|SCROLL DOWN FOR NC & VA WINE|
| Results of recent
cellar sleuthing....for B.E.'s comments on aging,
see Cellar Notes
Hanzell 1993 Pinot Noir, Sonoma. I pulled this from my cellar for a holiday dinner, thinking Uh-oh -- maybe I waited too long. Twenty-five years for a Pinot Noir? But no way; decanted (actually not a lot of sediment), its pedigree showed handsomely. Spicy aromas--cinnamon, a hint of smoke, very subtle, as well as subtle accents of butterscotch--billowed out of the glass. Very seductive. Flavors large and round and smooth on the palate, richly textured, same accents of spiced fruit made it a thrill to savor. Transcendental. 12/18
Villa Ragazzi 1998 Sangiovese, Napa Valley. Visiting with Michaela and Greg Rodeno at their charming Italian house smack in the middle of Napa Valley this week, they had brought the '98 up from the cellar. A revelation--this vibrant red surprised us with its lively, still youthful mingle of red cherry-raspberry-cranberry fruit, grown richer in both flavor and texture after nearly 20 years in bottle, and from a vintage that was roundly bashed but this gem obviously overlooked. Decanted, it opened and bloomed in aroma and grew silkier in texture--a tribute to its excellent balance. It should easily hold at this plateau for some time yet, but it was a lovely moment to catch it. The 2014 VR Sangio may well do the same--a charmer now, but just as well-balanced. Thanks, guys! 8/18
Château Léoville-Barton 1982, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux. Oh my! almost waited too long to open this very lovely wine. Even decanted, it took nearly two hours to fully blossom before beginning to fade, but the aromas--floral-accented berry fruit, tinged with flavors of worn leather, wood, tobacco wove a complex and persistent bouquet, lingering in the glass long after the last drop was consumed. Amazing at almost 36 years of age--I think it would have been at its dramatic best five to seven years ago. Still, a delight to share with friends at a recent dinner. I love St. Juliens--so I better pay attention to my '83 Léoville-las-Cases!
Grant Burge GSM The Holy Trinity 2002 Australia A "holy" blend of grenache, shiraz and mourvèdre (GSM), still dark, rich and spicy with black raspberry and black cherry flavors, chocolate accents and a hint of black pepper. Intensely aromatic; tannins beginning to soften but firm--considerable time ahead of it but quite gorgeous to drink now (9/2017) at 15 years of age. Decant for a good 45 minutes to an hour.
Barboursville 1998 Cabernet Franc Reserve, Virginia. Amazingly vibrant fruit--currants and cherries. Tasted this blind with a California Cabernet Franc (2005), as well as a Bordeaux (2005) from Margaux--and the 1998 Cabernet Franc (19 years old!) was the unanimous favorite. Iyt's the perfect moment to drink it--a few bottles available in the 1821 Cellar at Barboursville--worth a trip to Charlottesville! 7/17
1991 California Cabernets. I selected a few of these from my cellar racks a while back and put them in a box labeled "pot roast wines"--in 2012, I think. Recently I decided I better pull a few and try them, decanted of course. Very rewarding so far. 1991 was an excellent vintage for California reds, especially cabernet sauvignon. The first I decanted was Liparita 1991 from Napa Valley; we were delighted with its vivid fruit, still quite dark (after 26 years!), beautifully integrated fruit, oak and acidity making it wonderfully complex, rich and smooth--superb with braised short ribs.
Murphy-Goode 1991 Alexander Valley. Still a young winery then but this solid Cab boasted solid blackberry flavors typical of good Alex Valley Cabernet. Smooth and round, Very good depth, also excellent with the beef. Plenty of life left in it.
This week I tried the William Hill 1991 (Atlas Peak, Napa), which has faded in color a bit; still pleasant to drink but a simple straightforward Cab, undoubtedly better a few years back.
Scroll down for Dry Creek Reserve 1991 and '91 Clos du Bois Marlstone--both outstanding. May 2017
Villa Mt. Eden 1991 Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: August 2017--another example of underrated Caliifornia Cabs--this one 26 years old from the heart of Napa Valley--richly dark, still-vivid black fruit flavors, smooth and balanced, good long finish. Delicious to drink now. Predicted to go 15-20 years when released arund 1994--exceeding expectations by a decade.
Clos du Val 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Surprised a few folks in Richmond recently by serving this one blind. No one guessed it, though I was only interested in how they liked it--and everyone did. Aromatic, vibrant and succulent, with spicy black currant flavors, subtle oak thoroughly integrated with the fruit, very well-balanced, smooth but lively and quite vivid for a 16-year old Cab--drinking extremely well now--so the Stag's Leap District and the Reserve must have years ahead of them. Wish I had more of this one.
Swanson 1996 Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. 1996 was a good vintage, though not exceptional, but there were plenty of lovely black fruit flavors, spicy aromatics, and incredibly smooth texture. Typical of good Napa Cabs to have the structure and depth to age two decades--and this one, round and long in finish, still has a stretch to go. If you like richness that still has a snap to it, enjoy it now if you're lucky enough to have it.
Merry Edwards 2011 Pinot Noir Georgeanne, which I tasted with Merry at the winery when it was still in barrel. It was impressive then, but now, 5 years later it is delicious--spicy and smooth, great depth and layers of ripe berry flavors. It has years ahead of it, 5-8 certainly, but the juicy spiciness and smooth texture are beguiling now (November 2016)
Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1991, Dry Creek Valley Sonoma. 1991 was an excellent vintage -- I remember it well and many of the wines have aged magnificently; it still has time ahead of it. The Dry Creek '91 Reserve, decanted January 17, 2015, had a huge, billowing aroma of ripe blackberry with hints of chocolate and licorice. Color still dense, a deep purple garnet to the rim. The vibrant, lush fruit maintains a grip of tannin that will keep it going a few more years, so perhaps not yet at its peak--but I wouldn't have wanted to miss the luuriant blackberry and boysenberry flavors at this stage of its evolution. Lovely with braised short ribs.
Clos du Bois Marlstone 1991, Alexander Valley Decanted July 26, 2014 Outstanding. Still dark and dense deep garnet in color. A blend of 54% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot, 6% malbec, 5% cab franc. There are lovely flavors of blackberry (typical of Alex Valley cabs); it is extremely smooth with saplike fruit (the merlot and malbec, I suspect). Truly this is the reason to allow wines to age--they simply transform into something quite beyond their infancy at release. Luscious to drink, long smooth finish. At its peak? I'm delighted with it now, but it still has a grip to it that portends more life ahead.
Simi 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Alexander Valley. January 2014. I plucked this bottle from my cellar to take to a gathering in Napa Valley celebrating Zelma Long's 70th birthday with a group of stellar women in the field of wine. As Simi's winemaker in the 1980s, Zelma made this exceptional wine....and I was relieved to find it, as we all did that evening, still exceptional. The cork crumbled as I pulled it but it was tight in the neck of the bottle and the wine was sound, with very little ullage. I had stood it up a day in advance, and we decanted it. The blackberry flavors so typical of Alexander Valley cabernet fruit are still vivid, the wine beautifully evolved and marvelously lush in texture, richly aromatic and long in finish. We all got a few choice sips. Anyone who owns this wine is lucky. Thanks, Zelma.
Cosentino M. Coz 2001, Napa Valley. A Bordeaux blend from the outstanding vintage of 2001, one of the best of the 21st century so far. It was part of a lot of venerable Napa Valley gems I donated to a fundraising auction for the Rhine Research Center in Durham. The winning bid came from my godson and his brother in California, enthusiastic young wine collectors in the bay area. Still dark and rich (we decanted it), very firm-structured, the wine showed layers of complexity, with flavors of black currant, cedar, licorice and black fruits, very long in the finish. It was a treat to enjoy its flavors unfold over dinner. Still has some years ahead of it.
Caymus 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection, Napa Valley Opened with friends in Oxford MS over the holidays. Outstanding Cab--but not at its peak yet, as I suspect it will be in another five years or so, and likely something to swoon over from 2018-2020. Black currant fruit concentrated and intense, framed in oak and tannin just beginning to soften. Aromas took a while to really open but very rich and vibrant when they did. Alongside Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1995 SLV--also in need of further aging but not as complex as the Caymus. Both, however, solid treats with grilled; beef tenderloin. Thanks, Duke and friends!
Château Gruaud-Larose 1982, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux. June 2011. A fabulous treat, courtesy of fellow Virginia judge Andy Williams, who decanted this venerable bottle and brought it to share with judges at the recent Virginia State Fair wine competition (scroll down for some good VA wines).
The Gruaud-Larose '82 amazed us all with its still-vivid color, its generous well-matured fruit and aromas of smoke, blackberries, and sweet cherries fairly billowing out of the glass. Tilting the glass showed its bricky orange edges, but the wine was still lively, very smooth, some tannins extant, but with great complexity and fine length. Some thought it could go another decade, but I thought we caught it at an excellent time to really enjoy the brightness of the fruit melded with oak.
I originally tasted this wine in the mid-eighties when I still lived in New York and attended a tasting hosted by importer Chateau and Estates. Back then I found it very dense, opaque and closed, even a little heavy. What a lovely surprise to taste it some 16 years later and find it so delightful and charming.
Many thanks, Andy!!!
Château Prieuré-Lichine 1982. Decanted. Well, it couldn't last forever. This '82 from Margaux in the Haut-Médoc is well past its peak. Alas. I'm wondering what to do with the ramainder of my of my case! Fall 2010
Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 1988, Napa Valley. Decanted. Terrific. Over Labor Day (2010) with friends on Bald Head Island. With grilled rib-eyes. Superbly evolved Cabernet, smooth but complex, with layered aromas and flavors of black currants, cedar, and an appealing smokiness. Fine balance, still vivid and lively.
Jordan Vineyards 1979, Alexander Valley. Decanted. I live for wines like this! Thirty-one years old, yet possessed of rich color; complex aromas of black fruits--currants, plums, berries mingled with a slight smokiness. Great balance and acidity, a bgeautifully evolved Cabernet, with smooth but still vivid texture and layers of lovely flavors. Kudos to Rob Davis (and his mentor and consultant, the late great Andre Tchelistcheff). This is the kind of wine that makes an evening utterly memorable. [7/10]
| North Carolina is home
to over 140 wineries. The state has long excelled with
Muscadine grape varieties, native to the region...and
still does. But wines from Vitis vinifera, the European grape
varieties (syrah, chardonnay, pinot gris, viognier, the
cabernets, merlot, as well as Italian and Spanish
varieties) are doing the state proud with full-flavored,
well-balanced wines that are very good to drink.
Some wineries are doing great things with grapes nobody thought would grow in these parts, like Albarino, Tempranillo and Malbec, as recent tastings have shown. Look for these in Triangle wine shops, especially A Southern Season and The Wine Merchant in Cary:
Here are some of the wineries that get our way and are worth seeing out:
Jones von Drehle--especially Petit Manseng, a zesty white; Cabecrnet Franc; Merlot; Malbec
Biltmore: Cabernet Franc; Chateau Reserve Blanc de Blancs (sparkling); Chardonnay (NC appellation)
Raffaldini: Bello Misto, a light red blend; Vermentino; Sangiovese
Sanctuary: The Pearl-Albariño, a fragrant dry white; The Triangle: a lively white blend
Grove: Cabernet Sauvignon; Tempranillo
Traveling west in North Carolina? On your way west from the Triangle or Triad you'll be near the Yadkin Valley, home to the lion's share of NC vineyards -- so take a short segué and stop in for tasting. A complete listing--maps, phone numbers and websites--is here: www.ncwine.org/wineries
Virginia. New wine star: Petit Manseng Horton Vineyards 2016 won the Governor's Cup award for 2019
...presented March 1 in Richmond, along with the Governor's Cup Case--the 12 top scoring wines in the 2019 Governor's Cup Wine Competition held at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond in early February (https://www.virginiawine.org/governors-cup/awards#Gold). Petit manseng, a grape native to southwest France, thrives in mid-Atlantic wine regions producing bold, exotically flavored white wines in a range of styles from dry to sweet. The grape's high acidity adds an appealing edge and zest to lush tropical flavors of mango, pineapple, kumquat. Pioneered in Georgia (Tiger Mountain Vineyard) and Virginia (numerous wineries, including Horton, Michael Shaps, Early Mountain), petit manseng is a variety to watch, expanding its reach in Virginia as well as in North Carolina (Jones von Drehle). Look for it on restaurant wine lists, especially Asian fusion, where its spicy flavors can hold their own with assertive oriental dishes.