mourvedre


Purely by coincidence, wines sometimes come to my door in pairs, like animals entering the Ark, or I encounter a pair of wines at a tasting event that naturally fall together. Such was the case with the duos of wines that I will be writing about over the next few weeks, each from the same winery or estate. You could say that such a categorization is artificial, but so is the allocation of wine into cases of 12 bottles or, for that matter, the divisions of time into seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years. Don’t forget that September is not the seventh month, nor is October the eighth month; how arbitrary is that? What I’m saying is that reviewing pairs of wines together may be whimsical, but it’s fun and convenient and educational, and besides, this is my blog.

The first pair is from Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe in Chateaunef-du-Pape. The estate is named for a late 18th Century communications tower that stood on a nearby hilltop and aided in the transmission of semaphore signals from Marseilles to Paris. The property was established in 1898 by Hippolyte Brunian; since 1988, his great-grandsons Daniel and Frédérick have run the estate, which is somewhat larger than it was more than a 100 years ago. Of the property’s 173 acres, 65 are devoted to red grapes and 5 to white.

Imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, California. Tasted at a wholesaler trade event. Image from wineblog.goedhuis.com.
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“Télégramme” is the second label for Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe and is typically made from vines that are 25 years old or less, primarily being between 20 and 25 years. Télégramme tends to consist mainly of grenache grapes with up to 10 percent mourvèdre, but for 2009 it’s 100 percent grenache. The wine ages 10 months in concrete cuves and 6 months in foudres, that is large oak barrels of varying size; the point is that the wine does not age in small barriques and sees no new oak. The color is dark ruby-purple with a hint of violet-magenta at the rim. The bouquet is extraordinary, ravishing, beguiling, a finely-knit amalgam of crushed violets, potpourri, smoke, cloves and sandalwood, with a wild, unfettered strain of ripe and roasted black currants, blackberries and plums; give this a few minutes in the glass and notes of mulberry, blueberry and fruitcake emerge; a few more minutes and you sense a vast undertow of dusty tannins and graphite-like minerality, a profound character that anchors the wine to your palate from start to finish, because these tannins are gigantic, formidable, dense, chewy, leaning toward austerity but always keeping a foothold in the wine’s deep, spicy, fathomless fruity nature. 14.5 percent alcohol. Great stuff for drinking 2013 or ’14 through 2019 to ’24 with roasts, braised meats or, um, pork belly tacos. Excellent. About $35.
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So, could the Vieux Télégraphe “La Crau” 2009, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, be better than Télégramme ’09? “Better” is not precisely the word; how about even more profound, denser, darker, deeper, more intense and concentrated, even more tannic, more powerfully permeated by sleek and finely-sifted mineral qualities? Yet, despite the air of Stygian depth and vast dimension, the wine is hypnotically beautiful because every element is precisely focused and exquisitely balanced; the bouquet is practically deliriously seductive. The blend is 65 percent grenache, 15 percent each mourvèdre and syrah and 5 percent cinsault, clairette and other permitted grapes; it aged 10 months in cuves and 12 months in foudres. The plateau of La Crau is where Hippolyte Brunian planted vines 114 years ago; the designation “La Crau” on the label does not indicate a special cuvée or grande marque, since all the grapes for this wine and Télégramme derive from the vineyard, some parts of which now go back 65 years. Rather, Télégramme exists to draw away the younger grapes from the primary wine, while certainly, as far as I’m concerned, asserting its own pronounced and complex character. It will take a decade for the brooding, austere Vieux Télégraphe “La Crau” 2009 to unfurl its more beneficent nature and company manners; try from 2016 to ’18 through 2024 to ’30. Alcohol content is 14.5 percent. Excellent. About $85.
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Today’s a twofer in this 900th post on BTYH, a rosé wine and a red that will serve you well throughout this week.

These were samples for review, as I am required to inform you by the FCC.
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First is the versatile Clayhouse Adobe Pink 2010, Central Coast, a blend of 38 percent mourvèdre grapes, 32 percent syrah and 30 percent cabernet sauvignon. The grapes derive from the Red Cedar Vineyard, an estate property of Middleton Family Wines outside Paso Robles. This rosé is not made in the saignée method of bleeding off lightly colored juice from the vat of red grapes after crush but before fermentation; it is, instead, produced as if it were a white wine, the grapes gently pressed and taken off the skins after just enough contact, in this case, to lend the wine a lovely, glowing coppery-melon color. Twenty-three percent of the wine aged two months in what are called neutral oak barrels, that is, barrels previously used for aging wine so that they no longer impart a dominating woody, spicy element. Enough with the technicalities! The Clayhouse Adobe Pink 2010 offers a delightful bouquet of strawberries and watermelon, with dried red currants and pomegranate in the background. A touch of rhubarb comes into play among the strawberry and melon flavors, with a slight briery element and hints of dried herbs and damp limestone. The finish, buoyed by crisp acidity and that limestone element, offers a bit of silky sweetness. This one goes down all too easily, and I mean that in the best sense. 13 percent alcohol. We drank this as aperitif and with a vegetarian pasta dish; it would also be appropriate with omelets, seafood salads and fried chicken. 450 cases. Very Good+. About $15.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ The red is the Colomé Estate Malbec 2009, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina, a blend that to 85 percent malbec grapes adds 8 percent tannat, 3 percent cabernet sauvignon and 2 percent each syrah and petit verdot; that’s what you call fine tuning. One-fifth of the grapes came from vineyards that at 50 to — are you ready? — 150 years old truly qualify for the status of Old Vines. The vineyards of Bodega Colomé lie at elevations from 5,500 to 8,500 feet, qualifying for among the highest, if not the highest, vineyards in the world. As for aging, the wine matured 15 months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels. I’ll come right out and say that this is a pretty darned special malbec. It’s deep and rich and full-bodied, though its power is nicely muted by a welcome sense of spareness and reticence, so it’s juicy, but not jammy. The color is dark ruby, fairly opaque at the center, and with a violet rim. Aromas of black currants and blackberries and a touch of mulberry are woven with lavender and licorice, sandalwood and cloves and a whiff of mocha. Plums enter the equation amongst a flavor range of blackberry, blueberry and fruitcake, threaded with brambles, underbrush and slightly earthy graphite-like minerality. Tannins feel well-honed and knit, almost obligingly holding themselves back from full-throttle power, while the finish brings in elements of dried spice a bit of austerity. Director of winemaking for Colomé is Randle Johnson. We drank this with pork chops dusted with ground cumin and chili powder, seared with garlic and lime juice, and then roasted for 10 minutes, sprinkled with chopped cilantro and served with roasted sweet potato “fries.” All good, all the time. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2013 or ’14. Excellent. About $25
Imported by The Hess Collection, Napa, Ca.
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Two French wines made from blends of grapes, a white from Bordeaux’s Graves region and a red from Corbieres in Languedoc.
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Chateau Graville-Lacoste is owned by Hervé Dubourdieu, whose family roots in Graves and Sauternes, southeast of the city of Bordeaux along the Garonne river, go back to 1890. His other properties are Chateau Ducasse, for Bordeaux Blanc, and Chateau Roûmieu-Lacoste, where he makes a lovely, sweet, nervy but delicate Sauternes; the irresistible 2005, made from 100 percent semillon grapes, is available in half-bottles for about $22 (Very Good+).

The dry white Graville-Lacoste 2010 — fresh, clean, pure and intense — is a blend of 60 percent semillon grapes (a high percentage for dry Graves), 35 percent sauvignon blanc and 5 percent muscadelle. Produced all in stainless steel, the wine is lively and compelling, with fetching aromas of celery and tarragon, sage and thyme woven with roasted lemon and pear and hints of leafy fig; in the mouth, the citrus-and-fig-flecked flavors carry a deep bell-tone of black currant bolstered by an earthy character shot through with shattering acidity and scintillating limestone elements. This is an elegant, buoyant Graves, sleek and stylish, that finishes in a wash of austere limestone and chalk. Drink through 2012 or ’13 with trout sauteed with brown butter and capers or grilled shrimp. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $19 to $22.

Imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Cal. Tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event. The label image says 2009, but it is the 2010 under review here.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ The distance from the city of Bordeaux to the city of Narbonne in Languedoc is 352.37 kilometers or 219 miles; a train ride takes 3 hours and 14 minutes. While in geological terms that’s not much of a stretch — one hardly needs Seven-League-Boots — in the realm of geography these are different worlds. As diverse as it is in micro-climates, the Bordeaux’s Left Bank is relatively flat and influenced by Atlantic winds and moisture; Languedoc is hilly, occasionally even mountainous, and its dry, stark climate is definitely Mediterranean. A good area then for Rhône-style grapes and wine, so our red Wine of the Week is Blason d’Aussières 2008, from the region of Corbières, a vast area to the west and southwest of Narbonne. The property is ancient, going back to the Roman days of grape-growing in southern France, but no, the vineyards are not that old. The estate was acquired by Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) in 1999, and much replanting and upgrading have occurred.

Blason d’Aussières 2008, which matured 20 percent in barrels and 80 percent in large vats for 18 months, is composed of 45 percent syrah grapes, 40 percent grenache and 15 percent mourvèdre. The wine is rich and dark and deep but balanced by dusty, mineral-laden tannic austerity and vibrant acidity. Blackberries, blueberries and spicy mulberries define the aromas and flavors, to which a few minutes in the glass bring notes of roses and lavender, licorice and bitter chocolate and a hint of tar; a bit more time unfolds touches of thyme, sage and black olive. Despite its sense of depth and gravity, the wine flows in smooth and mellow fashion across the tongue and palate, making for a drink that offers delight as well as levels of seriousness. We opened this wine with Jamie Oliver’s Pasta alla Norma, a robust dish with eggplant, tomatoes, oregano, basil and a bit of red pepper flakes. 14 percent alcohol. Now through 2013. Very Good+ About $20.

Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, N.Y. A sample for review.
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As is the case with many European countries, modern France is composed of disparate regions that for centuries retained their independence and social and historic identity. Just as Bordeaux, for example, was once part of England –because of the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II — so the southwest part of France, now called Roussillon, was ruled from Majorca and Aragon, and even now the population identifies itself more closely with the Catalan culture of Spain than with the dominant “French” culture. (Though bull-fighting is officially banned in France, the sport is allowing where it is considered an essential part of local tradition; usually bloodless for the animal as practiced here, bull-fighting can be found from Nimes and Arles west to the Spanish border and across to the Atlantic.) Winemaking has flourished in the sunny (the sunniest vineyard region in France), dry and windy eastern foothills of the Pyrenees mountains since ancient times, when the Greeks introduced vines and then the Romans began cultivating extensive vineyards. Côtes du Roussillon received AOC designation in 1977. A slightly more limited designation, Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, is theoretically superior, as in the model of Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages. The permitted grapes, for red wines, are the Rhone Valley varieties: syrah, grenache, mourvèdre and carignan, with the stipulation that syrah or mourvèdre (or a combination of the two) makes up at least 20 percent of the blend. The area is in the extreme southwest of France, where the coast finishes a great curve in a head-long run at the Spanish border; the Mediterranean is actually east of Roussillon. As you can see in the accompanying image (cavepartdesanges.com), the inland regions can be picturesque and forbidding.
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Chateau de Jau, built in 1792, lies smack in the middle of the Côtes du Roussillon-Villages region, on the river Agly. Owned now by the Daure family, which extensively rebuilt the vineyards, the property also produces the well-known Le Jaja de Jau brand. Winemaker is Estelle Daure. The blend for the Chateau de Jau Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2008 is syrah, 45 percent; mourvèdre, 30 percent, carignan, 15 percent; and grenache, 10 percent, so the proportion of syrah and mourvèdre is much higher than is required by law. The wine receives no oak-aging, retaining an attractive sense of freshness and immediate appeal. The effect is pungently grapy, with full-blown scents of black currants and plums infused with lavender and rose petal, touches of dried spices and flowers and darker, spicier underpinnings. The plum aspect, with shadings of black and blue, intensifies in the mouth, with a richer, deeper aspect, while tannins are moderately grainy and chewy; the wine is supported by vibrant acidity and a hint of graphite-like minerality in the background. A really enjoyable pasta, pizza and burger wine — or to be French about it, try with a rabbit terrine, whole-grain mustard and crusty bread — to drink through 2012. Alcohol content is 13 percent. Very Good+. About $14, a Great Bargain.

Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, N.Y. A sample for review.
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Gregory Hecht and François Bannier founded their negociant house in 2002 to seek out appropriate vineyards and then “elevate” — the process of treating wine in a winery by a negociant is called elevage — the wine to produce authentic renditions of the wines of Roussillon. The H & B Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2008 is composed of 55 percent grenache, 25 percent syrah, 15 percent mourvèdre and 5 percent carignan; the wine ages in a combination of old demi-muids of 600 liters, neutral concrete vats and 20 percent new oak. The first impression is of roses and violets woven with meaty and fleshy red and black currants that quickly develop a sense of being spiced and macerated. This wine is vividly lively, imbued with acidity of almost poignant vivacity and wrapped in granite-laced tannins that feel broad and generous on the palate; it’s deeply flavorful, earthy and minerally, bringing into the finish notes of smoke, briers and brambles. Charming, yes, but with real stuffing and character. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2012 or ’13. Excellent. About $28 in my neck o’ the woods; starts at about $20 and goes up nationally.

Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York. Tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event.
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I needed to taste the Nickel and Nickel Truchard Vineyard Chardonnay 2008, Carneros, and it happened that I was about to serve dinner, the cumin-spiced shrimp and chorizo gumbo, and while it didn’t occur to me beforehand that the wine and the gumbo would make a great (or even appropriate) match, together they actually formed one of those slightly edgy BINGO! moments. The zingy cumin- and chili powder-inflected gumbo, for which I concocted a moderately-dark roux, did not make a dent in the wine’s immense elan. This chardonnay is barrel-fermented and ages nine months in French oak, 48 percent new, but does not go through malolactic “fermentation,” the transformative shift that turns crisp malic (apple-like) acidity into creamy lactic (milk-like) acidity. The wine is a radiant medium gold color; it’s rich, spicy and generous, with notes of lemon drop and quince, mango and guava backed by a sprightly piquancy of ginger and clove. Boy, this is vibrant and resonant, a real mouthful of chardonnay, a Girl of the Golden West; it is, however, quite dry, amidst the delicious pineapple and grapefruit flavors (tinged with fig and pear), and your palate feels the tug of oak and woody spice pulling you into the long, dense yet filigreed finish. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 1,484 cases. Excellent. About $45.
Winemaker is Darice Spinelli
A sample for review.
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I squeezed a little lime juice and dribbled a bit of soy sauce on two swordfish steaks and then patted into the surface a handful of an Asian-style rub. For the cooking process, LL heated olive oil in a cast-iron skillet until it was smoking and dropped the fish in and seared the steaks for a couple of minutes on each side. That was it. They were rare and juicy and filled with flavor. I opened a bottle of Highflyer Grenache Blanc 2008, Napa valley, a wine made 95 percent in stainless steel with five percent aged six months in new French oak. The grapes derive from a 2.7-acre block of the Somerston Vineyard, in the hills east of Rutherford at 1,100-feet elevation. The wine offers lovely balance and integration, beautifully combining spare elegance of structure with rich flavors of lemon drop, Bit o’ Honey (remember those?), pear and quince with a hint of ripe peach. While the wine is dry, crisp and lively, that five percent French oak provides a hint of spice in the background and some suppleness to the silken texture. This was delicious with the swordfish, with a great flavor-to-flavor profile and some keen acidity to cut the richness of the fish. Production was 720 cases. Alcohol content is 13.9 percent. Excellent. About $17, a Raving Bargain.
Craig Becker is owner and winemaker. Back in December, I reviewed the Highflyer Centerline 2007, a red wine blend.
A sample for review.
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I was nibbling, for lunch, an excellent dry, nutty “clothbound” Cheddar cheese, with a few fig and hazelnut flatbreads, and I opened a bottle of the Renaissance Mediterranean Red 2006, Sierra Foothills, North Yuba. (The winery is about 70 miles north of Sacramento in Oregon House.) ’06 is the current vintage for this wine, which is a blend of 47 percent mourvedre grapes, 27 percent syrah and 25 percent grenache. It ages 36 months — yep, that’s three years — in a combination of one- to six-year-old oak barrels and large puncheons The color is dense ruby-red with a hint of magenta at the rim. This is a deeply spicy and savory wine, with scents and flavors of red and black currants and slightly macerated and stewed plums thoroughly imbued with briery-brambly forest-like elements, smoke and ash, dried flowers and spices and a burgeoning ripe, fleshy, meaty character. The Southern Rhone or “Mediterranean” nature of the wine is evident in its expressiveness and intensity married to a sense of delicacy and decorum. Drink through 2012 or ’13. Production was 244 cases. 14.1 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $25.
Winemaker at Renaissance is Gideon Beinstock. A sample for review.
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We went to dine at Bari, the restaurant that features the cuisine of southeastern Italy. As usual, to start we ordered two glasses of the always delightful Vietti Rorero Arneis 2009, from Piedmont — the wine list is all Italian and so is the extensive menu of cheeses — and after a while I asked our waiter to open the bottle I brought to the restaurant. This was the Colognole Riserva del Don 2004, Chianti Rufina, produced at an estate in the historically highly-regarded Rufina region northeast of Florence; in fact, Rufina shares no border with the other Chianti areas and has a very different terrain. The property is owned by Contessa Gabriella Spalletti Coda Nunziante, a fact that almost dares the wine not to be great. At a little more than six years old, Colognole Riserva del Don 2004 is wonderfully smooth and mellow and seamless, with its characteristic sangiovese traits of red currants and red plums, moss and black tea, orange zest and potpourri thoroughly amalgamated with a modicum of woody spice and gently assertive, finely-milled tannins. A real treat and particularly good with our cheese course. Excellent. I paid $35 for this wine, though the national average is more like $30.
Imported by VinDiVino, Chicago.
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We didn’t finish the cheeses, so we brought them home, and the next day I made the Grandfather of All Cheese Toast, which included a truffled gorgonzola, Piave Vecchio, a pecorino, something unknown, grated Parmesan, Urfa pepper, mapuche spice and a dribble of good olive oil. Perhaps paradoxically, I opened a bottle of pinot noir, this being the Angela Pinot Noir 2008, Oregon, though the grapes are from the Clawson Creek Vineyard on Savannah Ridge in the Yamhill-Carlton District of the Willamette Valley. The wine aged 10 months in French oak, 57 percent new, and you feel that reticence (materially and philosophically) in the wine’s ineffable blending of suppleness and sinuosity, in its elegant spareness matched with a seductive satiny texture. The color is medium ruby shading somewhat darker at the center; aromas of red currants with a touch of cranberry and cola are fleshed out with a bit of smoke, briery and mossy earthiness, rose petals and just a hint of cedar and sandalwood. In the mouth, this pinot noir offers some sweet ripeness of black and red fruit, but it’s not opulent or pushy or showy; again, all is breeding and grace, poise and harmony. Just a freakin’ lovely pinot noir that emits authenticity and integrity. When LL got home from work, I gave her a glass and said, “Try this Oregon pinot.” She sniffed and sipped, thought for a moment, and said, “This tastes like a pinot made by Ken Wright.” And by golly, she was correct. Production was 821 cases. 13 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $50.
A sample for review.
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