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A Clos du Mont-Olivet Vertical: 2017 Cotes du Rhone back to 2005 La Cuvee du Papet

November 9, 2019 Leave a comment

I was a guest at the most recent blind tasting held by Phil’s tasting group.  Of the eight wines we tasted blind, one was a stinker, so we were left with seven bottles to deduce the theme.  Two of the wines, #5 and #8, were clearly Chateauneuf du Pape but the firmness of the younger vintages and stylistic difference of the ringer through me for a loop.  I will fess up that I had recently drunk wine #2 but I was still stumped.  In retrospect, the theme of Clos du Mont-Olivet can be appreciated.

The Sabon family have been making wine at Clos du Mont-Olivet since 1932 with the estate now run by Thierry  Sabon.  The tasting featured one vintage of Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes, one vintage of Châteaneuf du Pape, and five vintages of Châteauneuf du Pape La Cuvee du Papet.  The Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes we tried is a typical blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 10% Carignan mostly sourced from vineyards planted in 1950.  The fruit is partially destemmed then fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks followed by aging in used foudre, demi-muids, and tanks.  The Châteaneuf du Pape is a typical blend of 80% Grenache with Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault rounding things out.  The fruit is partially destemmed then fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks.  It is aged in in foudre.  The top wine of the estate is La Cuvee du Papet which is only made in the best vintages.  It is a typical blend of 75% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah sources from multiple parcels.  The vines range in age from 30 to 100+ years of age since the oldest parcel of Grenache was planted in 1901.  The fruit is partially destemmed then fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks followed by aging in used foudre and demi-muids.

The 2017 Clos du Mont-Olivet, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Rhone is an excellent follow-on to the 2016 vintage.  It is, however, a wine which needs time to develop and should drink well for a few years.  The best wine to drink now and one of my favorites of the tasting is the awesome 2005 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape.  Even better is the 2010 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape.  This superlative pair offers a wine that has just hit its mature phase, the 2005, and a wine shedding its youth, the 2010.  I went back to these bottles multiple times simply to drink them.  I recommend you buy some so you can as well!  Worth cellaring, is the very young yet outstanding 2016 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape.  It has all the components for developing but is still firm.  I’d give it several years of age at which point it should be obvious if it is as great as the 2010.  Many thanks to Phil for hosting such an excellent tasting.

Blind #1 – 2017 Clos du Mont-Olivet, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Rhone –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 14.5%.  Grapey scents on the nose.  A young wine in the mouth with flavors of black and purple fruit with fine, dry and bitter structure in the end.  With air it rounds and balances out.  The ripe fruit has a touch of sweetness from a vanilla component.  The flavors of blueberries and violets is carried by watering acidity.  This is a mid-term ager that should significantly improve over the winter.  *** Now – 2027.

Blind #2 – 2016 Clos du Mont-Olivet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 15%.  A good nose of red fruits.  In this mouth this is a big wine with a spine of acidity.  With air it opens up a touch offering creamy flavors of violets, black fruit, and a little wood box.  With good depth it becomes firm in the end as a spicy structure comes out.  It should be cellared.  This bottle is tighter than a previous bottle I tried.  ***(*) 2023- 2034.

Blind #3 – 2016 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 15%.  An aromatic nose of blue fruits.  In the mouth this is a big wine with fine, strong tannins, and a powerful wave of flavor through the finish.  Like the regular CdP, this is closely packed and in need of age.  With air the wine has all of the components clearly focused for development.  It is savory, intense, and even a little spicy.  ****(*) 2024- 2039.

Blind #4 – 2015 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 15%.  A deeper, meaty nose.  A watering start then the wine falls flat, compared to other vintages, offering vintage perfume notes, wood box, and baking spice.  There are ample, fine and dry tannins.  With air it improves to be lush yet not voluptuous with a deep, dry finish.  The structure remains prominent compared to the fruit weight.  A good wine in all respects but clearly overshadowed by the 2016. For the mid-term. ***(*) Now – 2029.

Blind #5 – 2010 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 15%.  Saline and dense, this wine packs in tons of flavors right through the powerful end.  though powerful, it keeps focused with creamy bits, luxurious fat, and wood box maturity.  It is still so young but is clearly a great wine.  Unlike the outstanding 2005, this has the intensity of youth which hits the throat with a dose of fruity raspberries.  ***** Now – 2034.

Blind #6 – 2010 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Polished on the nose.  In the mouth it is a little saline, dry and tart with red, citric fruit.  It has fine focus for the long-haul with polished wood tannins.  With air there is a subtle, lifted hint of fat, wood box, and a killer finish.  This wine will be slow to develop.  **** 2023-2039.

Blind #7 – 2006 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 14%.  A stinker, smells like air make it through the cork.  Can’t stand it.  Not Rated.

Blind #8 – 2005 Clos du Mont-Olivet, La Cuvee du Papet, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 14%.  Taking on some garnet in the glass.  A good nose.  The ripe fruit and fine wood box notes are clearly part of a more complex Southern Rhone wine.  It lovely with young power that comes through.  Fat and weighty flavors drape on the tongue with a sweet middle.  This is a Chateauneuf du Pape with tons of future potential but you can enjoy it now became it has some bottle age flavor and concentrating ripeness.  ****(*) Now – 2034.

An Additional Blind Wine – 1998 Domaine Bois De Boursane, Châteauneuf du Pape –
Alcohol 13.5%.  Some umami mixing with red fruit and watering acidity into the salty, firm finish.  There is good flavor for drinking right now.  If you decant drink quickly.  *** Now.

A Blind Tasting of 2005 Bordeaux with a Rioja

September 16, 2019 Leave a comment

At the very end of the summer, I was a guest of Andy for the monthly wine tasting.  We first gathered around his kitchen to eat from huge wedges of cheese and drink from a bottle of 2017 Matanzas Creek Winery, Chardonnay, Alexander Valley.  It is quite good all around, there is a balanced quartet of yellow fruit, body, acidity, and wood influence. It is a wine I recommend drinking again.

The tasting itself consisted of eight wines served blind. They had been opened some four hours prior. We knew one bottle was corked which logically left us with 6 bottles on theme and 1 ringer. There was a Bordeaux flavor profile to most bottles but the lightness and herbaceous quality of the first two had my sights first set to Chile. Then came the third wine with its ripe fruit, weight, and minerality and I was no longer certain of the theme. It was clear, though, that the last wine was the ringer.

This assortment of 2005 Bordeaux from Pauillac, Saint-Estephe, and Saint-Julien varied in quality. I found the 2005 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien as my clear favorite and very satisfying to drink. It is coming into a fine mid-life which should last for a bit of time. I do not mind the herbaceous note I found in my next two favorites: the 2005 Chateau Saint-Pierre, Saint-Julien a good value which is very mineral and the 2005 Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, Saint Julien. The latter is rounded, yet closely played and in need of several more years in the cellar.  The 2005 Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe under performed and did not exhibit to the potential of the label.  Sadly, the 2005 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac was completely undrinkable.  Finally, the 2005 CVNE, Imperial Rioja Reserva stood out for its young, red fruit.  I found it hard to judge coming after the other wines.

1 – 2005 Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, Saint Julien
Imported by Appellation Imports. Alcohol 13.5%. A dark cherry with garnet color. Aromatic with notes of cedar mixing in blue and red fruit. A good nose somewhat herbaceous. Bordeaux like in the mouth with round black fruit, a dry finish, and some fine structure in the end. Expertly made and closely played, it shows more ripe fruit and structure with air. Best given a few more years in the cellar.  ***(*) 2022-2032.

2 – 2005 Chateau Haut-Bages-Liberal, Pauillac
Imported by Benchmark wines. Alcohol 13%. Very dark. More herbaceous on the nose with blue fruit. A touch more structure yet also more suppleness. Less intensity with watering acidity and more tannins on the gums. A short finish. It could use more time for the structure to resolve but this bottle might now have the fruit for it. *** Now – 2029.

3 – 2005 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien
Imported by Chateaux + Estates. Alcohol 13%. A more complex wine with ripe flavors, weight, and minerals. The primarily blue and black fruit has a green hint but it weighty with good length. A fresh structure throughout it is redder in the middle. My favorite. **** Now – 2034.

4 – 2005 Chateau D’Armailhac, Pauillac
Imported by North Lake Wines. Alcohol 13%. Some brett on the nose. Interesting, tart red fruit with a fine tannic finish that is quite grippy on the gums. Animale flavors in the finish.  *** Now – 2029.

5 – 2005 Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe
Imported by Chateaux + Estates. Alcohol 13.5%. Less aromatic. More licorice-like in the flavor, a touch racy with large amounts of flavor. Dark in the finish. It just does not deliver the balanced goods.  A drinkable bottle but under-performing based on the reveal.  **(*) Now – 2029.

6 – 2005 Chateau Saint-Pierre, Saint-Julien
Imported by Liquidlink. Alcohol 13%. Low-lying on the nose. The wine shows substance but also some herbaceous qualities. Blue and black flavored with a mineral vein. In fact, the mineral vein persisted throughout the tasting. ***(*) Now – 2029.

7 – 2005 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac
Imported by Heritage Wine Cellars. Alcohol 13%. Corked!  Not Rated.

8 – 2005 CVNE, Imperial Rioja Reserva
Alcohol 13.5%. Sweet cranberry and strawberry fruits, unevolved with watering acidity. Sweet oak. Develops intensity with air.  Younger tasting than the other wines despite the completely integrated structure.  *** Now – 2024.

1941 Casa de Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon from the Private Cellar of August Sebastiani

September 2, 2019 Leave a comment

As a California Cabernet from the 1941 vintage, the wine is very good for its age: deep aromas and a burst of flavor delivered with graceful decline. I agree with Mannie Berk that any better and suspicions would be raised.  Incredibly, the wine is not from the great classic names like Beaulieu or Inglenook but rather the El Gavilan Winery.  The wine was originally acquired by August Sebastiani and the fact that the bottle survived to this day is rooted across the history of California wine.

The bottle of 1941 Casa de Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County bears a strip label indicating it came from August Sebastiani’s personal wine cellar.  The Sebastiani winery was founded in 1904 by Samuele Sebastiani.  Located in Sonoma County, it survived the Prohibition years by producing sacramental and medicinal wine.  In 1944, Samuele passed away and shortly thereafter, his son August and August’s wife Sylvia took over. In 1946, they built their family home overlooking the vineyards.  That same year they designed the Casa de Sonoma label for what would be their first bottled wine.  The label even shows the new family house and vineyard.

The Casa de Sonoma back label indicates that this new line of wines were “selected for their distinguished flavors and are made from superior grapes grown in the fine wine district of Northern California.”  In 1947, after a period of long aging, the 1941 Casa de Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon became the first wine August bottled.  It was first offered in 1950 at $1 per bottle.  It did not, however, sell well.  The Sebastiani clients were accustomed to screw-top wines and did not own the corkscrews required to open the Casa de Sonoma.  The remaining bottles were to lay in a corner of the warehouse.  Over the decades they would only be pulled out to celebrate special occasions.

Records from the post-war years are thin at Sebastiani.  Despite the label not indicating a vintage, it is known to be 1941 Cabernet Sauvignon sourced primarily from San Benito County.  Sebastiani operated as a bulk wine producer from 1946-1959 which necessitated buying wine from other producers.  On the label we see that the wine itself was produced and bottled by El Gavilan Winery of Santa Rosa.

El Gavilan Vineyard and Winery

“I remember that the Gabilan Mountains to the east of the valley were light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness, and a kind of invitation, so that you wanted to climb into their warm foothills almost as you want to climb into the lap of a beloved mother.” John Steinbeck, “East of Eden”, 1952.

U.S. Geological Survey, 1940, USGS 1:62500-scale Quadrangle for Hollister, CA 1940

It was in 1907, that Dr. Harold Ohrwall, a San Francisco physician, and Professor Frederick Bioletti, Viticulture Department of the University of California, became partners in an experimental vineyard they called El Gavilan Vineyard.  The vineyard was located in San Benito County, some 95 miles south of San Francisco.  Their experiment took place in Grass Valley, 12 miles south-west of Hollister, on the Cienega Road. It was named after the Gabilan (or in Spanish Gavilan) Mountain Range which separates the Salinas and San Joaquin valleys.

U.S. Geological Survey, 1941, USGS 1:62500-scale Quadrangle for Gonzales, CA 1941

Professor Bioletti had convinced Dr. H Ohrwall that they could produce exceptional table wines.  This area was home to vineyards since the early 1850s when the Frenchman Theophile Vache settled in Cienega, some 9 miles south-west of Hollister.  Vache cleared the hillsides, creating vineyards with vines he brought over from Europe.  The area became known as the Vineyard District.

In 1898, Professor Bioletti joined the faculty at the University of California.  Over the years he became convinced that Grass Valley was a good area to grow fine wine grapes because of the good climate, fertile soils, and lack of phylloxera.  It also had good roads.

Professor Bioletti took a few years off from the university to start his venture with Ohrwall.  In 1908, Bioletti and Ohrwall added to their existing 15 acres of vines another 75 acres with vines sourced from the best vineyards in California.  Professor Bioletti soon left, not liking the practical side of vineyard management.  He returned to the University of California in 1910 becoming the first Professor of Viticulture as well as the first chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology before retiring in 1935.

Dr. H. Ohrwall continued operations as he enjoyed the life.  He built a small winery and crushed his first harvest in 1912.  The following harvest of 1913, yielded 29,000 gallons of wine which was valued at $6,000.  It was estimated that the yield would double the following year.  All of the wines were sold in bulk to the California Wine Association until Prohibition.  This would explain why no advertisements are to be found in period newspapers.  The Association ceased operating upon Repeal in 1935.

During Prohibition, households were allowed to make up to 300 gallons of wine for their own use.  New markets for grapes opened up on the east coast.  The grapes from El Gavilan were shipped off but at a reduced price compared to thicker skinned shipping varieties.  With the end of Prohibition in 1935, new wineries began opening up in the area.  For the next decade there was a period of renewal and turbulence.

El Gavilan Winery aged all of their wines in redwood casks for at least 4 years.  That August Sebastiani could purchase this wine and the fact that it spent 6 years in cask may be attributed to the difficulties of World War II.  The federal government requisitioned all raisin grapes for the production of raisins for military rations and not for use in making sweet wines.  The production of wine plummeted in 1942 as a result.  Price control was in effect which made the traditional selling of wine in bulk a nearly profitless venture.  However, the controls did allow for bottled wine to be sold at nearly five times the bulk pricing.  In 1943, the government requisitioned railway tankers, effectively ceasing the feasibility of bulk shipping.  El Gavilan would need to keep their production local.

East coast bottlers flocked to California to purchase wineries and vineyards.  This drove a boom for grape and wine prices in 1944.  El Gavilan Winery continued to operate under Dr. H. Ohrwall who produced wine until 1944.  The following year he sold the vineyard and winery to Taylor & Co during the market crash of 1945.  El Gavilan Winery ceased all operations in 1952.  A decade later, in 1963, the Taylor & Co properties were acquired by Almaden.

There are no records indicating if Auguste Sebastiani bought the wine either from Dr. H. Ohrwall or Taylor & Co.  It seems likely that Taylor & Co. sold the wine.  The labels, with El Gavilan Winery listed, were created in 1946 after Dr. H Ohrwall had sold the company.  That year California wine sales started off strong and increasing in value which might have influenced the creation of the Casa de Sonoma line.  The upward trend did not last long as the ending of the war and removal of price controls all contributed to a major crash of the wine market in 1947.  This is the year the wine was bottled and by all accounts, it was not immediately offered for sale.  Perhaps August Sebastiani chose to wait until 1950 for a better market.

The 1982 Re-release of Casa de Sonoma

The sachet which was tied to the bottle contains the original cork and paper capsule.

Shortly before August Sebastiani passed away in 1982, his son Sam Sebastiani, began running the winery.  He immediately set about moving operations towards the premium end by re-evaluating the quality of all purchased grapes.  He expanded the winery, invested heavily in new equipment, and ceased produced of old-fashion products such as sweet wines.  The release of the 1941 Casa de Sonoma was meant to symbolize these changes until the newly produced wines could stand on their own.

The wine is in the original 4/5 quart bottle with original labels.  When the bottles were recorked in May 1982, new foil was added and a small strip label indicating the provenance.  The original cork and paper cap were placed in a sachet which was tied to the neck of the bottle.    The replacement cork is stamped “Recorked [illegible] At Sebastiani Vineyards, Sonoma, California” along with an eagle.

The Wine

Sylvia Sebastiani had tasted the wine over a period of 30 years when it was released in 1982.  She recollected it started out “young and fruity” and then in the 1950s it “began to throw something of a sediment.  It has now developed a bottle bouquet.  It’s slightly brown around the edges but still has a substantial fruit character.” During the re-corking process, Sam Sebastiani said they noticed some variation between bottles but there was “an overall strong consistency.”  He felt the wine demonstrated the importance of redwood which allows the wine to mellow while still preserving its fruitiness.

Our bottle of wine was as well preserved as the labels.  The color is mature but still pigmented and bright.  There is a burst of flavor but the wine is old enough that any sweetness from concentration is gone.  The flavors are drying but there are suggestions of red fruit which is still supported by structure.  I will even venture to say the extended redwood aging is evident, for the profile of the wine is just different.

August Sebastiani’s careful cellaring leaves us with a very unique experience.   We get to taste the product of Professor Bioletti’s and Dr. H Ohrwall’s belief that site-specific, single-variety, traditionally made California wines could result in top quality wine.  There were others who were to soon champion this view most notably Martin Ray.

1941 Casa de Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
From the personal cellar of August Sebastiani.  Recorked in May 1982 at Sebastiani Vineyards.  Alcohol 13%.  A clear mature cherry wood color lightened from age.  A good nose full of mature aromas, suggestive of redwood.  In the mouth the wine is fading and drying, the sweetness of concentration is all gone.  There is a suggestion of red fruit with a meaty cut and perhaps some fat.  Fine wood and watering acidity still support the wine.  It certainly tastes of another era.  *** Drink up.


  • California Fruit News, Volume 49, Issue 1351. 1914. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=tXhRAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA4#v=onepage&q&f=false
  • Sebastiani Sets Record: WINE: $100 Bottle. Cannon, Carl. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Jul 13, 1982; ProQuest pg. E1
  • Lapsley, James T. “Bottled Poetry”. University of California Press. 1996.
  • My Most Memorable Bottle of Wine.  Meredith, Nikki.  Oct, 03, 1982. San Francisco Chronicle. pg 18.
  • Ohrwall, John P. “A History of Vineyard and Wineries in San Benito County” found in Almaden Vineyards, Petition for Establishment of San Benito as a Viticultural Area.  Dec 2, 1982.
  • Peninou, Ernest P.  “A History of The San Francisco Viticultural District.  Presented by Nomis Press for The Wine Librarians Association.  2004.
  • A CHANGING OF THE GUARD. By Terry Robards. New York Times (1923-Current file); Dec 12, 1982; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. SM122
  • Rare vintage release by Sebastiani.  Thwaite, Jean. The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984); Jul 22, 1982; Proquest Historical Newspapers. pg. 19F.
  • U.S. Geological Survey, 1940, USGS 1:62500-scale Quadrangle for Hollister, CA 1940: U.S. Geological Survey. URL: https://www.sciencebase.gov/catalog/item/5d295848e4b038fabe1d13d3
  • U.S. Geological Survey, 1941, USGS 1:62500-scale Quadrangle for Gonzales, CA 1941: U.S. Geological Survey URL: https://www.sciencebase.gov/catalog/item/5d295838e4b038fabe1d13a3

 

A lively 1964 Luigi Nervi, Spanna

I was in New York the other week for a midday tasting of some seriously fine and old Rioja.  That evening, I was to meet my friend William for dinner.  In need of some wine to help me transition from very old to young vintages, I stopped by Chambers Street Wines for a bottle. I knew from another friend that they are happy to double-decant wines for their customers which is exactly what they did with the 1964 Luigi Nervi, Spanna.

Luigi Nervi & Figlio was founded in 1920, eventually becoming the largest vineyard owner in Gattinara.  This bottle is simply named Spanna, which is the local name for Nebbiolo.  The Spanna bottlings are more generic than Gattinara so its possible for other varieties to have been blended in.  According to the Wasserman’s, the Nervi’s ranked 1964 as amongst the very best vintages.

This bottle was tasted after four to six hours of decanting.  It is a lighter flavored, greenhouse accented wine which does not have the fruit nor the depth of the 1964 Nervi, Gattinara.  What it does have is that undeniably attractive, Alto Piemonte acidity and structure.

1964 Luigi Nervi, Spanna 
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Initially dusty on the nose.  After a few hours, a bit herbaceous with greenhouse aromas on the nose.  These eventually resolve to celery.  The nose carries into the mouth where there are tart flavors with good acidity and grip.  There is some weight and old leather but any fruit has largely faded away.  There is plenty of presence in the mouth with enough flavor to hold interest.  **(*) Now but will last.

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.

1985 and 1988 Brunello di Montalcino tasting

November 12, 2018 1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wines from a birthday celebration

October 17, 2018 Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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