Isole e Olena 2005 Chianti Classico

A half-bottle of the 2005 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico, consumed a few days ago, was superb. Medium-bodied, with a fair bit of fine but fairly grippy tannins, this was elegant, and for a somewhat tannic wine, somewhat velvety and a pleasure to drink. It didn't seem at all tired or oxidized. Flavors predominantly dried cherry or other red fruits and a hint of pine, at least to my nose.  Super tasty.  Nice long finish. Easily my favorite of the Chiantis I've tasted. I don't remember how much I paid but recent vintages seem to go for $13-15 a half bottle, $20-25 a bottle, which although not cheap, is a bargain if they turn out this well. To judge by how youthful and tannic it still was at 9 years old, I'd guess this one needs to be aged to be at its best---at 9 years it was clearly getting there, but could probably go another 5 or more years and possibly get even more.

Isole e Olena don't appear to have a website; there is more information about them at Giuliana Imports, the Boulder-based importer of this bottle.  Since I have been encountering a lot of claims to the effect that a lot of writing about wine is basically just noise and fashion-following and strongly influenced by things other than the pure olfactory sensation of the wine, I'll point out that their description of the 2011 is very close to my description of the 2005, despite my not having read it (as befits a truly serious wine there are no olfactory notes on the label, either) which suggests to me anyway that Isole e Olena make this wine in a consistent style that can be identified by taste.  Of course this is just one observation, and there is definitely a lot of noise and influence from nonolfactory things like price and reputation and label appearance that enters into people's writing about wine.  (Mention of "red fruits"  or "dark berries"  could easily be influenced by the wine's color, for example, although in my opinion there is usually more to it than that.)  My point is that I think there is a genuine olfactory basis for some of this stuff too.

Based on perusing people's notes on the web (after writing mine), it seems that a lot of people liked this wine young, opinions diverged at about 3-7 years after vintage, and the consensus is more clearly positive over the last few years, suggesting it might have gone through a "dumb"  phase as many wines do during aging.  Also, some people seem to object to the relatively lighter-bodied style, which I happen to love when it is combined, as here, with intensity.  This is a serious producer that has been around at least as long as I've been tasting wine, and based on this sample, their Chianti is indeed a classic.  My sense is that if you have the ability to age it to 9-15 years after vintage you can't go wrong buying multiple bottles of this wine in any decent vintage.

What I just wrote is more meaningful than trying to assign some arbitrary number, but I guess on a Parkeresque 100 point scale, I'd give it something like a 92... and not in the inflated sense where anything you like gets 90---to get 90 or above in my book, a wine has to be at least a bit extraordinary.

2001 Renwood Old Vines Zinfandel (Amador County)

More song and philosophy than wine here lately, but I'll try to put out some quick reviews of outstanding wines I drank in 2012 and more recently.  I visited New Orleans in October (I think) of the year before Katrina, to give a talk at Tulane, and was served the 2001 Renwood Old Vines Zinfandel at the fabulous Lilette.  I was eating more meat then... it went great with a slow-cooked pork belly dish, really cutting through the fatty intensity which in turn helped tame the wine's tannins.  So I bought a case, at something like $10 or $12 a bottle, when I got back to New Mexico.  As I recall, the first bottle was quite close to the experience at Lilette, but then it seemed to go through a closed period, or maybe I just got some ho-hum that I was thinking maybe this was just a decent wine to bring to barbeques and such where a really good wine might get lost.  A recently opened (December 2012) bottle was really excellent, though:  loads of very typical Amador County (it's in California's Sierra Foothills) flavors, especially tobacco which is very characteristic, a bit of chocolate, blackcurrant... maybe cherry and hints of coffee... whatever.  Strong and tasty.  Although it had some silkiness, and plenty of sediment had dropped, this was not the most elegant, velvety wine has something of a late harvest, high-alcohol style, but enough flavor to handle it.  Almost reminiscent of a port.  It handles being consumed over several days with refrigeration inbetween, which is usual for me, quite well, although it does become more port-like over time.  Luckily, I have more than half the case left.  But I want to try aging this wine again with a newer vintage.  Really good flavors seem to have developed with aging.  I've always liked the tobacco and chocolate cherry flavors of Amador reds (I've tasted it in some Cabernets too), so I urge folks to check 'em out.