Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Showing Some Love for California Merlot

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Apparently, a decade ago a character in some movie made some comment about Merlot sucking. All of the sudden, Merlot became persona non grata with American consumers.

Not sure what all the fuss was about because Merlot can be a beautiful thing. Sure, there’s plenty of uninspiring Merlot, but replace the word Merlot with any grape and the same thing would be true.

Luckily for me, this bunch of California Merlots contained a few really good ones. The wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.

2012 Atalon Winery “Pauline’s Cuvee” - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $30
Bright purple color. Nose shows red and black currants, dark cherries, sweet cola, vanilla and clove as well, some underlying violet elements. An approachable and silky wine on the palate with moderate tannins and some freshness from the acid. Tart blackberries and red and black plums taste perfectly ripe and play well off the loamy and dusty earth elements. I also get some cedar, hints of pepper, dried leaves and toast on the finish. Showing quite well now, but could stand some near-term cellar time. A blend of 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and dashes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. (88 points)

2012 Gundlach Bundschu Merlot - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $32
Medium ruby color. Aromatically bright and floral, the red and black fruit smell deep but fresh, along with underlying notes of cedar, eucalyptus and mocha. On the palate, good grip to the tannins but they’re not harsh, moderate-low acid. Largely black fruits, tangy but rich. The wine shows a strong mix of charcoal, tobacco, gravelly road and cedar, yet maintains some elegant floral and spice tones. Impressive structure, this could use a few years to relax and seems easily capable of five to seven years in the cellar, but overall the wine connects in lots of the right places. Aged 17 months in French oak, 40% new, includes 4% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot. (89 points)

2011 Grgich Hills Merlot - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $42
A moderate ruby color, not exactly bright. Nose of tart raspberries, blackberries, sweet strawberry jam, notes of pipe smoke, menthol, pine needles and vanilla cola. Fleshy with moderate tannins, medium acid, chewy but tangy fruit (red and black cherries, tart blueberries). Notes of mocha, cedar, fig cookie, vanilla cola, a sense of loamy complexity. Tart fruit elements, but rich with lots of non-fruit elements. Could use a few years or some air, but it’s a beauty. All Merlot, aged 18 months in 30% new French oak. (90 points)

2011 Swanson Merlot - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $38
Bright and crunchy red fruit on the nose, sweet roses, some cola and a sweet herbal (eucalyptus?) note. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied but surprisingly fresh, the tannins are structured but fine and approachable. Juicy dark plums, some black cherries and currant fruit as well, the fruit is velvety but fresh. A hint of cola, sweet coffee and maybe mint? Good amount of mocha and cedar, but interwoven well. Long and creamy finish. Opens up wonderfully with time and gets even more smooth and silky. Aged 16 months in half French, half American oak, one-third new, this wine contains 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petite Verdot. (89 points)

Loving this black metal homage label.
Wine's pretty damn good, too. 
2012 Prisoner Wine Company Thorn - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $40
Vibrant purple color. Lush and inviting on the nose, dark berry compote, raspberry jam, dried roses, mocha and toasted oak. Full-bodied, the tannins are pure velvet, gliding across the palate with ease, a bit low on the acid. The fruit is bold, extracted and dark, like all sorts of berries thrown into a pan and cooked down with sugar and bourbon. Notes of toasted coconut, mocha and mint, significant cedar elements. Deep and loamy finish. So velvety and rich, big, bold, hedonistic, full of opulence, about as subtle as black metal (to which the label seems to pay homage). Not the most food-friendly wine, but I can’t help but enjoy its guts. Aged 18 months in 40% new French oak, this is mostly Merlot with some Syrah and Malbec. (88 points)

2013 Mason Cellars Merlot 60 North - California
SRP: $11
Medium ruby color. Kind of like baked fruit on the nose, like a strawberry tart and raspberry donut jam, mix in some coffee grounds, toasted nuts, sweet cola. Light tannins, tart acid, the red fruit is simultaneously tart and slightly cooked down, like crunchy red currants mixed with raspberry and strawberry jam. Some notes of charcoal, coffee grounds, toasted barrel notes. Tastes pleasant, but nothing serious. Includes 6% Petite Verdot, 6% Zinfandel and 3% Petite Sirah. (81 points)

Friday, June 26, 2015

"Casino Moscow" Explores Economic Chaos of Post-Soviet Russia, Ukraine

When my family moved to Ukraine in 1995, I was too young to fully understand the completely fucked up economic situation. But I could see the effects everywhere: desperate people waiting in line for bread, babushkas begging for change outside every metro station, packs of half-wild dogs running through the streets and fighting.

My parents moved our family of five from the Jersey Shore to the Ukrainian capital for a one-year missionary trip. The combination of extreme culture shock and the chaotic state of affairs that defined this place and time resulted in one of the most formative years of my adolescence. My parents moved to Kyiv full-time in 1999, and we still visit frequently and hold on to a deep connection with the people of Ukraine. Having spent so much time in Eastern Europe, I was excited to finally read Matthew Brzezinski’s book Casino Moscow: A Tale of Greed and Adventure on Capitalism’s Wildest Frontier. And I was even more excited that a good third of the book dealt with Ukraine.

The book jacket explains that as a “rookie Wall Street Journal reporter,” Brzezinski “is instantly plunged into the crazed world of Russian capitalism, where corrupt Moscow bankers and American carpetbaggers preside over the greatest boom and bust in international financial history.” Brzezinski — nephew of Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski — doesn’t write in the detached economic prose of a WSJ article. He’s market savvy and explains complex economic issues, but his writing isn’t stuffy or packed with insider lingo. Instead, the book reads more like a travelogue through Russia and Ukraine, as Brzezinski recounts his nights on shitty Russian trains, his vodka-pounding sessions with Russian power brokers, how he bribes officials with cigarettes and bumps into mafia bodyguards armed with automatic guns.

Brzezinski’s description of Ukraine in the early 1990s is so poignant that it brought up memories I didn’t know I’d forgotten. When he talks about the crackly phone lines in his apartment, it reminded me of calling up friends and having a Ukrainian woman jump into the conversation when the lines got crossed. He describes living in a run-down neighborhood (as most were) near Kyiv’s weedy botanical gardens, and although he doesn’t give street names, I’m quite sure he lived in the same area as my family, Druzhby Narodiv. During this time, he explains how the old army trucks that delivered milk and pumped it from a rusty spigot into old beer bottles. I laughed aloud as I read him describe how, in Kyiv, “it was a matter of some prestige” to been seen carrying items in a plastic bag. I remember old women carrying their treasured personal belongings in plastic bags with pride, as if toting plastic was a badge of honor. They carried the bags around until the plastic stretched into shreds or disintegrated.

This was a time of fast-paced transition from post-Soviet collapse to “capitalism” and “democracy” — at least that was the idea. As Brzezinski explains, the early and mid-90s in Ukraine and Russia was a time of power-hungry oligarchs, brazen political corruption, mafia domination and economic inflation. While a few powerful locals (mostly ex-Party bosses) and a slew of Western vulture capitalists got filthy rich, the average person saw their society decay as almost every measurable standard of living dropped.

The Ukrainian people amazed me as an adolescent, as they still do today, with their unique blend of steadfastness and compassion, but Kyiv was a scary place in those early days. A man was found dead in our apartment lobby, his body face-down and his throat slit. Other Westerners constantly warned us to stay away from men who drove black Mercedes or BMWs. There was no real functioning Ukrainian media, but we heard all sorts of stories about ego-bloated mafia men beating pedestrians who refused to move out of their way as they drove their cars on the sidewalk. We American kids traded stories about which courtyards and alleyways had been sites of mafia executions. Most of this violence was brutal but targeted, centered around the flourishing organized crime scene. Still, I bought a whole bunch of knives off street vendors and began carrying two switchblades with me everywhere I went, just in case I lost one. I also carried a $20 bill, which was enough to fend off a thug or pay off a cop shaking me down for a bribe, but not enough cash to get too upset about losing.

Brzezinski didn’t escape the chaos of post-Soviet Kyiv unscathed. He recalls being hog-tied and robbed by a gangster who used the guise of a pretty woman in distress to gain access to his apartment. Brzezinski had all his shit stolen and was left unconscious but alive. Yet this relatively petty crime belies what Brzezinski sees as the real problem: “The economy was a continuous vicious circle of rip-offs, rooted in the communist premise that property belonged to no one — and was thus up for grabs by everyone.” Liberated under the flag of capitalism, only the iron-fisted had the power to grab what could be grabbed. The average citizen was left out in the cold.
Inflation was rampant and seemingly unpredictable, peaking at a mindboggling ten-thousand percent. When living in Kyiv, we Westerners dealt with this by carrying only American dollars and exchanging them for Ukrainian koupons only when we planned to immediately spend the money. Most vendors were more than eager to accept our American cash.

I’ll never forget the story of a young Ukrainian couple that became friends of ours. They had saved up their money for years in order to buy a modest car, a Russian-made Lada. The currency crisis eroded their savings, and their money could buy only about a pound of sausages. Families all across the former Soviet Union have similar stories.

A good portion of the book is dedicated to chronicling the rise of several New Russian oligarchs. As the government sold off public enterprises, powerful bankers were able to snatch up real estate, factories, even entire industries. And once they had snatched it all up, they bolstered the weak and corrupt state to protect their new wealth. One Russian oligarch brags to the author about how his companies are responsible for one-twentieth of Russia’s total Gross Domestic Product. The only thing comparable in American history, the author wonders, may be John D. Rockefeller, but, “there was a key difference between [the Russian oligarchs] and America’s robber barons: Rockefeller built his Standard Oil from nothing, while the oligarchs seized the assets of Soviet Russia. They had not created wealth; they had simply grabbed it.”

The author also investigates several prominent crime bosses, trying to find out how they operate within the economic and political structures of their time and place. Reading about the oligarchs and the mafia bosses, it becomes clear that the lines between mafia criminals and legitimate businessmen were illusory. Both existed in the same sectors of society at the same time, even in the same person.

In one of his many reporting trips into the Russian hinterlands, Brzezinski visits the oil fields of far northeastern Russia. Here, newly privatized companies had decided not to pay their workers or their taxes, which cripples local economies. This part of the book was perhaps the most depressing for me to read, as Brzezinski reports on the massive ecological destruction brought on by a combination of human apathy, broken-down equipment and total incompetence.  

The author also visits Chernobyl, touring the abandoned facility in a crummy “protective” suit, a radiation detection device in hand. He has some really interesting things to say about Chernobyl as a metaphor for the post-Soviet socioeconomic reality. 

Russia has changed a lot since this book was published, and I’m unsure what light this book has to shed on the current state of Russia’s capitalist experiment. Casino Moscow doesn’t have much to offer that would help understand Russia’s renewed imperial efforts in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. But I still think it’s a fascinating read in its own right, a well-researched and well-written book that delves into a critical time in Russian and Ukrainian history. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Rhone Rangers Take DC

For the second year in a row, I had the privilege of tasting through a bunch of Rhone Ranger wines at DC’s Longview Gallery.

The Rhone Rangers are an expansive bunch of vintners from all across the country who join together to promote American wines made from Rhone grapes. To qualify as an official Rhone Ranger wine, member wineries must use one or more of the 22 varieties recognized in France’s Rhone Valley, and these grapes must constitute at least 75% of the blend. Red Rhone grapes like Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre feature prominently, and white grapes like Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne are frequently blended together with other white Rhone varieties.

For more background on the Rhone Rangers movement, and the rising tide of American Rhone wines, check out a great piece in Terroirist by my friend David White: “Embracing the Rhone Rangers.”

I took as many tasting notes as I could, but I didn’t have time to visit all the producers. Oh well, let’s hope they come back next year.

Viña Robles

2013 Viña Robles Viognier Huerhero Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Very floral nose. Creamy and rich on the palate (14.5% alcohol), peachy, floral, nutty, honey, lychee. Bold stuff. (85 points)

2013 Viña Robles Roseum Huerhuero - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
A creamy, richer style, lacks acidity. Plenty of fruit (watermelon, strawberry), a chewy, cherry candy element. Lacks non-fruit elements. (83 points)

2012 Viña Robles RED4 Paso Robles - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Tart yet jammy, like fruit-roll-up candy and candied cherries. Soft tannins, nutty, licorice. (82 points)

2011 Viña Robles Petite Sirah Estate - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Chewy, full of plums, ripe but not baked. Earthy, spice, cocoa powder, some nice floral elements. I’m really surprised that this wine has some freshness and a bright approach. (87 points)

2010 Viña Robles Syree - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Bold and chewy, rich and plummy, lots of toast here (60% new oak). Rich, but also quite solid in structure. Smoke, charcoal and earth notes add complexity. One to check up on in a few years. (87 points)

Two Shepherds

2013 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
Floral and bright. Tangy, crisp and salty on the palate, a clean and bright wine with some really interesting seashell, quinine, spiced tea notes. Complex and deserving of much more than the small amount of time I gave to it. (91 points)

2013 Two Shepherds Grenache Gris Blanc Gibson Ranch - California, North Coast, Mendocino
Clean, peachy, tart pears, some honey to mix in with the saline and mineral elements in the wine. Brisk, attractive, cool stuff. From a 105-year-old vineyard in Mendocino. (89 points)

2014 Two Shepherds Grenache Rosé Ceja Farms - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Tart and bright, mouthpuckering acid (which I love). Stays gulp-tastic with strawberries and raspberries. Pleasant and easy to enjoy without contemplating, or you could contemplate its complexities, whichever sounds good. Friggin delicious. (91 points)

2012 Two Shepherds Pastoral Rouge - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Bright and clean yet chewy, silky. Lovely berry fruit and summer cerries, hints of pepper and spice on a bed of fine tannins. Very pretty blend of 45% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 25% Syrah. (89 points)


2013 Qupé Viognier Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
Creamy peaches, pears and apples, lychee, sweet floral elements. Very floral and tropical, but lacking a bit of verve. (85 points)

2013 Qupé Marsanne - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
Rich and nutty, orange marmalade, candied lemon, lacking a bit of acid. I like the mouthfeel and some of the flavors, but I’d like more acid. Includes 25% Roussanne. (85 points)

2011 Qupé Roussanne Hillside Estate Bien Nacido Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
Creamy, nutty, lovely texture, honeyed but moderate acid. Bright and floral, honeycomb and tropical fruits abound. (88 points)

2012 Qupé Grenache Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
Bold but nice, bright fruit, cherries, currants, backed up by sweet herbs. Big but showing precision and interesting earthy notes. (87 points)

2013 Qupé Los Olivos Cuvée - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
Big and burly, richer with dark fruits, laced with pepper, earth, roasted nuts, notes of cola and spice. Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache. (87 points)

2012 Qupé Syrah - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
Gadzooks, the pepper! I dig this wine’s approach: full of savory spice, black pepper, beef bouillon cubes. Impressive structure but approachable, juicy black cherry and currant fruit, fleshy, but liking the savory appeal. (90 points)

2010 Qupé Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside Estate - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
Lovely texture, firm yet fresh, with black cherries, cola, earth, peppered steak, charcoal, coffee, sweet spice. Long and complex, lots of fruit but the most attractive elements are the non-fruit ones. Would love to open a bottle in three years or so. (91 points) 

2011 Qupé Syrah The Good Nacido Bien Nacido Vineyard Block X - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
Chewy and rich but not overdone, quite balanced with acid. Savory, bold spices, black pepper, earth, violets. A structured, whole-cluster-fermented wine, this is ageworthy but also showing some attractive freshness and minerality. (92 points)

Hearst Ranch

2014 Hearst Ranch Winery Three Sisters Cuvée - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Super floral, lots of orange blossom, white peaches, kiwi, honeycomb, fun but a bit too tropical and floral at the expense of other elements. (86 points)

2012 Hearst Ranch Winery Three Sisters Cuvée - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Pepper, cola, sweet red licorice on the nose. Chewy, fleshy, bright raspberries and black cherries. A bit hot and toasty but a lot of tasty flavors. 52% Grenache, 43% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre aged in a mix of new French, Minnesota and Appalachian oak. (85 points)

2013 Hearst Ranch Winery Petite Sirah The Pergola - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Huge and chewy, plums and baked cherry pie, add in coffee, mocha, sweet saucy elements. Fun, but close to the goopy, Port-like end of the spectrum. (85 points)


N.V. Horton Vineyards Viognier Sparkling - Virginia, Central Region, Orange County
Peachy, very floral, simple, fun, a bit yeasty but mostly driven by fruit and floral elements. Cava-like but more tropical and floral. (85 points)

2014 Horton Vineyards Viognier - Virginia, Central Region, Orange County
Creamy texture. Fresh acid, super floral with kiwi, peach nectar. So very floral, like a puree of a dozen different blossoms. (86 points)

2013 Horton Vineyards Roussanne Private Reserve - Virginia, Central Region, Orange County
Crisp and tangy, which is surprising and pleasant. Peaches, pears, honey, slight bit of mineral and sea salt notes. Clean and bright despite the honeyed elements. (87 points)

2012 Horton Vineyards Côtes d'Orange - Virginia, Central Region, Orange County
Cherries, red flowers, spiced coffee, pepper, yet clean and tart approach. Uncomplicated, but fun and crow-friendly. 68% Mourvedre, 22% Syrah, and 10% Tannat. (85 points)

2012 Horton Vineyards Syrah Private Reserve - Virginia, Central Region, Orange County
Velvety, silky smooth, with red and black cherries, some cola, hints of coffee and tea. Approachable but showing interesting and tasty non-fruit complexity. (87 points)

Tablas Creek

2013 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Floral, bright pears, clean acid, orange peels, lychee. Fun, simple. 54% Grenache Blanc, 25% Viognier, 13% Roussanne, 8% Marsanne. (85 points)

2013 Tablas Creek Roussanne - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Creamy, floral, orange peels, honey, sweet peaches, notes of tea, nougat. Flowers for days. (86 points)

2013 Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas Blanc - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Nose orange blossoms, peaches, honeysuckle. Love the acid, peaches, honeydew, flowers, also some salted lime and chalk. Quite complex. A blend of 71% Roussanne, 21% Grenache Blanc, 8% Picpoul Blanc. (88 points)

2014 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Rosé - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
So pale. Bright strawberries, white cherries, clean and salty and floral. Roses and daisies. Tasty stuff. A blend of 80% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre, 3% Counoise. (86 points)

2013 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Bright yet jammy, chewy texture, plums, blackberries, roses. Simple yet pleasant. 45% Syrah, 29% Grenache, 22% Mourvedre, 4% Counoise. (85 points)

2013 Tablas Creek Mourvedre - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Nose of peppery goodness. Silky yet bold structure, packed with flavors: red apple peel and dark berries, violets, loam, chestnut, black pepper. Very pretty stuff that would be interesting to cellar for four or five years. (90 points)

2012 Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Lovely silky texture but structured tannins. Red cherries, black cherries, loamy, dusty, earthy, some tobacco, roses. Love the mouthfeel, firm but smooth. Complex briar and leafy finish. 40% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah, 21% Grenache, 9% Counoise. (90 points)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lodi Native: Redefining Old Vine Zinfandel

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Lodi is home to a ton of Zinfandel, 111,000 tons, actually. In 2011, that amounted to 32% of all Zin grown in California, according to Wines of Lodi California, a trade group. But in this historically rich region between Sacramento and Stockton, the best juice comes from single vineyards of old gnarly vines.

To highlight these old vine treasures, six winemakers have teamed up under the
Lodi Native umbrella, producing six different single-vineyard Zinfandels (most of them from Lodi’s Mokelumne River appellation). The idea is to let these old vines speak for themselves about their terroir. The wines are all fermented with native yeasts, and they get no new oak, fining or filtration. The bottles are sold as a $180 six-pack from the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center. Together, they comprise a master class in old vine Zinfandel goodness.

During a recent online video tasting, Stuart Spencer, winemaker at Lodi’s St. Amant Winery, said the Lodi Native team hopes to elevate the region as a whole and broaden the picture of what’s being made in Lodi. And these winemakers have all sorts of ancient vine Zinfandel sites to choose from, with many historic vineyards remaining “undiscovered,” Spencer said. “There are really some treasures out here in these acres of Zinfandel vines.” 

I was really impressed with
this project’s first vintage, 2012, and the Lodi Native crew has done it again in 2013. If you’re used to candied, bruiser, oak-slathered Zins, you may be surprised by the freshness, vibrancy and silkiness of these old vine beauties.

I received these wines as trade samples and tasted them sighted.

2013 Fields Family Wines Zinfandel Lodi Native Stampede Vineyard - California, Central Valley, Clements Hills
Winemaker, Ryan Sherman (Fields Family Wines)
Growers, Jeff & John Perlegos

The pale ruby colored immediately tells you that this is a different kind of Zin. The nose is bright and floral with red apple peels, wild strawberries, dusty earth and crushed charcoal. On the palate, fine tannins, accessible but still nice and drying, medium acid. Tart red currants and wild strawberries, red apple peel, the fruit has some spicy clove, black tea, dusty soil and charcoal accents. Smooth, even elegant. Long, refined, very deep but the lightest in style and alcohol. From a sandy loam vineyard planted in the 1940s, most of the fruit goes into Bedrock Wine Co. bottles, but glad Ryan Sherman got some of this juice. (91 points)

2013 Macchia Zinfandel Lodi Native Schmiedt Ranch - California, Central Valley, Lodi Mokelumne RiverWinemaker, Tim Holdener (Macchia Wines)
Grower, Ross Schmiedt. Managed by Markus Bokisch of Bokisch Ranches.

Juicy ruby colored. Bright and ripe, blackberries, strawberry jam, gushing blueberries and summer plums, lots of fruit but also some deeper violets, plum cake and earthiness underneath. The biggest and most full-throttle of the bunch at 15.9% alcohol, this wine is rich and chewy on the palate. Dark plums, blackberries, blueberries, notes of coffee, sweet violets, wet clay. Jammy but not baked, the lack of strong oak flavors saves this wine and lets the more nuanced floral, nut and rocky elements in the wine come out. A bit of heat on the finish, but a really delicious wine. From sandier soils, this vineyard was first planted in 1918. (89 points)

2013 Maley Brothers Zinfandel Lodi Native Wegat Vineyard - California, Central Valley, Lodi Mokelumne River
Winemaker, Chad Joseph (Maley Brothers)
Grower, Todd Maley

A deeper ruby color. I like the nose: dried berries, currants, elements of loam and spice. Bold approach on the palate, chewy yet silky tannic structure, actually showing some refreshing acid in a rather low dose though. Black cherries, red and black currants, some dried blueberry. Interesting notes of nutshell, loam, pencil shavings and black tea. Loamy, rich but very pretty. Richer, bold, but also really silky and smooth. From head-trained vines planted in 1958. (90 points)

Gnarly old vines, sandy soils, lots of sun, Soucie Vineyard is home to some great grapes.
2013 M2 Vintners Zinfandel Lodi Native Soucie Vineyard - California, Central Valley, Lodi Mokelumne River
Winemaker, Layne Montgomery (m2 Wines)
Grower, Kevin Soucie

Bright ruby colored. Aromas of rich red berries, gushing with juicy cherries, strawberries, some cola and coffee, along with dried roses. Chewy structure, fleshy tannins, some acid to help tame the richness. Jammy black cherries and raspberries, along with spicy notes of clove and ginger. Add in some complex elements of loam, clay, leaves, roasted nuts, cracked pepper, barbecue sauce and sarsaparilla. Chewy, warm and rich, begs for cold weather, but a very delicious wine that opens up a lot with floral and spicy complexity. From a vineyard of fine silt planted in 1918. (91 points)

2013 St. Amant Winery Zinfandel Lodi Native Marian's Vineyard - California, Central Valley, Lodi Mokelumne River
Winemaker, Stuart Spencer (St. Amant Winery)
Growers, Jerry & Bruce Fry (Mohr-Fry Ranches)

Vibrant ruby color. Nose of roasted plums, rich berries, red licorice, some tobacco and nutshells. Silky approach to the tannins, rich waves of fruit (dried cranberries, blackberries, blueberries), I also get elements of red licorice, sweet pipe tobacco, clove, rose potpourri. The wine has a nutty complexity, with earthy, clay and toasted almond elements. A full and chewy wine but not cloying at all. Maintains refinement and lots of complexity underneath to sift through. From vines originally planted way back in 1901. (89 points)

2013 McCay Cellars Zinfandel Lodi Native Trulux Vineyard - California, Central Valley, Lodi Mokelumne River
Winemaker, Michael McCay (McCay Cellars)
Grower, Keith Watts

Lighter ruby color. Bright red fruits on the nose (plums, raspberries). Almost Pinot-like with notes of roses, tobacco, sweet rhubarb pie, I also get hints of dusty, loamy, charcoal notes underneath. Showing restraint and elegance, the tannins are fine and silky and the acid comes out to keep the wine fresh. Ripe and bold but creamy fruit (black and red cherries, raspberries, plums), I also get complex notes of sweet spices, clove, dried potpourri, sweet herbs, cola, rhubarb. Rich texture yet maintains elegance, a very pretty wine made from a vineyard planted in 1940. (90 points)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cost vs. Quality: Four Veneto Reds

With wine, you generally get what you pay for. But I emphasize the qualifying word generally. I love highlighting those lovely, complex wines that cost $15 or $20. And I'm too often left wanting more from bottles in the $50-$70 range.

I was thinking about this complex cost-to-quality relationship when tasting through a few Italian reds from the Veneto region. Yes, I found the cheapest ($17) to be the least interesting, albeit still of decent quality. And, yes, I found the most expensive wine (an $85 bottle of Amarone Classico) to be the best. But the quality (as I see it) didn't necessarily increase along the same trajectory as the increase in cost. This same dynamic is reflected in almost every wine region. Is Dom Perignon three times as good as a non-vintage brut at one-third the cost? Probably not. Is Screaming Eagle twenty times better than Mondavi Reserve? I've never tasted Screaming Eagle, and most likely never will, but you see where I'm going with this.

For my palate, the Allegrini Palazzo della Torre (from the Veronese IGT appellation) is a solid value, year-in, year-out. You get the flavor profile of an Amarone, but it's lighter, more refreshing, and far cheaper. It delivers almost the same amount of palate pleasure as the $85 Amarone, for about a quarter of the price.

Don't get me wrong: The velvety sweetness of an Amarone cannot be matched, and I can't deny the difference in mouthfeel and complexity from the $85 Amarone. But is it $85 good? Umm...

Amarones have been hot stuff for centuries, and they still adorn the cellars of many collectors because of their richness, downright deliciousness and aging potential. If you haven't tried one, you should. Part of the reason they're so expensive is their production method. When making Amarone, the grapes are allowed to partially dry out over the course of several months through a process called appassimento. This process concentrates the juice and gives the resulting wines a unique density and intensity. But it's not cheap and, in the end, there's less juice left over to sell.

High quality + cost of production + solid demand = a justifiably expensive wine. But when I can get a good bottle of Veronese red for $23? Well, I'll leave the Amarone for special occasions.   

2010 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
SRP: $85
A kind of plum-maroon color. Deep nose of candied berries, milk chocolate, vanilla extract, lots of sweet floral tea and berry jam aromas, needs time to fully unpack these aromas. Full bodied and very creamy, the tannins show serious structure, the acid is low, the wine is chewy and creamy. Blackberry, plums, dark currants, laced with campfire, caramel, Brazil nuts and sweet cocoa powder notes. Full and bold but showing some complexity, probably needing 5+ years to unravel. (89 points)

2011 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veronese IGT
SRP: $23
Vibrant ruby colored. Plummy and rich on the nose, dark berries with jammy elements, some smoke and cocoa powder notes. On the palate the wine is velvety with fine tannins and medium+ acid. Tart red and black berry fruit, refreshing spice and rocky elements, some rhubarb, sweet violets and some cocoa powder. Some raisin and caramel notes linger on the finish. Very approachable. (88 points)

2012 Zenato Rosso Veronese Alanera Veneto IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veneto IGT
SRP: $20
Deep purple color. Lovely nose of violets, roasted coffee and earth on top of sweet currant and plum fruit, some nutty elements as well. A bright sense of acid helps balance the rich fruit, blackberries, currants and plums. Notes of earth, grilled herbs, toasted oak and coffee. Structured but still fresh and quite approachable. 55% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 10% Corvinone, 5% Merlot, 5% Cab. (87 points)

2013 Allegrini Valpolicella - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella
RP: $17
Light ruby colored. Tart berries on the nose, some roses and wet soil notes, some rhubarb. Juicy red and black currant fruit on the palate, tart and crunchy, with fine tannins and tangy acid. Strawberries, red apple and red currant fruit mixes with some raisin and rhubarb. Dusty, rhubarb, charcoal and some coffee bean notes as well. A bit harsh and bitter at first, but it smoothed out a bit with time. (84 points)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Celebrating California Syrah

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

The Rhone Rangers are here in the District for a big shindig this week, and I can’t wait. The grand tasting offers up a chance to taste some 80 Rhone-inspired wines from 20-plus producers. To get the celebration started early, this week we’re looking at a bunch of California Syrahs. 

I was very impressed with this whole lot (which includes wines from the 2009-2012 vintages). For my palate, the earthy, pepper, spicy Syrahs from Baker Lane took the cake, but I thoroughly enjoyed sipping all of these. 

The wines were received as trade samples and tasted single blind. 

2011 Tolosa Winery Syrah Estate - California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
SRP: $32
Bright purple colored. Smooth and focused aromas, blackberries and black cherries, fresh roses and violets, just the right amount of pepper and black olive. Fine but firm tannins, and the acid adds a whole lot of freshness to this wine. Mouthfilling but somehow sleek and easy to drink at the same time. I absolutely love the black olive and barbecue sauce notes, which match well with the blackberry and wild cherry fruit. Bright fruit but good amounts of earth, olive and bacon. (88 points)

2011 Tolosa Winery Syrah 1772 Edna Ranch - California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
SRP: $60
Medium purple color. Nose shows darker fruit (black cherries, dark currants, some red currant as well), laced with notes of cedar, cola and vanilla. Dusty tannins of medium strength, medium acid, a full mouthfeel. The fruit is rich and juicy (black cherries and currants, some red cherries), some cedar elements, along with complex notes of cocoa powder, anise, black pepper sauce, some root beer lingers onto the finish. A bold style, but shows restraint and freshness as well. Seems like it could use a year or two to unwind. (89 points)

2012 Wrath Syrah San Saba Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $39
Medium purple color. Bold and plummy on the nose, some blackberries and black cherries mixed in, backed up by wet soil, tobacco leaf, black pepper and some coconut and root beer. Fleshy and forward on the palate, moderate tannins with a dusty feel, some medium-low acid. Flavors of black cherries, dark currants and juicy blackberries, the fruit is rich but shows a tart, crunchy appeal. Notes of loam, pepper, rainy day and tobacco mix with richer notes of toasted coconut, sweet teriyaki glaze and cedar shavings. Long, full, yet not overpowering. Could open up a lot over the next three or four years, or give it a good, long decant to coax out the nuances. All Syrah, 50% new French oak. (91 points)

2012 Clayhouse Vineyard Syrah - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $14
Deep ruby colored. Aromas of red cherries and black cherries, raspberries, mixed in with cola, root beer, violets and smoke. Bright on the palate with fine tannins and an easy-drinking approach. Red cherries and juicy blackberries, ripe and jammy but not overblown. I get other complex notes of cola and sweet plum cake mixing with elements of black olive, tobacco and tropical forest notes. Impressive value, ready to drink now. 86% Syrah, 12% Petite Sirah and 2% Viognier.
(87 points)

2012 Clayhouse Syrah Estate Red Cedar Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $35
Deep ruby colored. Bold nose of blackberry jam, blueberry, dark plums, scorched earth, intense with incense sticks and smoke. Bold and chewy on the palate with medium-firm tannins, medium-low acid. The plum and black cherry fruit tastes juicy and fresh but shows a slightly roasted aspect. Vanilla and cola mix together with blueberry jam and mocha, slight tones of olive and iron linger long on the creamy finish. A big, plush wine that could probably use two years to settle down, or a long decant and a steak. 92% Syrah, 6% Petite Sirah and 2% Viognier. (88 points)

2012 KITÁ Syrah Camp 4 Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $60
Light purple color. Vibrant and bold on the nose. I get black cherries, currant jam, menthol, sweet cedar, violets, black pepper. Rich texture, medium-low acid, fleshy but quite firm tannins. Black currants, black cherries, some plum fruit, mixed together with menthol, eucalyptus, cedar, cherry cola, roasted coffee, black pepper. Chewy and long on the finish. Delicious, no doubt, but quite bold, perhaps it could use some time. Rich but the wine maintains this element of mystique that I find really attractive. All Syrah, aged 18 months in 30% new French oak. (90 points)

Northern Rhone spice and pepper meets Sonoma Coast juicy fruit, the result is delicious
2009 Baker Lane Syrah Estate Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $45
Dark ruby colored. I love the aromatics here: the tart blueberry and black cherry fruit is intertwined with cracked pepper, red sprinkle pepper, barbecue spice rub and grilled steak smells. Medium-bodied, moderate tannins and acid balance each other out nicely. The fruit is tangy but fully ripe (blackberries, blueberries, black cherries), again those elements come out on the palate and take center stage: black pepper, beef jerky, spice rub and crispy bacon. The fruit is pure Sonoma Coast goodness, but this could be mistaken for a Northern Rhone Syrah. Long finish with notes of coffee and iron. Complex, delicious, beautiful stuff. 13.6% alcohol, this is co-fermented with 4% Viognier and aged 17 months in 20% new barrels. (93 points) 

2010 Baker Lane Syrah Estate Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $45
Medium-dark ruby colored. Smells of black and red currants, some tart blueberries, more violets but also some subtle pepper and spice elements. Juicy and ripe with grippy tannins and medium acid. Jammy but smooth on the fruit (blackberries, blueberries and dark currants). I really like the accents of cracked pepper, red pepper, soy glaze and bacon fat. Juicy, forward fruit but love the spicy complexity of this wine. Hints of mineral, coffee and iron as well. Plenty of time to let those complexities evolve, the wine has a lot of stuffing. 13% alcohol, this is co-fermented with 4% Viognier and aged 17 months in 20% new barrels. (92 points)

2012 Baker Lane Syrah Sonoma Coast Cuvée - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $30
Dark ruby. Lush and exotic on the nose, the blackberry and dark plum fruit mixes with violets, rose potpourri, bay leaf, cracked pepper and roasted coffee. Firm tannins, moderate acid, the wine is big but balanced and could be elegant with time in the cellar. Tart blueberries, black cherries and blackberries, the fruit is dusted with all sorts of spices (black pepper, dried red pepper, oregano, soy sauce). Notes of loam, violets, iron and roasted coffee as well. Tons of stuff going on here, but this needs two to four years to show its true potential. 2% Viognier in here, this spends 17 months in 10% new oak. (92 points)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Goodness

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Willamette Valley Pinot Noir needs no introduction. This week, Im taking a look at a few solid examples from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 vintages. Honestly, I didn’t find a mediocre wine, although the elegance and complexity of the 2011 Adelsheim Elizabeth’s Reserve wowed me the most.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single blind.

2011 Cornerstone Cellars Pinot Noir - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $50
Bright red cherry colored. Cool red fruit bursts from the glass (strawberries, cherries and raspberries), along with a hefty dose of spice (oregano, black pepper, nettles) and some sweet coffee. Fresh and inviting on the palate with high acid, smooth tannins and tangy strawberries, raspberries and red currants. I like the kick of pepper, soy and wet leaves. Some cedar and coffee notes are integrated well into the overall package. Bright and fresh but lots of complexity. Ready to drink but able to hold. (90 points)

2011 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Elizabeth’s Reserve - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $55
Bright, clear ruby colored. The nose is just awesome once it opens up in the glass: spiced cranberry sauce, sour cherries, roses, mint, tobacco. On the palate, the acid is beautiful, the tannins silky, and the fruit is just gorgeous, with tangy red currants, deep black cherries and wild strawberry. Tons of fresh and fruity complexity, but the non-fruit flavors are what really excite me: tobacco leaf, braised beef, black pepper, sage, dill, cedar, some cola and cedar notes to round it out. Long, structured, elegant, very tangy. Dare I throw out the B-word in comparison? (93 points)

2012 Vineyard 29 Pinot Noir Cru - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $53
Light purple color. Bright red and black cherries on the nose, with sweet roses, light roast coffee, some chestnut and earth notes. Tangy acid and some fine-grain but firm tannins, the fruit is fresh and juicy but rich all at the same time. Layered with complex notes of spice, earth, cedar, green herbs and coffee. Love the combination of oomph and elegance. Stuff to unpack in the cellar here, or let it open for an entire evening, save half the bottle for the next day. (91 points)

2012 Cornerstone Cellars Pinot Noir Stepping Stone - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $30
Medium ruby color. Aromas of raspberry and strawberry jam, some violets, rose petals, cracked pepper, a sweeter note of coffee and caramel. On the palate, this is full of juicy red berry fruit, supported by dusty-fine tannins. Spicy rhubarb and dried cherries mix with earth and slight mushroom notes, some sweet vanilla cola. An easy-drinking personality, it’s ready to open now but it’s not a simple wine, showing a good dose of complexity. (88 points)

2012 Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Estate - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Chehalem Mountains
SRP: $45
Medium ruby color. Nose of tart red cherries, cranberry sauce with spices, roses and rhubarb pie. Medium tannic structure, medium acid, a mouthfeel that is both smooth yet chewy. Nice mix of red and black plums and cherries, some strawberries too. Juicy and fresh yet bold, some toasted oak and roasted coffee mix in with the lighter notes of rose petals, clay soil and chewing tobacco. Quite a long finish with toasted oak, roses and coffee on the finish. Solid concentration, but stays pretty. This opens up a lot with air but could use a year or two in the cellar. (89 points)

2013 Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Barrel Select - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $30
Medium ruby color. Love the aromas, plenty of sour and red cherries, wild strawberries, matched equally with notes of pickle, bay leaf, barnyard and smoke. Fine but supportive tannins, brisk and refreshing acid, a precise approach. Sour cherries, strawberries and raspberries taste tart and juicy, backed up by flavors of beef broth, dusty earth, charcoal pit and some white pepper, hints of light roast coffee. Tangy, fresh, pretty and vibrant, ready to drink but enough structure to last a few years. 12.5% alcohol, aged nine months in 25% new French oak. (88 points)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Exploring Austrian Grüner Veltliner

Accessible, popular, flies off the shelves. These are not words I’d use to describe Grüner Veltliner, that wonderfully spicy, challenging, hard-to-pronounce Austrian white grape. 

But GrüV wines can be really exciting, and they’re definitely worth checking out. Spicy and herbal yet rich and tropical, the wines are a classic pairing with all sorts of Indian and Asian foods. 

I recently tasted through a few Grüners at Weygandt Wines in DC, which imports a slew of really good Austrian wines. From entry-level to high-end F.X. Pichler juice, the tasting represented a good cross-section of what you can expect from Austrian Grüner.

2014 Soellner Grüner Veltliner Wogenrain - Austria, Niederösterreich, Wagram
Lovely spice, herbs and bright green fruit on the nose. Tart and brisk, with minerals, spice and pepper to accent the crunchy green apples. Great way to introduce people to Grüner. (87 points)

2013 Soellner Grüner Veltliner Hengstberg - Austria, Niederösterreich, Wagram 
Spicy aromatics, some richer, more honeyed notes than the Wogenrain. Lush, rich palate but still plenty clean and brisk. Apricots and pears dashed with white pepper, herbs and honey. Love the creaminess and depth to this wine, but lots of spice and herbal complexities. (90 points)

2014 Weinkeller Aigner Grüner Veltliner Sandgrube - Austria, Niederösterreich, Kremstal
Bright and intense aromatics of crushed chalk, rocks, shells and green herbs. Crisp, intense grip and acid, some richer elements. A racy wine yet shows some fullness and structure. Long, spicy finish. (88 points)

2014 Weinkeller Aigner Grüner Veltliner Reserve Privat - Austria, Niederösterreich, Kremstal
Rich and bold aromatics, much more forward than the 2014 Sandgrube, I get lots of slate and minerals along with the tropical fruit. Rich, exotic, plush, lots of tropical fruit but plenty of acid, minerals and smoky elements. (90 points)

2012 Franz Hirtzberger Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Rotes Tor - Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
Smells of lemons, limes, white pepper and pickling spices to me. Rich presence yet clean and clear, juicy white peach plays off a deep saline and slate aesthetic. White pepper, clover and a hint of hops, this is a complex and layered wine with a lot of time ahead. (91 points)

2011 Pichler-Krutzler Grüner Veltliner Wunderburg - Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
Oily aromatics, with slate, spice, honeycomb and yellow apples. Clean, crisp, live-wire acidity but some bold structure. White peach and lime blend with chalk, shells, seaweed and green beans. Long, mineral-driven and spicy. Holding up wonderfully, with plenty of time. (90 points)

2013 F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Urgestein Terrassen - Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
So bright and vibrant on the nose: green apples, kiwi, honey, laundry, minerals, chalk. Crisp, intense, zippy yet powerful. Needs time, but I’m loving these smashed rocks, strong herbs, spices and minerals. Rich, intense, but showing so much elegance and stuffing for the cellar. (92 points)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Muscadet - Basking in Crisp, Oceanic Goodness

Two years ago, I called Muscadet “Frances’s Most Oceanic Wine.” After recently tasting threw a slew of Muscadets and eating all sorts of seafood, I realize I made a mistake. Muscadet is the world’s most oceanic wine. When it comes to pairing wine with all things from the ocean, I say: Muscadet. 

Oysters, crab, shrimp, lobster... if it comes from the ocean, Muscadet will do the trick.
I recently got together with a ton of great wine friends for the third annual “Muscaday,” a feast of fruits de la mer and far too many bottles of great Muscadet.

A Muscadet primer by Lettie Teague in the Wall Street Journal declared the wine to be “the oyster’s best friend.”  Oh, so true. I’ve used the term oyster shell or oyster brine to describe many a Muscadet, so pairing one with the other is a no-brainer.  

The third installment of Muscaday involved a few semi-vertical tastings of a particular wine.

Luneau-Papin’s Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Le “L” d’Or is one of the most intriguing Muscadets I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. The wine comes from granite soils on sloping, riverside hills, which give the wine a lovely mineral intensity. The L d’Or spends nine-to-eleven months on the less, which are stirred to give the wine a creamy texture.

Vintage variation keeps things interesting, and allows us ultra-nerds to discuss the nuances and debate the cellar potential of each year, but all of these wines are flat-out beautiful. I love the depth of oceanic elements and the precision of these wines. I thought the 1997 was showing beautifully, but perhaps the 2002 crept ahead just a bit for my palate because of its slightly higher intensity and brightness. That said, I’d happily sip any of these bottles over the course of a weekend — with seafood, of course.

1995 Le “L” d'Or
A bit closed and muted at first but shows a lot of minerals, melon, chalk. Not too briny, moderately floral, similar to the 2002 in its structure, but with a bit less verve.

Briny, focused, bright, tons of sour lemon, sea breeze, crusty jetty rocks. Creamy notes, slight honey, still plenty of life ahead. Up there with the 2002 for my favorite.

Bright, a bit more seashells on this one, still an attractive creaminess, plenty of acid.

A beautiful L d'Or, tons of cut and verve. Saline, chalk, intense and brisk with candied lemon, apricot, oyster shell and lots of potpourri and spice. So alive and bright, years ahead if cellared properly.

2005 Le “L” d’Or
Young but showing a ton of attractive elements. Chalky, floral, dried herbs, intensely oceanic. Great cut but creamy body, lots to unpack in the cellar.

I also had the chance to taste through several vintages of Pépière’s Clos des Briords. The 2008 was my favorite (and the oldest Briords I’ve yet to taste). Given how awesome these wines are in their youth, I really need to taste one with a decade or more of age, because I’m drooling just thinking of how well these could age.

2008 Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Vieilles Vignes Clos des Briords - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
My favorite wine in this flight, perhaps of the night. Delicious, exotic, refined, full of complexity. So much chalk and minerals, but the green pear and apple fruit is still going, a creamy, richer aspect accents the acidity. Wonderful stuff, still seems to have years ahead.

2010 Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Vieilles Vignes Clos des Briords - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
So brisk, briny, salty, full of lime and flowers. Intense, alive, nervy, but showing some refinement. I wish I had a half case of this to cellar and pop a bottle every year.

2012 Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Vieilles Vignes Clos des Briords - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
A more bold and forward appeal (obviously, still tons of minerals, ocean spray and brine), but some orange, apple and candied lemon. Seems to be opening up, I'd love to try this again in two-to-four years.

2013 Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Vieilles Vignes Clos des Briords - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
Still really intense and young, full of salty, oceanic intensity. Not as plump as the 2012, but a lot of concentration and age-worthy potential. Very good stuff.

I didn’t taste through everything, and I didn’t take notes on everything I tasted, but I managed to scribble down some thoughts on a slew of other interesting Muscadets. Per usual, there was not a bad wine in the bunch.

1996 Chereau-Gunther Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Grande Cuvée Saint-Hilaire Château du Coing de St. Fiacre - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
Super floral, honeysuckle, spice, some Riesling-like notes of oil and dried nuts. Still lively, but an attractive oily aspect. Very nice.

2002 Luneau-Papin / Domaine Pierre de la Grange Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Excelsior Clos des Noelles - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
Probably the creamiest Muscadet in the bunch. Rich, almond, nougat, peaches, wax. Still crisp acid and full of mineral intensity, but a richness that is very attractive. Bold but beautiful.

2004 Jérémie Huchet & Jérémie Mourat Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Gorges - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
Rich yet brisk, floral and alive, saline and honey line up perfectly. Aged characteristics of dried honey and herbs but still tons of freshness.

2005 Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Trois - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
Plump, full and yeasty, yet mineral-driven and full of tangy citrus and oceanic elements. Perhaps even more complex and effusive than when I tasted this in 2012.

2005 Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Cuvée Eden - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
Brisk, clean, yet floral and spicy. Peachy, lots of pears, seashells and spice notes. From magnum, still a ways to go.

2009 Chéreau-Carré Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Le Clos du Chateau l'Oiseliniere - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
Crisp and tart, limes and sea shells, oceanic but light and perhaps a bit restrained. Quite nice, but perhaps it needs time?

2010 Jérémie Huchet & Jérémie Mourat Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Clisson - Les Bêtes Curieuses - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
Tangy, intense, chalky, lots of minerals and oyster shells yet maintains a fruity, suave appeal.
2010 Domaine Bruno Cormerais Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Granite de Clisson - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
Elegant, so mineral-driven, lots of slate and saline. The lime, green pear and spice elements work well. Seems to be in prime drinking condition.

2010 Luneau-Papin / Domaine Pierre de la Grange Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Terre de Pierre Butte de la Roche - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
Salty, clean, full of minerals, but a richer approach, leesy with some serious concentration. I’d hold this for three-to-eight.