David Bloch returns from a hiatus in writing, though not tasting, to list his favorite Champagnes and both New and Old World white and red wines.
Top 10 Champagnes
1996 Moët & Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon
1998 Deutz Cuvée William Deutz
2004 Pascal Doquet Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil
2004 Taittinger Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne
2006 Taittinger Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne
Pierre Péters Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvée de Réserve
Pascal Doquet Premiers Crus Brut Blanc de Blancs
Camille Savès Grand Cru Brut Carte Blanche Bouzy
Varnier-Fanniere Grand Cru Cuvée St-Denis
G. H. Mumm & Cie Crémant de Cramant
Top 10 Reds
Old World Reds:
1993 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo
1994 Château Latour
1995 Château Troplong Mondot
1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabajà
1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano
1997 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Méal
1998 Vieux Château Certan
1999 Jean Raphet et Fils Clos Vougeot Cuvée Unique
1999 Guigal Côte-Rôtie Château d’Ampuis
New World Red:
Top 10 Whites
2001 Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese
2004 F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Dürnsteiner Kellerberg
2005 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Felseneck GK Riesling Spätlese
2006 Chapoutier Hermitage Chante-Alouette
2006 Hirtzberger Riesling Smaragd Hochrain
2007 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Felseneck Trocken Großes Gewächs
2007 Vatan Sancerre Clos La Néore
2008 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Großes Gewächs
2009 Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo
2010 Henri Prudhon Saint-Aubin En Remilly
1990 Château Climens
1996 Château d’Yquem
2001 Château Rieussec
2002 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume
2002 Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Auslese Goldkapsel
At the end of October I was fortunate to attend an Italian tasting largely focused in on the wines of Bruno Giacosa and Giacomo Conterno. No tasting of Barolo should be without a mature example and this one began with a very fine 1967 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo. Double-decanted midday it continued to slowly develop in the glass. I can only write that I love the aroma and flavor of this type of wine. Also with attractive maturity, the 1978 Carlo Boffa & Figli, Barbaresco Riserva Vigna Vitalotti is meatier and earthier but leaves the impression of being tired.
The youthful white-labeled pair of 1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Gallina di Neive and 1997 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive did not prepare me for the outstanding red-labels. At 20 years of age the 1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Asili is beginning to move past its youthful stage. It is a powerful, intense wine which never takes away from the beautiful flavors. Younger in age and profile, the 2001 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja promises a great future. There are primary aromas and flavors right now but everything is in place for slow development.
Completely different in nature the 1997 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino, with moderate concentration and complexity, acted as a segway to the outstanding 2000 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino. This is a highly refined, ethereally flavored wine which fills the mouth. With air it fleshes out to provide seamless pleasure. What a tasting!
1980 Stony Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%. Looks like a copper-orange wine. There is a complex nose which is a touch maderized. In the mouth is focused, driven flavors that are quite lively and even sport some body but the wine is clearly not correct. Not Rated.
2010 Domaine Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes
Imported by Wilson Daniels. Alcohol 13.5%. The flint aromas make the nose stand out. In the mouth the precise, lemon fruit mixes with flint and smoke. This is a persistent, tart wine with lime flavors and a long, finely textured finish. Impressive now. **** Now – 2026.
2005 Domaine des Croix, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
A Becky Wasserman selection imported by Wine Cellars LTD. Alcohol 13.5%. The subtle nose is a touch earthy and lactic. A significantly rounder body is backed by glycerin. Flavors of lemon and lime take on subtle baking spices. It improves with air, filling the mouth with flavors and the sensation of an oily, luxurious body. ***(*) Now – 2021.
2010 Lucien Le Moine, Corton Blanc Grand Cru
Imported by Barrel One Selections. This is aromatic with sweet fruit and floral spices. The tart start is focused yet offers weight. It is almost puckering with a wood hint, floral flavors throughout, and smoke in the finish. It is almost spicy. **** Now – 2026.
2005 Etienne Sauzet, Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru
Imported by Vineyard Brands. A slight darker color hints at the inevitable. Shame!
1967 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo
Imported by suitcase. The nose is subtly smokey. In the mouth are lively, fresh flavors that are initially linear and focused but expand by the finish. There is bottle aged complexity as this wine is beyond fruit. I like the blend of old leather and weighty, animale flavors that develop with air. ****(*) Now – 2026.
1978 Carlo Boffa & Figli, Barbaresco Riserva Vigna Vitalotti
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. The meaty nose is good and opens up a bit with air. In the mouth this is grippy with tart red fruit, and an animale nature. It builds subtle ripeness but is ultimately leaner and not as flavorful. *** Now.
1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Gallina di Neive
Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 14%. The fruitier nose is attractive with complex bitters-like aroma. This grippy wine starts with dry tannins and young fruit but it has very attractive grip, long taste, and a haunting personality. ***(*) Now-2031.
1997 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive
Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 13.5%. The darker nose is more subtle. This is a rounder wine with less acidity and tannins, despite its youthful flavor. It shows more balance at this time. The complex red and black fruit are supported by some firm, underlying structure. ***(*) Now – 2026.
2001 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja
Imported by Wine Cellars. Alcohol 14%. The aromas step out of the glass, primarily exuding violets. This is very young in the mouth, powerful with very fine tannins. A core of blackberry fruit comes out. This clearly has a strong future ahead. ****(*) Now – 2036
1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Asili
Imported by Premier Cru. Alcohol 14%. The nose is concentrated and strong with fruity aromas of licorice. The rounded start is powerful with intense structure and fine, grippy tannins. The flavor, though, is undeniably beautify with density, and some bacon fat. The liquidity of the wine is bound with the acidity. ****(*) Now – 2031.
1997 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 14%. The flavors are of lighter berries and almost roast earth. The wine remains firm with fine, strong tannins. There is structure to last but the flavor concentration does not seem to be there. **** Now – 2026.
2000 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino
Imported by Vieux Vins. Alcohol 14%. The young grapey nose makes way to a smooth entry of mouth filling, black, ethereal flavors. The power of this wine builds with time becoming fleshier too. Lovely and very classy. ****(*) Now – 2026.
2012 Donnhoff, Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Eiswein, Nahe
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports. Alcohol 7.5%. This, bright, electric wine is noticeable for its residual sugar and almost effervescent sensation on the tongue. The spices soon mix with sweet grapefruit and sugar. Young and a bit hard to drink at this stage. **** 2026-2046.
2002 Alois Kracher, Scheurebe Trockenbeeren Auslese #6 Zwischen den Seen, Neusiedlersee
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports. Alcohol 8.5%. Like liquid amber, this aromatic wine is lovely with an apricot hint that is more fresh than dried. It adds baking spices and cinnamon. Weighty with good integration of sweetness. **** Now – 2026.
Shane brought over a fantastic bottle of wine this weekend which he purchased a year ago during a trip to Austria. His bottle of 2012 Winkler-Hermaden, Olivin is a recent vintage in the 25 year history of the Olivin cuvee. The original idea was to create an outstanding, pure Zweigelt wine during a time when it was seen as only capable of simplicity. The cuvee has been tweaked over the years but of particular interest is that it is aged in oak sourced from the Kapfenstein forest which surrounds the vineyards.
The wine itself is surprisingly deep in flavor and though there is an inky nature, the minerality and tautness keep the wine on edge. With a tilt towards the modern, this bottle is drinking very well right now.
2012 Winkler-Hermaden, Olivin
This wine is 100% Zweigelt that was aged for 18 months in local oak. Alcohol 14%. It is clear this is a deep, mineral, blue-black wine from the very first sip. The flavors are taut mixing pure fruit with spices. It is attractively inky with a persistent leather note. **** Now – 2019.
A few weeks ago I joined Lou for a game meat (moose, rabbit, etc) dinner party at his house. I took few pictures and even fewer notes but I did stop when I tasted the 2008 Weingut Bründlmayer, Kamptal Steinmassel Riesling. Lou purchased this bottle a few years back when he was in Vienna. Lucky me that he opened it. Bründlmayer produces this wine from a 4 hectare parcel in Steinmassel. This area was originally a quarry and that stone nature clearly comes through in the wine. This is really good stuff!
2008 Weingut Bründlmayer, Kamptal Steinmassel Riesling
This wine is 100% Riesling that was fermented in both stainless steel and large oak casks. Alcohol 12%. The nose is aromatic with fresh floral notes and a petrol hint. In the mouth this vibrant wine begins with white fruit that morphs into petrol followed by a decidedly stoney finish. There is richness to the wine but the flavors are dry with a citric, grippy finish. This is on the upslope of maturity and will only get better. **** Now – 2026.
There were other wines too. A 2002 Robert Hunter, Brut Blanc de Noir, Sonoma Valley really hit the spot. It is mature with the right amount of bubbles and brioche. Others liked it as well for the bottle was rapidly drained. The 2010 Palazzone, Orvieto Classico Superiore Campo del Guardiano is far more mature than the Bründlmayer. The acidity is more piercing with flavors of orchard fruit, dried herbs, and lychees. A solid wine in comparison. We finally had a solid bottle of 1970 La Mission Haut Brion, Graves. It was completely drinkable, not too far over the hill, but not worth writing any more about.
I really liked the 2009 Pascal Aufranc, Vieilles Vignes de 1939, Chenas. It was four years ago that I last drank this and I now believe it is fully mature. There is less strawberry and Kirsch flavor now. It leans towards an autumnal spectrum with the tannins fully integrated. We soon swung towards the modern spectrum with the 2011 Clos St Jean, Chateauneuf du Pape (16% ABV!) and 2008 Cayuse, God Only Knows, Walla Walla Valley. Both wines were double-decanted for several hours. The Clos St Jean showed rather well with plenty of grip and some complexity. But it was the Cayuse which wowed me. My best description is as if Chateau des Tours made wine in Walla Walla. Ethereal yet backed by substance, complex with no assertive structure. Great stuff. There was a bottle of 2013 El Nido, Clio, Jumilla which I did not like at all. Too modern, clean, and massive. We wrapped the evening up with a bottle of 1986 Fetzer, Port, Mendocino County. This actually bore a resemblance to a traditional Port. It was a bit simple, short, and spirituous but the flavor profile was right.
The Austrian red wine section is located in the bottom, back right corner of MacArthur Beverages. There I found the 2011 Netzl, Carnuntum Cuvee which is still on the shelves since I first tasted it two years ago. Though a shame this wine has not yet sold out, it was a boon for me. I found the wine has improved with bottle age, readily offering dark fruit, a touch of herbaceousness, and stones. Moving from a blend to a single variety is the 2012 Paul Achs, Zweigelt, Burgenland. The musky nose engages followed by tart and puckering flavors. Finally, the 2013 Gernot Heinrich, Blaufrankisch, Burgenland offers the roundest and most fruit driven flavors of all three. Though attractive now you might be tempted to cellar it for another year. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2011 Netzl, Carnuntum Cuvee – $15
Imported by KW Selection. This wine is a blend of 40% Zweigelt, 40% Blaufrankisch, and 20% Merlot.Alcohol 13.5%. Though smelling of dark fruit the nose remains fresh and scented. In the mouth the ripe, puckering flavors exhibit some density. The wine remains fresh with integrated acidity throughout. The dark, ripe, black fruit mixes with a greenhouse note before the herbs, sage, and dry stone mixed finish. *** Now – 2018.
2012 Paul Achs, Zweigelt, Burgenland – $19
Imported by Winebow. This wine is 100% Zweigelt which was fermented in stainless steel tanks then aged for seven months in large, French oak barrels. Alcohol 12.5%. A hint of butter makes way to musky, wafting aromas with hints of pencil. In the mouth the bright black and red fruit is slightly tart and puckering. With air it shows vintage perfume and a lipsticky greenhouse vein before a little ripeness comes out in the finish. ** Now – 2017.
2013 Gernot Heinrich, Blaufrankisch, Burgenland – $22
Imported by Winebow. The fruit was fermented with indigenous yeasts in both oak vats and stainless steel tanks followed by 13 months of aging in large French and Austrian oak casks.Alcohol 12.5%. The rounder flavors of blue and black fruit does not have the herbaceousness of other wines. There is a touch of oak to the weighty flavors along with integrated, salivating acidity. This good, youthful wine might even evolve over the short-term due to fine and ripe tannins. *** Now – 2018.
For the past several years I have taken the effort to drink American wine for the Thanksgiving holiday. While I largely kept to that theme this year, I did kick things off with a bottle of Spanish Cava. I did so because the earliest Thanksgiving memories of my mother are from Spain. She spent her childhood in Zaragoza where the family was sure to celebrate Thanksgiving. They used imported American ingredients to prepare the classic dishes of turkey with gravy, potatoes, green beans, and of course, many, many pies. They did, however, drink Spanish wine with their meal. Our Spanish bottle of 2010 Recaredo, Intens, Rosat Brut Nature Gran Reserva took several hours to open up. While it does require a few more years in the cellar, it eventually revealed attractive hard cherry flavors with just the right amount of texture.
2010 Recaredo, Intens, Rosat Brut Nature Gran Reserva
Imported by Neal Rosenthal. This wine is a blend of 58% Pinot Noir and 42% Monastrell. Alcohol 12%. After a few hours of air, the firm but quickly dissipating bubble made way to dry flavors of hard cherry and cola. Quite different and certainly rather in need of age, things wrapped up with a textured finish and just a hint of yeast. **(*) 2018-2025.
I tend to rely on red wine for Thanksgiving and this weekend I tasted through some mature reds. Lou and I picked up a number of bottles from the Earthquake Cellar which was recently sold off by BP Wine. The NV Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 271, North Coast Counties bears no date but the fact that this magnum is in a 2/5 gallon bottle dates the wine to the 1970s at the latest. I personally believe the wine is from the 1960s for several reasons which places it during a period of fascinating change as detailed in History of Sebastiani Vineyards, 1955-Present.
At the beginning of the 1960s, Sebastiani was a bulk wine operation that produced wine solely for other labels. Some 90% of this wine was dessert wine such as port, sherry, muscatel, and tokay. By the early 1970s the transition to selling table wine bottled under the Sebastiani name was completed. The bulk operation was no more.
The impetus for change developed in the mid 1950s under the control of August Sebastiani. At the time, the Allied Grape Growers/Petri Group were going to start bottling their own wine at facilities throughout the country. Gallo, in response, decided to bottle their wine in lightweight bottles so they could ship it across the country. These two actions put direct competition on Sebastiani which had no choice but to change. There is also the story that August Sebastiani’s wife Sylvia tasted a “really, really, really good cream sherry” which turned out to be a wine produced by Sebastiani for another label. Why not bottle such good wine under their own name?
The Sebastiani brand was developed in the 1950s and a very basic bottling machine known as a Fillabelmatic was purchased. However, the transition away from bulk wine production did not begin in earnest until around 1960. Throughout the 1960s dessert wines were still produced but various tiers of wines were developed including table and varietal wines. The varietal wines were not only bottled in 4/5 quart bottles but also in half gallon bottles and apparently magnum bottles.
Our particular bottle of Sebastiani wine clearly predates the conversion to metric wine bottles. This requirement was passed in 1977 and went into effect in 1979. The basic Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon label from our bottle was used during the 1960s and 1970s. Bearing the common theme of “Sturdy and Deep-Flavored” this label was used for both non-vintage and vintages wines. Vintages wines such as 1963 Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 9, 1968 Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1970 Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, Proprietor’s Reserve all list “North Coast Counties” with a winery location of “Sonoma Valley, California”. The 1972 Mountain Burgundy, 1973 Barbera, and 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon, Proprietor’s Reserve that was bottled in 1979, all bear “Northern California” as well as the zip code 95476. This suggests that the non-vintage blend could be from the period of 1963 through 1971.
The cork was solid and the wine itself in sturdy enough shape that it drank fine over three evenings. It was rather stinky and animale at first but it did clean up. The fruit was sweet with rounded flavors and no hint of French or American oak. Instead this time-machine of a wine transported us back to the days of redwood. The images it conjured might have outpaced the quality of the wine but it was enough to last a glass or two.
As for the other wines, the 1991 Knudsen Erath, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley slowly responded to air over the course of an evening. With cherry and wood box flavors it only gave the slightest hint it would not develop any further. By contrast the 1996 Newton, Unfiltered Pinot Noir, Napa Valley was forward on the nose and in the mouth with plenty of fruit and glycerin. While clearly modern, it was not a bad drink at all, and in surprisingly strong shape. The 1999 Domaine de la Charbonniere, Chateauneuf du Pape was in great shape, offering everything you could want from a somewhat rustic Rhone wine which has not yet hit full maturity.
NV Sebastiani Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 271, North Coast Counties (2/5 gallon)
Alcohol 12.5%. The nose was quite earthy at first with animal fur aromas. Over time the stink faded off to reveal sweet fruit and wood box flavors in the mouth. The wine softened a touch revealing rounded flavors and gentle old wood that lasted over the next few days. ** Now but will last for many years.
1991 Knudsen Erath, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
Alcohol 13%. The nose revealed gentle aromas of earth, cherry, and tobacco. In the mouth the firm cherry flavors matched the polished wood notes. This slightly savory wine still sported a rather fine structure. The flavors thinned out some by the finish where there were some cola-like flavors, watering acidity, and roasted earth. *** Now but will last.
1996 Newton, Unfiltered Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
Alcohol 14.5%. The wine was immediately aromatic with round fruit and wood box. In the mouth the flavors were forward with round black fruit that was almost thick with glycerin. With air this modern wine showed more minerals, blackness, and some nearly resolved tannins. ** Now – 2020.
1999 Domaine de la Charbonniere, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Ginday Imports. Alcohol 14%. This wine had a good core of red and black fruit and a pleasing amount of structure that leant towards the not quite rustic personality. Clearly a good wine in shape for continued development. *** Now -2022.
There was also a pair of dessert wines. From the lightest of a group, the bottle of 1988 Chateau La Tour Blanche, Sauternes was youthful, fresh, and rather unevolved which meant it did not tire the palate at all. A brief taste of the 2007 Velich Apetlon, Seewinkel Beerenauslese, Burgenland already reveals an interesting amount of complexity. It is noticeably richer and thicker so think of it more as a sipping wine to wrap things up.
1988 Chateau La Tour Blanche, Sauternes
Imported by Luke’s Distribution Co. Alcohol 14%. In fine condition, this wine brighter, floral and yellow fruit aromas. In the mouth the youthful, floral and orange citrus accented fruit has an appealing level of viscosity. The level of acidity keeps things fresh and slightly watering through the saline marked finish. I would cellar this further. *** Now – 2035.
2007 Velich Apetlon, Seewinkel Beerenauslese, Burgenland
This wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Scheurebe, and Riesling that was fermented and aged in oak barrels. Alcohol 12.5%. Already a deep color , aromas of petrol with both fresh and dried apricots step out of the glass. With air hints of black tea develop. In the mouth, this is a thick wine with viscosity that is noticeable in the finish and aftertaste. ***(*) Now – 2035.
The wines featured in today’s post also come from my moving backlog. I am a bit late to the game but in case you have not yet had it, I highly recommend the 2013 Birgit Eichinger, Gruner Veltliner, Wechselberg, Kamptal. Rich, lively, and textured this wine is all pleasure. The 2012 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules, Qu’es Aquo, Costieres de Nimes is sourced from 80 year old Carignan vines that offer plenty of concentrated, dense flavors. The latest 2014 Neyers, Chardonnay 304, Sonoma County is actively opening up. It should hit its stride this winter so why not watch the evolution? I was about to pass off on the 2012 Emblem, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley as too soft but with extended air it tensed up. Good thing I track all new wines over two days. Enjoy! These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2012 Domaine d’Aupilhac, Montpeyroux – $20
Imported by Kermit Lynch. This wine is a blend of 30% Mourvedre, 25% Syrah, 25% Carignan, 16% Grenache, and 4% Cinsault that was aged for 20 months in used foudres and barrels. Alcohol 14%. Tasted over two days this tart, red and black fruited wine, had roundness, a sweet fruit note, and a developed a dry structure. It took on a brighter-citric aspect, some pepper, and flavors evocative of a natural wine. Hmmm. *(*) Now-2017.
2009 Cascina Corte, Pirochetta Vecchie Vigne, Dogliani – $23
Imported by Simon N Cellars. Alcohol 13.5%. The aromas of roast earth made way to tart red then dry black fruit in the mouth. The minerally black fruit was backed by plenty of tannins, a drying finish, and some acidity. Not quite the balance I prefer. Will last but why wait. ** Now.
2013 Birgit Eichinger, Gruner Veltliner, Wechselberg, Kamptal – $20
Imported by Weygandt Metzler. Alcohol 12.5%. The attractive honey-suckle nose was followed by weighty, slight rich fruit right as the wine hit the tongue. The richness was backed by lively acidity on the tongue as well as a chalk note. It had a tart, yet ripe middle and plenty of texture. Very enjoyable. *** Now-2016.
2012 Emblem, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – $26
Alcohol 14.4%. In the mouth were powdery black fruit flavors with a touch of chocolate, all of which was bound in approachable tannins with just enough acidity as underlying support. With air the wine deepened revealing plums with more acidity and structure that showed better tension. The fruit was blacker as well. Perhaps it needs a short period in the cellar. **(*) 2016-2019.
2014 Neyers, Chardonnay 304, Sonoma County – $20
Alcohol 14.1%. The mouth brought forth slightly tart white fruit on the sides of the tongue before it turned creamy with a yeast note. The wine became creamier with air and took on an attractive lemon-citrus flavor in the finish. It needs a bit of time to settle down but it is obvious it will get there. **(*) 2016-2017.
2012 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules, Qu’es Aquo, Costieres de Nimes – $25
Imported by Robert Kacher. Alcohol 13.5%. The pungent nose revealed pure, dense fruit that mixed with earthy orange aromas. In the mouth the fruit was sweet and smooth with very fine chocolate flavor, tannins, and a seamless acidity that does not poke out. The very fine texture existed in a weighty, almost thick and unctuous wine. With air this wine showed persistent power, minerally black fruit, and gentle power. *** Now – 2020.