Several recent bottles drunk with friends and one without
It is a treat to have friends with strong interests in cookbooks, cooking, and cocktails who are both curious and excited to try new wines. This meant that earlier this year I shared bottles not just from France but Croatia, Turkey, and Israel. These were all youngs wine that I opened to expand their experience with wine regions. At the beginning of the summer I was fortunate to purchase a number of old and mature wines (in case you have not yet noticed the radical shift in average vintage that Lou and I have been opening). With a slew of vintages mostly from the 1970s my patiently cellared Rhone wines from the 1998 vintage now seem no longer precious. Though modest in selection, they were the oldest bottles I owned so I held fast.
At a small dinner this past weekend we started off with the recently acquired 2007 Yves Cuilleron, Les Poitiers, Saint-Peray. I had no clue what to expect nor did Phil who pointed the wine out at MacArthur Beverages. This blend of Marsanne and Roussanne was surprisingly young! It showed some maturity in color but the palate was fresh with good acidity. I did not take any notes at dinner so I am curious to try another bottle.
We then proceeded to a trio of red wines including the previously described 2003 Brick House, Cuvée du Tonnelier, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. The other two bottles were minor Chateauneuf du Pape that I had forgotten about until I unpacked my wine in the new house. I was expecting less from the 1998 Comte Louis de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chateauneuf du Pape but it offered plenty of fruity aromas and a burst of clean, uncomplicated fruit in the mouth. The finish was rather short and my interest faded fast. I called it a one trick pony to which S. commented that he liked this pony. I think though he ultimately preferred the 1998 Domaine Saint Benoit Grande Garde, Chateauneuf du Pape which was clearly favorite amongst the group. It was austere at first but over a few hours it fleshed out to show reasonable complexity and appealing structure. You could drink this now after an hour in the decanter or over the next five years.
With that selection largely finished I returned with a double-decanted bottle of 1975 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac. This particular example was rather stinky with a strong leather component on the nose and in the mouth. It was too distracting so I eventually gassed and re-corked it. I finished off the bottle the next night after which the stink had left. The leather was still prominent but the wine had some heft and made for a decent Sunday night drink. With the Pichon out of favor I then returned with the bizarrely consistent 1971 Chateau Montgrand-Milon, Pauillac. This wine is very stable (perhaps filtered?), showing good fruit and though smaller in personality, is engaging enough. I suspect it would work well at lunch.
For dessert Lou opened the 2007 Domaine des Baumard, Coteaux du Layon. This sweet, Chenin Blanc based wine drank forward without being heavy. It was a spot-on match for our raspberry tart and a good note to end the evening.
One bottle that Jenn and I drank alone this week is the 2000 Domaine La Garrigue, Vacqueyras. Apparently I bought four of these, of which I discovered three bottles at the time I also discovered the pair of 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape. My tasting note from four years ago did not offer much promise. I was hoping for bottle variation in the positive direction but this was not the case. It remained ethereal in flavor with very fine, drying tannins, and some heat. It only became harder with air. Drinkable but not pleasurable.