An Array of German Wines

December 12, 2018 Leave a comment

My two plans for childcare did not materialize so I had less than the duration of a birthday party to taste through an untold number of German Rieslings. There was naturally Champagne and as we met up at Q by Peter Chang, a constantly refreshed supply of Sezchuan dishes. There were bags packed with bottles and even one guest brought an entire cooler of wine. I knew I would not taste through everything but I also knew I made the right decision to try.

Of the Riesling I managed to taste, there were many solid bottles with just a few duds.  Standouts include the 1934 Hermannshof (Weingut Hermann Franz Schmitt), Niersteiner Kehr Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen which is the oldest wine of the evening.  It is in fine shape.  Lighter in weight, more floral and a fresher spectrum of flavors than the 1915 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen tasted a year ago.  An interesting comparison.  Both the 2009 A. J. Adam, Dhron Hofberg, Riesling Spätlese, Mosel Saar Ruwer and 2009 Willi Schaefer, Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #5, Mosel are spot on.  Both have energy from the acidity with the Adam richer and the Schaefer chalkier.  You might develop a preference but I love the difference.  Exciting wines to taste.  Finally, the 2001 Robert Weil, Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Auslese, Rheingau is unctuous, mature, and racy.  I tasted this straight from the bottle right before I left and wished I could have drunk more.

Thanks to everyone for their generosity.  I know I missed several other wines but it was purely by accident.

Champagne

NV Bourgeois-Diaz, ‘RS, Champagne Rose de Saignee
Imported by Selection Massale. Batch RS14, Disgorged 21/11/17. A cranberry color. Fresh on the nose as if smelling from the vat. The cranberry juice aroma has hints of apple mulling spice. It eventually smells more like apple pie. In the mouth is piercing acidity, spiced flavors, and a very dry personality. Killer nose so the dryness is a bit of a surprise.  Of strong personality but not for everyone.  Drink now while the aromas are preserved.  ***(*) Now.

2008 Henriot, Champagne Brut Millésimé Rosé
Imported by Wine Cellars. Alcohol 12%. A fine vein of bubbles, yet strong acidity and toast, with watering acidity. This is pleasantly chalky with a clean finish. A youthful vintage but is building ripe, bottle-aged flavors with good body. ***(*) Now – 2023.

1996 Dom Perignon, Champagne P2
Finely scented. Strong acidity carries a mature, dry note. Very dry, clean, and light in fruit so opting more towards mineral.  Fresh, capable of long life, and for my taste, in need of further age. ***(*) 2023-2038.

1996 Philipponnat, Champagne Brut Clos des Goisses
Fine stuff! Biscuit on the nose with fresh, crisp mouthfeel, with bottle-age flavors.  In mid-life. **** Now – 2028.

Riesling

1934 Hermannshof (Weingut Hermann Franz Schmitt), Niersteiner Kehr Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines. Imported by Wine Cellars. Alcohol 13%. The Don Stott Cellar. A light golden straw. Rounded body with flavors of green floral and tea convey the freshness of the bottle. A light to mid-weight wine it is supple with an old-school flavor and not quite leather finish. There is a gentle edge from nearly eight decades of age but in no way is this a challenge to drink.  Holds up well in the glass. **** Now but will last.

1961 Langenbach & Co, Zeller Schwarze Katz, Riesling, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Imported by Milton S. Kronheim. Toast! Not Rated.

2008 Trimbach, Riesling, Cuvée Frédéric Emile, Alsace
Imported by Atherton Wine Imports. Alcohol 13%. A light straw color. Floral, greenhouse notes with some maturity. Very dry, tart and light with white fruit flavors on a razor edge. Elegant. *** Now – Whenever?

1981 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Sang Riesling Auslese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
A Rudi Wiest selection imported by Cellars International. Alcohol 8%. A maturing edge with sour white berries, focus, and a bit of lively acidity. Not too interesting.  * Drink Up.

2012 Willi Schaefer, Himmelreich GG, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 12%. Zip in the start with textured, white fruit, lemons, and a tooty-fruity flavored finish.  Not my favorite style.  *** Now – 2028.

2012 Thomas Haag, Schloss Lieser, Jufer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, Mosel
A Rudi Wiest selection imported by Cellars International. Alcohol 7%. A medium straw color. Mid-weight with ripe yellow flavors that drape over the tongue. The lower acidity seemingly adds more weight to the yellow fruit.  Good intensity of flavor but not the most verve.  *** Now – 2028. 

2009 A. J. Adam, Dhron Hofberg, Riesling Spätlese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Shipped by J & H Selbach. A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. Alcohol 7.5%. A medium yellow gold color. Lovely. Textured acidity exists with ripe fruit in energetic balance. There is supple, seductive weight. Richer than the subsequent bottle of Willi Schaefer.  **** Now – 2038.

2009 Willi Schaefer, Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #5, Mosel
Imported by Wine Cellars. Lovely with even finer texture to the zippy acidity driven flavor. An attractive start becomes drier through the finish. A lovely wine, beautiful acidity, with chalky finish .**** Now – 2038

2006 Dönnhoff, Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese, Nahe
Imported by Julienne Importing. Unctuous, not as lively as it is honied with hints of tea spice and suggestions of ripe tannins on the gum. It is flavorful with a developing tart, citrus note. ***(*) Now – 2032.

2001 Dönnhoff, Norheimer Kirschkeck Riesling Spätlese, Nahe
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Turning amber. Rounder and drier in the mouth with herbs, minerals, and honey. A long finish. ***(*) Now – 2032.

2005 Weingut Max Ferd. Richeter, Veldenzer Elisenberg Riesling Spätlese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
A David Shiverick Selection. Imported by Langdon-Shiverick. Black tea mixes with weighty flavors and moderate acidity. There is a mineral vein.  *** Now – 2023.

2007 Fritz Haag, Braunenberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Finely articulated acidity, sweet and soft, with just enough texture. The ripe fruit even takes on some stones. A good sweet wine.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2004 Weingut Max Ferd. Richter, Braunberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
A David Shiverick Selection. Imported by Langdon-Shiverick. A similar flavor profile and density as the Fritz Haag. It is almost oily and racy which I like very much. ***(*) Now – 2028.

2017 Hofgut Falkenstein, Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese, Mosel
Lars Carlberg Selection. Imported by Williams Corner Wine. Alcohol 7%. Very pale in color. An elegant, floral nose, delicate and fine. In the mouth delicate floral flavors. This is a clean wine with a fine acidic edge though slightly short in the finish. ***(*) Now – 2023.

2001 Robert Weil, Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Auslese, Rheingau
Imported by Premier Cru. Alcohol 8%. Unctuous and mature with a sweet tea note, racy vein, and quickly building complexity.  Lovely.  **** Now – 2038.

Red

2005 La Pousse d’Or, Pommard 1er Cru Les Jarollieres
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Decanted into a metal jug which seems to have afflicted the wine.  Not Rated.

“How long will our reds last? I don’t know.”: 1978 Parducci, Merlot Special Bottling plus some table wine

December 11, 2018 Leave a comment

The label of the 1978 Parducci, Merlot Special Bottling, Mendocino County magnum was only slightly soiled. The fill was excellent and underneath the plastic capsule, the firmly seated cork was pristine. After double-decanting, to remove the sediment, the wine bore deep aromas proper for a good Californian wine from the 1970s.

Grapes have been grown in Mendocino County since the 19th century when there were a few dozen growers. Located north of Sonoma, the slow arrival of rail lines meant this was a region of smaller enterprises rather than ones on a commercial scale. During Prohibition grapes were grown for home winemaking in San Francisco and bootlegging on the East Coast. By 1938, the number of bonded wines hit eight with Parducci the largest of them all. Most of the Parducci wine was sold off to other major wineries but eventually a new generation sought to bottle under their own label during the wine boom. It is in 1973 that Nathan Chroman, writing for the Los Angeles Times, found Parducci was just beginning to establish their identity.

Like Robert Mondavi, John Parducci advocated unfined and unfiltered wine. He did differ from Mondavi in these early years by avoiding any contact with oak. Parducci also felt strongly about growing the best grapes for the site rather than what was in demand. Articles from the 1970s share a common theme of Parducci’s unique style, affordable price, and drinkable red wines. If there was preference for fresh, fruit flavored red wines, there was also an economic side to it. The French and Yugoslavian oak barrels were too expensive for the family. That is not to say no wood was used, the Cabernet was aged in tall, thin redwood vats.

It must be remembered that 1976 and 1977 were drought years in California. The 1978 vintage yielded large numbers of healthy, sugar-filled grapes. Excitement was widespread with John Parducci commenting on the new wines, “Some of the most fantastic wines California has ever seen.” The principal vineyards of Parducci were Talmage, Largo, and Home Ranch. This is not where the fruit came from for the 1978 Merlot Special Bottling. The back label states the “grapes were grown by small growers on the slopes of Mendocino County”.

In 1974, the Special Bottling of Cabernet Sauvignon sold for $7.99 per bottle in Washington, DC. That put this Special Bottling in the range of Chappellet and Clos du Val pricing.  The nose is generous and in Parducci style, the wine offers up berries, freshness, and levity.  The alcohol level is noticeably low.  Together these traits make it a highly drinkable wine.  In fact, the magnum drank very well for several hours at which time it started to fade. To answer the title question, this magnum lasted 40 years with ease.

I wish I could write more about the 1974 Foppiano Vineyards, Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County.  Founded in the 19th century, very little was written about it save short mention of the periodically medal-winning Cabernet Sauvignon.  William Rice of The Washington Post found the 1972 Foppiano , Zinfandel as “very fruity” and though pleasantly aromatic, it lacked in tannin.  Ours, though, was from a better vintage but my gut-feeling is that the regular 1974s are fading away which did not help this wine.  The flavors are beginning to turn with no supporting structure left.

We tried two other wines that night from California. The magnums of 1984 and 1985 Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Red were found in the dump bin at MacArthur Beverages. Priced at $3 each I had to try them for the historic note. A closer look at the label reveals these were made at the Woodbridge Winery. Created in 1979, the Woodbridge Winery was destined to produce large volumes of affordable, oak aged wines. A basic non-vintage table wine had been made at Mondavi since 1976 but quality had slipped.  The Woodbridge Winery was one of multiple prongs designed to improve the table wine quality.

The new Mondavi Red was primarily a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Gamay, Petite Sirah, and Merlot aged in small oak barrels. Carignan, Thomson Seedless (!!!), and Columbard were largely jettisoned as they were considered in the territory of jug wine.  Mondavi believed in long aging in oak but $300 French oak barres were to expensive for use at Woodbridge. Instead, he “retired” his older French oak barrels used in his premium wines to Woodbridge.  He then employed American coopers to use American oak to form new barrels using the French method of charing rather than steaming. Unlike other inexpensive table wines these were new table wines based at Woodbridge winery were regarded as more complex and capable of some aging.

As for the wines, the 1984 was green, herbaceous and way past prime.  Not really surprising.  I was hoping to pull a rabbit out of a hat and the 1985 almost obliged. The nose was good but the flavors too herbaceous.  I suspect it would have drunk fine a decade ago.

1978 Parducci, Merlot Special Bottling, Mendocino County
Alcohol 12.5%.  Definitely a brick-brown color.  Deep, comforting aromas are evocative of the period.  In the mouth fresh acidity bearing mixed flavors of wood box, deep berries, and maturity.  A lighter bodied wine of moderate length it is fresh and very drinkable.  It fleshes out a bit with air becoming more saline.  It has good staying power.  *** Now but will last

1974 Foppiano Vineyards, Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12%.  The cork smelled balsamic but none of that transferred to the wine.  A slight hint of roast indicates its past prime.  In the mouth this is a fully mature wine, aging fruit is a touch sour but it remains supple.  A lighter style of Zinfandel that was likely elegant to begin with the structure entirely integrated.  *(*) Drink Up.

1984 Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Red
Alcohol 12%.  Green veggies and other herbaceous aromas.  An herbaceous edge to the bright and tart red fruit.  Short, simple, and not of interest. Past Prime.

1985 Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Red
Alcohol 12%.  Some depth to the nose, dark fruit, wood box, and spices.  A certain hint of that carries into the mouth but herbaceousness comes out as well.  In much better poise than the 1984. * Now but drink up.

Tasting Chianti Blind at Lou’s

November 21, 2018 Leave a comment

After an unbelievably youthful and glacially evolving 2007 Domaine Vrignaud, Chablies Premier Cru Fourchaume Vieilles Vignes it was time to tuck into some red wines.  Thus a handful of us stood in Lou’s tasting room to work our way through four brown-bagged wines.  The first, clearly past prime, had me guess 1970s.  I was a good decade off.  For the other three wines, I oscillated between mid-2000 petit Bordeaux or a northern Italian Bordeaux blend also of the same age.  I had the general age correct but not the grape nor the region!

Of the trio of Felsina Berardenga, Chianti Classico Riserva, the 2006 has the greatest potential.  It is crisp with a promising future.  The 2007 has good, deep flavors but it didn’t exhibit the same potential as the others.  The 2008 is the most forward and generous. It is the vintage to drink while the 2006 ages.

With dinner Lou opened the 2012 Red Newt Cellars, Viridescens, Finger Lakes.  This generous wine drinks at its peak immediatley upon opening.  It does benefit from a touch of air as it took on bacon fat and smoke.  I like the Finger Lakes wines Lou opens.  Those with just a few years of age seem to be at peak.

2007 Domaine Vrignaud, Chablies Premier Cru Fourchaume Vieilles Vignes
Imported by KV Imports. Alcohol 13%.  A light, golden-tinged yellow-straw (phew!).  Fresh, surprisingly so, with moderate body and focused, clean flavors.  Round with hints of sweetness, nuts, and flint in the middle.  There is a touch of fat in the end.  Should continue to slowly develop.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

Blind Wine #1 – 1962 Fattoria Grande di Montagnana Chianti
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Past prime, drinkable but just barely! Not Rated.

Blind Wine #2 – 2006 Felsina Berardenga, Chianti Classico Riserva
Alcohol 13.5%.  Imported by Bacchus Importers.  Firm with sweet cherry flavors.  The wine is focused and tense with crisp, structure in the end.  Additional red fruits and polished wood come out.  More promising development to come.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

Blind Wine #3 – 2007 Felsina Berardenga, Chianti Classico Riserva
Alcohol 13.5%.  Imported by Bacchus Importers.  Lower lying, deep notes to the flavor. A polished edge remains a big closed and is still structured.  *** Now – 2023.

Blind Wine #4 – 2008 Felsina Berardenga, Chianti Classico Riserva
Alcohol 13.5%.  Imported by Bacchus Importers.  An articulate nose of cherries and other berries.  Deep, brambly red and black fruit is still youthful.  Round in the start with tense, citric acidity, ripe and sweet tannins.  A good drink that will come round faster than the 2006. Perhaps in the next year!  ***(*) Now – 2023.

2012 Red Newt Cellars, Viridescens, Finger Lakes
This wine is a blend of 67% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 13.8%.  First impressions of it are that its quite rounded and definitely new world.    Surprisingly ripe with generous flavors and some smoke around the good core of fruit.  It drinks as if its at its peak.  With air, the smoke morphs into bacon fat and smoke, as if from a Northern Rhone wine.  Great showing.  ***(*) Now.

An Afternoon with Mature Wine – Old Cali Back Labels

November 20, 2018 Leave a comment

An Afternoon with Mature Wine – Part 2 Old Cali

November 19, 2018 Leave a comment

After four largely good bottles of old Nebbiolo, the three of us needed more wine to taste so out came several bottles of old Californian wine.  The 1977 Franciscan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, by way of Reid Wines of Bristol, was a mess of herbaceous, evergreen notes.  The pair of 1975 Harbor Winery bottles proved more interesting with the 1975 Harbor Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley a clear favorite of this grouping.

Harbor Winery was founded in 1972 by Charles Myers of Sacramento with a goal “of bottling wine from a particular terrain”.  Myers was an amateur winemaker and English instructor at Sacramento City College.  His first 1,000 gallons of commercial wines were released in 1973 and by 1980, output hit 3,000 gallons.

Myers first produced a “terrible” zinfandel in 1954 but two years later, when he had moved to Sacramento, he was making 200 gallons of drinkable wine on an annual basis.  The Corti Brothers encouraged Myers to go commercial and they even advertised the sale of his first wine in 1974.  Harbor Winery, being the only small commercial winery in Sacramento, attracted frequent coverage in the Sacramento Bee from which this brief history stems. The Harbor Winery selections were soon sold not just locally, but in Los Angeles and San Francisco with a rare appearance at The Ritz London.

Darrell Corti felt the local Sacramento grapes were no good, a sentiment shared by Myers.  Myers first turned to Amador County in 1964 when he was looking for Muscat and in the process was introduced to the Zinfandels.  It was one decade later, in 1974, that Myers first purchased Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from the Deaver Ranch in Amador County. The 1975 we drank would then be Myers’ second commercial vintage of this wine.  He felt the future of the 1974 looked “very good” at the time and this must have extended to the 1975.  I found it deep fruited with tension from acidity.  There is still the coarseness or absence of “subtlety and elegance” Myers attributed to Amador County.

The 1975 Harbor Winery, Zinfandel, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley is not as good as the Cabernet Sauvignon.  As I have described in other posts, Amador County Zinfandel was “discovered” during the wine boom. Myers utilized carbonic maceration to make a Zinfandel for immediate drinking which is the opposite of what Sutter Home and Montevina were releasing at the time.  I found our bottle hollow.

We finished up with a soft, simple 1974 Charles Krug, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.  It is a little wine where the volume is fading.

1977 Franciscan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Imported by Peter Eckes. Alcohol 12%.  Tons of herbaceous, evergreen aromas and flavors.  Ugh.  Not Rated.

1975 Harbor Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  Scented on the nose.  In the mouth, deep fruited, fresh, with a soda-like tension.  The nice acidity keeps the edges sharp to the sweet, lifted, fruit.  There is even a note of cedar.  There is a sense of coarseness but the settles down and lies low.  *** Now.

1975 Harbor Winery, Zinfandel, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  Red berries on the nose.  Wood notes with black fruit greet but the middle is hollow followed by a cola-like finish.  There is grip and a lipsticky finish.  too bad.  Drinkable but only of minor interest.  *(*) Now.

1974 Charles Krug, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12%.  A soft, gentle wine in need of more acidity.  Flavors of leather, gentle red fruit, and cedar fade towards the finish.  Simple but not flawed.  The nearly full bottle tasted exactly the same on the second day.  ** Now drink up.

An Afternoon with Mature Wine – Old Nebbiolo Back Labels

November 17, 2018 Leave a comment

After Afternoon with Mature Wine – Part 1 Nebbiolo

November 16, 2018 Leave a comment

Sudip, Lou, and I recently spent an afternoon following several bottles of mature wine.  The quartet of “little” Nebbiolo from Chambers St Wines proved the most interesting that day.  All of the wines were double-decanted to seperate off the sediment and even the minor wines benefited from air.

The youngest wine, 1973 Crissante Alessandria, Barolo, is from a rather weak vintage in Barolo.  It is the biggest surprise for me, medium weight flavors, zippy acidity, rounded luxury, and some fruit.  It is also the most alcoholic wine tasted which, perhaps, contributes to the weight it imparted.  The 1967 Franco Fiorina, Barolo was simple at best, with its citric, tart & sweet cherry flavor.  The inexpensive, cooperative bottle of 1964 Cantina Sociale Vini Sizzano & Ghemme, Ghemme held on for hours worth of drinking.  It is a subtle, old-school flavored wine of moderate flesh which is a good foil for better wines to follow.  The 1952 Cantine Diver, Tipico Spanna, Gattinara is another surprise.  I like the red fruit, earth, and leather but it is the quality of the acidity which caught my attention.  This is clearly from an excellent vintage but also an older wine.  Whereas the 1964 chugged along the 1952 had a peak then declined.  Good fun while it lasted!

1973 Crissante Alessandria, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 13.8%.  Fruity and floral with a wood-polish note.  In the mouth it is tense with sharp acidity and moderately round body with an ethereal, oil quality for luxury.  A spiced edge is ripe with a zippy, baking spiced finish.  This medium weight wine is full of life!  ***(*) Now but will last.

1967 Franco Fiorina, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 12%.  A touch of roast on the nose.  There is good mouth-feel with sweet baking spices and a fresher aspect.  Flavors of tart and sweet cherries have a citric presence in the mouth.  There is a round mouthfeel and some fat but overall a simple wine.  ** Now drink up.

1964 Cantina Sociale Vini Sizzano & Ghemme, Ghemme
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Old leather with old-school flavors immediately greet.  With a modest amount of air the body fleshes out and takes on nut flavors.  There is even some structure.  The entire wine remains in balance.  A subtle wine which provides a solid experience for hours.  **(*) Now.

1952 Cantine Diver, Tipico Spanna, Gattinara
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Hints of leather on the nose.  In the mouth crisp, red fruit, and a touch both of earth and leather.  There is a spine of acidity and an herbal-oil hint throughout.  The ripe, citric acidity mixes with compelling baking spices.  Quite good, clearly an excellent vintage, but of a shorter life-span once opened.  ***(*) Now but will last.