Michael Druitt Vintners
Hallgarten Wines
Porta Italici Vini

Annual Tasting
19th January 2006


Some Loire whites to stimulate the palate:

2004 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie La Griffe, Chéreau Carré
Good, full-flavoured with nice body.  Not over-leesy.  Very Good.

2004 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie Château de Chasseloir, Chéreau Carré
Fresh clean nose. 
A bit zingier than the Griffe, with more character.  Very Good.

2004 Sancerre, Domaine Gérard Millet
Fresh and grassy with some pee on the nose.  Very light and clean.  Lacks character a bit.  OK.

2004 Pouilly Fumé “Le Champ des Vignes”, Domaine Tabordet
100% sauvignon blanc.  Kept on its lees for six months before bottling.  No oak ageing.
A light, gentle nose.  Good fresh flavours.  Very nice finish and after, with very good length.  Very Good Indeed.

2004 Sancerre, Domaine de la Rossignole
Matured on its lees without undergoing malolactic fermentation.
A gentle, fresh nose.  Full, characterful palate.  Good silky texture with good acidity on the finish.  Quite a white pepper spicy feel on the finish.  Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

2004 Sancerre La Moussière, Alphonse Mellot
100% sauvignon blanc, produced from vines that are between four and forty years old, grown on Kimmeridgean limestone.  50% is fermented in new casks and aged on its lees for up to eight months.  Very fragrant nose.  Fresh and clean.  Very Good+.

2001 Sancerre, Vieilles Vignes Cuvée Edmond, Alphonse Mellot
100% sauvignon blanc from selected old vines.  60% is fermented in new oak with barrique ageing on the lees for between 10 and 14 months.
Very asparagusssy nose with some oak evident.  Really good concentration.  It has the oaky asparagus richness throughout.  Very Good.

2001 Generation XIX Blanc, Alphonse Mellot
100% sauvignon blanc from selected vines that are nearly ninety years old.  Fermented in open wooden vats and aged for 10-12 months in oak.
A powerful nose.  Big and concentrated.  Huge, lovely depth.  Excellent.

2003 Generation XIX Blanc, Alphonse Mellot
A slightly disjointed nose.  Really not together at the moment.  Possibly a bit unbalanced by overripe fruit?  This won’t be as good as the 2001.  Good.


Léon Beyer
The House of Léon Beyer is one of the oldest in Alsace, producing wines since 1580.  The Beyer vineyards are located principally on the fringes of the Eguisheim commune.  A large portion of the vineyards are in the Grand Cru sites of Pfersigberg and Eichberg.  Léon Beyer wines are characterised by their dryness: Léon and Marc Beyer are among the few growers who have resisted the trend in Alsace towards residual sugar in the wines: they say “Dry wines extol fruit, terroir and complexity; they are a perfect match to food and fine gastronomy.  Today’s sweeter wines from the region are much more difficult to pair.”  The Cuvée des Comtes d’Eguisheim is one of their top cuvées, taking grapes from their best grand cru vineyards, vinified in temperature controlled stainless steel or glass lined tanks without malolactic fermentation.

2000 Riesling Cuvée des Comtes d’Eguisheim, Léon Beyer
A more straightforward, Alsace riesling nose than the 2001.  Much more focussed.  A bit less acidity than the 2001.  More rounded and with a sharper, more direct focus.  Very Good Indeed +

2001 Riesling Cuvée des Comtes d’Eguisheim, Léon Beyer
A sherbetty nose with some decent minerals.  Very minerally on the palate, accompanied by interesting ripe fruit.  Excellent length.  Possibly a bit muddy, but Very Good Indeed.

2000 Pinot Gris Cuvée des Comtes d’Eguisheim, Léon Beyer
A lovely, balanced, tropical fruit nose. Very nicely balanced.  Huge length.  Very Good Indeed.

2000 Gewurztraminer Cuvée des Comtes d’Eguisheim, Léon Beyer
A delicate lychee-mango tropical fruit nose.  Good richness.  Exceptional balance and clarity.  Very Good Indeed/Excellent.

1990 Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive, Léon Beyer, 375ml
A very delicate nose.  Rich on the palate.  Pleasant, but a bit unfocussed.  A rather simple vendange tardive.  Very Good.


2003 Santenay 1er Cru Beauregard, Domaine Joseph Belland
A delicate, fragrant, very pure, almost new world pinot noir nose.  This is a good, clean, balanced, ripe pinot noir.  But it seems to lack the character that would pin it down to Burgundy, let alone Santenay.  Good/Very Good.

2001 Nuits St. Georges ‘Les Hauts Poirets’, Domaine Machard de Gramont
A delicate, fragrant nose.  Fair balance.  Rather unimpressive.  Good.

2003 Montagny 1er Cru, Château de Davenay
One-third aged in barrel, two-thirds in stainless steel.
A classy, light, gentle, elegant nose.  The palate too is classy, gentle and very elegant.  An impressive wine.  Very Good Indeed.

2002 Château de Chassagne Montrachet ‘En Pimont’
Half the grapes are fermented in new oak with 12 months batonnage.
A fuller, richer nose with quite leesy overtones.  Very round and quite rich on the palate.  Good structure.  Were it not for the price (over £17), this would be much preferable to most of the best new world chardonnays.  Very Good Indeed.


Domaine Courbis
The Domaine Courbis dates back to the 16th Century and has been handed down from father to son since the start of the 20th century: it is now in the hands of Laurent Courbis.  The vineyards cover some 20 hectares (3 ha in Cornas, 17 ha in Saint Joseph, 4 ha of which produce white wines, 13 ha red) in the communes of Châteaubourg and Cornas.

2003 St Joseph Rouge, Domaine Courbis
A young, mulberry-plummy nose.  Very young feel on the palate.  A bit too astringent.  Not at all together.  OK.

2003 Saint Joseph ‘les Royes’, Domaine Courbis
From thirty-year old vines.  A much better nose, with more depth.  Again, a very young palate, but with really rather good concentration.  Nice finish and very long indeed.  Very Good Indeed.

2004 Cornas ‘Champelrose’, Domaine Courbis
This was a barrel sample: the wine will be bottled in February 2006.  A closed nose with very deep plums and blackberries.  Big tannins.  This is powerful stuff, with a lot of oak that hasn’t yet integrated.  But overall very impressive.  Very Good Indeed.

2000 Cornas ‘Champelrose’, Domaine Courbis
100% syrah; aged for 18 months in French oak (85% in 2-3 year old barrels and 15% in new oak).
This has much more leather on the nose, but still with very fine blackberry and plums fruit.  Fairly integrated and together, but I think the 2004 promises better.  Very Good Indeed.

2003 Cornas ‘Les Eygats’, Domaine Courbis
100% syrah, aged for 18 months in one- and two-year old French oak.
Quite a precise, focussed black fruits nose.  Good balance on the palate.  Clean, with good fruit.  Structure develops in the mouth.  Quite mouthfilling towards the finish with decent, softish tannins.  Very Good Indeed.

2000 Cornas ‘Les Eygats’, Domaine Courbis
100% syrah, aged for 18 months in one- and two-year old French oak.
A complex, very integrated nose with black fruit, leather and some floral notes.  Good palate.  Very structured with a great backbone of fine tannins, yet quite a silky mouthfeel.  Decent length.  Very Good+

2003 Cornas ‘La Sabarotte’, Domaine Courbis
100% syrah from vines planted in 1947, yielding around 30 hl/ha.  30% of the wine is aged for 18 months in vats, and 70% in French barriques, 25% of which is new oak.
A very elegant, full nose.  On the palate, this has really good concentration and power, though it’s also very tannic.  A surprisingly elegant finish.  Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

2001 Cornas ‘La Sabarotte’, Domaine Courbis
There is smoky tobacco on the nose with some freshly baked digestives behind the black fruits.  This has lots of concentrated fruit and very good balance.  It’s more integrated than the 2003, but is still feeling really tight and closed.  Very Good/Very Good Indeed.


Domaine du Grand Tinel
The Domaine du Grand Tinel was established in the 18th century.  In 1846, the Establet family acquired parcels of vines at La Gardiole, which still represent the heart of the property today.  The estate is now owned by the Elie Jeune family.  Béatrice Audu-Jeune took me through her wines.

2003 Côtes du Rhône, Domaine du Grand Tinel
A blend of grenache, syrah, cinsault and mourvèdre; aged for 6-8 months in oak.  A lovely, fresh, fruity nose.  Very attractive on the palate.  Very open and approachable.  Lovely balance.  Hugely enjoyable.  Very Good Indeed.

2001 Châteauneuf du Pape, Domaine du Grand Tinel
40% grenache, 60% cinsault/counoise/mourvèdre/syrah; aged in large oak foudres for 12 months.
This has a slightly raw leather feel to the nose, but there’s good fruit behind.  Very approachable and open.  Lovely balance, with a nice spicy feel on the finish.  Very Good Indeed.

2003 Châteauneuf du Pape, Domaine du Grand Tinel
40% grenache, 60% cinsault/counoise/mourvèdre/syrah; aged in large oak foudres for 12 months.
A young nose, with ripe black fruit.  Very ripe, round, and velvety on the attack.  This works well.  Good balance and a very fine finish.  Very Good Indeed.


Château Fortia, Châteauneuf du Pape

2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc, Château Fortia
43% clairette, 35% grenache blanc, 21% roussanne, 1% bourboulenc.
A fairly delicate nose with hints of almonds.  Fresh, fragrant palate.  Very, very simple.  OK.

2003 Châteauneuf du Pape ‘Tradition’, Château Fortia
50% grenache, 30% syrah, 20% mourvèdre.
A tight, closed nose with some very ripe fruit.  Huge tannic structure on the palate.  A bit disjointed.  Goodish.

2001 Châteauneuf du Pape ‘Tradition’, Château Fortia
50% grenache, 30% syrah, 20% mourvèdre.
A ripe, yet floral nose with some raspberry fruit.  Big palate.  Very full with huge spiciness on the finish: almost overwhelming.  Very Good.

2001 Châteauneuf du Pape ‘Cuvée de Baron, Château Fortia
61% grenache, 27% syrah, 12% mourvèdre.
A very ripe, mulberry and crème de mûre nose.  Very round on the palate with huge depth and complexity.  Lots of layers of excellent fruit.  Excellent.


Château de Campuget

2004 Viognier Cuvée Prestige, Vin de Pays du Gard, Domaine de Campuget
Fermented in new barrels and then matured in oak for two months.
A super nose, with light, nutty tropical fruit.  Good balance on the palate.  Pretty decent.  Good/Very Good.

2004 Château de Campuget Tradition Rouge, Costières de Nîmes
60% syrah, 30% grenache noir, 10% mourvèdre.  No oak ageing for this one.
A nice, open fruity nose.  Good attack with good balance.  Simple, but attractive.  Very Good.

2001 Prestige de Château de Campuget, Costières de Nîmes
50% syrah, 50% grenache.  Aged in oak for 12 months: one third in new oak, one-third in two-year old oak and one-third in three-year old barrels.
A smoky, oaky nose.  Rather tannic and uninteresting.  OK.

2002 La Sommelière de Campuget, Costières de Nîmes
100% old vine syrah, aged for twelve months in 600 litre new oak barrels.
Sweet black fruit and vanilla oak on the nose.  Very big and very, very tannic.  Good.

2004 1753 de Château de Campuget, Costières de Nîmes
100% syrah; unoaked.
Good, clean, precise nose.  Clean, attractive palate.  Very Good.


Domaine de Gabelas
Domaine de Gabelas is a family owned estate with 17 hectares in St. Chinian.  No herbicides or chemicals are used.

2004 Domaine de Gabelas Tradition, St. Chinian
45% syrah, 22% grenache, 23% carignan.
Very attractive, fruity nose.  Lovely easy drinking.  Fresh and really quite vibrant.  Very good finish with nice length.  Very Good Indeed.

2004 Domaine de Gabelas Cuvée des Terres Rouges, St. Chinian
65% syrah, 35% grenache.  Unoaked.
A really lovely nose, with a touch of garrique, especially lavender floral notes.  Very attractive palate: open and easy, but with really good character and structure.  Very impressive.  Very Good Indeed +

2002 Domaine de Gabelas Cuvée Juliette, St Chinian
80% syrah; 20% grenache.  A very integrated nose.  Ripe and quite sweet on the attack, but very integrated and evened out by a bit of oak.


Bodegas Ondarre, Rioja

2004 Ondarre Blanco, Barrique Fermented, Rioja
90% viura, the remaining 10% being made up by various local varieties, but including malvasia and white grenache.  Fermented in new oak barriques and then kept on its lees for two months with occasional stirring.
A very leesy nose.  Very curious on the palate with lots of licorice.  A decent, balanced, simple white Rioja.  Good.

2003 Antina Cabernet Sauvignon Tempranillo Crianza, vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Bodegas Ondarre
55% cabernet sauvigon; 45% tempranillo.  The cabernet sauvignon was aged in oak for three months, while the tempranillo was kept in stainless steel.
A very clean, fruity nose with soft strawberry/raspberry fruit.  A decent, simple wine.  Good.

2003 Rivallana Crianza, Rioja, Bodegas Ondarre
80% tempranillo, 10 garnacha, 10% mazuela/graciano.  Aged for 18 months in a mix of American and French oak.
A smoky, fairly simple nose.  A good basic wine.  Good+

2001 Ondarre Reserva, Rioja
75% tempranillo; 10% garnacha; 15% mazuela/graciano, aged for 16 months in American and French oak barriques.
A fairly simple nose that’s a bit closed.  Open and balanced in the mouth.  Very good finish.  Very Good.

2001 Mayor de Ondarre Reserva, Rioja, Bodegas Ondarre
100% tempranillo, aged for 24 months in new French oak barriques (60% Allier oak; 40% Limousin).
A precise nose.  Good concentration with excellent balance.  Open and approachable, but really quite serious stuff.  Very Good Indeed.

2002 Bodegas y Vinedos Casa del Valle Hacienda Cabernet Sauvignon, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Bodegas Ondarre
100% estate grown cabernet sauvignon, aged in new oak for six months.
A relatively closed, cassis nose.  Good palate.  Not overly complex.  Straightforward and not going anywhere.  Good.

2004 Bodegas y Vinedos Casa del Valle Hacienda Shiraz, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Bodegas Ondarre
100% estate grown shiraz, aged in new oak for six months.
Ripe black fruits on the nose.  Sweet, and more Rhôney on the palate.  Nice concentration.  Decent depth and structure.  Some tannins appear towards the finish.  Excellent length.  Very Good.


Barros Port
Barros, Almeida & Co Vinhos S.A. were established at the start of the 20th century and now account for around 5% of total port sales.

1996 Colheita, Barros
A maturish, 10-year tawny appearance.  Spirity, dried fruit and nuts on the nose.  Very fiery and spirity.  Best avoided at the moment.  Good.

1989 Colheita, Barros
The colour is reminiscent of a 20-year tawny.  Decent nose.  Fair palate.  Good texture with some interesting flavours, but it still feels far too young.  Good.

1978 Colheita, Barros
The colour of a more mature 20-year tawny.  Very citrussy, dried port fruits nose.  Interesting attack.  Lots of figgy fruit.  Very Good+


English Wine Group, New Wave Wines, Tenterden, Kent

NV Chapel Down Brut
55% Reichensteiner, 30% Rivaner, 15% pinot noir.
Very crisp, biscuity nose.  There’s a fair amount of acidity on the attack, and a very prickly mousse.  A bit simple.  Good.

2003 Chapel Down Pinot Noir
60% matured in oak, 40% in stainless steel.
A spicy, green poivron nose.  Lovely palate.  This is actually surprisingly good.


Marchesi de Frescobaldi, Tuscany

2004 Santa Maria Maremma Morellino di Scansano DOC
95% sangiovese; 5% cabernet sauvignon.  The wine underwent malolactic fermentation followed by ten months ageing in stainless steel.
Delightful, sweet cherry fruit on the nose.  Fresh, fragrant fruit on the palate.  Very Good Indeed.

2002 Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva DOCG
A chocolate-cherry nose that’s very deep indeed.  A touch young and closed with a youthful roughness on the finish.  Good.

2001 Lamaione, IGT Toscana
100% merlot from a single vineyard in the Montalcino district planted in 1977.  Aged in French oak for 18 months (one-third in new oak).
A correct, if slightly Parkerised nose.  Full, silky, chocolate plums on the palate.  Huge structure.  Impressive.  Very Good Indeed.

2001 Montesodi Chianti Rufina DOCG
100% sangiovese from the 20 hectare Montesodi vineyards.  Aged for a minimum of 12 months in French oak (one-third in new oak, the rest in 2-year old barrels).  Bottled unfiltered.
A hot nose, though that doesn’t seem to be reflected on the palate.  Quite concentrated, but marred by pretty savage tannins on the finish.  Good/Very Good.


Luce della Vite, Tuscany
The partnership between Italy’s Frescobaldi and California’s Mondavi was set up in 1995.  The collaboration began with the purchase of a parcel of land in Montalcino.  Luce was the first wine produced (it was also the first wine in Montalcino to blend Sangiovese and Merlot), followed by Lucente in 1998.  The estates are now fully owned by the Frescobaldi family, although the Mondavi's retain a financial interest.  Lamberto Frescobaldi is director of viticulture and winemaking. The Luce estate covers some 192 hectares located in the area of Montalcino, 30 ha of which are under vines.  Most of the vineyards were planted in 1977 with 3,500 vines per hectare, while new plantings were added in 1997 and 1999, with a higher density of 6,100 vines per hectare.  It is intended to expand the vineyard area by a further ten hectares.

2004 Danzante Pinot Grigio IGT Veneto
An interesting nose with some pinot gris spice along with some tropical fruit.  Very nice balance.  Good character.  Very Good+

2003 Lucente, IGT Toscana
85% sangiovese; 15% merlot that spends 18 months in French oak (25% new, 25% single use; 50% third use).
A nice nose, with good cherry fruit with nice toasty vanilla.  Good sweet fruit.  Quite a big style.  Powerful stuff.  Very Good Indeed.

2001 Luce IGT Toscana
50% sangiovese and 50% merlot.  The wine spends a year in French oak barriques (60% new), followed by six months in Slovenian oak casks, followed by a further 12 months ageing in bottle before release.
A big expressive nose with more fruit than oak.  Very ripe and a touch hot.  Very young.  Not quite sure what to make of this.


Carpene Malvolti, Veneto

NV Prosecco di Conegliano DOC Extra Dry, Carpene Malvolti
A clean crisp nose.  Lovely palate.  Fair depth and very good balance.  Very nice finish.  Very Good Indeed.

NV Prosecco IGT Collio Trevigiani Frizzante, Carpene Malvolti
A very gentle nose.  Very clean – indeed, it’s pretty well tasteless.  It’s got a gentle fizz, but not a lot else.  Boring and over simple.  Good.

NV Rosé Brut, Carpene Malvolti
85% pinot noir and 15% raboso.
A light, strawberry juice nose.  Fresh and fragrant on the palate.  Very clean throughout.  Very Good.


San Silvestro, Piemonte
The Sartirano family wine business started in 1871, but developed outside Piedmont for the domestic market mainly in the 1950s.  Today around 60% of San Silvestro’s production goes to export.

2004 Barbera del Piemonte DOC ‘Ottone’, San Silvestro
A straightforward cherry kernel nose, though a bit spirity.  Very vibrant fruit on the palate.  Not as bad as I thought it might be after the nose.  Good.

2003 Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, ‘Brumo’, San Silvestro
A decent nose with fair fruit.  Fair palate.  Biggish tannins.  OK.

2001 Barolo DOCG ‘Patres’, San Silvestro
Well-balanced raspberry, cherry and apricot kernel nose.  Nice palate with good structure.  Some very concentrated fruit.  Decent finish.  Good/Very Good.


Michele Chiarlo, Piemonte
Michele Chiarlo’s family has been growing grapes in the Monferrato region for more than five generations.  In 1956 he started a small winery in Calamandrana.  Over the last thirty years, Michele Chiarlo has been expanding his vineyard holdings and has received a special Bicchieri award for having gained more than ten 3-Bicchieri awards in the last ten years.

They have around 100 hectares of vineyards at their disposal, 50 of which are wholly owned by the Chiarlo family.  The vineyards are spread across the three Piedmontese regions in which their wineries are located: Calamandrana, Barolo and Gavi.

2004 Rovereto Gavi del Commune di Gavi DOCG, Michele Chiarlo
100% cortese from a single vineyard.
A light, elegant nose.  Very nice clean fresh flavours, but with nice interest.  Very Good Indeed.

2003 Barbera d’Asti Superiore ‘Le Orme’ DOC, Michele Chiarlo
An attractive nose.  Full, clean and very attractive on the palate in a relatively simple way.  Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

2003 La Court Barbera d’Asti, Michele Chiarlo
Chiarli’s flagship Barbera, picked late from very low yielding vines.  Produced only in good vintages.
A lovely complex nose with fragrant cherry fruit and a hint of mineralic talc.  Very concentrated palate, but also very elegant.  Enormous length.  Very Good Indeed +.

2000 Hastae Barbera d’Asti, Quorum
This is not a Chiarlo wine, but the product of a joint venture of six Barbera producers (Berta, Braida, Chiarlo, Coppo, Prunotto and Vietti).  Hastae is the Roman name for the ancient city of Asti, and the name of the ‘consortium’ to promote the Barbera d'Asti image.
100% barbera, which spends ten months in new French barriques, before bottling unfiltered and then being aged a further twelve months in bottle before release.
A big toasty oak nose.  Very concentrated.  Maybe a bit overdone?  Very Good Indeed?

2002 Airone ‘A1’ DOC Monferrato, Michele Chiarlo
50% barbera; 30% cabernet sauvignon; 20% shiraz.  The wine spends twelve months in 50 hl Slovenian oak casks, followed by 6-8 months ageing in bottle before release.
A lovely, very winning nose: open and very fragrant sour cherry fruit.  Hugely attractive palate.  Very Good Indeed+

2001 Barolo DOCG ‘Tortoniano’, Michele Chiarlo
100% nebbiolo.  The name Tortoniano takes its name from the Tortonian geological area characterised by sedimentary clay and Sant’ Agata marl interspersed with grey-blue sandstone.
Very intense kernels nose.  Pure and clean on the palate.  I prefer the Cerequio.  Very Good Indeed.

2001 Barolo DOCG Cerequio, Michele Chiarlo
100% estate-grown nebbiolo.  Cerequio is located on an amphitheatre shaped south-west facing hillside.
An attractive nose, with sweet, spicy, cherry fruit and a touch of high tones.  Good balance and very fine.  Good structure.  For me, this just pips the Tortoniano.  Very Good Indeed.

Nivole Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Michele Chiarlo
100% moscato di canelli.  Partially fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.  The temperature is then lowered to stop the fermentation and to retain the natural sweetness and freshness.  Lightly sparkling; 5% alcohol.
Not tasted, as I know it well - a really lovely moscato d'Asti, if a touch on the pricey side.  But quality costs.  Recommended.


Duca di Castelmonte wines from Carlo Pellegrino, Marsala, Sicily

NV Marsala Superiore DOC ‘Garibaldi’ Dolce, Cantine Pellegrino
Smoky, oxidative, reductive nose.  A very unappealing drink.  No.

2004 Passito di Pantelleria DOC
Moscato d’Alexandria grapes.  The fermentation is stopped by fortification with spirit.  20% of naturally sun-dried grapes are added to the must during fermentation.
A glorious light, fragrant muscat nose.  Lovely palate with layers of flavours and creaminess.  Very Good Indeed.


Berton Vineyards, Eden Valley, South Australia
Cherie and Bob Berton founded the Berton Vineyard in the Eden Valley in 1996

2005 Berton Reserve Cowra Chardonnay
100% chardonnay from the Cowra region.  2005 was a high quality record harvest for the area.
A delicate tropical nose with a hint of oak.  Quite a spicy feel on the palate.  Good+

2004 Berton Reserve Barossa Shiraz
Very slight nose.  Decent palate.  This is a relatively simple Barossa Shiraz with soft tannins.  Lacking interest and complexity.  Good.

2002 Bonsai Shiraz
Fermentation and hand remuage over three weeks before pressing in a basket press.  Aged for twelve months in American oak barriques.
A very powerful, perfumed blackberry nose.  Overripe and jammy.  Good.


Pelee Island Winery, Ontario, Canada

2004 Pelee Island Chardonnay
Fermented and aged for six months in stainless steel, without the use of oak.  A lovely, fragrant, buttery tropical fruit nose.  Light and fragrant on the palate.  Refreshing and impressive.  Very Good Indeed.

2003 Pelee Island Premium Select Chardonnay Barrique
A very similar nose to the unoaked chardonnay, with just a bit more depth.  Very Good Indeed.

2002 Pelee Island Pinot Noir Reserve
Following crushing, grapes were placed in a rotary fermenter for a week to draw out the colour.  After pressing, the juice was placed in French oak to finish fermenting, then racked into barrels for ageing.
Fine, but just a bit ordinary.  Good/Very Good.

2004 Pelee Island Baco Noir
A spicy north Rhône-like nose.  Lovely palate.  Impressive.  Very Good Indeed.

2004 Pelee Island Eco Trail
84% chambourcin; 16% cabernet franc.  The chambourcin was aged in large oak casks for 7-8 months, while the cabernet franc went through malolactic fermentation and saw no oak.
Orangey, red fruit nose.  Really good palate.  A very interesting wine.  Very Good Indeed.

2003 Pelee Island Vidal Icewine
87.5% vidal, 12.5% riesling; 195 g/l residual sugar.
A citrussy, sweet nose laden with banana and mango tropical fruit.  Very clean and fresh on the palate.  Uncloying.  One of the best vidal icewines I’ve had.  Excellent.



Quady Winery, California
Andrew Quady changed career from making fireworks to making wine.  His Essensia from the orange muscat grape proved a great success immediately, and was followed by Elysium from the black muscat grape and Starboard made from traditional port varieties.  The most recent addition to the Quady range are two delicious vermouths.  Andrew and Laurel Quady took me through their ‘ports’ and the two new vermouths.

NV Starboard Batch 88, Quady
75% tinta roriz, 25% tinta cao and tinta amarela; aged two years in wood.
This has nice balance, though a touch spirity maybe.  Very Good+

1996 Starboard Vintage, Quady
Made from the traditional port varieties, the vines of which were imported to California from the Douro, predominantly tinta cao.
To me, this seems not to have the complexity on the nose of a true port, though of course it’s still very young, which may also explain why it lacks the balance of the vintage character Batch 88.  Very Good.

NV Vya Extra Dry Vermouth
The base wines are made with colombard and muscat, infused with fresh botanicals: mainly leaves, flowers, citrus peel and seeds.  Lavender, sage, salfalfa and linden are important constituents.
The lavender and sage are immediately obvious on the nose.  On the palate, the quality of the base wines really shows through.  This is brilliant.  Delightful stuff.  Excellent.

NV Vya Sweet Vermouth
Here the base wines are orange muscat and valdepenas.  Cinammon, clove, nutmeg and wild ginger are important ingredients among the botanicals.
Gosh this is really good!  Utterly delightful, again characterised by the quality of the base wines and the freshness of the botanicals.  Excellent.



Rutherford Hill, Napa, California
Rutherford Hill has been owned by the Terlato family since 1996.  It sources fruit from a network of Napa Valley growers as well as its own 60-acre vineyard.  Apparently they are the largest premium merlot producer in Napa.

2002 Rutherford Hill Chardonnay, Napa Valley
100% chardonnay.  The wine underwent malolactic fermentation, and half of it was aged for eight months in French oak barriques; and the other half in Amercan oak second and subsequent use barriques.
A big oaky, over-oaky nose.  Very full. OK.

2001 Rutherford Hill Merlot, Napa Valley
Predominantly merlot, with just a bit of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon.  Aged for 12 months, 75% in French and 25% in American oak barriques, a quarter of which was new wood.
A good plummy nose.  Nice palate.  Approachable and ripe.  Good.


Hanna Winery, Sonoma, California
The Hanna winery was established in 1985, covering 35 acres a few miles west of Santa Rosa.  It is family owned, and has vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and the Mayacamus Mountains.

2004 Hanna Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley
A crisp, clean, fresh peas sauvignon blanc nose.  Nice balance and weight.  This is sauvignon blanc with a bit of something to it.  Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

2003 Hanna Zinfandel, Alexander Valley
87.1% zinfandel; 12.4% petite sirah; 0.5% alicante bouschet, each of which were vinified separately.  Ageing was mostly in “neutral French oak”, whatever neutral oak is.  Bottled unfiltered and unfined.
An attractive, tarry, leathery black fruit nose, though with more tar than the fruit.  Very attractive on the palate.  Really good body, and with loads of character.  Very Good Indeed.


Sanford Winery, Santa Barbera, California
Sanford Winery is situated in the cool, western end of Santa Barbera County, where the westerly winds blowing off the Pacific create a long, mild growing season, ideal for pinot noir and chardonnay.  Pinot Noir, of course, had a starring role in the film Sideways: the first stop on the two friends’ trip was Sanford.

2003 Sanford Chardonnay, Santa Barbera
This was fermented on its lees in 270 litre French oak barrels, a quarter of which were new, with full malolactic fermentation, before 8-12 months maturation in wood.
A rather closed, unimpressive buttery nose.  Decent palate.  Good balance and fair depth.  A bit overpriced.

2002 Sanford Pinot Noir, Santa Barbera
Fermented (full malolactic) in open-top stainless steel tanks and then aged in new French oak barrels for 18 months.  Bottled unfiltered.
A young raw pinot noir that’s hardly impressive at the moment.  OK.

2002 Sanford and Benedict Pinot Noir, Santa Barbera
100% pinot noir from the Sanford and Benedict vineyard.  The wine undergoes full malolactic fermentation in stainless steel before ageing in French oak for 19 months.  Bottled unfiltered.
This has much better depth than the 2002 Sanford Pinot Noir, but is still a bit unimpressive for me.  Good +

2001 Sanford La Rinconada Pinot Noir, Santa Barbera
Fermented in open-top stainless steel tanks with full malolactic fermentation.  Aged in French oak (one quarter new oak) for 14 months.  Bottled unfiltered.
A fairly elegant nose.  Decent balance.  But overall, it’s deeply unimpressive and no more than tolerable.  OK.


Far Niente, Napa, California
Far Niente (which means ‘without a care’) is one of California’s oldest stone built wineries, having been founded in the 19th century and flourishing until Prohibition.  Now restored by Gil Nickel, the winery is devoted to the production of top quality chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon made by Dirk Hampson.

2001 Far Niente Chardonnay, Napa Valley
100% estate-grown chardonnay that is entirely barrel fermented in 100% new French oak barrels, without malolactic fermentation.
A very delicate, elegant nose.  Nice elegance on the palate.  Good depth.  A really lovely fresh finish.  Very Good Indeed.

1999 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
78% cabernet sauvignon, 21% merlot, 1% cabernet franc primarily from the estate’s Martin Stelling vineyard.  Aged for 20 months in new French oak.
A good, classic Bordeaux blend nose.  Good palate.  Very open and approachable, with decent depth and character.  Very Good.

1998 Far Niente Dolce
76% semillon;24% sauvignon blanc, from late harvested, botrytis-affected grapes, which were then fermented and then aged for 18-23 months in French oak.
A zingy, orangey botrytised nose.  Quite fresh on the palate.  Nice stuff, but it lacks depth.  Very Good.


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Last updated: 12 May 2006