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2009 A. Rafanelli Zinfandel – Bottle Notes

Alberto Rafanelli, an Italian immigrant, first founded A. Rafanelli Winery in the early 1900’s. It wasn’t until the early 70’s that Alberto’s son, Americo, came out with the present day label and started selling the wine commercially. David and Patty Rafanelli now run the winery and a 4th generation Rafanelli, their daughter Shelly, is the winemaker. The winery is perhaps best known for their Zinfandel but also produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with all the fruit sourced from their vineyard in Dry Creek Valley.

Blood red in color. 14.8% ABV. Soaring nose of brambly red fruits, leather and pepper. Medium body with just enough acidity. Jammy and lush on the palate. Flavors of raspberry, blackberry, cherry cordial and pepper. The finish is exceptionally long with silky tannins. Elegant, claret style Zinfandel. Dry Creek Valley Zin at its finest. Drink over the next 1-2 years.

My rating: 92 points.

$42 at the winery.

I’ve previously posted on Rafanelli in What’s Your Price for Zin?

Rafanelli is very traditional in how they run the winery. If you want to join the mailing list you need to send them a letter. They do not correspond via email, but will likely answer the phone if you give them a call. The extra effort required to acquire the wine is worth it. The tasting room is open by appointment and is always worth a visit to try the new releases.

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2003 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape – Bottle Notes

The 2003 Clos des Papes was the winning bottle in the July Installment of Pick My Next Bottle. The wine was briefly decanted and served with Beef Stew on a stormy Summer night in Seattle.

Clos des Papes is owned by the Avril family, now headed by Paul Avril and his son Vincent. The family has been making wine in Chateauneuf-du-Pape for 300 years. The name Clos des Papes comes from the fact that the original vineyard was part of a papal estate located inside a chateau. The Avril family now owns parcels through the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation, giving the estate a total of nearly 90 acres of vineyards planted mostly to Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah.

The wine is light crimson in color and checks in at a modest 14.5% ABV. Soaring nose of ripe red fruits, grilled meats, white pepper and iron. Dense, concentrated and immensely powerful. Full bodied with more than enough acidity. Super fresh with exceptional balance. Garrigue, kirsch, pepper, raspberries and strawberry liqueur on the palate. The finish is exquisite. For my money there is nothing controversial about this wine. Great bottle from a great producer. Exciting Châteauneuf-du-Pape that will continue to develop for at least another 5-7 years. In retrospect I should have decanted this wine for more than 30 minutes. What a blockbuster!

My rating: 96 points.

Current vintages of Clos des Papes are readily available. Look for the the 2010-2012 but expect to pay upwards of $125 per bottle.

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2003 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Flax Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Williams Selyem Winery began when Ed Selyem and Burt Williams started making wine as a hobby in 1979 in Forestville, California. Their first commercial release was in 1981, and in less than two decades they created a cult-status winery of international acclaim. Setting a new standard for Pinot Noir winemaking, they put Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley at the forefront of the best Pinot Noir regions in the world.

Today, John and Kathe Dyson, who purchased the winery from Burt and Ed in 1998, work with winemaker Jeff Mangahas to carry on the passion for Pinot Noir without compromise. Other varieties bottled at Williams Selyem include Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Chenin Blanc.

The Flax Vineyard is located just south of Williams Selyem, in the Russian River Valley. Three blocks totaling 9 acres make up this unique vineyard which was planted in 1996.

Light crimson in color. 13.8% ABV. Luscious nose of red fruits, baking spice and iron. Medium body with nice acidity. Baked cherries, rhubarb, nutmeg and cola on the palate. The finish is long and spicy. Great showing for a twelve year old Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Ready to drink. Perhaps the wines made by Bob Cabral will end up aging as well as those made by the legendary Burt Williams?

My rating: 92 points.

Williams Selyem can periodically be found at retail, but the mailing list is highly recommended.

I wrote about Williams Selyem recently in Reflections on Two Days in Russian River Valley and The Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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The Week in Zinfandel (7/20/15)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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2010 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc – Bottle Notes

Spottswoode is a family owned winegrowing estate located on the western edge of St. Helena in the Napa Valley. The 46 acre estate, established in 1882, is distinguished by the historic Victorian home depicted on the label. Its entrance is graced by classic formal gardens, while the vineyard stretches behind to the Mayacamas Mountains.

The Spottswoode Estate was bought by Jack and Mary Novak in 1972. The first Cabernet Sauvignon was produced in 1982. Spottswoode also makes an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, a second Cabernet named Lydenhurst and a Rhone blend known as Field Book.

Light gold in color. 14.1% ABV. 60% Napa County fruit and 40% Sonoma County fruit. Grapefruit, grass and other citrus fruits on the nose. Rich and racy with zingy acidity. Meyer lemon, pear, minerals and lime on the palate. Crisp and refreshing with a long finish. Always a favorite California Sauvignon Blanc. Drink in the next year or so.

My rating: 91 points.

The 2014 vintage was released this past spring and is readily available. On the pricy side for Sauvignon Blanc yet fairly priced around $38 per bottle.

I blogged about Spottswoode previously in Overlooked Wines from Great Producers.

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Pick My Next Bottle – 2003 Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The July installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the the 2003 vintage. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. The winning bottle will be opened on Saturday and a Bottle Note will be published the following week.

2003 was, simply put, one of the hottest vintages on record in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The grapes had high sugar levels and low acidity. Robert Parker gave the vintage a conservative score of 90 points while the Wine Spectator weighed in at 93 points. The very best of the best from CdP have aged well but many of the wines should be consumed in the very near term. I think it is high time to check in on some of the bottlings from my very favorite CdP producers.

The Contenders

  • 2003 Clos des Papes – A great bottle and showing the hallmark elegance of the estate, the 2003 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape offers up a kirsch liqueur, liquid flower, red licorice and spice-box driven bouquet along with a full-bodied, seamless, silky profile on the palate. Still beautifully put together and aging gracefully, with a core of sweet fruit, it is certainly drinking well now, yet should continue to hold and drink nicely through 2020. 98 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2003 Beaucastel – Much like it was in 1998, the blend for Beaucastel’s 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape includes more Grenache (50%) since that varietal was both consistent and of high quality. The balance is 20% Mourvedre, and 30% such varietals as Syrah and Counoise. Its deep ruby/purple color is accompanied by an earthy style, moderately high levels of tannin, and neither the suppleness nor forward flamboyance of the 2000 or 2001. Dense, full-bodied, and structured, the 2003 is clearly a vin de garde. It will require 5-6 years of bottle age, and should drink well for 15-18. 93 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2003 Clos Saint Jean Combe des Fous – A big, ripe and voluptuous effort, the 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous is thrilling stuff that’s drinking beautifully. Incense, exotic pepper, cedar and spice are all supported by a ripe core of sweet kirsch and blackberry fruit. It’s full-bodied, rich, textured and voluptuous on the palate. Showing no signs of over-ripeness or astringency, with polished tannin and excellent mid-palate depth, it pumps out loads of fruit on the finish, and should be consumed over the coming handful of years… As to the Combe des Fous release, this cuvée comes from a single plot of vines and is based largely on Grenache, with roughly 20% Syrah and 10% each of Vaccarese and Cinsault in the blend. The Grenache is aged all in tank and the other components see time in mostly demi-muids. While the Deux ex Machina always impresses more with its overt power and muscle, this cuvee always seems more polished, fine and elegant to me. 97 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which 2003 Châteauneuf-du-Pape should I open?

  • Clos des Papes (59%, 13 Votes)
  • Beaucastel (32%, 7 Votes)
  • Clos Saint Jean Combe des Fous (9%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 22

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another.

Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the August Installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

I wrote about the 2003 vintage in France previously in Reflections on the 2003 Vintage in France.

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2000 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana IGT – Bottle Notes

Paolo di Marchi has run Isole e Olena since the age of 20. Paolo avoids the Cabernet Sauvignon many of his neighbors have begun to incorporate into their Chiantis, believing it overshadows the Sangiovese. The flagship wine at Isole e Olena is Cepparello, a barrique-aged Sangiovese classified as an IGT – because at the time of its creation in the 1980s, a wine comprising 100% Sangiovese could not legally be labelled as Chianti.

Rust in color with some bricking on the edge of the glass. 13.5% ABV. Dried red fruits, asphalt, iron and leather on the nose. Light body with medium acidity. At first taste the wine comes across as somewhat rustic. With time in the glass though a certain elegance emerges. Cherries dominate on the palate with secondary notes of tobacco and graphite. The finish is long and sweet with resolved tannins. Drink over the next 2-3 years.

My rating: 92 points.

If you are looking to explore the wines of Tuscany, Isole e Olena in general and the Cepparello bottling in particular should be on your shopping list. Current vintages sell for approximately $70. Look for the 2009 and 2010.

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The Week in Zinfandel (7/13/15)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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2012 Angel Vine Zinfandel Columbia Valley – Bottle Notes

Angel Vine owners Ed and Laureen Fus moved their family to Oregon in 1997 to pursue their dream of farming a vineyard. The Three Angels Vineyard (named after Laureen and their two daughters) is located in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills and produces Pinot Noir used by several local wineries. Ed eventually decided to make his own wine focusing on single vineyard Zinfandel (see my previous notes on three of them ), with grapes sourced from Washington. They also produce a Zinfandel blend, Petite Sirah and Primitivo.

The Columbia Valley Zinfandel is black in color and checks in at 14.9% ABV. 76% Zinfandel, 22% Primitivo and 2% Petite Sirah. Sourced from Alder Ridge, Avery, Les Collines, Coyote Canyon and StoneTree vineyards. Dark fruits, pepper and bittersweet chocolate on the nose. Rich and juicy on the palate. Full bodied with just enough acidity. Flavors of blackberry, black cherry, currants and licorice. The wine finishes strong. Easy to drink now but this might improve with a year or two in the cellar.

My rating: 90 points.

This is the entry level Zinfandel from Angel Vine and it is a great value at $20. Washington Zinfandel is a work in progress and this wine is cleary a step in the right direction.

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2009 Pierre-Marie Chermette Domaine du Vissoux Fleurie Poncie – Bottle Notes

Pierre-Marie Chermette is located in the hamlet of Le Vissoux in the southern Beaujolais region. With his wife Martine, Pierre-Marie owns and operates Domaine du Vissoux. The estate has been in existence since the 17th century, and Pierre-Marie’s family has been involved in winemaking in the region for generations.

Fleurie is a village located near the center of Beaujolais, and the Beaujolais Cru appellation named for it encompasses nearly 2,000 acres of vineyards.

Rust in color. 13% ABV. Red fruits, flowers and soil on the nose. Light body with medium acidity. Fresh, juicy strawberry, cherry, saline and minerals on the palate. Delicious wine! There is structure here that warrants cellaring for another 2-4 years. A steal at a little over $30 or so and an ’09 that lives up to the hype of the vintage.

My rating: 91 points

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