It’s unusual for a distributor or importer to officially release a wine that is almost a decade old, so it’s a treat to be able to buy the 2003 Château Simard ($29) from St. Emilion. A portion of the vintage was released earlier, of course, but an excess must have been found in the cellar, perhaps when the estate was inherited in 2008 by the Vauthiers of Château Ausone, probably the best winegrower in St. Emilion. Recent history is not part of this wine, of course.
Like many older wines tasted after decanting, the notes taken depend on when it is tasted. My first notes were that it was very lean, with bacon notes and a touch of bitterness. Much later, the merlot fruit (70 percent) began to show itself, and the wine became more rounded. At any rate, it’s a good strip steak wine and a rare treat to see as an affordable older wine on shop shelves.
Simard’s distributors, venerable Wilson Daniels, also have another interesting red that they made themselves, the 2010 Wilson Daniels Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon ($16). It has lots of fresh cherry fruits, some flavors of briers, and good tannins. It makes a good, straightforward wine for rare hamburgers.
Next, two Italians. The 2007 Barba Vignafranca Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($15) is a very satisfying wine — gamey, juicy, tangy with good cherry fruit, and a touch of earthiness in the finish. It could go well with a falling-off-the-bone veal shank or a rich, cow’s milk cheese. The second wine, the 2008 Saladini Pilastri "Montetinello" Rosso Piceno ($18) from Marche is a combination of sangiovese and montepulciano. It has tart, fruity, dark cherry flavors with some balsamic added in and raspy tannins. Great with a fat and juicy cut of lamb.
Moving to the New World: I was tasting some rieslings from Pikes of Clare Valley Australian when I came across this red, the 2008 Pikes "The Red Mullet" ($13). It is an odd mixture (shiraz, tempranillo, grenache, and mourvedre in descending order) that works out just right. It has mulberry fruitiness with a pleasant cakey mouth feel, some raspiness, and good intensity of fruit. This would be a great wine to serve with appetizers or the cheese course.
Finally, from Argentina comes the 2011 Francois Lurton Piedra Negra Mendoza Malbec Reserve ($11), which has concentrated blackberry flavors with a touch of balsamic and figs. It is tightly wound still, long on the palate with supple tannins, and some minerality. Another great wine for veal shanks.