Gary Farrell Vineyards And Winery
This winery was founded by Gary Farrell in 1982. Gary had apprenticed at a number of wineries in the late 1970s and was convinced of the potential for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Sonoma. His first release was a Pinot Noir from Rochioli Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. From that time forward he continued to make a variety of wines from vineyards located in the cooler regions of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. In 2004 he sold the winery to Allied Domecq. A few years later Allied Domecq was bought out and ownership went to Ascentia Wine Estates. Last year ownership changed again when the winery was sold to Vincraft, a fine wine investment company.
These two recent “Russian River Selection” wines are lovely.
2009 Gary Farrell Vineyards And Winery Chardonnay Russian River Selection Russian River Valley.
Light yellow in color with a faint golden hue this Chardonnay has a lovely perfume with floral nuances and hints of peach and citrus with a kiss of vanilla. It has lovely fruit and has elegance with a nice underlying crispness. The flavors are harmonious and well integrated with peach, citrus, vanilla, and spice combined to make this a wine with great early appeal – Outstanding. $32
2009 Gary Farrell Vineyards And Winery Pinot Noir Russian River Selection Russian River Valley.
Grapes for this wine were sourced from some of the best know vineyards in the Russian River Valley including Rochioli, Allen, and Hallberg. The wine has a deep color and a gorgeous perfume of plums and berries with faint underlying hints of spice, green olive, and smoke. The fruit is gorgeous and redolent of plums and berries with floral herbal undertones and a faint herbal nuance. Balanced and very appealing now, this Pinot Noir also has the structure to age beautifully for many years – Outstanding. $42
I recently paid a visit to this winery in Paso Robles. It was an interesting visit. Stephan Asseo, owner and winemaker at L’Aventure Winery, began making wine in 1982 in Bordeaux. He and his family owned Chateau Fleur Cardinal, Saint Emilion Grand Cru and two other wineries. But, he wanted to explore possibilities outside of Bordeaux and in 1996 he began looking for a place where he could make his ideal wine from a great terroir. After more than a year of searching he found it in the west side of Paso Robles. He purchased land and began his adventure, “L’Aventure.”
The vineyards were planted in 1998 and 2004. They are planted mostly on rocky slopes and the top portions have very little top soil. The vineyards are mostly planted to Red Bordeaux and Rhone varieties. The climate at this location in West Paso Robles allows for the grapes to have a very long growing season. The season on average is 10-17 days longer for Cabernet Sauvignon here than in Napa Valley. The grapes are not picked based on sugar. They are harvested at the perfect degree of ripeness. This yields very intense red wines. Alcohol is the by product of the ripeness of the grapes and are in a range of 15-17%. This results in some of the most intense red wines out there. The wines are incredibly rich. If this is your style, you might want to check them out. A large portion of their average 6-7,000 case average production is sold to their Wine Club. (To go to their website click here)
But, the two wines that caught my fancy were the Rosé and the Rousanne. The Roussane, in particular, was really nice. In fact, I believe that the future for white Rhone varietals in Paso Robles is extremely promising. Just now, the white wines are beginning to receive more recognition, but they are obscured by the production of red wine. Over time, I would look for more producers to make more white wine. And, yes, that would include L’Aventure as well.
2010 L’Aventure Roussanne Estate Paso Robles.
Blended with 13% Grenache Blanc is this is a lovely wine with 14.9% alcohol that still maintains a sense of clarity. It is light golden yellow in color and has a deep perfume with hints of apricot, almond and citrus blossom. It is lush, supple, and rounded with lots of sweet fruit showing nuances of apricot and peach with faint floral spice undertone – Outstanding. $40
2010 L’Aventure Rosé Estate Paso Robles.
Made with 70% Syrah and 30% Pinot Noir this rosé has a light golden orange color and a nice floral perfume with hints of herbs and spice. It is supple and quite rich with floral spice nuances and a tinge of bitter almond. With a bright underlying crispness this is a very nice rosé – Highly Recommended. $25
Last December I tasted La Follette wines for the first time and wrote an article featuring notes on a few 2009 Pinot Noirs. Below is the introduction to that article:
“La Follette is a new winery that is the lifelong ambition of Greg La Follette. Greg obtained degrees in Plant Biology and Chemistry as well as Food Science in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He became interested in the wine making of Burgundy and sought to apply new production techniques in California. Inspired by such legendary winemakers as the late Dick Graff of Chalone Vineyards (click here to read about the great 1978 Chalone Pinot Noir), he began at Beaulieu Vineyards as research viticulturist and enologist for the late famed winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. He traveled to other areas and worked for several other wineries until joining Flowers Vineyards and Winery in 1996 as head wine maker and general manager. In 2001 he set out consulting on vineyard and winery projects around the world and founded Tandem wines. A few years ago, he partnered with Pete Knight, proprietor of Quivira Vineyards and Winery. Tandem was renamed La Follette with Greg as the winemaker.
These 2009s are sourced from vineyards where Greg has had associations with the growers for many years. This is the second vintage for wines from these vineyards under the La Follette label….” (To read the entire article click here)
Below are notes on 3 new Chardonnay releases. Like the 2009 Pinot Noirs these are rich wines. But, the richness is balanced by very pure fruit. I tasted the wines over 5 days and they held up beautifully.
2009 La Follette Winery Chardonnay Manchester Ridge Vineyard Mendocino Ridge.
Some 499 cases of this Chardonnay were produced. The wine is made from 3 different clones of Chardonnay grapes grown in decomposed sandstone on a 2000 foot Ridge near the Mendocino Coast. Light golden yellow in color it has a light yellow gold color and a deep perfume of peach and apricot fruit with a kiss of vanilla and citrus and faint hints of honey, pineapple, and mint. As the wine evolved over several days, the honeyed pineapple qualities became more obvious. The flavors show pure sweet fruit with apricot and citrus complemented by tropical citrus notes. A honeyed pineapple flavor became more apparent in the later tastings. This is a marvelously rich Chardonnay with wonderful sweet fruit – Outstanding Plus. $47.99
2009 La Follette Winery Chardonnay Lorenzo Vineyard Russian River Valley.
Only 100 Cases of this Chardonnay were produced. This vineyard was planted in 1974. The wine has a light golden yellow color and a lovely perfume of peach and citrus with subtle hints of vanilla and spice. The flavors show bright fresh fruit with hints of citrus, peach and apricot and there is a nice underlying crispness. Over several days the wine became more integrated and the crispness was very much in evidence – Outstanding. $37.99
2010 La Follette Winery Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast.
Some 560 cases of this wine were produced. The wine is light golden yellow in color and has a lovely citrus peach tinged perfume with faint hints of mint and almond. It has lovely fruit with suggestions of peach and citrus and a kiss of spice. With a nice crispness, this Chardonnay after a few days began to show a faint honeyed nuance and a tinge of mint with balanced citrus undertone – Outstanding. $37.99
And, again like the 2009 Pinot Noirs, the production of these wines is very small. I would encourage you to go to the website www.lafollettewines.com . On their website you can join the Vigneron Club to buy wines and get discounts. Also, there is a lot of very interesting background information and a blog that has updated postings that are very insightful, interesting, and well written. As an example, there is a 21 question interview with Greg conducted by the assistant winemaker, Simone Sequeira, that has some interesting and funny moments. (To read the interview click here)
Mount Veeder Winery
Last year I reviewed the newly released 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Here is an updated version of that introduction. Michael and Arlene Bernstein first discovered the rugged property in the early 1960s and later bought it as a rustic retreat. After farming the property’s prune orchard for the first few years, a farmhand who lived on the property gave them some cast-off grapevine cuttings. Michael stuck the unrooted cuttings into the ground did not water them. Amazingly, 58 of the 60 cuttings survived. In 1965 Mt. Veeder Winery’s first vineyards were planted. Michael continued to plant vineyards and became the first vintner in Napa Valley to plant one property to all five of the classic Bordeaux varieties. In 1973 the winery produced its first wine. The property consists of 80 acres high in the Mayacamas Mountains, but because of the rugged terrain only 35 acres are planted. In the 1970s, I visited the winery several times and met with Michael and Arlene Bernstein. During this time I purchased many of the early wines. I loved the wines from the beginning and I still have some old Mt. Veeder wines from the 1970s in my cellar. They are marvelous today. Here is a note on a fantastic old Mt. Veeder Cabernet from last November:
1977 Mt. Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford, Napa Valley Niebaum Coppola Vineyards.
Oh my! What a wine this is! It is a stunning example of the potential for this historic vineyard. The great old Inglenooks from the 1930s to the early 1960s are some of the greatest California Cabernets ever. Sadly, they have been in a long slumber since. But, then there is this absolutely great wine that is a match for some of the old Inglenooks. And, while it is absolutely delicious it is still a baby with a long life ahead. Dark in color there is only a faint hint of amber at the edge. The perfume is fantastic showing cassis and cedar with a touch of spice and a faint dustiness. It is very rich and flavorful with great balance. The flavors again show cassis and cedar with an underlying spicy, foresty, faintly earthy undertone. Very long on the palate, this is a fabulous wine for the ages – Extraordinary.
(To read the entire article click here)
In the hallway of my cellar the old bottles are close to a pen and ink drawing of the Mt. Veeder Winery Vineyards drawn by Arlene Bernstein in 1975 which is shown below.
Vines in the Mt. Veeder area were first planted in the early 1860s. Cabernets from the Mount Veeder area have been thought by many to have the potential to be some of the finest wines from Napa. The late home winemaker, Norm Mini, who made wines from Mt.Veeder and Eisele Vineyard in Calistoga, was one of those who believed in the potential of Mt. Veeder. (I will have an article soon on Norm Mini and his wines including tastings a many different bottlings from the 1970s that were conducted in recent years. Stay tuned!)
To read an interview with Michael Bernstein on the history of the vineyards and winery and to get more information about Mt.Veeder wines from the Mt. Veeder Wine Growers website click here. And to get more information about Mt. Veeder Winery and their wine club click here.
2009 Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley.
This wine is composed of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec, and 1% Syrah. It is dark in color with cassis and blackberry fruit and faint briary cedar nuances. Well structured with balanced tannins, the wine has lots of supple spice tinged blackberry and cassis fruit. It drinks well now, but should repay many years of additional aging – Outstanding. $40
Robert Craig Winery
Last fall I reviewed two of the 2008 Robert Craig releases. Here is part of my introduction:
“Robert Craig has some three decades of experience in dealing with Napa Valley mountain vineyards. He started his own winery in 1992 and produced his first wine in 1995. I have been tasting and reviewing the wines since the beginning. And, even more important, I have been cellaring and drinking the wines over that same period. Wines still in my cellar from the decade of the 1990s are delicious today and show every indication that they will continue to be gorgeous wines for many years to come….” (To read that article click here)
In fact, as I was tasting this latest release of Affinity I took out a 1997 just to see how they matched up. My notes on both are below:
2009 Robert Craig Affinity Napa Valley.
The grapes for this wine come from the Affinity estate vineyard located to the south of Stag’s Leap in the southeastern foothills of Mt. George. The 2009 produced 6000 cases. Affinity was created by Robert Craig some 20 years ago. The grapes are always mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with other Bordeaux varietals. This 2009 is 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot, 2% Malbec, and 1% Cabernet Franc. The color is very dark and the wine has a deep perfume of plum and cassis with floral cedar undertones. Lush and rounded, but with structure and balanced tannins, this Cabernet has depth and flavor with lots of ripe plum fruit with tinges of cassis and cedar. Tasted over 4 days the wine was continuing to open and soften – Outstanding. $50
1997 Robert Craig Affinity Napa Valley.
Dark in color with an amber tone and a amber edge this wine has a gorgeous perfume of blackberry, cedar, and mint. Very pure this is a Cabernet with elegance and flavor. Balanced and supple there is lovely cedar tinged fruit and great purity and balance – Outstanding Plus.
Here the wines are stylistically similar, although the 2009 shows riper fruit. It will repay a decade or two of aging. The 1997 shows the texture and integration of well aged wine. It is gorgeous and will keep for many more years.
To learn more about Robert Craig and join the Cabernet Club for discounts on wine purchases, special offers and events go to www.robertcraigwine.com .
Robert Mondavi Winery.
Late last year I posted an article that included a few recent releases of Robert Mondavi wines. Here is an excerpt : “The late Robert Mondavi founded this winery in 1966. It has had a history that is quite incredible. In the forefront of the great California wine boom, there have been ups and downs, successes and controversies. I have followed it from the beginning and I know a lot of the history very well. But the fact is, that Robert Mondavi was tireless and driven. He built a world renowned brand and was a leader in promoting Napa Valley, Napa Valley wines, food and wine, the arts, and a life style incorporating all of these things. You can visit the website www.robertmondavi.com for more information on his history, the history of the winery, and the Robert Mondavi Spotlight Wine Club.”
As I said then, it had been quite some time since I had tasted any Robert Mondavi wines. Recently I tasted two new releases. I found the wines quite impressive and the white wine, 2009 Robert Mondavi Winery Fumé Blanc Reserve To-Kalon Vineyard Napa Valley, in particular, is uniquely stunning. The red wine, 2008 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Reserve Napa Valley, I also found very attractive. The styles are quite different than what I remember of Robert Mondavi wines in the past, so let me touch on that first.
As I described above, Robert Mondavi was “tireless and driven.” He was also a marketing genius and built a world renowned brand. But, many of us longed for something more. He shunned making wines from designated vineyards. This was despite the fact that he owned some very great vineyards and had access to many more. In discussions with many people in those early years it seemed apparent that he was more concerned with the brand than the vineyard. I remember when my friends, the late Belle and Barney Rhodes (who were extremely good friends of Robert Mondavi and the Mondavi family), asked me if I would go to Robert Mondavi and ask him if he would bottle a To-Kalon Cabernet.
They believed, as I and many others did, that the greatest wines are made from the greatest vineyards and not made from blends of grapes from many different vineyards. Belle and Barney were pioneers in Napa Valley of the 1950s and 1960s. They were involved, along with Tom and Martha May (the owners), and Joe Heitz (owner and winemaker at Heitz Cellars), in the evolution of the great Martha’s Vineyard in Napa Valley. Joe Heitz introduced the first Napa Valley vineyard designated wine, Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, in 1966. Later Belle and Barney planted Bella Oaks Vineyard which, like Martha’s Vineyard, was made by Heitz Cellars from the very first vintage in 1976 and continues to this day. Belle and Barney and many of our other friends shared a love of balanced wines of intensity, complexity and harmony. We found that in the great vintages of Martha’s Vineyard, but often not all present in the Robert Mondavi Cabernets.
I would have liked to have been able to promote the idea of a Robert Mondavi vineyard designated wine. But, I told Belle and Barney that, while I was honored that they would ask me, that I did not believe I could have any impact. I explained that, over the years, I had talked with Robert and other members of the Mondavi family and had not gotten any indication that there was much interest in doing something like a designated vineyard bottling. The focus was elsewhere. So I never approached the subject again except to later publish an editorial when the first Opus One wine was released. In that editorial, I criticized the creation of a wine which was positioned in the highest price bracket with no dedicated vineyard behind it and no track record. (This I will cover in more depth in an upcoming “Retrospective Review” Of Volume 5, Number 11 from June 1984 that features that Opus One article as “One Winedrinkers Opinion.”)
Today, Robert Mondavi is gone, as are Belle and Barney Rhodes, and Joe Heitz. But, they are not forgotten. All have left a legacy that continues to this day. And, how gratifying it is to see the push in the new direction at Robert Mondavi Winery. There are now vineyard designated bottlings such as the To-Kalon Fumé Blanc Reserve that are unique and spectacularly good. Wine drinkers everywhere can find new things to love from this venerable winery.
2009 Robert Mondavi Winery Fumé Blanc Reserve To-Kalon Vineyard Napa Valley.
This is a unique and delicious wine. As a pioneer producer of this varietal, this wine represents and wonderful definition of new world fruit accented by just the right amount of oak. The wine is made from a blend of 98% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Semillon all sourced from the To-Kalon vineyard in Oakville. The wine is light yellow in color with a lovely vanilla tinged perfume showing floral, herbal, citrus nuances with a faint tropical undertone. It is beautifully balanced with a nice softness matched by a nice crisp tinge of grapefruit. The flavors are also complex and intermingled with tinges of pineapple and a touch of spice and herbs. This is a great example of a new variation on the classic Sauvignon Blanc grape – Outstanding Plus. $40
2008 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley.
This wine is made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Petit Verdot with 82% of the grapes coming from the To-Kalon Vineyard. It is quite an intense wine and is listed at 15.5% alcohol. The color is dark and there is a deep perfume of cassis, cedar, and chocolate. There is lots of blackberry and cassis on the palate that is intermingled with spice, vanilla, and chocolate undertones. Fruit driven and flavorul this is a wine with early appeal in a rich style – Outstanding. $135
Tablas Creek Vineyard
Tablas Creek Vineyard is located in Paso Robles and is the California extension of the great Beaucastel estate in Chateauneuf du Pape. Even though it is relatively new, the experience of the owners has enabled the winery to produce really delicious wines from the very beginning. They are a shining example of bringing balance to the Rhone varietals grown in the warm climate of Paso Robles. The wines are balanced and display gorgeous fruit and flavors. These are wines you really need to try. You can read more about Tablas Creek and join their wine club, VINsider Wine club, for special wines sold only from the winery and discounts on other wines by going to their website http://www.tablascreek.com/ (To read my initial article on Tablas Creek click here.)
Tablas Creek just seems to go from strength to strength. They have pulled off the hat trick with their latest three releases. These are wines to buy!
This is a trio of balanced wines that provide value and pleasure to suit your mood. The Patelin de Tablas Blanc shows complexity and finesse with lovely flavors. The Rosé estate is a delicious fruit forward wine with great early appeal. And, the Côtes de Tablas is a really delicious and supple red wine. Don’t miss these wines!
2011 Tablas Creek Vineyard Patelin de Tablas Blanc.
There were 2750 cases of this wine produced. The Tablas Creek Vineyard Patelin de Tablas Blanc is a blend of four white Rhone varietals: Grenache Blanc, Roussane, Marsanne, and Viognier. The grapes for the 2011 were sourced from 11 vineyards in Paso Robles. It is composed of 45% Grenache Blanc, 34% Viognier, 18% Roussanne, and 3% Marsanne.
Pale yellow in color with a very faint golden amber hue this wine has a gorgeous floral perfume with hints of peach and a touch of spice. Elegant, yet flavorful the wine has balance and finesse. There is a very appealing combination of citrus and peach with a faint minerality and a kiss of spice and the finish is lovely with a nice underlying crispness – Outstanding. $20
2011 Tablas Creek Vineyard Rosé Estate.
Production of this wine totaled 1050 cases. The Tablas Creek Vineyard Rosé is a blend of three estate grown Rhone varietals. The 2011 is 58% Mouvedre, 30% Grenache, and 12% Counoise.
Light red in color with a faint golden hue this rosé has a lovely perfume showing hints of raspberry and watermelon with a touch of spice. It has lush fruit with cherry, raspberry, and watermelon nuances and a kiss of spice. Balanced and very tasty this is a gorgeous fruit driven rosé – Outstanding. $27
2010 Tablas Creek Vineyard Côtes de Tablas.
There were 2400 cases of this wine produced. The Tablas Creek Vineyard Côtes de Tablas is a blend of four estate Rhone varietals: Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre, and Counoise. The 2010 is 46% Grenache, 39% Syrah, 10% Mouvedre, and 5% Counoise.
Tasted over 4 days the wine softened and held beautifully. It should age beautifully. Dark in color the wine has a gorgeous perfume blackberry and cherry with hints of spice and cedar. Supple and rounded there is lots of flavor and gorgeous fruit. Plum, blackberry, spice and cedar are beautifully married and the wine is balanced with a long finish – Outstanding. $30
The beautiful little village of Aloxe-Corton is located on the Corton hill in the Cote de Beaune. The area produces red and white wines. The red wines include the great Grand Crus of Corton and 13 Premier Crus. The total surface area is nearly 300 acres.
I tasted these wines for the first time last year. Here is what I had to say then:
“Wow! These are impressive wines. I don’t often make wine comparisons because I think most of them are stupid and nothing but marketing hype. But, at the risk of being called stupid (and, believe me, I have been called worse), I would like to say a few things about Domaine Follin-Arbelet. First, I know virtually nothing about this producer other than what is written here. Second, this is the first time I have ever tasted Follin-Arbelet wines. But, this is exactly the same position I was in way back in 1980 when I first tasted the fabulous 1978 wines of the late, great Henri Jayer (The retrospective of this tasting will be published soon.) (Since published. To view the Retrospective Review click here) And, yes I know it is way too early to make that comparison, but I do note a similarity. The Follin-Arbelet wines are very pure, balanced, and have complexity as well as a large dose of the elusive, and hard to define, delicious factor. And, of course there is a white wine in the Follin-Arbelet stable, whereas Henri Jayer did not make a white wine. So that question is moot….Kermit Lynch was one of three importers to first bring in the 1978 Henri Jayer wines. And, he is now importing the wines of Domaine Follin-Arbelet! (To read note on the 2008s and 2009s previously reviewed click here) These are the last two 2009s to arrive. (To find out more about the wines and where they can be purchased click here)
2009 Domaine Follin-Arbelet Aloxe-Corton Clos Du Chapitre 1er Cru.
Dark in color this Burgundy has a stunning floral perfume with cherries and plums and a touch of spice. It has richness and depth and lots of plummy fruit with floral spics nuances. There is a soft underlying tannin that needs a few years to resolve, but no question this is a gorgeous wine – Outstanding. $80 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA
2009 Domaine Follin-Arbelet Aloxe-Corton Les Vercots 1er Cru.
With a deep color this Burgundy has a lovely perfume that is faintly floral with cherry and berry fruit showing a touch of spice. It has structure yet is elegant and balanced with very pure fruit. Supple and flavorful there are hints of spice underneath the floral berry fruit and there is a lovely finish – Outstanding. $80 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA
Domaine A. et P. de Villaine
Here is what I said about this Domaine in my article last year:
“Aubert de Villaine is the co-proprietor of Domaine de la Romanée Conti. But, aside from that, he and his wife, Pamela, own Domaine A. et P. de Villaine in Bouzeron. Bouzeron is the first village in the Cote de Chalonnaise which is just South of Chassagne-Montrachet and Santenay in between Rully and Mercurey.
Vines in Bouzeron were first planted by the monks of Cluny in the Middle Ages. The Domaine A. et P. de Villaine consists of over 50 acres of vineyards planted to Aligoté, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Since 1986, the vineyards have been organically farmed. Yields are controlled through selective planting, severe pruning, and occasional pre-harvest thinning. As a result, yields are typically about 20% below the yields authorized by government regulations. This produces wines that are flavorful, yet refined.
I first started buying and drinking wines from this Domaine in the late 1970s. They have always given me great enjoyment. They are wines of great harmony, balance, and finesse. The wines are attractive in their youth, but most of the wines can be aged for an extended period. They are also attractively priced and represent very good value. If you are seeking wines that are harmonious and balanced with moderate levels of alcohol (12-12.5%) and are great accompaniments to a wide variety of foods, then these are definitely wines for you to try.”
Like the 2009s, (To read notes on these wines click here) these 2010s are really lovely. They have finesse and balance and all have low 12.5% alcohol levels. Tasted over several days they opened and really began to shine. All will benefit from decanting. The whites are particularly successful, but again are best after decanting. All these 2010s will benefit from a few years of bottle age. Wines from this Domaine are very consistent and can be bought with confidence year in and year out. The wines of Domaine A. et P. de Villaine are imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA
2010 A & P De Villaine Bourgogne Rouge La Digoine.
With a nice color this wine has a lovely faintly floral perfume with hints of raspberry and cherry. It is very elegant with lovely fruit and has a nice crispness – Highly Recommended. $45
2010 A & P De Villaine Bourgogne Rouge La Fortune.
This wine has a nice color and a lovely floral perfume with hints of cherry and a faint smoky nuance. It has lovely fruit with a faint tinge of spice and a very nice crisp finish – Highly Recommended. $38
2010 A & P De Villaine Mercurey Rouge Les Montots.
With a nice color this wine has a gorgeous floral perfume with hints of cherry and a faint touch of spice. It is elegant and very pure with lovely cherry fruit tinged with spice. Balanced and flavorful with a nice crisp finish, this is really a lovely wine – Outstanding. $49
2010 A & P De Villaine Bouzeron Aligoté.
Light yellow in color with a lovely subtle floral perfume accented by citrus and a stony minerality this is wonderful example of Aligoté. It is crisp with very pure fruit showing hints of citrus and green apple and faint underlying minerality. This is particularly good with sashimi – Outstanding. $29
2010 A & P De Villaine Bourgogne Blanc Cote Chalonnaise Les Clos.
Light yellow in color this wine has a lovely perfume with floral hints and a touch of pineapple and citrus with a faint underlying minerality. It is a beautifully balanced elegant wine with gorgeous fruit and great finesse – Outstanding. $36
2010 A & P De Villaine Rully Blanc Les Saint Jacques.
This wine is light yellow in color and has a gorgeous floral perfume with a citrus tinge and a faint minerality. It is delicate yet flavorful with floral nuances and hints of pear and citrus. Balanced with elegance and finesse this is really lovely and has a nice underlying crispness – Outstanding. $40
Chablis is the northernmost district of Burgundy. The climate here is very cool and the grapes grown here are almost all Chardonnay. The wine attains great purity and crispness as well as often a distinct minerality. For me, I believe Jean-Marie Raveneau is the greatest Chablis producer. I have been buying, cellaring, and drinking his wines for nearly 40 years. It was Jean-Marie Raveneau who introduced the importer, Kermit Lynch, to this domaine. This is a domaine to follow.
Olivier Savary and his wife, Francine, have been growing grapes since 1984. Many of Olivier’s family members were grape growers, but his parents did not join the family business. However Olivier went to wine school and with his wife Francine began to farm some vineyards in Chablis and Petit Chablis. Initially their share of the production was sold to a négociant. But with the encouragement of his neighbor and child hood friend, the famous Jean-Marie Raveneau, he began bottling his own wine. Today they farm some 40 acres of vineyard ranging in age from 25-35 years and produce 3 wines. The 2010s are reviewed below. They are classic Chablis.
2010 Domaine Savary Chablis.|
This Chablis has a light yellow color and a nice perfume with hints of citrus and mineral and a faint underlying floral note. It is rounded and crisp with a citrus tinge and a subtle hint of minerality – Highly Recommended. $24 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA
2010 Domaine Savary Chablis Vieilles Vignes.
This is a gorgeous Chablis. It has a light yellow gold color and a great perfume with hints of citrus, flint, and pineapple. It is rounded and citrus tinged with hints of green apple and a nice underlying flintiness. The wine has great purity and the finish is very crisp and clean – Outstanding. $28 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA
2010 Domaine Savary Chablis Fourchaume 1er Cru.
This wine was initially quite closed. After decanting it opened a bit, but still was better after being opened for a couple of days. Decanting is essential here. Or better yet, age it for a few years. The wine has a light yellow color and a subtle floral perfume with tinges of peach and citrus with a faint minerality. An elegant and finesseful Chablis, this wine is very pure with lovely subtle fruit and faint tinges of citrus and mineral – Outstanding. $32 Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, CA
Today Macon is the largest producing area of white wine in Burgundy. Many years ago it was known for its red wines. Later, it was known for white wines that were produced mostly from high yielding vines and bottled by cooperatives. These wines were light and simple, even sometimes slightly sweet and were mass marked and inexpensive. Today there are more and more producers who are making serious white wines in Macon that can challenge some of the white wines from the better known areas. Yet, for the most part, they are still “Under The Radar” and can represent very good value. This is one.
Domaine Jean-Marie Chaland.
Until 1967 this family sold their grapes to the co-op. The Jean-Marie’s father began estate bottling under the Doamine des Chazelles name. Jean-Marie created his own estate in 1999 and when his father retires he will take over the rest of the vineyard holdings. Currently he farms about 20 acres of Chardonnay vines located in more than 20 separate parcels and produces about 3,000 cases a year.
2010 Domaine Jean-Marie Chaland Macon Blanc Les Tilles.
This wine is made from a parcel of 40-50 year old vines, located on a plateau of clay/limestone soil in the village of Montbellet. It is aged in stainless steel tanks and retains a very expressive minerality and zest. The wine is light yellow in color with a gorgeous perfume showing hints of pineapple and citrus with a faint floral nuance. This is is lovely pure crisp wine, yet with flavor and complexity. It is faintly floral with a citrus and mineral undertone and faint pineapple tinges and has a nice crisp finish – Outstanding. $20.59 Best Buy Shipped by Jean-Marie De Champs Beaune, FR and Imported by Wine House Limited San Francisco, CA (To find out more about the wines and where they can be purchased click here)
Montagny is located in the southern end of the Cote Chalonnnaise in Burgundy. The Cote Chalonnaise is situated between the Cote de Beaune to the north and Macon to the south. Montagy is the only one of the five Cote Chalonnaise appellations devoted exclusively to white wines which are made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes.
This domaine is owned by a woman named Arlette Michel and her husband Philippe Andreotti. Arlette took over when her father retired a few years ago. Most of the vines were planted around 30 years ago. The make 3 wines and this 2010 “Les Guignottes” is really lovely. “Guignottes” is one of the many words the French have for “cherry”. This is not a single vineyard but comes mostly from a vineyard called “Les Resses”.
2010 Domaine Michel-Andreotti Montagny Blanc Les Guignottes.
Light yellow in color this wine has a lovely perfume with hints of peach and citrus. It has finesse and elegance and a great style. The fruit is supple and rounded with a nice underlying crispness and the wine is balanced and very flavorful. This is really gorgeous and so easy to drink – Outstanding. $19.99 Best Buy Shipped by Jean-Marie De Champs Beaune, FR and Imported by Wine House Limited San Francisco, CA (To find out more about the wines and where they can be purchased click here)
New Champagnes from Franck Bonville have arrived. Here is what I said in my last article on Franck Bonville:
“…Franck Bonville is a producer I have gotten to know in the last few years by virtue of visiting there and also buying and drinking a lot the Champagnes here. These wines have rapidly become some of my very favorite Champagnes. The wines are pure and superbly balanced with lots of flavor. And they age and improve over a long period of time. One of the very best Champagnes I have had in the last few years was a 1961 Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru which was Perfection (To read my article and tasting note on this wine click here)
Franck Bonville is located in Avize and has about 50 acres of vines in the Grand Cru districts of Cramant, Avize, and Oger. After the Second World War Franck Bonville and his wife Jeannine marketed their first wines. Their son Gilles and his wife Ingrid followed in the family business and began making and marketing more of their wines. Today, their son Olivier is in charge with his parents and grandparents working along side.” (To read the last article click here) These recent cuvees of Franck Bonville Champagne are great. These are Champagnes to buy. Franck Bonville Champagne is Selected by K&L Wine Merchants and Imported by Premier Wine Company, Richmond, CA (To find out more about the wines and where they can be purchased click here)
NV Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs Brut Prestige Grand Cru.
This current release is made up of wines from the 2004, 2005, and 2006 vintages (the last release was made up of wines from the 1998, 2000, and 2002 vintages). The grapes all come from old, mid-slope vines in the Grand Cru villages of Oger and Cramant. The vine age averages over 50 years old, with no vines under 40 years old in the blend. This is an absolutely stunning Champagne. It is light yellow in color and has a gorgeous and enticing perfume with subtle floral nuances and hints of peach and citrus with a faint spice. With great balance and elegance the wine has complex flavors of peach and citrus with floral spice notes and a faint kiss of vanilla. Very long on the finish, this is a great Champagne – Extraordinary. $44.99 BEST BUY
NV Franck Bonville Rosé Brut Grand Cru.
This is the second time this Rosé has been imported. Olivier was able to trade for some red wine to make this Rosé. It is composed of 92% Grand Cru grapes from estate grown Chardonnay and 8% Pinot Noir from Ambonnay. This is a great rosé. Light pink in color it has an absolutely gorgeous perfume with raspberry and cherry fruit accented by floral citrus notes and a faint hint of spice. There is a creamy texture with a nice crispness underneath and the fruit is complex with raspberry, cherry, and citrus offset by a kiss of vanilla. Irresistible now this is really terrific – Extraordinary. $39.99 BEST BUY
NV Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru.
This is a really lovely Champagne and a great value. The fruit comes from the Bonville estate vineyards in the Grand Cru of Avize. It is blended with ½ coming from 2007 and the balance a blend of reserve wines from 2004, 2005, and 2006. The color is pale yellow and the perfume is gorgeous and pure with floral citrus nuances. The wine has lush fruit but also retains a great elegance. Citrus and floral nuances are accented by faint hints of vanilla. This it great now but has the ability to age for a very long time – Outstanding Plus. $32.99 Best Buy
NV Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Grand Cru.
This is the first Extra Brut Champagne ever made by Frank Bonville and it was produced in a miniscule quantity of less than 200 cases of which only 10 case were imported. It is light yellow in color and has a faint mineral tinged citrus perfume. It is very crisp, bright and fresh with lovely fruit and a long crisp finish. This is a great Champagne for Sashimi or delicate seafood dishes – Outstanding. $39.99
A.R. Lenoble is a family-owned business now under the direction of the 4th generation. The name A.R. Lenoble comes from the initials of the founder Armand Raphael and the name “Lenoble” is based on the belief that “Champagne is the most noble of wines.” The grapes come primarily from their Grand Cru Chardonnay vineyards in Chouilly, one of the Grand Cru villages in the Cote de Blancs and some Pinot Noir from the Premier Cru village of Bisseuil in the Montagne de Reims. This is a Champagne house that consistently produces outstanding wines that are great values. (To read an earlier review click here) The A.R. Lenoble Champagnes are imported by Atherton Wine Imports Atherton, CA.
2006 A.R. Lenoble Rosé Brut.
This is a delicious rosé Champagne. It has a pale pink color and a lovely faintly floral perfume with hints of strawberry and a tinge of spice. The fruit is gorgeous with hints of strawberry and raspberry with a kiss of citrus. Delicate, yet flavorful, with great elegance and finesse, this is just gorgeous – Outstanding Plus. $56.oo
Pierre Paillard is a small grower with just under 30 acres of vines in Bouzy Grand Cru. Bouzy is mostly Pinot Noir, but here there are 40% Chardonnay vines and 60% Pinot Noir. The property has been in the family for 8 generations and they have been bottling under this name for 4 generations. They make 5 different cuvees and the annual production is around 8,000 cases. Pierre Paillard is amongst the first in Champagne (or anywhere for that matter) to put a code on the back label which can be accessed by a mobile device and give you information such as a description of the wine, foods to eat with it, etc. This is a great new feature that all wineries should adapt.
NV Pierre Paillard Rosé Grand Cru.
This rosé is 70% chardonnay and 30% pinot noir of which 6% is still red wine from Bouzy. The base wine is from the 2008 vintage with 21% reserve wine from the 2007 vintage. It has a pale salmon pink color with a faint golden hue and a mineral tinged perfume with faint floral citrus nuances and hints of strawberry. This is a racy Champagne with great fruit flavors backed by a citrus tinge and an underlying minerality. With great structure and definition the finish is long and crisp – Outstanding Plus. $49.99
Sancerre is an area in the Loire Valley that produces some of the most refined and delicious Sauvignon Blanc in the world. It is one of my absolute favorite white wines. (To read my recent article on Sancerre click here)
Domaine Gérard Boulay
This 23 acre family domaine has a history dating back to the 14th century. At that time, the Clos de Beaujeu in Chavignol was known for its white wine. This was very unusual for back then Sancerre was known for red wine. The average age of the wines here is about 45 years. There are five wines made here including 4 whites (including Clos de Beaujeu) and a rosé from Chavignol. Chavin Gérard has described his role as winemaker as one of surveillance to make sure that nothing goes wrong. In his words he says “nature makes the wine”. And, this is as it should be. After all, a 600 plus year history has taught that intervention and manipulative wine making is not something to be followed.
This 2010 Clos de Beaujeu is the first wine that I can recall tasting from this domaine. And, guess what? I have found another favorite Sancerre producer!
2010 Gérard Boulay Sancerre Clos de Beaujeu.
The grapes for this wine come from a vineyard that is less than 2 acres in size. This wine is gorgeous! It has a great perfume showing floral herbal notes and a touch of citrus and melon with a faint underlying minerality. The fruit is lovely with hints of melon and a touch of citrus and pineapple. The minerality is subtle yet very well defined. The wine is beautifully integrated with elegance and finesse and a long crisp finish – Outstanding Plus. $34.99 Imported by Polander Selections Mount Kisco, NY
Founded in 1970, Ponzi Vineyards was one of the pioneer Oregon wineries. The winery has been under the direction of the second generation for more than two decades. This Pinot Gris is made from mostly estate grown grapes. Oregon Pinot Gris is one of my favorite inexpensive “Under The Radar” white wines. It is great with a wide variety of foods, but I especially like it with pork.
2011 Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Gris Williamette Valley.
Pale yellow in color this wine has a gorgeous perfume with faint hints of lichee nut, pear and apple intermingled with a kiss of citrus. It has great finesse and is elegant and crisp with a very faint petillance. The fruit is very pure with subtle nuances of apple and pear with a faint floral grapefruit note. This is really terrific and a great value. Don’t miss it – Outstanding. $11.99 Best Buy
Three of the major wine regions of Spain are Priorat, Ribera del Duero, and Rioja. The Priorat is located in the Catalonia area of southern Spain. The wines of Priorat are enjoying a renaissance with a new style of intense fruit and a required minimum of 13.5% alcohol. The red wines are based on Grenache with some Carignan. There are old vines of these varieties in the area and more recently some plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah have been added. The Ribera del Duero is located on Spain’s northern plateau. The principal grape here is the Tempranillo. It is the home of what I believe is the best Spanish red wine, Vega Sicilia. (To read about a very great Vega Sicilia Reserva Especiale click here) The Rioja is located in northern Spain. It is one of the oldest wine growing regions in the world dating back to the 9th century. Typically the red wines are a blend of grapes with Tempranillo and Grenache the most prominent. Also, they are aged in oak and are designated for the length of time aged in oak and bottle before they are sold.
Spanish Red Wines – Heredad Collection
Spanish wines are receiving a lot of attention these days for their balance and value. Here are notes on some really nice red wines. They are part of the Heredad Collection and are imported by Freixenet USA, Inc Sonoma, CA. Later, I expect to do reviews of many different Spanish Albariños. Albariño is the great food friendly and value priced Spanish white wine. (To read my most recent comments on Albariño click here)
2008 Vaza Crianza Rioja.
Vaza is a brand originating from the Spanish word “Baza” which means “new beginning”. The wine is made at Solar Viejo winery and is made from Tempranillo grapes. Crianza is a designation that the wine was aged for a least 2 years with at least 1 year in cask before it is sold. This wine has a deep color and a gorgeous floral berry perfume accented by cedar and spice and a tinge of chocolate. There is a great intensity of mulberry fruit and the flavors are enhanced by a cedary nuance. Lovely to drink now, but this balanced and harmonious wine should age effortlessly for many years – Outstanding. $18 Best Buy
2009 Valdubón Ribera del Duero.
This winery was founded in 1997. With a deep color this wine has a lovely floral perfume with hints of plum and a faint spiciness. It is elegant, rounded, and finessful with very nice blance and a nice finish – Highly Recommended. $15
2003 Valdubón Crianza Ribera del Duero.
This wine is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes. Crianza means it was aged for at least 2 years with at least 1 year in cask before being offered for sale. With a deep color the wine has a lovely berry perfume with hints of cedar. Quite lush and forward there is lovely rounded fruit with hints of spice and cedar – Highly Recommended Plus. $18
2006 Valdubón Reserva Ribera del Duero.
The Reserva designation means that the wine was aged fro 3 years with at least 1 year in cask before being offered for sale. This is a lovely wine with a dark color and an engaging perfume of dried flowers and berry fruit with a touch of spice and cedar. It is rounded and supple, yet with good structure and backbone. The dark fruit flavors are accented by hints of cedar vanilla and spice and as nice is the wine is now I would expect it to evolve and develop over many years – Outstanding. $24 Best Buy
2007 Morlanda Crianca Priorat.
This winery was founded in 1997, but the vines surrounding it are much older with many 25 to 40 years old. This wine was aged in oak for 2 years before bottling and is composed of 50% Garnacha Tinta and 50% Cariñena. It is an intense wine with 15.5% alcohol, but it is balanced by the fruit and structure. With a dark color showing a tinge of purple the wine has a deep perfume of plum and berry fruit with cedar and spice nuances and a faint herbal undertone. There is lots of fruit and concentration which, complemented by a nice cedary tone and faint tinges of chocolate, envelop the soft underlying tannins. This is a wine that benefits greatly with decanting – Outstanding. $48