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
Amy Ray has a well “honed” (to borrow a general quote from Barry Wiggins) passion for Burgundy. Though I have known of her for some time we only met this year. In hanging out with her I have discovered she also loves the wines of Champagne, Piedmont, and perhaps most importantly, old Madeira.
Amy’s love for Burgundy is clearly expressed in her list of memorable wines from 2016. Earlier this year she traveled to Burgundy where she drank the 1959 Louis Jadot Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Ursules Domaine des Héritiers. She recently remarked how much she likes the 1959 vintage. At the Paulée at Château de Meursault she experienced the 1979 Domaine Francois Lamarche La Grande Rue which was not yet recognized as a Grand Cru.
If Amy is willing to attend the Paulée in Burgundy it is of no surprise that she was at La Paulée de San Francisco. At Quince in San Francisco, she was seated next to Etienne de Montille and Veronique Drouhin Boss.
It is here that she drank a beautiful bottle of 1985 Joseph Drouhin Musigny.
Amy’s love for Nebbiolo and Truffles took her to Piedmont. Here she took a break at Vinoteca Centro Storico with a bottle of NV Marie-Noelle Ledru Champagne Extra Brut. Marie-Noelle Ledru manages everything herself even riddling and disgorging.
She thought the Elio Grasso estate the most beautiful in all of Piedmont.
Gianluca Grasso ordered an excellent bottle of the 2006 Elio Grasso Barolo Riserva Runcot at the Trattoria della Posta in Monforte d’Alba.
Here are the other wines on Amy’s incredible list. Note, there is even Rayas!
- 1979 Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut
- 1979 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee St. Vivant
- 2010 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze
- 1998 Jacques-Frederic Mugnier Musigny
- 2004 Coche-Dury Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrières
- 1995 Christophe Roumier Ruchottes-Chambertin
- 1995 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve
I was careful to note I drank from a magnum of 1976 Lanson, Champagne and even took a picture of the bottle of 1996 Louis Roederer, Cristal Champagne and Jacque Selosse, V.O. Champagne Extra Brut. However, my tasting note for the 1998 Dom Perignon, Champagne “racy, yeasty, rich, mineral wine flavors” is unaccompanied by a picture. This might sound haphazard but Champagne is the first thing drunk after the all-day Sercial Madeira tasting. The need to refresh oneself with Champagne and talk to old friends leads to a sort of frenzy. Everyone jockeys for a pour of Champagne. It is not a time to take note.
Dinner is seated, at a very long table. The pace of wine is measured by the sommeliers who impose a logical order on what is drunk. Every guest is encouraged to bring a magnum of mature wine or preferably two bottles of the same. This is not always possible so there is a large variety of red wines. I take pictures and jot down brief impressions so I may recall the evening later on. There were only two off bottles this night the 1959 Joh. Jos. Prum, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, feine Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer and 1978 Heitz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Martha’s Vineyard, Napa Valley. In Germany 1959 is a legendary vintage and in America both Joh. Jos Prum and Heitz Martha’s Vineyard are legendary wines. In some punishing coincidence a friend brought a bottle of 1975 Martha’s Vineyard to my house this year. It was off too. Damn and double damn.
Of the good wines, they fell into two camps. Those which are too young to follow a tasting of 19th century Madeira and those which are appropriately mature. In this latter category two particular bottles stand out: 1966 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien and 1875 Isaias W. Hellman, Angelica Wine, Cucamonga Vineyard, San Bernadino County. The 1966 Ducru sports a fantastic nose. I find some old wines have a sweaty aspect to their nose almost like aromatic umami and this bottle did as well. The flavors were equally attractive with that sweet concentration of flavor from age. It does not just taste mature, it tastes different.
My experience with Californian wine only includes vintages into the 1960s. I can assure you the last wine I would have expected at dinner was not just a pre-Prohibition Californian wine but one from the 19th century. In a particularly unforgiving act of arson in 2005, some 4.5 million bottles of wine were destroyed including 175 bottles of Hellman Angelica and Port wine, certainly most of the remaining stock. I can only imagine a handful of bottles survive to this day. Now scarcity alone does not make for a fine wine, what is in the glass does. With a bit of volatile acidity and dust on the nose the 1875 Hellman may have given slight pause but in the mouth this is an unctuous, powerful, and mouth coating wine. I managed to prolong the pleasure for a few more weeks because I was allowed to take the empty bottle home. There was still damp sediment in the bottle so I stoppered it. Every few days I would smell the bottle to swim once again in 19th century aromas.
2002 Dauvissat, Chablis Grand Cru Le Clos
Imported by Vieux Vins. The yeasty nose makes way to minerally, white and yellow fruit flats. This seductive wine is rich with a hint of yeast, ripe tannins in the finish, and fat in the aftertaste.
2008 Domaine Coche-Dury, Meursault
Alcohol 12.5%. This is a fresh, lean wine that tastes yeasty and older in the mouth. IT leans towards pure lemon flavors.
2007 Domaine Coche-Dury, Meursault
Alcohol 12.5%. This is a grippy, concentrated wine with fresh acidity. A little weight comes out with air but this is all about lemon tartness. To match the flavor is a fair amount of acidity.
1959 Joh. Jos. Prum, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, feine Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Imported by O. W. Loeb & Co. Corked! D*mn!
1970 Domaine Dujac, Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Combottes
Imported by Frederick Wildman. Alcohol 13%. The dark, garnet color matches the rather mature nose. In the mouth this is a very dry wine with old perfume mixing with linear, red fruit, The structure is still there, out living the fruit, as this gentle, old wine dries up.
1967 Odero, Barolo
A Chambers Street Selection imported by T. Elenteny. The nose is a little stinky, which I find attractive, before aromas of candied cherry come out. This is old-school lively, with structure from the ripe tannins. Perfect for what it is.
1961 Burlotto, Castello di Verduno, Barolo
The foxy, earthy flavors come with initial concentration. It is a dry wine offering more flavor than the Oddero. Maturity has brought old-school flavors, a sweet aspect, and earth. It wraps up with drying, textured tannins.
1967 Cordezuma, Barolo
A Chambers Street Selection imported by T. Elenteny. The color is young, almost cranberry-ruby in color. In the mouth this is a simpler wine which is tart, citric, and bears less fruit.
1981 Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia, Rioja
An odd wine with almost mushroom flavors, yeast, and floral pork (WTF!). The acidity is bound up with the modest bit of structure.
1990 Prunotto, Barbaresco Montestefano
Alcohol 13.5%. Tobacco. Young!
1995 Guigal, Cote-Rotie La Landonne
A Thomas Gruenig Selection imported by Torion Trading Ltd. Alcohol 13%. This is way too young. Structure, drying, and bracing at this point.
1995 Guigal, Cote-Rotie La Mouline
A Thomas Gruenig Selection imported by Torion Trading Ltd. Alcohol 13%. This is aromatic with a fine nose just beginning to take on mature aromas. In the mouth the red fruit is starting to soften a touch. Overall this is a focused wine with powerful structure through the fresh finish. Young.
1989 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien
Imported by Johnston. Alcohol 12.5%. The mature Bordeaux notes are starting to escape but this is still so young.
1989 Chateau Lynch Bages, Pauillac
Shipped by SDVF. Imported by South Wine & Spirits. Alcohol 12.5%. This is more open with cassis, minerals, and fat. Nice.
1966 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien
Shipped by Raoul Lucien & Co. Imported by Combeau-Collet & Cie. Alcohol 12%. The fantastic nose is aromatic and a touch sweaty with cranberries and red fruit. It develops some old-school perfume. In the mouth the flavors have some sweetness to them before the drying finish. A lovely wine at 50 years of age.
1966 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
Shipped by A. de Luze & Fils. This is less giving, more linear, soon shutting down to simple, cranberry, and red fruit flavors. It is firm and tight in the mouth with a shorter finish.
1978 Heitz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Martha’s Vineyard, Napa Valley
An off bottle.
1992 Harlan Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Young and primary.
1937 Niepoort, Colheita Port
Imported by W. J. Deutsch Co. Alcohol 19%. There is a sweet start with flavors of black tea and wood. There is a fair amount of noticeable acidity before the slightly harsh finish.
1875 Isaias W. Hellman, Angelica Wine, Cucamonga Vineyard, San Bernadino County
Though there is some volatile acidity on the nose, it is fine and articulate, with a bit of dust matching its age. The fruit tastes so different. This is a powerful and lip coating wine which is still racy and sweet. The fruit persisted through the dark finish. With air this unctuous wine, with its plentiful residual sugar, builds glycerin and baking spices. In great shape!
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.
All of the wines were opened at the table to be drunk in any desired order. I have organized my notes in vintage order first by white then red and finally the sole Madeira. Finally, I have limited my comments to a handful of wines for brevity.
We kicked things off with the 1985 Laurent Perrier, Grand Siecle, Champagne. Grand Siecle was conceived in 1955 as top cuvee to be blended from three of the very best vintages. So our bottle is a particular anomaly being from the single, outstanding 1985 vintage. The cork was firmly seated, refusing to budge, and ultimately twisted into two pieces which were then dug out. Perhaps the tightness of the cork ensures an impeccable seal for the quality of the bubbles is outstanding. This is no recent disgorgement. At best it is savory, complex, and racy.
The 1955 Chateau Carbonneiux, Graves solicited many remarks as the bottle exuded promise. The fill was high, the color youthful, and the cork well-seated against the neck. From the last vintage before the Perrin family purchased the estate, this mostly Sauvignon Blanc based wine was fermented and raised in oak. The nose did remind me a bit of gasoline before it righted itself. With clean, floral flavors of lemon and even some weight it is in fascinating shape. It is a bit simple and short making it more of an academic reference point than quenching old wine.Moving back in time, the oldest red wine came in a squashed 66 cl bottle. The 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva della Castellana, Barolo is from one of the greatest Barolo vintages of the 20th century. The Reserva della Castellana represents a supposed secret stash of top wine secured behind a lock of which there was one key. Quantities of wine were released each year with the serial numbers recorded in a book. Bottle #2506 improved in the decanter. This salty, zippy wine is in the stage beyond fruit of bottle aged flavors. It is enjoyable, though not remarkable.
I suspect our bottle of 1955 Torres, Gran Coronas, Gran Reserva does not represent the heights this wine can achieve. A bit of nail-polish and oxidation is present both on the nose and in the mouth. Beyond that, though, the wine is quite rich and savory. Time in the decanter broadens the wine. I would certainly drink this wine again.
The pair of wines from the 1969 vintage were great fun. The 1969 Domaine de Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape adds to my recent experience with 1960s Chateauneuf du Pape. Unlike the examples I have tried from the 1978 vintage, this is an original release. Mont-Redon from the 1950s and 1960s are praised by Rhone lovers. John Livingstone-Learmonth found them to have strength and concentration with Robert Parker writing they were amongst the finest wines of France. During this period the wines were 80% Grenache, 10% Cinsault, and 10% Syrah.The second wine from this vintage came from California. J. Pedroncelli was founded in 1927 was John Pedroncelli planted 135 acres of vines on hillsides near Dry Creek. According to Robert Lawrence Balzer, the site reminded him of his native Lombardy. The vineyard would receive the fog that moved up the Russian River which then receded to provide sunshine. The coolness and warmth was found to make “grapes richly concentrated with flavor” when Robert L. Balzer first visited in 1975. According to Charles L. Sullivan, this was the first vineyard to be planted with Pinot Noir in Northern Sonoma after the Repeal of Prohibition.
Robert L. Balzer’s visit was prompted both by his enjoyment of the wines and the fact that they tended to place well in competitions. Nathan Chroman was chairman of a few competitions who noted the difficulty of growing Pinot Noir in California. In 1972, when Nathan Chroman tasted through 23 California Pinot Noirs, he found the 1969 Pedroncelli Pinot Noir a wine to lay down. Robert L. Balzer found the 1972 vintage in need of age as well. I doubt either of them expected the 1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County to be drinking with full vigor nearly 50 years later.
The Pedroncelli is a fun wine to taste with the Mont Redon. They both smell of similar age and a traditional style of winemaking. The Mont-Redon is more round, with sweet fruit whereas the Pedroncelli is vigorous and grippy with the addition of leather and animale flavors. John Winthrop Haeger offers one possibility for the longevity of the Pedroncelli, in the 1960s the Pinot Noir bottles included a hefty dose of Zinfandel.
The longevity is also, of course, due to the winemaking. This wine was made by the sons of the founder John Pedroncelli who followed the traditions and styles set by their father. It was only in 1968 that Pedroncelli purchased their first French oak barrels and began switching their old Redwood tanks to stainless steel. This was the start of the American wine boom that would see a year after year increase in vineyard acreage and number of Californian wineries. Thus the Pedroncelli marks the end of a phase and so does the Mont-Redon for the winemaking changed in the 1970s towards producing an early drinking style. After tasting these two wines I naively wonder why change?
I have become a firm believer that when a tasting of old vintages is finished with a dessert wine, it should be of similar or older age. What a treat then to have a glass of 1934 Cossart Gordon & Cia., Bual, Madeira. From an excellent vintage, this is a Madeira that excels on the nose. Old Madeira fills your nose and the air around you, transporting you to a traditional period without the need to actively smell your glass.
1985 Laurent Perrier, Grand Siecle, Champagne
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. The very fine, lively bubbles are crisp, precise, and vigorous. With a bright entry, this saline and savory wine mixed baking spiced flavors with a racy body. With air the bubbles remain undiminished but the complexity comes out and the wine develops even more racy body, wrapping it all up with a mature finish. Drinking fantastically right now. **** Now – 2021.
1955 Chateau Carbonneiux, Graves
Shipped by Alexis Lichine. Imported by Clairborne Imports. An excellent looking bottle. The light amber color defies age and matches the lemon and floral tree flavors. The wine has weight, drapes the tongue, and almost becomes racy. I think the Semillon is coming through. It is, though, a bit simple with a short finish. ** Now.
1996 Nicolas Joly, Savennieres Coulee de Serrant
Imported by The Rare Wine co. Alcohol 14%. This is a round wine with perfumed flavors of apple and mature lemon. It is round, fairly clear, and mature with a racy vigor in the finish. It seems to be all about the fabulous texture. **** Now – 2022.
2004 Domaine Leflaive, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
Imported by Wilson Daniels. This somewhat complex wine mixes lemon flavors with unintegrated oak. It is taut in the middle, leaning towards the acidic side of things before taking on some cream in the end. It is, perhaps, in need of time. ***(*) 2020-2025.
1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva della Castellana, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. The dark core hints at life. In the mouth this salty wine reveals how it improved with time in decanter. It is all about bottle aged flavors with tangy acidity giving a zippy personality. The mouth remains but the flavors ultimately thin out. *** Now.
1955 Torres, Gran Coronas, Gran Reserva, Penedas
Imported by Forman Bros. Inc. Alcohol 12.65%. The color is deep. The nose offers up barnyard and some not-quite-right aromas of nail polish but is still enjoyable. Slightly oxidized in the mouth this is clearly from a rich wine. It is savory with acidity and even improved a touch in the decanter. But the oxidized hint is there and the finish is short. It is easy to imagine other examples being very good. *** Now.
1969 Domaine de Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape
From a Belgian cellar. Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. A proper set of aromas which are animale. There is round, mouth filling sweet fruit with a subtle hint of Kirsch, and wood notes. The fruit resolves to be sweet strawberries. This is clearly a beautiful wine in fine shape which tightens with air. **** Now.
1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12%. This smells proper and of a wine-making style that no longer exists. With air this old wine smells of leather. In the mouth this is a vibrant wine with taut, grippy flavors of complex red fruit, leather, animale, and more sweetness. It has fine texture and life. Our bottle is in fine shape and capable of drinking at this level for years to come. **** Now – 2022.
1988 Fattoria dei Barbi, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. With one of the youngest profiles this wine offers attractive, fruit driven flavors which focus in on violets. I would say it became younger with air. ***(*) Now – 2026.
1990 Chateau de Fonsalette, Syrah, Reservee, Cotes du Rhone
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines Ltd. Imported by Wine Cellars LTD. Alcohol 14%. Ah, there is some of that Rayas character on the nose! This is a mature wine with youthful vigor. It is a little round but still possesses tannic grip. With air this exhibits spectacular body with articulate and textured flavor. The acidity is spot on as this wine enters its second, mature phase of life. After a few hours of air this is lovely. **** Now – 2022.
1934 Cossart Gordon & Cia., Bual, Madeira
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines. Imported by Wine Cellars LTD. Alcohol 20%. A lovely nose of moderately pungent aromas of caramel, orange, damp campfire, and hints of sweet leather. Flavors of leather mix with a focused, weighty body but the acidity builds until the finish where it becomes prominent and almost searing in the aftertaste. The aftertaste is of citric flavors and a persistent sweetness. ***(*) Now – whenever.
My friend Sudip is a gambling man who is all for trying any old vintage of wine. A gamble and a bit of recklessness was all that was required to try the 1979 Castello di Monte Antico, Tuscany. Neil and Maria Empson started Monte Antico in 1977, some five years after founding their wine importing company. Monte Antico is a super-Tuscan wine, meaning it is a blend of Sangiovese with international varieties, in this case Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Super-Tuscans grew in popularity during 1970s. This particular wine is one I drank with some occurrence during my university years in the 1990s because it was affordable. I had no expectation it would be a decent drink or even palatable, being a budget wine, but the bottle looked good, the price was cheap, and it reminded me of times past. The color was in the autumnal brown spectrum and the nose was advanced, as in roasted earth. But in the mouth it was surprisingly round with hints of sweet fruit that developed into licorice. But for the nose it would rate higher.
Two wines from the same vintage makes for more fun. I expected the 1979 Pio Cesare, Barolo Riserva to be better than the Monte Antico and it was. This was another cheap purchase made years ago. After an hour of air, I simply pulled the cork. The wine gave all that it could. The fruit has departed leaving leather and mushroom but the lively, tense acidity still remains. It fades soon in the glass. Neither bottle was finished but other young wines were. Sudip had fun.
1979 Castello di Monte Antico, Tuscany
Shipped by Neil Empson. Imported by Wine Imports. Alcohol 12.5%. The nose initially smelled of roasted earth then celery. It is much better in the mouth, round with hints of sweet fruit. Certainly old but bits of fruit and licorice come out. Two stars for flavor but overall * Now.
1979 Pio Cesare, Barolo Riserva
Imported by Paterno Imports. Alcohol 13.5%. Though an advanced color it had a lively tension. It is simple at first and surprisingly closed. After an hour of air it opened up. All fruit gone having left just bottle aged flavors of leather, mushroom, and a very fine texture. ** Now.
For several years David Ehrlich has been organizing a series of weekday wine lunches. Known as the Lost Lunch his idea is for a small group to enjoy a fine meal and an array of fine wines over the course of an entire afternoon. Six of us recently gathered in the backroom of Black Salt where we kicked off the lunch with a bottle of 1996 Dom Perignon, Oenotheque Champagne. This is an excellent Champagne which, with air and warmth, revealed an attractive amount of maturity. It is simply a flat out treat to drink which was not only an outstanding way to start the afternoon but it was one of my top three favorites wines of the meal. Rather than go through all of the wines I will jump straight to the 1971 Cav. L. Brero & C., Barolo Monvigliero Riserva. The color of the wine is still deep with mouth filling flavors of vigorous fruit which take you by surprise. The concentration builds with air, adding berries and baking spices, but never buries its great acidity. The Monvigliero vineyard is located in Verduno which is on the northern edge of the Barolo region. The vineyard itself is located on a high hill and is the only vineyard completely facing south. It may be a romantic notion but you can taste that combination of ripe fruit from the sun and crispness from the altitude. Regardless, it is an undeniably good wine. For dessert we drank a lovely half-bottle of 1988 Chateau Climens, 1er Cru Sauternes-Barsac. This Climens not only feels luxurious in the mouth but the complex flavors make you want to take another sip. I see no reason to hold back on drinking small formats.
1996 Dom Perignon, Oenotheque Champagne
Imported by Moet Hennessy USA. Disgorged 2008. The light, toasted gold color leads you to a sweet, floral and fruity nose. The fine and robust bubbles first bring toast and yeast notes before a core of sweet fruit slowly expands in the mouth. Complexity is gained from old wood notes and a steely, chalk finish. With air and warmth this lovely Champagne shows more citrus, spices, and maturity. ****(*) Now – 2026.
1971 Domaine Gustave Gros, Richebourg Grand Cru
Shipped by Remoissenet Pere et Fils. Imported by Excelsior Wine & Spirits Corp. Acquired from The Don Stott Cellar, Sotheby’s Wine. The color is relatively deep but the nose offers old leather and generally older aromas. In the mouth the wine is a little tired, though it is round and gentle, there is still some apparent structure in the finish. With moderate air it takes on a little fat and old spices but the finish becomes shorter. Overall it lacks some definition. *** Drink up.
1991 Jean Gros, Richebourg Grand Cru
Imported by Chambers & Chambers. Alcohol 13%. The nose improved significantly with air eventually revealing some maturity. In the mouth are focused flavors of black cherry which never shook off firmness. The wine has a tangy grip that matched flavors of red fruit complemented by smoke. The flavors persist through the aftertaste. This wine will continue to develop. **** Now – 2026.
2007 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux
Alcohol 13%. Acquired from Acker Merrall & Condit. Of the pair of Raveneau this has more acidity and tang which matches the white and chalky fruit. This is very precise, more citric, focused, and acidic. **** Now – 2021.
2008 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. The rounded start brings mango flavors. Despite the generous feeling this wine has grip and control. There is an attractive, weighty lemon flavor which is not tart. The finish brings chalk and a touch of tightness indicating a bit more aging potential. This was my favorite of the pair. **** Now – 2021.
2010 Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Meursault Clos de la Barre
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by Wines Unlimited. Alcohol 13%. This is an electric wine from the berry fruit to the chalky, grippy tang which coats the bottom of the gums. The structure is still there too but this is drinking great right now. **** Now – 2018.
2011 Lucien Le Moine, Meursault 1er Cru Genevrieres
The flavors are forward with good fruit but the oak is immediately noticeable. There is chalk and acidity in the finish but the fruit is reduced and the oak returns as butterscotch. Perhaps it will integrate with time. ***(*) Now – 2019.
2011 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrieres
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. The lightest of the three Meursault. Compared to the others it had a berry fruit core but showed less concentration, less fruit, and watering acidity. That said it was cool in aspect with clean fruit and moderate minerality. I would drink this up. ***(*) Now.
2001 Domaine A.-F. Gros, Richebourg
Imported by Pelton Imports. Alcohol 13%. This is a young, grapey wine with concentrated flavors of berries. It remained firm with primary, clean fruit yet shows strong promise. I would age this several more years before trying again. ***(*) 2020-2030.
1952 Giacomo Borgogne, Barolo Riserva (red capsule original release)
Imported by T Elenteny. The pale amber color will be shocking to some. In the mouth the flavors are rounder than the color indicates. There is certainly vigor to this wine as the flavor fill the mouth, albeit they are simple in nature with watering acidity. The palate is more engaging than the nose. Very much alive and drinkable but this was never a strong wine. *** Now.
1971 Cav. L. Brero & C., Barolo Monvigliero Riserva
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. This is quite deep in color. In the mouth are concentrated fruit flavors, berries, and cinnamon spices which persist on the tongue. This wine is full of vigor, still has weight to the fruit yet is crisp from the acidity. It builds concentration with air leaving baking spices in the aftertaste. An impressive wine. ****(*) Now – 2026.
1988 Chateau Climens, 1er Cru Sauternes-Barsac
Imported by Pearson’s Wine Imp. Co. The golden amber color makes was to luscious and seductive flavors. This is an unctuous wine with noticeable residual sugar. It is not just the mouthfeel that is attractive but the flavors of apricot and ripe, Christmas spices. Drinking great right now. **** Now but will last.
2001 Selbach-Oster, Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Auslese *, Mosel Saar Ruwer
A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. A little asparagus stink on the nose. There is a zippy start with tart, white berry fruit, and rather dry body. It remained acidic. *** Now