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December 24, 2013 – Florida Jim Cowan’s 2013 Tasting Notes Archive

Jim Cowan Photo by Chris Witkowski - click to enlarge

The 2013 archive is presented by date the notes were compiled and submitted. Prior year’s tasting notes may be found here.

December 24, 2013

2012 Idlewild, Vin Gris Dry Creek Valley:
13.6% abv; light copper color; mostly the bass notes of rosé wine as this is based on syrah (and since I see no regular syrah in their line-up, I assume this is direct press); bright and lively on the palate, some viscosity but nothing cloying, flavors have a sauvage note; mouth-watering finish. $22 retail.  Personally, I prefer lighter and more treble-noted rosés, but the earthy/wild notes here are intriguing and the acidity is clearly in charge overall. That’s in my wheelhouse.  (With pupusas and pastillos, it paired well and the acidity kept the rather piquant salsa at bay.) Find this wine

2012 Idlewild, Arneis Fox Hill Vnyd.:
14.2% abv; expansive aromas of lime and flowers; texturally smooth with flavors that echo the nose and bright acidity; good balance and length. As it warms and gets air, everything becomes more intense and focused. A beautiful wine but I can by Giacosa, Arneis for $5 less; that’s not a deal breaker because this is so pretty but it does make me think twice. Find this wine

2012 Idlewild, Carignan Testa Vnyd.:
13.2% abv; mulberry and earth scents; tannic and concentrated with flavors like the nose and some bitterness on the finish. While I like the depth and character here, it’s a bit disjointed, so back in the decanter and into the cellar for another time. Day two: Find this wine

Aside: I have now tried the Cortese, Dolcetto, Grenache Gris, Carignan, Arneis and Vin Gris (all 2012’s, their first year in release) from Idlewild. I am convinced that these wines are worthy of attention; they are geared to food and taste so much better in accompaniment that I think they should be severed at no other time. They have no overt oak flavors; the alcohols are mostly under 14%, the wines rely upon their acids (as would be expected) and they NEED time in the bottle. The price range is $22-$32 per bottle and that seems reasonable based on quality.

In addition, the varieties they are working with lend diversity to my cellar and their production is so small that I am pretty certain that only the owners are involved in the process; and no one looks after their “babies” like the owners.

Today, I will sign-up for their mailing list; it has been a very long time since I have signed-up for any list. Kudos to Sam and Jessica; an auspicious start. Find Idlewild wines


December 8, 2013

2012 Idlewild, Dolcetto Fox Hill Vnyd.:
13.4% abv; initial cherry aromas with some spice tones, goes into its shell pretty quick and is mostly about its tannins when tasted without food. Comes alive with salad and cheese toast with deep dark cherry flavors and spice accents; balanced and intense. The website notes that they are trying to strike a balance between gulp-able and serious; it does seem that this wine has hit that target. Needs a bit of time. Find this wine

2012 Idlewild, Grenache Gris Gibson Ranch:
12.4%; alcohol; from 100 year old, dry farmed, vines; opens with lovely red fruit notes but closes down quickly (seems to be a theme here), noticeable tannin, and a dusty/earthy character. More about structure
now than fruit and, what fruit is showing, is not sweet. Just guessing here, but I find this fascinating and I think it has a future. Day two: Much more open and generous but no less savory; developing complexity. A wine of pleasure and interest. Find this wine

2011 Rochioli, Pinot Noir Little Hill:
Supple, flavorful and not too sweet; not a great deal of development yet and certainly, follows the house style. Delicious with mushrooms and polenta. Find this wine

2004 Giacosa, Nebbiolo d Alba Valmaggiore:
Took about 15 minutes to open but then it was beautiful, nicely resolved and quite complex; almost ethereal nose, weightless in the mouth and utterly charming; baby Barbaresco. Beyond words with cold beet salad and steak. Find this wine

1991 Groth, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve:
At first, the unmistakable Groth green is apparent but over the evening, it became but a part of the whole; needed an hour of air, then it was at full song; medium weight but so intense, amazing length and no intrusive tannins (in a year that often made for them). A treat and fabulous with steak. Find this wine

2010 Larkmead, Cabernet Sauvignon LMV Salon:
Holy cats! This had a salty minerality with extremely deep and concentrated fruit but no sense of being outsized; intense, complex, balanced, and precise yet still full and long on the palate. As good a young California cabernet as I have ever had; truly phenomenal. Oh my! Find this wine


December 4, 2013

2012 Scribe, Skin-fermented Chardonnay (500ml):
12.5% abv; smells and tastes of chardonnay but more so. Many skin-fermented whites bear little resemblance to their varietal roots, this isn’t one of them. No noticeable tannin but a savory palate with earth tones mixed into chardonnay fruit. An interesting diversion.
Find this wine

2007 Salinia, Pinot Noir W.E. Bottoms Vnyd.:
14.2% abv; opened the previous night when I did not taste it, it’s now clearly pinot but more of the earth, dry and savory than almost any others I have had. There is something untamed here and bordering on unique. I did not have a large taste but I want more.
Find this wine

1998 Dom. J. Chamonard, Morgon Le Clos de Lys:
12.5% abv; another appetizing wine with good balance, clear gamay fruit but a lot of secondary elements in the earth/spice range. It’s thinner than expected but still elegantly intense. Fifteen year old Beaujolais, showing well.
Find this wine

2012 Idlewild, Cortese Fox Hill Vnyd.:
13.4% abv; smells of earth, orange peel and almond; is bright and lively but has depth, grip and texture with etched flavors and a mouthwatering finish. Half skin-fermented and half direct press makes for a complex expression of the grape which is more character driven than any Cortese I have had from Italy. Should be served very close to room temperature. Quite impressive. $30 retail and worth it.
Find this wine

1994 Laurel Glen, Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mtn.:
12.5% abv; ethereal nose that has an herbaceous note but it is only one of many; tannic and somewhat drying in the mouth but when cheese accompanies, all is well; wonderfully complex, earthy, some wildness here and a good finish. I think this is at peak (or at least one of them) and the initial aroma was so compelling, that opening a bottle for just that reason is reason enough. Cabernet done right.
Find this wine

Best, Jim

December 2, 2013

2011 Dom. de Roally, Viré Clessé Tradition:
14% abv; expansive aromatics with talc, perfume, chardonnay and marzipan aromas; full in the mouth with a smooth texture, a touch of RS and just enough acidity to keep it balanced; good length. The smells and flavors are beautiful but it is so rich and full that one glass is enough . . . well, maybe two. Find this wine

1995 Edmunds St. John, Syrah Durrell Vnyd.:
14.4% abv; bottle bouquet and secondary flavor complexity in an evolving package; changed and even “younged-up” over the course of the evening. ‘Was more fruit driven and primary in its third hour open.
(Aside: I bought a case of this a couple years ago when Steve had a library sale. Some bottles have been DOA, some have been good and some have been remarkable; this is one of the latter.) Find this wine

1997 Edmunds St. John, Sangiovese Matagrano Vnyd.:
14.0% abv; I never had this young so have nothing to compare to but this wine does not seem to have developed much in 16 years; it smells of sangiovese, tastes much like Chianti with a few years on it and is both balanced and complete. It matched well with a pasta dish with red sauce and I will drink it again. But I expected more dimension. Find this wine

2008 Edmunds St. John, Porphyry Gamay Barsotti Ranch:
13% abv; essence of black raspberry on both the nose and palate, still very much a wine who’s core is sap and therefore a touch bitter and closed. Considering that it’s under screwcap, it may take a long time to loosen up but what is there shows every sign that, if it does, it will be as good a gamay as the new world has seen. Impressive. Find this wine

Best, Jim

November 24, 2013

2001 Jamet, Côte Rôtie:
No secondary development but a lovely sense of harmony; the ash and violet elements are only accents and the fruit is warm and red; silky, of a piece and long. Beautiful wine, drinking well. Find this wine

Side by side over dinner; 1999 and 2001, Chevillon, NSG Les Saint-Georges:
Both were very good and reasonably open; the ‘01 was more developed, more complete and more savory; the ’99 was still about its sap with sweeter fruit and a tighter core. As I say, both fine wines and a pleasure with dinner but the ’01 drinks better now.
BTW, both were decanted and open throughout dinner . . . and they both needed it. Find this wine

2009 Calluna, Merlot Aux Reynauds:
Some might say that calling this the best California merlot I’ve had is damning with faint praise; they would be wrong. Restrained yet deep and rich; varietally correct but showing hillside pedigree and complexity, fragrant, mouth-filling and sustained. 14.1% alcohol that is completely hidden. Few Pomerols do as well this early in life. Find this wine

Wine in paper bottles? Yep.
A gimmick? Yep.
Eco-friendly? Yep.
Good wine? Yep.
Not great or character driven but clean, user-friendly, not overdone and frankly, delicious. $14 for Mendocino chardonnay and $15 for the Paso red blend. “Paper Boy Winery” is how they market it.
What won’t they think of next? Find this wine

2010 Clos de Mez (Chat. Gaillard) Morgon:
At first, I think there is something wrong here; a metallic-like smell and an extractive taste, so I put my glass aside. Later in the evening, the smell is gone but not that drying taste. Leaving the glass out overnight gets me an intense black fruit aroma and a tannic palate and mouth-feel. I am not sure what to make of this but I suspect bottle age is its friend; whether the fruit will survive as long as the tannins take to resolve is a matter for another time. Find this wine

Best, Jim

November 5, 2013

2004 Fevre, Chablis Les Clos:
Either this is tired or the pox is just beginning; pleasant but not more. Find this wine

2004 Ridge, Chardonnay Monte Bello:
Darker in color than the Chablis, some butterscotch on the nose but not on the palate, fair aromatics but more convincing in the mouth; an interesting Chardonnay and (aside from healthy Chablis) I am not usually interested in this grape. Find this wine

2006 Rhys, Pinot Noir Alpine Hillside:
Deep and rich and reminds me a bit of Gevrey; volume in the mouth without weight, layered, earthy and long. Can be cellared further but needn’t be. Very good. Find this wine

2008 Rhys, Pinot Noir Alpine:
Lightweight and bright, certainly young but nice sap and structure, on the cherry end of red fruit and nowhere near the volume of the preceding wine (although, it works nicely). Needs time but is lip-smackingly good now. Find this wine

1994 Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello:
Complete, balanced, mature and quietly complex, satin texture, fine length; a really lovely Cabernet with more than a nod toward Paulliac. Find this wine

1999 Carlisle, Two Acres:
Cépage is Mouvèdré, Petite Sirah, Valdepañas and Alicante Bouschet; 15.3% alcohol; initially pruney and hot but after about half an hour open, very much Bandol-esque, meaty and feral although just a bit too big for me. Find this wine

Best, Jim

October 25, 2013

The birthday boys gathered again at Café la Haye in Sonoma to celebrate the passing of time. We don’t see each other often enough but this ritual is something we all look forward to and make time for. We usually gather at this restaurant, and he who has gained another year is exempted from the check. But we all bring a bottle. Tradition among friends.

2010 Rhys, Syrah Horseshoe Vineyard:
12.6% alcohol (I think; hard label to read with these eyes); Jamet, Côte Rôtie on the nose – that wonderful violet and ash combination that I love about the AOC, clear fruit, some nice spice tones and all of this integrated into something that is greater than the sum of its parts; savory and focused (almost firm) on the palate, barely medium weight but quite intense, immensely complex; lovely, feminine finish. Years from peak but terrific tonight. Oh my! Find this wine

1992 Grace Family, Cabernet Sauvignon:
13.1% alcohol; from the Gary Galleron days, I believe; begins with a somewhat closed, slightly insecticide nose (weird descriptor, I know, but something I often find in just opened older cab. based wines that exhibit tertiary development), broadens out in minutes and loses that chemical note, mostly dusty, warm red fruit with some truffle notes and a touch of tobacco; much the same in the mouth and quite complex with air; medium length finish that is not drying. The fruit is still strong but as the evening wears on, this begins to come apart, not entirely, but noticeably. What a pleasure to taste this; my first Grace. Find this wine

2009 Kosta-Brown, Pinot Noir Russian River Valley:
14.5% alcohol; touch of VA on the nose but most at the table found nothing objectionable. Not my style but others loved it. Find this wine

2009 Revana, Cabernet Sauvignon:
Alcohol unknown; typical Napa cab.; not my style but again, others kept going back for more. Find this wine

Best, Jim

October 19, 2013

2005 Dom. l’Ecu, Muscadet Expression de Granite:
A beautiful deep, rich wine with vitality and . . . just the slightest hint of cork taint.
(Aside: As a percentage of bottles bought and tried, Muscadet continues to be the one with the most TCA. Why? Does the chemistry of the grape lend itself to the bug; are the corks worse in the area; does the aromatic profile of the wine tend to exaggerate TCA aromas; are more wineries infected? Just askin’?) Find this wine

2001 Edmunds St. John, Syrah Wylie-Fanaughty:
Almost a barrel sample; carbonic, grapey with just the slightest hint of Syrah; in the decanter and back in the cooler for tomorrow.
Following day, still intensely young with little complexity but plenty of fruit. At 12, this is still a toddler. Find this wine

1998 Hirsch, Riesling Gaisberg (magnum):
The last bottle of several of these, this is in top form; smells sweet but tastes dry, full in the mouth but not clumsy, remarkable depth and complexity across the palate but still of a piece, and as long a wine as I have had this year. Needed only a few minutes to open completely and stayed at peak throughout the evening. Reminds me of the heights to which Austrian Riesling can climb. A masterpiece. Find this wine

2007 Ferrando, Carema (white label):
A rare beauty in perfect form; without the weight of recent Barolo and Barbaresco but so perfectly balanced and pure that it shines by comparison. A wine with which one has a conversation, preferably in the corner, alone. Stirring. Find this wine

2006 Monsecco, Gattinara:
Not as stern as I would expect but still firm, balanced and fairly well open; delicious Nebbiolo, moderate complexity (but there seems to be more to come) and a simply lovely texture in the mouth. Yum. Find this wine

2006 Donkey and Goat, Syrah Fanaughtly Vnyd.:
Accessible and quite aromatic with some feral notes and a good deal of complexity. An example of why I enjoy Syrah so much; of the earth but still full of fruit. Find this wine

2009 Rhys, Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vnyd.:
More savory than fruit driven with a horehound sort of flavor that tastes like the candies but without the sweetness; quite long. Too early to make judgments here. Find this wine

2008 Calera, Pinot Noir Ryan Vnyd.:
Very pretty wine, distinctly feminine but not thin or weak; texturally elegant, too. A joy to drink now. Find this wine

Three Ribolla Gialla:

2012 Grassi, Ribolla Gialla Napa Valley:
13.2% alcohol from the Vare Vineayrd in Napa; smells of apricots and nutmeg with white fruit backing; richer than expected and fruit sweet (I don’t think its RS), developing breadth in the mouth; good sustain. Not as dry or as linear as the one I make and no tannin (the Grassi sees very little skin contact) but bright and charming. Excellent with fried calamari. Find this wine

2010 Angoris, Ribolla Gialla Colli Orentali del Friuli:
13.0% alcohol; time in bottle has made a difference in both color and depth; this is darker than the Grassi, I think it had a bit of skin contact and its flavors are more bass notes than treble; not acidic but not flabby and little tannin. Interesting but not as compelling as the first. Find this wine

2012 Cowan Cellars, Ribolla Gialla Russian River:
11.7% alcohol; darkest of the three but somewhere in between the first and second in flavor/acid profile; some bass notes, some treble but not as developed as the second; obvious tannin, as this was fermented to dry on the skins. The most complex of the three but in need of time in the bottle. Find this wine

Best, Jim

October 9, 2013

An Italian dinner with Sam, Jean, Steve, Matt, Ilene, Rob, John, George, Diane and me. We have all known each other over 15 years; in and out of each other’s lives but always connected by the internet; and what a fine thing that connection has turned out to be. Nice to reconnect in person this night.

2012 Cowan Cellars Ribolla Gialla
Although this wine is not of continental origin, the grape is. Acquitted itself well; bright but broad, varietally correct and a pleasant accompaniment to starters and salad courses. Find this wine

1997 Mascarello, Barolo Monprivato Res.:
Over the course of the evening, it “younged up” into a still youthful but well balanced expression of Barolo. Perhaps, my favorite of the evening, but only if forced to pick. Find this wine

1998 Giacosa, Barolo Rocche:
Too early but it still has everything one would expect from young Giacosa; just not much one would expect from mature Giacosa. Find this wine

1995 Biondi-Santi, Brunello:
Firm. Oh, so hauntingly delicious but firm. Years to peak. Find this wine

1985 Gaja, Barbaresco Sori Tilden:
Fully resolved, tertiary, ready and maybe, just a bit passed it; but still, a lovely wine; somewhat frail in the company. Find this wine

2010 Occipinti, Frappato:
Slurp-able and much more. Maybe starting to close just a bit. Find this wine

1990 Ruffino, Chianti Classico Reserva:
Tight and structured and may have much more than I found. Find this wine

1980 Shafer, Cabernet Sauvignon:
Before there was Hillside, this was it; fully resolved and tertiary; a lovely diversion. Find this wine

Best, Jim

August 6, 2013

The Golden Gate Yacht Club is the host for this year’s America’s Cup races. It’s a small place compared to the next door St. Francis Yacht Club, and perhaps that’s a good thing. No gents in blazers, no yachting caps, little pretense and comfortable furniture that was made for lounging and drinks. Pub food; inexpensive yet substantial. George, Rob, Richard, Steve and I met for supper, to catch up on each other’s lives and to taste some cellar treats of the white persuasion.

1977 Drouhin, Montrachet:
Past prime but not wholly used up. Oxidized without being sherried and a bit tired. Still of intellectual interest. Find this wine
Served side by side and blind:

1996 Bonneau du Martray, Corton-Charlemagne and the 1996 Marcassin, Chardonnay Marcassin Vineyard.
To several folks surprise, the Marcassin was clearly the better wine. The Charly was past it and sliding downhill quickly; Find this wine the Marcassin was alive, reasonably fresh and actually tasted like chardonnay. By the end of the evening, the Marcassin was beginning to show its left coast heritage but not in an overwhelming way. Find this wine

Also side by side but not blind were the 1995 and 1996 Dom. Darnat, Clos Richemont Meursault 1er Cru Monopole. The 1996 was in poor shape, the 1995 better; although neither took me to any heights.  Find the 1995     Find the 1996

1997 Zind Humbrecht, Riesling Turckheim:
Somewhat clunky but sound and surely speaks to the producer. Adequate. Find this wine

1998 Maximin Grünhauser, Riesling Spätlese: (there may have been more particulars on the label but my iPhone photo did not pick them up; it’s a busy label.)
Joyous, perfectly balanced, lively, and fresh; wonderful wine and actually fun to drink. Find this wine

2006 V. Dauvissat, Chablis Les Clos:
Perhaps too young to judge but pretty closed save for that lemon drop aroma and taste I often get from this vineyard. Fair for now. Find this wine

2005 Pieropan, Soave Calvarino:
Deeply complex on the nose and palate, clearly Soave but a bit more mature than I would have expected. This is a single vineyard done in stainless; for something more exotic, try their La Rocca, which is also a single vineyard but done in wood. Find this wine

2010 Guigal, Condrieu La Doriane:
Smelled and tasted like bacon (surely the oak), with immense viscosity. Too early to this, most certainly. Find this wine

2010 Cowan Cellars, Isa:
Skin-fermented, 100% sauvignon blanc. Since I made this, I get to taste it often. After two years in bottle it is evolving into something quite savory and the fruit seems to be slimming down. Textural, broad but with good acid and gaining length. I am happy with this. Find this wine

1998 Willi Schaefer, Riesling Auslese Graacher Domprobst 375ml:
Not tired but showing mature with pretty good balance and nice acidity. A sip or two was nice; more, not so. Find this wine

2001 SQN, Mr. K, The Noble Man 375ml(?):
Liquid pineapple upside-down cake; one sip for me was plenty. Find this wine

Best, Jim

July 22, 2013

2004 Dom. Leroy, Bourgogne:
I bought a case of this before folks realized it wasn’t simple Bourgogne and the price doubled. Over the years, I have opened bottles that were pleasant and others that were not but none that ever showed any indication of declassed 1er juice. Until now.
Still has the herbal edge but now the fruit is nuanced and has some depth, the finesse is evident in the mouthfeel and it has an admirable finish. Quite nice. Find this wine

1999 Chevillon, N-S-G Les Cailles:
Opened and decanted it showed so much reduction as to be undrinkable; left it in the decanter over five hours there was no change. Put it back in the bottle and left it in the cellar for three nights. Poured on the fourth day the reduction had dissipated but it was closed and the tannins were drying. Waited an hour. Hello Burgundy; full, rich dark fruit, good integration and grip without the drying tannins and a terrific texture. Yummy. ‘Hard to wait. Find this wine

2010 Chateau de Maligny, Chablis VV:
Lovely, lovely wine. And less than $20. Find this wine

N/V Cédric Bouchard, Champagne Inflorescence – La Parcelle:
A blanc de noir that has a hint of color, an exuberant bead and maturing flavors. Perhaps, the most complex palate I have ever gotten out of bubbly and it has that ever so slight hint of oxidation that suggests nuts. Layered as well as thirst quenching. It was a day to celebrate and this was precisely right to the occasion. Find this wine

1998 Trimbach, Riesling Clos St. Hune:
Premoxed. (Aside: Listening to the continuing problem in Burgundy has made me gun-shy, but finding premox in Clos St. Hune just makes me angry. This is beyond frustrating.) Find this wine

2010 Occhipinti, il Frappato:
At first, a little disjointed but after about an hour, all the wine one could ever want. “The way wine should taste.” Find this wine

2010 Las Vides, Torrontes:
Aromatic and crisp with melon and floral notes; pretty wine. Find this wine

1997 Talley, Pinot Noir Rosemary’s Vineyard:
Well resolved and showing some development; not yet tertiary but nicely complex; earthy and integrated with good balance and sustain. Quiet but a complete wine and very enjoyable. Find this wine

1995 Chateau Margaux:
Needs substantial decanter time but is beginning to open and show its breed; layered, supple yet focused and perfectly balanced. Very young but very good. Find this wine

Best, Jim

July 13, 2013

1999 Hirtzberger, Riesling Singerriedel:
Either this wine is starting to fall apart or this is not a representative bottle; I will assume the latter. Not bad or unpleasant but disjointed and without focus or sustain. Poor showing. Find this wine

2012 Grassi, Ribolla Gialla:
Impressive! Not fermented on the skins but not thin or shrill either, this is perfectly balanced, pure and absolutely representative of the grape. My new benchmark for this grape’s aromatic and flavor profile. Sourced from the Vare Vineyard in Napa Valley, weighs in at about 12.5% abv and drinks like cool spring water. Just lovely. Find this wine

2011 Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie:
Smells like smoke taint or wood char; it’s thin, seems like there was too much whole-cluster in the ferment, and, its short. Not terrible but nothing I want another glass of. Better on day two but still char on the nose and a gritty texture. Find this wine

2010 Chateau de Maligny, Chablis VV:
Has a twang on both the nose and palate but is otherwise quintessential Chablis; mineral, lemon drop goodness that is deft and focused; a wine of finesse. Not profound but Chardonnay, done right. Find this wine

2005 Baudry, Chinon La Croix Boissée:
Green on the nose and overly tannic in the mouth; has promise but it is angry and unbalanced now. Better on day two but still fiercely tannic and decidedly herbal. Find this wine

2009 Calluna, Merlot Aux Raynauds:
It gains elegance and integration each time I have this wine; a beautiful, restrained and balanced version of how good this variety can be; and very seldom, is. As good as any right bank Bordeaux; better than most. Find this wine

Best, Jim

July 4, 2013

Along with Ken Zinns, Eric Lundblad and Steve Edmunds, I went to Bay Wolf in Oakland last night for dinner and wine. Guess what we talked about?

One comment about the restaurant; they did not charge us corkage even though we opened nine bottles and required considerable wine service (decanting, extra glasses, dump bucket, etc.) Hopefully, our server was happy with her tip.

2012 Edmunds St. John, Bone Jolly Rosé:
Sleek, spicy, lovely red fruit, crisp and bone dry. He shoots, he scores! Find this wine

2011 La Clarine Farm, White Wine
An off bottle. Ken noted that his last bottle was delicious but this one was flawed (and not corky). Find this wine

2012 Edmunds St. John, Heart of Gold:
Steve’s blend of vermentino and grenache blanc, of which the later was holding court. Clean, clear spring water impression with just a bit of viscosity and nice length. Find this wine

1994 Edmunds St. John, Zinfandel Amador County:
Mike Dashe would be proud; a lighter weight zin. with berry fruit and spice and the texture of cool cotton sheets. Together, from another time and still fresh – a treat. Find this wine

2002 Arcadian, Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vnyd.:
Mostly about whole cluster and alcoholic sweetness, this is not my style. Touch of heat. Find this wine

2009 Ladd Cellars, Pinot Noir Cuvée Abagail:
Eric says its mostly Sonoma Coast fruit; young and has lots of baby fat but the structure and length of this wine tell the tale – a remarkable bottle in waiting. (Liked it so much I bought a case.) Find this wine

1999 Alemand, Cornas Chaillot:
Regal, intense, complex and of its place; a great wine that is showing much but perhaps not all. Eric was very generous to bring this. Find this wine

2012 Cowan Cellars, Ribolla Gialla:
A barrel sample that I put in 750, hand corked and applied a label for the sake of the rules; 11.8% alcohol; smells of apricots and cinnamon, has weight and texture in the mouth with hints of vanilla bean to accompany the apricot-like fruit, dry, somewhat tannic, lively acidity and drained quickly by the table. We will bottle this in August and then taste it over the coming months to determine a release date. About 100 cases. Find this wine  (My first shot at skin-fermented ribolla and I am quite pleased with the result. I suspect this will improve with time in bottle and look forward to having Diane work up dishes that match.)

We don’t do this often enough, gents.

Best, Jim

June 30, 2013

1999 Dom. Bizot, Vosne-Romanee Les Réas:
12.5% abv; no real secondary development yet but nicely resolved and quite silky; has an overlay of spice/herb that I often associate with the AOC (and perhaps, whole-cluster), savory fruit, a lovely, lightweight texture and good balance; moderate length. Alongside a dish of whole-wheat pasta with caramelized onions, chard stems, mushrooms and parmesan it was deft and provided delicious punctuation.

(Aside: These days, this bottling is out of my price range – as is most of the better Burgundy, even at the village level. Finding pinot with character and charm for $25-$35 has become a mission and frankly, the ones I seem to like are almost all domestic. But once the price goes above $40 or so, I often run into too much oak, too much alcohol and too much sweet. Below that price, several smaller makers seem to keep things balanced and pure; perhaps not as complex as I might like, but even this 14 year old Vosne didn’t have that much complexity. Surely not enough to warrant current prices above $120.) Find this wine

2006 Overnoy/Houillon, Arbois Pupillin:
12.5% abv; Poulsard; having had several vintages of this wine, I find this one the ripest and probably the most appealing in the long run (several of the leaner versions were full of character but not as pleasurable, especially with food). We had this with as good a Margareta pizza as I have had (a local restaurant here in Sonoma County) and gnocchi with roasted corn, pesto and tomatoes. And this is where it came alive; depth, texture, complete in the mouth and long on the finish. My posthumous thanks to Joe for suggesting I go long on this wine. Find this wine

2012 Navarro, Rosé of Pinot Noir:
13.6% abv; light strawberry with just a hint of lavender in color; wonderful nose filled with fruit, mineral and herb but so integrated and complete to make smelling almost all one needs; equally good on the palate with clear fruit, nice acid, backing mineral and good length. The best $18.50 anyone could spend but, alas, sold out at the winery. Tempier, move over. Find this wine

2010 Occhipinti, il Frapatto:
12.5% abv; I have written glowingly about this wine a time or two; I will not repeat all of the compliments except to say that it is impossible to have too much of this wine in your cellar. Buy more. Now! To quote a friend, “this is what wine should taste like.” Find this wine

Best, Jim

May 9, 2013

2010 Louis Michel, Chablis:
12.5; clean and penetrating lemon and mineral scents; likewise on the palate with good breadth, intense and vigorous; good length. Not a hint of wood anywhere; Chablis and distinctively so. Under screwcap. About $20. I buy a case of this almost every year and the closure allows me to have a glass at a time over the span of a week; nothing like a glass of Chablis to start off dinner. Find this wine

1995 Laurel Glenn, Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain:
12.5% abv; the aromatics tend toward the greener aspects of cabernet although not so much that I’d call it bell pepper; in the mouth it is slightly rustic, grippy, has full albeit young, fruit, and good sustain. Needs more time than the 1994 and 1996 versions I have had recently as it shows little development. Of the three, the 1996 was in a great place last week, the 1994 seemed past it and this seems too young. Find this wine

2005 Alain Michaud, Brouilly Prestige de Vielles Vignes:
13.0% abv; restrained nose that is mostly dark fruit and earth; much the same in the mouth with considerable concentration and structure, opened some with air; medium length but quite intense. Showing the first glimpses of its old vine depth and sap; a wine that will take many years to develop and has the balance to promise delight. With fennel sausage in chunky red sauce, yummy. Find this wine

2005 Alain Michaud, Brouilly Prestige de Vielles Vignes :
13% abv; somewhat tired and attenuated on the nose although it’s clearly Beaujolais; similar in the mouth despite good flavors and grip; medium finish. Either past prime or not a representative bottle. Good with carbonara. Find this wine

Best, Jim

May 5, 2013

2002 Brégeon, Muscadet:
12% abv; a clenched fist when opened with no aromatics, little flavor and piercing/almost spritzy acidity; after about 15 minutes it became very pretty with lemon, mineral aromas; lemon-drop and stone flavor impressions and nice length; with about an hour open it was superb with greater depth and breadth, more integration and a lively balance that made me wish I’d decanted this. With linguini and white clam sauce; none better. Find this wine

2009 Ducroux, Régnié:
12% abv, Demeter; the nose is ladies’ face powder, red fruit and warm earth; the same in the mouth with an accent of black olive, slightly rustic and vigorous with good length. Quintessential Beaujolais and delicious with a rough chopped hash of grilled chicken, caramelized onions, corn and spinach. Find this wine

2011 Poggio Anima, Grillo Uriel:
13.0% abv; a perplexing wine: on one hand it is unusual and character driven on the other it’s resinous (as in retsina) and slightly sour; I’m not sure I like it but I won’t dismiss it. Better after being opened and a week in the fridge; seems more of a piece. Pretty darn good with salad Niçoise. Thanks Steve. Find this wine

2007 Pépière, Muscadet Granite de Clisson:
12% abv; any attempt to parse this wine by descriptor would fail; it is, at this moment, quite simply the finest Muscadet I have tasted. Comparison to premier or even grand cru Chablis is not without appeal and yet it retains its sense of place albeit in a more noble form. Deep, pure, rich and delineated and yet, the sum is greater than its parts.
Clearly, I am having difficulty with adjectives; hopefully, gentle reader, it will suffice to say that it is a masterpiece. With a shrimp and vegetable pasta, other worldly. Oh my! Find this wine

Best, Jim

April 30, 2013

1996 Laurel Glen, Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain:
12.5% alcohol; expansive nose with all sorts of red fruit and chocolate tones, accents of herb and earth, quite complex; extraordinary balance in the mouth and without edges, flavors echo the nose, richness without cloy, concentration without being extractive, complete and with great finesse, but again, balance is the lasting impression; long, delicious finish. A mature wine without being an old wine. Some secondary development, well resolved but does not lack grip and as pretty a cabernet based wine as I have had in years. A recent ’94 of this bottling showed more age and less fruit, albeit, still enjoyable. This bottle was at a whole different level. At peak (or at least, one of them). Find this wine

2007 and 2008 Edmunds St. John, Prophyry:
Both 13.0% alcohol and sourced from the Barsotti Ranch in El Dorado County; the 2008 is under screw-cap, the 2007 under Diam cork and the difference is noticeable with the ’08 being almost barrel sample-like and the ’07 smelling and tasting of chocolate-covered currants and seeming more developed; both are more black fruit than red and both are well balanced. Personally, I like the 2007’s complexity and nuance but these are two are very pretty gamays. Find this wine

2006 Pepière, Muscadet Clos des Briords magnum:
12% alcohol; closed on day one; several days later this has become quite full and rich yet still bright, stony and with plenty of cut; it accompanies salmon cakes as though it were made for no other purpose and its length is astonishing. But based on day one performance, I will let even my 750’s sleep. Find this wine

2005 Dom. Vissoux, Fleurie Poncié:
12.5% alcohol; . . . I am not sure how many cases of this I bought but this is my last bottle; obviously, I should have saved some but its my favorite wine and I just don’t care about what it will be tomorrow. ‘Had this on my 60th birthday, had it when my grandson was born and every bottle I have opened has brought me pleasure. No less so now; still flamboyant cassis and black fruit on the nose; rich, textured and deep in the mouth with lots of concentration, some development and a long, delicious finish. With grilled chicken, the bomb. A fond farewell to a wine I will not forget. Find this wine

2009 Edmunds St. John, Rocks and Gravel:
13.8% alcohol, 50% syrah, 42% grenache and 8% mourvèdre; on release this was really delightful but it is closed now and even a couple days on the counter did not help. This needs time . . . lots of it. Find this wine

Best, Jim

April 6, 2013


2010 Louis Michel, Chablis:
Textbook Chablis for the stainless steel crowd; delineated, fresh, some complexity and good breadth. Not deep or long or in anyway profound but distinctly Chablis (which all by itself, makes it preferable to 99% of other chardonnay) and only $20. Screw-cap. Find this wine

2010 Chateau de Maligny, Chablis:
Much like the Michel with a bit less approachability and a bit more complexity. Charming now, reasonably priced (low $20’s) and has a future in the cellar. Nice. Find this wine

2009 Edi Simčič, Rebula:
12.5% alcohol from Slovenia; rebula is also known as ribolla gialla; obviously, not a wine done on its skins this is mildly citric with almond hints on the nose and about the same in the mouth. Not much concentration or complexity and a wine that I won’t buy again; nothing really wrong with it but not much character; about $21. Find this wine

Vilmart Champagne, Grande Cuvée:
Charming from the outset, strong bead, nuanced and floral. Pretty wine. Find this wine

Louis Roederer, Champagne Brut Premier:
Fine bead, clean and representative of its place. Find this wine

1999 Nigl, Grüner Veltliner, Piri Privat:
Exceptional; full, rich, bright, lively and complex; this wine is getting better and better. A long life ahead but superb now. Find this wine

2009 La Casa, Rueda:
Light, correct and pleasant; a nice aperitif or back porch sipper. Find this wine

1999 Buena Vista, Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos:
I’m not sure how an American winery gets to use this nomenclature . . . but there it is. In any event, the wine was rich, bright, not over-sweet and unctuous. I liked it. Find this wine


2001 López de Heredia, Rioja Tondonia Reserva:
One of the nicest surprises in awhile as I don’t often buy tempranillo/grenache/etc.; a little disjointed at first but over two hours integrated into a delicious, nuanced wine with grip and sustain. Complexity is its strongest point, youth its weakest; that is to say, in time, this should be even better. With grilled flank steak and frites, outstanding. About $34 (current price). Find this wine

1976 Lopez de Heredia, Rioja Viña Tondonia:
Profound! Elegant, constantly changing in the glass, highly complex aromatics and flavors, lovely balance and great length. Over the course of the evening, it had multiple personalities, all of them fascinating. Certainly as fine a Rioja as I have had. Finesse.
The more I drink Lopez de Heredia, the more convinced I am that they are among a handful of producers worldwide that are utterly dependable. Find this wine

2010 Montesecondo, Chianti Classico:
13% alcohol; 80% sangiovese, 17% canaiola, 3% colorino; biodynamic; “warm” red fruit smells with some dark notes and hints of chocolate; full in the mouth with significant tannin that is well hidden behind young fruit, a bit soft, but good length. I like it but won’t pay $26, for it again. (I hear nice things about the rosso from this house at a less expensive price and will look for some.) Find this wine

1928 Chateau Lafite (375ml):
From the look of the label, this may be a forgery. Regardless, the wine itself is quite nice; starts disjointed and tannic but after thirty minutes it seems to find its stride and the Pauillac starts to shows. Well past its prime but more than simply interesting. Find this wine

1947 DRC, La Tache:
Not only a rare treat but a birth year wine; substantial ullage. This bottle is also past its prime but the power in the remaining autumnal, savory beverage is remarkable. Little fruit but the nose is expansive and the wine fills the mouth; a paradox, to be sure. Lost little over the course of the evening and showed great character. Find this wine

1978 Mt. Eden, Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mtns.:
Past it.

1984 Fretter, Cabernet Sauvignon Lucky Lake Vnyd. :
After time in the decanter, this is exactly what I would expect of a well done 1984 Napa Cabernet. A hint of scorched earth but amounting only to a level of complexity; balanced fruit and structure, not completely resolved yet but quite drinkable and resolutely Napa Cab. Good, not great. (This is apparently a rare bottling with something like a case or two produced.) Find this wine

1988 Champet, Côte Rôtie:
I nearly dismissed this wine when opened as the bottle stink was overwhelming. After air, it was wonderful; full of the ash, tar, violet elements so indicative of the AOL with solid, even expressive, fruit and great nuance. Almost, but not quite delicate, in the mouth; the grip keeps it from being too tender. Lovely wine, at peak. Find this wine

1995 Tempier, Bandol la Tourtine:
Showing little and what was there was not particularly interesting. Perhaps, we are into this too early. Find this wine

1997 Thunder Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon Bates Ranch:
Excellent; lively, juicy, almost playful in the mouth. Showing young but approachable. Easy to drink. Find this wine

1999 Jasmin, Côte Rôtie (mag.):
Considerable brett and very closed. Find this wine

1979 Chanson, Gevrey-Chambertin:
A pretty, slender wine with enough earth to relate it to the AOC and enough fruit to keep it interesting. Too much oak influence for me but others thought it very nice. A touch drying. Find this wine

2007 Overnoy/Houillon, Arbois-Pupillin:
Not my favorite vintage from this producer (that would be 1996) but still a wine that is so utterly fascinating for its elegance, complexity and wild nature that it surpasses everything else on the table. Perfectly paired with a lentil and duck confit salad. Find this wine

2005 Marcassin, Pinot Noir Three Sisters Vnyd.:
Over-ripe for my taste and still quite young. Plenty of stuffing but I can’t get past the cooked elements. Find this wine

1973 Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello:
Started tannic and angry but opened up over the evening and became a much more complete wine, albeit still not resolved. Others were more impressed than I but I didn’t throw my glass away. Find this wine

1984 Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello:
Whereas the Fretter (above) was quintessential Napa, there are no torrefied notes from this Santa Cruz Mountain wine. Complete, full, still young and without much secondary development but delicious, nonetheless. Find this wine

2006 Lagier-Meredith, Syrah:
Always a strong, concentrated look at Mt. Veeder syrah, this comes across as balanced and nuanced. Maybe a bit young but still a pleasure. Find this wine

1998 la Fleur de Boüard, Lalande de Pomerol:
Good, solid Bordeaux with enough merlot character to denote its AOC and enough character to be of interest. Rounder than expected but not flabby. Nice. Find this wine

2009 Story, Zinfandel:
Red vodka. Find this wine

2008 Hamilton Russell, Pinot Noir:
South African pinot that tastes like it; a bit dirty to my palate with a lot of whole-cluster character tending toward green. Not my thing. Find this wine

Self Promotion:

2011 Cowan Cellars, Mourvèdre Rosé:
This started life pretty acidic and savory. It is softening slightly but the fruit flavors are really coming out and the wine is better balanced. I suspect that time in the cellar will be its friend. Went through ML so it’s pretty stable. Much better as it warms to room temp. Find this wine

Best, Jim

Related posts:

  1. December 22nd – Florida Jim Cowan’s 2010 Tasting Notes Archive-Part 2
  2. December 10, 2011 Florida Jim Cowan’s 2011 Tasting Notes Archive-Part Two
  3. Florida Jim Cowan’s 2009 Tasting Notes Archive
  4. Florida Jim Cowan’s 2010 Tasting Notes Archive-Part One
  5. Florida Jim Cowan’s 2011 Tasting Notes Archive-Part One

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