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Before, during, and after: other wines at the Madeira tasting

January 16, 2018 Leave a comment

I have come to the carefully considered position that Champagne is required at a Madeira tasting.  The aroma of Madeira always fills the room but a glass of Champagne makes everyone jolly before sitting down.  A bottle served while service is performed on the second flight refreshes the palate.  Finally, a bottle at the end resets the palate for dinner wines.  Sadly, two of our four bottles of Champagne were not as they should be.  Fortunately, there were plenty of other bottles to occupy our interests.

Before

2000 Krug, Champagne Vintage Brut
Imported by Envoyer Imports.  Alcohol 12%.  Good, integrated bubbles with focused flavors of sappy fruit.  It finished with tart apples and acidity.  Young with good promise.  **** Now – 2033.

1990 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars LTD.  Alcohol 12%.  Some corrosion around the cork.  A nutty straw color.  The nose is mature and oxidative, a bit more advanced than it should be.  In the mouth are fine, textured bubbles, dry apple orchard flavors, and exotic spices.  The bubbles quickly dissipate.  Completely drinkable but this bottle is probably heat damaged.  Not Rated.

During

NV Jacques Selosse, Champagne Brut Substance
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Disgorged 20 November 2007.  Alcohol 12.5%.  An attractive, rather mature color.  There are hints of yellow fruit in the mouth with yeast notes, and oxidative, tangy apple orchard notes in the finish.  It is a little foxy and earthy with tons of acidity and a sharp finish.  Not right.  Not Rated.

After

NV Ulysse Collin, Champagne Blanc de Blancs Extra-Brut
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  Lot No. 10.  Disgorged March 2014.  Alcohol 12.5%.  A light straw color.  The very fine bubbles are perfectly integrated with piercing acidity and some tropical fruit.  This wine has power with lemons and other citrus which puckers the mouth in the middle.  The bubbles mix with baking spices leaving chalk in the finish and a long, textured aftertaste.  Bracing stuff best with food.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2008 Trimbach, Riesling Cuvee Frederick Emile, Alsace
Imported by Espirit du Vin.  Powerful, dry, white fruit flavors of apple and citrus with a good vein of acidity.  Certainly a food wine.  Tart overall but there is some Riesling flesh.  This will be long-lived.   *** Now – 2028.

2014 Escarpment, Te Rehua Pinot Noir
Imported by Meadowbank Estates.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A black cherry, Pinot nose.  In the mouth are focused, fresh, and deep flavors of attractive black fruit which is almost bitter.  Watering acidity carries black cherry and licorice towards the dry and herbal finish where tannins are left on the gums.  The long aftertaste is clean. ***(*) Now – 2023.

2003 Chapoutier, Hermitage Le Pavillon
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars LTD.  On the second night this is a seamless wine of brooding strength.  The savory and salty start builds incredible depth of flavor backed by tactile sensation of extract.  This is an inky, mouth coating wine with licorice, floral flavors, and new oak.  This is an intense, modern wine.  **** Now – 2033.

1982 Chateau La Lagune, Haut Medoc
Shipped by Andre Labarda.  Imported by Majestic Wines & Spirits.  A mature nose with leather aromas.  It is off to a savory start with this medium bodied wine.  There is a nice mix of fruit, both red and black, along with hints of floral perfume in the finish.  I would drink these gentle wines now.  *** Now.

1977 Cassayre-Forni Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
This offers a good nose of black fruit and leather.  In the mouth is a linear delivery of black fruit, integrity acidity, and some greenhouse notes.  Best within one hour.  *** Now.

1977 Simi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
At first this was gentle with foxy, simple flavors.  But after an hour in the decanter it became mouth filling with darker fruit and a touch of greenhouse.  Good weight.  ***(*) Now.

Recent drinks or cheap stuff that tastes like Aubert and Sine Qua Non

We tried a number of value wines over the holiday break and I am happy to report there are certainly some fine values out there.  The 2016 Lafage, Novellum, Chardonnay is being compared to Aubert and the 2015 Lafage, Bastide Miraflors, Syrah & Vieilles Vignes de Grenache, Cotes du Roussillon to Sine Qua Non on a budget.  The former is ample in flavor and body, the later shows more focus.  At $15 each you cannot go wrong with either.  For a few bucks more I highly recommend you try the 2015 Antoine Touton & Fred Torres, Seleccion, Montsant.  Think mixed berries, fat, and juicy acidity!  The 2014 Mas Marer, Montsant is good too, just keep it in mind it is a structured wine from Monsant.  Finally, the 2016 Maitre-de-Chai, Carignan, Poor Ranch, Mendocino profess to fall in the middle camp of Californian wine making.  There are firm flavors of red fruit, bright acidity, and fine citric tannins.  There are hints of that Pilsner natural wine style which I find distracting but perhap you will not.

2016 Lafage, Novellum, Chardonnay – $15
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay.  Alcohol 13%.  A very light straw yellow color.  The nose is mineral with white, tropical flowers.  The tropical fruit continues in the mouth with floral notes and a nutty body that is supported by just enough acidity.  The wine takes on a mineral hint towards the end.  This wine has ample body with grip underneath and a baking spiced finish.  *** Now – 2019.

2015 Lafage, Bastide Miraflors, Syrah & Vieilles Vignes de Grenache, Cotes du Roussillon – $15
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars. This wine is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache sourced from vines averaging 55 years of age which was raised in concrete tanks and demi-muids.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The flavors come across as ripe at first then they show more focus with cool red and black fruit.  This focus is good, carried by slightly juicy acidity into an almost chewy finish.  The wine becomes floral and citrus infused with air.  There is some textured structure to support drinking over a few years.  ***(*) Now – 2021.

2015 Antoine Touton & Fred Torres, Seleccion, Montsant – $19
Imported by Lawrence Boone Selections.  This wine is mostly Garnacha with some Carignan sourced from vines mostly on clay and calcareous soils.  It was raised in stainless steel.  Alcohol 14%.  Grapey on the nose.  A dense, almost glycerin start brings fresh floral berries, and pure fruit covered with fat.  There is a bit of texture as baking spiced flavors come out.  The red fruits morph to blackberries.  In the end the seductive mouthfeel and juicy, acidity supported brambleberries, are hard to resist.  ***(*) Now – 2021.

2014 Mas Marer, Montsant – $15
Imported by Weygant-Metzler.  This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot aged for 14 months in used French oak and concrete tanks.  Alcohol 14%.  A moderately structured wine of cherries and herbs with good acidity moving the wine along.  It has a bit of a stone/earth note to it.    It shows a touch of bottle age already but might develop further into the year.  **(*) Now – 2022.

2016 Maitre-de-Chai, Carignan, Poor Ranch, Mendocino – $27
This wine is is sourced from vines planted in the 1930s and 1940s on soils of mostly sand and granite.  Alcohol 13.2%.  Sampled over two nights the nose remains delicate with bright berry aromas.  In the mouth are tight, slightly focused red fruit and some very fine citric tannins.  The firmness of flavor matches the bright acidity making this wine more about texture than depth of flavor.  It is verging on a natural style.  ** Now – 2021.

Merry Christmas Eve with old Louis M. Martini

December 24, 2017 2 comments

Merry Christmas Eve!

Comparisons are fun so at the start of my Christmas vacation I opened a pair of Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1977 vintage.  These wines would have been fermented in cement tanks then aged for two years in neutral wood.  At the end of the aging period all of the barrels were tasted.  The majority were bottled as the regular selection with the top 3-5% as the Special Selection.

In essence the 1977 Louis M. Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Selection is like the 1977 Louis M. Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon but turned up several notches.  You can literally smell and taste the similarities. There was quite a bit of sediment so I double-decanted both bottles.  The regular selection is a bit light weight and short at first such that I expected it to soon fall apart.  I was wrong!  It developed weight and the Special Selection developed savory flavors.   These old Martini wines are mellow rather than athletic.  They have the green pepper notes of modestly ripe fruit and hallmarks of longer aging in wood.  If you still own a bottle then I recommend you drink them with dinner or to prepare your palate for a more complex old wine.

1977 Louis M. Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon
Alcohol 12.5%.  Green pepper on the nose.  The bright red fruit is carried throughout with fresh acidity.  The wine improves with air, putting on some weight and increasing in length.  It takes on a rounded edge with generally clean greenhouse accented red fruit.  It is not terribly complex with only an additional note of leather.  However, it never fades and in the end is a solid quaffer!  ** Now but will last.

1977 Louis M. Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Selection
Alcohol 12.5%.  A similar nose to the basic bottling but more intense.  This is a savory wine with more fruit and weight.  The greenhouse accent is there but so is a more prominent leather note.  It responds very well to air.  The bottle is in fine shape with plenty of grip into the durable aftertaste.  **(*) Now but will last.

Four Syrah with Lou

December 11, 2017 Leave a comment

I met up with Lou and one of his coworkers to taste through Californian Syrah.  To the mix I threw in a brown-bagged bottle of Australian Syrah.  The Californian wines were initially popped and poured.    At roughly one decade of age this might be the preferred manner to drink these wines as the flavors show more generously, not quite revealing the strong structures lurking underneath.  These wines are not yet at peak maturity but are still tasty.

The 2007 Shane, Syrah, The Villain, Mendocino County is all about black olive aromas and dry, black flavors in the mouth.  It is satisfying but does not have the expression of our next wine.  This is the 2007 Stolpman, Hilltops Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley and is my favorite of the group for drinking now.  It is lifted both on the nose and in the mouth leaving a fresh impression.  I think that the 2006 Pax, Syrah, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino County has the strongest potential out of all the wines tasted.  There are good flavors just starting to come out.  Purportedly from the oldest Syrah vines in the world hails the 2004 Langmeil, The 1843 Freedom Shiraz, Barossa Valley.  Made from vines planted in 1843 it is seamless and clean with good acidity.

2007 Shane, Syrah, The Villain, Mendocino County
Alcohol 14.2%.  Lou noted “black olives” on the nose and both Jenn and I agree.  This is an articulate wine with black, finely textured flavors and a fresh, dry finish.  It is chewy at first with dry baking spices and minerals.  With extended air the dry nature and structure for age become more apparently.  *** Now – 2027.

2007 Stolpman, Hilltops Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley
Alcohol 15.0%.  A slightly tight nose at first though with deep aromas.  With air there is a lifted suggestion.  In the mouth this is a fresh, mineral wine with good presence and lifted flavors.  There is watering acidity and a finely ripe finish where a ripe tannic structure is evidence.  With extended air it takes on some savory power at the end.  ***(*) Now – 2027.

2006 Pax, Syrah, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino County
Alcohol 14.9%.  Chocolate and red fruit mix with the substantive structure by the middle.  The flavors are entering maturity with a core of complexity slowly coming out.  It is lively on the tongue with good poise throughout, notes of baking spices, and a long aftertaste.  It is tight, chewy, and not quite at full maturity but will certainly improve once there.  ***(*) 2019 – 2027.

2004 Langmeil, The 1843 Freedom Shiraz, Barossa Valley
Imported by Epicurean Wines.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The mixture of dark fruit, olives, and Kirsch smells Australian to me.  There is a ripe controlled start which quickly expands leaving clean fruit throughout the mouth.  This is a seamless wine with fresh acidity.  *** Now – 2022.

Two old Special Selection wines from California

November 21, 2017 Leave a comment

One evening this summer, Mannie and I sat outside with our families for dinner.  The theme for the meal was old Californian wine, a favorite subject of mine, both historically and gustatory.  Our first bottle, the 1969 Louis M. Martini, Special Selection California Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon was produced by  Louis P. Martini who took over management of his father’s winery the year before.  It was that same year, in 1968, that the Californian wine boom took off and wine production began to accelerate.  In the span of one year, from 1969 to 1970 the volume of table wine produced in California increased by more than 25%.  The new interest in wine extended beyond the staggering increase in consumption, Californian wines made inroads at the White House and Heublein held their first rare wine auction conducted by Michael Broadbent.

Californian Zinfandel rode the boom during which our second bottle of 1977 Montevina, Special Selection Zinfandel, Amador County was produced.  Zinfandel was to became widely discovered after Bob Trinchero released his 1968 Sutter Home, Zinfandel from old vines in Amador County.  Amador County Zinfandel would eventually be considered “the biggest, richest, spiciest, and most intensely flavored red wines” produced in America.  As a result, the price for Amador County Zinfandel skyrocketed from $68 per ton in 1968 up to $400-$500 per ton in 1980.  During this period there was also a small scene of skyrocketing alcohol levels.

The first post-Prohibition winery in Amador County is Cary Gott’s Montevina Winery.  Founded in 1970, it was a full-fledged professional operation by 1973.  During the late 1970s the wines were being sold and favorably reviewed  both on the west coast and the east coast.  Frank J. Prial’s 1979 suggestions on which wines to select at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City include “the great Montevina zinfandel” from 1974.  He would later describe the 1976 vintage as “big, intense wine without a lot of elegance but great fun to drink.”

The Montevina fruit came from 120 acres of vines, most over 30 years of age and many over 70 years of age.  They were dry-farmed which stressed the vines in the intense heat yielding “deeply colored, more concentrated juice”.  If the regular bottlings of Zinfandel reached 15%, the more tannic and alcoholic Special Selection were higher.  The 1977 Special Selection Zinfandel reached a reported 16%.  These were the levels achieved naturally.  The 1977 vintage occurred during a second consecutive drought year which when coupled with longer hang time only compounded levels.  Mt. Veeder’s late harvest Zinfandel reached 17.2% and Sutter Home made a late harvest Zinfandel in 1977 which reached 17% alcohol.  Bob Trinchero described it as a “very, very difficult wine to drink.”

By 1980, Bob Trinchero felt the fad “for these, big monster Zinfandels” died off.  The wines were no longer bargains due to gaining respect.  That same year Terry Roberts of The New York Times published a list of “complex and robust zinfandels” made by David Bruce, Mayacamas, Montevina, Ridge Vineyard, Sonoma Vineyard, and Sutter Home.  That is quite a list of names.

As for the wines the 1969 Martini is fully mature.  The flavors are still complex but the wine is gentle and shortening up.  The 1977 Montevina is a mouth full.  It does not have the complexity of the Martini but there is an interesting inky, mineral middle.  It is almost like a dry Port and will last for decades.  Neither wine blew me away but in reflecting the beginning and middle of the California wine boom I find them fascinating.

1969 Louis M. Martini, Special Selection California Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine is made from Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Napa and Sonoma Counties. Alcohol 12.5%. The old-school, tangy red fruit is accompanied by leather and vintage perfume. The flavors dry up towards the shorter finish.  *** Now.

1977 Montevina, Special Selection Zinfandel, Amador County
Alcohol 15%. From the mouth filling start to the mouth filling finish this wine is substantial. It is almost thick in the mouth with an interesting mineral middle, inky nature, and baking spiced finish. *** Now but will last.

Recent Drinks

November 2, 2017 Leave a comment

After first trying a glass one year ago, I finally had the opportunity to visit the 2002 Robert Hunter, Brut de Noirs, Sonoma Valley over two nights.  With bits of yeast, toast, fruit, and baking spices this is a mature Californian sparkler  with plenty of life.  I might even venture that I preferred it on the second night.  My overall impression is that the 2010 Poggio all Guardia, Maremma Toscana is not yet ready to drink.  The meaty aromas, mature edge to the flavors, and old wood reveal bottle age but the wine is still firm and structured. Perhaps it is best drunk with food.  Finally,the 2015 Domaine La Manarine, Cotes du Rhone is another wine based on vineyards in Le Plan de Dieu.  There are attractive bright, grapey flavors but there is some distraction from bitterness in the black fruited finish.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2002 Robert Hunter, Brut de Noirs, Sonoma Valley
There is a light straw color and a nose of apples. In the mouth there is a strong start of bubbles and acidity on the tongue, the former of which soon dissipate into a froth. The wine has the slightest hint of attractive yeast and toast. There are structured flavors of white fruit and baking spices with a vein of acidity that cuts through. This is a robust, mature wine which still has moderate amounts of fruit making for an attractive drink right now. *** Now – 2022.

2010 Poggio all Guardia, Maremma Toscana
Imported by Vias Imports.  This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese.  Alcohol 14%.  A meaty nose! There is a mature edge to this robust wine.  Black fruit mixes with minerals and old wood and even some plum. There is a fine+ textured structure that will see this wine through many more years.  Good texture in the aftertaste.  A solid wine but will it come around?  **(*) Now – 2025.

2015 Domaine La Manarine, Cotes du Rhone – $15
Imported by Neal Rosenthal.  This wine is 100% Grenache sourced from vines averaging 35 years of age. The fruit was destemmed with elevage taking 20-24 months.  Alcohol 14%.  A spiced cinnamon nose.  Higher-toned in the mouth with grapey flavors, prominent acidity noticeable on the tongue.  There is fine grapey texture which lasts through the finish which is blacker and almost bitter.  **(*) Now – 2021.

Liquid Farm to my table

Just a quick post as I continue to spend the end of summer on vacation.  Thanks to Andy at MacArthur Beverages I picked up a bottle of 2015 Liquid Farm, Chardonnay, White Hill, Santa Rita Hills.  This is a refreshing Chardonnay best consumed in one night.  I particularly like the texture and crisp acidity which precedes the surprisingly chalky middle.  It is certainly worth securing a bottle.

2015 Liquid Farm, Chardonnay, White Hill, Santa Rita Hills – $37
Alcohol 13%.  The very light straw color leads to toasty fruit aromas.  The finely textured flavors ride crisp acidity which brings toast-accented white fruit.  There is an attractive chalky middle which turns dry by the finish.  ***(*) Now – 2019.