Selections for November 2017

A new bottling within the same year . . . with no complaints, we hope?

2014 BARTER & TRADE MERLOT ‘Volume II’ – Columbia Valley, Washington State

Is repetition always a bad thing?

With no reservations, no shame, no fear of reprisal:  We present a second cuvee of the same vintage of the same wine we provided less than a year ago.  Yes, Barter & Trade is back, via a new blend from 2014.  We tasted and admired it and rationalized . . . “If they loved the last one and came back for more, why wouldn’t we do them the favor of repetition?”

Here once again is the work of Andrew Jones, one tank over – or one winery over (the details are foggy).  This guy’s primary career involves selling grapevines:  An order for this clone of Cabernet just came in from Napa . . . Someone needs to expand their Syrah plot with another 2,000 young vines . . . Can you visit so-and-so’s site and make a recommendation?  That’s Andrew’s day job, to which he’s added “Field Recordings,” a winery project blessed by his awareness of great fruit sources (hmmm, how’d that happen?!).  Nearly all of his winemaking references fruit from California’s Central Coast, but as of last year Barter & Trade represented an expansion north.

Washington State with its unique winemaking opportunities was bound to happen for Andrew.  I imagine he’s sold some vines to this northwest realm, gleaning contacts and vineyard connections in the process.  However this happened, I’m glad.  Here is one of those perfectly delicious Merlots bringing many of you back to the varietal after all the years of Sideways-inspired stigma.  Here is dramatic color, hyperactive fruit fragrance, and a youthful, juicy mouthful of fruit.  Here is an affordable drink now / drink later example of a varietal which deserves better. 

Today Wine Spectator Magazine identified its #1 wine for 2017:  Duckhorn’s 2014 Three Palms Merlot.  Apparently we aren’t alone in our opinion of the varietal!


It’s an older wine thang . . .

2005 SEMPRE VIVE ‘Miscela’ RED WINE – Napa Valley


Cut off the foil and examine:  The cork you’re seeing might be wet on top.  It might break as you attempt to extract it (an ‘Ah-So’ cork puller should come in handy here).  Once removed, it will present lots of gunky sediment.  Get over it!


Here is single-vineyard, Calistoga, Napa Valley Cabernet-based juice that’s 12 years old.  How often can you access such an experience?! 

What might you expect from a well-aged California effort selling for a pretty decent price?  I’d be suspicious myself.  I’d expect washed-out, brick-like color and oxidized smells and flavors.  If any fruit remained it would be crumbling; the kind of wine you try to say nice things about while reaching for a bottle of something else.  I’d expect failure, based on a lousy track record for supposedly-durable New World reds. 

Here, to my mind and mouth, is a great exception.  Failing cork?  Sometimes.  Crumbly sediment?  Yep.  Wine past its prime?  Nope.  Here instead is a rare, great lesson of what aged wine is meant to become BEFORE it goes south on you.  This is PHASE II, unknown to most these days but valued by those who carefully cellar their wines for a bit.  This fully-intact wine still sports the fruit of its youth and has added the distinguished layer of middle age in the form of a smoky/balsamic scent, fruit with a meaty addition in the mouth,  and a finish of cedar.  Here, my friends, is terrific prime rib wine in its prime, to be loved before January 1, 2018!