Wine Tastings: Check back for locations, dates & times.
Vieux Mas de Pape 1997 Chauteaunuef du Pape. I reviewed this wine about six months ago and found it then to be vibrant, delicious, and somewhat light and fruity. It has developed beautifully in flavor and depth over the last six months. It shows a bright violet-pansy color with aromas of fruit and tar; flavors suggest berries up front with a smoky tar and long licorice finish which lingers on the palate. The well-know maker of Chauteauneuf Vieux Telegraphe produces Vieux Mas du Pape, and the wine shows that breeding in its vibrancy and complexity. Initially, Vieux Mas du Pape was a bargain, selling for $20. As supplies have diminished, it has been selling for as much $30. Even at the higher price, this Chateaunuef is worth it. Unfortunately, it will be tough to find.
I've tasted quite a few wines--mostly at a trade tasting of Napa Valley wines--since I last posted something, but fall is here and I'm back at work again. Here are some considerations of California, mostly Napa, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir wines:
Katherine Kennedy 1997 Lateral (A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.) Heady aroma with tasty ripe blackberry flavors up front. Nicely balanced fruit and pleasant tannins. Good length--the flavors linger on the palate. This is a first rate wine which is drinking well and will continue to do so for 5 to 7 years. Sells for about $30.
Robert Sinskey 1996 Merlot "Los Carneros", 1996 Reserve Merlot, and 1997 Pinot Noir "Los Carneros." All Robert Sinskey wines are organic, though he won't proclaim that openly because of a common perception that organic wines aren't usually very good. Clearly, the quality of wine has more to do with where the grapes are grown, who grows them, and who makes wine from them. Sinskey does all of that well. The '96 Carneros Merlot exhibits all the characteristics of California Merlot but with greater intensity and flavor (@ $27); the Reserve Merlot is a brute. Aromas of cedar and plum with flavors to match. (Ah, that lovely cedar taste and gritty feel on the palate.) It finishes somewhat harsh, but should soften in time as the wine becomes more integrated. (@ $35); the '97 Pinot Noir "Los Carneros" also shows great concentration and extraction. Not light in style, it exhibits strong cherry aromas and flavors with some spice and oak (@ $27).
Two good values in wine are the Andrew Rich 1997 "Les Vigneaux" Pinot Noir and the 1997 "Les Vigneaux" Cabernet Sauvignon. The 97 Pinot is a typical Oregon Pinot: Light in style with Burgundian aromas and cherry fruit. But this is also a well balanced and well made wine. Very pleasant and drinkable. The 97 Les Vigneaux Cabernet Sauvignon is actually a Washington wine as it is made with grapes from the well-known Klipsun vineyard. It is a nicely made medium bodied wine displaying typical cabernet flavors but it also has surprising structure and length for its price. I consider these wines good values at @ $19.
While writing these reviews, I opened a bottle of 1996 Renwood Barbera Lindsteadt Vineyard for dinner. I had no intention of writing about it but I can't resist doing so because of its delightful appealing nature. If big wines are your cup of wine, then this one fits the cup. Aromas of ripe blackberries and sweet oak; a deep rich garnet-ruby color; flavors of ripe and over-ripe berries (some rich raisin flavors, perhaps?); zesty acid and pleasant oak; and a big, broad mouthful. This is an expansive and rich wine well worth the $23.
Turnbull 1996 Merlot and Turnbull 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon. I'll admit upfront that I favor Turnbull wines because they make tasty premium wines that are underpriced compared with other Napa producers. Both the Merlot and the Cabernet show strong fruit aromas and flavors. The most impressive quality of the two is the harmonious application of oak: just so sweet and toasty and balanced well against the fruit. (@ $27).
Altamura 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon This is a sleeper. It is a serious, complex, and rich wine which has been under-rated and somewhat ignored by the wine press. It displays a dark, ruby-red color. Aromas of licorice, black currants, and spicy new oak prevail and there is that dark chocolate gritty finish so appealing to Cabernet lovers. While drinkable now, the 1995 Altamura Cabernet Sauvignon is decidedly a cellarable wine and will improve with at least three years bottle age. The 1996 Altamura Cabernet Sauvignon was also available for tasting. This wine was somewhat closed and unapproachable but the same characteristics as the '95 were showing through. Both @ $40 would be good additions to a cellar.
Merryvale 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon At @ $20 this Cab is an excellent value for a premium Napa Valley Wine. It is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. Lighter in style but typical of a California Cabernet, it has a sparkling red rose color. Round and harmonious, the bright berry flavors are followed by gritty chocolate toasty oak flavors.
Merryvale 1997 Reserve Merlot A big, bold, and brassy Merlot fruit bomb with naked tannins, all of which come back on the palate and linger. A young intense wine which will benefit from aging but is quite interesting and lovely to drink now. (somewhat overpriced @ $40)
Merryvale 1996 Profile A blend of Cabernet and Merlot, this is Merryvale's attempt to make a top-of-the-line Bordeaux style wine. Merryvale claims it has "elegance, balance, and complexity." I found it a heavy, dull wine which lacked interest and vibrancy. At $70 a bottle, it was overpriced and disappointing. Perhaps I expected too much, or missed something? Perhaps the bottle was bad or the wine had gone dumb? but then why show it a tasting of major Napa Valley wines?
Friday, May 7th, three producers of Italian wines hosted a tasting of a few of their wines at La Buca, an Italian restaurant on First and Cherry.
La Vellette 1995 Orvietto Secco (Dry)
Carrado Bottai, whose family has owned La Vellette for 150 years, produces a good 1995 Orvietto Secco (dry). Bottai wants to "innovate but not revolutionize" in his vineyard and winery. The Orvietto was pleasant, fresh, and grape typical but had greater extraction than a typical Orvietto. It was served with calamari and capers and the greater flavor and intensity of the La Vellete Orvietto carried well with the dish. About $5-6 (See note below.).
Selvapiano 1995 Chianti Rufina Reserva
The Giuntini family acquired Selvapiana in 1827. According to Silvia Giuntini Masseti, Dr. Francesco Giuntini, Selvapiana's owner (a descendent of the Medici's) believes "in quality not quantity." (Have I heard that before?) This Selvapiano Chinati Rufina is 100% Sangiovese. It had a lush texture with flavors of cherries, tobacco, and cedar. The finish was quite long. Selvapiana has a considerable reputation for producing superior Chiantis and this one is no exception. At about $16 it is good value.
De Lucia 1996 Aglianico
Best bargain at the testing! Strong fruit flavor. Intense and lush with good structure. Interestingly, the wine is un-oaked. The tannins come from the stems of the grape which are not removed before crushing. The result is a dry finish which is pleasant and attractive. This is a rustic wine which evokes memories of Campania whose vineyards were much admired by Cicero, Horace, and Virgil. A real deal at about $9-10
Abbona 1995 Barbaresco "Faset"
The Faset is a modern style Barberesco which lacks the mouth puckering tannins of a traditionally made one. It is, of course, 100% Nebbiolo and has a good bouquet with a backbone of spice and wood. Marziano Abbona has used current technology to emphasize the fruit and bouquet of the grape while softening the tannins considerably. This wine also seems to undergone complete and early malolactic fermentation judging by its smooth mouth feel. I prefer traditionally made Barberesco myself, so this wine seems "manufactured" to me: it lacks the massive strength and intensity and delicacy of traditionally made Barbaresco. But many people will enjoy it because of its fruit forward qualities and smoothness. About $30.
La Stoppa 1996 Stoppa Cabernet Savignon
Elena Pantaleoni the owner of the estate is an intelligent and charming woman dedicated to making great wine. Her Stoppa Cabernet was the hit of the tasting. The aroma was berry and toasty oak. A beautiful deep purple color. Flavors of berry, pepper, chocolate, and toasty oak went well with the flank steak, which had been sauteed in mushroom, onion, and Madiera sauce. the wine was aged 15 months in barriques. Ms. Pantaleoni expressed her love of making wines with indigenous grapes. I pointed out that Cabernet was probably not indigenous. "That's true," she replied. But the Cabernet vines had been growing there prior to WWII. And she said that there were bottles in her cellar from 1947 which were marked "Bordeaux." About $28--if you can find it.
Castelli Martinozzi 1993 Brunello di Montalcino
Because of my love of strong tannins in a complex wine, this was my favorite. This Brunello is made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso ("Grosso" refers to flavor not size of the grape). Deep, deep color; aromas of berries and tobacco; fresh fruit of black raspberries and blackberries. This wine is full of of rich fruit flavors and austere and aristocratic tannins. Long finish: it lingers and lingers with qualities of the 3 years it spent in oak barrels. About $35.
(Prices given in all cases are approximate since prices were not fully established at the tasting.)
---- Hugh Remash
Hugh Remash is one of the owners of the WINSLOW WINE SHOP
wine reviews copyright 1999 Hugh Remash
Kestrel is a new state of the art winery in Prosser Washington. On Feb.1, in late afternoon, Kestrel premiered two of its wines in an upstairs room of the Bay Pavilion on the Seattle waterfront. I was there to taste the wine.
Kestrel 1995 Chardonnay
This dry Chardonnay (.1g/L RS) was barrel fermented for seven months on new French oak. Unfortunately, the wine was offered at warm room temperature so it had a slightly cooked quality to it. While having the wine served too warm detracted from full appreciation, the temperature was not extreme enough to seriously detract from the wine's qualities.
The wine is quite well made. (I'm told that this first Chardonnay from Kestrel was guided by Brian Carter of Apex and Doug McCrea of McCrea.) Its straw color is complemented with a slight straw but predominantly tropical fruit and pineapple bouquet. The pineapple aroma is most notable. The flavor is quite apple-like with some hints of lemon. It reminded me of a nice summer country salad with apple and pear slices and some lemon on the side. There are some pleasant light ginger flavors too which may become more noticeable after the wine gains some bottle age. I was most impressed with the structure and finish. The fruit is nicely balanced with the tannins (which are soft) and with the acid. There is a very refreshing, palate cleansing, crisp finish. Some care and knowledge went into making this wine--as the use of new French oak and Pris de Mousse yeast indicate. It is skillfully made.
The winemaker notes state that there is some butter flavors and some honeysuckle in the aroma. I did not detect them, perhaps because the wine was served too warm.
This is a refreshing and delightful Chardonnay which will sell for about $15. I was probably more irritated by the temperature of the wine than I might normally be because of the obvious charm of this wine. In terms of quality to price ratio, the cost represents good value: it might be easily priced a few dollars higher.
Kestrel 1995 Cabernet Savignon
The initial cabernet offering from Kestrel was made with grapes from Mercer Ranch and Elderling vineyards, two of the better producers of grapes in Washington. The wine was aged in French oak for eighteen months. Clearly, Kestrel is trying to make wines of good quality.
Color is medium dark purple. Aromas of black currant dominate with background scents of leather and tobacco. There seemed to be slight meat aromas as well--suggestive of some Bordeaux crus bourgeois we tasted lately. Flavors suggest cedar and seductive tobacco and leather. Dark cherry fruit lurks in the background and that flavor comes forward after a rather hot finish (13.4% ALC).
Like the Chardonnay, the cabernet is nicely made: it possesses good structure with admirable tannins and balance.
This wine is young and still wound rather tight and will definitely benefit from a few years in cellar. Probably, the vintners hope that, after some aging, the cherry flavor will come forward, the tobacco/leather will blend into the background, and the tannin will soften but continue to provide good backbone. Right now, the leather-tobacco-cedar notes appeal to me.
The winemaker notes some chocolate and sweet vanilla flavors. I did not detect them--neither did some others at the tasting.
At about $22, Kestrel 1995 Cabernet Savignon is up against some serious competition from California cabernets in that price range. But for those who like the structure and vitality of Washington cabernets over the fruitiness of some California cabernets (like myself) this is a fair price. Drink this initial offering from Kestrel over the next 5 to 7 years.Hendry 1996 Hendry Block 7 Napa Valley Zinfandel
Hendryis a small grower situated between Carneros and Mt. Veeder. Like Carneros, it benefits from the cool fogs and breezes blowing off San Pablo bay. Hendry provides grapes to two of the more famous vintners in Napa-Sonoma: Opus and Mondave. This Zinfandel was aged for 16 months in French oak.
The Hendry Zin is bright garnet colored, somewhat surprising in a young wine, but quite appealing because of its brightness. The bouquet is intense fruity blackberry with overtones of tobacco. Likewise the flavor: spicy, intense blackberry jammy flavors with a hint of tobacco. Then there are some, maybe, perhaps, coffee flavors. The finish is black peppery and hot (14.9%! ALC). That coffee flavor lingers on the palate, especially toward the front. The wine is perhaps a bit unbalanced: the fruit up front dominates and the finish is strong while mid-palate flavors pale somewhat in comparison. That is proabably a consequence of its youth and will resolve itself with a little age.
The best description of the Hendry Block 7 Zinfandel is that it tastes quinteessentially like a zinfandel. It reminded me of the delicious zinfandels made before the advent of Very Serious Zinfandels. This is a very appealing and drinkable wine--lush, fragrant, and tasty. Like those earlier zinfandels, the Hendry 1996 Hendry Block 7 is drinkable now. It could also age for a few years--a delightful wine and good value for about $21.
Chateau Musar 1983
Through all the turmoil and strife in Lebanon over many years, Gaston Hochar has continued to produce wine at Chateau Musar. More remarkably, he has managed to make an excellent Bordeaux style--a blend of Cabernet Savignon and Syrah--wine. The color of this 1983 Musar is light purple in the center then fades quickly to the dominant brick red-orange. In short, it exhibits all the color characteristics of a fully mature wine. The bouquet is intense dark cherry with hints of tobacco. (It reminded me of the Kijfir soaked tobacco my father stuffed in his pipe when I was a boy.) The 16 year old Musar feels heavy and glycerine in the mouth. The flavor is dark cherry, deep cherry, intense cherry across the palate--at first--and then, surprisingly, a spicy finish particularly cumin, and then, memories of tobacco forward in the palate and finally a bit of gritty chocolate at the end. This is a wine of excellent length, balance, and finish. The 1983 Chateau Musar is a marvelously delicious mature Cabernet based wine. It sells for about $19. Really.