2015 Prelude Francs, Chateau Marsau

Always intriguing when you’re drifting back to older vintages, those that are perhaps less available than selections more readily available on the shelves of your wine store. The 2015 Prelude grabbed my attention—partly because of its catchy label, and partly because it goes back a few years before the recent 2018s I’ve been sampling.

2015 Prelude Francs, Chateau Marsau, Cotes de Bordeaux, France.
2015 Prelude Francs, Chateau Marsau, Cotes de Bordeaux, France.

Unfortunately, this 2015 fell short of my expectations.  It’s Bordeaux profile should have lined up well with many recent bottles covered (with admiration, I might add) in Notes, but the Prelude was just underwhelming. It was very dry, even more tannic, and did not work either solo or with foodstuffs. The 2015 does have aspects of cherry and smoke—which are positives—but it’s just way harsher on the finish.

I don’t usually compare my thoughts to other reviewers, but did on this occasion to see what I missed. Others raved. One crazy guy called a “poor man’s Petrus” and, though I have yet to sample Petrus among these more than 500 tastings, I imagine it has a richer flavor profile by far than the Prelude. A less severe mouthfeel. 

“Coming from the youngest vines of the estate, it is also made of 100% Merlot”

Says the winemakers at Chateau Marsau

Maybe we chalk it up to an over-exuberance of youth? This reviewer is a Gen-Xer, so yes I understand that not everyone is a winner. Not every bottle gets a ribbon or a medal. The Prelude is okay, but only okay. My table has lots of favorites, and more repeat bottles than I have time to write about here…but this one needs no such repeat performance. Thanks for reading and enjoy your vino!

The Ones That Got Away – Winter 2020

This gallery contains 6 photos.

  I’m always regretful when the business of daily life prevents me from sharing tasting notes. There are so many bottles and so little time…here’s a snapshot of several of the great wines that closed out this 2020 year. Best to you all in the year ahead! -R

2017 Double Ripasse, Vellas Pere et Fils Languedoc

There’s serious swag in the Double Ripasse, another new find from my friends at Vellas. Notes has recently covered their Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon and Mazet de la Palombiere (there are more here in the house now) and I relished the chance to tackle this brash red blend.

 

2017 Double Ripasse, Vellas Pere et Fils Languedoc, Rhône, France.

2017 Double Ripasse, Vellas Pere et Fils Languedoc, Rhône, France.

Obviously originating from the Languedoc appellation, this wine is a big Rhône consisting of Syrah (60%), Grenache (30%), and Mourvèdre (10%) grapes, and they come together to interesting effect. It needs to set up for a few moments when you first uncork, but you’re very much the benefactor once you let it breathe.

“Ripasse” typically means to press or squeeze in wine terms, and a little research says that a vintner has typically made the wine but held onto the skins, then reprocesses to add even more flavor (sounds tannic, right, or Amarone-ish?) to the juice. In this case, it’s also a clever bit of wordplay, and if you know this fella you know that’s worth the price of admission. 

Few notes for you:

  • It’s got a new world vibe even though the 2017 Double Ripasse hails from Rhône.
  • Deep, dark purple fruit flavors, and carried to you with heavier tannins (which fade a bit with time)
  • Blackberry or black cherry are most prominent, but there’s a slow, easy earthiness that comes as you get into the Ripasse. Definitely the Syrah back there, lurking in the shadows at first…

The bottle art, and the growing history that I have with Vellas wines, was all I needed to find my way to the 2017 Double Ripasse. Next bottle I’ll show you the rear of the label and you can enjoy that with me. In the meantime, go out and grab yourself one…or the Vienobles…or the Mazet. This is becoming one of my favorite families and I’m confident will be one of yours too.

2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon

This reviewer is often biased toward new world Cabernet Sauvignon, and each new vintage released by my favorite Napa, Sonoma, and Paso Robles-area winemakers brings me great joy. Discovering (or rediscovering) their nuances is the perfect example of wine therapy. Recently, however, I had the pleasure of the 2018 Mazet de la Palombiere and now this 2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are flat-out excellent!

2019 Vellas
2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon, Mas du Pont, France.

The 2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon tastes way beyond its price point. There’s an earthy, layered undertone just below the dark cherry and plum surface of this wine. It has great legs and an even finish that begs for your next taste. The deep burgundy colors and gentle aromatics ensure this 2019 makes for a great tasting experience.

Ours came in the context of late Saturday dinner. Charcoal-grilled chicken (nice marinade!) plus peppers, zucchini, and portobello mushrooms served as the backdrop for this Cabernet Sauvignon. It took a while for the coals to provide a suitable bed for the foodstuffs, but they’re probably still going now so that’s a strong alternative to propane. 

A quick word on the winemaker, who sounds to be growing increasingly hot too. The Vellas family, which has been making wine for four generations, has accumulated properties throughout the Languedoc-Roussillon and Roussillon regions of France. The 2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon is produced near Montpellier in Mas du Pont. Its fruit comes from regions such as Costiere de Nimes, Coteau Varois, Oc, Saint-Guilhem, Grès, Saint Drézery, Muscat de Lunel, Languedoc, Pic St. Loup, and Faugères.

My wine budget for this month is already spent. If it wasn’t, though, I would be right back to the wine store to grab another case of this. The 2019 Vellas COQ Cabernet is really that good. Enjoy!

2018 Mazet de la Palombiere Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2018 Mazet de la Palombiere Cabernet isn’t a wine you’ll recognize by name. It might catch your eye on the shelf, though, a really cool bottle and label that draw you in for a closer look. Great packaging and presentation do a lot for us as wine consumers!

2018 Manzer de la Palombiere Cabernet

2018 Mazet de la Palombiere Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabardès, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.

Honestly, that’s not how I came to this wine. About a year ago, the tasting banks at my favorite wine store were concealed by numbered aluminum sleeves–all set up to promote a blind taste testing to see who among their consumers could identify the latest Silver Oak Cabernet release. These events are assuredly a big draw for the store and I personally love ’em. If you take a moment to browse Notable Wine Tasting Experiences here on Notes you’ll see this isn’t the first time I’ve joined in such fun.  

At not ONE of these tasting events have I been able to identify the flagship wine, whether for Caymus, Belle Gloss, or Silver Oak (which I’ve tried on two separate occasions). I learn something every time, however, so I’m always grateful for the opportunity.

This last time I thought the 2018 Mazet was Silver Oak. Positive. I would have bet a small sum that I was right and had finally developed a palate sensitive enough to pick out the big $90 wine from the also-rans. Chuckling I tell you I have missed yet again, but the wine I thought the best taste / most worthy of the big price tag was the $12 Mazzet. Boom! Just blew your mind, didn’t I?

The 2018 Mazet Cabernet Sauvignon is full of dark berry flavors; black cherry and plum in huge helpings. There is a bit of tannin presence here but the berry really offsets it well. This fan of new world Cabernet appreciates what’s in the mix here for the Manzer. It’s produced in France, and more specifically the Cabardès region that’s part of the Languedoc-Roussillon appellation. A little research shows me the Languedoc-Roussillon AOC has for years provided cost-effective wines for Parisian cafes and big international companies to bring to wine drinkers globally. Its soils are limestone and even gravel in places; the grapes hang from old wines and grow in a climate that’s dry and windy enough to support non-chemical wine growing. We’re chalking up more points here.

Responsible winemaking? Big, fruit-forward flavor? This one has it all. Tip of the cap to Nicolas Vellas for a really great wine at an even better price. Started out looking for silver but happily stumbled onto gold. Grab a bottle of this (several if you can!) and you’ll thank me later. Cheers!

2015 Le Clos Guillot Chinon, Bernard Baudry

Date night with my girl this evening, and we’ve met out for drinks and dinner in Bull City. It’s a cool little French bistro, and only my second time here—and first for dinner. She looks great; freshly coiffed and even her eyes are smiling at me as I jump out of my ride to meet her.

Baudry

2015 Le Clos Guillot Chinon, Bernard Baudry, Loire, France.

The ambiance? High, industrial-style ceilings where sound carries even without a big crowd. Chalkboards on the rear walls share enticing specials for guests, and my eyes are on one even while we slide up to the corner of the bar, our favorite setup so we can lean in close and enjoy each other’s company and intoxicating smells. 

I have a few more stories from the dumpster fire of the past week, a few new angles that we’ve unearthed—but this really isn’t a night to talk shop. It’s a time to relax, to enjoy foodstuffs, to enjoy each other, and to enjoy wine. We’ve selected the Le Clos Guillot Chinon from an extensive tasting list and, though it takes some time to open up, it eventually does and we run through it to good effect.

This Le Clos Guiilot Chinon is organically produced and hails from Loire. It’s a Cabernet Franc that pours ruby red in the glass, with damp, earthy notes that this reviewer can detect even among all the delicious smells of Rue Cler. There’s a bit of cherry in the tasting, and some darker fruits too that I imagine come through the Cabernet Franc grapes themselves. I’ve been very California-focused as of late and this Baudry wine is (at least for me) walking a fine line between those Napa Cabs and Petite Syrahs that I’ve been tasting from this side of the ocean. A medium finish… 

Still recovering from severe sleep deprivation, I’m not going to lay on the menu too thick this time. (I promise to make that up in new Notes entries soon enough.) Just know I’m impossibly happy to be home, and even more so to be out on the town with this special lady. Oh yeah, the wine’s been a fun experience too! A rare trip overseas for this guy but much appreciated. Hoping you do too and thanks as always for your readership and kind words. 

2014 Veuve Clicquot Brut NV

Chapter Two started today, a notable milestone in many ways. Happy New Year, everyone! Notes doesn’t cover champagne all that often, but this was a special occasion and it just made sense to let the bubbly flow. I’ll remember this day for several reasons, this bottle of Veuve Clicquot among them.

screen shot 2019-01-03 at 11.51.24 pm

2014 Veuve Clicquot Brut NV, Champagne, France.

I managed the cork deftly, but still regretted the all-too-sudden geyser at the top of the bottle as the wine burst forth. Veuve Clicquot is good grapes, from the first fragrant rush in your glass to the last wisps on your lips. It’s nice and dry, scented of fresh crisp apples and a pleasure to sip whether you’re alone for the occasion or fortunate enough to have great company along to join you.

It’s late, and I’ve written about Veuve in the past on several prior New Year’s and similar celebrations. Like those events and cherished memories, this bottle and this day I hope to hold onto long in the future. May your own 2019 start with promise and thanks, as always, for your kind readership.

The Ones That Got Away – Summer 2018

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2015 Treana Red, Treana Winery, Paso Robles, California, USA.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Edwards & Chaffey, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2015 Cambridge Meritage, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Domaine d’Andezon Cotes due Rhone, Red blend. Rhone, France.

2015 Mestizaje, Mustiguillo Vineyards & Winery, Red blend. Spain.

2011 Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz Cabernet, Padthaway, Australia.

2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

2012 Acha Red, Mark Herold, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2002 Syrah, Miller Wine Cellars, Napa, California, USA.

2014 Claret, White Rock Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee, Sonoma, California, USA.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker’s Reserve, Robert Storey Cellars, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2014 Amarone la Giaretta della Valpolicella, Italy.