniment to pressed Cuban sandwiches and Caesar salad. Find this wine

Best, Jim

March 4, 2011

This past weekend I drove 1,500 miles (round-trip) in two days so that I could visit my wine cellar and come home with all sorts of choices.
My neighbor says I am a most particular man. I never thought of it that way.

2006 Edmund Vatan, Sancerre Clos La Néore:
13% alcohol; prematurely oxidized, not to the point of sherry but sufficient to dampen the enjoyment of an otherwise excellent wine. Find this wine

2009 Broc Cellars, Vine Starr:
13.3% alcohol; my wife loves this wine and, while I enjoy it, I’m still trying to figure out exactly why; maybe it’s the bright and penetrating nose or the strongly flavored palate that is laced with ample cut; what ever it is, this white brings plenty of flavor to the table with powerful acidity and no wood. Not a wine I want often but, on occasion, one that can’t be replaced. Find this wine

1999 Hirtzberger, Grüner Veltliner Honivogl:
13.5% alcohol; roses and pineapple on the nose with hints of resin and sea salt; much the same in the mouth where the floral notes keep it from cloying and the resinous quality delivers the “pong;” a long, integrated finish. If you are expecting power or punch, you will miss the beauty and almost lilting quality that this delivers. Greater than the sum of its parts. At, or very near, peak. With pumpkin curry, symbiotic. Find this wine

2005 Luneau-Papin, Muscadet Clos des Allées:
12% alcohol, cost on release was $13; fresh as mountain stream water, scented with flowers and citrus; tasting of mineral, citrus and almonds; thirst quenching, supple and beautifully balanced.
Day two: this is such an individual Muscadet; I really think that if I could only have one melon in my life it would be this, year in and year out; just glorious, engaging both the senses and the intellect and reminding me that good Muscadet is about energy. Wonderful wine! Find this wine

2002 Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie Cuvée Tardive:
13% alcohol; not remotely Fleurie in delivery; that said, it is rich, dark, smells and tastes of Baker’s chocolate and earth, is more savory than sweet and is quite long. Very satisfying with burgers, oven fries and home-made coleslaw. Find this wine

2004 Dom. Leroy, Bourgogne:
12.5% alcohol, this bottle was a ‘leaker’; swampy and stemmy on the nose although not without that sort of very old Burgundy appeal; sour in the mouth and not pleasant. Set aside for another day. Day two: less aggressively stemmy, less fruit and more complex but still sour. (Aside: One hopes this showing is as a result of the failed closure and not indicative of the wine itself.) Find this wine

1994 Laurel Glen, Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain:
12.5% alcohol, high neck fill, substantial sediment; warm fruit and bell pepper nose; in the mouth the bell pepper tends to destroy any impression of ripeness, its tannic and angular, showing minimal complexity; drying finish. Over the course of the evening the wine smoothed only marginally. This has neither developed nor softened with age and while it has some intellectual appeal, it rates low on the enjoyment scale. Find this wine

2001 Edmunds St. John, Syrah Wylie-Fenaughty:
14.4% alcohol; like it was bottled yesterday; clear, singular and flamboyant boysenberry fruit nose; much the same in the mouth as the fruit is completely in charge and intense, the slightest hint of structure and good balance; medium finish. This wine has considerable cellar time to go before it develops complexity but it has the fruit for decades. With vegetable hash, very good, indeed. Find this wine

1999 Dom. Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St. Jacques:
13.5% alcohol; ripe, red cherry nose with the faintest hint of mineral; similar on the palate in a medium bodied delivery that is straight-forward and clean with ripe, sweet fruit; a medium finish. Nothing here says Gevrey or the vineyard but rather, this tastes much like a very clean and medium bodied Russian River pinot from a good producer. No earthiness, no muscular impression, no elegance; no “there” there and an overall impression of sweetness. Good with assorted cheeses.
(Aside: I have had all of the Clos St. Jacques wines from 1999 save Clair’s and this is in the class with Esmonin; it does not even approach Rousseau’s or Jadot’s bottlings.) Find this wine

Best, Jim

February 17, 2011

2007 Le Colombier, Vacqueras Tradition:
13.5% alcohol, about $15, retail; 70% grenache, 20% syrah, 10% mourvèdre, 30 year old vines, élevage in cement; shy but clean nose of brined meat and dust, little fruit when first opened, later its all dark cherry scents; more generous in the mouth with raw meat, garrigue and wild cherry fruit; focused and firm but not tannic; medium length. With Rancho Gordo® Christmas bean soup, excellent. Find this wine

2008 Erath, Pinot Noir:
13% alcohol, screwcap and about $16; translucent in appearance, transparent in delivery; smells like Oregon pinot without artifice or enhancement; tastes of clean red fruit, crisp and of its place; good sustain. Not a complex wine but as feminine and easy to drink as one could ask. With braised pork butt, excellent. Find this wine

2008 Adelsheim, Pinot Noir Willamette Valley:
13.3% alcohol and about $20; much darker in both appearance and delivery than the foregoing wine, slightly sharp but otherwise a pleasant but forgettable wine. Not in the same league as the Erath. Find this wine

N/V Cedric Bouchard, Champagne La Purcelle:
For Valentine’s Day; I have written glowingly about this several times previous so . . . over the course of the evening, the following stages were observed: mmmm, sigh, gush and swoon. Me, that is. Find this wine

2009 Jadot, Beaujolais-Villages:
13% alcohol and about $9; firm and reticent at first but opens over 30 minutes to become a complete, fairly deep, beautifully focused Gamay with a mineral backbone and juicy fruit that the cru producers would be proud of. If there is a better $9 bottle of red on your wine store shelf, I’d love to try it. Outstanding with burgers and oven fries. Find this wine

Best, Jim

February 13, 2011

2007 Drouhin, Chablis:
At room temperature, this village wine has a grand cru nose; the palate does not live up to that but it is not disappointing either; a pretty Chablis with lemon oil and seashore scents and flavors. As soon as this got the least little bit cool, it became half the wine. (At room temp.) with grilled chicken and Caesar salad, outstanding. $24, retail. (Room temp. here was 67° F.) Find this wine

2009 Stéphane Tissot, Arbois VV:
Poulsard at 12.5% alcohol; the first night, this was mediocre; not a bad wine but without character or interest. The second night, it had good character but was mostly about structure. My guess; it requires substantial time in the cellar. The second night, it was nice with cheese which seemed to clean up some of the tannins. Find this wine

1999 Mt Veeder, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve:
Smells like good 1990’s Bordeaux, tastes like an older Tuscan blend. An odd, but not unpleasant, showing. Nothing flamboyant or oaky but the fruit is a bit sweet to be convincing. Find this wine

2007 Edmund Vatan, Sancerre Clos la Néore:
13% alcohol; as with most great wines, a series of paradoxes: complex yet integrated, bright but smooth, flavorful but understated, long yet clean. I get the feeling that the grapes became everything they always wanted to be. Nothing out of place, nothing askew or inflated; just a pure and balanced example of nature and craft in sympathy. With goat cheese and crackers, sublime. Find this wine

2006 Georges Vigouroux, Cahors Anisto:
Although I do not read French, it appears from the website that this is malbec from Argentina (at least in part). 14% alcohol and about $15, retail. My impression is of both over-ripe and under-ripe fruit in a big tank with oak chips; and I will be the first to say, I may be entirely wrong. But the sour note is there in the nose and to a lesser degree, in the mouth, as though someone wanted to cover the green with new wood, and, the fruit is attenuated in several ways. An unpleasant nose; a forgettable palate. Find this wine

Best, Jim

February 3, 2011

The “birthday boys” (four guys who gather on or near our respective birthdays and treat the fellow turning older) gathered Sunday night at Santé, in the Sonoma Mission Inn for some Michelin one star food and a few bottles brought from our cellars.  The food and service were outstanding, the room was lovely and the wines were, at least, tolerable:

N/V Cedric Bouchard, Champagne La Parcelle:
As good a bubbly as I have ever had; very tiny bubbles but plenty of them, incredible depth to the flavors and nose and a fine finish. The wine of the night for me and a true ‘life list’ bottle. Stunning! find this wine

2007 Three Sticks, Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast:
This carried its 14.7% alcohol better than I expected and while I thought the new wood intruded, it was still a fine-grained, aromatic pinot. Appealing and stood well with the food. find this wine

2006 Martinelli, Pinot Noir Zio Tony Ranch:
15.6% alcohol; raisin smells and flavors, huge VA, intrusive wood and alcohol; not my cup of vino. find this wine

2006 Chat. Beaucastel, CdP:
Closed, no brett and very little nose or palate as yet; needs considerable time and to be served when there is no 800 pound gorilla in the room. Nice, nonetheless and good accompaniment to saddle of venison. find this wine


We four gathered at Bistro M in Windsor, CA, to catch-up on the doings in wine country, discuss and taste some wines and share a meal. I am sure my wife would have been ‘geeked’ to death by our wine-centric conversation but it was a learning experience. But perhaps most interesting (to me) was one conversation that turned to politics and financial regulation. I should say that it is my practice to leave the table when such things are discussed. In this instance I stayed and listened while two of our party disagreed – strenuously. Who’d have thought, right? But they did it with such respect for each other; never giving in on their respective positions but never straying into personality. It was, considering current events, heartening.

And the wines were not your everyday fare:

1993 Barthod, Chambolle-Musigny Les Fuees:
Firm at its core but lacy around the edges; deft balance, medium weight, good complexity and length. Opened somewhat over the evening. Not a great wine, but a very good one and likely not at peak. With steak tartar, excellent. find this wine

1996 Chatêau Lynch Bages:
Light brett but no so that the sweetness of the fruit is defeated. Quite complex and interesting both on the nose and palate, well –resolved but not past prime, lovely fruit and cigar box stuff going on and all silk in the mouth. With mac and cheese, extraordinary. find this wine

1990 Sorrel, Hermitage Le Greal:
Insecticide nose – not overwhelming but distracting, also some fruit and violets; lovely in the mouth though, with flavors of iron, blood and dusty black plums – slightly more savory than fruity; focused at mid-palate but broadening on the finish. Again, with mac and cheese, excellent. find this wine


Another very fine evening with friends at the Fig Café in Glen Ellen. I really love this place; informal and casual yet still white table cloth; solid bistro type food, much of it comfort style; servers I know and like, reasonable prices and no corkage. I don’t eat here often enough . . . but I try. This night is for celebrating the engagement of Bree and Katrena and to wish bon voyage to Argot as he heads for the Windy city.

2008 Quinto do Feital, Vinho Verde Dorado Alvarinho Superior:
13% alcohol; spends one year on the lees and two in tank before bottling, from 70 year old vines, organically farmed, low sulphur not fizzy like most Vinho Verde; medium yellow and brilliant; apples, leesy, hints of butterscotch, smoke and stones; dense and very lightly oxidative; bruised apples, resin, minerals and a grippy/leesy feel; long, clean, and unique. Nice as a starter and excellent with what appears to be a Spanish style paella with chicken instead of seafood. find this wine

1968 Inglenook, Charbono:
From Justin’s cellar and a very kind bring in honor of the happy couple; rock solid cork with almost no stain above the end, decanted off some sediment, almost purple color, fresh and young on both the nose and palate and while it does not fall off over several hours, it does soften some. On several occasions I think that it is impossible for this to be 43 years old but who counterfeits domestic charbono?!
It’s rich, bright, shows very young, has considerable tannin but so much fruit it can hide the grip, not especially complex but a sort of tricky depth that, from time-to-time, releases different flavors and smells.
A remarkable wine on longevity alone. find this wine

1998 and 1999 Dehlinger, Pinot Noir, Goldridge Vnyd.:
Quite similar at first but, over time, the ’98 slides off into aged, forest floor tones and the ’99 pumps out a classic Russian River cherry experience. By the end of the evening, the ’98 is faltering and the ’99 is just getting started. Both are sound, of interest and good accompaniment to the chicken dish. find this wine

Best, Jim

January 18, 2011

2008 Dom. Monpertuis, Côtes du Rhone Vignoble de la Ramière:
13.5% alcohol; more savory than sweet with salt pork, lavender, iron and spice tones up front and subtle red fruit in the background; focused, integrated and firm in the mouth with complexity and intensity, the structure is hidden but evident; good length. I think this all grenache but doesn’t taste like any other grenache I’ve had – not about the fruit but not without it. Rosenthal imports, it’s about $14 and more than worth the price. With grilled chicken and Caesar salad, excellent (and this from someone with little use for grenache). Find this wine

N/V Bortolotti, Prosecco di Valdobbiadéne Brut:
11.5% alcohol; crisp, dry, ripe fruit but plenty of cut and a strong bead. Pleasant, even engaging. About $15. Find this wine

2008 Peique, Bierzo Ramón Valle:
14.5% alcohol; 55 year old vines, 8 months in wood, 3 months in bottle; oaky, tannic and obviously more ripe than the “Tinto” I wrote about last; disjointed but polished; at some point, this may be more interesting than the tinto but not today. About $16. Okay with pizza. Find this wine

2009 Bodegas v Viñedos Neo, Ribera del Duero Matiz – Roble:
13.5% alcohol, 100% tempranillo from 25-45 year old vines, 4 months in barrel; (this is the sister wine to the Tinto I wrote about last which sees no time in barrel); sweeter on the nose with gentle oak notes, cherry and some spice; likewise on the palate this is more polished and smooth although slightly candied; medium length, integrated finish. A pleasant wine but with less character than the unwooded bottling and this costs $2 more ($13). Good with vegetable stew but I prefer the Tinto (as is often the case, when the only real difference between bottlings is oak aging, I prefer the one without – cheap date). Find this wine

Best, Jim

January 15th, 2011

2002 Brégeon, Muscadet:
12% alcohol; bottled in November of 2009, this spent 6 years on the lees; reticent nose that is clearly Muscadet – barely ripe pineapple, citrus, sea-air, lime skin; rich and carrying some weight in the mouth, flavors echo the nose and add white pepper, a vaguely resinous tone and lots of minerals, bright but not acidic, very intense and clean. Shows its promise. BTW, this is much better in a Burgundy stem than anything smaller. Excellent with goat cheeses. $24, retail.
(Aside: The very best cuvees of Muscadet are the equal of or better than, virtually every white Burgundy I taste that isn’t Chablis. (I should say that Montrachet and its off-spring are too expensive for me, so I exclude those from the comparison.) But these long lees-contact melons are so complex and deep – it has been a very long time since Puligny, etc. have given me so much.) Find this wine

Quinto do Feital, Vinho Verde Dorado Alvarinho Superior:
13% alcohol; spends one year on the lees and two in tank before bottling, from 70 year old vines, organically farmed, low sulphur – not fizzy like most Vinho Verde; medium yellow and brilliant; apples, leesy, a hint of butterscotch, smoke, stones and very lightly oxidative; bruised apples, resin, minerals and a grippy/leesy feel with slight dissolved CO2; long, clean, and unique. Another semi-orange wine that grabs me both intellectually and as a fine accompaniment to cheese. About $20, retail. Find this wine
Thanks Tom.

2009 Peique, Bierzo Tinto:
14% alcohol; 100% mencía from 50 year old vines, 2 months on the fine lees, 2 months in bottle; powerful black fruit nose, simple but strong; much the same in the mouth with very dark tones, some mineral, intense and focused but not complex; a tannic but not drying finish, a touch hot (although not distractingly so). Well made and a step above quaffer although no particular character. About $11, retail.
Good with pasta with a vegetable based red sauce. Find this wine

2009 Bodegas y Viñedos Neo, Ribera del Duero Matiz – Joven:
13.5% alcohol; from 25 to 45 year old tempranillo vines at about 2,000 feet of elevation, no barrel aging; balanced nose of leather, red fruit and spice, nice restraint; similar flavors in the mouth with an overall savory impression – not flamboyant like most jovens I have tried, excellent balance, fine grained structure that is well integrated and good length. A surprise at $11, retail and several quality steps above its price point. I will buy more of this. Imported by Steve Miles Selections. Very good with ratatouille niçoise. Find this wine

Best, Jim

January 8th, 2011

2008 Navarro, Dry Muscat Blanc:
13.6% alcohol; lovely nose of juniper, ginger, white table grapes and flowers – about as pretty a nose as one can imagine; spring-water fresh in the mouth with pure, crystalline flavors that follow the nose in a lightweight but intense package; medium length. Delightful with a light pasta and veggie dish. About $19, retail. (One of my ‘top wines’ tasted in 2010.) Find this wine

2009 Broc Cellars, Vine Starr:
13.1% alcohol; a blend of chardonnay, skin fermented rousanne and picpoul; bright and crisp overall with fresh scents of white fruit, tree sap and honey; quite bright – almost angular – in the mouth with white fruit, some tannin and a very crisp and refreshing finish. Could use a year or two to soften but was excellent with mac ‘n cheese. About $20, retail. Find this wine

2008 Edmunds St. John, Gamay Porphyry:
13.0% alcohol; gamay from porphyry soils at 3,000 feet elevation in Eldorado County; black raspberry, fennel, stone and earth aromas; much the same on the palate with considerable energy and a richness not present in the ESJ Bone Jolly bottling; medium length. Opened to accompany pasta with a fresh tomato sauce with chicken – perfect. About $20, retail. Find this wine

2007 Edmunds St. John, Pinot Gris:
13.5% alcohol; if served refrigerator cold, almost no smell and little flavor – the closer to room temperature it gets the more texture, spice and fruit come out. At room temp., an almost creamy mouth-feel. This should be drunk now, I think, as I am starting to find a little fall off on the finish. Nice with cheese and crackers. About $10, on sale. Find this wine

2007 Bedrock, Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley:
14.6% alcohol; this has a little merlot and petite verdot in it and spends 22 months in new French oak; smells of cassis and tannin; brooding and very dark in the mouth with no noticeable oak but little complexity, again cassis and tannin are the flavor impressions yet the tannins are not drying and quite fine, intense and concentrated; long finish. Showing very young but with promise. Tasty with Rancho Gordo® Christmas lima bean soup and homemade bread. About $40, retail. Find this wine

2009 Stéphane Tissot, Arbois VV:
12.5% alcohol, poulsard; smells of milk-chocolate covered cherries; tastes much the same with tongue-tingling acidity (and maybe some dissolved CO2) and a healthy dose of tannin, slightly disjointed; medium length, moderately tannic finish. Nothing here gives any indication of the grape variety and there’s a ripeness level that doesn’t seem very Jura-like, either. In time, this may be more of what I want but, today, it’s just another fairly non-descript but pleasant red wine. About $25, retail. (Aside: For me, Tissot’s wines have been about complexity, transparency and a deft touch – none of which is evident in this bottling, now. Perhaps, a Jura vintage to be careful about.) Find this wine

2009 Dom. Christian Ducroux, Régnié:
12% alcohol; I have had several bottles of this since release and this was much the best; fresh and complete on the nose – gamay at its most alluring; loose delivery but the flavors are so true and delicious that its seems the better for the lack of focus, light-weight; medium length. A really expressive wine – rural character meets prep school. Excellent with grilled chicken. $15, retail and worth every penny. Find this wine

Best, Jim

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