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Tasting Notes From the Underground

Article and
Tasting Notes by
George Heritier

Recent RHones and Rhone Rangers

First, the good news, old now, but still good. Once again, the Detroit Red Wings had a great run, going as far into the NHL playoffs as possible. They generated a ton of fan enthusiasm in a beleaguered city, not to mention much needed revenue for downtown businesses. The bad news is, of course, that the Wings couldn't win that last game and the other team took the Stanley Cup on a summer victory tour that will span the globe.

Still, we continued our tradition of enjoying some very fine red Rhônes during Rounds 3 and 4, and as was the case in earlier rounds, we also indulged in some non-French selections and a few whites as well. Here's the Rhône-down on what we drank.

2004 Coudoulet de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône Blanc, 30% Marsanne, 30% Viognier, 20% Bourboulenc, 20% Clairette, $39.99, 13.5% alc.: Clean medium straw color, with mineral, lanolin and rain water flavors and aromas; it's hard to describe any “fruit” component here, but the wine is very nice nevertheless. Full bodied, with good balance and presence. Find this wine

Imported by Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

2006 Domaine du Trillol Corbiéres Blanc Roussane-Macabeu, $12.49, 13% alc.: Clean medium color, with a little mineral and lanolin on the stingy nose; much more expressive on the palate, with rich, moderately ripe peach and melon shaded with the above-noted mineral and lanolin, which become more accentuated with air. Medium full bodied, with good balance and acids; fairly long on the finish, with lingering minerality. Good value here. Find this wine

Imported by J&J Importers LLC, Bloomfield Hills, MI

2004 Chateau des Tours Cotes du Rhone Reserve2004 Chateau des Tours Côtes du Rhône Réserve, 13.5% alc.: Almost inky in color, with a sun baked nose that also shows some subtle rotting vegetation underneath; big, rich and powerful in the mouth, all sun baked, smoky, earthy and ripe, with black plums, berries and currants. Kim calls it “jammy,” and she's correct, but the earthy elements provide a nice counterbalance. Full bodied and powerful, with the structure and depth to age and develop for 10 years or more. Very tasty!
Find this wine

Imported by Martine's Wines Inc., Novato, CA

1999 Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage, $18, 13% alc.: Looks like a glass of ink and throws a typical Graillot nose of black olive and bacon that follows through very nicely on the palate with some earth and Provencal herb in the background, rich yet a bit astringent at the same time; the latter tones down with some air. Full bodied and well structured, this is drinking beautifully, but may still not be at its peak. Find this wine

Imported by Europvin USA, Oakland, CA

1999 Domaine du Cayron Gigondas, $23.99, 14% alc.: Clean dark color, with big, rich beetroot, black plum, blackberry and hints of black olive and cola; earthy, smoky and sun baked in character. Full bodied, well structured and still on the way up. Another 10 years? Why not! Great Gigondas here. Find this wine

Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA

1999 Domaine Le Mas des Collines Regis de Taxis Gigondas, 13.5% alc.: Looks like a glass of ink and delivers big, rich, earthy black plum, blackberry and black currant flavors and aromas shaded with iron and cola. Full bodied and beautifully balanced, with excellent structure for several years still in the cellar, this has yet to peak, and offers a fine contrast to the '99 Cayron noted above. Find this wine

Imported by J et R Selections, Mt. Pleasant, MI

2003 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras Cuvée Azalaïs, 14% alc., $21.60: Deep dark color, with barnyard on the nose that mostly gives way to reveal earthy black fruit, beetroot and iron in both flavor and aroma. Big, chewy and muscular, this is the epitome of great Vacqueyras; just give it another 5 years or so.
Find this wine

Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA

1995 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee1995 Domaine du Pegau Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Réservée, 13.5% alc.: Dark garnet color, with only a hint of rust; classic Pegau perfume of cola, mahogany, smoke, iron and beetroot, all echoing and expanding in the mouth with a solid earthy base. Full bodied, smooth, rich and still well structured, this may still be another 5 years or so from reaching its peak, but already gives immense pleasure. Find this wine

Imported by J et R Selections, Mt. Pleasant, MI

1997 Domaine du Pegau Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Réservée, 13.5% alc.: Good dark color and not nearly as effusive aromatically as the '95 noted above, nor as perfumed; also leaner and sleeker in the mouth, but it does give nice earthy, smoky beetroot, plum and iron. A solid and enjoyable Pegau, but not an exceptional one; may have a few more years of improvement, but no reason you can't open and enjoy one now. Find this wine

Imported by J et R Selections, Mt. Pleasant, MI

2006 Qupe Santa Maria Valley Syrah Bien Nacido2006 Qupé Santa Maria Valley Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard, $18.99, 14.5% alc.: Clean dark color, with a pretty nose of sweet plum and lavender, which follows through on the palate with spicy undertones, a hint of black olive; despite the rich fruit, it has a decidedly savory character. Full bodied, with good structure and at least 3-5 years of aging potential, but it's already eminently drinkable. A lovely wine, and the Costco price is a bonus! Find this wine

2004 Tablas Creek Paso Robles Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge, 1.5 L, 50% Mourvèdre, 27% Syrah, 17% Grenache, 6% Counoise, 14.5% alc., $59.99: Deep dark color, with rich plum (more black than red) shaded with a melange of berries and very subtle earthy undertones. Smooth and rich, with the structure to age for many years, but while still primary in character, already very tasty. Time in the cellar should allow this to develop complexity and subtle nuance that it lacks now. Drink or hold. Find this wine

2006 Tablas Creek Paso Robles Cotes de Tablas Rouge2006 Tablas Creek Paso Robles Côtes de Tablas Rouge, 72% Grenache, 11% Syrah, 9% Mourvèdre, 8% Counoise, 14.8% alc.: Good dark color; sun baked and smoky, with a big core of ripe, earthy dark plum and berry shaded with some grilled meat and wood smoke. Gains notes of Rock and Rye/cola and a little dusty cocoa as it opens. Big and chewy; full bodied, with solid structure for several years of development. Find this wine

05 Edmund St. John Rocks and Gravel2005 Edmund St. John Rocks and Gravel California Red Wine, 14.2% alc.: Clean dark color, with a somewhat restrained nose of smooth plum and berry (more in the red spectrum than black) and plenty more of the same on the palate, accented undertones of dusty cocoa and earth. Full bodied and structured for some years yet in the cellar; smooth, balanced and well mannered, this is a very nice drink or hold kind o' wine, and another winner from Steve Edmunds. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Counoise. Find this wine

2001 Sean Thackrey Sirius Old Vines Mendocino Petite Sirah Eaglepoint Ranch, 14.7% alc., $45: Deep dark color, with an earthy, tarry, sticksy nose and a big, rich core of black plum and blackberry on the palate; full bodied, chewy and powerful, still several years from its peak. Find this wine

Reporting from Day-twah,

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© George Heritier July, 2009