Archive

Archive for the ‘GoodDevelop’ Category

Mature Burgundy: Barolet, DRC, Giroud, Roumier, and more

OldBurg15

A group of us recently gathered to taste mature bottles of Burgundy.  Due to everyone’s generosity, several different flights were formed.  We began with a blind flight of three different Champagne from the 1996 vintage.  This was followed by the main focus on both the 1965 and 1966 vintages of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche and Romanée-Conti.  A very old bottle of Burgundy was then served.  A pair of Champagne Brut Rose was served while dinner was prepared.  After a slew of dinner wines, both young and old, dessert wines were deployed.  Several of the wines were off but due to everyone’s generosity, there was plenty to drink at a generally high level of pleasure.

1996 Champagne

OldBurg1

We kicked off the evening with a trio of Champagne from 1996.  The guest who generously brought these bottles poured them so we could taste them blind.  Of course I had no chance of guessing correctly, I have far too little experience with Champagne.  But I suspect with that experience these wines could have been identified blind.  The Gosset is mature and vinous, a wine to drink now. The Billecart-Salmon is elegant and lively, delivering its tart and chalky flavors with verve.  The Philipponnat is intense, rich and ripe, yet balanced by green apples and lemons.  I particularly enjoyed the last two.

Blind #1 – 1996 Gosset, Grand Millésime, Champagne Brut
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 12%. A touch of stink eventually blows off. In the mouth are mature flavors followed by ripe fruit in the middle. Age has given it a vinous quality. Additional air reveals this is a wine to drink now.  *** Now.

Blind #2 – 1996 Billecart-Salmon, Cuvee Nicolas Francois Billecart, Champagne Brut
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Elegant on the nose with a fine mousse and lively precise nature in the mouth. The flavors cut through the palate, supported by acidity. Quite enjoyable with attractive verve. It wraps up with tart citrus and a chalky finish. **** Now – 2029.

Blind #3 – 1996 Philipponnat, Clos des Goisses, Champagne Brut
Alcohol 13%.  A touch more aged yellow in the glass. The most intense nose with an intense offering in the mouth. The bubbles explode upon drinking, leaving a short-lived mousse which is replaced by a green apple note. It moves on to rich and ripe flavors with a lovely lemon finish. **** Now – 2029.

1965 and 1966 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

OldBurg7

I was fortunate to purchase a small parcel of old wines including the following quartet of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. The wines were originally purchased by a couple in the Washington, DC area who bought their wines from MacArthur Beverages. For decades these bottles were stored in the basement.  I am not sure what happened during those years, perhaps a basement flood, for the labels and fills varied.

These were not the best looking bottles but given the scarcity and generally insane pricing of these wines  I had to organize a tasting around them.  For I doubt I could ever again taste the 1965 and 1966 vintages of Romanée-Conti and La Tâche in one sitting.  And what a pairing of vintages, the disastrous 1965 with the very good 1966.  But I had another reason for pairing the two vintages.

Neal Martin wrote in Fermented Grape Juice: Romanée-Conti 1953-2005 how Aubert de Villaine recently served the 1965 Romanée-Conti to a large group.  Michael Broadbent rates this soggy vintage zero stars yet the very late October picking resulted in a wine that Neal Martin found “mocks its vintage reputation and defies all expectations.”  One guest with deep Burgundy experience believes he had never before tasted any Burgundy from the 1965 vintage.

The wines were single-decanted then immediately poured.  With all four glasses in front of us it was obvious our bottle of 1965 Romanée-Conti was flawed as was the 1966 La Tâche.  The 1966 Romanée-Conti was suffering a bit but the 1965 La Tâche was in fine form.  Despite being less than ideal, the 1966 Romanée-Conti  initially offered a complex nose I had trouble describing.  The 1965 La Tâche was the star of this flight for me.  A lovely wine all around and complete shock given the vintage.  Compared to some of the other wines with similar age, this has quite a bit of substance.  I held on to my glass for a long time.

OldBurg11

1965 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, S/N 01281
Imported by Frederick Wildman. Very clean on the nose, revealing incense and perfume. Elegant yet with depth. This is a mid-weight wine which still sports some supporting tannins. With air it reveals a silky nature, infused with fat, and a baking spiced finish. **** Now but will last.

OldBurg12

1965 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti, S/N 00578
Imported by Frederick Wildman. The stink on the nose is hard to get around. Shame as it is round and dense in the mouth with a mineral cut. The flavors have power but the nose reveals it is a flawed bottle that eventually falls apart. Not Rated.

OldBurg10

1966 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, S/N 03090
Imported by Frederick Wildman. Shame, the worst nose and gross in the mouth. Not Rated.

OldBurg9

1966 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti, S/N 01221
Imported by Frederick Wildman. An exotic nose with perfumed aromas that I have difficulty describing. In the mouth it is supple and elegant with some spice. *** Now.

A Blind, Rather Old Bottle of Burgundy

After the DRC flight we were treated to a bottle of Burgundy served blind.  Two lines of inquiry developed as to the vintage and appellation.  Though one guest eventually narrowed in on Pommard, I do not possess that sort of experience so I focused in on vintage.  It was certainly older than 1964.  Based on a handful of bottles I have tasted from the 1940s and 1930s I decided it had to be older, perhaps 1920s or even 1910s.

The bottle was revealed to be 1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots.  I was excited to guess the general age but more so to finally have tasted a Dr. Barolet wine.  The excitement level rose even more when we next learned that it was acquired at the 2006 Acker auction of Rudy Kurniawan’s “THE Cellar”.  I will write more about this particular bottle in a subsequent post but whether it be a real or fake bottle, it was very good.  Michael Broadbent writes that the 1928 Epenots and Rugiens were among the best of original bottles at the 1969 Christie’s auction.  At our tasting, it was one of the best bottles as well.

OldBurg13

1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots
Purchased at “THE Cellar”, Acker-Merrall & Condit, January 2006. The lightest and most mature brick color of all wines tasted this night. Clear in the glass. A fine, scented nose with ripe hints. It develops with air showing apple orchard and hints of red fruit. In the mouth it is red fruited, tart with some vein of very old wine flavor. There is a meaty note. Precision comes from the spine of acidity. It focuses with air.  **** Now but will last.

Champagne Refreshment

OldBurg2

A pair of Champagnes acted as a palate refresher while the preparation of the Coq au Vin was finished.  The Paul Bara, Special Club is on the sweet side for my preferences.  I can imagine serving it outside at a BBQ.  I prefer the Tattinger, Comtes de Champagne.

2012 Paul Bara, Special Club, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Envoyer Imports. Alcohol 12%.  A burst of sweet fruits comes with the initially firm bubbles.  A creamy mousse persists along with the sweet fruit.  *** Now – 2024.

2006 Tattinger, Comtes de Champagne, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Aromatic.  Focused flavors and firm bubbles lead to dry, baking spices.  There is a vein of sharp acidity around which rounded, berry notes form until picking up a racy hint in the finish.  ***(*) Now – 2029.

Dinner Wines

With dinner we moved on to several old and a few young Burgundies.  Some of the oldest Burgundies I have drunk comes from Maison Camille Giroud.  Founded in the 19th century, this negociant firm still believes in long barrel aging.  They hold back stock, releasing some wines decades after the vintage.  The 1949 Camille Giroud, Volnay Santenay Premier Cru and 1966 Camille Giroud, Volney 1er Cru Clos des Chenes reflect perfect provenance.  Both wines sport some old-wine concentration but the 1949 is more tangy and elegant from age whereas the 1966 is completely different with its attractive baked cookie notes.  It was my second experience with the 1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux and I still like it very much.  It is a hedonistic wine for drinking now.  In moving forward nearly two decades, the 1994 Domaine G. Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny is certainly younger but still full of character.  I particularly liked the scented nose and understated complexity.  In contrast, the 2002 Domaine Annick Parent, Volnay Les Fremiets  is very young and tonight, in need of more age.

OldBurg3

1949 Camille Giroud, Volnay Santenay Premier Cru
Burgundy Wine Company Selection.  Round with sweet and sweaty flavors with a beautiful, old-wine concentration.  The finish is initially a little short and there is some heat but there is plenty to engage with.  The wine does flesh out with air, taking on tangy citrus, spices, and stones in the long, lifted, ethereal finish. **** Now.

OldBurg4

1966 Camille Giroud, Volney 1er Cru Clos des Chenes
Imported by USa Wine Imports. Burgundy Wine Company Selection.  A deep mahogany color.  The array of spices on nose reminds me of Nurnberger Lebkuchen.  A round and sweet start brings on some old-school flavors carried by a structural vein.  Sandalwood. **** Now – 2024.

OldBurg6

1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux
Shipped by Robert Haas Selections. Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Exotic perfume on the nose.  The cherry fruit flavors persist with good acidity.  This is a weighty, expansive wine with fat in the finish.  Hedonistic and drinking well right now.  **** Now.

OldBurg5

1994 Domaine G. Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny
Alcohol 12.7%.  Nice with a strawberry scented nose.  An elegant wine with some gravelly density.  It balances youth with complexity leaving the impression of a lovely, characterful wine.  ***(*) Now – 2029.

2002 Domaine Annick Parent, Volnay Les Fremiets
Very youthful, pure, almost candied with flavors of red grapefruit.  In the end, I think this wine needs more time.  *** 2022-2032.

Dessert Wine

With a chocolate tart we had a small grouping of dessert wines.  In order of age, the 1946 Bodegas Albala, Don P.X. Convento, Montilla-Moriles is perhaps the most concentrated wine I have drunk.  With notes of dried figs and baking spices, this unctuous wine has enough acidity to keep it balanced.  There is so much flavor packed in that you only need the tiniest of pours.  The 1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen continues to deliver unctuous flavors with tea notes but this bottle showed a touch less acidity than before.  It is always a treat to taste these old bottles of Riesling.  Finally, the 1968 Lodovico e Piero Antinori, Vino Santo Rosso Riserva offered a good surprise.  The nose was pungent, evocative of Madeira, with dried fruit and spices, along with a touch of red fruit.  I had no idea what to expect so I was pleased.

1946 Bodegas Albala, Don P.X. Convento, Montilla-Moriles
Imported by Classical Wines.  Alcohol 17%.  Bottled in 2011.  Surely, the most concentrated wine I have tasted.  Incredibly dark and viscous enough to stain the glass brown.  Lifted aromas of dried figs and baking spices.  An acidity driven start followed by a knife-edge of acidity pierces through the unctuous and sweet flavors.  Fresh, wet baking spiced flavors coat and persist in the mouth for a long time.  One of the most concentrated wines I have ever dried, you only need a tiny pour.  **** Now until whenever!

OldBurg14

1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars. From the Don Stott Cellar.  A youthful yet aged golden yellow color.  Baking spices on the nose.  A sweet core with weighty flavors of apricot and tea.  A bit soft, plumped up with fat and perfume.  There is less obvious acidity but the tea and tannins keep the wine fresh.  *** Now.

1968 Lodovico e Piero Antinori, Vino Santo Rosso Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  Alcohol 16%.  Wow, of course I like this wine for the pungent aromatics remind me a bit of Madeira.  There are flavors of sweet, spiced, dried fruit and plenty of texture around the fuller bodied wine.  There is enough acidity to be supportive.  The wine tastes of mature flavors with old leather and old-school notes in the finish.  Towards the end this viscous wine becomes more red-fruited.  ***(*) Now – 2039.

Wines That Were DOA

The following three bottles were bad!

  • NV (1970s) Simi, Burgundy, Sonoma
  • 1978 E. Guigal, Hermitage
  • 1985 Comte Armand, Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux

Magnums at a friend’s gathering

July 30, 2019 1 comment

Magnums0

Last week I went over to a friend’s house to hang out and drink some wine.  He had invited his neighbors over and to quench our thirst he opened five different magnums from his cellar.  With two glasses in hand we first compared two different Chardonnay wines from the 2004 vintage.  Repeated assessments to determine the different qualities of the 2004 Bernard Morey, Puligny-Montrachet La Truffiere 1er Cru and 2004 Vincent Dauvissat, Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses meant the magnums were largely finish by evening’s end.  With air and warmth, both magnums continued to exhibit fresh aromas and flavors defying their age.  These pristine examples revealed themselves to be quite different.  The Morey is the more mature, more hedonistic of the pair since it offers more mid-palate ripeness and grip.  The Dauvissat is precise with stone-infused focused flavors.  I liked them both though I give a nod to the Dauvissat.  It really is incredible at how fresh these wines can remain.

The second flight compared two mostly Cabernet Sauvignon based wines from the 1996 vintage.  The 1996 Chateau Montelena, Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Napa Valley reveals berries on the nose with more fruit and substance through the middle.  It is, no doubt, very good and while generous, it remains controlled.  My preference lies with the 1996 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac. The deep nose is killer with mineral, tart black flavors that are highly focused.  I would drink it now because the aromas are so attractive.  I can easily image it will last another 10-20 years but it might become too austere at that age whereas the Montelena will continue to offer more fruity, flavorful drinking.

Dessert was in the form of 2005 Clos des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape.  Sadly, it came across as rather unevolved and underperforming so after a quick taste I returned to the other wines.  Due to my friend’s generosity in providing magnums, we were insured there still more to enjoy with the other selections.

Magnums1

2004 Bernard Morey, Puligny-Montrachet La Truffiere 1er Cru en magnum
Imported by Atherton Wine Imports. Alcohol 13.5%.  A vibrant yellow-green with a fine, smoke hint on the nose.  Mineral with tart lemon flavors and mid palate presence from gravelly fruit with hints of ripeness.  Lovely and mature, it might develop a bit more.  I found it generally precise with a little spice and long aftertaste.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

Magnums2

2004 Vincent Dauvissat, Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses en magnum
Imported by Wine Cellars LTD.  Alcohol 13%.  A lighter, brighter straw yellow color.  A beautiful, tense wine with a fine layer of fat into the end.  Fresh with lifted acidity with lower-lying flavors that become subtle in the fat infused finish.  It remains focused with lemon flavors before wrapping up with a pure and tart, persistent aftertaste.  **** Now – 2030.

Magnums3

1996 Chateau Montelena, Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Napa Valley en magnum
Alcohol 13.5%.  Berries on the nose.  Fresh, weighty flavors with a good core of black rurant then a mineral hint in the end.  It takes on more weight and while richer, it is framed out and always in control.  It is mouth filling with flavors that cling to the gums.  **** Now – 2025.

Magnums4

1996 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac en magnum
Shipped by Bernard et Meneret.  Imported by Vintage Trading.  This is roughly a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 13%.  Deep on the nose with graphite and minerals.  A mineral, tart black fruited start is carried by watering acidity.  It is lighter in weight, remaining focused with taut, fresh flavors and a long lasting aftertaste.  **** Now – 2035.

Magnums5

2005 Clos des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape en magnum
Alcohol 15%.  The waves of rounded, mouth filling fruit, came across as monolithic and not having developed any complexity.  A seemingly underperforming bottle that was just not my style this evening.  Not Rated.

The Must-Try 2012 Coupe-Roses, Orience

For the past two months I have gone back, again and again, to buy more of the 2012 Chateau Coupe-Roses, Orience, Minervois.  This is the top cuvee of Chateau Coupe-Roses and being of the 2012 vintage, it is benefiting from maturity.  The Minervois strength comes through but this wine is primarily about dark fruit coupled with earth, minerals, and a touch of baking spice.  It is a fantastic combination that will peak within the next year or two.  I almost regret posting about it as I do not know what can replace it at this price.

CoupeRosesOrience1

2012 Chateau Coupe-Roses, Orience, Minervois – $17
Imported by Vintage ’59.  This wine is a blend of mostly Syrah with some Grenache and old-vine Carignan.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Some brambly fruit on the nose.  In the mouth this is mineral with a touch of earth before flavors of fruit, leaning towards black, come out.  A polished wine with supportive acidity, it comes across with understated density.  With air notes of salinity, cinnamon, and even more minerals develop.  Good focus for more development.  ***(*) Now – 2025.

CoupeRosesOrience2

Two Recent Rhones: Clos du Mont Olivet and P. Usseglio

It feels like we have already drunk, both by ourselves and with friends, cases of 2016 Clos du Mont Olivet, Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes.  This particular wine is drinking at full maturity which is why I was very curious to try the 2016 Clos du Mont Olivet, Chateauneuf du Pape.  There is that same Mourvedre-based goodness but the Chateauneuf du Pape steps it up in terms of components for development.  It is appealing now, with Kirsch aromas and firm line of darker fruits with stones, but is best left for at least two to three years before trying again.  At only $35 this is a bargain for a wine that will develop over 10-15 years.  My recommendation is to drink the CdR while this CdP lays in your cellar or fridge.

Nearly as impressive is the 2016 Domaine Pierre Usseglio, Lirac.  Lirac is a relatively young selection in the P. Usseglio lineup but one you should take note of.  It is approachable and giving at first pour, but with air it still reveals its Lirac firmness.  There is quite a lot going on in here already, but I would wait until the winter for the wine to relax.  Brought in by Phil at MacArthur Beverages, this is a fine value at $25.

Rhone1

2016 Clos du Mont Olivet, Chateauneuf du Pape – $35
Imported by Dionysos Imports.  This wine is a blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah and some Cinsault, aged in foudre and old oak. Alcohol 15%.  Kirsch and cherry candies remain on the nose.  In the mouth it has the earthy, Mourvedre flavor, adding depth to the dark red and black fruits.  By the middle a firm line of black fruit and stones come out, reflecting its youth as the structure develops.  It is a little astringent in the end with tannins sticking to the gums.  With air the ripe core of flavor comes into focus and it picks up a spicy note.  Drinkable now but it deserves a few more years in the cellar.  **** Now – 2034.

Rhone2

2016 Domaine Pierre Usseglio, Lirac – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 10% Cinsault, 10% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah, aged 12 months, half in concrete vats and half in demi-muids. Alcohol 15%.  Dark in the glass with ripe berry aromas, cocoa, and smoke.  The fruit weight is immediately noticeable followed by ripe, red berry flavors and garrigue which morph into a floral, spiced note in the middle.  With air the wine firms up with that firm, cool Lirac nature providing the spine.  It also becomes even more floral through the long finish.  ***(*) Now – 2027.

Rhone3

A Vertical Tasting of Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba 2006-2012

With the last set of 900 pages read through, I have moved on to another group of letterbooks regarding the Madeira wine trade.  These letters are from the early 19th century.  While much of content is dedicated to the flour and corn trade, the Madeira wine bits scattered throughout, can be quite detailed.  I find a strong desire to keep reading through each page to see what I come across. Today I take a break from reading to post about some wines I recently tried.

ConternoBarbera

One month ago, I was the guest of Alessandro for his group’s monthly wine tasting.  With plates of attractive Gorgonzola we sat down to a blind grouping of wines.  There were one or two wines which stood out to me as Barbera but I was certainly confused as to what the theme was.  An all Giacomo Conterno Barbera tasting, I certainly did not hone in on.  The inclusion of two bottles of Scarpa certainly added to the confusion!

I have already proved to myself that Barbera of great age, that of 50 to 60 years, may survive but not be too pleasurable.  If there was a theme tonight, I would say the older vintages were a little unsettled with the younger ones, 2009-2012, my preferred grouping.  It is the 2011 vintage I found to be the best, nearing its peak with slowly increasing power, complexity, and easily approachable strawberry flavors that fill the mouth.  This is the wine to buy closely followed by the 2012 and then the 2010.

The Scarpa wines are of a different nature which I like as well.  This is in part due to Scarpa’s La Bogliona vineyard being sourced in Monferrato and Conterno’s Cascina Franca in Serralunga.  Sadly, a bottle of 2009 Conterno, Cascina Franca Barolo was cooked.  Many thanks to Alessandro for including me.

2006 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
There is concentration and a savory aspect to the focused, tart black fruit.  There is a good aftertaste present from the first pour.  With air this becomes a substantial, weighty wine with some developing sweet-tartness. *** Now – 2024.

2006 Scarpa, La Bogliona Barbera d’Asti
A nose of blood then a sweet wood box note.  Also a big wine but with sappy acidity, wood box, and an oily nature.  It is ripe, sweet with fruit, and round, yet the acidity keeps things fresh.  It is taking on age.  *** Now – 2022.

2007 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
Dark with a young core of color.  A ripe nose that of modern, concentrated aromas.  The flavors are really packed in, with extract on the tongue, and a stand-out personality.  It is less elegant as a result.  **(*) Now – 2025.

2008 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
There is a dark core with a garnet hint.  Mixed herbs on the nose followed by tangy fruit in the mouth.  The red fruit flavors fill the mouth.  Modern, in a way, like the previous wine. **(*) Now – 2023.

2009 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
Nearly as dark as the 2008 vintage.  In the mouth dark with berry extract, ripe fruit, and ripe structure.  Astringent in the end, not my favorite.  ** Now – 2027.

2009 Scarpa, La Bogliona Barbera d’Asti
The lightest color of what we’ve tried.  Aromatic on the nose and elegant in the mouth.  Not as complex as I’d like but the tart strawberry and candied red fruit are enjoyable.  The acidity is support, the finish short yet clean.  With time it builds glycerin-like body and ethereal power.  ***(*) Now – 2027.

2010 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
A dark, grapey core.  Very youthful, certainly the youngest tasting yet with youthful concentration.  (You get the idea).  Ripe, grapey weight with a lively texture from the acidity.  Mostly red berries and grapes.  Not quite to the level of the 2011. ***(*) Now – 2026.

2011 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
Slowly building power with flavors of ripe strawberries that fill the mouth.  The wine is hitting its prime with more complexity than any vintage yet tasted.  A delight.  **** Now – 2024.

2012 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba
This is finely articulated with mixed red fruit and acidity which brightens everything.  Lovely to drink.  It need a year or two to show best at which point it will deliver more and not doubt be rated higher.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

2009 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barolo
This looks very old in color, as if from the 1960s.  Turns out it is a cooked bottle. Not Rated.

Wente’s 1978 Centennial Reserve Petite Sirah delivers

I recently pulled out the pair of 1978 bottles from Wente Bros. for dinner after a tasting with several friends.  I thought I would write about these wines separately, as the history is a bit interesting.  Wente Bros. of Livermore, California was founded in 1883 by Carl Heinrich Wente who came over from Hanover, Germany.  His background was in husbandry but as cellar man to Charles Krug he learned to make wine.  Nearly 80 years later, his grandson Karl Wente took over the management of the winery.  In 1975, Karl Wente was named Wine Man of the year.  This was just the second award given out by the Friends of the Junior Art Center for the first went to Andre Tschelistcheff.  The distinguished company is is not surprising for historic newspaper accounts reveal the high regard held for the wines of Wente.

Carl Heinrich Wente brought cuttings from France to California to plant in his vineyards.  The alluvial deposits of the Livermore Valley were regarded as similar to the soils of Graves thus early plantings included Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and even Chardonnay. It was through the mid 20th century that Wente’s fame came from its Semillon.  In 1939, The Marquis de la Saluces, of Chateau d’Yquem, even visited Wente to see how his Semillon cuttings were coming along.   In the 1940s, you could purchase the “Cali Chateau Yquem” from the “famed” Wente Brothers.  Jane Nickerson commented on the various Wente white wines, noting the Semillon wines were the closest category to French Sauternes.

Second generation, Hermann Wente passed away in 1961.  Third-generation Karl Wente subsequently modernized the winery in 1964 and 1965.  This efforted included a new, large insulated and air conditioned winery, stainless steel presses and stainless steel tanks with temperature controlled jackets.  There was room for one million gallons of wine in tank and 50,000 bottles.  Of course, the old oak oval barrels still had their place in the winery.

In the late 1970s, neighboring Joe Concannon advocated for Petite Sirah from the Livermore Valley.  The Petite Sirah name was often lent to the “more vulgar” cousin Duriff which grew throughout California.  Petite Sirah and Duriff were typically used as a blending wine but Joe Concannon started to bottle Petite Sirah as a single variety.  After many years of bottle aging it would provide a wine with a “dependable bottle bouquet”.  Concannon’s Petite Sirah became a benchmark for the variety.

The fourth generation of Wente brothers took control of the winery in 1977.  Wente followed Concannon for they chose to release the 1978 vintage of Petite Sirah on their centennial anniversary.  Wente had planted Duriff in 1916, which was used in their Burgundy, but it was pulled out for Petite Sirah in 1940.

This choice paid off for 1978 Wente Bros., Petite Sirah, Centennial Reserve, Livermore Valley showed well at our dinner.  After double-decanting, it slowly improved over the course of an hour.  It is a dark flavored wine, supple and dense, yet eminanting from it is an attractive, floral quality.  There are many years of life ahead.  While I do not know if it will ever become more complex, it speaks entirely of 1970s California which I like.  Sadly, the 1978 Wente Bros., Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley has not held up.  It is dark and rich with almost no supporting acidity.

1978 Wente Bros., Petite Sirah, Centennial Reserve, Livermore Valley
This wine was aged for 6 months in small oak barrels then a further 2 years in large oak and redwood cooperage.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Perfumed on the nose, with air dark fruit with floral notes lifting it up.  Supple in the mouth but dark and dense with ripe spices and a lovely, inky nature.  It is perfumed in flavor and expansive in the mouth.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

1978 Wente Bros., Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  Dark in color, dark in aroma and flavor.  Unfortunately, this wine is past prime, you can smell it on the nose and in the mouth it is flabby with almost no supporting acidity.  It might have been a very fruity, forward wine in youth.  Not Rated.

Top values from Bordeaux: Marsau and Clos Marsalette

Phil at MacArthur Beverages recommends the two wines featured in this post and so must I.  The 2015 Chateau Marsau, Cotes de Francs is a highly mineral, savory wine with an attractive nose of herbs.  It is a top value at $22, offering both personality and the ability to age for several years.  For me, the 2014 Clos Marsalette, Pessac-Leognan is all about satisfyingly deep aromas and supple, dark flavors.  This may be a forward wine but it still has tension.  It is the sort of wine I want to drink glass after glass of and worth every bit of $25.

2015 Chateau Marsau, Cotes de Francs – $22
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Merlot.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose of herbs evokes sage and thyme.  In the mouth there is a savory edge to this highly mineral wine.  There is a focused vein or core of ripe and dense black fruit.  There is  subtle perfume in the end with a cool, zippy finish.  The supportive structure leaves ripe, gum coating tannins and a spicy note.  It has strong personality!  ***(*) Now – 2025.

2014 Clos Marsalette, Pessac-Leognan – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 60% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Cabernet Franc fermented in wooden and concrete vats then aged for 18 months in 40% new oak.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A good nose of deep aromas.  In the mouth this is dark with licorice and cassis, a bit gravelly with tense freshness.  With air it is decidedly dark fruited with cassis and a eucalyptus/greenhouse hint.  The tannins are present yet completely integrated.  It takes on a cooler tilt with air.  This is a very satisfying, supple wine to be drunk now.  ***(*) Now – 2023.