Article and
Tasting Notes by
George Heritier



One of the mid-size wine distributors in southeastern Michigan whose book I really like is Rave Associates out of Ann Arbor. They carry a solid core of quality wines from importers such as Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd. and Rudi Wiest Selections. I attended one of their trade shows at the Novi Sheraton on March 12th, and I was expecting to see a fairly broad representation of their wine portfolio. What I had forgotten was that the show mainly featured the many lines of craft beers that they also carry, with several tables of value-oriented wines in more of a supporting role.

Looking over the wine list, this proved to present no problem, as there were more than a few selections that I know and have enjoyed in previous vintages. It also proved to be timely, what with the tough economy and the need for good wines at modest prices. I love good artisanal beers, and there were many great brewers such as Allagash, Arcadia, Bells, Flying Dog and Lagunitas in the house, but I didn’t try any of them. My focus was on wine, so I made my way to those tables.

Robert Jones, MSMy first stop was at the Kysela station, where I was pleased to renew acquaintances with National Sales Representative Robert Jones, MS, one of the most wine-savvy people I know, and also a down-to-earth, amiable gentleman. I found some very nice wines at this table, starting with the latest version of an old friend that has served as our house white over the past several summers.

2007 Hugues Beaulieu Picpoul de Pinet Coteaux du Languedoc, 12-12.5% alc., $9.99: Clean and crisp, with lots of upfront mineral, and rounded out with pleasant apple, melon and white grapefruit flavors. Medium bodied, with excellent acidity, this is the perfect choice for an everyday white that pairs well with a variety of foods and serves equally as well as an aperitif or a summer quaffer. Find this wine

2007 Cortenova Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie IGT, 12% alc., $11.49: Pale straw color, with lots of mineral, grapefruit, pear and a hint of detergent that is actually an aspect of the mineral; medium bodied and very crisp, this is another one that serves well for summer sipping and pairing with light seafood. Find this wine

2006 Chateau de Segries Côtes du Rhône2006 Chateau de Segries Côtes du Rhône, 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Cinsault, 10% Carignan, 13.5% alc., $11.49: This wine sees only old barrels; it shows good color, offering earthy mineral, red and black plums and berries and a hint of beetroot. Medium full bodied, with good structure for at least a few years of development, but drinks quite well right now. Seems to have a little more oomph than the last few we’ve had. Find this wine

Next I tried two vintages of Castelmaure’s Corbières Rouge Col des Vents, which has been a solid QPR red for at least the last several vintage, and if anything, may even be better than before. The "Col des Vents" refers to the hills of the Corbières region which are swept by night winds coming off the sea and cooling the vineyards. The general vineyard percentages are 40% Grenache, 40% Carignan and 20% Syrah, but the blend in the wines changes from vintage to vintage.

Castelmaure Corbières Rouge Col des Vents2005 Castelmaure Corbières Rouge Col des Vents, 50% Carignan, 35% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 13.5% alc., $10.49: Good color, with a smoky nose that leads into smoke, mineral, earth, red plums and berries and hints of tar. Medium full bodied, with good depth and structure. Find this wine

2007 Castelmaure Corbières Rouge Col des Vents, 50% Carignan, 35% Grenache, 15% Syrah, $10.49: This shows darker color than the 2005, with a matchstick nose that follows through on the palate with tarry mineral, black currant and blackberry. Medium full to full bodied, with very good structure and intensity and good length. According to Robert, “All the ‘07s are like that, amped up and a caricature of themselves.” Find this wine

2005 Le Hauts de la Brune Côteaux du Languedoc, 80% Syrah, 10% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre, 13% alc., $11.99: Good color, with earthy old wood character over dry black currant and blackberry; medium full to full bodied, with good depth and structure. Not quite chewy and a little astringent on the finish. A year or three won’t hurt this, but neither will pairing it with grilled red meats or a hearty stew. Find this wine

A trio from Kysela

2007 Tres Ojos Old Vine Garnacha Tinto Calatayud, 14.5% alc., $8.49: Sourced from southwest desert-like head pruned vineyards with 35-40 year old vines; obviously riper and brighter than the French reds, yet still with a solid earthy base for counterbalance. Full bodied, chewy, rich black cherry, blackberry and black plum flavors; well structured, with good balance and length. Very good QPR here, and a wine I could drink on a regular basis. Find this wine

2007 Cortenova Primitivo Salento IGT, $9.99: Somewhat manipulated for soft approachability, with clean, fresh plum and berry; pizza and burger wine that isn’t particularly interesting. Find this wine

Next came two Argentine reds from Cueva de las Manos, which means Cave of the hands in Spanish, referring to a pre-historic UNESCO world heritage site. I found both to be very tasty.

2006 Cueva de las Manos Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Reserve, 14% alc., $14: Dark color, with earthy black currant and tobacco, along with just a hint of toast and coffee; ripe (but not too ripe), medium full bodied, with good structure. Drinking well now and over at least the next few years. Find this wine

2006 Cueva de las Manos Malbec Mendoza Reserve, 14% alc., $14: Inky color, with earthy black currant, blackberry and plum flavors and aromas shaded with subtle toast; strikes a nice balance between the earthy and the ripe. Good depth, intensity and structure, so you can age it for at least a few years, but it drinks well already. Find this wine

The last wine I tried with Robert was from a producer whose wines we’ve enjoyed in the past, Thorn-Clarke, and it did not disappoint in the slightest.

2007 Thorn-Clarke Terra Barossa Shiraz Barossa, 13.5% alc., $14: Aged mostly in new, double sized American oak barrels, this was produced in a difficult year, but given what’s in the bottle, certainly is a success. Dark garnet in color, with perfumed black plum, blackberry and black raspberry flavors and aromas, accented with hints of toast and coffee, that are somewhat restrained for this region, yet with a mouth coating viscosity to it. Smooth, rich and enjoyable, and like the Tres Ojos, while not the usual style of red I prefer, in this case, one I could drink on a regular basis. Find this wine

I thanked Robert for his time, and much appreciate his wealth of information and the enthusiasm with which he communicates it. It’s always a pleasure to taste wine with him. From there, I was anxious to move on and try some wines from a Oregon producer that we had first tried last summer.

Cardwell Hill Cellars are located in Benton County, amid the foothills of Mary’s Peak, on a south-facing slope in the western portion of the Willamette Valley. Early in the summer of 2008, Rave rep Todd Hill brought Cardwell Hill owner Dan Chapel by to taste his wines with us, and we were impressed. Except for the Pinot Gris, all of Cardwell Hill’s wines are made from estate-grown fruit and the vineyards are certified both “Salmon Safe” and “LIVE.” I started with the afore-mentioned Pinot Gris.

Cardwell Hill quartet

2007 Cardwell Hill Cellars Pinot Gris Willamette, 12.5% alc., $16.99: Pale in color, and crisp in character, with slightly spicy green apple and lime flavors and aromas underpinned with some subtle minerality. Medium bodied, with good acids and intensity, but perhaps a little less impressive than the 2006 model was last summer. Find this wine

2007 Cardwell Hill Cellars Rosé from Pinot Noir Willamette Estate, 12.5% alc., $11.99: Strawberry pink, with strawberry, watermelon and cherry flavors and aromas accented with hints of spice and mineral; medium bodied, with good intensity and cut. This has an attractive, if subtle, perfumed quality about it. Find this wine

2005 Cardwell Hill Cellars Pinot Noir Willamette Estate, 13.2% alc., $23.99: Good dark color, with perfumed cherry and pomegranate aromatics that follow through nicely on the palate; medium to medium full bodied, with good depth, intensity and structure. The perfumed quality of this wine reminds me of Guy Breton’s Morgons, which of course, are made with Gamay. Drinking very well now and over the next few years. Find this wine

2006 Cardwell Hill Cellars Pinot Noir Willamette Estate Reserve, 13.2% alc., $32.99: Good color, if slightly cloudy, with a little sulfur on the nose; rich red plum, pomegranate and cherry flavors are subtly spiced. More than medium bodied, with good depth and intensity; pretty, yet not a wallflower by any means. Drinking well now, but has the structure to age for five years or more. Find this wine

I’ve sold plenty of Tohu Sauvignon Blanc in the past couple of years, so seeing a table with that New Zealand producer’s wines on it, I thought it would be a good idea to see what their current lineup was all about. Tohu is the world’s first Maori owned wine company, and like you might not think, the name is pronounced Tor-who.

Tohu whites

2007 Tohu Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, 13% alc., $14.99: Pale to medium color, with intense flavors and aromas of grapefruit and gooseberry shaded with some subtle jalapeno; fairly rich and intense, with good cut. Find this wine

2007 Tohu Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Mugwi Reserve, 13% alc., $21.99: Richer and riper than the regular Tohu Sauvignon, with the same basic grapefruit, gooseberry and a hint of jalapeno personality; smooth, yet zippy at the same time, with good intensity and length. Find this wine

If you like the New Zealand style of Sauvignon Blanc, both of these are good choices. I’m not quite so hot on their Chardonnay.

2007 Tohu Unoaked Chardonnay Gisborne, 14% alc., $14.99: Medium color, with spicy, ripe apple and pear flavors and aromas that lack complexity; moderate depth, with good acids, but just not that expressive. Find this wine

2007 Tohu Pinot Noir Marlborough, 13% alc., $23.99: Medium color, with a toasty nose and toasty black cherry flavors; medium bodied, with decent structure and intensity. Find this wine

2007 Tohu Pinot Noir Marlborough Rore, 13.5% alc., $34.99: Medium color, and not much on the nose; smoky black cherry flavors with good depth and cut, but not much personality. Find this wine

My final stop was at the Rudi Wiest table, mainly because I’ve enjoyed the previous vintage of Mönchhof Robert Eymael Riesling Spätlese Mosel Slate and wanted to see how the 2007 was. I also wanted to try some of this producer’s other offerings.

German whites

2007 Mönchhof Robert Eymael Riesling Estate, 9.5% alc., $16.49: Pale to medium color; mineral and ripe apple fight for dominance of the wine’s personality. Very zippy in the mouth, medium bodied and slightly spicy; not too sweet, with very good intensity. Find this wine

2007 Mönchhof Robert Eymael Riesling Urziger Wurzgarten Mosel Kabinett, 8% alc., $37.99: Pale color, with a hint of detergent on the nose; fairly ripe apple and apricot flavors are lacking in minerality, which is a detraction for this taster. Zippy acids keep everything moving along nicely, and maybe some time in the bottle will allow this to develop some complexity. Find this wine

2007 Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Riesling Rheinhessen Kabinett, 11.5% alc., $19.49: Medium color, and almost dry, with apple and some subtle mineral; clean and correct, with good acids, but not much personality. Find this wine

2007 Mönchhof Robert Eymael Riesling Spätlese Mosel Slate, 8% alc., $21.99: Pale to medium color, with rich, ripe apple and apricot flavors and aromas shaded with subtle minerality. Medium bodied, with excellent intensity and cut; if I’d like more mineral here, the deliciously ripe fruit still carries the day. Sweet, but not at all cloying; another fine Mosel Slate. Find this wine

OK, so not all of the selections I sampled were QPR All Stars. Most were, however, and offer good to great values. Many thanks to Michael Spaven and the rest of the fine folks at Rave Associates.



Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.

Other Recent Wine Explorations

Francophilia 2009

The Wines of Charles Hendricks

Wines of Distinction from Madiran, Bordeaux & more

The Wines of Terra Andina

Wine with Friends

Recent Wines from California

Mostly Masi Redux

Red Wings & Red Rhônes 2009: Côtes du Rhône-down

Brad Baker: Champagne Warrior!!!

Back to the March 2009 Index

Back to the Underground Index

Back to the Top

© George Heritier March, 2009