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A Northern Rhone Tasting with Mosel too

Several months ago we gathered on my back deck to taste through some Northern Rhone wines.  The focus was to be on Cornas and Côte-Rôtie but these wines were soon joined by Champagne (required of course), Hermitage, Mosel, and Paarl. The killer 1998 Dom Perignon, P2 Champagne Brut with its equally impressive gift box was the best wine of the night.  It is drinking spot-on but as it is a different beast, it did not distract from the red wines.

From Cornas, my favorites include the brambly and strong 2007 Thierry Allemand, Cornas Reynard.  Nearly as good, yet quite different, is the animale, crisp 2001 Dumien-Serrette, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, Cornas Patou.  Graphite and vintage perfume add complexity at a reasonable price.

From Côte-Rôtie, my favorite is the 1998 Gilles Barge, Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune.  Floral on the nose, this is an elegant wine with plenty of minerals and violets.  It also yields fat for weight. I kept returning to my glass for another sniff. Of the slew of 1998s, the 1998 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie proved to be mostly reticent but did improve with extended air.  It is meatier and smokier than the Barge.  The pair of 2007s proved excellent too.  The cleaner 2007 Guigal, Côte-Rôtie La Mouline had my preference tilted towards it for the floral, lifted flavors over the deep base.  There is a lot of material here.  Whereas, the 2007 Bernard Levet, Côte-Rôtie La Chavaroche is substantial, yet balanced, with a wild flavor personality.  What a fantastic range of styles from one small region.

We wrapped up the evening with a trio of excellent Mosel Rieslings and a dessert wine from Paarl.  I only took small tastes of these wines so my notes are short.  The two that stand out are the clean and vibrant 2006 Hofgut Falkenstein, Krettnacher Euchariusberg, Riesling Auslese, Mosel with the lovely 2001 Joh. Jos. Prüm, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, Mosel.  Many thanks for everyone’s contributions.

Champagne

1998 Dom Perignon, P2 Champagne Brut
Alcohol 12.5%.  Fine bubbles explode, leaving a lovely texture backed by flavors of ripe spices.  The acidity cuts through the end, supporting wood box hints and the creamy, mousse finish. ****(*) Now

Hermitage

1997 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage Blanc le Chevalier de Sterimberg
Golden amber color.  An interesting nose, honied flavors but past prime.  Not Rated.

1997 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage La Chapelle
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons.  Alcohol 13.4%.  Roast earth with fine wood scents.  Light in the mouth with watering acidity, polished wood, and effortless delivery of cherry flavor.  The wine takes on body, which is seductive, but the flavors are rather mature.  *** Now.

1983 E. Guigal, Hermitage
Imported by Classic Wine Imports.  Dead. Not Rated.

Cornas

2007 Thierry Allemand, Cornas Reynard
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  A brambly nose with interesting aromas including violets.  A sensation of weight greets in this young wine with youthful intensity and hints of yeast.  There is concentration, ripe tannins, and fruit extract with both acidity and tannins in the dry finish and aftertaste.  With air a sage, green herb component develops.  Strength.  **** Now – 2028.

2007 Thierry Allemand, Cornas Chaillot
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Pure in fruit with finely scents aromas of pepper and sweet baking spices.  Grapey fruit in the mouth, black pepper, and tons of texture.  With air it takes on a yeasty Pilsner quality that destroys everything.  Not Rated.

2001 Dumien-Serrette, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, Cornas Patou
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Young with plenty of mouth feel from its citric grip and tannins.  There is graphite and an animale hint in this crisp wine with drier flavors and good presence in the mouth.  It has a lovely vintage perfume aspect that adds complexity to the good flavor.  ***(*) Now – 2033.

Côte-Rôtie

1998 Gilles Barge, Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12.5%. The floral, perfumed nose smells great.  In the mouth are focused flavors that build minerality and becoming impressive at the end with good length.  With air elegant hints of fat lend weight and balance the wine.  By the middle, tannins and acidity come out which will see the wine through further development.  A beautiful wine all about minerals and violets.   **** Now – 2023.

1998 Bernard Burgaud, Côte-Rôtie
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Very aromatic, meaty, fresh, and notes of vintage perfume.  Yet in the mouth it is tart, grapey, with pervasive earthiness overpowering everything.  Not quite right which is a shame.  Not Rated.

1998 Mathilde et Yves Gangloff, Côte-Rôtie
Imported by Vineyard Road.  The restrained nose remains tight and unyielding but a delicate, floral aroma does escape.  Smoked meats, along with pure, red and black fruits greet.  There is a restrained, tannic structure that smooths out as watering acidity moves the wine into the lipsticky finish.  Right now, this is a wine with ample presence and texture in the mouth.  *** Now – 2028+.

1998 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  Hints of sweet fruit on the nose backed by meat and smoke.  Dense and gentle in the mouth,the textured red fruit become coated with fat.  Beautiful and elegant with fine texture from extract.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

1998 Rene Rostaing, Côte-Rôtie La Landonne
Pure bloody, meat but not much else there on the nose.  Not quite right.  Silky in the mouth with flavors of meat and a short finish.  Not right.  Not Rated.

Mystery Wine – 2012 Halcon, Alturas, Yorkville Highlands Syrah
Alcohol 13.5%.  Purple, grapey nose with gobs of grapey flavors in the mouth.  Hard to transition to but a solid wine.  **(*) Now – 2023.

2007 Guigal, Côte-Rôtie La Mouline
Imported by Vintus.  Alcohol 13%.  A beautiful, floral nose.  Grapey, purple fruit flavors surrounded by fat.  There is a floral lift to the deep, lifted flavors which I prefer over the Levett.  A modern take on Syrah with floral persistence in the finish and aftertaste.  ****(*) Now – 2033.

2007 Bernard Levet, Côte-Rôtie La Chavaroche
Imported by Neal Rosenthal.  Alcohol 12.5%.  A floral, substantive nose.  In the mouth are fat infused, dense and supple flavors of intertwined black fruit and minerals.  Impressive balance.  It takes on red grapefruit with both animale and sauvage complexity.  The flavors drape over the tongue with weight and seamless body.  There are very fine yet not dry tannins that peak out in the end. **** Now – 2033.

German Riesling

2006 Hofgut Falkenstein, Krettnacher Euchariusberg, Riesling Auslese, Mosel
Alcohol 7%. The lightest color of the trio, almost white.  Clean, residual sugar in the start soon morphs into grapefruit with a tart, vibrantly acidic middle, and tangy finish.  Clean.

2006 Willi Schaefer, Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Alcohol 8%.  A golden color with petrol on the nose.  Some vibranrancy but surprisingly advanced.  Petrol and weight.

2001 Joh. Jos. Prüm, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, Mosel
A light yellow color.  Hints of petrol along with citrus fruit on the nose.  Very fine textured acidity, lovely.

Dessert

2000 Fairview Wine Estate, Le Beryl Blanc, Paarl
An amber color with flavors of apricots and dried fruit.  Good balance.

CVNE Older Vintage Tour with Carlos Delage, Deputy Export Director

It is a testament to winemaking with excellent parcels of fruit and aging in carefully maintained facilities, that I have consistently enjoyed several bottles of the 1964 CVNE, Vina Real Reserva Especial. I have drunk other vintages as well including the 1976 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva which was served by Carlos Delage, CVNE Deputy Export Director, at a luncheon in Washington, DC, during early April. What few seem to realize is that CVNE still produces complex, age-worthy traditional wines not only from legendary vintages but those which are overshadowed.

The glass of 2014 CVNE, Monopole Clasico which greeted us upon arrival is rooted in history. This wine was originally made in the 1960s and 1970s but then faded away to no longer be produced.  When Victor Urrita, CVNE CEO, tasted a mature bottle of the 1979, he was so impressed he took the only logical next step; he contacted the winemaker himself, Ezequiel Garcia.

So famed were the CVNE wines produced by Ezequiel Garcia during the 1960s and 1970s that he earned the nickname El Brujo or “The Wizard”. It is his vintages of Vina Real Reserva Especial and Imperial Gran Reserva that savvy wine drinkers covet today. However, his Monopole Clasico has remained obscure until it was resurrected with the 2014 vintage.

Not to be confused with the regular Monopole, the Monopole Clasico is unique in Rioja history as it features a good portion of Sherry. Unlike any other wine, this is a blend of Viura with 15% Manzanilla sourced from the Hidalgo family. The wine is then aged in a combination of American oak and Sherry bota. Incredibly, CVNE is still in possession of the 1970s letter granting permission to bottle this wine as Rioja. We all enjoyed a glass as we gathered for the luncheon. I found it light and fresh with an attractive, oily body throughout and Sherry background note.

Once seated, we started off with an tremendous glass of 2004 Contino, Rioja Reserva.  From an excellent vintage, this is a wine generous in flavor and capable of long age.  In my post Delicious and historic, the 1974 Contino, Rioja Reserva I describe the very first vintage as “age-defying”.  With the 2004 demonstrating potential for that same descriptor, an array of CVNE Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva illustrats the evolution of wine through the excellent 2010 and 2005 vintages along with the very good 1998 and good 1976 vintages.  The former are still in a development phase but while the 1998 is still structured, it is now gaining complexity from maturity.

The ability for a wine to age is of no importance unless it not only tastes good but also develops the unique flavors from bottle age.  The 1976 tasted at lunch was the best of the two examples I have tasted over the past year, no doubt because it came straight from CVNE.  While it reflects the modest vintage in its gentleness, it has taken on that slightly sweet, concentrated fruit flavor that I love in good wines over 40 years of age. If this is the peak of the 1976 vintage then I can only imagine the heights that the 2010 and 2005 vintages will achieve.

Many thanks to Carlos Delage (CVNE), Gloria Zapatero (CVNE), and Rob McFarlane (Elite Wines) for inviting to the luncheon.

2004 Contino, Rioja Reserva
Alcohol 14.5%. The youngest looking of the first three wines. Still has a grapey color and is highly aromatic on the nose. This is forward, promptly filling the mouth as floral and spiced flavors come out in the middle. It is showing beautifully with a fresh, almost menthol note, hints of sweet oak, and a finish of minerals and good funk. It wraps up with a kick of freshness. ****(*) Now – 2038.

1998 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
The nose is complex with red and black fruits with spices. In the mouth the red fruit is taking on maturity. The watering acidity carries the sweet and powdery red fruit. There is some chewy texture from structure and even a little tartness. Though entering maturity it will develop for some time. ***(*) Now – 2028.

1976 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Alcohol 13%. A clear, light to medium garnet. The nose still offers modest depth and meat aromas. In the mouth is a start of focused red fruit then beautiful powdery, cherry fruit flavors. The wine is lithe and light through the middle, carried by watering acidity into a gentle finish. It develops notes of old wood, slightly sweet concentrated fruit, and meat. **** Now but will last.

2010 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Very dark in color and still concentrated in the mouth. With youthful vigor, the flavors are held close but are not tight. There is ripe fruit and racy texture providing the stuffing for years of age. The oak still needs time to integrate. It has a long future over which it will improve. **** 2020-2038.

2005 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
The grapey dark color stains the glass. There is a cherry note at first then as the wine slowly opens up black licorice and fresh herbs. It has strength for development. ***(*) 2020-2030.

2012 CVNE, Graciano
This was vinified in oak then aged for 18 months in new French oak. This is very young with tight flavors. A menthol note mixes with the blue and black fruit which is almost bitter. Certainly unique.  *** 2023-2030.

Our host Carlos Delage, CVNE Deputy Export Director

Madeira in Early America, The dinner party

Discussing the history of wine is thirsty work.  After completing our breakout sessions and the walk around tasting for The Stanford Wine Society, it was time for dinner.  Back in San Francisco a handful of us gathered at a round table to refresh with a glass of NV Laurent-Perrier, Champagne Brut Cuvee Grand Siecle.  Grand Siecle is a blend of three vintages, the exact set unknown to us, but based on the label we know this was released in the 1980s.  From an English cellar, this is robust, lively wine with mature flavors and the core to persist for a number of years.

Carried over from England, the 2011 Arnaud Ente, Meursault La Seve du Clos is the most engaging and impressive wine of the evening.  Impeccable and easy to drink, this is the first wine I have found such level of flavor from a small sip.  The aromas, flavors, and mouth feel engage multiple senses.

A lack of vintage label invoked a study of Clape label styles to arrive at a backet of mid 1980’s vintages for our first red wine.  After tasting, those of more experience narrowed down to 1984 [believed] Auguste Clape, Cornas.  The nose is gorgeous, the palate gentle.

We met fate with our pair of 1989 Chateau Rayas, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve and 1990 Chateau Rayas, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve.  The former in fine condition but the sea spray aromas on the later 1990 indicated an off bottle.  The 1989 is all pure framboise with texture.

Of the final pair, the 1991 August Clape, Cornas first overshadowed the 1999 Noel Verset, Cornas.  The Clape is a deep, dense, flavorful wine from the start such so that I first finished my glass before moving.  Upon settling down with the Verset, I was impressed by how well it responded to air.  This is a wine with strong potential, the young flavors are tense with energy and the old-school note speaks of interesting complexity yet to come.

NV Laurent-Perrier, Champagne Brut Cuvee Grand Siecle
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12%. 1980s release.  A mature color with a fine, textured nose.  Initially a robust wine with a fine cut of acidity and yeasty streak.  Lively, with both chalk and a core of fruit followed by plenty of presence through the finish.  The mature flavors are up front, coating the mouth and taking on sweetness with air.  **** Now – 2028.

2011 Arnaud Ente, Meursault La Seve du Clos
The very light color belies the aromatic nose of sweet, floral aromas, and tropical fruit.  In the mouth is a bright start with the body immediately developing and coming out to fill the mouth.  An almost inky finish brings a toast note.  The balance is impeccable and the effortless concentration is impressive.  Flavors of lemon, with a tart hint on the sides of the tongue, mix with fat and long-last acidity.  One really needs just a small sip to enjoy all the wine has to offer.  Gorgeous.  ****(*) Now – 2028.

1984 [believed] Auguste Clape, Cornas
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  A gorgeous nose of vintage perfume, flowers, earthy hints, and menthol freshness.  In the mouth are gently sweet flavors of red fruit.  There is concentration and the citric grip is structured from the middle through the finish.  The fruit flavors are mostly up front and of tart, red flavors meaning the nose is the star of this wine.  ***(*) Now.

1989 Chateau Rayas, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve
Pure, aromatic fruit on the nose followed by framboise in the mouth.  The flavors turn a touch tart with air but they are pure, clean, and in plenitude.  There is plenty to perceive as well, fine berries with texture, evocative of seeds, minerals, and even structure.  Lovely.  **** Now – 2023.

1990 Chateau Rayas, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve
Not quite right on the nose, sea spray.  In the mouth are slightly short red fruit flavors, sharper fruit, and a tart middle.  Grippy on the tongue with plenty of grip and extract.  Clearly an off bottle but enough going on that you could drink around it as a mid-week wine.  Shame!  Not Rated.

1991 August Clape, Cornas
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12.5%.  Slightly textured, animale, dense and flavorful.  The fruit is not bright, rather dense and deep in flavor.  Fine polished wood and a deep, meaty end wrap things up.  **** Now – 2028.

1999 Noel Verset, Cornas
Alcohol 12.5%. Lot 1.  A greater purity to the red fruit.  There is still structure but the grapey tension and resolution with time only makes the wine more attractive.  Delicate yet greatly flavored with an old-school note.  This bottle shows strong potential.  ****(*) Now – 2033.

An introductory Madeira tasting: 1971 Terrantez back to 1880 Malvasia

January 12, 2018 2 comments

This past weekend I hosted a Madeira tasting in answer to requests I have received from my friends.  With a sizeable selection of wines made available to me by Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., I settled in on what I consider an introductory tasting.  Over the course of 10 bottles I presented such wines as a recent Historic Series blend, a 19th century Bual solera, Bastardo, Tinta Negra, young Terrantez, and Malvasia Candida from Faja dos Padres.

I deployed all of my matching stems, some 72 of them, so we tasted the Madeira in two flights of five.  The extra dozen stems were required for Champagne, of course.  Each flight was largely designed to move from drier and more acidic to richer with the ending wine of each flight being old.  The two oldest bottles were decanted five days prior to the tasting then rebottled after one day in the decanter.  The other bottles received similar treatment one to two days ahead of time.

One guest surprised the group with a bottle of 1937 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira which was inserted into the first flight so we could compare it against the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira.  Thus you will find eleven tasting notes below.

The wines all showed very well with enough variety to encourage comparison.  It is definitely one of the most satisfying tasting I have been to as of late.  Given the loud volume of everyone towards the end of the tasting coupled with their individual comments, they agreed to!  For each flight I presented a short history of the wines which was well received.  I was excited for this tasting to occur, not just to experience the aromas and flavors, but to convey the individual stories of the wines.  Please find these wine histories appear below.  They are far more important than my tasting notes and ratings.

The histories are largely compiled from correspondence with Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., and  Ricardo Freitas, Vinhos Barbeito, as well as the private publications of Mannie Berk Terrantez: The Transcendental Terrantez Tasting (2012) and Bastardo & Mostcatel – The Tasting (2017).  I also relied on the books Noel Cossart’s Madeira The Island Vineyard (2011) and Alex Liddell’s Madeira (1998).  Of course some bits are of my own research.  The map reproduced above comes from Isole Canarie from Vincenzo Coronelli published in 1697 and available at the David Rumsey Map Collection site.

Flight #1

NV Rare Wine Company, Historic Series Library Company Madeira
Released in 2015 to honor the Library Company of Philadelphia which is the oldest successful library in America, having been founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731. Henry Hill was a successful Madeira merchant who lived in Philadelphia and also knew Benjamin Franklin. As a partner in the firm Hill, Lamar, & Bisset, he sold Madeira to wealthy Americans including financier Robert Morris, signers of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll and John Hancock, and George Washington. Many of the business letters sent to Henry Hill reside at the Library Company. Bottled 2015.  The honied nose is followed by luscious, honied flavors of fig.  There are both tea and tobacco notes in the end.  This is fully mature now with just a vein of structure apparent in the finish followed by a bit of bracing acidity.  A fine value with flavors clearly evocative of old bottles of Madeira.  ***(*).

1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira
Pereira D’Oliveira was founded in 1850 as a producer of wines. It operated as a partidista until the mid-1970s when it began to market wines under its own name. Over the years D’Oliveira has acquired other firms thus expanding its stock of old wines. This particular wine was acquired in barrel when D’Oliveira purchased the Adegas do Terreão collection in 2002. Terreão was founded in 1949 by Vasco Loja who also operated as a partidista supplying the major wine companies particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. D’Oliveira keeps their wines in barrel until they are bottled for sale on an annual basis.   This means that different bottlings come from different barrels having seen wood for different durations. Bottled 2017.  A highly aromatic and articulate nose of citrus and tobacco, profound and of unique complexity.  The dense, explosive start has very fine acidity which soon builds to rapier sharpness.  Overall, this is a lighter weight, saline wine with an expansive, lighter finish, and pervasive pungent aftertaste. ****(*).

1937 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira
Shipped by David Turner Air Cargo.  Imported by Vineyard Road Inc.  From old family stocks at D’Oliveira. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2012.  There is a low-lying, dark nose.  The rounded start transitions to a berry core by the middle.  There is acidity present but it does not finish with much acidic strength.  I found more weight throughout the palate given impression of length but ultimately it is not as exciting nor complex as the 1928.  ***.

NV Henriques & Henriques, Inauguration Wine Madeira
From the back label, “To inaugurate Henriques & Henriques’ new winery in 1994, winemaker Luis Pereira searched the firm’s stocks of old wine to find something truly extraordinary. The wine he chose had been vinified and blended in the 1950s by his mentor Peter Cossart—the father of John Cossart. Though the wine’s origins were uncertain, Pereira believed it to have the character of a great verdelho or bual. It was a wine uniquely worthy of commemorating this important event. Pereira produced 800 bottles which were given to dignitaries attending the inauguration. This left a small amount to age in cask. In October, 2006, 144 bottles were drawn out, and then in April, 2008, the final 168 bottles were drawn out, each time for The Rare Wine Co.” This is the 2006 bottling of which it is numbered 66 of 144.  The nose is robust with mature hints and caramel.  Further investigation reveals articulate and sweet aromas of brown sugar, Christmas spices, and tobacco.  This is a zippy wine with piercing acidity soon coming out then building to the piercing finish.  There are good, sweet and weighty flavors that drape over the tongue with a ripe, orange flavors core, and mineral finish.  This ia very powerful wine with a long, textured aftertaste.  ****(*).

1971 D’Oliveira, Terrantez Madeira
Terrantez, long regarded as the finest variety in Madeira, was largely wiped out of existence with the phylloxera of the 1870s.  Being low-yielding and difficult to grow, it was not replanted.  In 1921 it was considered “extinct or almost extinct.”  The situation had hardly improved by 2004 as there was less than one hectare of vines in existence.  This scarce wine was acquired in barrel when the Adegas do Terreão collection was purchased in 2002. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2017.  A complex nose of fruit, marmalade, and sweet aromas.  In the mouth is a controlled start, vibrant middle, and sweet kick at the end.  The mouth feel reminds me of marshmallow combining sweetness and airy weight into one sensation.  This is a gentle, young wine of elegant strength and seamless integration.  ****.

1845 Cossart Gordon, Bual Solera Madeira
The 1845 Bual became a solera in 1875 in response to the shortage of wine following the Phylloxera epidemic. It eventually became the first Cossart centenary wine marking the anniversary of the founding of Cossart Gordon in 1745. After Cossart, Gordon joined the Madeira Wine Association in 1953, the soleras in wood were moved to stores at Rua Sao Francisco and no longer topped off. There were many bottlings of this solera both in Madeira, with red and black text, and in England. This bottling is by Evans Marshall & Co. who became Cossart’s agents in London in 1956. Bottled after 1956.  A very mature nose still with some bottle stink.  The sweet start soon focuses on flavors of sweet black tea with wood notes in the middle, and flavors of sweet cinnamon and baking spices in the textured finish.  This is the most advanced wine of all with a mellow nature and slight separation of acidity and residual sugar.  It becomes  vinous in the aftertaste with a hint of acidity.  ***.

Flight #2

NV Unknown, Padre Madeira [da Silva Collection] 
The oldest known dated bottles of Madeira once belonged to Braheem Abdo Kassab who famously initialed his wax seals with BAK.  This Padre wine was in bottle for a long time, discovered in the laundry room of the home of a Kassab relative on the island. This is believed to be all Tinta Negra from the early 20th century.  Approximately three dozen bottles were aired in demijohn for a few months then rebottled. Bottled 2016.  The pungent, sweeter nose steps out of the glass with aromas reminding me of old Madeira.  There is a round, weighty, vinous start with ripe orange citrus flavors, good acidity, and grip.  The middle is assertive and the finish powerful with hints of dense fruit, I suspect this wine needs further time for integration.  ***.

NV Barbeito, Bastardo 50-year-old Avo Mario Madeira
Barbeito was founded in 1946 which is today run by third-generation, Ricardo Diogo Vasconcelos de Freitas. Bastardo was completely extinct in Madeira until 2004 when Ricardo convinced a farmer to plant it.  Today there is just over 1 hectare of vines.  This wine is an homage to Ricardo’s grandfather and is a blend of Bastardo wines Ricardo made in 2007 and 2009.  These are the first two successful harvests for there was bad weather in 2008.  At the time, there was no living memory on how to make the wine so Ricardo set out on his own.  He mixed these wines with some old Bastardo in demijohn that belonged to the Favilla family and 36 bottles of old Tinta Negra from 1950 that was bottled in 1997.  The 50 year old category was only introduced in 2015.  Bottled 2017 of which it is #326 of 550.  A sweet and floral nose is similarly followed by a sweet, gentle start.  Of good flavor, it mixes herbs and cedar box in an easy to drink manner.  The balance is impeccable making it compelling to drink.  ****.

1929 D’Oliveira, Tinta Negra Medium Sweet Madeira
Dated bottles of Madeira from the late 1920s through early 1930s are scarce.  The effects of the Great Depression was felt on an international scale and locally it wreaked havoc on Madeira.  The Portuguese Minister of Finance sought to mitigate the effects on Portugal by centralizing the importation and milling of grain in January 1931. The price of bread and other common goods quickly rose as a result. A few months later a revolt on the island of Madeira took place with control of the island temporarily seized from the government.  The spread of the European financial crisis coupled with the political instability on Madeira impacted the banks on Madeira the same year of the revolt.  By the end of the year banks suspended all payments and in the course of restructuring the banking system in 1932, many private banks failed.  This is the period when the influence of the partidista rose.  These merchants purchased wine at vintage then sold it off to shippers as they needed it.  It is likely that during these financially difficult times much Madeira was sold off for ready money rather than kept around as single vintage lots tying up capital.  This wine is from old family stocks at D’Oliveira. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2016.  With ripe aromas this wine offers attractive aromas of age which I look for in older bottles.  There is a weighty, round, dense start with good body and juicy acidity.  The flavors are more mature with moderately sweet bakings spices, strong acidity, and some brown sugar in the finish.  The strength of the acidity builts into the finish leaving a piercing citric edge.  ****.

1986 Barbeito, Malvasia Faja dos Padres Madeira
Malvasia encompasses several different grapes with Malvasia Candida the most sought after. It is a difficult grape to grow and prefers particular locations. One of these locations is Faja dos Padres which was originally cultivated by the Jesuits centuries ago. Located on the south side of the Island it lies at the bottom of a 900 foot cliff which, until recently, was only accessible by boat. For centuries, this site was considered as producing the best Malvasia Candida wines. The Malvasia Candida was nearly wiped out by phylloxera in the 1870s.  When the site was sold in 1919 it was believed that no Malvasia Candida vines existed. But in 1940 a single Malvasia Candida vine was found surviving at Faja dos Padres. It was cloned then planted at Torre. In 1979 the same vine was cloned again then planted at Faja dos Padres. An additional vineyard of 0.4 ha was eventually established. This is the first commercial bottling of Malvasia Candida from Faja dos Padres since 1921. It was raised in 800 liter casks aged by the canteiro method. Bottled 2012 of which it is #172 of 654.  The nose is young and fruit with complexity from wet tobacco.  The wines is young and rounded with clearly defined sweet black tea flavors.  There is a delicacy to the wine that makes it stand apart, with delicate berry fruit and a fresh finish.  With impeccable balance this wine highlights the flavors of Malvasia.  ****.

1880 Companhia Vinicola da Madeira (CVM), Malvasia Madeira
Founded in 1870, CVM was eventually associated with Justino Henriques. The company was closed in 1984 and much of the stock was sold off. This bottle bears a paper Junta Nacional do Vinho seal underneath the wicker capsule. The JNV seal would have been applied between 1937 and 1979.  The nose is slightly pungent with sweet, yellow citrus.  There is a gravelly start of brown sugar, wood box, and flavors of age.  The wine is completely balanced with no hard edges.  Backed by residual sugar this is dense and even racy in the finish with a hint of spiciness to perk up the long, gentle, sweet aftertaste.  ****.

Two particularly fine wines from 2017

December 31, 2017 Leave a comment

For my favorite wines of 2017 I chose two bottles that are of particularly fine flavor.  The first wine stood out during the Madeira at Liberty Hall tasting held by Mannie Berk on April 23, 2017.  It is the second time I have tasted an excellent Acciaioly Madeira.  The Acciaioly history is oft repeated being an old Florentine family having descended from the Dukes of Burgundy.  When they arrived at Madeira during the early 16th century they are said to have introduced the Malvasia vine to the island.  Accordingly to Mannie Berk, when the last Acciaioly passed away in 1979, his wines were divided into two lots.  The second lot went to his sons who consigned them to Christie’s in London.  Some 135 lots of Accaiaioly Madeira were auctioned off in 1989 including more than 14 dozen bottles of the 1839 Acciaioly, Special Reserve Verdelho one of which we tasted.  It was an exciting wine during the tasting and when I was able to enjoy a small glass from the leftovers I felt it was a wine I could have drunk all night long.

1839 Acciaioly, Special Reserve Verdelho
Shipped by Reid Wines.  Imported by Vieux Vins.  A proper nose that is pungent with herbs. In the mouth this is sweet with grip, lovely balance and presence. The wine builds in flavor through the middle as marmalade flavors come out which linger through the aftertaste leaving sweet notes in the mouth. The acidity weaves in and out. Top-notch. ****(*)

For my second bottle, I naturally include an old red wine, this time from Italy of which I have tried to drink from with more attention this year.  The vine in Piedmont dates back to the Roman times.  The great Alto-Piemonte producer Antonio Vallana pays tribute to this history with their Campi Raudii label.  It is in Northern Piedmont that the Romans suffered one of their greatest military losses in 105 BC to invading Germanic tribes.  Nearly 100,000 Roman troops perished.  Four years later, in 101 BC, Consul Caius Marius defeated these tribes at Campi Raudii.  This decisive battle ensured peace in the region and accordingl to legend, allowed the cultivation of vineyards.

The decades of the 1950s and 1960s are held to be the best for Vallana.  The Wasserman’s attribute some of this to the inclusion of Aglianico from Basilicata.  They also hold that the Campi Raudii and Traversagna are the best wines.  Mannie Berk shares this same view which is why we drank a bottle together at a small table in an Indian restaurant.  It was no less than the 1955 Antonio Vallana, Spanna Campi Raudii Catuli Ara Riserva Speciale which he had imported and laid down long ago based on the green strip label.  Double-decanted to separate off the sediment it was at its glorious, nearly perfect peak when we sat down.  The few old bottles of Vallana that I have tried bear remarkable body and a certain sweaty, sweet concentration.  All the elements came to bear in our bottle and no doubt inspired a blur of conversation.

1955 Antonio Vallana, Spanna Campi Raudii Catuli Ara Riserva Speciale
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 13%.  A light to medium bricking garnet color.  The nose is deep with sweet fruits and damp soil.  The sweet, concentrated flavors are immediately complex.  Notes of old leather mix in the racy and flavorful wine that swirls through the mouth.  Animale like earthiness exists through the aftertaste where it picks up a touch of attractive pungency and sweatiness.  It wraps up with fresh acidity. ***** Now but will last.

Panos’ epic tasting of 16 vintages of Chateau Montrose: 2012 – 1970

December 12, 2017 Leave a comment

On January 24, 2017, Panos Kakaviatos (Wine Chronicles) hosted another epic Bordeaux tasting featuring the wines of Chateau Montrose.  Hervé Berland, CEO, graciously donated 15 vintages of wine with three guests donating the 1989 vintage thus presenting us with an array of 16 different wines spanning from 2012 back to 1970. The tasting itself was held at Ripple, home of many fabulous wine dinners, which closed its doors this year.

I hold Chateau Montrose in high regard having tasted the old-school vintages 1959, 1964, and 1966 several times as well as the legendary, contemporary vintages of 1990 and 2010 at The Heart’s Delight lunch with the Ambassador of France, Gérard Araud and Herve Berland of Chateau Montrose.

This is unequivocally one of my favorite tastings that Panos has organized over the five years I have been attending.  The quality level is very high in general with the 1990, 2003, 2005, 2009, and 2010 vintages particularly outstanding.  My glass of 2000 was not up to par and the 1989’s variable due to provenance otherwise I am sure they would be outstanding as well.  These are all balanced wines full of flavor and depth, rather than massive tannic structure, which allows them to develop at a slow pace.  Even the 1976 provided ample, if not surprising pleasure.  I left the evening very impressed.

The wines were tasted in flights:
2012 + 2008 + 1995
2010 + 2009 + 2003
2005 + 1990 + 1989 + 1976
2000 + 1986 + 1985
1998 + 1982 + 1970

I have presented my tasting notes in reverse chronological order.  Please find them below.

2012 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There is a subtle, dark nose with notes of soil and sweet confection. There is an immediate presence of acidity in the mouth with dense and polished flavors of red and black fruit. There is a bright mineral underpinning which develops into graphite. All of this is surrounded by a hint of fat.  ****

2010 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
A vintage with the most Merlot. A racy, lively nose. There is black, lively fruit in the mouth this is certainly a bit wine yet it is balanced. The lovely ripe structure supports black fruit, cassis, and notes of new oak. It is lipsticky with flavors that cling to the mouth through the long aftertaste. Nice wine. ****(*)

2009 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
Those nose is mute but this is a sexy wine in the mouth. There are dark, focused flavors of red fruit. It is a racy, inky wine which really packs in the flavor. There is a strong structure of very fine-grained tannins yet the richness of the fruit largely covers it up. ****(*)

2008 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
The nose is more lifted with cassis, flowers, and meat. A redder wine with more apparently structure and fine extract for texture rather than the density of 2012. The power hints the back of the throat with concentrated blue fruit yet remains balanced throughout. My favorite of 2012 and 1995.****

2005 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There are some deep, meaty aromas but the nose is generally subdued. The mouth meets a ripe, gentle entry of red fruit, ripe oranges, and citric structure. It is lipsticky with vintage perfume, a fresh finish and long aftertaste. It does not have the weight of other vintages but is well done for future development. ****(*)

2003 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There are aromas of tobacco smoke. This is a balanced wine with the flavors of focused ripe and slightly sweet fruit packed in. The flavor builds intensity with hints of maturity. This is a savory wine with subtle weight yet significant, satisfying depth. ****(*)

2000 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
This remained very closed with hard flavors, and polished wood.  Clearly not right.  😦  Not Rated.

1998 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There are greenhouse infused flavors in this short wine. **

1995 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There are deep berry aromas of wet soil and meat. With watering acidity this is lighter on the tongue yet still expansive in the mouth. It has a dry, linear style that leaves fine, dry structure on the gums. There is good mature flavor, some herbaceousness and ample acidity and structure to keep it alive. ****

1990 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
The incredible nose is very aromatic with citrus, flowers, greenhouse aromas, and leather. There are ripe red fruit flavors, vintage perfume, and sweet earthy depth. This is tense wine that drives you to return to the glass. Hard cherry aromas mix with animale funk.  *****

1989 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
Donated by a guest.  This is still youthful with a tighter nose and more muted expression compared to the 1990. There are fresh flavors in the mouth, a tea note, cola tannins, and stand up acidity. ****

1986 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
Slightly dusty with vegetal aromas. In the mouth it is a hard wine with vintage perfume and spearmint. Perhaps a bit similar to 1985 in flavor. ***

1985 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe en magnum
It is a very mature nose. The saline, cool blue fruit is simple and weighty yet the round aspect is satisfying.  ***(*)

1982 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe en magnum
I think my pour is from the mediocre magnum.  This has subtle depth on the nose, reminiscent of the 1990. In the mouth it has a touch more fruit but shows flat and metallic with some earth. ***

1976 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
A gentle wine but in great shape. There are more greenhouse infused flavors than the other vintages. It is still firm with watering acidity and structure that frames everything. The aftertaste is perfumed. ***(*)

1970 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There are firm flavors of red and black fruit with some rough yet enjoyable texture in the finish. The tannic structure is prominent, like a cats tongue. Short finish but satisfying up to it. ***

An epic Panos Bordeaux tasting: 16 vintages of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2016 – 1975

November 3, 2017 Leave a comment

 

On October 18, 2017, Panos Kakaviatos (wine-chronicles) hosted a tasting of 16 vintages of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande from 2016 to 1975.  This tasting is the latest in a series of definitive events that Panos arranges for Washington, DC wine lovers.  Not only were all of the bottles direct from the chateau but Nicolas Glumineau, the director of Ch. Pichon Lalande, was guest of honor for our dinner.

Nicolas Glumineau, Director of Chateau Pichon Lalande.

The tasting took place at Taberna del Alarbardero with the help of sommelier Maria Ortiz.  The bottles were flown in by Mark Wessels of MacArthur Beverages except for the 2002 pair which were graciously donated by Randy McFarlane.  The evening took place in the large red private dining room where we first mingled with many different bottles of Champagne from Prevost, Pierre Peters, Cedric Bouchard, Pol Roger, and others.

The main tasting and dinner were seated.  Of all the vintages, I was particularly excited by the 1996, 2010, and 2014.  To me these three vintages stood out for their precision, balance, and purity of expression.  Of the older vintages the 1980s and 1970s drank well with the 1982 as the most complete experience.  I would also point out the 1978 vintage as an attractive, older style of wine.

Now I spent quite a bit of time talking, so think of my notes as general impressions.  They are presented in the order they were served.

FIRST COURSE
Lomo De Caballa Sobre Arroz Meloso De Pimientos Morrones
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2010-2009-2005-2003

2010 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
The scented nose soon offers floral and licorice-like aromas, eventually closing up. In the mouth is a tart start, close-grip at first with evident structure. There is a vein of black fruit and violets that moves through the wine. It is ultimately young and grapey at the core. Drier in the end with very fine structure and a good aftertaste. It has the balance to age. ****(*)

2009 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
It is assertive from the start with black fruit, structure and grip. There is less fruit compared to structure that emerges in the middle. I prefer the 2010. ***(*)

2005 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
It is similar to the 2010 with a young, lifted core of flavor. It is lighter in flavor yet mouth filling with grip and strength in the good, tart finish. ***(*)

2003 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
There is a rounded start of berry flavors, soon taking on powerful dark, red fruit. A fine, lifted aftertaste. **(*)

SECOND COURSE
Magret De Pato Con Toques De Naranja Con Pastel De Butternut Squash
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2002-2000-1996-1995

2002 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
This is better than expected with surprising fine texture. The dry black flavors are even racy in the middle. Drinking well right now. ***

2000 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
The nose offers lifted, greenhouse aromas but with a more mature profile. The mouth follows the nose with maturing fruit, a pleasing level of green pepper, and very fine grip. Elegant. ****

1996 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Markedly different with fine, clean fruit aromas. Tangy red fruit greets the palate. It remains a core of focused fruit, very pure and controlled. The ripe, textured structure is still present for development yet it is resolving. Additional notes of greenhouse and pencil shavings add some complexity. ****

1995 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Greenness and lightness on the nose. Ample texture in the mouth with almost chewy, dense black fruit. This is broader throughout but a very fine, drying structure supports the flavor. A bit of a smoke hint in the end. ***

THIRD COURSE
Kobe Beef Con Patatas, Zanahorias Y Chalotas Al Estilo Hasselback
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1989-1985-1982-1978-1975

1989 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
There is a fine focus and certain tang to the flavors which have a very fine texture. The wine is moved by watering acidity through a drier, lighter middle into a linear finish. Quite enjoyable. Less fruit weight than other vintages. ****

1985 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
A touch of plum combine with more advanced flavors that become tart towards the finish. An earthy aftertaste. A second bottle showed young with floral flavors and grip. So at best ****

1982 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Cooler in profile with red fruit, graphite, and a citric grip that lean towards elegant. The wine grows with air developing attractive earth and maturity. ****(*)

1978 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Greener, drier, and lighter with graphite and again that familiar texture. Has hints of being from an older period of winemaking. There is a green streak followed by cedar and old wood in the finish. It is chunkier than the 1975 yet still retains tension. ***(*)

1975 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
The wine still has grip. The watering acidity brings forward more red fruit and a citric structure that coats the gums. The core of fruit mixes with notes of old leather, greenhouse, and mature flavors. Drinking well. ***

CHEESE PLATE (CHEESES)
Puig Pedros (Vaca), Retorta Pascuales (Oveja), Manchego (1 Ano)
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2014-2016-2016

2014 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
There is fine, grapey depth coupled with both weight and density. Clearly balanced. Pencil shavings and floral perfume already add to the complexity. ****(*)

2015 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Intense, grapey flavors are a bit rough with some heat. There are assert baking spices and some perfume.  Just bottled.

2016 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Grapey blueberry fruit with fine texture and lip smacking tannins. Baking spices and spicy tannins.  Strong potential.  Barrel Sample.

DESSERT
Flan De Pistacho Sobre Flan De Caramelo Y Helado De Vanilla Beans
Sauternes

1997 Chateau Climens, Barsac
Very dark. Flawed.

2003 Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes
A nose of grassy petrol then concentrated grapey flavors delivered in a grippy, textured manner.  A good combination of fruit, weight, and mouth feel.  ***(*)

2005 Chateau Climens, Barsac
There is lovely flavor, mouth filling, yet fresh and light with gentle ripeness.  ****