A Rosé to Slay Summer: Clos Cibonne Tibouren Rose France 2016 Wine Review

Long time no see, internet. Who knew parenting would eat up my wine writing hobby? Well, mommy and daddy could use a drink.

The summer sun demands chilled wines. So let us dip a toe into sunny Provence with a rare grape: Tibouren. The vine likely originates from Greece, possibly the Middle East, and it is tricky, subject to coulure, so consistent heat is key. Intense aromas and earthiness push it into a blending grape and rosés. Thus, today, mainly small plots in Provence and Liguria grow Tibouren.

Clos Cibonne Map Provence

Lucky for us, winery Clos Cibonne lives and breaths Tibouren.  The estate is a bowl shaped 37 acres (15 hectares) of vineyards that face the Med only 800 meters away.  The Roux Family bought the it in 1797, and in 1930, André Roux modernized the winery and made Tibouren rosé its core. Out went Mourvèdre, in went Tibouren. Fame came. But the winery slipped in the 1980s, and by the late 1990s Bridget, André’s granddaughter, and her husband, Claude Deforge, took it over, renovated but kept the old foudres. They returned Clos Cibonne to one of the 18 Cru Classés in Côtes de Provence.

We could try their classic rosé, or red, but I splurge on their $32 2016 Cuvée Spéciale des Vignettes: the estate’s oldest vines.

Cibonne Tibouron Provence 2016

What makes Cibonne even more special, post harvest, they ferment the wines in stainless steel and then age it under fleurette (a thin veil of yeast) in 100-year-old, 500L foudres. Let us see what old vine Tibouren tamed by these methods tastes like:

The APPEARANCE looks a crystal clear peach.

Big AROMAS smell of golden raisins, Turkish delight, dried chamomile, strawberry pith, vanilla wafers

The PALATE feels dry, with medium plus acidity, light tannins, a sneaky warm medium alcohol, medium bodied, silky with a light powder.

FLAVORS glow with Silk Road spices and exotica: white fig, orange peel, underripe strawberry, cardamon seed, brine, ending in a medium plus long finish of pebbles, a light paper machee, and dried oak.

So, um, well, wow! Cibonne’s old vine Tibouron rosé is outstanding wine (5 of 5). It is filigreed with complexity, asks for your attention, casually, with a great but not overwhelming intensity.

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Volcano Wine Tornatore, Etna Rosso, Sicily Italy 2016

The sun baked, windswept volcano of Eta looms above Sicily like a black hat. On bare  topsoil vines roll down the slope. Since 1865, the Tornatore family have grown grapes and olives on the North East slopes than any family. But for some reason they never made wine. Until, Francesco Tornatore made the first vintage in 2012.

The modern winery fills resplendent with cement eggs to circulate fermentation, massive barrels, and stainless transfer tubes. Yet the methods remain minimal and gentle.

Tornatore, Etna Rosso, Sicily Italy 2016

Tornatore Rosso 2016

Its APPEARANCE looks clear with a medium minus ruby and a pale rim.

Medium plus AROMAS glow with craisins, orange pulp, a whiff of mulled wine, ash and basalt.

The PALATE clinks and clanks with crisp medium plus acidity, lean medium tannins, a sneaky medium alcohol, and a medium body and fine silk-textured mid palate.

Medium plus intense FLAVORS ring a seamless tone of dried cranberries, pommegranate, and a light fine ash of medium plus intensity.

Tornatore’s Etna Rosso is very good (4 of 5) and can take on most Pinot Noir pairings from grilled meats, a wide range of cheeses, mild sausages, to fish simply prepared like salmon or tuna.

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A Chill Carmenere Wine from Paso Robles Dubost 2014

Carménère: a wine grape that Bordeaux bailed on generations ago has reared its head in Chile, Italy, and eclectic hot pockets of California.

Today’s Carménère comes from Cali and the hands of Dubost winery.

The Dubost family hailed from France in the 1870s, blacksmiths, settled in Adelaida in Central Coast, California, farmed, ranched, grew walnuts, then olives on 320 acres. Finally for us in 2002, son Jacob put grape vines into the ground. Then brother Zachary took on winemaking in 2010. Nearly all Dubost siblings, children, and spouses work the fields, winery, or promotion.

But today’s Dubost wine comes from bought fruit courtesy of Colbert Vineyard, which sits in Paso Robels Estrella District, Paso’s largest, running East of the 101 and north of Paso town through rolling plains of well draining alluvial soil. Temperatures are moderate so Rhône and Bordeaux varieties ripen well. An ideal spot for Bordeauxs long lost grape: Carménère. At least three other wineries make a Colbert Vineyard Carménère, so they must have something that works.

Dubost, Carménère, Colbert Vineyard Estrella District Paso Robles California 2014

Dubost Carmenere Paso Robles 2014

The APPEARANCE frames a narrow clear rim of ruby around a deep purple core that hangs on wide tinted legs. Seductive AROMAS of dried fig, a dash of black cherry liquor, a twang of orange zest, cocoa powder, and charcoal carry a medium plus heft.

The PALATE however is serious stuff: dry, bright medium acidity, fine medium tannins, decent alcohol (13 %abv), make for a medium bodied, lithe, unexpectedly refreshing red. Medium plus

FLAVORS match the fig and black cherry aromas but veer off to sharper, brighter, yet rockier territory: citrus peel bounces off flint and tobacco and then mellow into a calm medium length.

Well, that was a pleasant surprise. Often Paso reds strut high alcohols and oodles of jammy fruit. Dubost’s Carmenere, however, works earthy and dark flavors against a tame palate. It is very good (4 of 5) wine: drinkable, inoffensive, interesting, yet not overt or demanding. Enjoy it with red enthusiasts, and try some grilled meats, peppery charcuterie, truffled cheese, and darker chocolates.

Not shabby for a family of farmers.

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A Winey Whiskey For The Rest Of Us: Glenmorangie Nectar dOr Highland Single Malt Whiskey Scotland

Hi wine nerds! Don’t like Whiskey? Or want something more than your piddly 20% ABV Port? Well, you’re in luck. Scotland’s Glenmorangie, having perfected the 12 Year Single Malt, happens to work within Moët Hennesey’s empire.  With that extra bank, Glen could go wild and buy wine barrels to finish their spirits.  This ruffled Scottish feathers a few decades ago. But today, distilleries enjoy adding wine spice to their still’s cupboard.

Today’s spirit, Glenmorangie’s Nectar d’Or, wiggled its way into Sauternes barrels. Yes, Sauternes: Bordeaux’s golden gift to dessert wine.

For those not Sauternes savvy: Bordeaux fog makes a fungus, aka noble rot, aka botrytis. It dries Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion grapes into funky, cheesy, hyper-sweet magic: aka Sauternes.  Barrels tame it, absorbing sugars, aromas and flavors over years.  The funny thing is, LVMH’s empire houses another icon that happens to come from Sauternes: Château d’Yquem.

Yquem stands upon the pinnacle of dessert wine (Premier Cru Supérieur (“Superior First Growth”). They carry over two hundred years of prestige as the only Sauternes producer included in 1855’s classification of Bordeaux’s best wines.

If rumor holds weight, after living a decade in Bourbon barrels, Yquem’s barrels might just finish Glen’s spirit for two more years. Does this give them the magic touch?

Glenorangie, Nectar d’Or, Highland Single Malt Whiskey, Scotland

Glenmorangie Nector D'Or

The APPEARANCE looks a clear, mild, amber wheat color with brassy highlights. Intense, sexy AROMAS sit on a base of almond croissant, burnt honey, vanilla powder, with ginger and clove spice clanging overhead. I pick a whiff of gooseberry, lemongrass hanging on from Sauvignon Blanc touching those barrels. The PALATE has a slight crystalized sugar sweetness, but finishes dry, with slightly woody tannins, a lilting acidity, and a viscous round but medium body, punctuated by edgy 46% ABV heat. The FLAVORS inch in, slow and sweet, with pure golden honey, dried chamomile, gold raisins, turning to hot coals, pepper, and charred vanilla that last a medium plus length.

Glenmorangie’s Nectar D’Or is far from perfect. The high alcohol burns and the Bourbon barrels nod too heavily to Scotch’s past. It tries the impossible, to dip a foot in Whiskey and the other toe in dessert wine royalty. But taming the heat and char could render it sickly sweet and one note. The marriage may not seem seamless, nevertheless, Nectar d’Or is very good (4 of 5) and admirably ambitious. Skip dessert and sip this instead. Or pair it with funky cheeses drizzled in honey.


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Mellen Meyer Oregon Bubbly

Can Oregon wine catch Champagne’s coattails? Our climate is too warm, our soil too rich, and our winemakers too impatient, but our grapes are Pinot and Chardonnay. So, why not try?

Well, most Oregon bubbly from Argyle to Argyle tastes nice, dry, but a bit fruity and simple. That sexy, nutty, chalky, dry, autolytic character that Champagne can have seemed elusive.

Luckily, I stumbled onto a bottle of Mellen Meyer Brut. The maker behind it is Bobby Rowett. He left philosophy, then a wineshop launched his tour of France, next apprenticeships with the wine world’s precious producers: from France’s, cheap geek staple Mas de Gourgonnier, Australia’s answer to S. France, Hewitson Wines, Idaho’s edgy Cinder Wines, and Portland’s darling, Goodfellow.

Bobby now makes about a thousand cases above Winter Hill’s winery in Dundee. He has a website and club and a few placements around town, but no brick and mortar.

Mellen Meyer, Brut, Willamette Valley OR NV $26-$30

Age is key to making MM’s Brut echo Champagne. Even before the long (and costly) 27 months of bottle aging, Bobby sneaks 30% of the wine from a tank topped off, solera-style, from multiple vintages (he claims to be inspired from grower champagne, but this is a classic negociant move). 20% is from a Dundee vineyard, the rest comes from a mix of clones from biodynamic Johan Vineyards south near Van Duzer.

Pinot Noir leads the blend at 65%, with 35% Chardonnay. Oak also tacks on complexity. The Chard ferments in used Oregon oak barrels.  Meanwhile old French oak barrels tame the Pinot Noir.


Mellen Meyer Brut Willamette ValleyThe APPEARANCE looks a mild bright straw with a rapid super fine fizz. Medium intense AROMAS smell the color of green, very green: green pear, granny smith apple, limoncello, clove, and shaved almond. The PALATE feels dry, cracking with medium plus acidity, mild alcohol, and a medium minus body, and fine vivacious . FLAVORS jump at you with fresh cold pear, green apple, lemon zest thankfully balanced by classic autolytics: baguette core, almond, and chalk ash that carry a long while.

In sum, Mellen Meyer’s Brut is bebop jazz, still lively yet serious, fresh yet aged. It is very good, nay outstanding fizz (5 of 5) for its complexity and ringing tone. It tastes different than Champagne but is as good as many.

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