Archive for Red
Although the relatively little known Carignane grape variety is one of the world’s most widely planted, over the years, it has been generally regarded as a “work horse” rather than a noble one. Still thankfully, there is a niche for this unsung grape variety being established by a growing number of young buck winemakers, from different parts of the world. Why? When grown & made by the right hands & minds, athough not showy or grand, it certainly can range from being interesting, delicious & food friendly to provocative & soulful.
Furthermore, since there are many really interesting, old vine parcels & their grapes accessible & at good prices, one can get really good, interesting wine at much more reasonable prices. To show you better what we mean, here are 4 well worth trying. (I was so surprised when overlooking our wine inventory how many more Carignane based red wines we actually have at VINO to choose from!) Just another really good opportunity to learn!
“This barrique-aged, cru Carignano (100%) is a real star: lush, extract-fraught, full-bodied, with ripe, chewy fruit & supple texture, it is also extremely long-living. Bush-trained Carignano is especially rich in noble tannins. Experts believe Sulcis (of Sardegna) is the exclusive Italian home of Carignano. Whatever its beginnings, here the Carignano vine is so ancient and rooted in the Sulcis region it can safely be called one of the island’s native stars”.
A relatively new discovery for us from the Island of Sardegna, in the seafront Valli di Porto, extending to the sea. The core of this wine is produced from 100 year old Carignane with a small amount of Syrah blended in.
“100 year old vine Carignane–natural yeast fermentation in neutral vessels & bottled unfined and unfiltered, with little to no added sulfur. This special bottling has profound concentration and minerality from the clay, limestone, granite, and schist of this corner of the Roussillon”.
an extremely steep 2.5 acre vineyard in Priorat, Spain, full of slate with almost no topsoil. 2007 yielded a scant 4/10’s of a tons per acre of roughly 80% Carignane (Samso) & 20% Grenache Garnatxa) vines that are over 125 years old . A true throwback to another century, the vines really get to know the meaning of struggling.
The pursuit of superb red Burgundy is such a challenge. It really is hard to imagine a more elusive, fickle grape variety than Pinot Noir, even those from its home turf in Burgundy.
In a recent discussion with a wine friend & whose palate I greatly admire, I was amazed at how he diligently spends so much time looking for flaws & imperfections in wine. Well, one would have such a hard time looking for pure perfection in wines, especially in Burgundy.
I, on the other hand, now look whether I enjoyed the wine or not, a little brettanomyces, or a huge dollop of oak or not, especially in Burgundy.
Which brings us to the 2 red Burgundies we recently tasted, which we enjoyed, flaws & all.
I don’t think the Burgundies of Domaine Maume were or are on too many top 10 lists. There are many possible reasons for that, but the fact is, I tend to enjoy their idiosyncratic, more rustic, old style approach to their Gevrey Chambertin based Pinot Noirs. I was amazed watching their wine ferment in underground cement tanks, unlike those in so many other luxury domaines. The wines have a musky masculinity & a deep, resounding stoniness woven throughout the wine which sets it apart. Maume has 2 Grand Cru parcels–1 in Mazis Chanbertin & the other in Charmes Chambertin. 2000 certainly had its challenges for many producers & their resulting wines, but I don’t care about that in this case. I enjoyed this wine. It was like seeing an old friend again. I was saddened to hear that this domaine sold a little while back, which made tasting this wine even more memorable. I am sure what once was, may be only a memory shortly. Change is inevitable at this domaine.
1998 was yet another vintage with its challenges. I remember once hearing a winemaker say “anyone can make a really good wine in great vintages. It’s those challenging vintages which really shows the true skill of a master“. This wine had wonderful perfume & pedigree…..& definitely Grand Cru in character. There is a lot happening in this bottle & one can understand why Leroy has such a huge reputation for their wines. The biggest challenge for me is the price tag, so I am most thankful for having the opportunity to even try this superstar cuvee.
1989 Emmanuel Rouget Vosne Romanee “Cros Parantoux”
One of the true iconic collectibles from Burgundy today! I have tried in vain to write something logical, coherent about this wine & still express something that is not expressible to me. So….instead, here are some excerpts fromto the rescue–
Here was an opportunity to taste some hearty, masculine, rustic reds…..from some of our favorite standout American winemakers.
Carlisle vineyard was planted in 1927 in the Olivet Lane area of the Russian River & is organically farmed. This is owner/winemaker Mike Officer’s Cru Zin, which he says is ‘serious stuff”—produced from an old vine vineyard which has considerable stuffing, & vinosity yet with wonderful texture, balance & site specific character.
A terrific Argentinean, grown high up in the foothills of the Andes Mountains (the core—planted in 1926) & crafted by Pinot superstar, Steve Clifton of Brewer Clifton fame.
A sassy, spicy endeavor—rich, intense, extracted, gutsy, tannic, a powerhouse—36% each of Grenache & Syrah as the base. This is only Les Behrens’ 3rd Sainte Fumee bottling.
A dramatic, explosive 96 to 98 pointer from Washington state & phenom Matt Reynvaan, which shows the innate potential the Syrah grape variety has in Washington State.
Our first winetasting of 2015! We begin the year with a trio of slightly aged French classics, produced in a style reminiscent of the old days. It is a homage & a remembrance of the way wines used to tasted or aspired to be like……Yes, PRE-fruit bombs, PRE-Robert Parker.
Again, it is a friendly reminder of estate grown wines, where the owners are vested in their land & their wines from the ground to the bottle.
Where, they look for heritage/heirloom vines rather than scientifically propagated material. Where they farm sustainable & therefore have a living vineyard.
Where, the winemaking is the way it used to be, much less scientific & much more about the way their ancestors taught them.
PLUS, because each wine has some bottle age, one can better experience what the vineyard wants to say. Yes, this definitely a different kind of tasting……at least for these times.
Just, another opportunity to learn!
Their best parcel—1 hecatare, a limestone hilltop of 50+ year old vines, organically & biodynamically farmed. This is Bourgueil, NOT a Bordeaux or Californian wannabee & the Cabernet Franc therefore manifests itself very differently. NO bigness or showmanship. Wildly rustic character with refinement, etherealness & structure throughout. We tend to think wines of an appellation, like Bourgueil, to all be representative of the appellation. While that is a noble thought & while many producers certainly try, it just doesn’t end up that way. Bourgueil is located in France’s Loire Valley & over the centuries, I am sure it was greatly influenced by the ocean at one time or another, as well, as the powerful Loire river. These 2 factors had to affect the soils. Hence, the sandier soils from the flat parcels would certainly result in a different Bourgueil than those grown on the rockier hillsides & their strong limestone influences. This is a more masculine Bourgueil, with a wildly rustic, intriguing, provocative, dark nuances & lots of structure. The 17 years of bottle age has done wonders in harmonizing the components. AND, it has way more verve & vitality than the 1993, 94, 95 & 96 I have tasted recently.
Located on the Pomerol plateau of Right Bank Bordeaux. Mostly Merlot with a dash of Cabernet Franc, grown in gravel/flint/clay soils (rich in iron), organically & biodynamically farmed. The results—a classic reflection—rich, supple, yet with grace & finesse & a deep, gravelly minerality & structure. This is done in style reminiscent of Bordeaux in the 70’s & before.
The village of Blagny lies between Meursault & Puligny Montrachet, slightly offset & higher in the hills.The higher elevation & the high percentages of marl in the soils create very different wines than those of the lower vineyards. This Premier Cru parcel is only 1/3 of a hectare & was planted in 1934. Domaine de Cherisey is a stalwart of classic wines of intensity, structure & integrity rather than showiness & fashion statements. I am always amazed at how ethereal their Pinot is. It reminded me how pretty, intricate, sheer & haunting a Cotes de Beaune Pinot Noir can be. Wow!
In January of 1991, I had the good fortune to visit France’s northern Rhone for the first time & walked away with a real fascination for the Syrah grape variety, & its iconic home turfs–Hermitage, Cote Rotie & especially Cornas. Cornas is a small appellation, & the best parcels are on the steep, mostly granitic hillsides rising above the town. Cornas is 100% Syrah, very masculine in character, chunky, sultry, wildly rustic & so intriguingly provocative. The 3 finest maestros of this appellation, each of whom I visited, are–Noël Verset (now retired), Auguste Clape (now run by his son Pierre Marie & grandson Olivier) & at a later date, Thierry Allemand.
Inexplicably over the years, Cornas, especially Clape Cornas, has not garnered the prestige & clamour it deserves, which I never could understand. I guess I should be thankful that one can still get some & at prices a fraction of those of the top echelon Syrahs from Chapoutier & Guigal. The Clape Cornas wines are so personal, have such sincerity & soulfulness as these 2 wines (1996 & 2000) clearly reminded me of. In both instances, these wines are really vin de terroir oriented, meaning they showcase the Cornas hillside character, rather than the Syrah grape variety or the opulence of a sun rich vintage. While they both may never get HUGE scores & accolades, I found both wines to be so fascinating, soulful & full of old vine vinosity & the true character of a special piece of earth. (Tasters should not expect BIG, opulent fruit, eventhough both wines are quite masculine & vin garde).
I fell in love with Noël Verset Cornas on first taste. They were so masculine, rugged, hearty & sinfully rustic & sauvage in their youth, yet intricate, nuanced, provocative & UN-heavy. I always thought I was a minority for these wines, until I noticed the skyrocketing, meteoric rise in their prices recently. Although I am sure alot has to do with the scarcity of the wines (since 2006 was his last vintage), but at the same time, I believe there are wine lovers out there who appreciate good old fashion tradition, staunch, passion driven authenticity of a world-class wine & site which really is like no other. With Verset Cornas, I would always get green peppercorn, andouille sausage/raw meat, musk character, which I later discovered must have come from his old vine Sabarottes parcel. (Clape bought some of the parcel, which we tasted & found it to have a similar character). Cornas is a VERY different slant on what Syrah can be, AND Verset was a pillar of what it was traditionally like. I am sad to say that the number of his bottles are dwindling. I am also happy to say tasting this 2000, at this time of its life, is a memory I will cherish forever. Thank you for sharing.
We had a wonderful opportunity to sample some Bordeaux wines which had some bottle age recently. As always, we are thankful to all who brought them & shared.
This has been a property, which for me over the years, has been hard to predict what you will get in terms of true quality for the dollar. Being a Second Growth, when they hit the nail on the head, the resulting wine can be unforgettable (1959 & 1961 were like that). However, there are many other years, where the dollars warranted by its Second Growth status seems to be over priced. Still, there is a reason why this property garnered a Second Growth status. One can smell it in the wine, even in this fully matured 1981. Yes, it is very light, approachable AND VERY mature (perhaps pre-maturely aged), but the nose had the pedigree, intricacy & character, albeit a bit washed out & therefore vague. A pretty wine nonetheless.
This wine sure got a lot of hype upon its release & ending up with a 97 point score from 1 publication & 95 from the other. Today, this wine still shows a lot of stuffing, ripe fruit & structure, which has been surprisingly slow to evolve, considering it is now 15 years old. Some would say this is a vin de climat, as it certainly benefited from a generous amount of sunshine & it will have a lot to say once it really opens up again. I just hope that as opulent, lavish & intense the stuffing of this wine is, the terroir & Second Growth qualities are too.
What a huge contrast in comparison to the 2000 Leoville Barton, we tasted just before it. Graphite, pencil lead, camphor, tobacco, cedar–lots of classic Pauillac character AND more masculine then the Leoville. This wine, too, has depth intensity & structure for much longer cellaring. It actually made me appreciate the 2000 Leoville Barton even more.
This was a very eye catching wine, probably because it was much more open & strutting its stuff. The fruit is ripe, dense, classy, provocative with lots of finesse, elegance & class. My wife added the words….absolutely delicious. VERY impressive, to say the least!
This wine brings back so many wonderful memories, as it was one of the first Grand wines I had ever experienced. I was absolutely floored by this wine on first taste. It was immense, incredibly intense, masculine, powerful & grand. This was a monument! & built to last. Black & murky. Although I adored the ’70 Lafite’s incredible perfume, ’70 Palmer’s class & the innate grandeur of the ’70 Petrus, the 1970 Latour was for me the wine of the vintage in Bordeaux. Furthermore, I have been fortunate to taste it, a surprisingly amount of times over the years since & therefore it really is one of those I have watched evolve through its various stages. I was very apprehensive to try the 1970 today. I had put this wine on a pedestal, so how could any wine live up to such high expectations. Yes….it did. I loved the maturity….still with grandeur, sophistication….a classic……timeless. Thank you,. thank you, thank you. Michael also graciously opened a 1982, which sadly was corked. The wine’s wonderful ripeness & amazing depth, however, clearly showed this wine has a VERY long way to go.
Chateau Cos d’Estournel
For Carl’s birthday, a bunch of friends showed up, armed with a whole slew of venerable wines from Champagne to solera Montilla to the evening’s piece de resistance–a vertical of Chateau Cos d’ Estournel.
……1973…1983…2 x 1985….1988…1989….1990….1995….1996….1997….1998….1999…2000.
What a golden opportunity! Thank you all for sharing. The highlights? The second bottle of 1985–much fresher with a solid core & great structure. 1990–really quite closed, but it certainly has all of the right stuff. 1995–again, another wine really quite closed, but one to watch out for. 1996–along with the 1985, probably showed the best on the night. But, who’s choosing? The overall experience was really amazing!
Yes, we have been tasting quite a slew of aged wines lately. Thank you to all who come by to share!
Although quite modern in style, I find Elio Altare’s Barolo wines are much more elegant & refined than those from other contemporaries such as Paolo Scavino or Domenico Clerico & certainly Angelo Gaja & some tasters (even knowledgeable/experienced ones) may be underwhelmed at first because of Altare’s style. This 1998 was quite a stylish, classy, highly refined, majestic red with superb elegance & balance. Having said that, I would also say the pedigree of this bottling was surprisingly muted, even after considerable time of being open. Let it sit in your cellar. I really think with 25 or so more years, this will be a glorious, wonderfully perfumed aristocrat, which tasters will wish they had put away more bottles.
I remember being wow-ed when the 1998 was released, by its immensity, sun drenched depth & prolific structure & tannins. Yes, it was a monster. It’s really nice to see now, however, the breed & stoniness of the La Crau vineyard making its way back to the forefront, both in the nose & the taste & all of the parts are starting to resolve & harmonize. Make no mistake, this is an infant with quite a ways to go, but one can now get a better feel for where it is headed.
There is no doubt that Alvaro Palacios is one of Spain’s true game changers in the wine arena. His is a fascinating story, as he left his family’s domaine in Rioja to first study abroad, including an eye opening, imagination stirring stint with Christian Mouiex at Chateau Petrus, before founding his own winery in Priorat, Spain. Although his first major acquisition was Finca Dofi in 1990, it really was the later acquisition of L’Ermita, a higly revered, steep, northfacing 4 acre parcel of well drained schist soils, which would position him to shoot for the stars. L’Ermita (planted in 1900 to 1940) is not only one of Spain’s most iconic superstar wines, its meteoric rating, accolades & considerable pricing would create, along with Pingus, a whole new niche for wines in his country, similar to what Sassicaia & Angelo Gaja had done in Italy. And, like what Sassicaia has done for Bolgheri & the Tuscan coast, L’Ermita (& Pingus) has inspired a boom of vineyard & winery growth in the Priorat appellation. I must say, however, I think it is too early to make a true qualitative call on this phenomenon & specifically L’ Ermita, given that 1993, or so I was told, was the first vintage. My quandry? Although the winemaking is top notch, I wonder if that is what the hoopla is more about. Granted, L’Ermita is mainly old vine Grenache with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon & perhaps Carignane blended in, BUT I don’t seem to get the depth of character, vinosity or breed of other red wines in this upper echelon. Since I have such limited experience tasting L’Ermita, having had only the 1995, 1998, 2001 (3 times) & this 1999 (4 times), I guess only time will tell.
Again, one of our goals for 2014 is feature more & more good wines……those which others can be compared to. This will help, tasters create a solid base to work from as their tasting adventures continue. It is not as easy as one would think. Here are 4 standouts from the superb 2007 vintage! Yes, just another really good opportunity to learn! Wines like this just don’t happen along!
Back in the late 80’s, 9 artisan producers from Beaujolais caught my eye. Please keep in mind, this was still a time when Beaujolais wine was not taken seriously. I find it truly remarkable that despite the fact that many years have passed, & I have tasted & found so many new wines, from all parts of the world, my list of tasty, interesting, artisan Beaujolais has NOT changed! This is one of those standouts…….from the Cru village of Fleurie. Now 7 years old, the wine has evolved in the bottle & offers us new dimension, which has emerged with age. A must to try!!!!
Albino Rocca has been one of our all time favorite Barbaresco producers. We, in fact, visited him in 2007, walked his vineyard with him & tasted some of his “library” wines to get a better idea of how special his vineyard, Brich Ronchi is & how truly talented Angelo was as a winemaker. It was one real eye opening visit, believe me. We were subsequently very saddened to hear of his untimely passing. We taste his benchmark 2007 on this night as a tribute to his incredible winemaking gift & his fierce passion for his craft.
There is no doubt, Meo Camuzet is one of the iconic, contemporary producers of Burgundy’s modern era. Here is your chance to taste one of his Premier Cru wines from the 2007 vintage. One really needs to be patient with this wine. It really does need some time.
When you see this panoramic, truly breathtaking vineyard you will be awe struck. There are very few majestic, magnificent sites like this in the wine world. Thankfully, the resulting wines are equally majestic & breathtaking. There is a reason why Theo Haart was selected as “2007 Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & here is your chance to see why.
Again, one of our goals for 2014 is feature more & more good wines……those which others can be compared to. This will help, tasters create a solid base to work from as their tasting adventures continue. It is not as easy as one would think. Here are 4 standouts from the Mediterranean basin. These are some of the most interesting & provocative rustic reds we have run across. I think soulful is a really good word to use here. If you want to better understand what we mean when we say soulful, then you should come & try these wines. Yes, just another really good opportunity to learn! Wines like this just don’t happen along!
Corsica’s star is rising on the American wine scene. Sommeliers & wine professionals across the country are jumping onto the Corsican bandwagon on the fast track. The rugged & very remote countryside produces some equally rugged, masculine red wines, of which the very finest are crafted from indigenous grape varieties. Certainly leading the charge is Abbatucci. Genius!!!! AND, a true champion of tradition & authenticity—in their wines & especially their environment.. Here is their Ajaccio (southwestern Corsica) which is produced from the Sciaccarellu & Niellucciu grape varieties, which are biodynamically farmed. A must to try!!!!
2007 D’Aupilhac “Le Carignan”
The family has been working this special tract in Montpeyroux down in southern France since the 1800’s, although the vineyard itself dates back to Roman times. (The Romans were true experts on where to plant their vines!) The neighbors across the way include Daumas Gassac & Grange des Peres (talk about an unreal neighborhood!!!). The ancient Carignane vines were planted on severe terraced hillsides with all kinds of crazy, extreme soils, which, at least partially, explains the completely wild & rustic character of this standout French “country” red. You never had something like this before!
2008 Guido Porro Barolo “Santa Caterina”
Here is our chance to show tasters a Barolo as it was made BEFORE roto fermenters & all of the other modern technology which is used to make modern/contemporary renditions. Yes, this is a winery who is dedicated to traditional methods both in the vineyards & in the cellar. The Caterina monopole vineyard is located at roughly 1200 feet elevation in the limestone heavy soils of Serralunga d’Alba. The region is most noted for producing long lived, full bodied Barolo. I therefore smile that the Porro version is much more elegant & refined, yet masculine, traditional & truly authentic in its core!!!!
2008 Tempier Bandol “La Tourtine”
Tempier has to be the most storybook wine of all. Their wines & estate is iconic, steeped in tradition, history & regional culture. It is hard for me to separate the wine from the family & its history. There is really nothing else like Domaine Tempier. The La Tourtine bottling usually is dominately Mourvedre, with some Grenache & Cinsault for finer details. I find the resulting wine has wonderful structure, more refinement & needs bottle age to really strut its stuff. Here is your chance to taste one of their treasures yourself & experience the magic of Domaine Tempier & its wines.
When I was growing up in this industry, I was taught there was only 5 nobble grape varieties—Chardonnay & Riesling for whites AND Syrah, Cabernet/Merlot & Pinot Noir for reds. That was the inspiration for this tasting. 3 “noble” reds….each epitomizing “classical” & each being a standout for their appellation. Yes, these are benchmarks for others to be measured by….another set of stellar example of what “good” wines can be. Just another really good opportunity to learn!
“Along the steep, narrow valley that traces the northern Rhône, the appellation of Saint-Joseph takes its place among the great wines of France, and Domaine Faury is one of the region’s most artisanal producers. The steep slopes of the northern Rhône present a challenging terrain where farming is only feasible through terracing. On these terraced slopes, the Faurys’ vines take full advantage of the southern and southeastern sun exposure, benefitting from optimum ripening. A combination of the predominately granitic soil, partial de-stemming (in about 70% of the grapes), soft crushing of the grapes with a pneumatic press, and temperature controlled fermentation offer a liveliness and freshness that one does not often find in wines from the northern Rhône. There’s a real attention to detail here, and nothing is done in haste. Every method used encourages the grape towards greatness with the ultimate respect for its fragility. Pigeage, the punching of the cap, is not carried out with tools, but gently by foot – not just poetic but also pragmatic. Unlike many other vignerons in the region, the Faurys have a strong aversion to new oak. Though the reds definitely see time in barrels, there is a rotation between new and old alike, along with a variety of sizes, ranging from the smaller barriques to the larger 600-liter demi-muids. Unfined and only lightly filtered before bottling, these wines are loaded with classic flavors and show a remarkable rustic elegance”. Classic, wonderfully captivating northern Rhone Valley Syrah–explosive, expressive Syrah perfume (of hillside grown….NOT just tooty fruity, varietally correct)….masculine, sultry, musky, floral, peppery, gamey….done without a heavy hand. Gorgeous is a good word here.
2000 Chateau Gombaude Guillot “Pomerol”
In the heart of the Pomerol plateau, on the Right Bank of Bordeaux, are the vineyards of Château Gombaude-Guillot Though the estate is already certified organic, they are now pursuing the more stringent requirements of biodynamics. As a recently discovered jewel in the crown of Bordeaux, Pomerol does not have an official classification system, yet the standards set for the vignerons here are high. The château’s vineyards are comprised of glacial gravel deposits and clay, and vineyard work is focused around soil health, low yields, and maximizing ripeness. Cover crops are planted between vineyard rows to encourage microbiological activity in the soil. No chemical or synthetic herbicides or fungicides are used, and Claire, the current proprietor, is also careful not to eliminate vineyard pests entirely, citing their importance to the vineyard’s ecosystem. The vines average forty years of age and give naturally low yields. The wines of Gombaude-Guillot are classic reflections of Pomerol: rich and supple, with a deep gravel mineral structure. This vin de garde has all of the grace and finesse for which the appellation is known, without any of the highbrow pretention or price. The legendary 2000 is 85% Merlot & 15% Cabernet Franc aged in Allier oak (50% new). This 2000, eventhough from a highly lauded, ripe vintage, is done more in a style I grew up with. NO fruit bombs here! Yes, this wine is certainly more about the soil than about grape variety, winemaking or oak use. I really appreciate its finesse & more classical, sublime soil driven intricacies.
Domaine Maume’s wines are deep, profound Pinot Noir experiences. They are wines of mystery – constantly changing and evolving, both in barrel and in bottle, like the Burgundies of the past. They are bottled from barrel by gravity without any pumping, fining or filtration. The secret to Maume’s success is his rigid adherence to selection massale cuttings in his replanting of the family’s vineyards. By isolating vines with the healthiest grapes, they replant only the best. Most of their vines are quite old, too, averaging 50 years of age across all parcels. Maume does not believe in using new clones but is a strong believer in the diversity of old Pinot stock. Maume’s “En Pallud” is a particularly well-suited lieu-dit just south of the village on the slope, below the premier cru Les Corbeaux and at the same elevation and exposure as the grand crus. The Maumes have a sizeable parcel here of 65 year-old vines, produced in 2007 with NO stems & only a tiny bit of new oak. A great bottle from Maume takes you about as deep into the Burgundian soul as you can get. I was saddened to hear that this domaine recently sold to a larger company.