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1980s Beaucastel and Burgundy at the Woodberry Kitchen

Darryl and Nancy organized a small wine dinner at the Woodberry Kitchen in order to partake in ramps and old Châteauneuf du Pape.  Roland, Richard, and I joined them one fine evening this week.  Fortunately we had extra bottles in tow for this evening was marked by an unfortunate series of off and underperforming bottles.  A shame then that two vintages of 1983 and 1985 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser, from two different sources were off.  A 1981 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape had a bad cork and despite a heroic effort by the wine to correct itself, it remained ultimately marred.  The 1978 Chateau Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe was more advanced than I had expected.

Thus the white wine highlight of the evening included the fine 1992 Zind Humbrecht, Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain, Alsace which still needs air for full pleasure.  It has a kiss of petrol followed by nuts and lively acidity.

For the red wines my favorites include a 1982 Thorin, Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Chambolle-Musigny.  This represents a smaller and gentler example of an old-school mature Burgundy.  I enjoyed my glass and would happily have this as a house wine.  The mature Burgundy set the stage for a well-cared bottle of 1981 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The last time I tasted this wine, my glass came from the dregs.  This time I had a proper pour which I kept around for an hour or so.  Good stuff!  This deep wine should drink at its peak for several more years.  In complete contrast the 1986 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape is yet to reach full maturity, instead it offers brighter, fruitier red flavors.  It will not achieve the depth of the 1981 but it does have that Beaucastel familiarity.

 

2011 Champy, Chassagne-Montrachet
Imported by Schneider’s of Capitol Hill.  Alcohol 11%.  A golden straw color greets.  The flinty nose makes way to a rounded, slight dense start backed by glycerin.  There are yeast and chalk flavors but the wine lacks verve from enough acidity.  ** Now.

NV Bereche, Vallee 66 Mois de Cave, Champagne
This wine is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay.  Bottled 07/07/2010.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose is slightly oxidized with aromas of apple orchard.  The bubbles quickly become creamy with a fine vein of prickle.  The flavors have strength with chalky, fruit, and a slightly bitter finish.  It tastes fully mature.  *** Now.

1985 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser, Riesling Spatlese Abtsberg, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Consigned from a private source to Zachy’s 2016 Rieslingfeier auction. Imported by Wine Cellars LTD.  Alcohol 11%-14%.  The nose is very aromatic and smells exactly like pure gasoline.  There is a fruity start backed by the petrol note a bit of grip then the wine completely fades off.  There is a strange lack of acidity.  Not Rated.

1992 Zind Humbrecht, Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain, Alsace
This also sports a bit of petrol on the nose.  In the mouth is a nutty, bitter, and coconut start.  This wine has ample acidity providing a lively start then drier middle before the acidity returns in the end.  With air it fleshes out a bit to bring the acidity in balance.  *** Now but will last.

1982 Thorin, Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Chambolle-Musigny
Acquired from private collection by Acker Merrall & Condit.  Alcohol 11.9%-13.9%.  There is sweet fruit on the nose then violets and attractive, sweaty leather aromas.  In the mouth are sweet flavors that coat the tongue and a slight vibrancy.  A small example of a well-tasting old Burgundy.  *** Now.

1981 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Robert Haas Selections imported by Vineyard Brands.  This is in fine condition with sweet aromas and wood box complexity.  In the mouth are gently sweet flavors of perfumed strawberry which eventually take on fat.  There are pervasive flavors of leather, animale notes, blood, and an old-school perfumed aftertaste. **** Now – 2023.

1981 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape
No signs of seepage but cork was loose with a bit of wine on top of it.  Prominent volatile acidity and band-aids on the nose.  With air it cleans up a bit but can’t shape it.  The wine is fruity, supple, and weight but is marred by a band-aid flavor.  Not Rated.

1986 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  Lighter in color than the 1981.  In the mouth are surprisingly young, reddish fruit flavors, a grippy nature, and brighter acidity.  This wine has both more structure and youthful grip.  It is not yet at full maturity but is gaining fat.  ***(*) Now – 2027.

1978 Chateau Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe – $18.95
Shipped by Les Vieux Celliers.  Imported by  The Stacole Co.  Dried banana on the nose.  In the mouth this is more advanced with red fruit, bananas, old greenhouse infused flavors, and a short finish.  ** Now.

1983 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser, Reisling Auslese Abstberg  No. 125, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Acquired from a private collection by Chambers Street Wines.  Imported by Schenk USA.  Alcohol 9%.  Signs of seepage and the cork dropped in the bottle.  A beautiful orange color and attractive, scented marmalade nose.  Sadly it is undrinkable.  Not Rated.

1997 and 1999 Bois de Boursan CdP

I meant to purchase two bottles of 1999 Domaine Bois de Boursan, Chateauneuf du Pape.  Somehow I did not pay attention and the second bottle ended up being the 1997 Domaine Bois de Boursan, Chateauneuf du Pape.  I cannot actually recall drinking a Chateauneuf du Pape from the 1997 vintage so at least my bottle provided a new experience!  There is a bit of a sweet, Kirsch component with just a subtle amount of extra complexity.  The acidity is a bit too obvious at times otherwise this is a respectfully solid wine for drinking now.  The 1999 vintage steps things up.  It is quite fruity with a notch more complexity and much better acidity.  I see no reason to hold on to it any longer so start pulling the corks!

1997 Domaine Bois de Boursan, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by J et R Selections.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There is a rounded start of Kirsch with supporting acidity that noticeably pokes through at times.  The sweet flavors mix with subtle wood box and spices.  It firms up towards the finish leaving a textured, ripe aftertaste.  ** Now.

1999 Domaine Bois de Boursan, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by J et R Selections.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The wine is lively with a mixture of cranberry and ripe red berries.  The fruity flavors move on towards the purple and black spectrum, taking on great spices with hints of wood box.  The fresh acidity keep the wine taut.  *** Now – 2023.

A pair of Chateauneuf du Pape

February 8, 2017 Leave a comment

The 2013 Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Bartavelles, Chateauneuf du Pape is available at a close-out price placing it just above that of Cotes du Rhone.  If you enjoy a modern style of wine this is an excellent value with grapey, black fruit flavors, texture, and salivating acidity.  It will drink well for a number of years.  It is available at MacArthur Beverages.

Domaine Pierre Andre is regarded as a “very traditional producer” by John Livingstone-Learmonth.  Pierre Andre did not use pesticides or herbicides in his vineyards which contain vines over 100 years of age.  He produced organic wines since 1980 and Demeter certified since 1992.  Today his daughter Jacqueline Andre runs the estate who continues the use of cement vats and old wood.  Her father had a preference for late harvesting which comes through in the 1998 Domaine Pierre Andre, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The nose is complex with fruit and in the mouth I am reminded of dry Port flavors.  This is a substantial wine but it tastes good with a good sense of minerals, cedar, and pleasing texture.

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2013 Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Bartavelles, Chateauneuf du Pape – $22
Imported by Palm Bay International.  This wine is a blend of 45% Syrah, 35% Grenache, and 20% Mourvedre.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This is a modern style of wine with concentrated flavors of grapey, black fruit delivered with some grainy texture, density, and weight.  It is bright in a sense with citric, puckering tannins, and a salivating black flavored finish with a hint of bitterness.  *** Now – 2022.

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1998 Domaine Pierre Andre, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Lauver Imports LTD.  Alcohol 15%.  The nose reveals blackberry and bramble fruitiness overlaying compote.  In the mouth there are clean, grainy flavors of black fruit followed by a mineral middle and finish.  The flavors are ripe, bordering on raisined, perhaps better described as a dry Port flavor.  It is a bit heady but the wood box and cedar note, sense of density, and ripe tannins left on the gums are attractive.  ***(*) Now – 2022.

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Lou’s Favorite Wines of 2016

January 2, 2017 1 comment

As Aaron and I drink many wines together, it’s inevitable that we have some shared wines on our top lists. The 1978 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill was obviously California with rich fruit and concentration but balanced by forest floor and a balanced acidity. What was especially interesting for me with this wine was that it was served with its brother, the 1978 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace.  This wine shared many of the characteristics of its sibling, but with more cassis, less earth and somewhat brighter toned.

I shared Aaron’s enthusiasm for the 1964 Mommessin Clos de Tart.  This is everything Burgundy should be—hugely complex as it balances a sense of fragility and depth. This oxymoronic nature of great, mature Burgundy was abounding in this wine.  I too loved the 1964 Beaucastel.  It’s too rare that I drink great, old Chateauneuf.  In an evening with an amazing vertical of great Beaucastel, this wine stood above the rest.  It was a beautiful mix of bright fruit, iodine and seaweed.

Moving on to two wines unique to my list are two more wines from 1964.  Both Burgundies were drunk at Berns’ and served from 375’s.  The first was a Senard Aloxe Corton Les Valozieres.  The second was a lowly villages Morey St Denis from Valby.  Both wines benefited from the cold conditions of the cellar there and were in pristine condition.  Though neither showed the pedigree of the Clos de Tart, they both showed as fully mature, complex and exciting.

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The 1989 Cos d’Estournel  also was part of a vertical of exceptional wines. Though I greatly enjoyed many of vintages served that night, the 1989 stood out to me (and just edged out the 2005). It had concentrated fruit, some green notes and a fascinating smoky spice like incense.  The finish went on and on.

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The 1970 Souverain Zinfandel was also from a 375 at Berns’.  This tasted still young and fresh and showed the heights that classic Zin can achieve.

My final two wines were probably more about the experience that the wines themselves.  The first was a 2011 Fevre Montmains Chablis that I had at Han Ting restaurant in The Hague.  This meal was probably my best of the year for exciting food and flawless service. The wine perfectly accompanied the Asian styled food.  It had bright acidity, a delightful minerality and will doubtless just get better with time, as it was just a baby.

Finally was a carafe of the house red at O’Tinello Osteria in Lago Albano just outside of Rome.  This fruity and fresh wine made locally had enough acidity to lighten the platters of cured meats, creamy pasta and the porchetta that the region is famous for.  It was a great reminder of the time honored pairings of local food and wines. We were close to the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo and I could imagine the Pope having a similar lunch in the bright March sun……

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My favorite wines of 2016

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

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It has been a busy year.  Not with wine drinking but with work, family, and the house.  I certainly spent a lot of time researching about the history of wine but this year my strong efforts in exploration produced less results.  As a result I published less historic pieces.  Still, it was a good year in all sense.  As for wine, what is memorable easily falls into five groups old Burgundy, old Chateauneuf du Pape, old Californian wine, old Bordeaux, and very old Madeira.

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Old Burgundy was consumed in the form of 1964 J. Mommessin, Clos de Tart and 1961 Drouhin, Domaine General Marey-Monge, Romanee St-Vivant.  I find these old bottles particularly hardy with sweet, old concentrated flavors that never fade.

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Chateauneuf du Pape was off to a roaring start thanks to a friend who not only opened 2003 Chateau Rayas, Reserve, Chateauneuf du Pape but also 2003 Henri Bonneau, Cuvee Marie-Beurrier, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The Rayas already exhibits “breath-taking complexity” whereas the Bonneau is structured for age.  At the mature end, a beautiful bottle of 1964 Domaine de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape proved the longevity of this type of wine.  This is the first vintage in which Jacques Perrin employed his vinification a chaud technique where he heated the grapes.  There were some mediocre vintages in the 1950s and early 1960s so it is possible Jacques Perrin was ready to use this new technique regardless of the quality of the 1964 vintage.  From the same vintage, though not quite the same level of experience, the 1964 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Les Cedres, Chateauneuf du Pape really highlights how negociants and growers successfully worked together.  I am also thrilled to have tasted an original release Mont-Redon, whose wines from the 1950s and 1960s have been widely praised.  With round, mouth filling sweet strawberries, the 1969 Domaine de Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape is drinking perfect right now.

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The 1978 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Volcanic Hill, Napa Valley expresses many of the traits I like in a mature American wine: dark fruit, earth, grip, and some of the concentration from age that just makes you want to drink the wine rather than figure out how to describe it.  There is quite a reputation for this wine so I am glad it lives up to it.  The biggest Californian surprise of the year is the 1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County which has no written reputation that I could find.  This is Pinot Noir with a hefty dose of Zinfandel, that together provide a vibrant and taut wine with fruit, leather, and animale notes.  I must, of course, include Eric’s big bottle of 1875 Isaias W. Hellman, Angelica Wine, Cucamonga Vineyard, San Bernadino County.  I will write about this wine in a separate post but to provide some context for this exceedingly rare 19th century Californian wine, there were only 37 stars on the America flag when the grapes were harvested.

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For some reason I did not get around to opening any wines from the 1966 vintage this year.  Still, I did not miss the 50th anniversary of the vintage for the 1966 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien proved to be an excellent representative.  From the sweaty nose to the cranberries and red fruit this wine is nothing but fun.  Also pleasurable, particularly for the mouth feel, is the 1979 Chateau l’Evangile, Pomerol.  In fact, Lou and I managed to drink this twice.  It is round, weighty, and injected with fat.  Great stuff!  I also managed to taste two bottles of 1962 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac.  The first bottle, with the highest fill, was the best being very aromatic with beef and blood.  The second bottle had a much lower fill so I opened it up an experiment.  It was simply a more compact representation, attesting to the staying power of Lafite.

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As for very old Madeira, I was fortunate to taste 20 pre-Phylloxera bottles this spring.  If I simply pruned out the fake(s), off bottles, and ones that are not so good I could probably list 10 more wines.  But my favorites can be narrowed to include the 1875 Blandy’s Grabham’s Sercial1864 Henriques & Henriques Sercial, 1808 Braheem Kassab (BAK) “SS”Sercial, and NV Henriques & Henriques Reserva “H.H.” Sercial.  For me, these wines balance the high acidity natural to Sercial with some sweetness.  They offer a diverse range of styles from tobacco and cedar wood to pungent, sweaty aromas and even smoke with minerals.  An empty glass of Madeira will still smell great the next morning.  A few errant drops on your skin will perfume yourself.

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

Bill Moore’s favorite wines of the year

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment
I continue the year end posts with Bill Moore’s most memorable pair of wines.  I am fortunate to have attended the same Beaucastel tasting.

 

I was lucky enough to enjoy a raft of wonderful wines in 2016, thanks in large part to the generosity of DC’s wine-loving community. Of the many tasted this past year, two in particular stand out to me as the most memorable.

The 1994 Lopez de Heredia Blanco Gran Reserva Vina Tondonia was simply the most mind-bogglingly complex and delicious wine I had all year. From the pull of the cork, it showed a soaring, kaleidoscopic nose, with swirling aromas of salted caramels, vanilla, honey, jasmine, ginger, almonds, and orange peels. It was sensuous, smooth, and nutty on the palate, with a level of refinement to rival the noblest Grand Crus and a salty finish that left my palate tingling for what seemed like minutes. A true masterpiece from this venerable house, and one that will last a geologic age.

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This summer, I had the privilege of attending a Chateau de Beaucastel vertical dinner that featured more than a dozen vintages of Chateauneuf du Pape reds from this benchmark producer. While the dinner included numerous sterling bottles (the 1990, 1981, 2001, and 1983 were especially excellent), it was the 1964 Beaucastel that lingers most in my mind from that evening. Swirling aromatics of campfire smoke, cinnamon spice, and stewed strawberries had my head spinning. On the palate, the wine was full of soft, sweet fruits that reflected the wine’s maturity, but it was also brimming with vigor and energy that belied its 50+ years. While not the qualitatively “best” wine of the night, it was the one that challenged my assumptions about the aging potential of Chateauneuf du Pape and will have me seeking out many more old CdPs in the new year!

Cheers,

Bill