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2011 Chapoutier "Bila-Haut" COTES DU ROUSSILLON VILLAGES (South Central France)

Date: Mon, May 6, 2013

A fleshy, meaty, soft, wine that is full of character and modestly priced. Fantastic cookout wine.

Dark blackish ruby with a slight violet tinge. Animated, ripe nose of meaty notes, ripe blackberries, and a combination of spice cake and warm crushed rocks and sandstone. Mouthfilling flavors, but fairly easy-going texture. Full body and lots of fine-grained tannins. Loads of pure blackberry skin fruit along with a very clingy, roasted herb/iodiney, minerals component that clings to the sides of the mouth. Long, pure finish. B+/A-. Was $12.99 at Whole Foods in Arlington/Clarendon. Imported by HB Wine Merchants, NY, NY.

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2010 Domaine du Galet des Papes CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE "Vieilles Vignes" (Rhone Valley, France)

Date: Thu, May 2, 2013

A deceptively easy-going yet potentially serious wine. Still very young, it is quite primary now but shows nice texture and very good length.

Very dark ruby/violet. Straightforward scents of ripe blackberry and black raspberry fruit, accented by notes of hot stones and dry underbrush. Soft, mouthfilling, ripe, and full-bodied in the mouth. Lots of incredibly fine-grained nano-tannins. Very nice concentration and length with loads of licorice, cassis, and minerals. This wine will by dynamite in 2-4 years. B+(+). Was $24.99 from WTSO.com, making it a very good buy for a Rhone wine of this aging ability and class. Imported by Citadel Trading Co., NY, NY.

(Sorry, 2001 label shown, but the 2010 looks the same.)

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2008 Talty ZINFANDEL "Estate" "William Talty Vineyard" (Dry Creek Valley, Cal.)

Date: Tue, Apr 23, 2013

A vibrant, fruity, direct Zinfandel. Not overblown. Very nice on its own or with dinner. A bit pricey though. Surprisingly, comes in a Burgundy-shaped bottle.

Dark ruby color. Intense, perfumey nose of spiced blackberries (like blackberry pie) and steely, stony minerals. Soft, balanced, and quite concentrated in the mouth, with loads of fruit and minerals, and very nice acids to boot. Full-bodied, with good length. No great complexity of flavors, but lots of character. B/B+. Was $21.99 from WTSO.com.

(Sorry, 2010 shown.)

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2011 Domaine du Salvard CHEVERNY Rose (Loire Valley, France)

Date: Thu, Apr 11, 2013

A full-flavored, juicy, dry, mouth-wateringly crisp rose. Not a lot of complexity or elegance, but it's balanced and fun. I think that the roses from this area comprise Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Pineau d'Aunis, but I'm not sure of which ones and in which amounts they're in this wine.

Gorgeous pinky/salmon color. Tons of fruit on the loud nose, watermelon, grapes, lemon juice, strawberry, cherry. A bit of minerality, but, mostly, this is about the fruit. Great acids keep this very lively. A great wine to have on hand for those May/June picnics. B+.

Imported by Kermit Lynch, I got this wine for $13.99 from B-21 Wines in Florida. Great buy!

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2007 Domaine Haut du Terres Blanches CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE (Rhone Valley, Southern France)

Date: Tue, Apr 9, 2013

A quick note on this amazing wine, which I had at the relatively new French bistro in Houston, L'Olivier. In a word: amazing. One of the best CDPs I've had in a very long time. A solid A. Unbelievably fragrant, balanced, full flavored, and long. Sweet berry fruit, loads of garrigue scents. This is from memory, so sorry it's not more detailed, but if you see this wine, get some! At its peak right now. Will hold for 4-5 years.

BTW, the food at L'Olivier was excellent. Classic bistro fare, beautifully executed.

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2009 Domaine de la Janasse COTES DU RHONE (Southern France)

Date: Tue, Apr 9, 2013

Well, my sinus infection has finally subsided to the point where my sense of smell has returned. So I popped the cork on a Cotes du Rhone that turned out to be funky and have a lot of character.

Nearly fully saturated color -- black violet-tinged ruby. Funky nose, but in a Rhone-y way. Loads of faintly barnyardy earth, iodine, smoky gravel, and spicy black raspberry and black cherry. Big and flavorful, but with excellent acids, this wine has full-throttle flavors but not a whole lot of elegance. Ripe fruit, but very dry and minerally, with those liquid minerals clinging for dear life to the insides of your mouth. Long finish. B+.
Was a remarkable $12.99 from B-21 Wines in Florida. That's a great buy for this much character. Imported by Eric Solomon Selections.

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2008 Porerra "Black Slate" "Vi de la Vila" (Montsant, Spain)

Date: Wed, Mar 27, 2013

I have a bad cold, yet even through my severely compromised taste buds and sense of smell, I can tell this is dynamite. Unbelievably concentrated and long. Without being ponderous! Stay tuned. I'll do a more detailed post when I drink my second bottle. Or better yet, go get some right now. Was $18 from Winex.com. Imported by Eric Solomon.

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2010 Chateau Duplessis (Moulis-en-Medoc, Bordeaux)

Date: Fri, Mar 22, 2013

A decent, modestly-priced Bordeaux. 68% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and some Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. Very shy and reserved now, it may well be significantly better in a few years.

Gorgeous color: deeply-saturated and luminescent ruby-violet. Very shy nose that reluctantly gives up a little whiff of brambly twigs, lightly charred oak, and cassis. But you really have to work the sniffing to get it. Tightly-wound flavors of lightly-scorched earth, minerals and a bit of cassis. Dry, tight, and with a fair amount of tannin. Medium full body, and pretty good acids. Pretty good length. This is a wine that needs at least 2-4 years of age to open up. Right now, it's a B-, but with potential to come in higher after it opens up. Got it on sale for $14.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax, VA. Imported by Saranty Imports, White Plains, NY.

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2011 Vinademoya BIERZO (Northern Spain)

Date: Mon, Mar 18, 2013

The is an outstanding wine and a ridiculous value. Loaded with dark flavors and with a nice sense of elegance. Apparently composed of very old vine (many over 100 years) Mencia.

Fully saturated, impenetrable violet-ruby. Intense nose of low-toned, ripe, black cherry, crushed dark stones, and smoke. Very dry, with lots of very fine-grained tannin, this wine immediately coats the entire mouth and the finish just hangs around and hangs around. The concentration of dark cherry fruit is remarkable, yet it's in no way over-extracted or too jammy. It's almost freakish that a wine this intense could have a sense of elegance, but this does. The acids are pretty low, but, again, the wine seems in perfect harmony despite this. This could probably improve over the next 2-3 years, but, really, why wait? A. Was $9.99 from WTSO.com. Imported by Classic Wines, Stamford, CT.

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2011 Nostrada GARNACHA (Campo de Borja, Spain)

Date: Tue, Mar 12, 2013

Tasty, balanced, and cheap. A great weeknight dinner wine.

Bright, luminescent ruby color. Laid-back nose of ripe, raspberries and raspberry syrup, along with powdered stone dust. Fairly full-bodied, bone dry, with intensely minerally dry raspberry fruit along with a smoky, bitter-root thing in the finish. The bitterness at the end probably nixes this as a cocktail/party wine, but it went really well with Thai take-out. B. Was $8.99 from Total Wine in Fairfax, VA. Imported by Saranty Imports, White Plains, NY.

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2007 Ottimino ZINFANDEL "Biglieri Vineyard" (Dry Creek Valley, Cal.)

Date: Thu, Mar 7, 2013

Of the three Ottimino Vineyard Zins I've had (the other two from vineyards in the Russian River Valley), this is the best. Ripe, but with claret-like structure. Really fine.

Very dark black ruby, with just a hint of lightening at the rim. Complex nose of pure black raspberry syrup, sandstone, and baking spices. Ripe, yet bone dry in the mouth, with nice structure and still quite a bit of soft tannin remaining. Lengthy, pure finish that goes on an unusually long time. Good acids yet quite full. This is one of the best Zins I've had in a long time. A. I got this over a year ago from WineAccess.com . . . but I don't remember how much I paid (sorry!).

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2011 Adissat CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE "Isabelle" (Southern Rhone, France)

Date: Tue, Mar 5, 2013

A simple, gutsy, large-scaled red. Maybe a couple of years will bring a bit more complexity, but right now it's like a big, gangly teenager.

Very dark ruby/violet. Intense, straightforward nose of black raspberry fruit, and smoky minerality. Huge and ripe in the mouth. More like a Spanish Garnacha or big Cali field blend than a CDP or anything else from the Rhone. Loads of soft tannin , and massive body. Lowish acids. I'd let this sit a year or two to lose its galumphy directness, but not much longer, as the alcohol is likely to start burning through the fruit. B.Was $26.99 from WTSO.com, which, given that this is comparable to a good $12 - $15 old vine Spanish Garnacha, makes this a poor value. Imported by Serge Dore Selections.

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2007 Guigal GIGONDAS (Southern Rhone, France)

Date: Sun, Mar 3, 2013

Since I started blogging many years ago, I've come to appreciate Guigal's labels: very simple; no need to type out vineyard names, special cuvee names, or "vieilles vignes."

This wine is very good, if not rising to the level of his exceptional 2005 Gigondas, which still stands as the best Gigondas I've ever drunk.

Not-quite-fully-saturated black ruby color. Sultry nose of ripe plums, blackberries, iodiney/molten stony minerals and a hint of warmed sandstone and fruitcake. Mouthfilling, with mellow but intense, low-toned flavors of blackberry syrup and liquid minerality, along with a dark gravelly earthiness. Full-bodied, with lots of fairly soft tannin leaving the mouth a little puckery in the finish. This is drinking well now but will improve over the next 2-3 years (maybe a little more). Very classically structured. B+/A-. Was $17.99 from Wine Exchange in L.A., making it a good value.

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2007 Oberto Marco BAROLO "Ciabot Berton" (Piemonte, Italy)

Date: Sat, Mar 2, 2013

This is a fragrant, richly fruity, varietally-true Nebbiolo. It's drinking wonderfully now, but should improve over the next two years, and then hold nicely for a few more.

Medium ruby color with a distinct brickish tinge. Classic Nebbiolo nose of slightly sourish cherry and dried cherry, couples with some gravelly earthiness and a nice cedary streak. The fireworks really kick in in the mouth, where it's got that quiet but surprising power that Barolos can have. Tons of liquid minerals but they seem in harmony with the chokecherry fruit. Very full, but with no heat, and pretty decent acidity to keep things lively. Long, lip-smacking finish. Maybe not the most complex Barolo I've ever had, but a real treat. A-. Was $27.99 from WTSO.com a few months ago. Imported by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

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