Chateau Ampelia Castillon-Cotes de Bordeaux 2011

W Ampelia 2011Bordeaux Red Blend, St. Philippe d’ Aiguilhe, Castillon-Cotes de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France

95% merlot

5% cabernet franc

13.5% alcohol

Purchased: 24 April 2014 – $17.99

Opened: 14 Feb 2018

els: 8.9/10

Wine Enthusiast: 92

Cellar Tracker: 89

Wine Spectator: 88

The Despagne family has been making wines in the Saint-Emilion AOC  for more than 200 years. Today Francois, a seventh generation descendent of the Despagne family, is currently manager, since 1996, of Grand Corbin-Despagne winery and founder of the Chateau Ampelia in 1999. Breaking with family tradition the new winery and vineyards are located to the east, and adjacent to Saint-Emilion in the Castillon-Cotes de Bordeaux appellation 1.5 miles west of Saint-Philippe-d’Aiguille, and a little more than 4 miles north of the Dordogne River. This AOC was upgraded from Bordeaux Superior in 2008 and the area includes about 230 families working, on average, 25 acres of vines; predominately Merlot (70%), but also Cabernet Franc (20%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%).  Vines in this area date back to at least the 2nd century AD when the Romans planted Vitus Biturica, an ancient cousin of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Merlot, the most planted grape in France, in known for its mellow and rounded flavors and is often blended with its close cousin: Cabernet Sauvignon and or its parent: Cabernet Franc, to soften them up. Cabernet Franc is a black skinned grape that imparts a peppery character to Bordeaux blends.

The grapes are harvested and sorted twice, once in the vineyard and then again at the winery. They are crushed, de-stemmed and fermented in temperature controlled, concrete and stainless steel tanks.  The post-fermented juice is racked into French oak barrels, one-third which are new, and allowed to age for 12 months before being blended and bottled.

The wine has ruby-red color with a garnet rim. A bouquet of cherries, plums and cedar with a hint of pepper. On the palate the wine is medium-bodied with soft tannins.  It has a pleasant, medium lasting, and soothing finish. Not overly bold but a refreshing wine.

A good wine but hard to find and a little expensive for the quality. Pair with a snack of soft cheese and berries.  Drink now, but should last for another year or two.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$22.37 wine-searcher.com (limited availability)

 

Haras de Pirque Hussonet Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

W Hussonet 2011Cabernet Sauvignon from Maipo Valley, Central Valley and Andes, Chile

100% cabernet sauvignon

14.0% alcohol

Purchased: 20 Aug 2016 – $12.99

Opened: 11 Feb 2018

els: 8.7/10

James Suckling: 95

Wine Spectator: 88

Cellar Tracker: 88

Eduardo Matte in 1991 purchased an estate he later named Haras de Pirque, a term derived from the combination of a name for a 1892 thoroughbred stud: Haras; which also is the French term for stud farm, and the Chilean commune name for the area: Pirque.  The estate is less than 20 miles southeast from the center of Santiago, Chile in the Maipo Valley and a little over 20 miles east of the Andes Mountain’s year-round snow fields. The estate, eventually growing to encompass approximately 1500 acres, lies on the western edge of a peripheral, Miocene-Pliocene aged, Andes’ thrust fault and has almost 250 acres devoted to growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. The remainder of the estate is dedicated to raising horses for racing and show. The Hussonet name comes from a famous eponymous American-Chilean stud, whose offspring have achieved some success as race horses in Chile and Australia.

The vineyards and winery, beginning in 2003, were originally a 50-50 joint venture with the Italian company, Marchesi Antinori, and their first wine was a Bordeaux red blend under the Albis label.  The Hussonet label followed a few years later.

The Antinori family, an ancient clan believing they can trace their blood lines back to the 11th century BC city of Troy, and their winemaking, a more persuasively detailed chronicle, dating back to at least the time of the Florentine Renaissance, bought out Matte’s share in the Harris de Pirque estate in mid-2017 and they plan extensive changes to the winery and vineyards to better reflect their name, which is synonymous with prestigious wines in general and Super Tuscans in particular.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross, believed to have occurred naturally sometime in the 1600s in France, between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.  It is now the most widely planted grape in the world.  A thick-skinned grape that’s relatively easy to grow and maintain and it exhibits high tannins and acidity, along with cool climate grown aromas of peppers and currants.

The Haras de Pirque vineyards are located between 1800-2100′ above sea level on the west side of an outlier Andes series of foothills. The soils are clays and loams mixed with large alluvial and colluvial stones. Growing season temperatures have a diurnal range of approximately 50-85ºF and rainfall amounts average a very dry 0.5″ per month or less. During the southern hemisphere winters rainfall can exceed, but still dry, 2″ per month.

There is no useful information available, that I can find, on the actual details of making of this wine.

The wine has ruby-red to purple color with a garnet rim. A bouquet of black currants, pepper, and a hint of vanilla. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, rich in tannins, but slightly drier and more acidic than usual for a Cabernet Sauvignon. The finish is short to medium.

A good wine at a fair price. Pair with a snack of hard cheese and salami.  Not a great wine to add to the menu for an expensive or fancy beef meal. Drink now, but should last until 2021.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$9.99-16.12 wine-searcher.com

Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico DOCG 2011

W D'Albola Chianti 2011Sangiovese from Tuscany, Italy

95% sangiovese

5% canaiol

13.0% alcohol

Opened 7 Dec 2017

els 8.8/10

JS 91

WS 90

RP 87

The Castello d’Abola estate, drastically renamed Castello di Albola, located in the village of Radda, is smack dab in the middle of the Chianti Classico DOCG. The wine takes its name from the Abola Castle, built sometime around the 1400s and beautifully restored by the current owners: the Zonin family.

Vineyards and wineries have existed in Tuscany Chianti area for at least 2500 years, likely even further into the past, back during the pre-Roman times of the enigmatic Etruscan civilization; who are believed to have introduced wine production to the French. A truer definition of altruistic and noble charity cannot be found.

The vines for this wine are grown at the highest elevation of any vineyard in the Chianti DOCG, rooted in clayey limestone soils that receive anywhere from 0.25 to 1.8 inches of rain per month during the growing season.  Temperatures can reach into the mid-80s during the day and drop into the mid-40s Fahrenheit at night.

This wine exhibits a brilliant ruby-red  to garnet hue, redolent of sweet fruits and pepper. A medium body, balanced and structured wine along with a moderate but pleasant finish. A nice table wine for everyday fare or drink alone while watching the sun sink slowly towards the west.

A good wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

The 2011 is close to impossible to find anymore, at least in the US.  I’ve found one store in the UK and one in Canada that are charging an exorbitant price that you should definitely pass on.  I paid $15.99 for a bottle in 2015, which is (was) an inexpensive to a tad over-priced for wine of this quality.

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