Sunday, November 23, 2014

Louis Latour Pernand Vergelesses, 1998

The 1998 vintage was not particularly good for white Burgundy, and this Pernand Vergelesses is past its peak drinking years. But it's still better, for my taste, than 90 percent of Chardonnays on the market.

A deep gold color, fully mature. Apples, citrus, grains, hazelnuts. Slight stale note that fades after 15 minutes or so. Mellow smells and flavors, an apple orchard in the Fall. Past its prime, but still has Grand Vin intensity and grip.

Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d'Asti, 2011

Selling for $5.49 at Trader Joe's, this has to be the top Barbera value on the market. I could gladly put this on my table every night.

Deep, dark ruby. Dark cherries, flowers, licorice--immediately appealing and it just keeps getting better. Has seen enough new oak to develop a silky texture, but not so much to cover up the lovely Barbera smells and flavors. Plush and ripe; medium to full bodied. A slight green note but the finish is still very ripe and long.

Domaine Rabasse-Charavin (Corinne Couturier) Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne, 2004

I like Cairanne wines on the young side; Rasteau and Vacqueyras, with some extra age. The dark-toned mineral elements of Rasteau and Vacqueyras need some time to mellow out, in my opinion, whereas the red cherry/berry tones of Cairanne are more attractive to me than the leathery smells and tastes that develop once the fruit has started to fade. Corinne Couturier at Rabasse Charavin produces one of the top two or three Cairanne wines, and this 2004 still has a lot of pleasure to give...even though I liked it better a couple of years ago.

Deep ruby with some browning at edges. Lifted fragrance of flowers, dark cherries and herbs. Same on the palate with leathery notes and pepper on the finish. A bit past its peak, for my taste, but has good grip and typical Southern Rhone flavors.

Much higher on the Corinne Couturier list--and one of my favorite wines--is the Cairanne Cuvee Estevenas, from some of the oldest vines in the appellation.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Domaine du Val des Rois Valreas Signature, 2007

Tasted alongside the Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone (below), this Valreas eventually reveals itself as the superior wine. It is, however, a CDR Villages and cost about twice as much as the Sainte-Anne.

Deep, bright crimson. Shy at first. Blueberries, dark cherries, lavender, spice. Now it's blossoming. An understated beauty. Clean, fresh, youthful fruit. Wild berries and a hint of black pepper on the finish. A very fine Valreas.

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone, 2001

Although labeled as a Cotes du Rhone, this wine has the qualities of a Cotes du Rhone Villages--and a very fine Villages at that.

Medium deep ruby. The fruit has faded just enough to marry with the secondary characteristics--berries, plums, spice, dried flowers and herbs. There are some wild berry notes on the palate but they blend in nicely with the secondary traits of leather, lavender and earth. When this wine was young, it was predominantly Grenache. Now the Grenache and Syrah have married nicely--both red and black fruits. At a calm, even-tempered stage of maturity.

Picton Bay South Island (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, 2013

After drinking the Monte Degli Angeli, I had to try my other Pinot Noir bargain from a recent Ann Arbor trip. There are many good wine bargains at Trader Joe's, but this New Zealand Pinot for $7.99 belongs right at the top of the list.

This is a bit darker than Piemonte Pinot (below). Beautiful spicy nose--strawberries, cherries, ginger and licorice--all the things I like. In the mouth, there is more of the same. Ripe fruit framed by spice and pepper. Fine texture; flavors reverberate. A terrific value and a very good wine for drinking right now. On the second night, this wine becomes a bit more herbaceous, though still good. I prefer the Monte Degli Angeli.

Monte Degli Angeli Piemonte Pinot Noir, 2011

When you think of the Piedmont region of Italy, you think of Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera. But a Pinot Noir? I saw this bottle while browsing in Plum Market in Ann Arbor, and the wine manager, Rod Johnson, a long-time friend from Village Corner, assured me it was well worth trying.

And Pinot in Piedmont makes sense. The cool climate, with morning fog, is similar to that of Burgundy and other good Pinot growing areas such as the Anderson Valley of California. And while Barolo is often considered a "big" wine, that is more because of its tannins, big flavors and ability to age. Nebbiolo actually has many similarities to good Pinot Noir: with its haunting fragrance, lively acids and complex flavor profile.

As for Monte Degli Angeli, it is a medium light Pinot color, bright and lively. I note the spicy cherry/cranberry tones of North Coast California Pinots. It's definitely not sweet, and it's definitely in the very early stages of its evolution. On the second night, it really starts to sing. Now the sweetness emerges, but there is nothing simple about it. Has a lot more grip and strength than most Pinot Noirs. And I just keep coming back to sniff and sip. Irresistible.

For $10.56? This is serious wine; I'm heading back to buy more.