Sunday, June 28, 2009

A French Cotes-du-Rhone Past Its Prime?

I always make a big batch of pasta sauce, meat, etc. on Sunday nights. Then I eat it a time or two again during the week.

I did just that recently and went to look for a bottle of wine. I didn't have any Italian wines or a Garnacha, both of which I like with Italian.

I grabbed a bottle of French wine I bought on recommendation and popped it open. The wine was a 2003 Chateau Pesquie Les Terrasses. It had a smooth flavor but nothing interesting on the front of the palate. It had a lively Grenache (French) or Garnacha (Spanish) spice flavor on the finish. But, I thought the wine was a little flat initially.

I popped open the Internet to see what I could learn. I learned it was 70 percent Grenache and 30 percent Syrah - therefore, the nice finish. Robert Parker liked this wine and gave it an 89! But then something colored my opinion. Parker said the wine would be best in 2007.

I wish I had thought of that, and it makes sense. That being said, it was a okay glass of wine - not great. I wish I had tasted it in its prime.

The winery is a storied wine-making estate in Provence. New owners took the winery over in the 80s and have made a name for themselves with these French wines. You can find this wine in the $11-$12 range.

The point of this post is that some times the Internet can teach you things. I'm not sure I always agree with Robert Parker or Wine Spectator's ratings, but it's useful information to educate your palate. The glass of wine I tasted didn't warrant an 89, but maybe Parker was right - perhaps it was a tad past its best days.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nothing wrong with a little bubbly

*This wine was rated 89 by Antonio Galloni in the Wine Advocate December 2008

There has been plenty to celebrate lately. I started a new job (and finished the first two weeks without being shown the door!), Leah graduated from Cornell Medical School, my friends are all reasonably happy and healthy, and it is almost summer.

So Friday night, after a nice dinner of appetizers at Land, I decided it was time to pop some bubbly. I had a bottle of J. Lassalle Premier Cru Champagne NV in the cooler and decided it was well time to open it up and see what was inside.

Leah and I found ourselves very relaxed, with some music playing, bubbly in flutes in our hands, and in good company.

The wine was fantastic. For me there were really pleasant olive notes, some doughy overtones, and just a slight bitterness at the end which I found was very enjoyable. Made me want to go in for another sip, and another. Before long, we had finished the bottle, and the first sip was just as enjoyable as the last. The bubbles were very nice and small and plentiful to the last drop in the bottle.

This bottle was a gift (not a sample) and I very much thank the person who gave it to me. The intention was to expand my wine education and it certainly did that. Before this bottle I had not had many good experiences with sparkling wines. This was an eye opener, and definitely made me want to go out in search of more grower-producer labels.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

1997 Les Cailloux (Lucien et André Brunel) Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Cross-posted from 2 Days per Bottle, based on an 89-point review from Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, January/February 2000, Issue #88.

Type Red
Producer Les Cailloux (Lucien et André Brunel)
Variety Red Rhone Blend
Designation n/a
Vineyard n/a
Country France
Region Rhône
SubRegion Southern Rhône
Appellation Châteauneuf-du-Pape

This wine has the Big Wooden Guy scratching his head a bit.

Night One

The color clearly says this is an older wine. It is translucent and brick-red with orange edges. The nose is interesting, tarragon, thyme, cherry, and a little crushed limestone. The palate is complex. It starts with dried cherries then loads tarragon, thyme, sage and leather on top. On the mid-palate the cherries go from dried to tart and add some strawberries, while carrying the spices along from the attack. Lavender also shows up on the mid-palate. The finish is long.

Night Two

Most of the fruit is gone from the nose on Night Two. Instead, it is redolent with leafy spices and dried flowers. There are still a few cherries on the palate but they are resting on a deep bed of violets, lavender, tarragon, thyme and sage.


This is an interesting, even curious, wine. It is not fantastic, or particularly special, but it very pleasantly shows what happens when good wine spends some time in the cellar, long enough to let the fruit fade and the spices and flowers come forward.

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