Tasting Notes by
George Heritier



henever we go on the road, we always make a point of perusing any local wine retailers we happen upon to see what’s available, be it something we can’t find at home, or just a long lost friend. We found some of both during a recent sojourn in Massachusetts, specifically in those hotbeds of vino-dom known as Marshfield, Rockland and Scituate. Only one bottle in an otherwise wicked good catch cost more than $21.99, and that $30 bottle was a dog by comparison. Here are my impressions of the high points and the high priced woofer:

2003 Belle Pente Willamette Riesling, $17.99, 13.7% alc.: We never pass up a chance to try one of Jill and Brian O’Donnell’s wines whenever we happen upon one, as we still have fond memories of our visit with them a few years back. Their Pinot Noirs are the stars of their little homegrown show, but the Rieslings do them proud as well. This one is a medium straw shading to pale gold in color, offering something reminiscent of red and green apples and peaches with a hint of minerality and nice undertones of pine and lime; the wine is fruit sweet, but not sugar sweet, being clean, crisp, fairly rich and quite refreshing. All in all, a solid Willamette equivalent to a better German QBA or even a Kabinett. Find this wine

2003 La Chablisienne Petit Chablis, $14.99, 12.5% alc.: Medium straw in color, with stony minerality and beeswax dominating the yellow and green apple fruit character, all with earthy undertones; good length and good acidity, though not as crisp as one might expect, probably a reflection of the hot vintage. A solid Chablis for the money, one that drew no complaints whatsoever from those who drank it after a fine, leisurely boat ride up the North River on one of the last great days of the summer, at a patch of beach on a short, sandy rise known to locals as "the couch," and officially named Couch Beach on Blueberry Island. Find this wine

2005 William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux, $21.99, 12.5% alc.: Medium straw with a tinge of lime to its color; citrus and green apple flavors and aromas, with plenty of stony minerality in support, and showing little of the obvious oak that the ’02 model did. Crisp and refreshing, with good length and intensity, this will probably benefit from a year or two in the cellar.  Most enjoyable after boating back down the North River on the same occasion and putting ashore on a stretch of beach near where the river joins the Massachusetts Bay, called "The Spit;" fortunately, the tide was out, else we would have been wading and sipping.   Find this wine

Imported by Paterno Imports, Lake Bluff, IL

2003 Château de Flaugergues Coteaux du Languedoc la ma Janelle Cuvée Sommelière2003 Château de Flaugergues Coteaux du Languedoc La Mejanelle Cuvée Sommelière, $13.49, 13.5% alc.: Dark garnet color, fading to pink at the rim, with flavors and aromas of rich dark plums and berries, shaded with undertones of earth and chocolate; smooth, yet fairly dense and concentrated, with moderate tannins and good length. Short term cellaring wouldn’t hurt, but this is eminently drinkable right now, and a great QPR.
Find this wine

Imported by Ideal Wine & Spirits Co., Inc., Medford, MA

1997 Domaine Clavel Coteaux du Languedoc La Copa Santa, $14.97, 13% alc.: This has really developed and is maturing well since the last time we had it, and perhaps surprisingly (or not), we found one last bottle in the same Marshfield Blanchard’s outlet where we bought the previous one. Some rust has invaded the dark garnet color, all fading at the rim, and some nice secondary characteristics are starting to develop in both flavor and aroma, with smoke, leather and iron complementing the black and red plums and berries, with earth, underbrush and a wee bit of the barnyard in the background. Smooth, yet still well structured, with a good, long finish, it has an almost Châteauneuf du Pape-like personality; it may not yet be at its peak, and it’s certainly not likely to fade any time soon, and if I had any more, I’d pair it with a roasted leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic. Find this wine

1999 Domaine Clavel Coteaux du Languedoc La Copa Santa1999 Domaine Clavel Coteaux du Languedoc La Copa Santa, $14.97, 14% alc.: This inky beast presents an interesting contrast to the ’97, giving up something like a theoretical blend of earthy underbrush, mahogany and flat root beer; there is a core of dark plum and blackberry, but it’s showing more secondary characteristics than the older model, and yet it still has significant structure and concentration. It opens dramatically with air, becoming more and more harmonious, and drinks fairly well already, but it’s really in an intermediate period, and needs another two or three years minimum. If you just can’t wait and have to open one now, give it an hour in a decanter before drinking.  Find this wine

Imported by Arborway Imports, Lexington, MA

2001 Val D’Orbieu ‘La Cuvée Mythique’ Vin de Pays d’Oc2001 Val D’Orbieu ‘La Cuvée Mythique’ Vin de Pays d’Oc, 30% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 20% Century-old Carignan, 15% Mourvedre, 6% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, $15.99, 13.5% alc.: We loved the ’97 version of this wine, and went through quite a few of them, and I only wish that we could have brought home every bottle that the nice little shop in Scituate had in stock; I find it especially interesting to compare these notes to the ones I posted in 2003. The dark garnet color fades at the rim of the glass, and the wine offers up very nice characteristics of red and black currants and plums with undertones of earth, leather and cedar, with moderate tannins, good acids and a nice long finish. For me, this epitomizes real red wine, being very food friendly and yet quite enjoyable all by itself. Despite the preponderance of Rhône varietals, it has a claret-like quality, and offers marvelous QPR for what’s in the bottle. I must have more of this wine! Find this wine

Imported by Pasternak Wine Imports, Greenwich, CT

1998 Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert, $19.99, 13% alc.: This rust tinged dark garnet Syrah has come around nicely since we last had it in 2002; slightly tart and somewhat astringent when first poured, it shows a hint of the barnyard over under-ripe black plums and berries shaded with earth and leather. Drinking very well right now (Kim loves it from sip one), but it’s in no danger of fading anytime soon. Recently, I wondered if the ’95 vintage might not be the last of the “old” Domaine de Thalaberts, but this fine friend is certainly of that same style. Now I’m wondering if I might not have a bottle or two of this stashed down in the cellar from heck.  Find this wine

Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd., New York, NY

2001 Edmund St. John California Red Wine Rocks and Gravel, $21.99, 14.4% alc.: We’ve been exploring and enjoying Steve Edmunds wines lately, so I was quite pleased to find two last bottles of this in a place in Rockland. Dark garnet, fading to pink at the rim, this one is all about raw iron over deep, dark earthy black plums and berries; big and well structured, with significant tannins, it opens pretty nicely with 30 minutes in the glass, but I’ll probably give our second bottle at least another three years to see if it’s ready (and I won’t be surprised if it’s not.) A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.
Find this wine

2001 Xanadu Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon, $12.99: Much as we remember the ’99 version of this dark garnet colored claret, this is showing typical flavors and aromas of cassis, dark cherry and plum, but it’s about twelve months or more past its prime, being fairly soft and a little faded. It’s still perfectly drinkable and enjoyable, especially at the closeout price, but I was hoping for a little more from this one. Find this wine

2001 Xanadu Margaret River Shiraz, $13.99: Perhaps surprisingly, this dark garnet is holding up better than the Cabernet, offering some smoke and leather over a full spectrum of dark berries and plums; still rich and full flavored and still with some structure to it, and it gets smokier and smokier with air. Still hangin’ tough, and at this price, I wish I could have brought all of the bottles in that same nice little shop in Scituate home with us, but…  Find this wine

Imported by William Grant and Sons Inc, Edison, NJ

2003 Jacques de la Jugie Minervois La Livinière, $7.99, 12.5% alc.: I’ve been a fan of the wines of Minervois for some time now, and this dark garnet QPR All Star is another great example of why; it features nicely perfumed red berries and cherries with a note of black olives that takes it beyond the merely fruit juicy. Rich and ready to go, with a medium full body and decent length, and if I’d like a little more earthiness to this, I still can’t complain about what’s in the glass, because it’s just too easy to enjoy. Probably the best value in red wine I’ve come across in 2006. Find this wine

Imported by Ideal Wine & Spirits Co., Inc., Medford, MA

2003 Neal Family Napa Zinfandel Rutherford, 92% Zinfandel, 8% Petite Sirah, $29.99, 14.4% alc.: I’ve been reading good things about this winery for a couple of years, but until now, had never found the opportunity to try one. Frankly, the price of this dark garnet colored Zin blend went against the spirit of our wine m.o. during our visit to Massachusetts (although, to be fair, it sells for $19.99 closer to where it comes from), but I decided I was going to try one anyway, and just as frankly, wasn’t much impressed with what we found, even had it cost $20. It’s first and foremost all about big, sweet toasty oak, with rather surprisingly less intensity of fruit than I expected; there’s some decent raspberry flavor here, but it’s drowned by an avalanche of oak and mirrors that deserves no further comment, other than that someone will have to convince me that this producer is worth investigating further, because this one definitely didn't do it for us.  Find this wine

Reporting from Day-twah,


Other Recent Wine Explorations

September 2006 Bastardo's Best Buys (Or Wines That Don't Suck)

Not Just Flotsam and Jetsam

More Wines With Friends

Wines of Domaine Berthet-Rayne

Wine With Friends

Warm Weather Whites 2006

Back to September '06 Index

Back to the Underground Index

Back to the Top

© George Heritier September, 2006