Tasting Note: 2005 Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon, Bodega Catena Zapata

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Tasting Note: Robert Mondavi 1995 Napa Valley Zinfandel

Zinfandel is like white wines: it doesn’t age well, right?

Wrong. Oh, so wrong.

IMG_4209On Saturday night, I opened a bottle of 14-year-old zin I’d pulled from the cellar a couple of weeks ago, to set it up right and make it ready for drinking on the right occasion. Which, in the end, meant pizza night on a lazy Saturday evening.

The 95 Napa Valley zinfandel from Robert Mondavi – back when it was really a Mondavi winery – opened up on an intense and well-defined aroma of sweet pipe tobacco, with some prune and spice showing up afterwards. All that carried through on the mouthfeel, where a very decent level of acidity kept the wine lively and easy-drinking, despite a solid 15% alcohol level. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was refreshing, but it certainly found its balance, and did not feel heavy at all.

Better yet, as the wine opened up, more fruit came through, as black cherry notes came to the forefront. Eventually, the wine actually smelled like the tanks of fermenting pinot noir I punched down at Closson Chase vineyards, ten days ago. As if that zinfandel still had a touch of fresh picked grapes at its core.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had solid, mature zinfandel that felt like it could keep going and going. About four years ago, I drank a bottle of 1979 Glen Ellen Zinfandel I’d picked up at the tasting room at Ridge, one of my favorite California wineries. Although it felt a bit more like an old port, in some ways, it still had balance and life to it, at a good 25 years of age. Lots of pleasure to be had yet – and it was far from being over the hill.

How’s that for a wine that doesn’t age?

While I’m at it, I could tell you about the 1998 Doisy-Daëne white Bordeaux we had with Thanksgiving dinner,  as another example of graceful aging. But that’s another story.

I’d love to see how the Anderson Ranch zinfandel from Quivira, a biodynamic winery I visited last year, during the Wine Bloggers Conference, or a Preston Old Vines Zinfandel would taste like in 10, 15 or even 20 years. From what I’ve tasted so far, I think there could be much rejoicing.

Oh, by the way, the old zin went really well with the chicken-mushroom-onion pizza. Just wrapped around it smoothly, and matched nicely with the tomato sauce. Simple food that gave the wine all the room it needed to shine.

Tasting Note : 1996 Cornas, Paul Jaboulet Aîné

I’ve long had a particular liking for the wines of Cornas, this supposedly toughest, most masculine appellation in the Rhône. I’ve always had a few bottles in my cellar, and was appalled when a scare over some of the oldest vineyards shook the region two years ago.

One of the first Cornas I cellared, shortly after I started putting away a few bottles, was the Paul Jaboulet Aîné Cornas – the regular cuvée, which had the advantage of being more affordable, allowing me to keep two of the 1996 on their side for the following decade.

The 1996 vintage was a significant year for the Jaboulet domaine, since it was the last worked by Gérard Jaboulet, the patriarch who had done so much to enhance the estate’s reputation over the previous decades. Gérard died suddenly in 1997, leaving the family in clear disarray. The quality of the wines suffered in the following few years, as many comments and reviews repeatedly stated.

The long-term result of that difficult period has been the purchase of Paul Jaboulet Aîné, a family operation for almost two centuries, by the Frey family, owners of Château La Lagune, among other properties. Only one Jaboulet, Frédéric, is still working with the company : seven were at the helm up to the sale, in 2006.

The sale has certainly meant an influx in cash. What it means in terms of quality and reputation will have to be seen over the next few year

In the meantime, I am finishing the last few bottles of Jaboulet wines from the Gérard era in my cellar, including a recent tasting of the second bottle of 1996 Cornas. I had tasted the first bottle a year ago, and written a tasting note on my French blog where I was perplexed at the rather reserved flavors and aromas it displayed.

This time was different. Animal smells jumped forward right after opening, blending afterwards with a lovely touch of licorice, some cedar, coffee, a touch of black fruit, and a bit of herbal notes. The licorice and cedar were the most noticeable flavors on tasting, with a pleasant mouthfeel that faded a bit on the finish.

Though this was a pleasant and complex enough cuvée, it seemed unlikely that the wine would have gained anything from staying longer in the cellar. The orange edges and the evolved set of flavors and aromas hinted that while it hadn’t faded, it was on the edge of doing so. Nothing like the 20-year minimum wait time that used to be touted by Rhône experts about the « black wines » of Cornas. Maybe that duration would be more appropriate for the Domaine Saint-Pierre of the same era, the best Cornas vineyard owned by the Jaboulet estates, or for the cuvées of top producers like Clape, Jacques Lemenicier, Vincent Paris or Mathieu Barret’s Domaine du Coulet, to quote a few. I guess I’ll still wait a bit before opening that 98 Clape…

P.S. : Thank you, Jancis !

I’d like to thank Jancis Robinson for her help with this post. Being away from my home, and without any reference books, I couldn’t find any trace of Gérard Jaboulet on the Jaboulet web site or just about anywhere on the web, and my memory was failing to remember the first name. How quickly someone of that stature can seem to be forgotten… I posted a tweet asking for help, and Ms Robinson was kind and generous enough to provide an answer in the next couple of hours. I promise to raise a toast to her with the next bottle of Jaboulet – or Cornas – I open.

Tasting notes: Le Clos Jordanne, Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard 2006 chardonnay and pinot noir, Twenty Mile Bench

I’ve been a fan of Le Clos Jordanne wines since their first release, the 2004 vintage, two years ago. Made from young vines, they may not have had the depth of great wines, but they certainly showed the promise. It was terrific to taste pinot noir that from the Niagara that had such a clear sense of place and such a remarkable balance and restraint.

This certainly has a lot to do with…

To read the rest of this review, go to winecase.ca, the new home for The Wine Case blog. New updates are now all on winecase.ca.

Wine Blogging Wednesday 56: a Kosher Wine from Utiel-Requena

It’s always nice when Wine Blogging Wednesdays lead us off the beaten track, and allows us to expand our views on the world of wine. I mean, drink AND learn? How could you go wrong?

WBW 56 is certainly such an opportunity, with the kosher wines theme thought out by the Corkdork, just in time for Passover. 

It allowed me to realize that there are dozens of kosher wines available at the Société des alcools du Québec, our good old State monopoly for wine and spirits. Wines ranging from Concord grape Manischewitz to 100-dollar bottles of Burgundy from a négociant called Roberto Cohen. Lots of wines from Israel, of course, but also from France, California, Italy, Australia, Argentina and Spain.

That’s where I picked my kosher wine from, a wine from the Utiel-Requena appellation, near Valencia, called Makor. Makor is made by by Elvi Wines, a Spanish producer entirely dedicated to making kosher wines from various Spanish regions (Priorat and Rioja, among others) and even from Chile. 

The 2004 vintage, which I tasted for the WBW, is made from 50% bobal, a native grape from Utiel-Requena, along with 20% tempranillo and 30% cabernet sauvignon. And that’s where the label is strangely not quite… kosher, as it only insists on bobal, without mentioning the other grapes.

Whatever’s in there, it sure packs a punch. The wine is dark purple, with intense aromas and flavors of black fruit (blackberry and, especially, plums), smooth tannins and an almost creamy texture. Not a light and subtle wine, but a simple and fun one.

Without knowing that it was a kosher wine, I wouldn’t have guessed. Which is a great thing, really: you wouldn’t want kosher wines to be some sub-class of wine. So it’s all good. And it’s even great with refried-bean enchiladas, as the intensity of the wine competes nicely with the starchy texture of the beans – and the tomato sauce, and the cheese. Not a classic kosher meal. But let’s all be open and enjoy the good things.

Tasting note: Masi Campofiorin 2005, Rosso del Veronese IGT

It’s always interesting – and often fun – to re-taste wines you enjoyed often, a while back, but had somewhat set aside and forgotten.

That’s what happened to me when a good friend of mine brought me a bottle of Masi Campofiorin, a unique wine from the Veneto, in Northern Italy. When I first started drinking wine seriously, in the early 90s…

The rest of this tasting note is now on this blog’s new address, winecase.ca. Click here to read it in its new location.

Published in: on April 12, 2009 at 9:30 am  Comments (5)  
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Wine Blogging Wednesday 55: North vs South – a bipolar roundup

It’s always fascinating to see the many ways people can interpret a proposition. So what did the participants in the 55th Wine Blogging Wednesday make of this idea of confronting North vs South?

From Michigan Riesling to Tasmania Pinot Noir, from Spanish Garnacha to Tennessee Chambourcin, there sure were a lot of possible pairings (and threesomes, and foursomes) put together by the 33 participants who took up the challenge. Three of those, I’m happy to say, were first timers in the world of Wine Blogging Wednesday (this one, this one and this one), showing how the concept is still going strong and breaking new ground. (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday 55: North vs South, just across the Loire

The North vs South theme I proposed for Wine Blogging Wednesday provides bloggers with certain guidelines (use the same grapes, so you can compare), but also with a lot of leeway. Thousands of miles of leeway, really.

If you wanted, you could pick similar wines from the other side of the world. The antipodes, really. Spanish vs New Zealand pinot noir. Or Finger Lakes vs Australian riesling. That’s as far apart as it gets.

I wanted to raise the challenge for myself (more…)

WBW 55 Trial Run: North vs South in Radio-Coteau pinots

Periodically, I’m grabbed by the urge to pull a bottle out of the cellar, unplanned and by itself, not for a meal or special occasion. That’s how I wound up pulling out a 2005 Savoy pinot noir by Radio-Coteau, Eric Sussman‘s winemaking operation in Forestville, California.

Sussman, who started Radio-Coteau in 2002, learned the trade in Washington State before heading to Bordeaux and especially to Burgundy in the mid-1990s. After four years at Dehlinger, he started collecting 90+ scores from just about every wine writer of influence. Descriptions got me so excited that I even ordered a case for myself all the way out to Quebec. A costly proposition, just counting the import taxes. But it was worth it, especially for the La Neblina, which remains one of the finest, most subtle and well-focused California  pinots I’ve had.

Beyond providing a satisfying drink, the Savoy, sourced from a vineyard in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, also provided a clear example of what I’m aiming for with the theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday 55: North vs South.

The Neblina and the Savoy I’ve had are two wines from the same vintage, same variety and the same producer, the only difference being vineyard location – and perhaps the farming practices in each vineyard – single vineyard for the Savoy, two different ones for the Neblina, one in Annapolis, and the other one along Gravenstein Highway, west of Sebastopol.

A quick look at a map (more…)

Tasting Note: See Ya Later Ranch Ping 2006, Okanagan Valley VQA

Fruit, fruit, fruit, and also a bit more fruit. That was certainly my first impression of this Bordeaux blend made by See Ya Later Ranch, a Vincor-owned estate located about mid-way between Lake Okanagan and Lake Osoyoos in the Okanagan Valley. Named after the estate’s historical owner’s way of signing off letters, the ranch was originally planted with grapes some 60 years ago, although its current vineyards and estate were established in 1995 by Harry McWatters, a virtual legend of BC’s wine industry.

There was all kinds of fruit in there, from strawberry jam to raspberries, cherries and blackberries, all very attractive. With 57% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Cabernet Franc, this particular blend certainly had the means to be fruit-forward, although as it opened up, it did show more spice and vanilla (from 18 months in oak, no doubt), and eventually coffee notes, with a fair amount of tannins on the finish.

The alcohol level, however, (more…)