Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Domaine du Haut des Terres Blanches Chateauneuf du Pape, 1993

1993 was not a particularly distinguished vintage in the Southern Rhone, and Diffonty's Domaine du Haute des Terres Blanche is not very well known. This wine, however, is showing very nicely.

Some bricking at edges, but the bouquet is fresh and lively for a 22-year-old wine. Flavors lean toward dark cherry, fresh and dried. Gets better throughout the meal. Good fruit and good acid for balance. A finish that just keeps giving.

The price tag says $11.99. That was 20 years ago, but this wine is still a relative bargain among Chateauneufs du Pape.

Two Fine Old Riojas: 1978 Cune, 1975 Vina Turzaballa

The wines that first got me truly interested in following wine were Riojas. I remember enjoying several cases of  Rioja Vega, Domecq Domaine, and Olarra Riojas in the late 1970s--all priced around $2 to $3 a bottle and offering so much more than anything I could find in New World wines. But Rioja wines started changing in the early 1980s, and so did my taste in wines. But I have a few old bottles lingering in the cellar, and, for a family gathering tonight, I decided to bring out a couple.

1978 Cune Rioja is darker in color and seems much younger than its years. The smell of vanilla-tinged American oak barrels is prominent, as it was 35 years ago. Creamy mouthfeel. Dark fruit and oak. A real delight to drink.

1975 Ramon Bilbao Vina Turzaballa Rioja: When first opened, this wine seems a bit precarious. The bouquet is fabulous, but the color has faded to amber and the flavors seem a bit rustic. After an hour or so, however, this wine starts to show its stuff. The American oak is still there but integrated nicely with the herb-tinged Temperanillo fruit. The complexity is remarkable. This is why you age wines; magic has happened in the bottle and this wine has many stories to tell. I love it.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Didier Grappe Cotes du Jura Longefin Chardonnay, 2012

Jon Rimmerman of used the words "purity" and "honesty" in describing this Cotes du Jura Chardonnay. That's probably why I hit the "buy" button, and I'm glad that I did.

Medium deep yellow. From the first sniff and sip, I can tell this is a unique wine. Minerals, cool Chardonnay fruit, lemony acidity. Purity and honesty, indeed. This is one of the best Chardonnays I have had in a long, long time. I think I paid $16,87. Wish I had bought more.

Vallana Spanna, 2011

When asked to help pick some inexpensive but ageworthy wines to lay away for my grandson born in 2011, I felt overwhelmed. Sure, I have many wines in the cellar that have aged quite well over two, three, and even four decades. But I never put any of them away with confidence that they would age that well. And I have bought other wines that I thought would be solid agers that died prematurely on me.

I know wine critics and others who try to estimate when a wine will be drinking at its best. I don't trust any of them. What I do trust is track record. And, on the basis of that, I recommended this Vallana Spanna as one of the wines I feel confident will be there and offer pleasure for my grandson in 2032 or later. Number one, the wine is made from Nebbiolo, arguably the most ageworthy of all wine grapes. And 2011 has been rated as a very good vintage for Nebbiolo from the Piedmont area of Italy. Secondly, it comes from highly underrated vineyards in the Novara hills northeast of Barolo, and I have had other wines from this region that aged marvelously, including the 1975 Dessilani Gattinara and the 1982 Dessilani Spanna. Finally, this wine, in particular, has a great track record with bottles from the 1950s still getting good reviews. Just to be sure, though, I wanted to try the 2011 Vallana right now.

Very deep ruby but nothing that would indicate barriques or new oak treatment. Has the hallmarks smells and flavors of traditionally made Nebbiolo: dark cherries, rose petals and black licorice. Bold, full bodied and fruity. Fruity enough that it would be easy to miss the strong tannins, but they are there. Even more important, there is plenty of acid to keep it going for years and years. But I don't want to tell you that I could taste this wine blind and predict that it will last three or four decades. It's a beautifully fruity wine that goes very well with spicy Mexican food. Everyone loves it. With some close attention, it's also possible to note the great concentration and the way the wine clings to the back of your palate and stays there for minute after minute. I love it.

I hope that I'm around to enjoy this wine with my grandson in 2032, but I doubt that very much. In the meantime, I could drink this wine again and again right now. And it's only $14.99 at Binny's in Chicago.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Domaine de la Bastide Cotes du Rhone Villages Visan, 2009

This is a very good wine. But tasted alongside the 1989 Lucien Barrot Chateauneuf du Pape, it is totally outclassed.

The color is deep, dark and bluish; some of this wine has undoubtedly been aged in barriques. Sweet berry and herb aromas. Very pretty. Chocolate as well as red and black fruits on palate. Strong finish. This is a very good example of the modern, international style of Southern Rhone. I like it better than most modern-styled Rhones but think it needs time for integration of oak and fruit.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lucien Barrot Chateauneuf du Pape, 1989

Ask me my favorite Chateauneuf du Pape, and I would have to give it a lot of thought. I love Pegau Cuvee Reservee, Bois de Boursan, Vieux Donjon, Clos de Pape, Clos Mont Olivet, Les Clefs d'Or, Chante Perdrix, Vieux Telegraphe, Beaucastel. Oh, and I also like Beaurenard, Janasse, Chante Cigale, Fortia, Clos Saint Jean, Lou Frejau, Raymond Usseglio, Pierre Usseglio and older vintages of Grand Tinel. There are many excellent wines in Chateauneuf du Pape, and they were once (not too many years ago) cheap enough to buy in quantity. But if I had to name my No. 1, it would be this one: Lucien Barrot. As one writer put it, having a bottle of Lucien Barrot in the cellar is like having a Van Gogh painting in the attic. It is a jewel among jewels, and it is usually one of the least expensive of Chateauneufs du Pape, probably because the wine takes many years to show its true charm.What better choice for Father's Day dinner of grilled Australian lamb?

Minimal bricking around the edges. At 26 years of age, this wine still shows a deep, dark ruby. No barriques, just good fruit and good traditional winemaking. Bouquet is slow to come around, but it's worth the wait. Everything is blended together so well that it's hard to single out individual smells and flavors, but they focus around strawberry and are beautiful. On the tongue, the wine is smooth as silk. Long finish with lots of subtle fruit and spice qualities. I've had many good Chateauneufs, but this ranks right up there among the best.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Castillo de Monseran Garnacha, 2010

This wine is widely available, and I have seen it discounted to $6.99 a bottle. As far as I'm concerned, it's worth at least twice that much.

Medium ruby, good brilliance. Peppery Grenache with some herbs. Soft but not simple. Lots of subtlety on the palate for a $6 wine. I like having a few bottles of this in the cellar at all times.