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Posts Tagged ‘Champagne’

A holiday dinner with Amy and Barry

I recently met up with Amy Ray and Barry Wiggins for a holiday dinner.  It was a casual affair, seated at the corner of the bar of Restaurant Eve.  Amy and Barry are long-time fans of Chef Armstrong’s cooking and Todd Thrasher’s care of their wines.  While we limited ourselves to a handful of courses, the number of wine selections required both hands.

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We opened with a brace of Krug Champagne.  The 2002 Krug, Champagne Brut is young with white fruit, chalk, and a fine mousse of precise bubbles.  Though drinkable now it really is a wine to be aged for at least another five years.  One may guess this because our bottle of 1989 Krug, Champagne Brut has just entered full maturity.  This wine coats the mouth with weighty, mature flavors which are still racy.  The 2009 Jean Noel Gagnard, Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru is a wine that delivers nothing but pure pleasure.  The nose delivers an impressive volume of aromas matched by the round, weighty flavors in the mouth. Like the 1989 Krug before it, I savored my glass until the end.

Squab dusted with Donegal turf.

Squab dusted with Donegal turf.

We drank our mature red Burgundy side by side. The 1978 Georges Lignier, Clos Saint-Denis from the excellent 1978 vintage and the 1979 Domaine Dujac, Clos La Roche from the not quite as good 1979 vintage prove interesting to compare.  The vintage differences are immediately noticeable with the 1978 Lignier still concentrated and powerful.  The 1979 Dujac is rich at first but it is more linear towards the finish with less weight.  The 1978 Lignier offers meat on the nose with cranberry flavors accented by meat and earth.  On the other hand, the 1979 Dujac offers wood smoke aromas, an oily start, and mineral middle. Both are outstanding wines but the 1978 Lignier is a touch more impressive.  There was no point in attempting to match these two bottles so I thought it would be fun to open the 1979 Charles Abela Cellars, Ernie’s, Pinot Noir Special Selection, Napa as it is the same vintage as the Dujac.  With a double-capsule, short yet firm cork, and brilliant color this fine conditioned bottle comes across as closed.  The nose was reluctant to open up but an animale flavor eventually added some curiosity.  Not bad for an old liquor-store wine.  I would double-decant this for an hour.

With our meal complete we required another Champagne.  Out came the 2005 Tattinger, Comtes de Champagne, Champagne Blanc de Blanc.  This too is a fine wine, requiring a bit of air to properly show itself.  It is more evolved than the 2002 Krug so you could be excused for drinking several bottles now.

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2002 Krug, Champagne Brut
Alcohol 12%.  There is an impression of freshness with dry, white fruit matching the chalk.  The bubbles turn into a fine mousse carrying minerals before the persistent aftertaste.  Needs more age. **** Now – 2037

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1989 Krug, Champagne Brut
Imported by Wine Cellars Ltd. Acquired from Zachy’s. Alcohol 12%.  There is a gentle, golden color of maturity.  The nose bears hints of yeast and apple orchard flavors. With air the wine puts on weight with gently coating, racy flavors which mix with dried herbs and some wood.  These mature flavors are delivered with the freshness of a well-stored bottle. ****(*) Now – 2027.

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2009 Jean Noel Gagnard, Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by c’Est Vin. Alcohol 13.5%.  The youthful color does not prepare for the rich, aromatic nose of spices and that sweet kiss of oak.  The wine is round in the mouth with supportive structure and a slight edge.  With extended air there is a density to the white fruit, grip, and notes of nuts.  Drinking great. ****(*) Now but will last.

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1978 Georges Lignier, Clos Saint-Denis
Imported by Robert Chatterdon. From Wally’s The Roy Welland Collection.  There is a complex, scented nose with notes of meat.  In the mouth are sweaty, pungent flavors of cranberry/red fruit and bloody.  There is clearly a focused concentration and power from this excellent vintage.  With vintage perfume flavor picks up earthy notes with air.  This remains a fresh wine with persistent flavors in the middle and a grippy finish. ****(*) Now – 2022.

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1979 Domaine Dujac, Clos La Roche
Imported by Frederick Wildman.  The nose is both sweeter and muskier with hints of wood smoke.  In the mouth this is a rich wine, almost oily at first but it straightens out with air.  The flavors turn brighter at the beginning with a mineral edge and overall less noticeable weight and strength. ****  Now.

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1979 Charles Abela Cellars, Ernie’s, Pinot Noir Special Selection, Napa
Alcohol 13%.  It is a youthful, very bright and clear color.  There is a very subtle nose which takes much air to open up.  In the mouth is red fruit flavors with a touch of citric grip.  It does take time to relax adding an animale depth to the clean, focused fruit. **(*) Now – 2027.

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2005 Tattinger, Comtes de Champagne, Champagne Blanc de Blanc
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines. Imported by Wine Cellars LTD. Alcohol 12.5%.  This drinks well after half an hour of air.  It is racy, glycerin infused wine with ripe apples and a mixture of yellow, white, and green fruits.  It has tons of grip and when the bubbles calm down the earth, chalk, and yeast flavors are noticeable.  It has a lovely future. **** Now – 2027.

David Bloch’s new and old world favorites

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.

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Top 10 Champagnes

Vintage:

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

Non-Vintage:

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:

2002 Dominus

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

Sweet Wines

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’s favorite wines of 2016 tasted in America, France, and Italy

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

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 holding 1959 Jadot Ursules at the Couvent des Cordeliers (home of the 1243 Bourgogne Society) in Beaune

Amy holding 1959 Jadot Ursules at the Couvent des Cordeliers (home of the 1243 Bourgogne Society) in Beaune

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.

1979 Lamarche La Grande Rue Grand Cru at the Paulée at Château de Meursaul

1979 Lamarche La Grande Rue at the Paulée at Château de Meursault

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.

Paulee tablemates Etienne de Montille and Veronique Drouhin Boss. Amy is in the background.

Paulee tablemates Etienne de Montille and Veronique Drouhin Boss. Amy is in the background.

It is here that she drank a beautiful bottle of 1985 Joseph Drouhin Musigny.

 

Wines at Quince during La Paulée de San Francisco

Wines at Quince during La Paulée de San Francisco

 

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.

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She thought the Elio Grasso estate the most beautiful in all of Piedmont.

Elio Grasso estate

Elio Grasso estate

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Gianluca Grasso ordered an excellent bottle of the 2006 Elio Grasso Barolo Riserva Runcot at the Trattoria della Posta in Monforte d’Alba.

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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

Mature wines at an annual dinner

December 13, 2016 Leave a comment

Lou and I gather the families every year for a pre-holiday dinner featuring mature wines.  This year we were joined by Darryl and Nancy for whom mature wine is a bit of an obsession.  To accompany the dinner of crab cakes, coq au vin blanc, and leg of lamb we had planned nothing more than opening a random series of mature red wines.  This was then surrounded by a Champagne and white wine starter eventually to be concluded with a dessert wine.

The Champagne was in the form of the impressively boxed 1990 Veuve Clicquot, Champagne Vintage Cave Privée.  This is surprisingly fruity on the nose with precise flavors in the mouth that are supported by robust bubbles.  There is only a touch of yeast and the sense of maturity really takes many hours to develop.  It was a good showing.

The white wines moved us onto experimental territory.  The 2008 The Scholium Project, Naucratis, Lost Slough Vineyards is Verdelho on steroids.  Unfortunately the 16.3% alcohol breaks through towards the finish as pure alcohol.  No matter how seductive and correct the nose is, I could not get past the burning sensation in my throat.  The 1998 Hugel, Riesling Jubilee Hugel, Alsace is only made in the best vintages.  You get that sense from the lifted aromas on the nose but in the mouth the wine is starting to tire.  Switching gears once again, the 1995 Pierre Morey, Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres  is a wine for mature Chardonnay drinkers.  The apple orchard flavors and bits of subtlety speak of maturation but the fat draws you back to peak drinking.

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1990 Veuve Clicquot, Champagne Vintage Cave Privée
Imported by Moet Hennessy.  Disgorged October 2008.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose is quite pretty with a surprising amount of berry fruit.  The fruit continues in the mouth but soon picks up lemons and baking spices with a touch of yeast.  With air the flavors develop towards maturity.  The wine has good precision to the flavors which are enlivened by fine, robust bubbles.  This is more of a fruity wine than yeasty/biscuit wine.  **** Now – 2026.

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2008 The Scholium Project, Naucratis, Lost Slough Vineyards
Alcohol 16.3%.  There is a rich, nutty, creamy, and seductive nose.  In the mouth is a rich mouthful followed by toast and baking spices.  The wine finishes spicy with a sharp, alcoholic jolt in the end.  It starts of promising but is unpleasant by the end.  *** for the nose but for drinkability * Now.

1998 Hugel, Riesling Jubilee Hugel, Alsace
Alcohol 12.5%.  There is an attracted, lifted nose with lemons and herbs in the short finish.  Interesting to smell but tiring out.  ** Now.

1995 Pierre Morey, Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres 
Alcohol 13.5%.  The golden amber color speaks of maturity.  In the mouth is an moderately dense wine with apple orchard flavors and spot-on acidity.  It is clearly at its peak, with a suggestion of subtlety, that is briefly waylaid by the fat in the finish.  *** Now.

While Lou and I finished our dinner preparations we required some red wine.  Together we had both stood up a dozen or so bottles to try which we arrayed on a desk.  A fine looking 1976 Bitouzet-Prieur, Pommard was selected at random.  I was curious about this wine, Pommard being the first mature Burgundy I ever drunk.  This bottle is from the first year Neal Rosenthal began working with the estate.  The significant amount of muddy looking mold under the capsule foretells disaster in my experience.  While not completely gone the dusty, dirty aroma pervaded the flavor.  Down the drain it went and out came the cork on the half bottle of 1969 Sterling Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.  From the first released vintage, this wine was in good, though fully mature shape.  Peter Newton and Michael Stone founded Sterling Vineyards in 1964 with Ric Forman as the winemaker.  Both Peter Newton and Ric Forman went on to found Newton Vineyards once Sterling was sold to Seagram in 1977.  So this is an historic wine in two senses.  It proved a solid experience though the aroma of bananas and sweet rather than lively aspect of flavor prevented it from being excellent.  No regrets though, for one should try as many 1960s Californian wine as possible, for it is an historic period.

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1976 Bitouzet-Prieur, Pommard
Shipped by Neal Rosenthal.  Imported by Select Vineyards LTD.  Alcohol 11-14%.  It smells of dust and dirt.  There are some dark flavors in the mouth but the dusty, dirt aspect is less than subtle. An off bottle.  Not Rated.

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1969 Sterling Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (375mL)
Alcohol 12%.  The nose reminds me of red fruit and bananas.  In the mouth are clean flavors of red fruit which are sweet.  With air this becomes quite a mouthful. The assertive acidity brings forth a burst, of sweet flavor.  It leaves the impression that this was a larger, slightly sweet wine in youth.  *** Now.

With dinner we sat down to some serious wine.  The glass bottle of the 1961 Drouhin, Domaine General Marey-Monge, Romanee St-Vivant was covered with cellar grime and label damage from racking.  It is one of those bottles whose provenance was lost over the years or decades.  There was a fair bit of ullage but the color through the green glass, though light, reminded me of watered down cranberries which is a good indicator.  With a gorgeous nose and lively flavors, there is much on offer with this wine.  If I nit-pick, it does not have the harmony of the 1964 Momessin, Clos du Tart but it has personality.  I really like this type of wine.  Just one year younger the 1962 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac had very top-shoulder fill just below the neck.  This was my first experience with Lafite.  Yes, I have sadly written about more older vintages than the number of bottles tasted.  Still this proved a great start.  The nose is great, unique, and worth spending some time on.  In the mouth this is a fully mature wine with just a touch of fat and graphite.

I admit the 1945 Chateau Calon-Segur looked horrible.  As you can see by the picture, it still does, with the label almost falling off after lying in my equally old Eurocave.  Inside the glass is what counts so the top-shoulder fill, dark color, and firm cork waylaid some fear.  All of that aside, being of the 1945 vintage and bottled by John Harvey & Sons of Bristol, where I spent my sophomore year abroad, warranted trying it out.  The color is the darkest of all opened that night.  The nose and the flavors are marked by eucalyptus with bright, tart, red fruit.  In the end it is a relic.

With calls for more fruity wine I selected the 1979 Chateau Cabrieres, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The fill was excellent and the capsule contemporary so I suspect this is an ex-domaine release.  I cannot imagine someone would fake a modest vintage of Chateauneuf du Pape.  I liked it a lot.  To me it offers a balanced, mature Chateauneuf.

I recently wrote how I prefer equally old dessert wine following an old wine tasting.  I am happy to report that the 2009 Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes marks me wrong.  It is incredibly complex and flavorful both on the nose and in the mouth.  This is an outstanding wine.

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1961 Drouhin, Domaine General Marey-Monge, Romanee St-Vivant
Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby, & Co.  This is almost light brown in color.  The nose, though, is gorgeous with aromas of cranberry and vintage perfume underpinned by an earthy note.  With air it develops both bacon aromas and hints of smoke.  In the mouth the vintage flavor tastes sweeter with air.  This is a vibrant wine with fine acidity.  As should be the case, this old Burgundy develops with air, improving at first then maintaining its lovely state until finish.  **** Now but will last for a decade.

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1962 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac
Shipped by Mestrezat-Preller.  Imported by White Company Ltd.  Alcohol 11%-14%.  The nose is aromatic and beautiful from the very first pour.  It sports sweet, unique aromas of blood and iron.  In the mouth are bright, clean red fruit which follows the nose.  There are hints of fat and hints of dry graphite.  This is drinking at its peak.  **** Now.

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1945 Chateau Calon-Segur, Saint-Estephe
Bottled by John Harvey & Sons of Bristol.  The color is remarkably dark but of proper garnet brown.  There is a fresh nose of eucalyptus and dust.  Similar eucalyptus mixes with bright, tart red fruit carried through with watering acidity.  There is even some structure.    *(*) Now.

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1979 Chateau Cabrieres, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose smells of a library and garrigue.  This wine peaks after 10 minutes providing an attractive blend of blue and red fruit, garrigue, and leather.  Everything is in balance with this properly mature wine.  It still suggests at ripe fruit.  *** Now.

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2009 Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes
The nose is amazing and almost effervescent as the aromas fly out of the glass.  In the mouth is a core of butterscotch flavors, ripe pineapples, and sweet cream.  This racy wine is already, impressively complex.  Why not drink it now?  ****(*) Now – 2036.

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Eclectic by Any Measure, a Dinner with Mannie Berk

November 29, 2016 1 comment

The wax seal of the 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva Della Castellana, Barolo

The wax seal of the 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva Della Castellana, Barolo

With Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co, in town for the Unveiling of the George Washington Special Reserve Madeira we decided to get together for a small dinner.  The theme was eclectic both in region and particularly in vintage.  I do not know if it is more interesting that there were wines from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s to write the least or that two were from the venerable 1955 vintage and two from 1969.  The quality of the wines in the glass varied but the individual personalities spoke, creating such interest that we stayed up very late that night.

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.

Inside of the tag for the 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva Della Castellana, Barolo

Inside of the tag for the 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva Della Castellana, Barolo

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 back label of the 1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County

The back label of the 1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

“C’est un produit d’une grande finesse”: The 1976 Ayala, Champagne Extra Quality Brut

October 26, 2016 Leave a comment

The Ayala house has produced Champagne for over 150 years.  During its golden period of the 1920s it supplied the royal courts of England and Spain.  The Union of French Sommeliers soon took note.  When they visited the house in 1924, they described the Champagne as having “great finesse” as well as high cost.  Ayala was eventually purchased by Bollinger in 2005.  This bottle of 1976 Ayala, Chateau d’Ay, Champagne Extra Quality Brut  comes from the period when it was regarded as a “smaller, but well respected house” according to Decanter magazine.  Ayala has produced a low-dosage Champagne since the 1860s and the house style comes through in the well-regarded 1976 vintage.  This is a finely textured, clean Champagne that is drinking at full maturity right now.  I found it a good start for an evening of mature wine.

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1976 Ayala, Chateau d’Ay, Champagne Extra Quality Brut
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  The wine is a light to medium gold color with an amber tinge.  There is an initial mature, yeast note that is framed by a dry and fine texture.  The wine rounds out with air taking on weight through the clean finish.  Apple orchard flavors come out in the moderately lengthy finish.  *** Now.

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Lost Friday Lunch

September 15, 2016 Leave a comment

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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