Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Reserva 2007

This is a wine that never disappoints. Year after year it delivers a true Tuscan character and excellent value. An enticing combination of cherries, pomegranate, spices, vanilla, just the right acidity and delicate tannins lead to an excellent finish. 90

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pelter Winery

In a hot August afternoon, we visited the Pelter winery. Being a long time admirers of their Gewürztraminer and sparkling wines we had high hopes of the visit. Well, that was easy - the hopes were exceeded. In addition to their outstanding whites, we were happy to taste the outstanding quality of the reds. One of the nice aspects of the visit was a children friendly staff and environement that enabled us to enjoy tasting wines with 3 energetic boys. So friendly that our eldest son considers this visit among the highlights of his summer vacation.
Now to the wines:

Semillon T-Selection 2009
Clearly, this is an outstanding effort. Saying that it's the best Israeli Semillon is easy. More siginificantly, it stands very well compared to some of the best Austrialian Semillon that I've tasted. It has excellent balance, shows complex fruity aromas: Guava, Apricot and lime. All lead to a long and excellent finish. Excellent / Exceptional (89 - 91) [26/8/2010]

Cabernet/Shiraz 2007
Nice wine, but not great.Cinamon, light pepper, black berries, long good finish. A bit too international. Excellent (87 - 89) [26/8/2010]

Cabernet Sauvignon T Selection 2007
This was one of the best in this tasing. A very dark colored wine and overall deep wine. Dominated by variatal aromas, especially bluberries. The finish is long and very pleasent. Tannins are still on the rough side, give it at least a year or two before openning. Outstanding (91-93) [26/8/2010]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tasting 4 Vintages of Pontet-Canet

I started collecting wine just as the tremendous 2000 vintage was being released, and so before I even had much experience with Bordeaux, by almost pure chance, my first serious Bordeaux cellar purchase was a couple bottles of the 2000 Pontet-Canet. How exciting its been to watch the ascendance of this 5th Growth since then, and how lucky I've felt to have those bottles in the cellar, with all the talk of Pontet-Canet having become a "super-second" with the 2005 vintage, and even the lesser vintages becoming more expensive than the 2000 was on release. The story of this chateau is well-known now: its location right next to Mouton-Rothschild, and how it was considered one of the top estates in the early 19th century; its slow decline to rock-bottom during the Cruse scandal of the 1970s; and finally how the Tesseron family painstakingly revived it over two decades, preparing it for its meteoric rise that started in the mid-1990s. Given my experience with the 1970 (below), it is clear that even at its lowest ebb, there was greatness lurking here. I've had the pleasure to taste more wines from Pontet-Canet than from any other Bordeaux estate, and the style has become familiar: dense, dark, tarry, firm. Some say Pontet-Canet now resembles St.-Julien more than Pauillac, and they may be right, but what it is for certain is a great example of a modern claret that has not sold its soul like many others.

A couple weeks ago, I organized a wine dinner featuring the 1970 and the 2002 vintages of the Grand Vin, and the 2000 of Let Hauts (which in a vintage like 2000 is practically a grand vin itself):

Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac 1970
Base neck fill. Medium-dark garnet; good color! Very nice old Bordeaux nose, savory, and with glycerin showing. A succulent palate, with cherry/raspberry, cassis, and a bit of tar. Medium-full bodied. Opens and grows very nicely in the glass. Still has good fruit, with nice tone and structure; one can sense the intense 1970 structure this would once have had. Near the end of its very mature prime, but can probably hold at this level for a few more years; this wine is in great shape for its age. Quite a treat, and a consummate match to Julia Child's Boeuf Bourgignon! Excellent (87 - 90). [7/9/10]

Les Hauts de Pontet-Canet, Pauillac 2000
Medium dark ruby. Nose a bit funky and not much on the palate at first, but with time in the glass, it opens beautifully. Cherry/raspberry, cassis, tar/dark fruit, lots of mineral, hints of herbs, and hints of pencil lead. Succulent. Compared to the 1970 Pontet-Canet grand vin tasted just before, this drinks like a much younger version of the same wine, and seems to confirm the similarity between the two vintages (how nice to get to compare the two). In addition, nearly equal in quality to the 2002 Pontet-Canet grand vin tasted just after. Approachable now with air, but better in 3 - 5 years, and should drink nicely until 2020 or so. 2000 shows its depth here! Excellent / Exceptional (89 - 91). [7/9/10]

Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac 2002
Decanted 2 1/2 hours, and needed further time in the glass to open (nose a bit funky at first). Opaque ruby. Excellent, dense, rich nose. Cherry, blackberry, cassis, tarry/leathery notes, a hint of roasted herb/tobacco, and a hint of pencil lead/mineral. Full bodied, ripe, and dense, with good tone. Needs time, perhaps another 5 years, and shouldlast last until 2020 - 2025. Quite an impressive performance from this maligned vintage, and for under $40, a very impressive value as well. Exceptional (90 - 93). [7/9/10]

And as chance would have it, I had also had the opportunity to taste the 2003 in May:

Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac 2003
Decanted for over an hour. Dark, warm ruby; impressive color. Great nose!!! Black cherry, blackberry, juicy red currant, cassis, some floral notes, and a touch of citrus, with tobacco, a hint of pencil lead, mineral, roasted herbs, roasted meat, and espresso. Ripe, but not overly so, and there is a LOT of tannin hiding underneath. Has 2003 warmth, but with the tannin, density, and acidity to balance it. This is a wine you need to swirl in your mouth to perceive how well constituted it is under the ripe fruit. Approachable now and very pleasurable to drink, but will only get better, and I dare say it will achieve a more classical Bordeaux balance in its maturity. Has up to 20 years ahead of it; when will it hit its peak? Not sure - perhaps in 10 years. A lot of potential here. Extraordinary (93 - 95). [5/13/10]

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Chateau Talbot, St. Julien 2001

This wine helped in resolving a long standing family dispute over wine. For years, my wife claimed that Bordeaux can't meet the standards of our favorite wine region: Piedmont. Knowing her taste, the main point was around how Masculine are the wines (or the more feminine/elegant nature of a lot of Bordeaux wines that we had). Comes Talbot 2001 to show that the combination of masculine and elegant wines is not unique to Piedmont or Italy in general.

Chateau Talbot, St. Julien 2001
Started with excellent fruit: blueberries, black current later reveled earth and minerals with just a good hint of green notes. Masculine wine with an excellent elegant finish. Excellent / Exceptional (89 - 91)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

First experience with an unusual grape: St. Laurent

The red grapes of the central European countries, are an unusual lot, with combinations of flavors that most find at least perplexing, and some find off-putting. I for the most part have enjoyed my occasional meeting with such varieties as Blaufrankish and Zweigelt. Last night, I had for the first time a grape that to my palate is the most unusual of them: a St. Laurent, from Austria. It happens that Zweigelt is actually a cross of Blaufrankish and St. Laurent, so I've now met the "whole family." In short, a positive experience and an excellent wine. I'll be happy to have St. Laurent cross my path again, though I confess I might not seek it out.

Zantho, St. Laurent, Burgenland 2006 (Austria)

My first experience with this grape. Dark ruby. A rather stinky nose, but with some excellent components, notably showing the same wet gravel and tobacco notes that one finds in Haut-Brion, with dark fruit, a faint whiff of flowers (roses perhaps?), and a very prominent note of lemon. On the palate, cherry, dominate notes of tart lemon/citrus, dark, tarry plum, a faint hint of flowers, then very earthy wet gravel and tobacco notes. Medium-full bodied. The combination of prominent lemon acidity with a generous earthy character pushes the limits of conventional balance, but there is good quality and character in this wine, with excellent aromatic components. On the balance I like it quite a bit, and in its best moments I would give it an Exceptional (90 - 93) rating, but one does have to make some allowances, and meet it on its own terms. Drink now. Excellent / Exceptional (89 - 91). [6/9/10]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Morellino di Scansano

Hoping now to start anew with more frequent posting, I return to that region with the red wines that most closely hold my heart: Tuscany. But on this occasion a somewhat unusual Tuscan: Fattoria Le Pupille, Morellino di Scansano 2004. Some background: Morellino di Scansano, recently upgraded to DOCG in 2007, is found in Maremma on the Tuscan coast. Morellino is the local name for Sangiovese, and with Brunello/Rosso di Montalcino, it is one of only two Tuscan wines required to be composed of 100% Sangiovese. I don't have a lot of experience with Morellino, but my limited sample suggests two distinctive characteristics: a ripe style of fruit, and very prominment earthiness. What's unusal about this particular wine is that, while having some distinct Tuscan characteristics if you had given it to me blind, I might very well have guessed it was from the Languedoc!

Fattoria Le Pupille, Morellino di Scansano 2004
Pure, juicy black cherry uprfront, with plum, hints of citrus rind and tomato, and prominent baryard-style earthiness, with herbs on the finish, the whole also having a pleasant "sea air" salty quality. Medium-full bodied with a ripe style of fruit (but not overly ripe), and a sharp style of acidity (but not unpleasant). White the citrus rind, tomato, and herbs mark it as Tuscan, the overall style of the fruit and the baryard remind me as much of Minervois in the Languedoc as they do of Tuscany, or within Italy, perhaps of Salento in Puglia. Whatever the case, this is quite a nice wine, perhaps now at its mature zenith, and should be drunk now or in the next two years. Excellent (87 -90) [5/8/10]

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Surprising Gatinara - 1997

Travaglini, Gatinara Tre Vigni 1997
A pleasent surprise from the mostly unknown Gatinara DOCG in Piedmont, Italy. Reading the reviews, I was afraid that this wine might not be a perfect choice for celebrating our 13th anniversary. But, this wine proved (again) that reviewers might be wrong. It was an excellent Nebbiolo expression: Opening with red berries, light earthy notes and a silky long ending, it developed in the glass to have leather, mushroom, more black fruits and great acidity. It is at its peak. Excellent / Exceptional (89 - 91)
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