Archive for August, 2012


2009 Rustic Reds from France

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Yes, 2009 produced some really good wines in France!  I clearly remember how excited vignerons were in many of the top growing areas.  Here are 4 of our favorites from the southern Rhone Valley & one from Faugeres down in southern France….each epitomize true vineyard character, authenticity & soulful-ness.

 2009 Gramenon “Sagesse”

In the past 10 years, Domaine Gramenon has catapulted into cult wine status.  They employ organic and biodynamic practices in the vineyards, with a strong non-interventionist, surprisingly old fashion stance in the cellars. These are without a doubt some of the most sought after wines out of southern France.  The 2009 Sagesse cuvee is produced from 60 year old Grenache vines grown in clay, limestone, gravel, sand soils & is as au naturale a red as you will likely have.


2009 Gallety “Cotes du Vivarais”

“The Cotes du Vivarais runs long the western flank of the Rhone & is a cooler and wetter climate than its neighbors across the river, but with a longer ripening season. Alain Gallety farms his fifteen hectares of vineyards organically, as he has done since the early 80’s.  This is definitely a new age winemaking phenom well-positioned for stardom with wines of such brightness, density, and impeccable balance” 



2009 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras “Doucinello”

One of our absolute favorite red wines from France.

All seventeen hectares rest on the great Plateau des Garrigues, where red clay, limestone, and the famous galets roulés, or rounded stones, impart a terrific intensity and depth to the wines. Given the aridity of the soil, the vines here are naturally prone to lower yields—this gives the wines their concentration and power. That Serge has been farming organically for years but has never sought certification says something about his philosophy. He is not looking to impress; only to make the best wines he possibly can. His wines have everything we love about the Rhône – wild and chewy with great notes of leather, spicy garrigue, and smoky, black fruit”.

 2009 Leon Barral “Jadis”

Didier Barral is one of the champions of the biodynamic movement in France and is highly respected among his peers for his uncompromising respect for the environment in which he lives and works—meaning the entire ecosystem surrounding his vineyards. Didier’s red Faugères, grown in rugged schist soil, displays power, rusticity, and incredibly fresh, pure fruit. Treat it as you would the wines of Gramenon and Magnon—organic, living beings that demand care and respect. His 2009 Jadis is 50% Carignane, 30% Syrah & 20% Grenache.

Categories : Red, Wine
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A tasting of Older wines

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Tonight was a golden opportunity to try a few top caliber wines with some bottle age.   VERY impressive to say the least.

1983 Domaine Tempier Bandol “La Tourtine”

The 1983 was fully mature with an amazing nose!  With every swirl, something new seemingly opened up.  I happen to love the wild & rustic character Tempier’s Bandol innately has.  The fruit qualities of this ’83 had completely changed into much more tertiary nuances, the acidity levels harmonized  & the tannins had almost completely mellowed out.  Although this wine, I believe, can age a while, I was happy at having this bottle tonight.

1996 Giacomo Conterno Barolo “Cascina Francia”

I was absolutely blown away with this wine.  It was in fact one of the very best Barolo I have ever had—mesmerizing, magnificent & so complete, while deftly combining power, structure, fine detail, balance & pedigree.   WOW!

1984 JL Chave Hermitage

The nose was incredibly glorious—ethereal, stony, under brush, charred sandalwood & floral with lots of underlying musk character.  I could smell a wine like this forever!   On the palate, however, the fruit was somewhat tired & dried, but the nose more than made up for it all… reminded me truly what Syrah is capable of.

1992 Dujac Bonnes Mares

Unfortunately, this pricey Grand Cru did not show very well on this night.  In the nose the oak was glaring with lots of green, herbal notes, probably accentuated because the fruit was so shut down.  On the palate there is still a lot there, in terms of vigor & life, but just so sadly dis-jointed.  For those who has some of this wine in their cellar……WAIT.  Give it a chance to come out of this stage.


1978 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Echezeaux

In the nose, one could readily tell this was Grand Cru, as it showed lots of pedigree, intricacy & top echelon winemaking.  Again, however, the palate was very disappointing, actually quite surprisingly tired.  At the same time, one can readily see & understand why DRC is still the king of hill.

1997 Dr Loosen Gold Kapsule Auselse “Erdener Pralat”

What a fabulous nose…… full of mineral & filigree.   On the palate the wine was superb, still full of youthful vigor & character with a real, long  finish.  The fruit is still very lush & delicious, and the apparent sweetness has really started to change to the more tactile texture from the 15 years of bottle age.


1997 Selvapiana Vin Santo

This was a completely unexpected surprise!  The nose was just jumping out of the glass….glorious, compelling….full of caramel, toasted nuts, toffee & aromas of Crepes Suzette (carmelized sugar & orange rind).  On the palate the wine also was amazing,……..full of complexities, lavish viscosity with the original sweetness upon release, greatly tempered & more tactile because of the 15 years of bottle age.  This was truly a wonderful experience!

Categories : Wine, Wines Revisted
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Apparent sweetness & Bottle age

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We served the 1992 Zilliken Spaetlese “Saarburger Rausch” the other night in VINO & it was an awesome, breathtaking, mineral driven white wine with eye popping intricacies, breed & stunning harmony.

The most interesting comment from the tasters, though, is how dry they thought the wine tasted, which brings us to the very point of this blog.

For those unfamiliar with aged sweet wines from Germany, you will be surprised to find that a wine’s apparent sweetness changes with bottle age.  This 1992 Spaetlese, for instance, had pronounced sweetness when released, greatly buttressed with high levels of acidity which produced  a fabulous sweet sour tension on the palate.

Today, however, that apparent sweetness in the 1992 had changed into a more creamy, tactile texture on the palate which now greatly showcased the wine’s tremendous minerality & acidity instead

The transformation was unbelievable!  The 20 years of bottle age had changed the perception of this wine from sweetness to terroir driven.

For the professional, hopefully, this provides yet another option to use when pairing wines to foods.

Categories : Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Older Rustic Red Wines

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With our VINO concept, we are always looking to more rustic styled wines from around the Mediterranean basin.  They seem to work better with VINO’s style of cooking.  We therefore are always searching for really interesting wines produced from indigenous grape varieties from the wine producing areas found along the basin, which we supplement with rustic wines from other wine growing regions.

A real treat is when we have an opportunity to try these kinds of wine  with some bottle age to them.

Nowadays, interestingly, as I grow older, I find myself preferring wines which still have a strong core of fruit, vigor & structure combined with nuances of complexities from additional bottle age.  My preferred range of bottle age therefore typically lies somewhere between 15 & 20 years.

This past week we have been very fortunate to sample several wines which fit into this profile.  Here are a few of the highlights.

1997 Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico “Riserva”

Felsina Berardenga has produced some of our favorite Chianti red wines for many, many years  We refer to their superbly crafted  wine as the “Queen of Tuscany” because of the elegance, refinement & their UN-testosterone  approach to winemaking.  This 1997 was a standout performance—classy, majestic & a stunning glass of wine, to say the least.


1996 Sasseti Brunello di Montalcino

Here is another really good Tuscan producer.  Their Brunello di Montalcino innately displays wonderful pedigree year in & year out.  We served this wine early in tonight’s line-up, however, because it is wide open, showing all of its stuff very openly.  For my palate, I suggest drinking this wine up in the short term, as it has resolved all of the hard edges, tannins & oak of its youth & is especially very food friendly right now.

2005 Giacomo Conterno Barolo “Cascina Francia”

What a truly amazing Italian aristocrat!  It actually was a shame this wine was actually opened on this night, as it was closed, tight as can be with puckering acidity & hard tannins.  Make no mistake though………this is a terrific, “tour de force”, soulful Barolo which just needs considerable more bottle age to harmonize & show its classic beauty & breed.  I only wish I had lots of this wine in the cellar.

1998 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau”

There is no doubt in my mind, this domaine is perennially producing the finest Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the appellation.  The wines deftly showcase everything I could ever want from this southrn Rhone Valley village through their wines.  Although this 1998 was tough, tight & really shut down on this night, it is one of the monumental standouts I have tasted from them with lots of power, depth, virility & structure.  Nothing shy here!  It will take many years for this beast to show the pedigree & intricacies one can find in some of the less ripe, “lighter” years, which I simply love, but this one will win a lot of friends….you just need to be patient.

1997 Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie

One of my all time favorite Cote Rotie masters was Marius Gentaz of Gentaz Dervieux.  If my memory serves me, Marius farmed roughly 2 hectares of old vines on the Cote Rotie & then crafted some of the most majestic Syrah based red wines in the world.  I was very sad when he announced his retirement after I believe the 1992 vintage.  I was very taken back when his nephew Rene Rostaing took over his holdings after a visit to Rostaing’s then new winery where I saw rows & rows of NEW oak barrels.   I walked away with a knot in my stomach.  Over the years, thankfully, Rene’s style of winemaking greatly changed & today is crafting some of the very finest Cote Rotie.  This 1997 had lots of saddle leather, graphite, roasted coffee smells with a terrific integration on the palate.  It was from my point of view tasting stellar wine at the perfect time of its life.  VERY impressive.

2000 Noel Verset Cornas

Here is another of the TRUE Syrah masters who has sadly retired (I believe 2006 was his last vintage).  His finest holding on the Cornas hillsides was Les Sabarottes, a very old vine parcel which seemed to have a much lighter colored soil to the naked eye from the others.  I was told Pierre Marie & Olivier Clape (August Clape) had purchased a big chunk of this holding & on a visit to their domaine marveled how their 2008 Sabarottes cuvee (out of foudre, before blending) had a similar character one would readily find in Verset’s…..very rustic, bordering rank, raw meat, Andouille sauage, pencil lead, green peppercorn aromas with higher levels of acidity & finer tannins.  This 2000 was a real treat, as all of its wild, masculine, hearty, untamed pieces have really come together, making this is sensational glass of authentic, masterful, soulful red wine to savor

1992 Tempier Bandol “La Tourtine”

This was another example of drinking a stellar red wine at the perfect time of its life kind of experience.  Where top echelon Bordeaux is an elder statesman with a tuxedo on, Tempier’s Bandol is much more  like a mountain man with a foul mouth…..being wildly rustic, eccentric & much more “country-ish” than a city boy.  The 1992 showcases lots of sultry, gamey, “countryside” character with a surprising  inner core of youthful fruit & vigor, with tamed tannins & a long finish.  Over the years, I have found either tasters really love this domaine’s wines….or hate it.  I love them!


1999 Gros Nore Bandol

A BIG, masculine, hearty, old styled,  full flavored Bandol which is typically quite forth right & impactful.  It has been well documented that proprietor Alain Pascal is an avid hunter & his Bandol is well suited for hearty, rustic game dishes such as the Braised Lamb Shank with roasted root vegetables we served it with the other night.  It truly was a match made in heaven!!!!!  I will remember this 1999… was that good…especially with this dish.


1996 Charles Joguet Chinon “Clos Dioterie”

I was somewhat surprised someone brought this Loire Valley red wine to a Mediterranean styled dinner.  I must say, however, I was completely fascinated by this 16 year old Cabernet Franc based red wine.  It had lots of funk & wild nuances, probably too rustic for today’s wine drinking public.  For me though, the wine had fascinating intrigue, fabulous fruit & structure with a real sinister, “dark” side to its core. I really wish I had more in the cellar.

Categories : Wine, Wines Revisted
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2009 Clape Cornas

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Cornas is a “bowl” of hillside vineyards planted above the town itself, just south of the great Hermitage.  Similarly these hillsides have lots of granitic soils on the steep prefaces….BUT in the hands of the great ones (Clape, Verset & Allemand)…produce a very different Syrah from Hermitage or Cote Rotie.

This particular post is all about the 2009 August Clape.  August himself is pretty much retired, but still comes around to check things out as he lives in the same town, right down the street.  His son, Pierre Marie & grandson, Olivier now run the operations.






As they will readily tell you, their wine is really made in the vineyard.





With the 2008 vintage, Clape also added a parcel of Sabarottes to his holdings having purchased it from the legendary, iconic Noel Verset. 

Previously, I had assumed the wildness & rather eccentric rusticty of Noel Verset’s Cornas was largely due to his style of old school winemaking.  While that still may be true, I also tasted the same kind of character & rusticity in Clape’s 2008 Sabarottes cuvee which was vinified separately (out of foudre, prior to blending).


We knew the 2009 would be a very special wine, just by the pure excitement on Pierre Marie & Olivier’s faces as we talked & tasted.

As is the case with Clape’s Cornas, the 2009 is black (perhaps blacker than usual in this case), masculine, minerally, compact & full of Old World character yet has wonderful balance, vinosity & great length on the palate.

Having tasted quite a few older Clape Cornas over the past 12 months, I am so anxious about how this mighty, brawny rendition will taste with some bottle age….especially since it has some Sabarottes in it.

If you can find some…..I suggest you get a bottle or 2.  It really is that good!





Categories : Red, Wine
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Harvesting grapes on Cote Rotie

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The Cote Rotie is comprised of steep hillsides in France’s northern Rhone Valley.  When my wife Cheryle got her first glimpse after turning a corner….it reminded her of turing the corner at Makapuu in Hawaii & looking up to the steep hillsides.



Although records show plantings back to the 2nd century AD, It really was in the 18th Century that Cote Rotie gained prominence.

Like the nearby Hermitage hill, the Cote Rotie & its hillsides are steep & rocky.  How does one harvest the grapes?


BY Hand.  They go up the hill, load the grapes on their backs & come back down the hill……..






Then back up the hill for another load.  Yes….it does take hard work, dedication & passion to produce Cote Rotie!

In the case of producers such as Patrick Jasmine & Rene Rostaing….it shows in the bottle.













Categories : Red, Wine
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1986 Chateau Lafite Rothschild

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Chateau Lafite Rothschild is one of the true iconic red wines of the world……and  deservedly so.  For my palate, what separates Lafite out in a crowd, is its incredible breed & pedigree.  I absolutely love its innate ethereal, majestic, regal perfume.

Since 1982, however, I believe their wines have changed in style, like many of their First Growth peers.

I truly believe that the 1976 Paris Wine Exhibition where American wines were selected over French counterparts BY FRENCH  judges in a comparative blind tasting not only instantly put California on the wine world map, it also help foster a trend towards riper, more forward, much more supple wine styles.

That concept was further sensationalized by Robert Parker & his high scoring appraisal of the 1982 vintage & its flambuoyant, ripe wines.

1986 was another ripe year.

Although out of the gates, Chateau Margaux & Chateau Mouton Rothschild garnered quite a bit of the media attention as being the darlings of the vintage, my vote was & is for the 1986 Chateau Lafite.  It really has that something extra……which one has a hard time fully describing, but is innately there.

On this night, however, My wife & I felt this wine was VERY shut down & closed up.

Yes, there is ample fruit, amazing structure & a long finish….BUT….let’s just say the peacock did NOT show off its strikingly, colorful tail feathers on this night.

Wines often goes through phases, ups & downs, during its lifespan.  The secret is catching one when it is really in a groove.  For this wine…NOT now.  I would suggest for those who are fortunately cellaring some of this wine……let it sit a while longer….in fact much longer.

Categories : Wine, Wines Revisted
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Categories : Food and Wine
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Domaine Comtesse Bernard de Chérisey.

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In a tasting today, we were fortunate to sample 3 fabulous 2010 Premier Cru white Burgundies from Domaine Comtesse Bernard de Chérisey.

This small, family owned domaine, is headed by winemaker/husband Laurent Martelet & wife Helene,  whose family has owned this domaine since the early 1800’s.

Based in the relatively unknown hamlet of Blagny, which is located higher up the slope between Meursault & Puligny Montrachet…..the combination of this higher elevation (& cooler growing conditions), their resounding high mineral parcels & the winemaking skill of of Laurent make for some very interesting, unique, compelling wines which truly standout in my mind… a “throw back” style reminiscent of the way it was.  Needless to say, eventhough I have tasted only a few vintages, I am all in with these wines.

In addition to the three 2010’s, I brought a bottle of the 2004 Meursault Blagny Premier Cru “Les Genelotte” just to compare.







Cherisey’s Genellotte vineyard is located high up the steep slope above the village & it is therefore distinctively cooler than the vineyards below.  It is also VERY rocky, much more so than the other two, at least to the naked eye.  I typically find this wine to have remarkable power (which I am sure is at least partially accentuated by the winemaking), just packed with intensity & innate complexities, a REAL stony character with lots of base notes & higher levels of structure & acidity, which the 2010 deftly displayed.  The 2004, in comparison, had wonderful perfume, full of rock & marzipan nuance with roasted nuts, clove & lots of pedigree.  In my mind this wine undoubtedly reminded me of white Burgundies of old….actually classic & a pure joy to savor!

The Premier Cru Hameau de Blagny vineyard is located just on the south side of Blagny, just above the highly revered Truffieres vineyard of Puligny.  The 2010 was also packed with intensity & concentration but seemed to have more refinement, finesse & pedigree.  It was another knock out to say the least.



Their Premier Cru holding of Chalumeaux is at a lower elevation & located between 2 of Burgundy’s superstar vineyards–Puligny’s Truffieres & Meursault’s Perrieres.  The 2010 displayed the most minerality, ethereal-ness, intricasies & breed of the 3, which is saying alot based upon this tasting.

I am always astounded when tasting these wines at how the oak is in the background & used more as a frame for the core as opposed to a dominant flavor/taste, eventhough Laurent typically uses 40 to 50% new oak in each of these wines.  I know partly, it is because the wines are lower in alcohol & therefore absorb the alcohol differently than warm climate/higher alcohol wines.  At the same time, in these 4 wines the minerality is so utterly resounding & profound, it really is the main centerpiece both in the nose & in the taste.

In an attempt to better paint a picture of this domaine’s wines, I would say unlike many of the region’s superstars whose wines depict sophistication, elegance & refinement, Cherisey’s wines are really about soul, character & a classic style.

In any case, this is definitely a domaine worth checking out!

Categories : White, Wine
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1995 Chateau Monbousquet

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Records show this estate back to the 1600’s.  It’s true rise to stardom, however, began in 1993 with the addition of superstar consultant Michel Rolland, with an elevation to Grand Cru Classe status in 2006.

The estate vineyard is located 500 meters south of the town of St Emilion with deep gravel & sandy/gravel soils.  The 1995 was produced from 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc & 10% Cabernet Sauvignon & rated 92 points by noted wine writer Robert Parker.

On this night, we were thrilled at how open the 1995 was.  Wonderful perfume–cigar box, cedar, autumn leaves with layers of nuance & character.  I was actually somewhat surprised at how mesmerizing the wine really was… 17 years old. (Having also had the 2005 recently & tasting how oaky, demonstrative & thick it was, I could readily see Rolland’s influence, which made this wine even more fascinating).  On the palate, the wine’s core still had a youthful vigor to it, which although it can age for a while longer, I really loved drinking this wine right now, as it is in a good place with all of the pieces in line & well harmonized.

Categories : Wine, Wines Revisted
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