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A blind tasting of 2014 Bordeaux

Several weeks ago I was a guest of Phil’s tasting group for a blind event featuring featuring seven wines.  I will admit to being confused.  I thought some wines from Bolgheri, others certainly from Bordeaux, and I was sure one was Barbera! Six of the wines were Bordeaux and what I thought was Barbera turned out to be from California.  All wines were from the 2014 vintage which I did not guess.

When we sat down to taste the wines they had the corks removed just one hour prior.  The naturally forward wines showed the best but the subsequently decanted Pichon Baron improved greatly.  In all fairness, I heard that the Clinet improved greatly after three days.  If in doubt hold on to your 2014s!

My favorites include the 2014 Chateau Les Carmes de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, undoubtedly the best value of all wines tasted but also my type of wine, and even the forward 2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Leognan.  The best wine for long-term development is the 2014 Chateau Pichon Baron, Pauillac.  There are interesting flavors here but the balance and stuffing will see it evolve into something quite engaging.

Please find my notes below in the order the wines were tasted.  If my ratings seem conservative just remember these wines are young!  Many thanks to Phil for including me.

2014 Chateau La Gaffeliere, Saint- Emillion – $55
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. Alcohol 14.5%. Still young in color with dark aromas of mulberries. In the mouth black fruit, cherries, and good acidity are still structured. The fresh finish brings powerful tannins. With air the fruit takes on a cool aspect but is sappy and chewy with a graphite note. Will certainly improve with age.  ***(*) 2020-2035.

2014 Chateau Pichon Baron, Pauillac – $99
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.   This wine is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot.  Alcohol 13.5%. The nose remained tighter. An almost puckering start with wood flavors and a tart finish on the tongue. The tannins are fairly unresolved grabbing the gums but there is an interesting blend of fruit and flavors. After decanting the fruit balanced out the structure revealing good harmony and flavor.  **** 2023-2038.

2014 Chateau Giscours, Margaux – $59
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon. 32% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 13.5%. Tight, somewhat aromatic but unevolved. In the mouth are focused and tight flavors of black fruit. The wine is fresh but also very young with structure and acidity reminiscent of Bordeaux. It takes on hints of fat in the finish, some greenhouse, and is clearly built to age. ***(*) 2023-2035.

2014 Chateau Les Carmes de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan – $65
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This is a blend of 54 % Cabernet Franc, 32 % Merlot, and 14 % Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 13.5%. A little more on the nose perhaps some meat. There is more immediate fruit weight compared to structure. This is a dense wine with gum coating, rather than drying, tannins. The watering acidity is integrated with the structure. This wine is young but in balance with a hint of fruit in the end along with baking spices. **** Now – 2028.

2014 Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate – $54
This wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvingon, 14% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc sourced from the Monte Bello Vineyard. Alcohol 13.7%. A good nose of black fruit and violets but the aromas are almost raisinated. There is a riper core of dark and ripe fruit, quite the structure but the brambly fruit perseveres. It has a soft edge and notes of sweet oak. Reminded me of Barbera!  *** Now – 2026.

2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Leognan – $75
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 14%. There is depth to the nose. In the mouth, ripe fruit, black and violet, exists in a structure but there is more good fruit to the balance. It is a good modern wine, will be ready sooner, with nice weight that marks the structure as supportive. It opens up well, is the most forward, and even offers a mineral finish. **** Now – 2030.

2014 Chateau Clinet, Pomerol – $69
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 13.5%. This is a finely flavored wine, cool in flavor, structured, and focused. It did not give up much. *** 2021- 2031.

The 2016 Hartford Court, Chardonnay, Four Hearts Vnyd is very good!

The 2016 Hartford Court, Chardonnay, Four Hearts Vineyards, Russian River Valley had my attention from the very first sip due to the crisp, textured acidity.  The luxurious fat in the finish sealed the deal for none of this barrel-fermented Chardonnay was left at the end of dinner.  You may pick up this gem at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Hartford Court, Chardonnay, Four Hearts Vineyards, Russian River Valley – $40
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was barrel fermented then aged for 10 months in French oak.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Lively yellow fruit sports crisp textured acidity all of which overlays a toast note.  With air the yellow fruit takes on a floral component and becomes infused with fat which lasts through the long finish and aftertaste.  **** Now – 2020.

Historic Wells Liquors wine lists 1980-1981

January 26, 2018 Leave a comment

As I work on my wines of the year post I started going through old notes. I thought it would be fun to post some price lists/tasting sheets from my earliest days in wine as an eager 18 year old at Wells Liquors in Baltimore. These price lists represent 1980-1981 I believe. There are only notes attached to one. For that Cali cab tasting it looks like my favorite was the 1976 Mondavi Reserve. The price was really high for California then at $21. I note that I gave that wine 90 points, which was a big deal in those days before more consistent winemaking and lots of “grade inflation.” I also see that the “mystery wine” in this blind tasting was the second wine of Pichon Lalande (1978 probably) and just $8.

Lou

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.