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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+.

Rhone Research – 2016 Chateauneuf du Pape, Part 1

September 21, 2018 Leave a comment


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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.

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.  ****.