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Legendary Rioja: CVNE Viña Real and Imperial Rioja Gran Reserva from 1976-1964

October 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE), founded in 1879, is one of the oldest Rioja producers. For nearly one century CVNE has produced the top brands of Viña Real and Imperial. Over this period the wines developed the reputation as consistent  both in high-quality and long-life with the particular decades of the 1940s through the 1970s considered the classic age. This month a small group of us explored the tail end of this age by tasting five vintages of both Viña Real and Imperial Gran Reservas from 1976 back to 1964.

CVNE is a unique estate in that there are only five winemakers over the course of its long history. For the vintages we tasted our focus begins with the third head winemaker Ezequiel Garcia (1930 – 2017).  He was born in Anguciana, a small town near Haro, and worked at CVNE from 1958 through 1973.

The 1920 harvest arrives at CVNE. Image provided by CVNE.

Imperial was first produced in the 1920s. It is always bottled in a Bordeaux shaped bottle and is named after the Imperial pint bottles it was once sold in. This wine is traditionally a majority of Tempranillo with a bit of Graciano, Mazuelo, and Viura largely from the Rioja Alta. The Viña Real brand name was registered in 1940 but it existed previously under different variations. The name stems from the Camino Real or Royal Road next to which many of the vineyards lie. It is bottled in the iconic Burgundy shaped bottle containing Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo largely sourced from the Rioja Alavesa.

Ezequiel Garcia produced Imperial at the CVNE winery in Haro and Viña Real at the Viña Real winery in Elciego. For each brand there were different levels of quality. From top to bottom quality, Imperial was historically sold as Gran Reserva and Reserva with the Viña Real as Reserva Especial, Reserva, and 4 año. With the new wine regulations of the 1970s Viña Real wines were renamed Gran Reserva, Reserva, and Crianza. The Imperial names did not change.

The Reserva Especial and Gran Reserva bottlings are meant to be the best quality wine possible, produced only in the best vintages using the best fruit. Such was the quality of the wines produced by Ezequiel Garcia during the 1960s and 1970s that the author and journalist Xavier Domingo nicknamed him “El Brujo” or the wizard.  It is these wines that I poured at the tasting.

A wine is only as good as the fruit that it is produced from so credit must be given to Jose Angel de Madrazo y Real de Asua, 4th generation of the founding brothers Eusebio and Raimundo Real de Asua. Jose Madrazo joined the CVNE Board of Directors in the mid-1960s soon becoming General Manager of Viña Real. CVNE sources fruit from vineyards they own but also from others under long-term contracts. One of Jose Madrazo’s responsibilities was to maintain these contracts and to seek out other grapes for all the quality levels at Viña Real. It is he who discovered the vineyards at Laserna. Such was the quality of the Laserna fruit that Ezequiel Garcia used it exclusively for the Reserva Especial and Gran Reserva. These vines at Laserna would eventually form the single-vineyard estate of Vinedos del Contino.

The Viña Real and Imperial wines were always meant to be different. They were made at different wineries with different blends sourced from different plots with different climates. During the 1940s through the 1970s, Viña Real always featured at least one-third Garnacha Tina with a typical blend of 40% Garnacha, 40% Tempranillo, and 20% other varieties including Mazuelo. Imperial never included Garnacha Tinta and featured more Mazuela and even some Graciano.

Cement tanks at El Carmen winery inaugurated in 1940. Image provided by CVNE.

Viña Real was made at a small winery in Elciego built in the 1920s. Imperial was made at the El Carmen winery in Haro.  Inaugurated in 1940, it was the first winery with concrete tanks in Rioja. Epoxy-lined concrete tanks were also installed at Viña Real. The Viña Real winery was small so the wines were vinified there then underwent barrel aging at CVNE in Haro. In 1957, the year before Ezequiel Garcia began work at CVNE, the 1941 Imperial was still in barrel. Under Garcia, the duration the Gran Reserva spent in American oak was slowly reduced to at least six years by the 1970s.

1976 Imperial Gran Reserva aging in barrel. Image provided by CVNE.

In 1973, Ezequiel Garcia left CVNE for Bodegas Olarra. He vinified the wine from the 1973 harvest but the final blend was made by the fourth CVNE winemaker Basilio Izquierdo Torres. Torres, who studied in Bordeaux, worked at CVNE from 1974 through 2004. Thus the vintages we tasted may be classified as: 1976 (Torres), 1973(Garcia/Torres), 1970 (Garcia), 1966 (Garcia), and 1964 (Garcia).

It was also in 1973, that CVNE and others, purchased the Laserna vineyards and formed Vinedos del Contino. The first Contino harvest occurred in 1974 so all of the Contino fruit from the 1973 vintage was still destined for the Viña Real Gran Reserva. It took a while for the Contino facilities to be built up so a large proportion of the excellent Contino fruit continued to be used in the Viña Real Gran Reserva. Today, Viña Real continues to use fruit from the Laserna region including plots that literally border the Contino estate.

Bottling of the 1970 Imperial Gran Reserva. Image provided by CVNE.

Across all five of the vintages we tasted, the Viña Real Reserva Especial and Gran Reserva all demonstrate deep aromas, full-bodied flavor, and extra complexity from earth and animale notes. The Imperial are brighter, more structured with noticeable acidity and more control over the flavors.  All of the bottles have aged very well with a general increase in liveliness as the wines became older.

The pair from 1976 showed good, complex flavor yet came across as fully mature.  The pair from 1973 exhibit less complexity yet are fresh and lively in the mouth.  I personally would rather drink the 1976s for the flavor but many preferred the 1973s for their condition.  Both wines from the 1970 vintage demonstrated a significant increase in complexity and energy.  The 1970 Viña Real is deep, earthy, mouth filling, and ethereal with a level of energy that made me pause.  The 1970 Imperial leans towards a core of fruit propelled by acidity, leaving a texture in the mouth.  The 1966 pair are lighter in flavor.  The 1966 Viña Real offers up more flavor than the 1966 Imperial but both wines should be drunk up.

It is a remarkably testament to the greatness of the 1964 vintage and the capable hand of Ezequiel Garcia, that the wines from 1964 are the most energetic and long-lived of all we tasted.  That is no small feat considering the 1964 Imperial was served from two half-bottles!  The aromas are to dream of, the flavors are a bit closely played but the mouthfeel is oily and luxurious.  My favorite wine of the night is the 1964 Viña Real.  It is mouth filling with complexity yet never weighs down the palate.  The interplay of flavor, texture, and acidity are remarkable.

We are fortunate in that not one of our bottles was bad allowing the personality of Viña Real and Imperial to shine through all of the vintages tasted.  If you have yet to taste mature CVNE you must set your sights on the 1964 Viña Real Reserva Especial.  If that is too expensive, the 1970 Viña Real Gran Reserva is a relative bargain.  These two wines in particular should be tried by all lovers of mature red wine.

CVNE is still run by family members including Maria Urrita Ybarra, Director of Marketing, who answered many of my questions and provided the historic images used in this post. I must also thank Jesús Madrazo, son of Jose Madrazo, 5th generation of the founding brothers, and former Technical Director of Contino, who kindly replied to all of my emails as well.  Finally, I thank my friend Mannie Berk, founder of The Rare Wine Co., whose careful acquisition of these bottles enabled this tasting to take place.


Arrival Champagne

1984 Le Mesnil, Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs en magnum
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. A youthful yellow color with just a hint of gold. The wine greets with a good set of strong, yet finely textured bubbles. This is a surprisingly youthful with with yellow fruit, and a core of berries throughout. With extended air sweet spices come out. ***(*) Now – 2037.


The CVNE Wines

 

1976 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. The deep nose offers up dark, sweaty aromas. In the mouth the deep note is echoed in the soft entry. There is a bit of a sweet vein of fruit with some supporting structure in the end. This bottle is fully mature with good depth. With air the fine red fruit flavor takes on an old wood note. *** Now – 2020.

1976 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There is a coffee-like hint on the modest nose. In the mouth is a soft, seductive start then a bright note buoyed by the watering acidity. The flavors are more linear with dry black fruit, and a subtle wood note.  *** Now – 2022.

1973 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. A fine, clean nose reveals familiar deep aromas, and sweet red scents. With air it takes on floral aromas. In the mouth are cherry fruits framed by a fine structure. It offers good grip and presence with a rounded body. The cherry note continues in the finish and into the ethereal aftertaste. *** Now – 2022.

1973 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There is a noticeably dark core to the color. The nose is less aromatic with hints of funk and pungency which eventually clean up. However, there is a brighter start with slightly sour flavors. The flavors are lighter weight, carried by watering acidity, and some grip in the finish. *** Now – 2022.

1970 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There are finely woven flavors of deep, sweet strawberry fruit. Complexity is gained through a subtle amount of earth and animale flavors. This is a beautiful wine, full of flavor, yet ethereally light through the long aftertaste. The energy of the wine makes you take notice as the wine will continue to drink well for a long time. ****(*) Now – 2027.

1970 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. Another lovely wine. The bright start takes on a gentle, sweet core of red and black fruits propelled by watering acidity. There are complex spices, animale flavors, and wood notes. This finely textured wine still has youthful grip.  **** Now – 2027.

1966 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Reserva Especial
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. In a way there is sweeter fruit in this wine. Though it is lighter in flavor and body there is complexity from low-lying minerals and wood notes. It offers more fruit than the Imperial. It is in a good state of life given the lesser vintage. *** Now.

1966 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. I found this tart with watery flavor, less weight, and dry structure. ** Now.

1964 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Reserva Especial
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There are deep aromas of leather and earth. In the mouth the red fruit has youthful grip with a gorgeously fine interplay of fruit, earth, and animale notes. The wine becomes drier towards the finish. This is a beautifully focused wine with both fruit, acidity, and structure to continue its glacial evolution for years to come. If you enjoy that sweet concentration resulting from traditional winemaking and old age then look no further.  ****(*) Now – 2032.

1964 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. What a beautiful nose! Again this shows more focus and structure but the the vintages give the flavors extra strength and weight. Black fruited in general added mouthfeel comes out of nowhere from a luxurious oily bit. I wonder if it will open up even more? **** Now – 2027.


Dinner Wines

NV Krug, Grande Cuvée 164 eme Edition, Champagne Brut
Imported by Moet Hennessy USA.  Alcohol 12.5%. This already smells complex with a young aroma of apple. In the mouth this is a youthful wine with assertive bubbles then a very fine mousse. The yellow fruit and gentle baking spices are of good complexity and long duration. **** Now – 2037.

1996 Fernando Remírez de Ganuza, Rioja Reserva
Imported by Tempranillo Inc.  There is a pungent nose of berries and banana foster. It is a fresh and gentle wine in the mouth back by good weight. Despite the young age, it is drinking very well showing both mature flavors and a core of covert fruit. **** Now – 2022.

1985 Torres, Grand Sangre de Torro, Penedes
This wine is a blend of 70% Garnacha and 30% Carinena.  There is a bright red fruit in the complex start. It morphs from earthy, sweet fruit in the start to dry black fruit in the finish. A ripe Garnacha character comes out with air. This is not a wine for the ages rather a solid, mature wine to drink now. *** Now – 2020.

1973 Paternina, Conde de los Andes, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. A brilliant color! The tart red fruit on the nose smells of some age due to a roasted earth note. In the mouth are lighter flavors of cranberry and red fruits which are match by the acidity driven profile. This is a clean with, slightly short in the finish, yet the aftertaste still leaves texture on the gums. *** Now but will last.

1970 Bodegas Bilbainas, Vina Pomal, Rioja Crianza
A Chambers Street Wines selection imported by T. Elenteny. Tired on the nose and in the mouth. The rounded start brings rather advanced flavors and a short finish. *(*) Drink Up.

NV Emilio Lustau, Sherry Very Rare Oloroso Emperatriz Eugenia
Imported by Europvin USA.  This is enjoyable pungent on the nose with polished wood, fresh orange citrus notes, and some deep aromas.  Noticeably less complex in the mouth with a dry, linear, saline flavors of nuts and yellow citrus wrapped up by a warm finish.  *** Now – 2027+.


NV Barbeito, Terrantez Reserve Madeira
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There is a sweet nose of brown sugar backed by the slightest pungency. In the mouth there is still, fine sweet fruit of good weight. The sweetness is expertly balanced by the acidity. It picks up a lovely foxiness in the finish. **** Now – whenever.

Budget Bordeaux from 2012

October 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Every curious to expand my selection of affordable daily drinkers I ventured into the 2012 Bordeaux section at MacArthur Beverages. This is regarded as a Merlot vintage and the four wines we tasted contain at least 70% of it.  Jenn and I preferred one of the least expensive wines 2012 Petit Paveil, Bordeaux. It is a tasty wine to be enjoyed now. Next up is the 2012 Chateau Belle Colline, Cotes de Bordeaux Blaye which require much air to shed a greenhouse aspect. It becomes a solid, almost juicy, dark-fruited wine. The 2012 Chateau Grimont, Cotes de Bordeaux is too firm to be enjoyed and I did not like the 2012 Chateau Roquet, Bordeaux.

2012 Chateau Belle Colline, Cotes de Bordeaux Blaye – $17
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Malbec.  Alcohol 13.5%. The nose is of greenhouse and plums. In the mouth are a fine, powdery texture of dark fruit and greenhouse flavors. The wine dramatically improves on the second night with greenhouse aspect largely gone. Instead this is a solid wine, almost juicy in flavor with dark fruit flavors, a moderate structure, and general ability to satisfy. For the short-term. ** Now – 2020.

2012 Chateau Grimont, Cotes de Bordeaux Cadillac – $17
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 13%. The nose remained mute. The moderate structure is echoed in the dry, firm flavors, watering acidity and dry finish which is particularly noticeable on the tongue. Some tart red and black fruit comes out but this remains a modest, firm wine. *(*) Now – 2022.

2012 Petit Paveil, Bordeaux – $13
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet.  Alcohol 13%. The nose is attractive with dark fruit. The dark fruit continues in the mouth with just a hint of greenhouse. There is some depth to the fruit that carried into the dry, black mineral finish. It is here that the dry, supporting structure is noticeable, though, there is a touch of softness too. Solid! ** Now – 2020.

2012 Chateau Roquet, Bordeaux – $13
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Alcohol 13.5%. I did not like this wine so after two nights I never bothered to take a note. Poor.

Two old favorites: Caladroy and Coupe-Roses

I have opened up previous vintages of both of these wines to a rather large extent so I am excited to try the latest offerings. The 2015 Chateau du Caladroy, Cuvee Les Schistes, Cotes du Roussillon Villages is a fine value.  It lives up to the name of the cuvee by offering clean black fruit flavors mixed with the notion of stones.  As it is about the fruit and not structure I would drink it within the next few years.  The 2016 Chateau Coupe-Roses, Bastide, Minervois  is a cleaner, not earthy version, of the 2015 vintage.  I admit to missing the deep tone and weight of the previous vintage but at $13 this pure and elegant wine is a good value. These two wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Chateau du Caladroy, Cuvee Les Schistes, Cotes du Roussillon Villages – $15
Imported by Vintage ’59 Imports.  This wine is a blend of  Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, and Mourvedre largely raised in tank.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The interesting color is a medium black-cherry with hints of purple.  In the mouth are stone notes followed by firm yet juicy flavors of perfumed black fruit.  There is a tart start with watering acidity.  The flavors have some weight which lends suppleness to the all mineral and black fruit.  The finish is a touch dry followed by a sense of ripeness in the ethereal aftertaste.  *** Now – 2020.

2016 Chateau Coupe-Roses, Bastide, Minervois – $13
Imported by Vintage ’59 Imports. This wine is a blend of 48% Carignan, 46% Grenache, and 6% Syrah. Alcohol 13.5%.  The fresh acidity brings balanced flavors of black fruit and minerals.  What starts as a powdery texture becomes juicy by the middle with a slightly spicy, mineral finish and aftertaste.  The purity of the flavors come out with additional air.  **(*) 2018-2020.

A Canary Island wine for the cellar

I continue to enjoy the Envinate wines selected by Jose Pastor which are available in the Washington, DC, area.  From the same portfolio Phil recently brought in the 2015 Dolores Cabrera Fernandez, La Araucaria, Valle de le Orotava, Tenerife.  I tried this bottle over the course of two days and I will admit it is a bit shutdown, making it hard to drink. I do like the tangy red flavor and unique profile of the wine but it is best revisited some time next year. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Dolores Cabrera Fernandez, La Araucaria, Valle de le Orotava, Tenerife – $20
A Jose Pastor selection imported by Llaurador Wines.  This wine is Listan Negro.  Alcohol 11% – 14%.  It is a grapey, cherry color in the glass.  Tasted over two days the flavors offer up wood notes mixed with tangy red fruit.  The tang is very much present on the tongue tip with the structure apparent throughout at this stage.  It finishes a bit astringent.  It comes across as closed at this point so maybe give it another year before trying again. ** 2018-2022.

I like my Sutter Home Zinfandel red and from the 1970s

Our dinners with Sudip have come to a reasonable arrangement for all.  The kids play for hours, Sudip provides the meal, and I provide the old wine.  Though purely by coincidence it is worth noting that Sudip has won handsomely at poker on days when his games begin or end on our dinner evenings.

One theme we continue to visit at each dinner are the Californian wines from the 1977 vintage.  In picking the wines for our latest dinner I could not but help to bring the 1977 Sutter Home Winery, Zinfandel, Amador County.  As we last had success with Martin Ray I also included the NV Martin Ray, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Montana, Cuvee 5 and to match the lack of vintage date I paired it with the NV Preston Vineyards, Red Table Wine, Sonoma County.

Sutter Home has a history dating back to the late 19th century but for our bottle, produced by the Trinchero family, that history begins in 1946.  It is then that the family purchased the old winery then set about revitalizing it such that they produced over 40 different wines including the one gallon variety.

Bob Trinchero became winemaker in 1960.  When he made his first zinfandel in 1968 he knew that was the direction he wanted the winery to go.  The wine was released with great success in 1971.  By 1973 only red Zinfandel, white Zinfandel, and Muscat were being produced.

Throughout the 1970s Sutter Home Zinfandels were amongst the highest rated Zinfandels at the Los Angeles County Fair and as such frequently appear in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post.  The earliest vintages saw up to three years of age in wood.  The aging period was reduced, in an effort to gain complexity, with the 1978 vintage achieving the desired results.

When Bob Trinchero first began to make Zinfandel, it was viewed as a lesser grape and the fruit did not command the same prices as Cabernet Sauvignon.  Amador County Zinfandel sold for $68 per ton in 1968 climbing up to $400-$500 per ton in 1980.  By this point Amador County Zinfandel was considered “the biggest, richest, spiciest, and most intensely flavored red wines” produced in America.[2]

There is little in print about the specific bottling of 1977 Sutter Home Zinfandel we tried.    Bob Trinchero notes that winemakers were producing big, alcoholic wines almost to the point of “absurdity” at the time.  It is the intense heat of Amador County which regularly produced wines of alcohol content starting at 14%.  Trinchero does state that Sutter Home made one Zinfandel in 1977 with an alcohol content of 17%.[3]  This wine “stained enamel”.  Sadly the 1977 was not included in the 11 vintage lineup of Sutter Home Zinfandel tasted by William Rice in 1980.

The need for age is a common description found for young Sutter Home Zinfandels from the 1970s.  Our bottle of 1977 Sutter Home Winery, Zinfandel, Amador County still contains obvious structure and cherry flavors delivered in a firm manner.  It is not the most complex wine but all of those years of oak aging will enable it to readily live on for a long time.

Not of the same staying power is the NV Martin Ray, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Montana, Cuvee 5.  This bottle was originally offered during the early 1980s.  It is a generous and interesting blend of old-school funk with modern clean fruit.  I found the combination appealing.  Most likely from the same period the NV Preston Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon Red Table Wine, Sonoma County is a fun drink for the first hour.  During this period the tangy and weighty red fruit is thoroughly enjoyable.  While not as complex as the Martin Ray it is quenching and deserves marks for that.

1977 Sutter Home Winery, Zinfandel, Amador County
Alcohol 13%.  This is structured and firm with predominant cherry flavors which are accompanied by black fruit in the end.  There is a bit of zip and certainly a structure of fine, drying textured tannins.  With air a decent nose develops.  The wine remains solid but has some grip and certainly tart, cherry candy notes.  ** Now but will easily last.

NV Martin Ray, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Montana, Cuvee 5
This wine is a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Merlot.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose combines enjoyable old-school funk with modern dark fruit aromas.  In the mouth this is very lively with rounded, old school flavors that come across as juicy and weighty.  There is even some earth.  The blue-fruited finish shortens up a bit but it is balanced overall.  *** Now.

NV Preston Vineyards, Red Table Wine, Sonoma County
This wine is perhaps mostly Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose offers tart cherry and incense.  This is a very strong offering right out of the bottle with tangy red fruit that is delivered with some authoritative weight.  The fresh tang leaves an impression a good impression.  The wine is quite good for the first hour then it fades and falls apart a bit.  *** Now for the first hour.


[1] Rice, William. WINE: Zinfandels Find A Home at Sutter WINE. The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Washington, D.C. [Washington, D.C]27 Apr 1980: K1.

[2] THE NEW AMERICAN WINES: Intense Zinfandels Of the Sierra Nevada Wine Talk
By TERRY ROBARDS. New York Times (1923-Current file); Jun 11, 1980; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. C1

[3] Hicke, Carol.  Interview with Louis “Bob” Trinchero in 1991. “California Zinfandels, A Success Story”.  The Wine Spectator Californian Winemen Oral History Series.

I mistake Oregon Pinot Noir for Spatburgunder

Lou asked me to bring just one bottle to a blind Pinot Noir themed tasting.  The weather was temperate so we started off with 2009 Pichler-Krutzler, Gruner Veltliner, Frauengarten, Wachau while we moved our food, bottles, and glasses outside.  Made by the son-in-law and daughter of F. X. Pichler this bottle has killer aromas that alone warrant opening a bottle.  I guess Gruner can age!

All of the wines were brown bagged save the 1983 Prince Florent de Merode, Corton Clos du Roi.  The cork fell in when Lou stood it up so we tried it out of curiosity.  Proper bottles are probably good.

The first blind wine was certainly of an earlier generation.  Schug Winery was founded in 1980 by Walter Schug who was the founding winemaker at Phelps in the 1970s.  The 1981 Schug Cellars, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley is an early example of his efforts which will continue to last for many years thanks to the impressive structure.  It is a bit curious but still a respectable glass of wine.  Much younger and in complete contrast the 2002 Cameron, Clos Electrique offers impressive amounts of sweet, strawberry compote flavors.  This bottle is in peak shape and prime drinking.

In retrospect the 2007 Albert Morot, Beaune Toussaints 1er Cru is clearly French with its aromas.  There is a bit of everything but the linear personality restrains the pleasure.  The 2006 Antica Terra, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley is in taller bottle but I mistook it for Austrian Spatburgunder due to the plentiful, bright fruit.  It continued to evolve, gaining complexity even on the second night.  Also from Oregon, the 2005 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley is the youngest of all the wines we tasted.  It reminds me of an Oregon Pinot Noir, in my limited experience, and suggest you wait a bit longer in case it relaxes.

Thanks again to Lou for such a fun evening!

2009 Pichler-Krutzler, Gruner Veltliner, Frauengarten, Wachau
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This is 100% Gruner Veltliner from 15-35 year old vines, fermented and aged on the lees in stainless steel.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The light golden color does not suggest the excellent nose full of textured aromas.  In the mouth there is a focused, almost crisp start with white fruit, chalk, and stones by the middle.  There is a nice amount of acidity in this mature wine.  With air it develops nutty flavors and sports a moderate amount of weight from nuts and fat.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

1983 Prince Florent de Merode, Corton Clos du Roi
Imported by Robert Haas.  The cork fell in when the bottle was stood up leaving a stinky nose but surprisingly round, sweet fruit in the mouth.  Not Rated.

A) 1981 Schug Cellars, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
This smells mature with a hint of menthol.  In the mouth is up-front dense fruit flavors followed by a wintergreen freshness and perfumed aftertaste.  What is striking is the whopping structure of drying tannins which seems like a combination of stem inclusion and oak.  On the second night it remains firm with tangy red fruit and of course the structure.  ** Now-2027.

B) 2002 Cameron, Clos Electrique
Alcohol 13.3%.  The nose is quite mature.  In the mouth are quickly building flavors of sweet strawberry compote.  The quantity and quality of fruit is excellent and in great shape.  This is matched by juicy acidity and a little spicy hint in the softer finish.  Good bottle.  ***(*) Now – 2019.

2007 Albert Morot, Beaune Toussaints 1er Cru
Imported by Robert Kacher.  Alcohol 12%.  Some sweet aromas, oak, mushrooms, and a touch of earth.  With air there is a wood incense note.  The mouth reveals dark red fruit, watery acidity, and a tight core of black fruit leaving a linear impression.  It eventually sports some grip and a little cola and spice note.  It remains firm.  **(*) Now – 2023.

2) 2006 Antica Terra, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
Alcohol 14.4%.  The darker and younger looking in color.  The interesting, ample nose is very fresh and clean.  In the mouth are gobs of fruit flavors that slowly open to reveal ripe, complex flavors.  Substantial in a way but not heavy at all thanks to the brightness.  The acidity is perfectly balanced.  The flavors persist in the aftertaste.  **** Now – 2027.

3) 2005 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley
Alcohol 14%.  This is a light grapey red color.  In the mouth are controlled flavors of ripe and perfumed black fruit.  Fine tannins develop by the finish as does a bitter, citrus note.  This tastes the youngest of all the wines and with extended air remains structured compared to the Antica Terra. *** Now – 2025.

American Trousseau, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc

Lou and I managed to work in some wine drinking right before the 4th of July.  For our evening together, I pulled out a brace of Trousseau Noir and Lou offered a pair of wines he brought down from the Finger Lakes.  I find Californian Trousseau interesting.  The 2015 Forlorn Hope, Trousseau Noir, Rorick Vineyard is the more forward, currently complex of the two wine with a nice complement of minerals and orange peel.  It is also very pale like apple juice.  The 2015 Sandlands, Trousseau, Sonoma County is darker in color and more primary.  Despite the light colors and flavors both bottles manage to contain decent structure for the near term.

It was the 2015 Eminence Road Farm Winery, Cabernet Franc, Elizabeth’s Vineyard, Finger Lakes which completely surprised me.  My first thought was that you could serve this blind in a tasting of Leon Barral’s wines from Faugeres.  It would not be out of place save less flavor intensity.  The aromas of earth and soil are ones which make me happily think of France.  I should note there is a yeast note which develops but then fades away as the wine takes on more body.  Almost as interesting and certainly confusing is the 2010 Red Newt Cellars, Merlot, Finger Lakes.  From a ripe vintage, this wine has taken on age such that it smells just like old Vallana from Alto Piedmont.  No joke! It is true that it is mature in the mouth and a bit different but a fitting end to a tasting of unusual wines.

2015 Forlorn Hope, Trousseau Noir, Rorick Vineyard
Alcohol 12.23%.  Rather pale in color, similar to oxidized apple juice.  The nose offers forward, floral aromas.  In the mouth the wine is taut in body with a mixture of minerals and prominent orange peel in the finish.  It becomes more mineral with air with ripe apple notes, flower petals, and a maintained sense of freshness.  Despite being forward, it could age for a year or two for it packs in some structure.  *** Now – 2019.

2015 Sandlands, Trousseau, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12.4%.  It is the color pale, dried roses.  The nose is robust.  It is finely controlled with an ethereal smooth flavor, watering acidity, and light floral fruit flavor.  It becomes puckering towards the finish.  That said, this wine comes across as packing more in and requiring air to open up.  *** 2018-2022.

2015 Eminence Road Farm Winery, Cabernet Franc, Elizabeth’s Vineyard, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 11.9%.  Wow, the earthy nose of bright berries transports you to France.  With air there are wet soil aromas.  In the mouth are tart cherry flavors which have good weight, a slight yeast hint, spot on acidity, and a fine textured finish.  This lively wine is of strong interest.  It does pick up a touch more yeast as it breaths but this eventually disappears as the wine puts on more weight. ***(*) 2017-2022.

2010 Red Newt Cellars, Merlot, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 13.6%.  The nose offers old, sweet, concentrated weighty aromas evocative of old Vallana.  In the mouth the sweet concentration continues with a dried fruit texture, soft but moderate body, watering acidity, and black fruited finish.  This tastes more mature than the vintage implies yet there is still acidity and structure for the near term.  ** Now – 2020.