Chateau La Croizille SEGC 1983

Once in a while, out of a clear blue sky, we get really fancy and it is just the two of us.  My Bride has been working daily, in fact she never missed a beat, because she is considered an essential worker.  Of course, she has a job, that makes her a road-warrior, but that has more or less ended in the last year, and I think that may be the hardest part of her acclimating to her new work environment.  She has taken over the library with all of her computers, monitors, telephones and printers.  It looks like another year, of her not physically touching base with her clients in the Upper Peninsula and that was a trip that she really enjoyed.  The good news, is that there may be a real Board Meeting that will be held in the fall, we shall see.

The reason that I said that we were getting fancy, is that she wanted to practice again using her Joule Sous Vide immersion circulator.  The concept is low temperature cooking where the food is placed in a plastic pouch or glass jar and cooked in a water bath for a long period of time to get the meat at the proper temperature and then it is finished using the broiler or a pan.  It was a bit frustrating, because the unit is controlled by a cellular phone, and at first, it wasn’t connecting properly, even after reloading the app and making sure the Bluetooth was set.  I suggested that perhaps she should do a hard close on her phone and then turn it back on, and we were finally in business.  We were going to have Filet Mignon medallions at Medium Rare setting with no guess work.  She took a cooking pouch and made a marinade and the meat had to cook for almost five hours according to the controls that were now on her phone.  She also decided on making a version of Israeli Couscous with mixed vegetables.

I decided to go down to the cellar and find something interesting for the filets.  I found a bottle of Chateau La Croizille Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 1983.  My thoughts were that this forgotten bottle should be opened up, to see if we had neglected it for too long, since I knew that we had plenty of back-up options.  The other thing that I immediately noticed was that there was still a price tag, the price had been scraped away, but the price tag was from the shop that we bought all of the wine and liquor for our wedding and this bottle would have been perfectly aged for that night of celebration.  Now that I am a pseudo-authority and maven on wines after my crash course on ullage, I used that knowledge to look at the bottle. The capsule top, was a bit spongey (and I am sure that is not the proper term, but it works for me) and the ullage level was low, usually a bottle of wine is filled up to the capsule, this is not always true, because some wineries still fill the bottles manually; whereas this bottle had the wine level now below the shoulder of the glass.  I removed the foil and the top of the cork was blackish, and I wiped it away and did an old fashion smell test and everything seemed proper so far.  I then went and got my Durand corkscrew, because I felt that I needed the best tool for an old cork.  The first step with the screw was fine, but the second stage with the metal foil apparatus was difficult, to insert, as it seemed that the cork was welded to the bottle. I finally got the second part of the tool inserted, and I turned and twisted, finally placing the bottle on the floor and slowly I was getting the cork to uncork.  This was perhaps the hardest cork removal in some fifty years, and when it finally worked free, only part of the cork was removed and it basically crumbled as I was looking at it. The final step was to get a decanter, a funnel and a coffee filter and I poured the wine into the filter, as I had created a hole in the cork, but it was still adhering to the glass in the perimeter.  The good news was that the room was immediately filled with a charming aroma of an aged Bordeaux, and we had wine and not wine-vinegar.  

Chateau La Croizille Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 1983 is one of many of the hundreds of wines that carry the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru designation.  In 1955 Saint-Emilion created four designations, similar to the 1855 Classification of the Medoc.  In Saint-Emilion there are: Premier Grand Cru Classe A with four chateaus, Premier Grand Cru Classe B with fourteen chateaus and Grand Cru Classe with sixty-seven chateaus.  Some wags have opined over the years that there are more Grand Cru designations than there are just standard Saint-Emilion designations. There is not any early history on this chateau that I could find, but it was bought in 1996 by the De Schepper – De Mour family who have had Chateau Tour Baldoz since 1950. The estate has five hectares of vineyards and produce only one wine and the indicative blend is seventy percent Merlot and thirty percent Cabernet Sauvignon. They use new oak barrels every vintage and the wines are aged from eighteen months to twenty-four months.  All I can say, is that we were pleasantly surprised by the mellowness of the wine and so glad that it held up so well.

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Two Additional Tastings

When I went to pick up the March Wine Club selections from the Fine Wine Source, I actually had my better half with me, as she was running errands and I was tagging along.  After a year of confinement, most reasons are good for a car ride. Unfortunately for both the Fine Wine Source and for us, we were still in the midst of errands, so we couldn’t stay and do any serious tasting, but we did try a couple, but I promised to come back and that I would try to bring a friend, as my Bride is still always busy and still needs a Social Secretary. We were going to pick up the Club selections and then a few more wines that we were low on and go.  Plans never seem to work properly, but that is alright as well.

We started off with Oremus Mandolas Furmint 2017.  In 1993, just three years after the world saw that Communism and Socialism did not work in the former Soviet Hungarian Republic, the Alvarez family that had bought Vega-Sicilia founded Tokaji-Oremus, but respecting the time-honored traditions of the district.  The region known as Tokaj is actually twenty-seven municipalities and land, but Tokaj is the major city of the area.  The history of Oremus goes back to 1620 and they are credited with making the first Aszu wine as well.  When I was first learning about wine, I had always wanted to try all the versions of Tokaji wines, but back then it was the Cold War and the Communists ran a monopoly on the wines of all of the countries that they ruled by the jackboot and intimidation.  Rumor has it that Pepsi Cola was an un-official conduit for wines and spirits behind the Iron Curtain for years, keeping the United States in Stolichnaya and Monimpex Tokaji.  While there are a couple of different varietals that are grown in this region, the main one is Furmint.  Furmint produces a highly acidic juice that when nurtured can develop into one of the longest-lived wines known. This wine is named for the vineyard that the grapes come from and it is only planted with Furmint.   This is a golden grape that buds late and because of a peculiar trait has one of the potentially longest growing cycles and is very labor intensive.  The grapes are delicately pressed and the fermentation process can take eight to ten days and then the wine is aged in small oak barrels, which is the traditional way.  Even though this is a dry white wine, and can be enjoyed immediately, it can be aged for about ten years.  The wine delivered a curious blend of floral and smoke and was full flavored with a good finish.

The second wine that we tasted was Chateau Haut-Beausejour Saint-Estephe 2016.  Chateau Haut-Beausejour was purchased by Jean Claude Rouzaud, the owner of the Roederer Champagne house.  The Rouzaud family also owns Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande in Pauillac as well as two other estates in Saint-Estephe; Chateau Bernadotte and Chateau de Pez.  Chateau Haut-Beausejour has a short history for being in the Medoc, when the Rouzaud family purchased two Saint- Estephe properties from the Brossard family; Chateau Picard and Chateau Beausejour.  They created one large estate from the two estates and sold seventeen hectares of what they considered less desirable vineyards.  It is also one of the few estates without a chateau, just some simple buildings used as their cellar. In checking my notes, I found that I actually had a Chateau Haute-Beausejour Saint-Estephe 1993, after their disastrous 1992 vintage, in which they actually declassified their first vintage. They use the same technical wine making team and philosophy as their sister property Chateau de Pez.  The ten-hectare vineyard is planted with fifty-six percent Merlot, thirty-nine percent Cabernet Sauvignon and five percent Petit Verdot. The grounds are a mix of gravel, clay and limestone, and some of the vines are sixty years of age. The wine of Chateau Haut-Beausejour is started in traditional, large oak vats, including the Malolactic fermentation.  The wine is then transferred and aged in French Oak barrels, of which thirty-five percent is new, for about twelve months.  On average they produce about five-thousand cases each year. With Merlot being the lead variety, this medium-bodied wine is what when I was learning was referred to as feminine compared to the bolder Cabernet Sauvignon led Medoc wines. Dark red fruits and spices led the experience for the nose, and there was a noted taste of sweet cherries with softer tannins and a decent medium finish of terroir.  This was an unexpected but delightful purchase for the cellar.      

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March 2021 Wine Club Selections

It seems like I spend a lot of time at the Fine Wine Source in Livonia and the home of my local wine club.  The matter of fact, it is true, especially for the last year.  Gymnasiums, pools, spas, theaters and off and on restaurants and other public galleries were closed to the public. I have no interest in burning down Federal and State buildings, and supporting a local wine shop, seemed the best place to devote my attention.  Liquor, beer, wine and tobacco were allowed to be sold, because they are all heavily taxed, I imagine that if brothels were legal, they may have been open, depending on the amount of taxable income that they could generate.  The newest high tax item Marijuana was also allowed to be sold in commerce, as an essential business.  Wine is the best solution for me, it allows me to continue learning, plus it makes surviving the lockdown more palatable.

Guado al Melo “Bacco in Toscana” Rosso Toscana IGT 2017 is the selection for the Old World.  Guado al Melo, is a family-owned winery of Annalisa and Michele Scienza whose goal is to create great terroir driven wines, making it artisanal and based on sustainability. They are located in the Bolgheri DOC in the hills facing the Tyrrhenian Sea. Under the vineyards, is the heart of the winery, with a library of several thousand books about wine and a small museum of the history of the land.  The Scienza family has generations of winemakers in Trentino and Michele’s father worked with the local wineries following the changes in the DOC and became rather an authority on the Bolgheri region.  When he found out that the small estate, which had been a dedicated vineyard for almost two-hundred years was for sale, he couldn’t resist and in 1998, he owned property in the Bolgheri DOC.  They attempted to create a name that honored the varied owners of the property, but in the end decided on Guado al Melo (Ford at the Apple Tree). It is from the Fossa di Bolgheri creek, that the vineyard has alluvial soils.  “Bacco in Toscana” is taken from a poem “Bacchus in Tuscan” from the 17th Century and that Bacchus chose Tuscany as his new home, because the best wines were already being made there. The Bombababa was a Tuscan dance in vogue at the time and evokes images of Bacchus, Ariadne and their entourage of satyrs and nymphs frolicking after enjoying the local wine.  There is very little information on the production other than the underground also houses Stainless Steel, and oak barrels in assorted sizes for the aging of the different wines produced on the property. The winery gets ten percent new oak for each vintage, and after maceration, the barrel style is determined as well as the aging, and then the wine is also stored in bottle after, before release.  The wine is half Cabernet Sauvignon and the other half is a mix of Sangiovese and Petit Verdot which is why the wine carries the Toscana IGT, which is a major appellation of the area now, for all the wines produced that do not abide to the traditional appellations already based in the region. The wine is described as being deep purple with an intense bouquet of black fruit, complimented by spices and balsamic notes. It is said to have a pleasant acidity, balanced tannins and a medium length finish.  

Kenwood Vineyards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2016 was the New World selection. Kenwood Vineyards was established in 1970 in Sonoma.  It was founded by the Lee family when they purchased the estate and winery of the Pagani Brothers that began in 1906 and were successful until Prohibition.  In 1999 the winery was bought by F. Korbel and Bros. and in 2014 Kenwood was bought by the international beverage concern of Pernod Ricard.  Kenwood Vineyards has twenty-two acres of estate vineyards and also sources fruit from dozens of other growers in Sonoma.  The winery has been known for years for some of their Single-Vineyard wines, as well as some of their other collections.  The first time that I ever had a wine from Kenwood Vineyards was their famed Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery has been totally refurbished and they maintain one-hundred-twenty-five Stainless Steel fermenting tanks and large oak uprights, as well as about twenty-thousand small French and American Oak barrels for their “small lot” style of winemaking. The “small lot” or “cuvee” style means that every barrel is of one grape and from one vineyard and that it will be blended if and when the winemaker is ready.  This particular wine is ninety-nine percent Pinot Noir and one percent Syrah.  The wine notes say that this wine is offering aromas of cherry and blackberries with notes of nutmeg, vanilla and cloves.  The wine is full bodied with smooth tannins and an elegant finish.

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Two I Expected to Lose

As I have reported, I have been clearing out the wine cellar and hopefully finding some gems that survived the fifteen-day lockdown that has morphed into a year and counting.  As I have been reporting, we have found and enjoyed some wines that have even surprised us and some of the friends that I have discussed it with, that anticipated the worse.  I found two bottles that were taking up space and valuable dust, but just in case they were actually put in the garage refrigerator to chill, just for science. Now, I know that neither my Bride or I have purchased these two bottles of wine, I think they were brought as gifts to the house during occasions that we have posted parties, and hopefully, everyone’s memory is strong enough to remember having and hosting parties at a house or elsewhere.

Charles Shaw International Chardonnay Australia NV was introduced in 2009.  Charles Shaw wines were introduced at Trader Joe’s grocery stores originally in California selling for the premium price of $1.99 and that is how it acquired the name of “Two Buck Chuck” and eventually as it was sold at stores East of the Rockies it became “Three Buck Chuck.”  Of course, the price eventually crept up, but the name is remembered.  The wine is part of the Bronco Wine Company, started by Fred Franzia, formerly of Franzia Brothers in California.  This particular bottle has ninety-four percent Australian Chardonnay and six percent California Chardonnay. I am sure that the wine is “aged” in Stainless Steel containers, perhaps on the trip from Australia to California.  The color showed oxidation as it was amber, and looked more like a lager beer and the nose told me, that I shouldn’t even try a taste.  I am sure that perhaps, chilled, a fresh bottle could conceivably offer a taste of an unoaked Chardonnay, perhaps one day, I may opine on a glass. 

Yellow Tail Chardonnay Australia 2008 from Casella Wines was another wine that I refrigerated with the concept that I might have a good report. Yellow Tail is a major single-variety wines, as well as sparkling and rosé wines with value pricing. It is now one of the largest selling wines by volume in the world. The Casella family began history in wines back in Italy in the 1820’s.  They moved to Australia in 1957 and began making wines in the 1960’s. The Yellow Tail brand, which depicts a wallaby was formed in 2000, from the juice that they used to produce and sell to other wineries and the bulk of the wines carry the appellation of South Eastern Australia, but the winery and facilities are located in Yenda, New South Wales. By 2003, Yellow Tail was the number one imported wine to the United States of America. As you can see from the photo, the wine had truly aged and was getting a caramel color and that was its total redeeming quality.  Now in the past, we have had this wine, as it was the Chardonnay wine offered at some restaurants.  It is a bulk wine that is better than having pop with dinner, and to be quite candid, it is what a lot of people equate as a Chardonnay wine, so they have their converts and faithful.

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Lost Another Two

Since for the last year, in case you missed it, everybody has been kind of a homebody, unless you are a politician.  We have been drinking more wine at home, perhaps in the last year, then we have during the other twenty-four years here. The year also gave me time to discover what had been squirreled away, and there are still a couple of small racks that need to be examined, but the big racks have been organized and inventoried, which is the bane of retailers, speaking for one that knows. Out of around fifteen-hundred bottles of wine, yes, we have been replenishing some of the good stuff and lots of the everyday stuff, and I would sound like a broken record, if I discussed the same wines constantly. We have so far lost nine bottles of wine, that we just saved for too long, forgot about, didn’t want to open, because of several reasons, but we are starting to make sense out of it all.

On the inventory of the white wines in the wine vault, I have gone so far as to use a yellow highlighter to identify the wines that I want to try as soon as possible, so there will still be more casualties, to be discovered, but I hope there will also be some more happy moments to record as well. The wine vault is a rather mish-mash stacking of wines, because depending on the size of the bottle, they may be two deep, and some may only be one deep.  I don’t feel like reorganizing it every couple of weeks, it is just easier to make a new chart.  I am also keeping the refrigerator in the garage extra full of white wines, as I know that some will probably not make the cut and I want to have a backup.

It was two in a row, one night as we were having some dinner. The first was Herederos del Marques de Riscal Rueda Blanco 2004, sometimes it is just referred to a Marques de Riscal Blanco.  Marques de Riscal is one of Rioja’s oldest and most famous wine estates.  The company was founded in 1858, by the Marques de Riscal who was a diplomat and he decided to bring French winemaking techniques back to his estate in Rioja. To this day, the current majority shareholder and winemaker maintains that title. In the 1970’s they expanded to Rueda and they are now the largest winemaker in this region and have been credited with reviving the wine industry in Rueda. The classic blend of Verdejo and Viura (Macabeo) was the common mix for the region, until 2020, when other more consumer recognizable wines were also allowed to be in the mix.  This wine should have been green and flinty.  With it being forgotten about in the cellar, even in a cool atmosphere and away from sunlight, the wine eventually succumbed to old age.  The color was a beautiful golden color, if it had been a Sauternes, it would have been wonderful, unfortunately, the wine had oxidized and skunky, not because it was poorly made, but because it was too old and over the hill.  

The second bottle was a Sartori di Verona Ferdi Bianco Veronese IGT 2006.  Sartori di Verona specializes in the classic red wines of Verona. The family-owned estate was founded in the latter part of the 19th Century in the center of the Valpolicella wine district. In 2002 they joined together with Cantina Sociale di Colognola and expanded in to the grape varieties of Soave and Valpolicella. The wine is made using the Garganega variety that is the mainstay of Soave, but the grape itself is not that recognizable, even though it is one of the most planted grapes in all of Italy and can be both dry or sweet, and is used by itself or blended, a very versatile grape in Italy. Verona IGT was created in 1995 and encompasses all the wines made in Verona, not covered by their own appellations.  It covers red, white and rosé, still and semi-sparkling, dry or sweet.  As to the white wines, it can be a single variety or blends and the Garganega grape is usually the mainstay. Where this wine should have had aromas of peach, almond, apricot and baked apples, it was totally oxidized and offered a wretched nose. I am not giving up with out a fight, as we have more surprise winners than losers so far.

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Two from Arcturos

I was home having dinner alone, because my Bride and all her relatives actually participated in a Bridal Shower and from all reports, everyone enjoyed being a scofflaw and defying our harridan’s around the corner fiats; the women actually felt like a part of their life had been returned though they were technically all illegal, as if they were undocumented aliens.  The door bell rang and I went to see more out of curiosity, anticipating some door-to-door remodeling salesman and instead it was another parcel delivery driver, who graciously signed the pad that he was lugging as well as a carton of wine that he was carrying.  It was a parcel of four wines from our wine club at Black Star Farms in Michigan.  Black Star Farms is rather unique in that it has vineyards and tasting room facilities on both peninsulas, so that they are kind of surrounding Traverse City which is kind of the focal point for all of the wineries in the area.  In 1998 Black Star Farms purchased Sport Valley Farm which was a one-hundred-twenty-acre equestrian facility, and the stylized black star was part of the architectural décor in the main house.  In their Twentieth year, they were honored to receive the 19’th Annual Canberra International Riesling Challenge (CIRC) -Best Wine of the 2018 Challenge and only the second time an American wine came out on top.  There were 567 Rieslings from six countries (Australian, New Zealand, USA, Germany, France and the Czech Republic).  The Black Star Farms Arcturos Dry Riesling 2017 scored 98 points, in addition to taking home Best Dry Riesling and Best American Riesling.  In fact, all six of the Riesling wines that Black Star Farms submitted took home medals, showing a consistency across vintages and styles.  The fruit is sourced from both of the proprietor’s vineyards and from local grower partners in both the Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula.  The winery has three series; the premium Arcturos, A Capella and the Leorie Vineyard labels for sparkling and fruit wines.

It was actually interesting to read the newsletter from the Winemaker about what is going on since the State Health Department (formerly governor’s fiats) and how they are dealing with the one-year anniversary (my editorial insertion) of the fifteen day flatten the curve that we have suffered in Michigan.  They have been able to have indoor tastings since the beginning of February, but at twenty-five percent capacity.  Of course, everyone must be wearing at least one mask, unless the patron is sitting at a designated area for tasting, and then the mask can be removed. All areas will be disinfected after every use, and the winery went and installed a UV filtration system in their central air system to safely and effectively purify the air in the tasting rooms.  “On a lighter note, this past year may have been challenging for humanity, but our vineyards were blessed with a phenomenal growing season: in other words – 2020 was a good year for grapes!”

The Black Star Farms “Arcturos” Gruner Veltliner Old Mission Peninsula AVA 2018 was the first wine to come out of the carton.  This is their second release of this famed Austrian variety.  Though it was said, I will venture to opine that this wine was fermented and aged in Stainless Steel and had no residual sugar, so it should finish dry.  According to the notes supplied, the wine offers fruit qualities of ripe golden delicious apples, yellow plums and an herbal quality similar to the grassiness one gets from Sauvignon Blanc, with the added notes of white pepper to add to the complexity.  The Black Star “Arcturos” Cabernet Franc Michigan 2017 if like past vintages of this wine will be excellent and will keep my Bride very happy.  There were no production notes with the newsletter or their website, but from past notes I learned that prior vintages of the Cabernet Franc were aged for ten months in a mix of neutral American and Eastern European Oak barrels.  The grapes were estate harvested at two of their best vineyards, but because each vineyard is in a different peninsula and hence a different AVA, the wine carries a Michigan AVA.  According to the winemaker notes, the wine offers dark fruit aromas and flavors of blackberries, plums, oak and herbal notes in the finish. Their Cabernet Franc was a wine that we enjoyed one evening with dinner at a board meeting at the Inn at Bay Harbor, and that wine plus a Sur Lie Chardonnay that we had earlier during the meeting; gave us the impetus to drive to Traverse City to buy the wines, plus we ended up joining their wine club as well.   

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Pianetta Sangiovese

I guess most people these days shop using the internet, except me.  Maybe, because I was a merchant and I liked interacting with customers, I also like to touch the merchandise.  With wine it is a little different, but I still like the one on one with a merchant, though I have to admit that I do enjoy the surprise that I get from opening a carton from a wine club. We belong to three wine clubs, one is “A Taste of Monterey,” a Michigan winery Blackstar and a local wine shop the Fine Wine Source.  I discussed two of the wines that we received from Monterey, but the third wine, I will give a little more information about, as this is the second wine that we have received from this winery. 

Pianetta Vineyards was started in 1995, when John Pianetta bought a ninety-five-acre ranch and developed it into seventy-acre vineyard.  His family’s background was in the fresh market produce in California going back to the 1920’s.  At one time they even had a small family vineyard in Lodi. The vineyard is in the Southern part of Monterey County in a small valley called “Indian Valley.” The vineyard was basically planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and fifteen acres for Syrah. Originally, they sold their crops to other wineries and in 2002 they had their first vintage of three-hundred-seventy cases of estate wine.  It is now a family business as his daughter Caitlin has joined her father and they now produce about 2500 to 3500 cases of wine annually and only in red wines. They have started sourcing wines from other vineyards and doing single variety wines.  They also produce a “JUG” wine each year as an homage to their Italian heritage.  Another new wine for them is their “Altitude” wine which is a blend and they are planning on having an “Estate Altitude” for 2019.

The Pianetta Vineyards Sangiovese Monterey 2018 is from fruit sourced from the Lockwood Valley Vineyards in the San Antonio Valley.  2018 was considered a great year following 2017 with a heavier yield and big flavor.  A mild summer without undue heat aided in making the wine bold and complex.  The wine was aged for twenty months in what I will presume was oak barrels, which would be the classic treatment for this famed Italian variety.  According to the notes, the wine is offering bright cherry on the nose, with notes of roasted nuts and red fruit for taste, with strong acidity on the finish which means that it should be laid down for at least six years to mellow the wine out. I can wait it out. 

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A Pinot Noir and a Syrah

I should really pay attention to my emails, and then I would probably know that I should be anticipating a wine shipment, but I am rather negligent.  I am a rather strange duck, I guess, in that I don’t have the ring tone set on my phone, and I normally have the volume muted, as I have no desire to hear advertisements when I am on Social Media, I also have the volume muted on my computer for the same reason.  I guess these are all reasons that I am usually surprised as I was the other day when we had a delivery from A Taste of Monterey.  The odd thing is that nowadays, as the world is totally crazy, the driver rings the bell, because an adult has to sign for the package, because it contains alcohol, and outside of trying to find an adult, the drivers to maintain “social distance” ask if it is alright, if they mechanically sign for the delivery on their computer pad, which is fine by me, as he had no mask, and I always forget to grab a mask, because the door bell is ringing. I am definitely from another era. 

Joyce Vineyards “Gabilan” Pinot Noir Monterey 2018 was the first wine that I unpacked from the carton, and I have two other wines from this winery.  The winery works with thirteen other vineyards in Monterey, as well as their own vineyard.  Joyce Vineyards began when Francis Joyce planted a vineyard on a steep hillside on his property in Carmel Valley, and was the start of the original six-acre estate.  Joyce Wine Company is now under the supervision of second-generation winemaker Russel Joyce.  They are basically focused on Burgundian style wines and they produce about ten-thousand cases each year. This particular wine has the fruit from “Danny’s Vineyard” which is a special site the Franscioni brothers named after their late father in their Salinas vineyard and the land is basically decomposed granite and limestone. The vines are about twenty-five-years-old and they benefit from the strong marine influences of the Monterey Bay. The wine begins by whole cluster fermentation in open top vats with cold soaking for about five days and primary fermentation lasts for about seventeen days.  The wine is aged sur lie for ten months in neutral French Oak barrels and it is unfined and unfiltered.  There were four-hundred-twenty cases of this wine produced.  The winery says that the wine offers the nose of cherry, plums, tea and spices. They say that the taste is layers of cherry, pomegranate, plum and blueberry with an under layer of pepper notes and a finish offering chalk terroir.

Mesa Del Sol Vineyards Syrah Arroyo Seco 2013 and I think that this is the fourth wine I have received from this winery.  Mesa Del Sol Estate Retreat & Winery is located on an upland promontory at the junction of three major watersheds, and has been a favorite place for travelers for over a century.  There is a small stone water house and a portion of one of the cabins that date back to the 1800’s and it is believed to be a stop for the overland conveyance from the Mission San Antonio to the Carmel Valley.  The hot dry air of the Arroyo Seco Highlands became a health center for those suffering from tuberculosis and other similar ailments.  One of the more prominent visitors back then was Teddy Roosevelt.  In 1927, a California Senator Fred Weybret purchased the property for his family and the new main home was built in 1936, and the family resided there until his death in 1945.  The property then was purchased by a noted lettuce baron from Salinas, who named the property Mesa Del Sol, adding more buildings, gardens and a pool for his family.  In 1998 another Salinas agricultural family purchased the property, they planted the vineyards and a trout pond was reinstalled.  Since the gentleman’s death his widow has continued to restore the fourteen-acre vineyard estate, won awards for the wines and also has crops of fragrant Provence Lavender that is used in sachets, lotions and oils. There is not much of any notes for this wine, other than the soil is limestone and granite and that the vineyard borders the Ventana Wilderness and the wine was released in 2019, which calls for quite a bit of aging on their part.  The notes suggest elderberry, currants, lavender, black pepper and sweet tobacco, and a finish of soft and lovely tannins. Definitely could be a crowd pleaser. 

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Beychevelle and Lynch-Bages

Once again, the Gods smiled upon me, when I wandered into my local wine shop the Fine Wine Source and they included me, in their private wine tasting for the store and in anticipation of opening up their restaurant in the future. I know that they are looking forward to actually having some formal wine tastings in the shop, like the old days and I know that I and the rest of their loyal fans are waiting for that day as well. They are responding as well as they can, by booking private one on one tastings with their customers and keeping the customers safe with social distancing.  To achieve this, they actually removed part of their elaborate wine rack that you used to encounter as you first entered into the shop. That day, I actually had a chance to try some time-honored wines that in fifty years I had never had a chance to try and enjoy from the famed Classification of 1855 for the Medoc.

It was a pleasure to have the Chateau Beychevelle Saint-Julien 2018. The estate has a name that evolved from a nautical tribute by the boats on the Garonne as they passed the home, which in the 17th Century was owned by the First Duke of Epernon, a Navy Admiral.  As the boats would pass the estate, they would lower their sails in deference to the Admiral and that gesture is “Baisse-Voile” which translates to “lower the sails” and in Gascon it is pronounced “Becha Vele” and evolved into Beychevelle. The estate has two-hundred-fifty hectares of vineyards, the bulk being in the Saint-Julien appellation and sixty-two percent is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, thirty-one percent to Merlot, five percent to Cabernet Franc and two percent to Petit Verdot and all planted on the deep Garonne gravel.  Chateau Beychevelle is a Fourth Growth, and they also have a second label Amiral de Beychevelle from plots not designated for the main wine.  They have a third label from the wine that is made from the plots that are not in the Saint-Julien appellation and this wine is Les Brulieres de Beychevelle and has the appellation of Haut-Medoc.  While there are no First Growths in Saint-Julian there are eleven classified growths, which accounts for seventy-five percent of the commune, as they are sandwiched between Pauillac and Margaux.  This was a more unique vintage for Chateau Beychevelle as the wine was fifty percent Merlot, forty-one percent Cabernet Sauvignon, six percent Petit Verdot and three percent Cabernet Franc.   The wine is aged for eighteen months in oak barrels, of which half are new. For being a young wine, it was very balanced and rather elegant with notes of both red and black fruits, fruit forward with silky tannins and a nice leisurely finish.   

Chateau Lynch-Bages Pauillac 2018 is respected and lauded as one of the best of the Fifth Growths from the Classification of 1855 for the Medoc.  The estate is in the Commune of Pauillac in the village of Bages and was founded by and owned by Thomas Lynch, a Bordeaux merchant of Irish descent from 1749 to 1824. In 1939, Jean-Charles Cazes who had managed the property as a tenant farmer since 1933, acquired Chateau Lynch-Bages.  The estate has been in the Cazes family ever since, and they have gone on to acquire other properties in Bordeaux and through their Michel Lynch brand are also in Minervois and Chateauneuf-du-Pape in France and in a partnership of Roquette & Cazes in Portugal.  The estate encompasses ninety hectares of vineyard, of which seventy-five percent is Cabernet Sauvignon, the balance is Merlot, Cabernet Franc and a small amount of Petit Verdot. They also produce a second label Echo de Lynch-Bages, and a very rare white blend Blanc de Lynch-Bages AOP Bordeaux from six hectares in eight different vineyard parcels on the west of the estate. Fermentation begins in Stainless Steel with extensive pumping of the juice for concentration and color.  The wine is aged for about fifteen months in oak, of which roughly two-thirds of the barrels are new.  The estate has an old bat-house that has a traditional gravity-flow design that is still copied to this day, by other wineries. The wine was an excellent, classic example of Pauillac and it belies its Fifth Growth status and could possibly fool plenty in a blind tasting.  It was layered and nuanced, even in its youth, but the wine is known for its long life, so cellaring will definitely enhance the wine, if one is so inclined.     

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Cupertinum Copertino Riserva

The day started out, slightly different, I was going to get an inoculation, actually it was the vaccine for the virus that originated from China. The virus has gotten a bit of press over the last year or so, and the last President pushed for and had two different companies create a way to combat it, and since then at least one more company, if not more have developed more potential ways to combat it. In Michigan, it has been a mess trying to get the vaccine to the public, for some odd reason politicians were getting immunized before a lot of the people that were supposed to be treated first.  Also, it was kind of a joke, people in the last month or so, were scrambling to fill out multiple series of forms from several different hospitals, counties, municipalities and pharmacies trying to get a series of two shots (from the initial two companies).  Then it was a random luck of the draw for the people, and the vaccines were allotted by politics and there was a lot of discussions about it. My Bride was fortunate that one of the hospital chains that she has multiple physicians at, was selected by their random selection and she was one of the first.  Then she made it a mission to get me the vaccine as well.  I have to admit that I was a bit more laid back, compared to her, but I figure that I do want to see our children and grandchildren in Las Vegas, and I am sure that the “Nanny State” would eventually force the airlines to only allow those that have had the vaccine to fly.  It may become the most valuable document in a person’s wallet, far superior to a voter registration card.

It was ironic that my municipality was administering the vaccine at a Senior Citizen Center, since I am now a Senior Citizen and supposedly, we were in the first group to get the vaccine, after First Responders. Let me say, that it worked rather smoothly, outside of watching one of the workers get surly with two women, one with a quad cane and the other with a walker, that were forced to leave the line, because the line was only for the 9:00 – 9:30 group and the women were in the 9:30-10:00 group.  Now, I am old enough to remember when physicians administered shots, then nurses, now pharmacists and that morning it was Fire Department EMT employees from all appearances.  It flowed smoothly and then they made us wait for fifteen minutes in case there were immediate reactions.

All of this is leading to the fact that I was going to go to my wine shop, the Fine Wine Source in Livonia afterwards, because there was a wine that I had tasted the week before and I was so enamored with it, that I bought a couple of bottles, was on the phone with Ms. Yoga, who asked if I could get her some, and then I thought, I should get some more as well.  The Cupertinum Cantina Social Cooperativa Copertino DOC Riserva 2011 was the wine that was haunting me.  The Cupertinum Cantina Social Cooperativa was founded in 1935, along the lines of many of wine cooperatives that were forming in Italy. The Cupertinum cooperative have even planted a micro vineyard in the ramparts of the old Copertino castle.  Copertino DOC is in the Puglia region of Italy, the area that most people like to refer to it as the boot, for easy visualization. The main grape for Copertino DOC, whether for the Rosso or Rosato is the Negroamaro variety.  Negroamaro must account for seventy percent of the wine, and the balance may have Malvasia Nera, Montepulciano and/or Sangiovese (but only up to fifteen percent Sangiovese). The DOC was classified in 1976 and today there is one-hundred-fifty-eight hectares and about thirty-one-thousand cases of wine are produced.  This wine is a blend of ninety-five percent Negroamaro and five percent Malvasia Nera.  Maceration on the skins takes about seven days, and then because this was their Riserva, the wine was aged for twenty-four months in Stainless Steel.  This wine had the benefit of being an eleven-year-old, so there were already layers of taste to appreciate.  The wine was a nice Ruby red in color with nose of black fruit, the tannin had mellowed and matured and offered still ripe fruit and hints of almonds, black currants and leather, with a nice finish.  I could think of all sorts of dishes that this wine would work with, and I knew that getting some more of it, was smart on my part.   

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