Friday, May 29, 2009

2006 Rochioli Chardonnay River Block Vineyard

The Rochioli family was one of the early Chardonnay and Pinot Noir growers in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley. They planted their first Pinot Noir vineyard in 1968. After many years of selling the entire crop to local wineries (including such notables as Davis Bynum, Gary Farrell and Williams Selyem), Tom Rochioli, and his father Joe Jr., decided to produce and bottle wine under their own label. And the rest was history. Although the Rochioli Pinot Noirs are the most coveted, their single-vineyard Chardonnays are beauties in their own right and provide further proof of the concept of terrior.

This River Block Vineyard Chardonnay has a bright light gold color. Splendid aromas of butterscotch and hazelnuts jump from the glass. This wine is all about layered aromas and flavors but with nothing out of balance, including the alcohol. Intensity and finesse in the same package. Rochioli Chardonnays have a reputation for gaining complexity with substantial bottle age., but the wine is irresistible right now.

Sales of the single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are allocated by the winery and this one cost $65. For me, at that price, a Chardonnay had better be very special and this one is.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

2006 Robert Mondavi Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

In spite of all the unfortunate past drama at this winery, they continue to produce some wines worthy of attention. This cabernet has a healthy dark color. The nose was initially closed but it opened up quickly in the glass to show sweet herbal and ripe cassis notes. Lush but lively fruit and supple tannins make this wine a pleasure to drink now, but I think it will age gracefully for at least 10 years. I was amazed to note that the alcohol content was 15% - because of its near-perfect balance there is not a trace of heat in this wine.

The Wine Advocate gave this wine 90 points and estimates the retail cost is $40. That would be a fair enough price given the quality, but I found this wine at the Kansas City Costco (just off Main Street) selling for $20 - now that is a real bargain!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

2003 Chateau La Vieille Cure

This wine is from the Fronsac appellation, which is located adjacent to Pomerol. 20 years ago it would have been unlikely that you could have found a wine of this quality from one of the so-called Bordeaux satellite appellations. I recall buying wines from Cotes de Bourg and Blaye in the early 80's and they were thin and fruitless. They certainly were inexpensive, but that was the kindest thing you could say.

This wine, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, is a revelation. I think it could hold its own against many prestige (and far more expensive) wines from the Haut-Medoc. This wine's dark color and 14.5% alcohol reflect the heat that descended on France in 2003, but the alcohol is completely hidden by the wine's fruit and structure. The nose, which built complexity as it sat in the glass, displays generous cassis and cedar notes, with a touch of eucalyptus. The flavors are full and cushy with deep fruit and substantial ripe tannins. The finish is long and satisfying. Although the wine provides lots of pleasure now, I would cellar it for several more years to smooth out the tannins.

I bought the wine at the Kansas City World Market located just south of 135th Street on the Missouri side of the state line. The price was $35. Since this wine has been on the market for three years, you may have difficulty locating it in your area. I think you would be completely safe to purchase the 2005 version, which Parker gave a 93 rating.