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David Bloch’s new and old world favorites

David Bloch returns from a hiatus in writing, though not tasting, to list his favorite Champagnes and both New and Old World white and red wines.

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Top 10 Champagnes

Vintage:

1996 Moët & Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon
1998 Deutz Cuvée William Deutz
2004 Pascal Doquet Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil
2004 Taittinger Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne
2006 Taittinger Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne

Non-Vintage:

Pierre Péters Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvée de Réserve
Pascal Doquet Premiers Crus Brut Blanc de Blancs
Camille Savès Grand Cru Brut Carte Blanche Bouzy
Varnier-Fanniere Grand Cru Cuvée St-Denis
G. H. Mumm & Cie Crémant de Cramant

Top 10 Reds

Old World Reds:

1993 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo
1994 Château Latour
1995 Château Troplong Mondot
1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabajà
1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano
1997 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Méal
1998 Vieux Château Certan
1999 Jean Raphet et Fils Clos Vougeot Cuvée Unique
1999 Guigal Côte-Rôtie Château d’Ampuis

New World Red:

2002 Dominus

Top 10 Whites

2001 Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese
2004 F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Dürnsteiner Kellerberg
2005 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Felseneck GK Riesling Spätlese
2006 Chapoutier Hermitage Chante-Alouette
2006 Hirtzberger Riesling Smaragd Hochrain
2007 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Felseneck Trocken Großes Gewächs
2007 Vatan Sancerre Clos La Néore
2008 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Großes Gewächs
2009 Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo
2010 Henri Prudhon Saint-Aubin En Remilly

Sweet Wines

1990 Château Climens
1996 Château d’Yquem
2001 Château Rieussec
2002 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume
2002 Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Auslese Goldkapsel

“So dark that it looks almost black”: David Bloch tastes the 2001 Clos de Sarpe

David Bloch transitions from the end of Spring Break with a great bottle of Bordeaux.

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2001 Chateau Clos de Sarpe, Saint-Emilion
Immediately upon opening the aromas seemed to pour out of the bottle.  Sweet flowers and ripe plums.  The wine is so dark that it looks almost black.  A big wine for sure, and once again, another 2001 Right Banker that transcends its status as a “lesser vintage” wine.  As I have found with the three Pavies (Pavie, Pavie Macquin and Pavie Decesse), this is another terrific St. Emilion in this vintage.  Showing plenty of ripe and rich fruit, but never heavy.  Notes of dark plums, some black licorice and café latte.  Strong from start to finish in the mouth.  Tannins are quite mellow and the wine has developed some lovely secondary notes.  Really long finish.  I love the acidity that balances everything out.  Wine has a long life ahead but is so good at the moment that owners who have been waiting to pop a cork will not be disappointed.

David Bloch’s favorite wines of 2015

December 30, 2015 Leave a comment

The second guest post is from David Bloch.  He has contributed a few posts over the years which you may read here.  His selection of favorite wines for the year lean heavily towards France but other countries such as Italy, Spain, and the United States are represented too.  I can attest that the December bottle of 2000 Antinori, Solaia was lovely!

Whites of the Year:

2000 Domaine Leflaive, Chevalier-Montrachet: an incredible mouthful of minerals.  I had this wine once before – many years ago.  This is a wine that is “fruit free.”  It is simply all stones, minerals and rocks.  Extremely long.  I was concerned that the wine may have been over the hill, but it was terrific.  I bought this bottle from a retailer in the City of London when I was working there in the early 2000s.
2004 Domaine Trimbach, Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile, Alsace
2005 Dauvissat, Chablis  Les Clos (two bottles this year)
2010 Coche-Dury, Meursault Les Chevalieres

Reds of the Year:

France

Bordeaux
1990 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac (purchased as futures for $25!!)
1995 Chateau Angélus, St. Emilion
1998 Tertre Rôteboeuf, St. Emilion

Rhone

North
1998 J-L Chave, Hermitage

South
1995 Close des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape
1998 Henri Bonneau, Marie Beurrier, Chateauneuf du Pape
2003 Domaine du Pegau, Cuvée Reservée, Chateauneuf du Pape

Burgundy

1996 Jean Tardy, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Boudots
2002 Chevillon, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Saint Georges

Italy

1996 Mascarello, Barolo Monprivato
1997 Monsanto, Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio
2000 Antinori, Solaia (twice – December and July)

Spain

1998 Clos Erasmus, Priorat
1998 Artadi, Pagos Viejos, Rioja

US

2001 Dominus, Napa Valley
2002 Joseph Phelps, Insignia, Napa Valley

Bubbles of the Year:

2002 Doquet, Blanc de Blanc Les Mesnil VV Champagne
2002 Taittinger, Blanc de Blanc Comtes des Champagne
2004 Bollinger, Grande Anne Rose Champagne: one of the best pinks I’ve ever had.

Sweets of the Year:

1986 Chateau Climens, Barsac
1998 Zind-Humbrecht, Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain Vendange Tardive:  a powerful and super rich wine.

Taken in its youth:

2006 Donnhoff, Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Beerenauslese, Nahe

Surprises of the Year (exceeding expectations!):

1998 Moet & Chandon, Dom Perignon, Champagne
2002 Chateau Palmer, Margaux
2006 FX Pichler, Gruner Veltliner Smaragd Kellerberg, Wachau

Happy New Year!

A Rare Chateau de Beaucastel Vertical from 1964 to 2001

August 3, 2016 3 comments

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When the end of Prohibition in America was in sight, the “potent” and “celebrated” wines of Chateauneuf du Pape were mentioned as amongst the “Legendary Potions” that the Europeans were waiting to ship to our shores.  Once the purchase of wines was legal The New York Times published a thorough description of international wines that Americans should drink.  It was, in short, a refresher to the world of wine.  From the Rhone were recommended Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, and Chateauneuf du Pape.

Chateauneuf du Pape soon became an American favorite.  It was always listed for sale typically along with Pouilly Fuisse, at reasonable prices from the 1940s into the 1970s.  These were frequently negociant wines but the occasional estate bottled selection like Mont-Redon was available at a premium price.  In the 1950s a new style of early-drinking Chateauneuf du Pape was developed largely relying on carbonic maceration.  This dip in quality was soon met with a rise in price.

The American wine boom of the early 1970s led to the massive price escalation of the 1971 and 1972 Bordeaux vintages.  These price increases far exceeded the effects of the revaluation of international currencies from the fixed Bretton Woods system to a free-floating system.  This caused most European wines to increase in price some 10% to 20%.  In 1973, however, the favored Chateauneuf du Pape doubled in price in a matter of months.

The popularity of Chateauneuf du Pape plummeted due to price and by 1981 The New York Times called it “France’s Forgotten Red”.  Over the next year wines from such traditional estates as Chateau de Beaucastel and Chateau Mont-Redon were once again available  at reasonable prices.  These offerings began with the recently released and outstanding 1978 vintage.  A few older vintages were available too.

Lost amongst the turmoil of price escalation and carbonic maceration is discussion of the vintage of 1964.  This vintage is considered excellent but yields were significantly reduced by a summertime hailstorm.   Throughout this post-war period, Chateau de Beaucastel is consistently described as a traditional Chateauneuf du Pape estate fashioning wines meant to age.  Curiously enough, it is the first vintage in which Jacques Perrin employed his vinification a chaud technique where he heated the grapes.

John Livingstone-Learmonth considered the 1964 Beaucastel “a supreme wine”.   It was recently served as the oldest wine at a tasting of thirteen vintages of Beaucastel.

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The Beaucastel tasting was organized by Darryl Priest and stocked with wines from a total of ten attendees.  Darryl felt that lamb would be an ideal accompaniment to old Beaucastel.  It was from a single lamb that six out of seven courses were created for us by Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley at Ripple in Washington, DC.  Here is the menu:

*
lamb tenderloin tartare, sicilian pistachio, za’atar cracker
**
glazed lamb rib, corn pudding, crispy squash blossom
***
lamb loin carpaccio, baby heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, smoked labneh
****
lamb neck ragu, roasted potato gnocchi, fillet beans, harissa, parmesan
*****
rack of lamb, roasted leg, charred eggplant, oven roasted tomatoes
******
slow roasted lamb shoulder, merguez sausage, braised rainbow chard
*******
lemon verbena panna cotta, raspberry coulis, apricots, sable

After starting with a very drinkable NV Billecart-Salmon, Champagne Brut Rose we launched into the Beaucastel.  We drank the wines from oldest to youngest.  The two bottles of Hommage were decanted and the old bottles were simply popped and poured.  We largely rotated who started off pouring the wines so no one person would be stuck with the dregs.

Though a few bottles were shamefully off, such as 1978 and 1989, there were many excellent wines. My favorites list includes 1964, 1979, 1981, 1990, and 1995 Hommage.  For this post I will just comment on the oldest vintages as they are the least known.

The biggest surprise of the night was the 1964 Beaucastel. Due to the high prices of Chateauneuf du Pape in the 1970s, less was imported and sold in America.  This in part contributes to the difficulty of finding older vintages here.  This particular bottle came from a parcel that Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Company, purchased several years ago from a European cellar.

The bottle, label and capsule were in pristine condition and so was the cork when I extracted it.  A quick sniff revealed good fruit on the nose and a remarkable amount of fruitiness in the mouth.  Incredibly, the wine opened up with air and continued to drink well for nearly four hours.  David Bloch was reminded of a bottle of 1964 J. Mommessin, Clos de Tart that he, Lou, and I drank this summer.  They both taste of a similar period and style.  If you review older articles about Chateauneuf du Pape it was at times equated as a less expensive Burgundy.  In fact there are a handful of advertisements in England and America where Chateauneuf du Pape is listed under the heading Burgundy!    Everyone at the table commented on this wine.  Though no consensus was formed, there was discussion of the 1981, 1990, and 1995 Hommage as being favorites of the night.  I will add one observation.  The bottle of 1964 was the first one finished off including the very last dregs.

This was my second time tasting the 1976 vintage this summer.  Both from bottles Darryl sourced. This evening the 1976 was less advanced but it is still a solid wine at best.  The 1979 vintage proved very interesting.  It is an acidity driven vintage, bright and not ripe like the 1964.  I kept returning to my glass to be consistently surprised at how youthful it stayed.  Bill is spot on with his comment that it is on the same glacial pace of development as the 1964.  In contrast the 1981 vintage is a beautiful, elegant, and gently ripe wine that is drinking very well right now.  Please find my tasting notes below.

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NV Billecart-Salmon, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by T. Edward Wines.  Alcohol 12%.  There is a good, fruity start followed by the presence of a yeast bit but the fine, ripe fruit soon takes over.  This is a generous wine with balanced bubbles, and even some grip in the finish.  I would not be surprised if some wine saw oak for there is a sense of old wood.  Drinking great right now.  ***(*) Now.

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1964 Domaine de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Though light in color there are plenty of aromas and flavors.  It begins with earthy, garrigue infused aromas that open with air to reveal sweaty, red strawberry fruit.  In the mouth the flavors quickly fill with ample flavor and incredible amounts, for its age, of red fruit.  This wine is very much alive with brighter red fruit towards the finish and lively acidity throughout.  It ends with an ethereal, mineral finish. This bottle drank great over four hours.  Clearly this is a wine from a different era. ****(*) Now but will last.

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1976 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Darker than the 1964.  The nose sports more stink and barnyard but does reveal a floral and herbal freshness.  The flavors are controlled with an acidity driven start and short finish.  There is a fair amount of barnyard character here but it is not off putting.  Less advanced than the bottle tasted last month but it leaves a similar impression.  ** Now.

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1978 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is rugged, smells older and past-prime, eventually of blood.  The palate confirms this is not in the best shape for it is compact and short in flavor.  The acidity and aftertaste are there but this bottle is old and not a good representative.  Not Rated.

1979 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The lively color is promising and fulfilled by the sweaty aromas of leather and smoke.  This is an acidity driven wine with red fruit, structure, and surprising youth.  It is well-balanced with gentle earthiness and watering acidity.  This old-school wine will never be as generous as the 1964 but it will certainly drink well just as long.  **** Now – 2031.

1981 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The beautiful and fine nose balances earthy and olive aromas.  In the mouth the fruit, earth, and acidity are well balanced.  This wine has levity with elegant, ripe fruit and a gentle, ripe sweetness that lingers in the mouth.  **** Now – 2021.

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1983 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A very different wine with aromas of flowers and candy.  With some rough and hard flavors, plenty of acidity, and a tangy finish it is time to drink up.  ***(*) Now.

1985 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Lactic nose.  Not right.  Not Rated.

1989 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There is some VA on the nose which the palate confirms as a slightly underperforming bottle.  There is however plenty of ripe, strawberry fruit, and strength.  Not Rated.

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1990 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  There is a great nose which conveys tension and complexity with fresh aromas of garrigue, fruit, saddle leather, and stink.  In the mouth, this wine has youthful grip, lovely balance, a firm finish, and an inky aftertaste.  There is plenty of flavor in the end.  ****(*) Now – 2035.

1998 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  There are pure flavors of clean, assertive fruit driven by acidity.  It shows the grip and tang of the vintage.  This is a strong wine with old-school flavors of Kirsch.  A good wine. **** Now – 2036.

2001 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  This is so young with clean flavors of strawberry and cherry fruit.  It is still in early development as it oscillates between flavors of fruit then garrigue and cedar.  Good acidity.  ***(*) 2021-2036.

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1994 Chateau de Beaucastel, Hommage a Jacques Perrin, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is subtle with mature, earthy aromas.  The softer and gentle entry brings dark, sweeter fruit and garrigue in the finish.  A fine wine that could use a longer finish, suggesting it is time to drink up.  **** Now.

1995 Chateau de Beaucastel, Hommage a Jacques Perrin, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Those nose offers animale aromas with bits of berries and Kirsch poking through.  In the mouth the concentrated, powerful flavors of ripe fruit cling to the mouth leaving extract in the aftertaste.  The flavors are also accented by animale notes.  The power is driven by acidity leaving fine, drying tannins.  **** Now – 2030.

The dessert wines were led off by the 1973 Domaine des Baumard,  Quarts de Chaumes.  This is a vintage that Phil Bernstein recently tasted at Baumard, where it is still available, so he imported a small quantity.  It is lovely stuff!  It is complex from decades of age but it is also very lively.  There is even a curious red berry fruit flavor.  The combination of residual sugar and acidity will see this wine through for decades to come. The 1988 Chateau Raymond-Lafon, Sauternes is drinking great right now.  I love Sauternes and this bottle did not disappoint.  The 1989 Huet, Moelleux Le Mont Premiere Trie, Vouvray reminds me of an apple orchard but it was too subtle and short in the finish to warrant much excitement.

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1973 Domaine des Baumard,  Quarts de Chaumes
The nose was stinky at first with cheese and some tuna.  This is a tight and vigorous white wine with flavors of apricots, apple spice, and creme brulee.  It is a little thick with noticeable residual sugar.  It is quite complex and offers surprising red berry fruit in the middle.  There is plenty of acidity that will see this wine through many years to come.  **** Now – 2036+.

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1988 Chateau Raymond-Lafon, Sauternes
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The attractive amber color is followed by a robust nose.  The tangy fruit is matched by well-balanced residual sugar and acidity.  It soon becomes clear there is great sweetness here from ample residual sugar.  Drinks well right now.  ***(*) Now-2020.

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1989 Huet, Moelleux Le Mont Premiere Trie, Vouvray
The subtle nose is followed by apple and fallen orchard fruit making it the most vinous of the dessert wines.  It is perhaps, a little subtle and short to warrant future aging.  *** Now.

Impressive Northern Rhone

David Bloch is on a roll with the 2003 vintage in the Rhone.

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2003 Domaine du Colombier, Hermitage
Alcohol 14%.  Big and meaty. Leather. Dark and deep Syrah. Sweet fruit at the same time. Licorice. Clumps of sediment. No heat present in spite of the vintage.  Wine is quite structured but has a nice, rich lushness across the mid palate and a really, really long finish. Drinking so well right now.

Pungo’d for Pleasure

David Bloch uses the Pungo so he can drink a wide variety of wines every day of the week. Here is one recent selection.

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2015 Domaine de Fonsainte, Gris de Gris, Corbieres
An annual purchase from the Kermit Lynch portfolio.  The wine performs so well every vintage.  This year’s bottling is as impressive as ever.  Apple, pear, minerals and melon.  Not a bruiser but flavor-packed and food friendly.

2012 Von Hövel, Oberemmeler Hütte Riesling Kabinett, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Great nose.  Almost a real Saar Kabinett.  Bitter almond.  Cream.  Lemon tart.  An extremely well-balanced wine – plenty of ripe fruit with a nice streak of acid and minerals.  Really long.  A baby with a long life ahead.

2000 Fratelli Revello, Barolo Vigna Giachini
Really nice wine. Mature. Floral and sweet even. On the red fruit spectrum.  Oddly, day two found a very tannic wine that wasn’t nearly as good as day one. Therein lies the unpredictable nature of Nebbiolo.

2010 Domaine les Grands Bois, Rasteau Cuvée Marc
On the large size, the tannins have integrated and the wine is a big mouthful of the Southern Rhone. Black fruited – I think the Mourvedre really pushes forward while it only accounts for a minority of the cepage.  Spices.   A tad overdone perhaps?  I suspect the wine may have needed more time to mellow.  Good with beef.

Early Candidates for WOTY Whites!

David Bloch describes an incredible pair of white wines.

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2007 Vincent Dauvissat, Chablis 1er Cru Le Forest
A remarkably great bottle of wine.  White Burgundy (and I do include Chablis as it too has suffered from the various ills of the bottles from that region) can be very hit or miss.  This was a direct hit.  A wine that transcends the vintage and is “just” a Premier Cru.  This is a wine with a hugely powerful nose of tidal pool; that ocean/sea water that gives away place.  The wine is silky and exhibits notes of saline and citrus in the mouth, along with some bracing acidity and a mineral spine carrying through the mid-palate.  Very long and complete.  A great perkiness and tang linger in the mouth long after the last sip is gone.

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2013 Domaine Vacheron, Sancerre
This is one of the best wines I’ve had in 2016.  Salty rocks.  Flint.  Crushed stones.  Minerals galore.  Then a heavy dose of various citrus flavors and aromas.  Virtually no resemblance to the Sauvignon Blanc grape that one expects from the Loire.  Long, long, long.  This wine is so unique, so captivating.  The empty glass smells great well after the bottle is emptied.  I would love to see the vineyard where these grapes grow.  It must resemble a rock quarry!  This could pass for a top-flight bone dry German Kabinett.  Go figure.  But buy as much as you can.  A most unique and pleasurable rendition of a so-called Sancerre.

No Make-up on this Syrah!

David Bloch drinks a classic wine.

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2009 Alain Graillot, Crozes Hermitage
Imported by Europvin.  This is a very honest and authentic Northern Rhone Syrah.   Very dark in color, like a deep magenta.  A spicy nose.  The wine is very pure.  Some meaty and bloody notes in the mouth.  Along with some bay leaf and thyme.  Really long and peppery finish.  The empty glass smells great!  Like the Faury wines, this is just about unmanipulated winemaking and high quality grapes.

A Brunello that Won’t Break the Bank

Life is returning to normal after the long holiday weekend.  David Bloch kicks things off with a bottle of Brunello.

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2001 La Poderina, Brunello di Montalcino

There are many, many producers of Brunello.  Indeed, there has been an explosion of producers which may have “devalued” Brunello as a special wine.  La Poderina is not a newcomer.  I began to drink Brunello about 20 vintages ago.  There have been some really poor vintages, and many good and some great ones.  2001 is widely regarded as a great vintage.  Is this a great wine – no.  But what La Poderina produces is a real value play in a region with some really overpriced wines.  This 2001 provides all that one wants from an aged Brunello:  notes of sweet fruit and tobacco on the nose; followed by tart sweet cherries, some smoke and leather in the mouth, with a persistent finish.   At under $40 at release, this provides a very authentic Brunello experience.  The wine is now entering its middle age and will easily hold in a cold cellar for another 5 years+.

Two from 2009

We continue the 2009 vintage theme with this pair of notes from David Bloch.

Brun

2009 Domaine des Terres Dorées (Jean-Paul Brun), Moulin-à-Vent
Extremely clean style of winemaking.  On the nose, very sweet red fruited notes appear without much coaxing.  The mouthfeel is silky, with penetrating notes of strawberries, raspberries and some cherry.  This a wine to serve to Burgundy drinkers who recoil at the thought of drinking Gamay.  The wine doesn’t lack for complexity – a little bit of game and leather peak through as well.  Good finish.  Some would say wait longer.  If you’ve got a few stashed away I’d drink one now.  You just may find it is in a place that you like.  What a terrific Cru Beaujolais and one of my favorites from the vintage.

Mathilde

2009 Château La Fleur Morange, Mathilde, Saint-Emilion
This is a screaming deal modern-styled Right Banker produced in fairly small quantities from 100% Merlot and is the second wine of La Fleur Morange in St.-Emilion.  This is a big and juicy wine that really delivers.  A complex nose emerged after only a brief decant.  Dark fruits, earth and some minerality are immediate on the palate.  Then some chocolate that is typical for Merlot.  Now some plum.  Maybe a touch jammy.  This wine has improved over the last year or two.  The tannins are soft and the acidity is balanced which will carry this wine for another 5+ years.