Sunday, July 31, 2011

2009 Chapoutier "Bila-Haut" COTES DU ROUSSILLON-VILLAGES (Southern France)

Many wines from this hot, arid region have historically been chunky, low acid, earthy and dull-fruited.  Recently, however, there has been an up-tick in quality as lots of youthful growers has begun tending their vineyards more carefully and organically, and bottling their own wines, rather than selling fruit to a co-op or larger negociant.  And some of the more respected Rhone negociant/growers (like Chapoutier) have ventured west as well.

This Grenache, Syrah, and old vine Carignan blend is one of the most elegant, balanced Cotes du Roussillon Villages I've ever had.

Nearly saturated, luxurious black ruby/plasma color.  Rich, smoky, plummy, gravelly nose.  Mouthfilling flavors of blackberry, smoky cocoa, and stones.  Full-bodied, and with substantial but refined tannins, this wine has a balanced, long finish.  Very nice indeed.  A-.  I got this for $16.99 at Houston Wine Merchant on South Shepherd.

2009 Cedric Vincent BEAUJOLAIS "Pouilly Le Monial" "Vieilles Vignes" (Burgundy, France)

A very unusual but very good Beaujolais.

Surprisingly dark color, black/violet ruby.  Pure nose of cold-pressed grapes and cherry candy.  Tight and slightly tannic in the mouth.  Crisp, light, penetrating, bone dry fruit up front (grapey/cherry), molting into a clean, stony, but short finish.  All the flavor is up-front in this wine.  Very refreshing, and a nice picnic/cookout wine for the next few months.  B+.  Imported by Kermit Lynch, I got this for $17 from B-21 Wines in Florida.

2010 Perrin VENTOUX Rosé (Rhone Valley, Southern France)

Wow -- this is a great value in a refreshing, flavorful, dry rosé.  

Vibrant light watermelon pink.  Beautiful pure strawberry cherry juice fruit in the nose, along with some stony minerality.  Bone dry, vibrant crisp fruit in the mouth.  Medium-bodied, with loads of flavor and a long, pure finish.  Get a bunch of this to chill over the next few dog day months in H-Town.  A-.  Imported by Vineyard Brands, this is available at Spec's for $9 and change.

Friday, July 22, 2011

2007 Paul Jaboulet-Aine COTES DU RHONE "Parallele 45" (Southern France)

Another CDR I had tucked away for the "Big Three" 2007 tasting (along with Chapoutier and Guigal) that wasn't, this is also a fine example -- quality way above its entry level station.  60% Grenache, 40% Syrah.

Dark blackish ruby with a little brickishness at the rim.  Great nose of deep, dark berry fruit, roasted herbs,  iodine-infused minerals, and smoky peat.  Low-toned, minerally blackberry fruit in the mouth with some soft tannin for structure.  Bone dry, but with mouthfilling flavor presence.  Long finish with no heat at all.  B+  Was $9 and change at Spec's over a year ago, so this vintage may not still be available, but if it is, get some.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

2009 "EVODIA" "Old Vines Garnacha (Calatayud, Spain)

A ridiculous value in a ripe, structured, unoaked, minerally Grenache.

Dark ruby color.  Intense, vigorous nose of sharp-edged, chalky stones and bright, spicy dark raspberries.  Intense, powerful flavors coat the palate with ripe but dry raspberry syrup fruit and pure, clean stoniness.  Long, rich finish with just a bit of warm, alcoholic heat (what did you expect?  It's grenache, dammit).  Decent acidity for such a large-boned wine.  Will pair with grilled meats, meat-sauced pastas, and stews. A-. Imported by Eric Solomon, this was $9.88 at Spec's on Weslayan/Bissonnett (and probably at other Spec's locations too).

2008 Chateau de la Bonneliere CHINON (Loire Valley, France)

An excellent and relatively value-priced Cab Franc.  Intensely flavored, yet balanced and medium weight.

Intensely vibrant dark ruby.  Tight, dry earthy nose at first, but after substantial air gobs of ripe cherry and blackberry fruit emerge along with a sweet, high-toned smokiness and some chalky minerality.  Medium-bodied, but with great fruit presence and texture.  Loads of ripe but dry black cherry fruit and a hint of brambly earthiness.  Fantastic balance.  A-.  Will age nicely for another 2-4 years.  Imported by Weygandt-Metzler, this wine was around $16-18 I think, but I can't remember exactly where I got it.

2005 Chateau Fonreaud (Cru Bourgeois, Listrac-Medoc) (Bordeaux, France)

Nice, old-fashioned style Bordeaux.  Balanced, complex, medium weight, no new oak flavors, no fruit-bombiness.  Mostly Cabernet, but with a lot of Merlot in the blend.

Dark brickish ruby.  Medium intense nose of cassis, graphite, and fragrant, lightly-scorched earth.  Mouthcoating, drying flavors of low-toned dry blackberry extract, with sandstoney, brambly-woody accents.  Long, tannic finish with pretty decent acids.  B+.  Drink over the next 2-3 years.  Was $19 and change at Spec's on Weslayan/Bissonnett.  Imported by Horizon Wines, Houston.

Friday, July 08, 2011

2009 Laurel Glen !ZA ZIN (Zinfandel) "Old Vines" (Lodi, Cal.)

Finally!  A Lodi Zin I can really get behind!  This was very, very good.  Did not have the muddled, undefined, flabby fruit I get out of lots of Lodi Zins.  This is purportedly from 100+ year-old vines grown in the Mokelumne River sector of Lodi (which is said to have the best -- which for wines means "worst" --soil for wines).  This wine had seamlessly intense, mouthcoating fruit, but was not heavy or ponderous at all.

Deep purple ruby.  Intensely fruity nose of tangy blackberry and plum (hint of rhubarb too) along with sweet, dry gravel scents.  Intense flavors attack the palate with dense cherry cough syrup fruit accented with a chalky earthiness.  Good acidity for a wine this ripe, and a long, pure finish with copious but soft tannin.  Not as elegant and seamless as Dry Creek, or as pure and razor-sharp as the best Paso Robles Zins, but very good in a unique style.  B+.  Was just under $17 at Spec's on Smith.

(Sorry, 2007 shown).

2008 Vigna Nuove di Musella VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE (Veneto, Italy)

A crisp, lively red for summertime meals.

Dark ruby with the barest touch of garnet.  Intense, high-toned nose of crisp, winey cherries, rock dust minerals, and fragrant underbrush.  Crisp, intense, dry cherry fruit, with lots of chalky minerals.  Medium body, with fairly crisp acids and a bit of very fine-grained tannin adds a nice tactile feel.  A little short on the finish.  B.  Imported by Vintners Estates Direct, I got this for $17 at Spec's on Smith.

4th of July wines

Bare-bones impressions from memory:

2008 Donnhoff KREUZNACHER KROTENPFUHL RIESLING KABINETT (Nahe, Germany) -- This was a killer wine:  Unbelievable fragrance of ripe, lively fruit, flowers, and stony minerals.  Great verve in the mouth.  Ripeness, lightness, great buoyant acids.  Fantastic.  A.

2007 Saintsbury "Toyon Ranch" PINOT NOIR (Carneros, California) -- A soft, full, earthy and savory Pinot Noir.  Very much a Nuits-St. George style, but a bit riper and more approachable.  B+.

Monday, July 04, 2011

2009 Charles Joguet CHINON ROSÉ (Loire Valley, France)

This was a very good, earthy, muscular, yet balanced rose.  I think it was made of Cabernet Franc grapes, like most Chinon roses.

Beautiful light coppery-watermelon color.  Inviting, earthy, strawberry/cherry nose with a steely mineral spine.  Big, dry, earthy flavors with lots of ripe, dry cherry fruit.  Good acidity for an '09 to balance out the fairly full body.  Long, powerful, clean finish.  Very good.  B+.  Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Got this on sale from B-21 Wines in Florida for $12, making it a great value.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

2010 Alfred Pery "Vallee Loire" MUSCADET DE SEVRE ET MAINE "Sur Lie" (Loire, France)

A good value in a bone dry, crisp, zesty white.  Good alternative to Portuguese Vinho Verde if you like that style.

Light, bright gold with a slight greenish glint.  Fresh, lemon-lime nose with lots of chalky accents.  Tart, bone dry flavors of minerally, chalk-infused green apples.  Crisp, clean, zesty finish.  Very good, cheap, refreshing summer white.  B-.  Imported by Fruit of the Vine, I got this for $8.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

(Sorry, can't find a photo)

2007 Chapoutier COTES DU RHONE "Belleruche" (France)

I bought this two years ago (along with a 2007 Jaboulet Cotes du Rhone "Parallele 45") because I was going to have a "Big 3" Cotes du Rhone tasting when Guigal released his 2007.  I figured it would be good intel for readers faced with all three on store shelves.  Well I waited and waited but it wasn't until just a month or two ago that Guigal's '07s actually hit store shelves here in Houston, so since Guigal's tardiness nixed the commercial relevance of my planned tasting, I figured I'd just start drinking these one at a time.

This one is a beauty.  If you see any left (unlikely), snap them up.

Dark black ruby.  Inviting nose of sweet, dark spices, rich plummy fruit, and fragrant dry gravel.  Soft, mouthfilling flavors of inky, ripe blackberries, along with lots of gravelly minerals.  Great balance, and still a bit of soft tannin remaining.  Clingy but dry finish.  Everything seemed in perfect balance with this wine.  Very elegant for a basic entry level Cotes du Rhone.  B+.  I think I got this for about $15 at Whole Foods on Bellaire well over a year ago.

2009 Xavier Vignon GIGONDAS (Southern Rhone, France)

I know I drank this way too young, but I have four of them and wanted to see where it was in its development curve.  Very young, but beautifully made:  balanced, fragrant, long in the mouth.

Very deep black ruby with violet highlights.  Needs substantial airing to open up, but then displays stunningly pure nose of black fruit and cassis, along with a pure garrigue scents (that fragrant smell that permeates the landscape of the southern Rhone and Provence consisting of herbal scents being blown over dry, rocky soil) and flowers.  Intensely flavored yet seemingly lithe in the mouth, with bone dry, smoked mineral-infused blackberry extract.  Tight and lean, it has good acidity, lots of micro-tannin, and a long, pure finish.  This will age nicely for another 5 years of so.  A-(+).  Got this from several months ago.