Vinous cherry bombs and a dud

2006 Chateau Barbanau Cote de Provence $12: Dry mineral flavors. Everything I expect from a Provencal Rose’ which, in my experience, differs in a mineral style compared to wines from Languedoc or other SE France regions. These wines are so easily distinguishable from domestic Rose’ wines because they rarely have the big fruit found in CA wines (of which I am also fond, see Anglim out of Paso Robles). However, the real story here – as I discovered – is the importer, Charles Neal. Get thee forthwithly to charlesnealselections.com and read what these folks at Paul Marcus Importer have to say about how to start and sustain an importing business. The first thing you will find is that Mr. Neal picked the region from which to import based upon where he could buy wines below the silly pricing threshold, aka $20. He also took a liking to wines he could drink everyday and that were regional in style and blend, that is, the region has not yet been Parker-ized. The tasting notes from the Paul Marcus Imports staff that toured with Mr. Neal are fun to read and educational. Compare the Neal notes with those found in the LA Times by the Food section’s wine-tasting panel (“hint of lime, nice”). It is the difference between riding down a “technical” slope (fun and slightly dangerous) versus riding in your cul de sac (boring and only when necessary).
2005 Beaujolais Paul Durdilly Cuvee Unique Vielles Vignes “Les Grandes Coasses” $11.50: Ring that bell again!! Another winner from North Berkeley Wines. When I asked the clerk about this wine he said at $11.50 how can you go wrong? Put it in the box! Now I must reply how can he be so right? NB Wines – just call ’em up and order. You cannot lose. Perfectly balanced, rich fruit (perfectly ripe), middle-weight so a bit more heft than expected. I need more. So do you. Drink it right up to Turkey-day and put it on the table. How do they do it in Beaujolais? Great vintage, under-the-radar region. The label reads Red Burgundy Wine which is technically correct but without the trophy-wine pricing. I saw a pitch for a current release Leroy Bourgogne at $35. The pitch was this is cheap for Madame Bizes-Leroy. Well exxccuuuuuse me. Bag ’em and taste ’em blind. You may pick out the pinot but you won’t tell me the Madame’s wine is 300% better.
The next set was tasted at an Independence Day BBQ.
2006 Traversa Moscato d’Asti $15: Summer is for fresh and refreshing wines and that means rose’ and moscati d’asti. We have already said plenty about rose’ (not to worry I am confident we will say more) so here are some thoughts about moscati d’asti. They are low alcohol, between 5% and 7%. They are frooooty, think peaches, honeydew, melon. When not made well they are tooo frooooty. But when the winemaker hits the target they are like drinking starlight. They have a slight spritz and you serve them cold. This one had it all. Unremarkable house (Tarversa loyalists forgive my ignorance) with an outstanding product. I pushed this on the ladies as the men hit the 1999 Rochioli in protective seclusion. Fuggedaboudit. The moscato killed. “Please suh, cun I have some moh” they asked in their best Oliver impressions. Hell yeh. Going back for more.
1999 Rochioli East Block (cellar): Smoky nose, smoky flavors, bacon, ritz crackers (the cheese and dough thing). Solid unbroken flavor line like a Roman phalanx. A bit cloudy, dark brick color. Opening up after 15 minutes to lush ripe pinot fruit (neither strawberries or cherries). Rochioli is the class of Russian River wines (along with W/S). Extra special (I guess) since East Block is no more.
1995 Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard (cellar): Going against the grain here. This wine was over the hill despite perfect storage conditions. Brick-not-brown color but not much red either. A good wine with fruit fading fast. Ironic since I find his wines to be too fruity for my taste. If you’re British born before WWII you love this wine and consider it perfectly aged. I confess I have never been a fan of GF (even though he made my favorite domestic pinot at Rochioli from 1982 to 1986). He gets the best grapes from the best growers and is highly regarded and certainly knows much more about Russian River Valley (RRV) winemaking than myself. However, I have tasted through many vintages of Williams Selyem (W/S) and Rochioli to know they are at the summit of RRV wines. If I see a bottle made by a highly regarded winemaker who has sourced a top grower like Rochioli I want to know how he managed. Somebody told me he (the somebody not GF) had tasted a Brewer-Clifton bottling with Cargassachi pinot grapes. This is like Vlad Guerrero going to the Yankees. You have to see know how it worked out when stars get paired. I am sure this was a better wine to taste 5 years ago. On the other hand, I have to say I have tasted wonderful W/S and Rochioli wines that were 13 years old (and older). They held up better. Of course, 1995 was not exactly a memorable vintage for RRV.
2005 Malm Cellars Sonoma County Pinot Noir $16: Smoky nose and flavors reminiscent of the Rochioli. Fresher, more fruit, balanced nicely. I mixed it 4:1 with the Martinez 1994 Oporto. Now that was very nice. This excellent value for Sonoma pinot. 14.4% alcohol is average for region. The problem is I have stopped chasing pinot noir so I will not chase this Malm down although it merits pursuit. Feces occurs!
2006 Domaine Cassagnoles Reserve Gros Manseng $10: Lean angular fruit; dry and brawny in a middle-weight way. Reminded me of Cung Le who I was watching on UFC fighting, he was pounding a veteran mixed martial arts guy with a 24-3 record. Cung Le is now 4-0. Le was tougher, faster, deceptively bigger with a wicked command of spinning kicks and backhands. This Gros Manseng is deceptively delicious with satisfying lean flavors and a devastating blend of near-tropical fruit. Find it at local fave WHW. Or make plans for a trip to the Gers region ASAP and find out for yourself over two weeks. This is Cathar country rich in history of the Inquisition with burned out castles and outstanding wines.
martinezvintagelabel.jpg1994 Martinez Port (cellar): I bought this on futures at a reputable west valley wine shop (not Woodland Hills Wine Co – Paul and Kyle would never do what I am about to tell you). I paid $30/bottle pre-release. Somehow they had gotten Martinez to pour bottle samples a year ahead of release. The very young wine was terrific and I thought this will the last vintage of new release port I will buy in my lifetime. Martinez is a rarely seen brand with a strong reputation (i.e., Broadbent covers it). When I went to pick it up a year later the retailer wanted $32/bottle. This is, of course, a case of bad faith and I have never returned there for anything. I paid the price and took the wines. I looked it up on the web today and see it can be found although pricing is about double unless you order it from Scotland; g’head laddy. This is the first time I have opened a bottle. It has everything I want in a 13 y.o. vintage port. Still has a strong presence of tannins but softly firm like a Savile Row haberdasher’s clothes brush. The peppers and hot spices common with young ports (why are you even opening ports before at least a decade passes?) have blended in. Balance is perfect with fruit now forward. Alcohol subdued in the background. I can look forward to bringing this out on any special occasion (July 4th 2008? Labor Day 2007?) and I know I will be pleased.

1 Comment

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    steve goldun says:

    Hey Steve,
    Nice site!

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