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The First Release: 1974 Sonoma Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander’s Crown

July 25, 2019 2 comments

When Rodney Strong created Sonoma Vineyards in the 1960s, he already had years worth of experience at multiple wineries.  In fact, Sonoma Vineyards represents the rebirth of his successful Windsor Vineyards.  Based on his winemaking experiences Strong built a new, practically designed winery in which he installed the latest winemaking equipment including temperature controlled stainless steel tanks made by his own company.

The Sonoma Vineyards name was inspired by Strong’s increasing acquisition of vineyards throughout Sonoma County.  Strong believed, based on European ideas, that each vineyard should be planted with the grape variety best suited for it.  Two of his vineyards were of particular high quality, Chalk Hill for Chardonnay and Alexander’s Crown for Cabernet Sauvignon.  As a result of his terroir driven interests, Strong began his vineyard designated series with Chalk Hill in the 1960s.  This was followed by the Alexander’s Crown Cabernet Sauvignon series in the 1970s.  In fact, the 1974 Sonoma Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander’s Crown, Sonoma County represents the first release of this series.

By releasing the 1974 Alexander’s Crown, Strong created the first single-vineyard wine from Alexander Valley.  The AVA was to follow some 10 years later.  For this vineyard, Strong had purchased 180 acres of which 61 acres was planted in 1971.  He felt the red, iron oxide soil produced big, forward Cabernet wines.

This bottle of 1974 Sonoma Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander’s Crown, Sonoma County had fill in the neck with a beautiful, well-seated cork for its age.  One quick sniff and taste confirmed it was in fine condition.  It is a deep flavored wine with a fine mineral note.  It is generously fruity, berrylicious in fact, with all structure resolved as it is in the last stage of its fully mature plateau.  It is a lovely surprise to discover this wine.

The background information in this post comes from Carole Hicke’s 1993 interview of Rodney Strong which you may find here.

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1974 Sonoma Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander’s Crown, Sonoma County
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in 60 and 120 gallon French oak barrels.  Alcohol 13.7%.  Immediately deep in flavor with minerals and earth evident, followed by full flavored, cherry core.  There is good complexity from the first pour.  With air the flavors become bluer and more minerals come out.  If I find fault it is with the finish that is a touch soft but this is likely due to it being near the end of its fully mature plateau.  It remains berrylicious and satisfying to the last drop.  **** Now but will last.

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Three Wild Wines from Anne & Jean-Francois Ganevat

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John recently brought in a selection of wines from Anne & Jean-Francois Ganevat.  I picked up three of the red wines which I have opened up over the past week.  These wines are made without any sulphur using grapes from Beaujolais and Jura. The 2016 Anne & Jean-Francois Ganevat, Les Fanfans s’amusement, VdF Rouge is pure Muscat rouge which is the greatest outlier of the group being of cloudy color and grapefruit aroma.  It is clearly not for everyone but the flavors have a lovely earthy note and sense of ripeness.  While it does not fall apart into the Pilsner/popcorn spectrum, it is best drunk up on the first day.  The 2017 Anne & Jean-Francois Ganevat, Y’a bon the Canon, VdF Rouge mixes Gamay with a slew of indigenous Jura varieties.  There is some brett which contributes earth and matches the potpourri flavors with dry tannins.  It is also lively in the mouth and largely stable.  It too will not be for everyone.  My strongest recommendation goes out to the 2015 Anne & Jean-Francois Ganevat, Cuvee Madelan Nature, VdF Rouge.  This is the most stable of the three wines, deep in flavor with attractive animale qualities.  I find it compelling to drink.  This is a must-try for those with interest in the Jura.  You may find these wines on the shelves at MacArthur Beverages.

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2016 Anne & Jean-Francois Ganevat, Les Fanfans s’amusement, VdF Rouge – $24
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is pure Muscat rouge.  Alcohol 13%.  Cloudy with a pale, garnet-rose color.  Smells like a lambic beer with grapefruit and berry aromas.  Lively acidity first greets the tongue with a slight prickle followed by high-toned fruit and a mineral middle.  There is ethereal ripeness and a lovely, earthy note before the Big Red spiced finish.  Of moderate weight, there is an acidity sharp finish, and long aftertaste.  **(*) Now.

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2017 Anne & Jean-Francois Ganevat, Y’a bon the Canon, VdF Rouge – $29
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of Gamay from Beaujolais with old Jura varieties such as Petit Béclan, Gros Béclan, Geusche, Argant, Peurion, Portugais Bleu, Isabelle, and Enfarine. Alcohol 13%.  A tickle on the tongue, some brett for earthy, and drying, astringent tannins.  With air potpourri flavors develop, surrounded by some fat, citric acidity, and grip in the end.  *** Now.

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2015 Anne & Jean-Francois Ganevat, Cuvee Madelan Nature, VdF Rouge – $33
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of mostly Gamay from Morgon and Brouilly with Enfarine from Jura.  Alcohol 13%.  A cranberry red color.  Some earth and wood mix with dry, red fruit, and leather.  This remains the most stable of the wines, developing an animale note.  The lively flavors are somewhat tingling from acidity with red fruit leaning towards deeper, supportive black fruit flavors.  The middle brings dry, citric pithe tannins and an earthy note.  This is a fresh wine with good depth and chalky ripeness.  Compelling.  **** Now – 2022.

A bargain in mature Pinot: 2015 Hippolyte Reverdy, Sancerre rouge

I went through three bottles of 2015 Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy, Sancerre rouge before  I took a note because I simply wanted to drink the wine.  With air, it shows a compelling mixture of deeper red fruit, mature flavors, and stones.  This is my first time drinking the Hippolyte Reverdy’s Sancerre rouge so I was delighted to find this Pinot Noir with such personality at this price.  It is a must-try wine which you can find on the shelves at MacArthur Beverages.

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2015 Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy, Sancerre rouge – $23
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir aged for over a year in oak barrels.  Alcohol 11%-14%.  A bloody then beautiful nose full of floral aromas.  There are deeper flavors of red fruit with both good ripeness and weight.  The wine is taking on bottle age flavors which complement the mineral, gravelly nature.  Fresh acidity carries the flavors through the long finish of complex bitters and even more minerals. It is of substance but I would drink it within several years. **** Now – 2024.

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A Pungoed Pair of Wines: Pesquera and Muga

One recent Friday, my friend with the Pungo invited me over for an impromptu tasting.  While we started with Madeira, it was the pair of red Tempranillo wines that he Pungoed.  Up first, the 2001 Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez, Tinto Pesquera, Ribera del Duero is drinking at a very broad, maturing phase.  From the very first dispensation, it is attractively aromatic with an irresistible blend of fruit, wood box, and minerals in the mouth.  I really like this wine as it reflects the intensity of Ribera Del Duero and it has bottle age!  While only three years younger, the 2004 Bodegas Muga, Rioja Reserva comes across as if from this decade.  It is still grapey and a bit linear in presentation so I would try again in three years.  Many thanks to my friend.

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2001 Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez, Tinto Pesquera, Ribera del Duero
Imported by Classical Wines from Spain.  This wine is 100% Tempranillo aged for 18 months in 100% new American oak.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A good, dark color in the glass.  A beautiful nose.  In the mouth the wine is maturing yet invigorating.  Dry flavors of red fruit mix with wood box notes and minerals.  It is an intense wine, dry with fresh acidity, and glycerin-like body.  **** Now – 2029.

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2004 Bodegas Muga, Rioja Reserva
This wine is a blend of mostly Tempranillo with Mazuelo and Graciano that was fermented in oak vats then aged for 24 months in oak.  Alcohol 12%.  Grapey, much less evolved with some earthy minerals and crisp acidity.  *** 2022 – 2029.

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.

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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.

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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.

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The 2018 Enclos, Tourmaline

After the Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba tasting we were privileged to try an interesting sample from Bordeaux.  I’ll admit it was quite a pivot from mature Barbera but sometimes you must forge on.

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The 2018 Enclos, Tourmaline, Pomerol is a tiny cuvee of some 275 cases produced only in the best vintages from the smallest appellation in Bordeaux. The wine is made entirely of Merlot sourced from vines averaging 25 years of age located on four tiny parcels which total 1 hectare. One plot is next to Clinet, one next to La Fleur Petrus, one between Le Pin and Trotanoy, and one next to Rouget. The fruit is fermented in 100% new oak then will be aged for an expected 20 months.  This is full-bore, mineral Merlot which I found hard to believe it is a sample!  It would be interesting to taste it again with other young Bordeaux to better put it in perspective.

2018 Enclos, Tourmaline, Pomerol echantillon
This wine is 100% Merlot which was whole berry fermented in 100% new oak. Alcohol 14.7%. This is serious, youthfully packed Merlot. It is young and big yet there is balance all around. Of moderate weight and fresh acidity it grips the gums.  The tannins are very fine, fully integrated, and one harmonious part.  Darker red and black fruits, very mineral, and almost plush in nature.  **** from 2020.

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.

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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.

A pair of Tablas Creek

Andy pointed out the 2017 Tablas Creek, Marsanne, Paso Robles because this is the first time the store has carried this wine and he thought it is quite good.  I agree!  Whenever my friends taste white Rhone wines, they always comment on how they should be drunk more frequently.  While not from the Rhone, this bottle of Tablas Creek should be on your list of wines to try.  It is exotic and complex on the nose with rounded and dense flavors that persist through the long finish.

White wine is always followed by red in my house so I accompanied the Marsanne with the 2007 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel, Paso Robles.  I found this a treat as well, for there are earthy, savory flavors delivered with verve.  It is just coming into mid-life so give it a good decant if you try it out this year.  You may find the Marsanne along with other bottlings at MacArthur Beverages.

2017 Tablas Creek, Marsanne, Paso Robles – $36
This wine is 100% Marsanne.  Alcohol 12.2%. An attractive golden color. The nose is floral and complex with stone fruits, lemon, and pineapple. The flavors are of focused white nuts, rounded with body. The stone fruits last through the long finish where dense, chalky flavors come out. This is a pure, fresh wine with excitement from the acidity. **** Now – 2024.

2007 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel, Paso Robles
This wine is a blend of 44% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 21% Syrah, and 6% Counoise.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Almost crisp with a touch of earth from the Mourvedre. Blue and mineral in the middle with some leather. It still has structure and is just entering mid-life. The cola-like verve matches the articulate and textured fruit. Satisfyingly savory. **** Now – 2029.

A tasting of Château Léoville Poyferré 2015-1990

February 25, 2019 Leave a comment

On January 18, 2019, Panos Kakaviatos (https://wine-chronicles.com/) gathered together a group of DC wine lovers for one of his biannual Bordeaux dinners. This was one was at Le Petit Bouchon Restaurant in the French Embassy and featured the wines of Léoville Poyferré.

As in the past he invited a guest from the Chateaux and had a vertical representation of multiple vintages. Also, as always, Panos was a wonderful host who obviously took great care in the menu and the wines to make sure everything showed at its best, and that the guests all had a great time. From the Chateau was Sara Lecompte-Cuvelier, who provided great commentary on the wines and was a charming ambassador for the estate.

The wines were served in five flights preceded by a variety of Champagne. For me the highlights were a 2002 Piper Heidsieck Rare and a 2002 Dom Perignon. Both were in a great place with bracing acidity, citrus fruit and a rich body. I give the edge to the Dom.

My general impressions of the wines were very positive, with a few very great ones. They all showed a nice structure that was never over the top. They were balanced and fresh, even in the riper vintages.

First Flight: 2014, 2012, 2010. Paired with Snails Croque Monsieur.

My favorite dish of the night and a smart pairing for these vintages.

2014 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
I liked this a lot and still think that 2014 Bordeaux overall may be the vintage to buy, given the balance of quality and price. This wine was very deep and rich, with cassis, cedar and a drying finish. Maybe a little austere in the middle. ***(*)

2012 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
My least favorite of the flight. Less polished, a little musty and earthy in the middle with some heat at the end. I do like the concentration and acidity. **(*)

2010 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
This is a very great wine. Very concentrated. Cassis, graphite, a spicy herbal note all balanced by some mineral and balanced acidity. Medium tannins and great structure. A terrific future. ****(*)

Second Flight: 2011, 2008, 2002. Paired with a lobster “purse” in a carrot ginger sauce.

While this was an unusual choice, I actually think it worked well.

2011 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
This reminded me of the 14 but a notch below in quality. Still very good. Tasting very young with hard tannin but great fruit and structure. I think it needs some time to come together a bit more. ***

2008 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
An expressive wine with hints of dried berry, lavender and mint on the nose. The fruit is there but more contained. I like it very much and can see this coming around sooner than some of the other wines. ***(*)

2002 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
The weakest of the flight. Leaner, with some green notes. Actually may be drinking at its peak now. Shows way better with the food. ** to *** ?

Third Flight: 2001, 2000, 1990. Lamb loin.

All these wines showed very well with the 1990 my favorite of the night.

2001 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Some green herbaceousness, dill, some earth. Classically styled. ***

2000 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
A great nose with balanced notes of fruit, herbs and cassis. A long life ahead. ****

1990 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Very fresh nose. Bright, rich. Creamy, silky fruit in the mouth. Perfect acidity and concentration.****(*)

Fourth Flight: 1989, 1985, 1982. Cheeses.

2006 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
A sharp, somewhat shrill nose is a deceptive start to what is actually a balanced wine. It likely just needs a bit of time to smooth the coarseness and fully integrate. ***

2005 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
A huge wine showing as very locked in at present. It is very rich and concentrated, very complex but desperately in need of time to show its best. ***(*)

2004 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Showing better than I expected, this is a concentrated wine with strong notes of cedar and cassis. A pleasant surprise. ***

Fifth Flight: 2003, 2009, 2015. Chocolate Dessert.

An ok pairing. I remain skeptical about big red wines and chocolate.

2003 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Very fond of this tonight. Not showing as roasted or overripe, except some coffee notes. Actually some green, minty notes present. Very fresh and complex. Another surprise. ****

2009 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Still fairly primary. Black fruits, some wood and earth but smooth tannins. Needs lots of time. Impressive wine. ****(*)

2015 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
The greatest potential of all the wines tonight but now very primary with only the hints of what this will be. Very concentered blue fruits, vanilla, smoke and liqueur. I really like this. Is it better than the 1990? I’m not sure but can’t wait to see how it is after another couple of decades. The 2010 will certainly give it a run for its money. ****(*)

Thanks Panos for including me in a great event!

A wine dinner with aged Chardonnay, Sonoma County oldies, and decades old Spanna

February 24, 2019 1 comment

A mixed group of wine drinkers and wine lovers recently met up at the house for a wine dinner.  We drank the sparkling and white wines while introductions were made and dinner was prepared.  It is with dinner that we tucked into three flights of red wine.  If the first flight of reds was a mixed bag the final two flights, featuring a pair of 1970s Sonoma County reds and a pair of 1960s Italian Spanna were my stars of the night.  Please find my notes below.

Sparkling

NV Ruinart, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Moet Hennessy USA. Alcohol 12.5%.  A copper rose color.  A strong wine with fine, firm bubbles, red fruits, and a biscuit flavor.  Robust in a way.  *** Now – 2024.

2014 Dirty & Rowdy, Sparkling White Wine, El Dorado County
Alcohol 12.4%.  Sweet, floral tree fruits with bubbles.  Solid but not my favorite. ** Now but will last.

White Wines

The white wines were of more interest.  On their own the 2009 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Drake Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley and 2008 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Hawk Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley are quite different.  The 2009 is the bigger, rounder yet also a softer wine.  The 2008 is mature in flavor yet young in delivery.  If you could merge the two of them the results might be quite good.  The 2002 Maison Louis Latour, Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot was the first bottle of white finished.  The nose is its strength yet while the flavors do not quite match, the balance and youthful delivery are admirable.  This wine should develop slowly for some years to come.  Almost everyone was drawn to this wine.

2009 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Drake Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.4%.  Verging on full-bodied, certainly rounded, with good mouth feel.  Youthful flavor but leaves an impression of softness due to the lower acidity.  *** Now.

2008 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Hawk Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.9%.  Mature in flavor but young in delivery.  Nearly crisp acidity, bright.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

2002 Maison Louis Latour, Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot
Imported by Louis Latour Inc.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A lovely nose which is not quite matched by the flavor.  Balanced all around, this is surprisingly young in profile and remains that way throughout the evening.  Is it evolving at a glacial pace?  **** Now – 2029.

A Variety of Reds

This first flight of red wines was a bit of a mixed bag.  The 1996 Faiveley, Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale seems like it is locked down but of solid material.  The nose of the 1997 Ridge, Zinfandel, York Creek was sadly reminiscent of dust.  Though better in the mouth, I was too distracted.  The magnum of 1998 Domaine Paul Autard, Chateauneuf du Pape should have been drunk promptly after double-decanting.  At that point it is a solid, mature Rhone red but after a few hours it is too bloody.

1996 Faiveley, Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale
Imported by Wilson Daniels LTD.  Alcohol 12%.  Bright red fruit, slightly spiced then black fruit flavors in the finely textured finish.  Firm flavor with a spine of acidity and taut structure.  It has yet to open up but will be greatly improved if it does.  *** Now – 2029.

1997 Ridge, Zinfandel, York Creek
Alcohol 15%. An herbaceous nose mixes with dust.  In the mouth the cherry flavors are rounded with controlled ripeness.  There is a hint of Kirsch.  The fruit is balanced by the acidity and the structure is resolving.  The nose never cleans up with the dustiness becoming more dirty. An off bottle.  Not Rated.

1998 Domaine Paul Autard, Chateauneuf du Pape en magnum
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 15%.  A modest, mature mix of blue and red fruits, garrigue, and spice.  But after an hour or so it picks up hints of blood and iron until it becomes evocative of liquid meat.  A solid wine if drunk upon opening when it is ripe and big bodied.  At best a ** Now.

Sonoma County Oldies

My first experience with the 1977 Ernie’s, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Select, Zellerbach Vineyard, Sonoma County was with a regular bottle. It was a bit dirty but underneath lurked some interesting material.  This magnum improved over several hours, until there was no more left, and captured the attention of more than a few people.  I have had good luck with Ernie’s lately.  This magnum and the 1974 Round Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon highlight the quality of wine he purchased.  The 1978 Louis J. Foppiano, Zinfandel, Sonoma County is infinitely better than the bottle of 1974 that I tried several weeks back.    It delivers ample flavor from the very first glass.  It does not have the complexity of the Ernie’s but it is more hedonistic.  On the following evening, the remains were nearly as pleasurable.

1977 Ernie’s, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Select, Zellerbach Vineyard, Sonoma County en magnum
Alcohol 13%.  Aromatic with eucalyptus and bright fruit but then it turns deeper and a touch darker.  In the mouth is good body with cool flavored fruit, a spine of acidity and a finish of leather.  This is a good, clean, fresh example that after several hours reveals its complexity.  Notes of fat and oily whole nuts add to the attractiveness.  **** Now – 2029+.

1978 Louis J. Foppiano, Zinfandel, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12.5%.  Some animale notes mix with cherry-berry aromas.  Beautiful berry fruit greets and with that ripe fruit comes a hint of raisin.  However, this zippy wine is in great shape, effortlessly delivering waves of flavor.  With air it develops baking spices and comforting notes of sweaty, old leather evocative of old Californian wines. Pure pleasure.  ***(*)  Now – 2024.

Old Spanna

Surely one of the coolest labels I have seem in some time is on the 1967 Cantina Cooperative Villa Bianzone, Valtellina. The graphic drawing of Dionysus with hair of vines with leaves and beard of grapes is reason alone to purchase the wine.  There is little background information on this cooperative in the Wasserman’s book.  Despite other negative reviews of the 1967 they felt it is a “very fine vintage”. For being a basic Valtellina DOC wine it is actually quite good.  Moving west of Valtellina to the Novara-Vercelli Hills, the 1964 A. Brugo, Romagnano Riserva stems east of Gattinara.  According to the detailed Wasserman’s, this is a blend of Bonarda, Croatina, Spanna, and Vespolina, the later of which is sourced from Ghemme.  This is quite good as well.  I found my preference oscillating between the two wines as the developed in my glasses.  In the end, I would say the Bianzone has the more complex nose with brighter, controlled flavors.  The Brugo delivers that sweaty, old-school character with more grip.  I was happy to have separate glasses of each!

1967 Cantina Cooperativa Villa Bianzone, Valtellina
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Aromas of dried, old leather with balsamic notes make for a complex nose.  It is a cool nose that reminds me of the inside of the Air & Space Museum in DC.  In the mouth are very bright flavors with an earthy/leather note that cuts through.  Beautiful in the mouth. ***(*) Now but will last.

1964 A. Brugo, Romagnano Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Deep and slightly sweaty red fruits on the nose…smells old-school.  In the mouth are sweaty flavors of red, grippy fruit and bright acidity.  In great condition with watering acidity carrying through to the still-structured finish.  ***(*) Now but will last.