Category: Wine Reviews


This is a bottle I pulled out of my collection for a special occasion. My friend, Robert’s 32nd birthday merited this, since he was the one who gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago. This 2010 Domaine de la Mordoree’s “La Reine des Bois”  from Chateauneuf du Pape Controllee France was past it’s prime by 2 years, I think, but it was still a delicious French Castle.  It was still tight and benefited from an hour of sitting open, oxidizing. It was initially deep, and tight with rich dried raisins and cranberries, dungeon dust, dry flagstone, 80% cocoa, with an intense wash of acid. This wine was a perfect accompaniment to a day at the lake.

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The Reveler

The Reveler, by Revelry Vintners of Walla Walla Washington, is a beautiful example of a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

The rich, luscious blackberry aromas announce this wine to your palate  like a beautiful tidal wave of blueberries, rich cinnamon bark, deep blackberries, then lifted, on a palanquin of raspberries and vanilla.

This is the best pairing for steak that I have found amongst the stateside wines. Walla Walla hasn’t failed me, yet.

I had the privilege visitng Alleromb tasting room/winery in Walla Walla Washington, on my last trip. A beautiful space, with light wood floors, and glorious decor, showcasing local artists, I was impressed before I even lifted a glass.

The set of chardonnays I had from the Alleromb winery was, hands down, the very  BEST that I have ever had. Say what you will about chardonnay, but the Morell family has made this grape shine like I never thought possible. There was a set of 3 chardonnays that I was tasted on. These three were made in the image of the three young daughters, Gemma Camaryn, Camylla Loren, and Ysabella Bjork. Each of these wines is tailored to showcase each daughter’s personality. All three had were distinctly the same family, but the subtle notes are clearly different personalities within that family. This was a beautiful illustration of the art that can be done with wine, like portraits in paint, of three distinctly different people.

The label describes Camylla Loren as, “The typical middle child, Camylla Loren is our “power house,” vigorous, and confident.  She makes herself heard, pushing the boundaries of fun and serious. Expect the same form this wine, forward and dense with a strikingly tannic spine and terrific balance.”

I couldn’t agree more. This is wine is an amazing balance of pears and golden fruit, with tamarinds, and excellent florals of freesia, lilies, lilac and lavender and oak. The oak which is more often than not, a disastrous sticking place with chardonnay, is in perfect harmony with the other elements of Camylla Loren, to create a finish that still lasts 30 seconds after the sip itself has ended. The oak adds a level of sweet vanilla that laces through the power and joy of the fruity florals.

This is, by far, the very best chardonnay I have ever had.

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Settesoli Nero D’Avola 2016

This wine was made by the Settesoli family, from Sicily, and sent to us at George’s with a picture of Angela Settesoli, the winegrower, and winemaker’s daughter.

This Nero d’Avola is thick with rich, luscious cherries, red currants, dusty sun baked clay. This wine holds wild sage, clove hints, and savory herbs. I love this wine’s nose. The palate is just as glorious, just precisely like the nose.

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Apple Cider for the Holidays

(Published in the Helena IR, written by myself)

What is more American than apple pie, baseball, and fireworks on the Fourth of July? Not much, but Johnny Appleseed seemed to think that apples were an integral piece of American culture.

In Montana, there are at least six cideries, in Florence, Hamilton, Red Lodge, Bozeman, Darby and Missoula. There are many more cideries in the northwestern U.S. than one might expect, but they aren’t as publicized as breweries. With a growing interest in apples, and local cider, hopefully, that will change.

There are numerous styles of cider, and even more apple varietals. The least common style of cider is dubiously called, “Common Cider.” This category consists of “Farmhouse” and “Draught” ciders. The farmhouse is the equivalent of a brewery’s small production beer, and often made with fruit from commercial or private orchards. This style is often dry, using ambient yeasts for fermentation, resulting in a more varied product.

The second style, the Draught cider, is what we, in America have come to expect on tap at any given bar. It is made with juice from concentrate, added sugar, and added alcohol. These ciders are, thankfully, in my opinion, becoming less and less popular, in lieu of the “homegrown” variety of Farmhouse cider.

One of Montana’s hidden gems is Montana Ciderworks. The artist responsible for these treasures is Lee McAlpine, one of the only women cider masters in the United States. This cidery is located just south of Darby. Montana Ciderworks makes four types of cider, the North Fork Traditional, the Darby Pub Cider, the McIntosh, and the Small Batch single varietal cider.

The North Fork Traditional cider offers a fantastic balance between a round, full apple fruitiness and sharpness from crab apples that give it a fantastic, clean edge. The Darby Pub cider offers a gentler approach, with woodsy cinnamon, almost apple pie like notes. The McIntosh single varietal cider uses heirloom apples, grown in the Bitterroot Valley. It is a floral, yet crisp cider that is a wonderful accompaniment to food, but also stands on its own as a party treat. The Small-Batch Cider is made with Dolgo apples. It is oak aged to allow for vanilla flavors to round out the crisp, green apple notes. The green apple character in the Single Batch cider is surprising since the Dolgo apple itself, is not green.

Wandering Aengus, of Salem, Oregon, makes a deliciously crisp variety of ciders that bear no resemblance to the super sugary “grumpy apple juice” in the grocery stores. The two most available lines of cider from Wandering Aengus are the Anthem, and the self-titled Wandering Aengus ciders.

The Anthem cider line focuses on being more approachable, coming in cans and bottles that are perfect for picnics. These ciders are simple and straightforward, with flavors, like pear, cherry and hops. The Anthem Cherry cider is my favorite, by far. It is made with Montmorency and Bing cherries, which give this cider more depth and subtlety than expected.

Wandering Aengus’s high-end releases, the self-titled Wandering Aengus Ciders, are the Wickson Single Varietal Crab Apple, Wanderlust, Golden Russet, Oaked Dry, and Bloom. Each cider possesses its own personality, more sharp than sweet. I appreciated these ciders best with grilled food. Their tart nature washed down the sweet smokiness from the food beautifully. I found the Golden Russet cider to be the most enjoyable of this line. It was fruit forward, but still dry enough not to be syrupy. It would be perfect with a sharp cheese or savory pasties.

Apples are perfect for this time of year, for pies, stewing, drying, or to drink in hard or non-alcoholic ciders. An apple a day, eaten or sipped, keeps grumpiness away.

Link is: http://helenair.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/american-as-apple-cider/article_19873bbb-d649-5b7c-a9d8-237e210d8abf.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=user-share

“The Criminal” 2015

“The Criminal” is one is a Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County cab. This is one of the California cabs I grabbed when I had the opportunity.

This California cab is beautifully inky rich, almost enhanced, with thick black fruit. Thie nose of this wine oozes with black cherry preserve, and laced with cinnamon that opens to apple flesh, cloves, and unripe black plums.

On the palate, The Criminal is still thick, immediately open to a luxuriously compiled fruit bomb. This wine is is a linzer torte in a bottle.

The Criminal would pair beautifully with a hazelnut chocolate mousse, raspberry glazed ham, or even a game bird.

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It is important, from time to time, and somewhat frequently, to examine my relationship to alcohol. I have a number of acquaintances who are part of/participate in AA and Al-Anon, and what I tell everyone who takes a moment to ask me about alcohol, is the following:

A relationship with alcohol is just like any intimate relationship. You have to look at it carefully, and know exactly where you two stand with one another. Open, honest communication with yourself (yes, yourself) is really the important part. I’ve always said that if ever there is a time when you find yourself wanting it too much, to distraction, then you need a break from your partner. If enjoying only losing yourself in your partner (being drunk or tipsy) is what you look forward to, then you probably need to re-find yourself, without them so that you can re-set yourself. That person (when it is a person), in a healthy relationship, didn’t get into the relationship to only use you as a mirror for themselves, but for who you are, standing on your own. It also could be argued that you can only really be part of a relationship when you bring yourself to it as a whole being, not two parts of a whole, who are incomplete without one another. (They call that co-dependence)

Culturally speaking, here in Montana, we rarely have any social interaction that isn’t part of an AA gathering, an underage gathering, or a church event that is not based around, or inclusive of alcohol. Every night after work, tired, fed-up workers go to the bar for a beer, go home for a beer, or meet to celebrate some event with wine or cocktails. It’s just part of the culture. It seems to mimic EUrope’s reputation for having alcohol ever-present in society. There is a large, rather unavoidable difference. In Europe, I have rarely seen anyone who is actually drunk. There is a major difference in the amount of alcohol consumed, I think. I don’t have any evidence to back this up, except my own personal experience, so bear with me, I’m not part of the “Prove it or you’re wrong” culture we seem to promote these days online. In the US, everywhere you go, on any given night, you can find at least one person drinking to get drunk.

This is a complex examination, the study between people and alcohol, but that’s all I have to say at the moment.

This delightful blend from Rasa Vineyards, from Walla Walla, Washington is one of the best Washington wines that I’ve had. It’s a perfect blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petite Verdot. Titled, “In Order to Form a More Perfect Union,” this 2013 blend is aptly named, both for our fast paced political climate, and for the union of these grapes. It is dark, inky garnet, fancy, lace-stocking’d legs in the glass. It’s body is muscular, but round, powerfully striking, but feminine. She is a socialite queen, but not delicate, rather, commanding in presence. She is black cherries, refined plums, with cinnamon, and hints of blackberry juice soaked nectarines. She is an actress of bygone eras on the silver screen. She’ll steal your heart away, from a theater seat, mouth watering, heart racing.

A break from the tedium of re-copying notes from the past. I always aspire to share my wine adventures, but it’s always kind of tedious to re-write things.

Domaine de Couron was by far, the Domaine that made the biggest impression on me as I began my wine journey at 21.

Today’s is a CDR Village, Mis en Bouteille au Domaine. I’m sitting next to onions that I’m processing, so this could be a tad tainted on the nose, but it’s a lovely way to spend a fall afternoon. Processing garden produce, and sipping wine you enjoy.

The nose is black, preserved cherries, almost overripe, overripe blackberries, laced with slight eucalyptus borders, like a beautiful painting in a frame. It’s rich mulch, black forest soil, and hints of granite evolving to almost cherry liquor. Across the palate, the alcohol is nearly unbalanced, prickling like black pepper flakes that weren’t ground finely enough.

I have a hunch that this Cotes du Rhone is at the end of it’s life, and was not meant to necessarily age this many years, but here it stands, proud in it’s 6th year, only fine laugh lines visible, hands softer than they used to be, back straight and proud, feet firmly planted.

I love Domaine de Couron. (Not a great photo, but c’est la vie.)

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College Cellars Continued

The remaining wines from the Walla Walla Enology & Viticulture Center:

Syrah 2014: By far, my favorite of the bunch, according to the four hearts I drew next to it! This was co-fermented with 7% Viognier, which adds preservative qualities, preserving color, adds green grape aromatics, with almost a Gewurztraminer spice. This wine is much more fresh than I’ve ever had with a straight Syrah. There are hints of spruce, and juniper. It would have been excellent with cedar plank salmon and a beautiful, joyful finish that is constantly evolving.

Cab “Seven Hills” 2015 – This cab is young, but it’s rich and luscious with dense fruit. The tannins don’t overpower this wine. The tannins and fruit aren’t warring, they’re dancing, in red velvet slippers. This cab smells of earth, tilled farm soil, and has a beautiful balance, with anise seeds and dark cherries.

GSM 2015 – A typical name that I would see through out my visit. This stands for Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. This is a nice, simple wine, for all that’s blended into it. It is cherries and eucalyptus, and would be great with food.

Carmenere 2015: This Carmenere is a rich herbal paint splash of licorice, anise seeds, celery and basil, outlined in staunch red fruit, and forest greens. If I recall correctly, Tad said, “It’s like one big green grape, trying to stuff itself up your nose.”

Malbec 2015 – This Malbec is precisely what you would expect of a Malbec. It’s nicely herbal, with a pleasing balance between tannin and red plum juice. It’s weight is surprisingly hefty, contributed to by the Oak Program that the Enology & Viticulture Center offers its students as a learning tool.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Enology & Viticulture Center. I hope to return at some point, and spend more than just a delightful afternoon there.