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An Array of German Wines

December 12, 2018 Leave a comment

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

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

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

Champagne

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

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

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

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

Riesling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red

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

The Post-Brunello Tasting Dinner Wines

November 15, 2018 Leave a comment

No tasting is complete without dinner and even more wine!  As I was dealing with dinner my notes are a bit thin.  I tried the 1990 Produttori di Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, en magnum both during and after the Brunello tasting.  The nose retained bits of roast but the flavors are fresh, balanced, and enjoyable. Strong provenance so who knows!?  The 1979 Francesco Rinaldi, Barolo proved quite solid, surprisingly silky in body with old-school flavors.  Of the brace of pure Meunier Champagne (what a great idea), the 2011 Chartogne-Taillet, Champagne Extra Brut Les Barres is the most earthy and mushroomy bubbly I have tried.  I would have spent more time with it but the NV Christophe Mignon, Pur Meunier, Champagne Brut Rose stole the show.  Certainly my favorite of all the dinner wines and possibly those preceding it.  A great value too.

From the Sotheby’s Don Stott auction, the 1959 Hallgartener Schonhell Riesling Auslese, Rheingau gave a glimpse of the fantastic 1959 vintage.  Aromas of orange-peel and flowers on the nose followed by apple-skin and spice in the mouth.  Elegant and in fine state.  The Mignon is great but the 2002 Domaine des Lambrays, Clos des Lambrays en magnum was my favorite wine for pure drinkability that evening.  A perfect dinner wine!  Many thanks to the guests who shared their wines with dinner.

1990 Produttori di Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, en magnum
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 13%.  Magnum #1996/2000.  The roast on the nose never blows off but a cocoa aroma develops. A bit bipolar between the nose and mouth. Very fresh in the mouth, balanced acidity, fine wood, and very fine texture. Dry tannins in the end. Overall *** Now/Later?

1979 Francesco Rinaldi, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny. A little stinky on the nose. With air fine wood and good pungency develop. Rounder with surprising silky body, there is sweet, old-school fruit in the middle. *** Now but will last.

2011 Chartogne-Taillet, Champagne Extra Brut Les Barres
This wine is 100% Meunier sourced from a parcel planted in 1952.  Disgorged July 2012.  Alcohol 12%.  Quite complex, earthy, mushrooms, like no other Champagne I’ve tasted.  This drinks fully mature.  *** Now.

NV Christophe Mignon, Pur Meunier, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Envoyer Imports.  Alcohol 12%. The berry core is first noticed then the strong bubbles. Immediately complex, very delicious, mixing with herbs, spices, and crisp apple acidity. Excellent flavors of ripe apple persist through the long aftertaste. Surprisingly good. ****(*) Now – 2023.

1959 Hallgartener Schonhell Riesling Auslese, Rheingau
Shipped by Walter S. Siegal.  A golden-amber color. The nose is scented with orange-peel, flowers, and tree fruit. A core of fruit remains in the mouth, apple skin with spices, and rounded body with sweet ripeness. There are hints of baking spice that mix with ripe apples through the long finish. In a perfect state. **** Now.

2002 Domaine des Lambrays, Clos des Lambrays en magnum
Alcohol 13.5%. Round, sweet fruit, some spice, and no hard edges. It is in a lovely state, to be drunk, with good fruit carried by subdued acidity.  ***(*) Now but mags will last.

2007 Biondi-Santi, Rosso di Montalcino
Corked!

2010 Agricola Punica, Barrua, Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardinia
Rounded, modern as well, but the dark fruit sports attractive fat. Oak comes out in the end.  ** Now – 2028.

2009 Caiarossa, IGT Toscana
Dense, modern flavors of concentrated grapeyness, vanilla, and a spicy finish. Not my style of wine. *(*) 2020-2030.

1985 and 1988 Brunello di Montalcino tasting

November 12, 2018 Leave a comment

This past month I hosted a Brunello di Montalcino tasting focused on the great 1985 and 1988 vintages from five producers.  Though these vintages are only three years apart, they are at significantly different stages of life.  The 1988s are generally less evolved on the nose, with a core of fruit in the mouth and significant tannic structure.  The 1985s are more aromatic, mature, and softer in edge.  Such were the qualities of the fruit from the 1988s and the aroma of the 1985s that several guests blended their Ciacci’s to strong success.  I even joined in on the fun and rated my blend a check plus!

As for the unblended wines our pair of Biondi-Santi were outliers.  The 1988 was a bad bottle and the 1985 was uninspiring.  The other eight bottles spanned a range of drinking states and qualities.  The 1988 Livio Sassetti, Pertimali, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva and 1985 Livio Sassetti, Pertimali, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva are my favorites from this evening.  Both vintages bear aromas that I love with the 1985 drinking at a sweet spot.  After several hours the 1985 La Chiesa di Santa Restituta, Brunello di Montalcino began to open up, revealing an inky core of fruit, both elegant and tense.  A determined wine that will continue to develop.  The 1988 La Chiesa di Santa Restituta, Brunello di Montalcino is even less evolved but worth following.  The 1988 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino, Pianrosso is quite good too, showing floral notes on the nose and in the mouth.  The 1985 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino takes on perfume as well.  Though others surely disagree, I found the 1988 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva too young and clean for my liking and the 1985 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino too soft.

At 30+ years of age Brunello di Montalcino can remain clearly structured, tough to drink, and barely evolved in flavor.  Yet our best bottles are expressive, complex, and will drink in such a fine state for many years to come.

Please find my tasting notes below.  All of the wines were double-decanted one hour prior to tasting then followed over several hours.  I must once again thank Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., for opening up his inventory to me.

1988 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino, Pianrosso
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 14%. A finely articulated nose of mixed florals, incense, and wet wood. In the mouth it is finely veined with a core of deep fruit supported by strong and drying tannins. With air the wine remains tight with its floral, fruit vein. **** Now – 2028.

1985 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. Quite aromatic. A softer edge though there is power from the strong and drying tannins. There mature flavors with a soft edge becoming black fruited and perfumed in the nose. ***(*) Now – 2028.

1988 Livio Sassetti, Pertimali, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. Good nose. In the mouth is fine grained flavor, focused around a core of red and black fruit. The profile is a little tart and certainly drying from the tannins. With air remains great focus and balance with complexity from Christmas baking spices and the inky finish. **** Now – 2033.

1985 Livio Sassetti, Pertimali, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. A love nose that is meaty, bloody, wild and evocative of wood box. This remained the most aromatically interesting wine from the first pour to the end of the evening. In the mouth, tart red fruit mixes with citric tannins providing engaging grip. Mature flavors from bottle age, earth, and wood box effectively mix together. “Sauvage” as one guest commented. A lovely wine of medium body which expands in the mouth leaving very fine, drying tannins on the gums in the end. ****(*) Now – 2028.

1988 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. The deeper aromas are closely played but reveal berries and are of more interest than the 1985 sibling. It is a slowly evolving wine with cherry, watering acidity, and a vein of structure. Still young, not yet in mid-age with clean and elegant fruit. *** Now – 2023-2033.

1985 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. Sour, clean fruit with watering acidity, and an incensed finish. There is a rounder start with more body and citric tannins on the sides of the gums. However, the flavors do not have the life giving energy. ** Now.

1988 La Chiesa di Santa Restituta, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. Some roast on the nose, balsamic. A core of sweet fruit develops and a pure, forward note of oregano. Needs time. **(**) 2023-2033.

1985 La Chiesa di Santa Restituta, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. A fine nose develops after a few hours. With maturing fruit, and some sorry cherry this wine continued to evolve over the evening. The acidity creates tension between the inky, fine core of fruit, and supportive component. Red and black fruit mix convincingly, sporting elegant weight as textured tannins are left on the gums. ***(**) 2020-2035.

1988 Il Greppo, Biondi-Santi, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. A bad bottle! Not Rated.

1985 Il Greppo, Biondi-Santi, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Scented on the nose but a bit thin in flavor. Perhaps elegant, I only note tartness and acidity with an eventual leather note.  ** Now.

Wines from a birthday celebration

October 17, 2018 Leave a comment

A small group of us gathered for a birthday celebration where we all contributed bottles around significant years.  While the name and age of the celebrant are withheld the wines we tasted are not!  Many fine wines were tasted both young and old with only a few off bottles.  Please find my notes below.

1996 Deutz, Cuvee William Deutz, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Joshua Tree Imports. Alcohol 12%. A mature color with aromas of apricot and apple orchard. Very fine and firm bubbles from the start. The orchard note follows through in the mouth where there are flavors of tart apple, a hint of lees, and general maturity. It is drier through the middle. What is just a racy bit in the finish develops into an oily body. This bottle is drinking at its peak.  **** Now.

1996 Tattinger, Comte de Champagne, Champagne Brut
Imported by Premier Cru. Alcohol 12%. green, almost bright yellow color. The nose offers fine, ripe aromas of yeast and articulated fruit. Very gentle bubbles carry tart apple with tons of texture on the tongue and a weightier middle. It becomes a bit creamier after the start. **** Now – 2025.

2010 Jean Noel Gagnard, Chassagne Montrachet Blanchot Dessus Premier Cru
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by The Source. Alcohol 13.5%. More gold in color. Aromatic of dark, yellow fruit. Nut oil density from the start with more sweet fruit than the 2010 Jobard. This wine is mature but still has a vein of acidity that carries the weight and oily body. It takes on a hint of lees, certainly stones in the end with an oily aftertaste.  Drink soon.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

2010 Antoine Jobard, Meursault Les Tillets
Imported by Kermit Lynch. Alcohol 13%. Gold and yellow in color. Crisp and closely played with gunflint and almost tart acidity. With air assuredly tart on the tongue, with attractive salinity, and verve from the acidity. Very focused. **** Now – 2023.

1978 Francesco Rinaldi, Barbaresco
Imported by Grape Expectations. Alcohol 13.5%. A nose of umami, Asian sauce, and veggies. Maderised a touch, more advanced than I would expect, with watering acidity, a dry middle, and grip on the tongue.  Not Rated.

1978 Cortese Giacomo, Barbaresco
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. Perfumed. A lovely, sweet nose which remains aromatic. The ripest of the 1978 trio with earthy notes, sweaty middle, and firmer finish. It still possesses structure. There is good presence which persists with air. **** Now – 2023.

1978 Scarpa, Barolo Cascina Roncaglia
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. Fresh, slowly evolving nose with articulated aromas of eucalyptus. More acidity in the mouth with tartness in the gently firm, still structured first half. With air it becomes silky and more ethereal in nature. It is driven by acidity which almost provides verve. ***(*) Now – 2028.

2000 Bruno Giacosa, Falletto, Barbaresco Riserva Asili
Imported by Chelsea Ventures. Alcohol 14%.  A nose of raspberries.  In the mouth freshness with hints of pruned fruit, a roasted element, and very ripe bits.  Still quite primary.  With air it retains fine focused on brambly red fruit and fine, wood notes.  Not offering much, try again in several years.  *** 2023-2033.

1967 Domaine Jean Gros, Richebourg Grand Cru
Shipped by Remoissenet Pere et Fils and imported by Great Lakes Wine Company. Alcohol 13%. A fruity, weighty wine with flavors of orange-citrus and red fruit. An old-school wine of substance and life. It could stand more acidity to lend tension but I would happily drink this all afternoon.  **** Now but will last.

1966 Chateau Haut-Brion, Graves
Shipped by Mestrezat-Preller and imported by Great Lakes Wine Company. 12%. Sadly a bad bottle. Not Rated.

1989 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Kermit Lynch. Ripe aromas of strawberry and briar bramble. Fresh and youthful in the mouth with a certain lifted quality. The ripe fruit lie over a focused core, revealing this bottle is in great shape and has yet to hit mid-life. It remains focused with supple red fruit and develops structure.  **** Now – 2033.

1989 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands. Redder, more focused flavors stay towards tart red in profile. It is a lovely drink, taking on more ripeness and strawberries with air. **** Now – 2028.

2005 Clos Mogador, Priorat
Maturing with blue and mixed fruits on the nose. An impressive wine with a trifecta of fruit ripeness, acidity, and structure all of which is well balanced. It is slowly evolving, still young, but willing to reveal its components. Pastilles eventually come out.  ****(*) Now – 2033.

1988 Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes
Imported by T. Elenteny. Apricots and oranges on the nose. Rounded, sappy, with improving definition as it breathes. There is a ripe and dense core of flavor that is all about the mouth feel. This is a racy and inky wine intertwined with glycerin and spice. ****(*) Now – 2038+.

1989 Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes
Alcohol 13.5%. Slightly lighter in color than the 1988. Good acidity makes this a tense wine, a tough bright with focus and grip. **** Now – 2038 .

2005 Markus Molitor, Riesling Beerenauslese * Zeltinger Himmelreich, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Imported by Schmitt Sohne. Alcohol 7%. Very aromatic. Brighter yellow fruit, eventually pure apricot, with sweetness that almost oversteps the fruit flavor. A slight spritz before the wine becomes dense and seductive with enough acidity to make it zippy. ****(*) Now – 2038+.

Rhone Research – 2016 Chateauneuf du Pape, Part 1

September 21, 2018 Leave a comment


By all accounts, the 2016 vintage is stellar in the Southern Rhone.  It is hype that the group, gathered by Phil Bernstein, of MacArthur Beverages, were no doubt aware of.  Together, we tasted through nine bottles of recently arrived 2016 Chateauneuf du Pape focusing in on some big names and top cuvees.   The reputation bore out in our limited experience.

These bottles of 2016 Chateauneuf du Pape are dense, highly flavorful wines with ample fruit and fresh acidity, that can be subtly or not so subtly intense. In this vein, the vintage character is evident in everything we tasted. At an individual level, some wines will come to sooner, like the Clos de Papes and the regular Domaine de la Janasse. The former was the only bottle finished off but the latter is nearly as good right now and certainly a best buy. In fact, I prefer this cuvee over the Chaupin and Vieilles Vignes! Of course time may prove me wrong.

The Le Vieux Donjon should not be overlooked for cellaring. It sports the lowest alcohol level of the group which lends itself to the floral elegance of the fruit. I particularly liked the Domaine de Marcoux, revealing complex red berries but also like its Vieilles Vignes sibling, it contains the most structure of the lot. The Marcoux wines might take the longest to come around and be the longest to live, but they should reward handsomely. The Vieilles Vignes packs more in yet has levity despite its 16% alcohol level. It is inky, sappy, and best enjoyed in small sips at this youthful age.

The wines were all double-decanted one hour prior to the taste then served blind in paper bags.  Please find my notes below, in the order of the tasting, which includes the two Champagne as well.  I should note, that nothing is marked by *****.  The best wines will develop and improve further, so I had to leave wiggle room for improvement!

NV Veuve Fourny & Fils, Champagne Rose Brut
Imported by Kermit Lynch. Alcohol 12.6%. A pale cooper rose color. Chalk greets with the good mousse. Eventually a yeasty, cola hint then dry from the middle. Good flavor and robust personality. *** Now.

1 – 2016 Clos de Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape – $109
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah aged in old foudre.  Grapey with some Christmas spice on the nose. In the mouth, smooth, beautiful, supple and fresh through the finish. There are hints of heat as the very fine, dry structure comes out. There is good focus to the grapey, bright fruit with a hint of nuts in the end. ****(*) Now – 2033.

2 – 2016 Roger Sabon, Prestige, Chateauneuf du Pape – $75
Imported by European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre, and 5% other varieties.  Alcohol 15%. Fresh on the nose with a greenhouse aspect, more modern. Dense, thick, and savory with a mineral middle. With air the wine remains thick but with cool acidity and attractive fat in the aftertaste. Much better than the Reserve.  **** Now – 2030.

3 – 2016 Roger Sabon, ReserveChateauneuf du Pape – $50
Imported by European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah aged in foudres and vats.  Alcohol 15%. Subtle but a touch more floral. Fresh and redder with watering acidity. It remains a brighter wine that is tightly focused around a finely woven wood vein. With air too much heat for my preference. *** 2021- 3035.

4 – 2016 Domaine de la Janasse, Vieilles VignesChateauneuf du Pape – $109
Imported by European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 75% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre, 8% Syrah, and the rest other permitted varieties.  Alcohol 15%. Raisinated, intense, with heat early on and powerful structure with black stones in the finish. With air the wine remains dense and packed through the stone and mineral finish. Weakest of this flight of three.  It improves with air, but is completely shut down.  ***(**) 2023 – 2038.

5 – 2016 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape – $50
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 15%. Rounded, supple with better balance, and an old-school flavor aspect. There is fat that covers the concentrated red fruit into the beautiful mineral end. With air the wine remains pure in fruit, clean, with powdery texture. Ripe tannins build and expand in the end. This should be in every CdP lovers cellar….a stellar buy. ****(*) Now – 2028.

6 – 2016 Domaine de MarcouxChateauneuf du Pape – $65
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 15.5%. More robust in flavor with red and blue fruit carried by fresh acidity. It becomes brighter in the finish where ripe tannins coat the gums. The most tannic of the trio but it is opening up with air to reveal a good balance of flavor in the form of ripe berries, strawberry, and raspberry. It eventually exposes complexity that persists through the finish. There is even a piñon hint. This should be in your cellar too! ****(*) Now – 2043.

7 – 2016 Domaine de Marcoux, Vieilles VignesChateauneuf du Pape – $159
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 16%. Backwards on the nose. In the mouth, it is dense with good acidity and more structure than the previous wine. The flavors are elegant, grapey purple, perhaps a bit lighter but there is better balance overall. The acidity matches the medium to full weight, maintaining levity. In the end the wine is sappy with inky, cranberry red flavors. For the long-haul. ****(*) Now – 2048.

8 – 2016 Le Vieux DonjonChateauneuf du Pape – $ 60
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 14.5%. Pepper scented on the nose. It is dense, savory, and salty, certainly packing in the flavor. The fruit, though, is floral and finely delineated leading the way to a nearly lifted middle. With air the definite structure is revealed so best drunk after several more years.  A strong showing. ****(*) Now – 2038.


9 – 2016 Domaine de la Janasse, ChaupinChateauneuf du Pape – $75
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is 100% Grenache sourced from vines reaching up to 100+ years of age on sandy soils.  Alcohol 15%. Dense as well but silky with finely grained flavor and texture from the very fine, dry tannins. Red berries and firm minerals…actually very minerally, with a touch of heat in the end. Overall, hot and hard to drink, it never came round. *** 2023 – 2033.

NV Christophe Mignon, Pur Meunier, Champagne Brut Nature
Polaner Selection. This wine is 100% Petit Muenier.  Alcohol 12.5%. A scented nose of orchards and polished wood. A lovely nose. Finely textured bubbles followed by deep flavor of chalk and sour apple. The mousse and flavor mix very well. ***(*) Now – 2023.

Ending the summer with Marsanne, Saint-Joseph

September 5, 2018 Leave a comment

It was a long summer in Maryland this year.  The weather is still hot and humid so despite the start of school, I find it hard to transition out of a vacation mindset.  But I must as I have drunk a number of interesting wines including the 2016 Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne, Saint-Joseph.  The wines of Saint-Joseph remain my go-to choice for the Northern Rhone given their affordability.  Prices are ticking up with the cult Gonon now reaching over $100 per bottle.  From the same village of Mauves, the Marsanne family have been cultivating vines for generations.  This is the first vintage of Marsanne that I have drunk and I know it will not be the last.  It is a dense, savory wine which has a good amount of stuffing but maintains a floral edge for delicacy.  With a few hours of air it drinks very well but I imagine it will unfurl over the next few years.  Take note!  You may find it at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne, Saint-Joseph – $37
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 39 year old vines on granitic soil.  It was fermented in stainless steel vats then aged for 12 months in oak barrels.   Alcohol 13.5%.  Dense and savory with a floral edge to the black, almost bitter, fruit.  There is good presence in this clean, quite weighty wine, which has a bit of structure evident in the aftertaste.  With air the wine becomes sweeter and riper, showing a little fat for luxury, all balanced by supportive acidity.  A touch of cinnamon even pops up.  **** Now – 2028.

A modest López de Heredia tasting

I recently met up with Sudip to taste seven wines from López de Heredia; three Viña Gravonia, three Viña Bosconia, and one Viña Tondonia as a reference.  López de Heredia dates back to the 19th century in Rioja but for our purposes we concentrated on relatively young vintages back to 1998.  I was most curious to see how much vintage variation there is.

Of the trio of 2004, 2002, and 1998 Viña Gravonia I much preferred the oldest vintage.  All of the wines bear oxidized, apple orchard aromas and flavors but the 1998 sports the least being the most vinous.  It has zippy acidity with some ripeness to the flavors.  The 2000 was pungent, evocative of mushrooms and the simplest.  The 2004 is clearly the youngest.  It is crisp with tart lemon and clean flavors.  I found it a bit tight and think it will drink better several years down the road.  Once these wines develop they should hold well for years.  For those who have yet to taste Gravonia it is unique.

All of the red wines were double-decanted.  The 1999 Viña Bosconia quickly became and remained my favorite Bosconia for current drinking, in fact it is still young!  It combines both fruit, damp earth, and bottle age, all delivered with tension.  I expect further cellaring to be beneficial.  The 2000 is muted and mature.  The 2005 is young but already sports some earthy funk like the 1999.  The structure and acidity is there for development, which is certainly will do, but our bottle of 1999 reveals greater potential.

Finally, the 2005 Viña Tondonia shows great potential.  It is savory, young and dense in a way that there is stuffing for decades of aging supported by the structure.  It is drinkable now but remains closely played.  It is worth the extra $5 over the 2005 Viña Bosconia.

2004 López de Heredia, Viña Gravonia, Rioja Blanco
Imported by Think Global Wine Selections. This wine is 100% Viura  Alcohol 12.5%.  The most aromatic with yeasty, apple orchard aromas.  A touch more acidity in the mouth, tart lemon, clean, good body, and wood-like texture.  Crisp.  **(*) Now – 2023 then will last.

2002 López de Heredia, Viña Gravonia, Rioja Blanco
Imported by Think Global Wine Selections. This wine is 100% Viura  Alcohol 12.5%.  A pungent nose of orchard fruit.  A soft entry of mushroom-like flavor, then acidity and apple-orchard in the finish.  The simplest of the trio.  ** Now.

1998 López de Heredia, Viña Gravonia, Rioja Blanco
Imported by USA Wine Imports. This wine is 100% Viura  Alcohol 12%.  A golden honey color.  Good nose.  An oxidized hint though the wine is more vinous with apple-like, zippy acidity.  There is modest body to the ethereal ripe flavors which cover the mouth but leave the middle slightly hollow. There less noticeable acidity in the end.  *** Now but will last.

2005 López de Heredia, Viña Bosconia, Rioja Riserva – $35
Imported by Think Global Wine Selections. This wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 3% Graciano, and 2% Mazuelo.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Good fruit, cherry flavors, and a little earth have grapey density into the tart, cranberry middle. A young natured wine but already some attractive funk is present.  With air a supporting, fine dry structure becomes evident with dry, black and red flavors in the finish.  *** Now – 2028.

2000 López de Heredia, Viña Bosconia, Rioja Riserva
Imported by Polarn Selections. This wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 3% Graciano, and 2% Mazuelo.  Alcohol 13%.  The most muted nose of the four reds with a bit of stink.  A bit more mature in the mouth, red fruit, watering acidity, a touch of ink then sharper in the finish.  With air it is dusty in the mouth with a similar profile but more pronounced sour cherry flavor.  Not the best of the trio.  *(*) Now.

1999 López de Heredia, Viña Bosconia, Rioja Riserva
Imported by USA Wine Imports. This wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 3% Graciano, and 2% Mazuelo.  Alcohol 13%.  Aromatic with attractive damp earth notes.  Fruiter in the mouth, cedar, bottle age flavors, and fine textured tannins add presence.  There is citric tension and grip to add life.  With air there remains a core of flavor which carries through the end with an aftertaste of sour cherries and acidity.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2005 López de Heredia, Viña Tondonia, Rioja Riserva – $40
Imported by Think Global Wine Selections. This wine is a blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 5% Graciano, and 5% Mazuelo.  Alcohol 13%.  Young, fruity, and dense.  With air this savory wine shows body but also has the acidity and structure for it to age.  Strong future potential.  **** Now – 2038.