Mollydooker Carnival of Love 2014

W Love 2014Shiraz from The Gateway, McLaren Vale, Fleurieu Zone, South Australia, Australia

100% shiraz

15.5-16.5% alcohol

Purchased: 14 Feb 2014 – $100.00

Opened: 14 Feb 2018

els: 9.4/10

Wine Spectator: 95

Tasting Panel: 95

Cellar Tracker: 93

Vinous: 70

South Australia is the largest wine region, by acres of vines planted and wine produced, in Australia.  McLaren Vale, along with its northern neighbor: Barossa Valley, are the premier South Australia wine-producing regions in the country. McLaren Vale’s wine history goes back at least 175 years to the time of John Reynell and Thomas Hardy and their first grape plantings.  Todays Accolade Wines traces its beginnings back to the establishment of the Thomas Hardy and Sons winery, in 1853, in Old Reynella, now a suburb of Adelaide. With its Mediterranean climate and well drained soils, McLaren Vale is known for its superb reds with Shiraz being its star pupil, accounting for 50% of all grapes grown and processed.

Australia is the second largest producer of Shiraz or its genetic French twin, Syrah, grapes, France being the first. These are dark skinned grapes that produce wildly different flavors depending on the terroir they spring from. The cooler climate versions tend towards medium bodied wines with higher tannins producing flavors and aromas of pepper and tobacco.  In the hotter climates, such as McLaren Vale, the wine is fuller in body, softer in tannins with notes of leather and velvety chocolate. Ageing potential is 10-15 years.

In 2006 Sparky and Sarah Marquis established their own brand: Mollydooker, and opened their winery the next year just a few miles southwest of Adelaide and a hop, skip, and jump from the Gulf of St. Vincent in The Gateway sub-region of McLaren Vale. From the outset they have produced outstanding wines garnering high 90s ratings and wine of the year accolades, seemingly without effort. The winery includes 3 vineyards: Long Gully Road, Coppermine Road (Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road produced weed and whiskey),  and the Home Blocks, totaling 114 acres planted in Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The vines are growing in ancient Snowball Earth, Pre-Cambrian to Cambrian metasediments, usually extremely weathered and kaolinized. The metasediments include various textures from siltstones to sandstones and limestones to dolostones.  The Mollydooker vineyards are situated a little over 450′ above sea level and enjoy a Mediterranean climate with growing season diurnal temperatures ranging from 55-85ºF.  Rainfall is generally less than 1.25″ per month during the growing season.

The grapes are cold fermented, below 60ºF, with final fermentation occurring in oak barrels. After fermentation the wine is racked back to tanks for oxygenation. Then back to the barrel for approximately 3 months of malolactic fermentation. The final stage is to rack the wine again into different oak barrels to age some more before finding their way into the colorfully labeled bottles. Even before leaving the cellar these are well-traveled wines.

A dark, dark purple wine with a ruby rim. A bouquet of jammy berries and plums, bursting with chocolate. A very bold wine with medium tannins and acidity.  Luscious silk and velvet on the tongue. A wonderful, lasting, spicy candy finish. A parenthetical aside on the alcohol content.  The bottle states the ABV is 16.5% while the technical sheet states 15.5%.  Either one packs a wallop.

An outstanding wine.  My wife and I had this for our Valentines’ dinner at the Helix Wine and Bites restaurant in Grand Forks, ND. We started the meal off with a terrific morsel of grilled watermelon topped with a pepper spiced shrimp followed by oysters on the half shell heaped with garlic and herbs. The entrees were a medium rare rib eye and a filet of orange roughy tightly wound in herbs and spices.  The wine supremely complemented both of these main dishes. We finished off the wine with a desert of berries and milk chocolate fondue. Actually the wine ran out before we finished the desert forcing us to top off with Bailey’s and Penfolds’ port; life is hard but we try to go along with it.

The wine with the meal was simply astounding. Drink now, but should last until 2025-2029. This is still a young wine so I strongly recommended that you decant and aerate for one hour, or more, before drinking.

$68.99-99.99 wine-searcher.com

CasaSmith Cervo Barbera 2014

W CasaSmith 2014Barbera from Columbia Valley, Washington, US

100% barbera

14.5% alcohol

Opened 5 Feb 2018

els: 9.1/10

Wine Advocate: 93

Wine Enthusiast: 91

International Wine Report: 90

Cellar Tracker: 88

Charles Smith, vagabond, restaurateur, rock band manager, hard partier, and after almost 40 years decides to postpone adulthood further by starting a winery.  And doggone it, he’s good at it.  Mr. Smith builds up the winery, produces some darn good wines and sells the business for a ludicrous amount of money, and then promptly starts another winery; which he will likely sell for an even larger and more absurd (ludicrouser?) amount of money.  I spent 35 years at a nice, respectable and steady day job, thinking I was proceeding down a proper path.  Retrospection of ones life can be painful.

W Charles Smith 2018

Charles Smith.  Photo stolen from one of his web sites.

Charles Smith has set up shop in the southeastern Washington state, Columbia Valley town of Walla Walla; a megalopolis of about 45,000 folks which sits close to the Oregon border. The Cervo Barbera wine is part of a collection of Italian grapes grown and produced from his Washington vineyards, where he strives to reproduce the quality and integrity that one would find in Italy.

The Barbera, native to northwestern Italy, is a dark purple skinned grape producing a wine of low tannins and high acidity.  To combat the acidity, ageing the wine in old or neutral oak barrels is highly recommended to give the product more balance and a smoother finish.

The Northridge vineyard, planted in 2003, is a 92 acre site on a Wahluke Slope alluvial gravel fan, created approximately 15,000 years ago, in the Late Pleistocene, from the periodic floods originating from the ice dammed Glacial Lake Missoula in western Montana. Underneath the gravels are caliche deposits and Miocene-aged flood basalts.  The gravels provide excellent drainage for the vine’s roots and the caliche provides the calcium carbonate that the Barbera grapes thrive on.  Growing season temperatures range from daytime highs around 90ºF to nighttime lows approaching 40ºF.   Rainfall, during the growing season, ranges from 0.6-2.25″ per month.  The Northridge vineyard is approximated 2º degrees of latitude further north than its Italian Barbera counterparts in northwestern Italy and as a result receives more summertime sunshine.

The wines are whole cluster fermented and macerated for 37 days.  The wine is aged in old oak barrels for 12 months.

A wine with a garnet to ruby-red color and an amber rim. A bouquet of earthy herbs and black berries. On the palate a fruity, full-bodied, slightly acidic but balanced wine.  It has a fresh, long finish.

An outstanding wine at a fair price.  Serve this Italian wine with Italian pastas and pizzas. Drink now, but should last until 2020. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$20.00 wine-searcher.com

Chateau Francs Magnus Bordeaux Superieur 2014

W Francs2014Bordeaux Red Blends from Bordeaux, France

Proprietary red blend

13.5% alcohol

Opened 11 Nov 2017

els 9.0/10

James Suckling 91

From the winery and vineyards of Arnaud Roux-oulie, complete with limestone quarries and Gallo-Roman silos.

This wine has a clear garnet to ruby color, redolent of plums and dark berries, with a touch of licorice. A medium body and finish, with smooth and easy tannins. A nice, unpretentious everyday wine, enjoyable with simple fare such as pizza or cheeseburgers. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$11.99 wine.com

Chateau d’Agassac 2014

W D'Agassac 2014Bordeaux Red Blends from Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France

Proprietary blend of  cabernet sauvignon and merlot

Opened 14 Oct 2017

els 9.0/10

James Suckling 92

Wine Enthusiast 91

Robert Parker 83

Chateau D’Agassac, a Haut-Medoc winery, purchased in 1996 by the French insurance conglomerate, Groupama, is located in the village of Ludon-Medoc, less than 10 miles north from the center of Bordeaux, and less than 3 miles west of the Garonne River. TheW Chateau d'Agassac charming, fairytale Chateau located at the winery, complete with turrets and moat, is known to have existed as far back as 1238 AD, under the lordship of Gaillard de Gassac, vassal of King Edward I of England. The vineyards, originally swampland, around the Chateau, were  not known to exist prior to the French Revolution in the late 18th century, when the area was drained.

The vines are grown on a young alluvium cover, deposited from the nearby Garonne River during its flood stage. In the western vineyards the soil consists of a  gravel, up to 10 feet thick, and produces refined and elegant wines. Sandy gravels in the middle vineyards, produce subtle wines high in tannins. The eastern most vineyards, closest to the river, consist of clayey gravels, with rounded stones the size of ping-pong balls, reaching 20 feet thick, and produce full body wines.  The vineyards encompass 106 acres, planted with 50% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Cabernet Franc; the grapes are harvested from, on average, 25-year-old vines.

The temperatures of Ludon-Medoc reach their peak during August, with highs near 80 and lows hovering around 60. August is the driest month of the year, still producing, on average, about 2.5 inches of rain over those 30 days, with the remaining growing season, before and after August, producing 3 to 3.5 inches of rain each month. The gravels release their sun-acquired heat at night, protecting the vines’ roots from extreme temperature variations during the growing season, and especially during the harvesting of the grapes. The loose gravels also drain away the rain water quickly, keeping the grapes in peak condition.

This Bordeaux needs decanting and aeration for at least 2 hours, 4-6 hours, even better; if not, the acidity and tannins will overpower your senses, infusing your soul with utter regret that you even came to purchase this bottle of fermented grape juice. I opened this bottle after 3 years but in hindsight I should have let it set for at least 2 more years.  With that said, and with proper aeration, this is a good wine; an incredibly dark ruby-purple wine, redolent of plums, prunes and raisins. Full-bodied, dry, and intense with an excellent and protracted finish.

An outstanding wine.

$19.99 wine.com.

Chateau Carlmagnus 2014

W Carlmagnus BordeauxBordeaux Red Blend from Fronsac, Bordeaux, France.
Proprietary red blend.
14.5% alcohol by volume

els 9.1/10

Wine Advocate 90-92

Wine Spectator 90

James Suckling 90

Fronsac, a wooded and hilly area, east of the Bordeaux wine region, in southwest France, is located near the northern bank of the Dordogne river, just a few miles west of the small city, Libourne; home of numerous appellations including Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, and of course, Fronsac.

Merlot is the main grape variety harvested here along with a smattering of Cabernet Franc, grown on primarily clayey-limestone soils. The vineyards sit atop a network of limestone caves, serving as the winery’s cellars. The summer climate is mild and sunny with temperatures dipping into the low 50s at night, and the days range from the mid 70s to the low 80s. Rain brings 1 to 2.5 inches of water per month.

Chateau Carlmagnus is a gorgeous dark purple, cherries and plums dance into your nose, slightly acidic but is quickly tamed.  This is a full-bodied, complex but balanced wine.

A outstanding wine.

$17.99 wine.com

Baracchi O’lillo 2014

W Baracchi OlilloTuscan Red Blend from Tuscany, Italy
25% cabernet sauvignon
25% merlot
25% sangiovese
25% syrah
14.5% alcohol by volume

els 9.0/10

James Suckling 93

Wine Spectator 90

The Baracchi winery and vineyards are located on the southern, sunny slopes of the Apennine Mountains, in the eastern central area of Tuscany, just outside the stone walls of the ancient, small city of Cortona.

Legend has it that Cortona was originally established by Noah, shortly after the great flood; falling in love with the fertile soils and natural beauty of the area. Umbrians, Etruscans, Romans, Guelphs, Medici, Italians have all called Cortona theirs. The town, at approximately 1600 feet above sea level, overlooks Lake Trasimene, the setting for one of the Roman Empires great military defeats at the hands of Hannibal in 217 BC (Carnage and Culture, The Punic Wars).  When touring the Tuscany wine region this is a required stop to cherish and savor the legends, the history, the scenery, the food, and certainly, the wine.

The Baracchi Estate, winery and vineyards, a family business since 1860, is run by Riccardo and his son Benedetto, producing some of the best wines in the region. There are 4 vineyards sitting about 1000 feet above sea level, enjoying hot days, rising to the high 80s, and cool nights dipping down to the chilly low 50s. The rains, coming roughly once a week, deliver from 1.5 to 3 inches of water per month to the thirsty vines. The soils range from sandy to clayey and chalky. The wines are aged in French oak barrels.

This red blend is a brilliant ruby-red, redolent with red and black cherries and just a whisper of black pepper.  The tannins are about as smooth as a cloudless Mediterranean sky, with an enjoyable, hearty and long finish.

An outstanding wine.

$19.99 wine.com

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