Tis the season for raiding cellars!!

santa-elves1-copy.jpgHolidays at the end of the year are a great time for going into the wine cellar (collection, closet) and picking out stuff you forgot about or have been holding onto for a special occasion. Enter St. Nick (yourself) and the merry elves (your wine tasting pals).
This season I have already busted out four cellar finds.
2003 Clautiere Estate Syrah ~$24/19 (retail/club price): I am in the wine club, happily. However, if it came down to a choice between Clautiere and Tablas Creek… And if the choice was Pipestone or Clautiere… That would be tougher. This wine is very ripe on the nose and in the mouth. Made me think of black cherry cream soda. Not my style but might be yours. If you love a rich and ripe wine that is without overwhelming tannins and moderate alcohol (14.3%) then this is a winner.
buddhaILNY.jpg2003 Linne Calodo Slacker $50: I am quite fond of the Rhone style blends from Linne Caoldo. I drank this wine recently along with the next wine below. punkILNY.jpgWe had it at Brentwood Restaurant on LA’s Westside near Barrington Circle (posh baby). I poured a glass of each for the maitre’d. He liked the first one but he loved this one. The blend in this vintage is 68% syrah, 22% grenache and 10% mourverdre. While I think I prefer grenache as the dominant grape in these blends I am proven wrong again with this concoction. I found it online for $39 which is very tempting. Alcohol is 15% which is typical for Paso. The wine is elegant, full bodied, muscular, even muscle-bound. Game-y, almost feral. Syrah dominant blends are often too jammy for me. I prefer meatier flavors in Rhone style wines. Think Punk on I Love New York. Not Buddha who is lean. Even with all the stuffing his wine is in balance. No-wut-im-sayn?
windwardlogo.gif1997 Windward Pinot Noir ~$30: I subscribed to this winery for four or five years (repeating myself here). I have a stash I have worked through. I stopped subscribing because the region is too hot for pinot noir. Sometimes, I do come across a bottle that does not remind me of creamy tomato soup. This vintage has the typical over-ripe fruit without much backbone. However, it is nicely balanced and on this evening was nice to drink with a light pasta meal. 14.4%.
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1996 Alessandria Barolo ~$50: I am sitting on a few 1996 Baroli. I was extremely fortunate to taste a bunch of 96 Baroli in the cellar of Domenico Clerico in 2000. What? You say no way? This is truth. Check out the photo! The 1996 vintage was really terrific. However, even though I do love to drop the line about tasting with Domenico Clerico (oops I did it again) I no longer buy Barolo wines. Clerico-a-perfect-host.jpgToo expensive and they take a really long time to come around to perfection. These have to be the fussiest wines in the world. When they are perfectly aged they are incomparable. But, hitting the right moment in the wine’s life is like trying to catch a hummingbird bare-handed. If you do you may wish you had not. This wine has softened, somewhat. However, there is still a tannic spine. It did not fade over a couple hours. The wine got neither more tannic, i.e., fruit fading, nor did the tar and roses emerge. Please note this is not the regular label which is a vanilla color. This is the label for their single vineyard. So, as often happens with Baroli…and picking market bottoms…you just can’t be sure what did take place.
scan0002.jpgHere is how we tasted the 1996 vintage in Clerico’s winery. Could this ever happen again? I diverted two nights and three days of a family tour of Italy to Piemonte. We stayed at Da Felicin which was a great find and has already been described on this blog. We had some tasting plans in advance with Rinaldi and Ciabot Berton. The Rinaldi wines were undrinkable. Rinaldi_Giuseppe_135x140.gifHe uses the mega Slovenian oak barrels and the wines were very backwards. Rinaldi-regazza.jpgThe next day we drove a few kms down the hill from Monforte to Clerico’s winery. No introduction. Cold call. Yours truly, the missus and two budding tasters. The winery was modern but nothing fancy. The etched glass doors were the most prominent statement to the Mondavi-wine-lifestyle. It turned out that Clerico is a local resource to many winemakers, especially the new guard, i.e., those winemakers aging their nebbiolo in barriques instead of Slovenian oak barrels or cement vats. He was a local heretic. What a nice guy! He had bottle samples of the 1996 vintage which he poured generously in full bellied stemware. Everyone got a pour including the kids. As we left he handed me a bottle of his new label Arte. The afternoon was grand. The wines were outstanding without exception. I saved my notes. Here they are (a little embarrassing but aw shucks I’m a dweeb).
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We ended the afternoon at Ciabo Berton below La Morra. Softer wines. Interesting family story as Ciabot-Berton-new-wave-crop.jpgthe brother and sister were aging juice in barriques while Pop continued to age in Slovenian oak barrels. Ah, the family wine business. Everybody has an idea.

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