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Revisiting 2007 Wyncroft Bouchet

I find it quite interesting to compare my current notes on this wine to those of two years ago when we first tasted it with Wyncroft owner-winemaker Jim Lester. At that time, he told us that he had intended to make “a Joguet Chinon-styled Cabernet Franc,” and it was clear that he had succeeded. Since then, the wine seems to have put on some weight, and what Jim described as a “Chianti-like cedar character” from spending 30 months in a one-year old Bordeaux barrel, has become even more accentuated. Mr. Lester left a bottle with us, and we managed to keep our hands off until just recently, when I decided to pull the cork and taste how this is coming along.

2007 Wyncroft Lake Michigan Shore Bouchet Avonlea, 13% alc.: Clean, dark color, with a lovely, perfumed nose that has a shade of something like rock ‘n rye or root beer that adds a nice touch to the rich, earthy black fruit; the flavors echo and expand beautifully on a full bodied frame, with some cedar and saddle leather accents. This is structured for several more years of development, and it has a density and character that more than holds it own to the 2012 Bonny Doon Clos de Gilroy that we reported on previously and enjoyed on the same occasion. Hands down the best Michigan Cabernet Franc we’ve had to date, and a great example to support the argument that it is indeed possible to make world class reds in the Mitten State. (I added the following “Find this wine” link because that’s what we do here, but in truth, with only one barrel having been made, chances are slim there’s any out there to be found. Still, just in case some magically appears…) Find this wine

On a final note, I love those old label shots like the one above that we used to create. I wish we could have saved that old scanner that we used, because the new one just doesn’t come close to that kind of image quality for this specific purpose. We actually find our “borrowed” labels from the old scanner on other wine sites fairly regularly. I suppose we should take this a compliment of sorts. Instead, we contact the appropriate webmasters and politely ask them to take our content down or provide attribution.

Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.


Alan Kerr’s Vintage’s Feb. 1 Release – Tasting Notes

I decided to tackle the drive to London despite the “Polar Vortex” encompassing this part of the world to taste some of the wines in the upcoming release this Saturday, February 1st. This release focuses on wines from Australia, of which I must confess I have not had too many lately. But there are a couple worth picking up and waiting for the weather to warm and enjoy with a spring time Barbie.  (CLICK LABEL IMAGES TO ENLARGE)

357517 CHÂTEAU TANUNDA GRAND BAROSSA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011 Barossa, South Australia $19.95
A plush wine, showing good density of Cassis with a backdrop of forest leaves, dried mint and floral aromas. Tasty palate, not too ripe, good structure nice currant based acids and the blackcurrant flavours linger long. Find this wine

357491 ROBERT OATLEY SIGNATURE SERIES PINOT NOIR 2012 Yarra Valley, Victoria $18.95
This Oatley is not remotely like the Pinot that I know and love. It is sweet, having medicinal cough candy notes on both the nose and palate. Some cherry notes are found on the finish, but overall quite disappointing. Find this wine

116574 HEARTLAND STICKLEBACK RED 2010 South Australia $13.95
A good value quaffer loaded with lively blackcurrant plum, dried herb and chocolate aromas, showing good concentration, soft tannins and a juicy texture. Made to drink now, it offers a pleasing mouthful of zippy fruit combined with chocolate and dried herbs. Find this wine

262105 CHAPEL HILL BUSH VINE GRENACHE 2011 McLaren Vale, South Australia $26.95
A twist of white pepper couples nicely with the ripe fruit, tar, red berry and even a hint of apple aromas. It has a dusty note; the fruit on the palate is surrounded by a veil of gentle tannin, nice creamy texture, albeit a touch sweet on the finish. Find this wine

673897 JIP JIP ROCKS SHIRAZ 2011 Padthaway, South Australia $16.95
Imagine rolling up a bouquet garni laden with sage and thyme then adding it to a black fruit coulis. Well this is not too far off that and I should add I do like it. The palate has fruit purity, there is complexity and balance. Some tannins, but nothing a slow braised lamb shank wouldn’t deal with. Find this wine

There are two Dandelion wines in this release. Both are very good, but I feel this is the more multi-layered of the two. It is deeper in all factions than its mate; it has a pleasing sweetness, a layer of clay soil on the nose while hints of dark chocolate peek through. Its palate is tasty and chewy, has controlled sweetness and lively acidity on the finish. I should mention the listed price is for a 375 ml bottle, which to find a half bottle of this quality is a rarity in the LCBO. Find this wine

357475 DANDELION LIONESS OF MCLAREN VALE SHIRAZ 2011 McLaren Vale, South Australia $19.95
Not to be undermined, this is also quite tasty, bursting with red fruit, plum, blackberry and pepper. Not as intense on the palate as its brother, but balance is in tune, it is well rounded and carries a long finish of blackberry and red licorice flavours. Find this wine

Nice perfume, some subtle floral notes with mixed fruits and a touch of mocha. The palate has an elegant structure; it has a gentle sweetness, clean acidity and decent length. Find this wine

A COUPLE FROM THE HOMELAND. Read the rest of this entry »


Seven from Tablas Creek Vineyard

So we got this box of five wines for review from Tablas Creek Vineyard in late autumn, but one of them had been broken en route. Arrangements were made to have a replacement sent, so we put the other four down in the cellar from heck to rest up after their ride across country. When the replacement arrived, we put that one down to rest as well. We really took our time getting around to trying this latest batch, and instead, we started off with two that were left over from a previous shipment late last spring. (That was the one that included the two fine rosés we reported on at that time.) Don’t ask me how it happened that we never got around to trying them when they came, we just didn’t. Anyway, we finally made it through all SEVEN bottles more than two months after we received that box of five with one broken bottle, and I’m happy to report that everything was in order and that they were all of the kind of high quality that we’ve come to expect from one of our very favorite producers. Here are my impressions, listed in the order they were tasted.

2012 Tablas Creek Paso Robles Vermentino, 100% Vermentino, 12.5% Alc., $27 SRP: Clean, medium color; crisp and refreshing, with nice lime citrus, green apple and mineral intensity. Medium bodied and more, with excellent acids and good length. Vermentino is one of those quintessential seafood wines, and this is a beautiful match for Kim’s grilled Ahi tuna and pesto shrimp. (I’m intrigued by the recommendation to pair this with Cream of Grilled Asparagus Soup at the link above.) The grapes were whole cluster pressed, and fermented using native yeasts in stainless steel. 1300 Cases Produced. Find this wine
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Red Wings and… Riesling?!

It’s been a tough season so far for my Detroit Red Wings. Injuries have plagued the team, and they’ve had trouble scoring goals in the numbers we’ve become accustomed to over the past 20+ campaigns. As I write this entry, the Wings are fighting for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, an unthinkable situation just a few years ago. During one recent dry spell, when my red Rhône mojo just didn’t seem to be working, I decided to switch and see what some good Michigan Riesling could do for the boys. I’d been looking for the right opportunity to open this wine for several months, and I finally just said, “What the puck.” As it turns out, I made a good choice on two counts.

2011 Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Peninsula Riesling Lot 49, $12.7% alc., $19.97: Clean, medium color, with mineral-laced green apple and quince flavors and aromas and a rich core of Riesling fruit. Decidedly dry, but not bone dry; medium bodied, with ample acids and good length. I drank half the bottle that night, and finished it the next. On the second evening, the wine takes on a subtle note of apricot and just starts to hint at some petrol. This is drier than CGT’s Whole Cluster bottling, with more depth, intensity and aging potential. It’s a special single vineyard block bottling of Alsace Clone #49 Riesling from winery’s Bailiwick Vineyard, made in a “hands-off” manner. Find this wine

The good news is that, not only is this an excellent example of just how good Michigan Riesling gets, but the Wings won their game that night too!

Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.


Doon in the Boondocks

Good things do eventually make their way to the far flung bastions of civilization here in the outer provinces, and, happily, those include many of the offerings from Bonny Doon Vineyards. You can always count on Randall Grahm and crew to come up with something new and interesting, if not downright off-the-wall. We reported on a brilliant Sparkling Albariño last spring, and in this latest group we tried, we were intrigued to find a sparkling cider. That was followed up a few weeks later with another surprise, a mostly Bordeaux blend, composed predominantly of (gasp) Cabernet Sauvignon, never one of Grahm’s preferred varieties!

We also tried some of Doon’s more usual efforts, and as is almost always the case, we were mucho impressed. I’ll start this report with our impressions of the cider and “claret.”

2011 Bonny Doon Querry? Pear Apple Quince Cider, 58% pear, 33% apple, 9% quince, 6.9% alc., $14 SRP: Rich, golden color, with a fine, active bead and refreshing effervescence in the mouth. All three fruit components are all recognizable in the flavor profile, but there is a seamless quality to it as well. The percentage of pear in the blend makes this a little less pungent and intense than might probably be the case with a more apple-driven cider, but I like a good perry, so that’s fine by me. This one is tons of fun, and I’ve tried it twice now. Naturally fermented with indigenous yeast and secondarily fermented en bouteille à la méthode champenoise. Pears: Bartlett, Seckel; apples: Pink Pearl, Macintosh, Pippin, Crabs (variety unknown); Pineapple and other unnamed quince. Find this wine
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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


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Three Michigan Sauvignon Blancs

Last April, Kim and I drove up to Traverse City to attend the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association Media Weekend. After checking into our hotel, we did what we do whenever we go to TC, and booked straight over to Left Foot Charley Winery and Tasting Room. It’s right in town, we don’t have to drive to either the Old Mission or Leelanau Peninsulas, and we know we’re going to taste some of the best wines in Michigan. As luck would have it on this occasion, owner/winemaker Bryan Ulbrich was in the house; he took us back into the production area, and gave us a taste of several tank and barrel samples. Everything was at least good (some parcels were meant for blending, rather that standing alone, so while not shining on their own, they would make important contributions to their intended greater whole), and then there were things like the then-yet-to-be-bottled 2012 LFC Pinot Blanc, which we could already tell was quite yummy. One of the most intriguing samples that Bryan poured us was a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, one of the first from Michigan we’d ever tasted as far as I can remember, but as it turned out, by no means the first that has been produced. (I say as far as I can remember, because some years back, Kim and I sat on Joel Goldberg’s tasting panel, and I seem to vaguely recall that we tried one or two back then, but I have no notes to verify that.)

The next day, during the LPVA Media Loop Tour, we stopped into the tasting room of one of the newest Leelanau producers, Laurentide, and we got a taste of another Michigan Sauvignon, this one grown right there on French Road, and made by our friend Shannon Walters. That one was from the 2011 vintage, and it caught the attention of everyone in our group. So, the variety was making inroads in the Grand Traverse Bay region, not unlike the upstart plantings of Gruner Veltliner at Chateau Grand Traverse and Chateau Fontaine that we’ve reported on previously.
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A Cowan Cellars Dinner

Gang of Pour was created back in 1997 as an offshoot of our involvement in the internet wine community, on such forums as those operated by Wine Spectator, Robin Garr, Brad Harrington and others. Over the years, we got to know many people virtually through said forums, and got to meet many of them in person through “offlines,” tasting gatherings in various parts of the US and Canada. Several of the people we met have contributed to Gang of Pour over the years, and one gentleman who still does is “Florida Jim” Cowan. We first met Jim in person back in 2001, during a road trip to North Carolina, and have met up with him on several other occasions since. We found him to be every bit as charming and gracious as his online persona; here’s what I said about Jim when we welcomed him as a contributor to our pages in 2010.

It’s no exaggeration to describe “Florida” Jim Cowan as one of the most respected and admired commentators in the online wine community. A true gentleman, Jim is the consummate voice of reason, with a common sense view of all things wine-related that resonates strongly with his many friends and readers.

Jim is more than just a commentator, though; he caught the winemaking bug after working in the vineyards and wineries with Russell Bevan, of Bevan Cellars, and Steve Edmunds, of Edmund St. John, during the fall of both 2006 and 2007. He made his first wine in 2007 and has been making wine every year since then, establishing his Cowan Cellars with his wife, Diane Arthur. We first tasted one of Jim’s wines in 2009, and while it received mixed reception among the rednecks we drank it with, this taster was most impressed.

A few months ago, Kim and I decided that it was high time to see how Cowan Cellars was coming along, so we ordered up a case. Kim wanted to throw a dinner party featuring some of the wines, and I thought it would be fun to try the two Sauvignon Blancs, the Pinot Noir and the Syrah. In his own words, Jim makes “wines that accompany food well, which is very important because I also love the food that my lovely wife, Diane, prepares for our daily meals – usually vegetarian, and always light yet flavorful.” In that regard, Kim contacted Diane and set her menu based on some of her suggestions. We invited three of our best friends in the wine biz to join us, Rebecca Poling, Michelle DeHayes and Anne Keller Klump. We got things started with a very fine Left Coast sparkler that Rebecca brought over.
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Whole Cluster Goodness From Old Mission Peninsula

Our good friend and colleague, Alan Kerr aka Canadian Zinfan, contacted me recently and asked if I would procure a bottle of the 2012 Chateau Grand Traverse Old Mission Peninsula Whole Cluster Riesling for him. It seems that he had tried one a few nights prior and was quite impressed with this fine representative of Michigan Riesling, especially at the Costco price of $10.99. I was pleased that Chef Kerr so enjoyed this little gem, as he has no shortage of fine Riesling available to him right in his proverbial back yard on the Niagara Peninsula, and, of course, we’ve been fans of all of Sean O’Keefe’s specialty projects for some years now.

I was happy to honor Alan’s request, and was reminded that we’ve had both the 2012 Whole Cluster and its predecessor in the last few months, and I needed to transcribe my notes and put them online. Both are listed as “medium dry” on the dry-to-sweet scale on the back label. Here are my impressions of each.
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Alan Kerr’s Vintage’s October 26th Release – Tasting Notes

October 26th sees the first of the 2010 Bordeaux wines to come through Vintages. Naturally once again, 2010 is being heralded as one of the greatest vintages from Bordeaux in living memory. Gee, when have I heard that statement before? Given what I was able to taste, there was little that really impressed me. However, those people that read through my notes, hello mum, know there is always one or two wines on the release that warrant the trip to the LCBO on Saturday worthwhile. (click images to enlarge)

641555 CHÂTEAU LAMOTHE DE HAUX 2010 Côtes de Bordeaux $16.95
A bright wine full of blackcurrant, Ribena, Cassis, cherry and cedar with decent structure on the ripe and chewy palate, very new world styled wine, tannins are discernible, but non offensive. Find this wine

206631 CHÂTEAU CASTAING 2010 Côtes de Bourg $17.95
Dusty, with aromas of dried mushroom, cedar, plum and dried thyme. There is a good core of red and black fruit on the palate, acidity seems low, and some iron and mineral flavours surface on the finish. Find this wine

297945 CHÂTEAU LAROSE TRINTAUDON 2010 Haut-Médoc $26.95
Blending 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot has created a tasty wine that boasts aromas of hay, dark chocolate, sweet vanilla, blackberry, currant and dried Chinese mushroom. The rich and chewy fruit driven palate is ripe and tasty, a little low in acidity, but nonetheless it finishes long and the tannins are gentle. Find this wine

355891 CHÂTEAU LES TOURS DE PEYRAT VIEILLES VIGNES 2010 Côtes de Bordeaux – Blaye $18.95
Mix of blackcurrant, raspberry, mineral and lead pencil lead to a gutsy palate of red berries, big tannins and good acidity. Tasty, albeit tannic, but should only get better with time. Find this wine

199091 CHÂTEAU LACOMBE NOAILLAC 2010 Médoc $18.95
A meaty smoky almost bacon like note gives way to layers of dark fruit, cedar and a whack of oak. Its palate is creamy, showing some nice dark fruit, some sweetness and dusty tannin. Find this wine

171249 CHÂTEAU ROBIN 2010 Lussac-Saint-Émilion $17.95
Closed nose, struggles to show fruit, some earthy aromas come through, palate is thin, finish is lame and overall not a wine worth holding. Find this wine

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