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A blind tasting featuring wines from Yvon Clerget and Duroche

February 12, 2019 Leave a comment

I was fortunate to be Phil’s guest at the lastest blind tasting he held for the group.  Phil had smoked some chuck for dinner, providing a savory reminder of what was to come after the blind tasting.  First up, we sampled the 2017 Chateau L’Ermitage, Auzan, Costieres de Nimes.  It is a good wine to drink this year and a reminder that I do not drink enough Rhone-style white wines.

I do not drink enough red Burgundy to have even remotely narrowed in on the six blind wines we tasted.  Beyond the particularly tasty bottles, Domaine Yvon Clerget and Domaine Duroche represent wines made by a young generation.  Thibaud Clerget produced his first wines in 2015 and Pierre Duroche took over his father’s estate in 2005. It is quite something then, that the 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Volnay 1er Cru Carelle sous la Chapelle is in the best spot for a wine to drink now or cellar for the future.  It is tasty from the first pour but develops over an evening.  I will admit the ripeness of the 2016 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin Champ had me guessing New Zealand Pinot Noir!  Despite that grave error, this is satisfying being the most fruited, forward wine we tasted.  The 2015 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Champeaux  is another fine wine for drinking now.  There is maturity already reflected in palate with additional complexity from the earth.  It is the most expensive wine of the evening yet also the most attractive.  I found these three wines the most enjoyable that evening.  I guess that the others did as well for these bottles were completely finished.  For those with patience, do not overlook the 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens.  It has an impressive future ahead.

With dinner we drank a bottle of 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja.  While not the most impressive wine, it was consumed quickly and I suspect it would benefit from further decanting.  I typically like Rabaja very much.  The final wine of the night is a library release that was recorked in 2018. At 27 years of age the 1992 Weingut Wegeler, Vintage Collection, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, Mosel is a modest, fully mature wine.  It is quite lively on the tongue which keeps it refreshing.

Starter

2017 Chateau L’Ermitage, Auzan, Costieres de Nimes
Imported by Terrison Wines.  This wine is a blend of 60% Roussanne, 20% Grenache Blanc, and 20% Viognier.  Aromas of flowers and nuts.  Modest in body and light in weight.  Quite floral in flavor with tree fruits, stones, and a very floral finish.  A solid wine to drink once the spring weather arrives.  *** Now – 2021.

Burgundy

1 – 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Volnay – $59
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13.5%.  A young color with a touch of VA on the nose.  The young flavors in the mouth are tart with ripe fruit soon developing.  Some concentration, slightly chewy, young structure, and tart acidity.  Becomes tighter with air.  **(*) Now – 2024.

2 – 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Volnay 1er Cru Carelle sous la Chapelle – $69
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13.5%.  A young color with violet.  A touch more aromatic.  In the mouth are expansive flavors of blue and black fruit supported by fine and drying tannins.  It picks up more weight in the finish.  Clearly more serious than #1.  This remains the easiest drinking of the six blind wines, taking on hints of spice and some lifted, ripeness in the finish. ***(*) Now – 2029.

3 – 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens – $119
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13%.  Tart, young, and dry structured yet clearly possess power for the flavors to develop.   Younger in profile than #2, it has a big future ahead.  Though primary and grapey with a mineral, black fruited finish, the fine almost bitter tannins make it trying to drink at this point.  It is best left in the cellar for several more years.  **(**) 2022-2037.

4 – 2016 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin – $59
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Aromas of sulphur never blow off but there is some grapiness.  In the mouth it tastes like a natural wine with cranberry fruit, crunch acidity, and light finish.  In no way like the other wines so must be off.  Not Rated.

5 – 2016 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin Champ – $69
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  A lovely nose.  Very ripe and sweet fruit with just enough acidity and supportive structured.  Perhaps a hint of heat in the end.  It develops citrus notes.  Structured.  Tart acidity. *** Now – 2024.

6 – 2015 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Champeaux – $129
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Kirsch on the nose.  A hint of maturity in the mouth make this the most drinkable of the Duroche.  A ripe core of fruit, cherries, and a hint of earth make this a beautiful wine. **** Now – 2024.

Dinner Wines

2004 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja
Imported by Vias Imports.  Alcohol 14%.  Starting to mellow, maturing but focused with ripeness and grip to support future life.  Balanced.  Served immediately from a decanter, it was consumed quickly.  ***(*) Now – 2034.

1992 Weingut Wegeler, Vintage Collection, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, Mosel
Imported by Comete Wines.  Alcohol 8%.  A little spritz on the tongue then fully mature flavors are evident.  Dense lemon with modest ripe yellow fruit are fresh but the finish is short.  A slightest hint of tea.  *** Now but will last.

A Pair of 2015 Lionel Faury, Saint-Joseph

February 11, 2019 Leave a comment

The 2015 Lionel Faury, Saint Joseph Rouge and 2015 Lionel Faury, La Gloriette Vieilles Vignes, Saint Joseph exemplify elegant wines made during a ripe vintage.  Both are generally floral, black fruited wines with the ripeness exhibited as a coating of seductive fat.   A deft hand is evident.  What I find crazy is that La Gloriette Vieilles Vignes is only $3 more than the Rouge.  I recommend you load up on as much as you can afford for I would not be surprised it drinks at a higher level in just two or three years.   I found these wines at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Lionel Faury, Saint-Joseph Rouge – $32
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from vines planted between 1979 and 2007.  It was aged 12 months in oak foudres. Alcohol 13%.  Floral with a youthful, Syrah nose.  In the mouth are flavors of pure, black floral fruit propelled by watering acidity.  With air the structure slowly reveals itself along with a hint of fat in the finish.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

2015 Lionel Faury, La Gloriette Vieilles Vignes, Saint-Joseph – $35
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from vines planted between 1949 and 2014.  It was fermented with indigenous yeast in concrete vats then aged for 18 months in large oak casks.  Alcohol 13%.  Floral with black fruit but more so than the regular rouge.  It is initially citric with bright fruit baking spices and quite the mineral finish.  It is an attractive, saline wine with a berry core infused with fat throughout.  It is more floral in flavor and clearly more complex.  The very fine tannins are starting to integrate yet will support development.  I imagine this will hit the next stage in a few years.  **** Now – 2029.

Guillaume Gilles’ Gamay from near Cornas

January 17, 2019 Leave a comment

I seem to be drinking a lot of Gamay lately.  I might be excused since this includes such wines as the 2016 Guillaume Gilles, Combeaux Massardieres.  Gilles may be known for his Syrah from Cornas but he should also be known for his Gamay.  I have been itching to try the 2016 wines of Gilles so I conveniently paired the 2016 Massardieres with the 2015.  The 2015 was quite ripe yet tense from the beginning, which made it immediately accessible.  The 2016 vintage reveals the need for a touch of time in the cellar.  There is still some ripeness and oily nature but it is somewhat closed with more noticeable structure.  I think you should cellar it until the summer.  In the meantime drink the 2015!  Phil imports these at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Guillaume Gilles, Combeaux Massardieres – $27
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Gamay.  Alcohol 14%.  Bright and articulate with aromas of candied roses.  Bright in the mouth as well with a fresh edge from acidity that leads to textured, grapey extract.  Less ripe than the 2015 but more mouthfeel with a mineral, dry end.  With air the ripeness shows focus with oily fruit weight lurking under the structure.  The wine is not quite zippy, perhaps a touch juicy.  I believe it needs six months in the cellar.   ***(*) Now – 2022.

2015 Guillaume Gilles, Les Massardieres – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Gamay.  Alcohol 13%.  Riper flavors with vintage perfume and hints of furniture polish.  It is now better on the second day having cleaned up and developed flavors of black cherries and other dark fruits.  Perhaps not the best analogy but the ripeness of the fruit has a cola-like tension from the acidity as it rolls into a ripe, chalky finish.  It appears to be in mid-age with a good low-note to its flavor.  **** Now – 2020.

A trio of 2017 Julien Sunier Beaujolais

January 16, 2019 1 comment

Back in October I expressed my excitement over the 2017 Julien Sunier, Regnie.  It was not until this snowy weekend that I tasted it in context with two other of Julien Sunier’s wines.  In short, I am even more excited and convinced that you must try this wine.  The balance is fantastic, yielding a crisp wine of unique floral, orange citrus flavors.  There was bad hail damage in Fleurie and Morgon during the summer of 2017 which shows up in the bottle.  The 2017 Julien Sunier, Fleurie is still mineral and tannic but lighter in body with subtle fruit.  The 2017 Julien Sunier, Morgon is fresh but missing the usual depth and verve.  They are good wines all around with Sunier’s hand evident but the Regnie clearly stands out.  Grab a few bottles from Phil at MacArthur Beverages.

2017 Julien Sunier, Fleurie – $32
Imported by Williams Corner Wines. This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from vines planted in the 1960s.  It was fermented in concrete vats with indigenous yeast then aged for 9 months in used Burgundy barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%. Bright red flavors greet but the wine is actually quite mineral.  It is lighter in body with watering acidity.  There are both ripe tannin texture and ripe baking spices in the finish.  This is a light to medium bodied wine with ripeness that is definitely subtle compared to the overall dry finish.  Could use a bit of time. *** 2020-2026.

2017 Julien Sunier, Morgon – $32
Imported by Williams Corner Wines. This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from vines planted in the 1960s.  It was fermented in concrete vats with indigenous yeast then aged for 9 months in used Burgundy barrels.   Alcohol 13%.  A grapey, purple cranberry color.  Scented ripe and bright, red berries on the nose.  In the mouth, fresh and cool red flavors immediately mix with fine to medium textured tannins.  There is watering acidity throughout with a lightly inky finish.  This has the most fruit of the three.  *** Now – 2023.

2017 Julien Sunier, Regnie – $32
Imported by Williams Corner Wines. This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from vines averaging 60 years of age. The fruit was fermented with indigenous yeast in concrete vats then aged 9 months in neutral French barrels. Alcohol 13.5 %.    Medium fruit weight exists with crisp acidity and floral orange citrus fruit.  Lovely from the first pour.  With air, the fruit rounds out bringing on more florals, violets, and incense through the long, complex finish.  Minimal structure.  Cracking acidity.  **** Now – 2026.

A fistful of Grenache – 2016 Domaine Gramenon, Poignee de Raisins

A long-time favorite, the latest vintage of 2016 Domaine Gramenon, Poignee de Raisins, Cotes du Rhone is a wine to grab for sheer enjoyment.  It is not a Cotes du Rhone for aging, rather one full of grapey flavor and depth best enjoyed now.  I find that the juicy personality is a match for the textured mouth feel.  It is available on the shelves at MacArthur Beverages.  Grab a few bottles and pull a cork as soon as you get home.

2016 Domaine Gramenon, Poignee de Raisins, Cotes du Rhone – ~$22
Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. This wine is 100% Grenache sourced from young vines.  It was fermented in concrete then aged 12 months in used barriques.  Alcohol 13.5%. Round and grapey with extract textured fruit. There are flavors of strawberry but soon blue fruit and baking spices come out. This is a juicy wine with a bright tilt. There is presence in spades. The savory vein of fruit is youthful and the structure leaves ripe tannins on the gums. The long aftertaste is of ethereal ripe fruit and minerals. **** Now – 2020.

Five Bottles of Beaujolais: Chignard, Dutraive, and Pignard

It was Lou who first mentioned the wines of Jean-Louis Dutraive.  As soon as the bottles arrived in DC we planned to taste them along with a few other bottles. The 2017 Jean-Louis Dutraive, Le Pied de la Rue, Fleurie is excellent.  A unique nose followed by electric flavors of delicate fruit and minerals.  It is unique in my limited experience with Beaujolais.  Sadly, two bottles of 2017 Jean-Louis Dutraive, Carolon, Fleurie proved to be yeasty, undrinkable messes.  So avoid the Carolon but do buy Le Pied de la Rue.  There is a bit of a delicacy which makes me think it is best drunk within a few years.

The 2014 Roland Pignard, Cuvee Tradition, Morgon is my second favorite wine of our evening.  It is a balanced, elegant wine of beauty.  It even takes on a vintage perfume note that makes it stand apart.  The 2014 Roland Pignard, Regnie is bright and a touch herbaceous, evocative of a cooler site.  It is solid but I prefer a bit more fruit material in my wine.  We finished with a bottle of 2013 Domaine Chignard, Julienas Beauvernay that had been opened three days prior.  It still tasted of firm, dense black fruit with some wood.  I imagine this wine will easily reach ten years of age at which point it might open up.

In the end, our five bottles spanned a range of qualities but I am happy.  I now know to look out for more wines from Dutraive and Pignard.

2017 Jean-Louis Dutraive, Le Pied de la Rue, Fleurie – $40
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 40-70 year old vines, fermented in concrete then aged seven months in neutral oak barrels. Alcohol 12.5%. Aromatic. Bright acidity, almost electric, with fine grained yet ripe structure on the gums supports mineral flavors that are almost blue and black in fruit. Beautiful, delicate fruit flavors from pure berries. With air the beauty remains but the berry notes take on density. The finish is lifted with just a touch of yeast followed by a long aftertaste. **** Now – 2021.

2017 Jean-Louis Dutraive, Carolon, Fleurie – $35
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 12.5%. A cloudy, pale cranberry color. At first ,spritz on the tongue with articulate flavors of berries and some roundness in the mouth. But within two hours an undrinkable yeasty, mess. A second bottle was clear in the glass but soon tasted of popcorn and Pilsner. Not Rated.

2014 Roland Pignard, Cuvee Tradition, Morgon
Imported by Fruit of the Vine. This wine is 100% Gamay that was aged in oak for one year. Alcohol 12.5%. Deeper fruit and olive aromas. In the mouth is a good balance between the fruit, structure, and acidity such that is comes across as an elegant, well-balanced wine. There is a beauty that I prefer over the Regnie. With air, vintage perfume develops on the nose. In the mouth it becomes chiseled with grapey flavor and some ripeness in the finish. ***(*) Now – 2024.

2014 Roland Pignard, Regnie
Imported by Fruit of the Vine. This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 60 year old vines.  Alcohol 12%. The brighter red fruit aromas are more herbaceous and a touch dusty. In the mouth this is a bright wine, almost tart, with juicy acidity and fine pithe tannins in the finish. It tastes of cooler site. Attractive in a way but should be drunk soon. *** Now.

2013 Domaine Chignard, Julienas Beauvernay – $18
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 60 year old vines which was fermented in stainless steel then raised for 13 months in old oak foudres.  Alcohol 12.5%. Firm in the mouth with focused black fruit and touch of juicy acidity. It comes across as a young wine, still structured, and does not offer up much until three days after opening. There is some dense, ripe fruit in there, and a firm wood note. I do not see it improving in flavor but imagine it will live a long time. **(*) 2021 – 2029.

“There is no such thing as Round Hill”: 1974 Round Hill, 1970 LMHB, and 1978 Mastantuono

January 4, 2019 2 comments


Sickness and scheduling issues meant I was never able to host any tastings this holiday break. I did manage to meet up at Lou’s house for an impromptu tasting of mature wine.  I was given several bottles of 1970 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves from that odd DC cellar years back.  With ratty labels (the 1970 is still visible though) and good fill, the cork came out in good shape.  Just a brief bit of bottle stink soon blew off to reveal deep aromas.  It is deep flavored as well, yet also lifted, quickly showing fully mature flavors.  Equally good, the 1974 Round Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley lived up to my hopes.

It is due to these two wines that I stayed at Lou’s for nearly five hours as we finished off both bottles.  Two years ago I mentioned Round Hill in the context of some old Ernie’s bottles I had opened.  Ernie Van Asperen ran a chain of more than 80 liquor stores in California.  He also operated a negocient business, purchasing up extra wine from wineries who bottled it for him under the Round Hill and Ernie’s labels.  Round Hill wines could be highly regarded and won medals at the Los Angeles County Fair.  Frank J. Prial, a judge at the fair, wrote in The New York Times that he found this “amusing because there is no Round Hill.”

As for what was in our bottle we do have some clues.  In 1980, the Underground Wine Journal wrote that the 1974 Ernie’s “Special Selection” Cabernet came from old Souverain stocks that were sold off in the 1970s.  In 1974, Souverain was sold by J. Leland Steward to a group of investors.  They in turn sold Souverain to Pillsbury Co. under which the new winery was constructed in Alexander Valley.  It was not a profitable deal, for Pillsbury sold off the Souverain winery and its assets in 1976.  Round Hill was founded in 1977.  That same year Frank J. Prial noted that wine from Sonoma Vineyard and Souverain were bottled under the Round Hill label.

There is a strong chance, then, that the 1974 Round Hill is actually Souverain.  Whatever it is, Ernie knew what he was doing for it is an excellent wine at the height of maturity.

I do love a good surprise and the 1978 Mastantuono, Zinfandel, Dusi Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County represents just that.  I refrained from any prior research so was quite impressed with the savory and saline profile of this full-bodied, red fruited wine.  Founded in 1976, Mastantuono is the fifth oldest winery in Paso Robles.  The Dusi Vineyard was planted in 1923 so even at the time, the Mastantuono was made from old vines.  The 1978 vintage was a hot year producing “intensely flavored” Zinfandel according to Robert Parker Jr. in The Washington Post during 1981.  This bottle is intense yet savory, lending interest as it reflects both the vintage and vineyard.  It lasted about two hours in a decanter before it started to fade.

The wines that evening were a treat!

1970 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves
Deep flavored with ripe hints and goof lift.  Additional notes of low-lying leather and minerals adds complexity.  The watering acidity weaves through the palate as the wine grips the sides of the gums, turning redder in flavor.  With air it offers up deep flavors of cranberries and other bright fruit.  **** Now but will last

1974 Round Hill Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  A deep, black cherry color offers more pigment than the LMHB.  Immediately striking as medium-bodied with good fruit weight and rounded nature.  This wine is rich in flavor with no hard edges due to fully integrated structure.  It is dense and gravelly with minerals and grip by the middle.  It took half an hour to open up in the decanter, eventually offering big mouth feel and flavor for hours.  A touch of structure comes out in the end. **** Now but will last.

1978 Mastantuono, Zinfandel, Dusi Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County
Alcohol 12.5%. A fresh nose with an herbaceous hint.  A savory, salty start soon yields bright red fruit that is deep in flavor.  This is a medium to full-bodied wine with quite the weight to the fruit.  Flavors of candied berry and old leather mix with good watering acidity, actually zippy acidity.  A very solid wine.  The savory personality makes it stand out.  *** Now but will last.