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Guillaume Gilles’ Gamay from near Cornas

January 17, 2019 Leave a comment

I seem to be drinking a lot of Gamay lately.  I might be excused since this includes such wines as the 2016 Guillaume Gilles, Combeaux Massardieres.  Gilles may be known for his Syrah from Cornas but he should also be known for his Gamay.  I have been itching to try the 2016 wines of Gilles so I conveniently paired the 2016 Massardieres with the 2015.  The 2015 was quite ripe yet tense from the beginning, which made it immediately accessible.  The 2016 vintage reveals the need for a touch of time in the cellar.  There is still some ripeness and oily nature but it is somewhat closed with more noticeable structure.  I think you should cellar it until the summer.  In the meantime drink the 2015!  Phil imports these at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Guillaume Gilles, Combeaux Massardieres – $27
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Gamay.  Alcohol 14%.  Bright and articulate with aromas of candied roses.  Bright in the mouth as well with a fresh edge from acidity that leads to textured, grapey extract.  Less ripe than the 2015 but more mouthfeel with a mineral, dry end.  With air the ripeness shows focus with oily fruit weight lurking under the structure.  The wine is not quite zippy, perhaps a touch juicy.  I believe it needs six months in the cellar.   ***(*) Now – 2022.

2015 Guillaume Gilles, Les Massardieres – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Gamay.  Alcohol 13%.  Riper flavors with vintage perfume and hints of furniture polish.  It is now better on the second day having cleaned up and developed flavors of black cherries and other dark fruits.  Perhaps not the best analogy but the ripeness of the fruit has a cola-like tension from the acidity as it rolls into a ripe, chalky finish.  It appears to be in mid-age with a good low-note to its flavor.  **** Now – 2020.

A Northern Rhone Tasting with Mosel too

Several months ago we gathered on my back deck to taste through some Northern Rhone wines.  The focus was to be on Cornas and Côte-Rôtie but these wines were soon joined by Champagne (required of course), Hermitage, Mosel, and Paarl. The killer 1998 Dom Perignon, P2 Champagne Brut with its equally impressive gift box was the best wine of the night.  It is drinking spot-on but as it is a different beast, it did not distract from the red wines.

From Cornas, my favorites include the brambly and strong 2007 Thierry Allemand, Cornas Reynard.  Nearly as good, yet quite different, is the animale, crisp 2001 Dumien-Serrette, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, Cornas Patou.  Graphite and vintage perfume add complexity at a reasonable price.

From Côte-Rôtie, my favorite is the 1998 Gilles Barge, Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune.  Floral on the nose, this is an elegant wine with plenty of minerals and violets.  It also yields fat for weight. I kept returning to my glass for another sniff. Of the slew of 1998s, the 1998 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie proved to be mostly reticent but did improve with extended air.  It is meatier and smokier than the Barge.  The pair of 2007s proved excellent too.  The cleaner 2007 Guigal, Côte-Rôtie La Mouline had my preference tilted towards it for the floral, lifted flavors over the deep base.  There is a lot of material here.  Whereas, the 2007 Bernard Levet, Côte-Rôtie La Chavaroche is substantial, yet balanced, with a wild flavor personality.  What a fantastic range of styles from one small region.

We wrapped up the evening with a trio of excellent Mosel Rieslings and a dessert wine from Paarl.  I only took small tastes of these wines so my notes are short.  The two that stand out are the clean and vibrant 2006 Hofgut Falkenstein, Krettnacher Euchariusberg, Riesling Auslese, Mosel with the lovely 2001 Joh. Jos. Prüm, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, Mosel.  Many thanks for everyone’s contributions.

Champagne

1998 Dom Perignon, P2 Champagne Brut
Alcohol 12.5%.  Fine bubbles explode, leaving a lovely texture backed by flavors of ripe spices.  The acidity cuts through the end, supporting wood box hints and the creamy, mousse finish. ****(*) Now

Hermitage

1997 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage Blanc le Chevalier de Sterimberg
Golden amber color.  An interesting nose, honied flavors but past prime.  Not Rated.

1997 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage La Chapelle
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons.  Alcohol 13.4%.  Roast earth with fine wood scents.  Light in the mouth with watering acidity, polished wood, and effortless delivery of cherry flavor.  The wine takes on body, which is seductive, but the flavors are rather mature.  *** Now.

1983 E. Guigal, Hermitage
Imported by Classic Wine Imports.  Dead. Not Rated.

Cornas

2007 Thierry Allemand, Cornas Reynard
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  A brambly nose with interesting aromas including violets.  A sensation of weight greets in this young wine with youthful intensity and hints of yeast.  There is concentration, ripe tannins, and fruit extract with both acidity and tannins in the dry finish and aftertaste.  With air a sage, green herb component develops.  Strength.  **** Now – 2028.

2007 Thierry Allemand, Cornas Chaillot
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Pure in fruit with finely scents aromas of pepper and sweet baking spices.  Grapey fruit in the mouth, black pepper, and tons of texture.  With air it takes on a yeasty Pilsner quality that destroys everything.  Not Rated.

2001 Dumien-Serrette, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, Cornas Patou
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Young with plenty of mouth feel from its citric grip and tannins.  There is graphite and an animale hint in this crisp wine with drier flavors and good presence in the mouth.  It has a lovely vintage perfume aspect that adds complexity to the good flavor.  ***(*) Now – 2033.

Côte-Rôtie

1998 Gilles Barge, Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12.5%. The floral, perfumed nose smells great.  In the mouth are focused flavors that build minerality and becoming impressive at the end with good length.  With air elegant hints of fat lend weight and balance the wine.  By the middle, tannins and acidity come out which will see the wine through further development.  A beautiful wine all about minerals and violets.   **** Now – 2023.

1998 Bernard Burgaud, Côte-Rôtie
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Very aromatic, meaty, fresh, and notes of vintage perfume.  Yet in the mouth it is tart, grapey, with pervasive earthiness overpowering everything.  Not quite right which is a shame.  Not Rated.

1998 Mathilde et Yves Gangloff, Côte-Rôtie
Imported by Vineyard Road.  The restrained nose remains tight and unyielding but a delicate, floral aroma does escape.  Smoked meats, along with pure, red and black fruits greet.  There is a restrained, tannic structure that smooths out as watering acidity moves the wine into the lipsticky finish.  Right now, this is a wine with ample presence and texture in the mouth.  *** Now – 2028+.

1998 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  Hints of sweet fruit on the nose backed by meat and smoke.  Dense and gentle in the mouth,the textured red fruit become coated with fat.  Beautiful and elegant with fine texture from extract.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

1998 Rene Rostaing, Côte-Rôtie La Landonne
Pure bloody, meat but not much else there on the nose.  Not quite right.  Silky in the mouth with flavors of meat and a short finish.  Not right.  Not Rated.

Mystery Wine – 2012 Halcon, Alturas, Yorkville Highlands Syrah
Alcohol 13.5%.  Purple, grapey nose with gobs of grapey flavors in the mouth.  Hard to transition to but a solid wine.  **(*) Now – 2023.

2007 Guigal, Côte-Rôtie La Mouline
Imported by Vintus.  Alcohol 13%.  A beautiful, floral nose.  Grapey, purple fruit flavors surrounded by fat.  There is a floral lift to the deep, lifted flavors which I prefer over the Levett.  A modern take on Syrah with floral persistence in the finish and aftertaste.  ****(*) Now – 2033.

2007 Bernard Levet, Côte-Rôtie La Chavaroche
Imported by Neal Rosenthal.  Alcohol 12.5%.  A floral, substantive nose.  In the mouth are fat infused, dense and supple flavors of intertwined black fruit and minerals.  Impressive balance.  It takes on red grapefruit with both animale and sauvage complexity.  The flavors drape over the tongue with weight and seamless body.  There are very fine yet not dry tannins that peak out in the end. **** Now – 2033.

German Riesling

2006 Hofgut Falkenstein, Krettnacher Euchariusberg, Riesling Auslese, Mosel
Alcohol 7%. The lightest color of the trio, almost white.  Clean, residual sugar in the start soon morphs into grapefruit with a tart, vibrantly acidic middle, and tangy finish.  Clean.

2006 Willi Schaefer, Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Alcohol 8%.  A golden color with petrol on the nose.  Some vibranrancy but surprisingly advanced.  Petrol and weight.

2001 Joh. Jos. Prüm, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, Mosel
A light yellow color.  Hints of petrol along with citrus fruit on the nose.  Very fine textured acidity, lovely.

Dessert

2000 Fairview Wine Estate, Le Beryl Blanc, Paarl
An amber color with flavors of apricots and dried fruit.  Good balance.

Madeira in Early America, The dinner party

Discussing the history of wine is thirsty work.  After completing our breakout sessions and the walk around tasting for The Stanford Wine Society, it was time for dinner.  Back in San Francisco a handful of us gathered at a round table to refresh with a glass of NV Laurent-Perrier, Champagne Brut Cuvee Grand Siecle.  Grand Siecle is a blend of three vintages, the exact set unknown to us, but based on the label we know this was released in the 1980s.  From an English cellar, this is robust, lively wine with mature flavors and the core to persist for a number of years.

Carried over from England, the 2011 Arnaud Ente, Meursault La Seve du Clos is the most engaging and impressive wine of the evening.  Impeccable and easy to drink, this is the first wine I have found such level of flavor from a small sip.  The aromas, flavors, and mouth feel engage multiple senses.

A lack of vintage label invoked a study of Clape label styles to arrive at a backet of mid 1980’s vintages for our first red wine.  After tasting, those of more experience narrowed down to 1984 [believed] Auguste Clape, Cornas.  The nose is gorgeous, the palate gentle.

We met fate with our pair of 1989 Chateau Rayas, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve and 1990 Chateau Rayas, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve.  The former in fine condition but the sea spray aromas on the later 1990 indicated an off bottle.  The 1989 is all pure framboise with texture.

Of the final pair, the 1991 August Clape, Cornas first overshadowed the 1999 Noel Verset, Cornas.  The Clape is a deep, dense, flavorful wine from the start such so that I first finished my glass before moving.  Upon settling down with the Verset, I was impressed by how well it responded to air.  This is a wine with strong potential, the young flavors are tense with energy and the old-school note speaks of interesting complexity yet to come.

NV Laurent-Perrier, Champagne Brut Cuvee Grand Siecle
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12%. 1980s release.  A mature color with a fine, textured nose.  Initially a robust wine with a fine cut of acidity and yeasty streak.  Lively, with both chalk and a core of fruit followed by plenty of presence through the finish.  The mature flavors are up front, coating the mouth and taking on sweetness with air.  **** Now – 2028.

2011 Arnaud Ente, Meursault La Seve du Clos
The very light color belies the aromatic nose of sweet, floral aromas, and tropical fruit.  In the mouth is a bright start with the body immediately developing and coming out to fill the mouth.  An almost inky finish brings a toast note.  The balance is impeccable and the effortless concentration is impressive.  Flavors of lemon, with a tart hint on the sides of the tongue, mix with fat and long-last acidity.  One really needs just a small sip to enjoy all the wine has to offer.  Gorgeous.  ****(*) Now – 2028.

1984 [believed] Auguste Clape, Cornas
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  A gorgeous nose of vintage perfume, flowers, earthy hints, and menthol freshness.  In the mouth are gently sweet flavors of red fruit.  There is concentration and the citric grip is structured from the middle through the finish.  The fruit flavors are mostly up front and of tart, red flavors meaning the nose is the star of this wine.  ***(*) Now.

1989 Chateau Rayas, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve
Pure, aromatic fruit on the nose followed by framboise in the mouth.  The flavors turn a touch tart with air but they are pure, clean, and in plenitude.  There is plenty to perceive as well, fine berries with texture, evocative of seeds, minerals, and even structure.  Lovely.  **** Now – 2023.

1990 Chateau Rayas, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve
Not quite right on the nose, sea spray.  In the mouth are slightly short red fruit flavors, sharper fruit, and a tart middle.  Grippy on the tongue with plenty of grip and extract.  Clearly an off bottle but enough going on that you could drink around it as a mid-week wine.  Shame!  Not Rated.

1991 August Clape, Cornas
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12.5%.  Slightly textured, animale, dense and flavorful.  The fruit is not bright, rather dense and deep in flavor.  Fine polished wood and a deep, meaty end wrap things up.  **** Now – 2028.

1999 Noel Verset, Cornas
Alcohol 12.5%. Lot 1.  A greater purity to the red fruit.  There is still structure but the grapey tension and resolution with time only makes the wine more attractive.  Delicate yet greatly flavored with an old-school note.  This bottle shows strong potential.  ****(*) Now – 2033.

A blind tasting of 2003 Northern Rhone wines

January 23, 2017 1 comment

It is a treat to blindly taste through eight wines of quality which I was recently able to do at Andy’s house.  One year ago Andy managed to stump us with a horizontal of 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape.  This year he served up 2003 Northern Rhone.  There was certainly confusion at first, particularly after the first several wines showed a level of ripe fruit concentration that had me thinking we were tasting Southern Rhone.  Then the final wines shifted my impression up to the Northern Rhone.  In retrospect it is the generous 2003 vintage that lead to this confusion and a surprise.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the 2003 Joel Durand, Les Coteaux, Saint-Joseph.  Though fruity, the flavors are not over ripe, the wine is lively, and backed by earth.  It is certainly generous and enjoyable to drink as a result.  Also from Saint-Joseph, the 2003 Yves Cuilleron, Serines, Saint-Joseph steps up the level of elegance.  Made from old-vines which see new oak, the quality of the fruit shines through with great grip and bacon flavors!  Finally, the most seductive wine of the night turned out to be the 2003 Guigal, Chateau d’Ampuis, Cote-Rotie.  Fat, glycerin, even more fat surround coiled, black fruit flavors. You can now imagine why I stayed a bit later than I intended to simply drinking these wines.

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1 – 2003 Eric et Joel Durand, Cornas
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  Alcohol 14%.  A medium garnet color with a mature and robust nose.  In the mouth are racy, mouth filling flavors.  This is a big wine with hints of alcohol.  There are flavors of prune, baking spice, and a wood note but not much in the way of tannin.  With air the sappy fruit takes on some fat and develops a longer finish.  In a way this is young and taught.  *** Now.

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2 – 2003 Joel Durand, Les Coteaux, Saint-Joseph
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A similar dark colored core as #1.  The nose is more expressive with mixed, dark fruits.  The flavors show more concentration with a hint of earth and plenty of presence.  It is a very good wine with ripe fruit, continued animale and earth notes, and an earthy aftertaste.  Nice.  **** Now – 2023.

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3 – 2003 Alain Voge, Les Vieilles Vignes, Cornas
Imported by Adventures in Wine.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A little less garnet than the previous wines.  This wine plays it close both on the nose and in the mouth.  It has hints of rather mature, old-school flavor which is delicate with earthy and red berry aspects.  The flavors become more black towards the finish where the subtle, structured finish brings out a wood note. *** Now.

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4 – 2003 Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes, Les Roches, Saint-Joseph
A darker color makes way to wood box aromas, dark blue and red fruit, and good mature hints. In the mouth there is a younger, fruitier start, assertive tannins, and a bitter finish.  There is good, tart flavor in the but ultimately taste more like a Southern Rhone.  Or perhaps I should write, I pegged this as a Tardieu-Laurent wine. *** Now.

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5 – 2003 Guigal, Brune & Blonde, Cote-Rotie
Imported by Ex Cellars.  Alcohol 13%.  Meaty flavors with a dose of tannins start off this thick, mouth filling wine.  It is a little rough and simple with dark roast and rather fine and strong structure.  More toast is apparent with air. *** Now – 2023.

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6 – 2003 Yves Cuilleron, Serines, Saint-Joseph
Imported by Neal Rosenthal.  Alcohol 13%.  The floral, purple fruit aromas clearly speak of the Northern Rhone.  In the mouth are cool, young fruit flavors on entry followed by a pervasive bacon flavor.  It is a youthful wine with watery acidity, great grip, and accented by citrus flavor (but not citric acidity).  This will continue to develop.  **** Now – 2027.

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7 – 2003 Rene Rostaing, Cote-Rotie
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 12.5%.  There is a light garnet color.  The nose is weird, lactic and fishy with fish flavors in the mouth.  One taster commented “sardine dine”.  Not Rated.

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8 – 2003 Guigal, Chateau d’Ampuis, Cote-Rotie
Imported by Ex Cellars.  Alcohol 13%.  Mmm, meat on the nose.  This wine sports more body and glycerin then all of the previous wines.  The black core of fruit is coated with fat, coiled and willing to unfurl in the middle with a bright lift.  Did I mention the very seductive fat? **** Now – 2027.

As thick as a phone book: my first trip to Bern’s Steak House

April 20, 2016 2 comments

The TSA officer at the airport asked if I was escaping the Washington, DC rain for the warmth of Florida.  No, I replied, I am going down to drink wine with my friend.  With the officer perplexed I explained that Bern’s Steak House was my destination.  A woman in the security line chimed up, Bern’s is my favorite place in the world.

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Bern’s  Steak House in Tampa, Florida is legendary amongst wine lovers due to the half-million bottle wine cellar that contains table wines dating back to the 19th century and a few fortified wines which are even older.  Founded in the 1950s by Bern Laxer and his wife Gert, wine has always played a major role at the Steak House.  Decades worth of purchasing ensured that there are still ample supplies of wines from the 1960s and later which were bought on release.  Coupled with nearly obsessive backfilling of ancient vintages, particularly for Bordeaux, there is also unparalleled depth.  Many of these bottles were imported specifically for Bern’s.   Fortunately, the prices for most of these wines appear frozen in time.

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Most tables at Bern’s do not test the depth of the wine list.  This fact combined with the sheer size of the wine cellar means there is still an impressive supply of old wine at all price points.  Many wine-loving groups make regular trips to plunder the cellar.  During the rise of the wine bulletin boards, Bern’s largely remained a place you did not post about or if you did, you certainly did not mention the Bern’s name.  I suspect some posters did not mention all of the wines they drank for fear of the cherry pickers finishing off such satisfying gems as bottles of 1970s Crozes-Hermitage at $30 per bottle.  Hence the unwritten rule of those who plunder Bern’s wine cellar, don’t mention it.

This silence was not always the case.  The Bern’s wine cellar was mentioned in major newspapers over the decades and the wine list, available for $35 in the late 1980s, was even recommended as a Christmas gift.  In 1978, Frank Prial began to include mention of Bern’s Steak House in his New York Times articles.  Described as “[o]ne of the most unusual lists anywhere to be found” he describes the book of a wine list as being “chained to the table to keep from disappearing.”  For $15 one could pay for a copy instead.  Also in the New York Times, Florence Fabricant mentioned the inclusion of Bern’s in The Wine Spectator very first Grand Awards in 1981.  Three years later Fred Ferretti focused in on Bern’s in the article “Wine List Thick as Tampa Phone Book.”  Later that year Frank Prial wrote the list was “bigger than most telephone books.”

The wine list was still chained to the tables when James Conaway wrote about Bern’s for The Washington Post in 1987.  It was actually a marble fixture to which the list was attached.  Apparently this did not stop people from stealing the wine list for a woman was once employed to ferret out lists hidden under furs and shirts.  Despite the wine list shrinking to the size of the Washington, DC, phone book, a cool $1 million Dollars of wine were sold each year.  Frank Prial still wrote about the Bern’s wine list some two decades after he first mentioned it.  He noted that even Bern Laxer called the immense book “absurd.”

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My friend Lou first visited Bern’s nearly a decade ago and he has been sharing stories about his adventures ever since.  It was to join Lou at Bern’s that caused me to flew down to Tampa.  Lou was there the evening before my arrival so it was with delight that I looked at texted pictures of 1964 Domaine Edmond Valby, Morey-Saint-Denise, “Dried cherries, herbs and a little tar” and 1961 Pierre Ponnelle, Chateauneuf du Pape, “[V]ery different. More earth and animale.”  For our dinner together, we were joined by two of Lou’s colleagues. Though they know little about wine, they are curious to try any old wine.

Lou and I found ourselves at Bern’s ahead of the other couple.  We sat ourselves in the bar to flip through the wine list.  After confirming the relative quality of the 1973 vintage in Germany, Lou somewhat randomly picked a bottle of 1973 Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern, Hattenheimer Nussbrunen Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau.  Drunk over one hour, the nose remained rather shy but the fruit flavors picked up definition and weight.  While it was not the most complex wine, it offered a pleasing combination of freshness and maturity.

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1973 Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern, Hattenheimer Nussbrunen Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau
Imported by Frank Schoonmaker Selections.  The color is a youthful light, vibrant amber gold.  The light nose bears some petrol aromas and is generally subtle yet very fresh.  The tart, yellow fruit mixes with good acidity and some textured tannin before picking up mid body weight.  With air the flavors become sweeter with better definition of fruit and some ripeness in the aftertaste.  *** Now.

Once seated at the dinning table we began our succession of red wines with the help of Senior Sommelier Brad Dixon.  Brad was excited about a mature Beaujolais, something that Lou has long mentioned, so he soon returned with a decanted bottle of 1983 Heritiers Finaz Devillaine, Moulin-a-Vent. Alexis Lichine described Moulin-a-Vent as the “king of Beaujolais”, capable of slow development in great vintages such as 1983.  Likely produced by a de Villaine relative, think Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, this bottle is a lively, compelling wine of tart red fruit, minerals, and wood notes.  I would not compare this particular example to Burgundy, as some old Beaujolais is compared to, rather it is its own unique wine.  Clearly great vintage and great storage.

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1983 Heritiers Finaz Devillaine, Moulin-a-Vent
Imported by B Strauss Selections.  Alcohol 12.5%. The wine is a relatively dark, young color.  The nose is of cranberries back by a wood note.  In the mouth is a bitter red fruit start before black, mineral hints come out.  This lively wine is compelling to drink.  The drying tannins and wood note before the tart finish lend to the impression of perfect storage.  *** Now but will last.

A balance was struck between less expensive and more expensive wines.  The pair of of Northern Rhone reds represented low priced wines from negociants. John Livingstone-Learmonth and Melvyn C. H. Master wrote that Leon Revol sold wines “which are consistent without being spectacular.”  The Revol house was founded in the early 20th century. They own no vineyards, instead fruit was purchased from all over the Cotes du Rhone.  The negociant Maison Brotte sold wine under the Pere Anselme label and become associated with their Chateauneuf du Pape.  No amount of proper storage could change the fact that the 1979 Leon Revol, Cornas, from a superior vintage, was more engaging than the 1980 Pere Anselme, Cote Rotie.  The Revol offered more interesting and complete flavors.  The Anselme did have a bit of attractive meat flavor but was simpler and perhaps, a touch old.

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1979 Leon Revol, Cornas
Imported by Bay Distributors.  Alcohol 12%.  There are fresh, red fruit and greenhouse aromas.  In the mouth, the tart red fruit takes on some lipstick, a wood note, and a tart, citric pithe finish.  *** Now.

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1980 Pere Anselme, Cote Rotie
Imported by Bay Distributors.  Alcohol 12.5%.  This nose reveals buttery, tart red fruit.  In the mouth the slightly meaty red fruit plays it tight with good structure of old wood and a hint of roast.  ** Now.

The Californian flight proved to be the best of the night both in terms of the wines and history.  Mike Grgich came to California in 1958. He first worked for Lee Stewart at the original Souverain Cellars then went on to Beaulieu Vineyard, Robert Mondavi Winery, and Chateau Montelena.  Grgich Hills Cellar lead off with the 1977 vintage so our bottle of 1979 Grgich Hills Cellar, Zinfandel, Alexander Valley stems from the very early days.  It is an outstanding wine.  With a youthful color it was fruity on the nose followed by deep, chewy flavors backed by lively acidity and the right amount of cedar notes.  It was the favorite wine of the evening.  Clearly at full maturity.  The half bottle of 1970 Souverain Cellars, Mountain Zinfandel, Napa Valley came from the year Lee Stewart sold the winery to a group of investors.  There was then, for a time, a Souverain of Rutherford in Napa Valley  and a Souverain of Alexander Valley in Sonoma.  The later eventually became Chateau Souverain.  Our half bottle bears the original Lee Stewart label.  There are other bottles of 1970 “Souverain of Rutherford” Cabernet Sauvignon bearing post-sale labels.  This wine is classically structured with fresh flavors of tart black fruit.  I would almost venture it is not yet ready to drink.  At least from the Bern’s cellar!

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1979 Grgich Hills Cellar, Zinfandel, Alexander Valley
Alcohol 13.7%.  The deep, youthful color is easily matched by the deep berry fruit on the nose.  In the mouth are beautiful fruit flavors that range from blue to tart red by the middle.  The lively acidity, cedar note, and slightly chewy aspect continue to delight through the aftertaste.  Drinking so very well.  **** Now.

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1970 Souverain Cellars, Mountain Zinfandel, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%.  This fresh wine is infused with cedar that supports the fresh, focused, and tart black fruit.  This classic wine sports a lively personality and great structure.  It leaves a menthol freshness in the aftertaste.  ***(*) Now – 2025.

After dinner we moved up to the Harry Waugh dessert room with its mini barrel shaped rooms.  We all opted to drink various dessert wines by the glass.  Two of the glass of Port were particularly good.  The 1965 Taylor Fladgate, Crusted Port leans towards the sweet, marshmallow spectrum but the addition of baking spices and expansive flavors make it a hands-down solid drink.  However, it was 1978 Quinta do Noval, Vintage Port from a modest vintage, that was the Port of the night.  It was complex, inky, and poised for further development.  To add to the surprise, it is one of the cheapest Ports by the glass.  In the end, that is what Bern’s is all about.  You walk in with a general plan about what you want to drink but in the end you taste other wines you never expected to be so interesting.

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1977 Barbosa, Vintage Port
The round berries and youthful flavors become super expansive and drier by the finish.  Unfortunately there is some heat at the end.  ** Now.

1965 Taylor Fladgate, Crusted Port
This fruity wine offers up a touch of marshmallow, subtle ripe baking spices, and other sweet notes.  The finish is quite expansive.  *** Now – 2025.

1970 Delaforce, Vintage Port
Musty, tastes of old red fruit. Not Rated.

1978 Quinta do Noval, Vintage Port
The deep ruby color speaks of promise.  There is a lot going on in the mouth.  The fruit is wound around a core of complementary wood.  The fruit mixes with bakings spices, ink, and other complexities.  Simply a really nice vintage Port.  ***(*) Now.

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Allemand, Dauvissat, Jamet, and more to welcome Jeffrey Snow

Jeffrey Snow previously worked for Bacchus Importers then moved to France to enroll in wine studies.  He was in town this past weekend for a brief visit so a group of his wine buddies got together.  As Jeffrey still lives overseas I offered to host the gathering.  Despite the heavy cloudiness the skies held back any rain so we gathered outside on the back deck.  There was a slew of good wine, some certainly better than others, that kept us busy all night.

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A bottle of 2006 Vazart-Coquart, Champagne Blanc de Blancs Special Club Brut accidentally received some 2000 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie La Mouline through a decanting mistake.  Thus turned into a rose, the bottle was found improved and quickly drained.  The 2005 Thierry Massin, Champagne Brut drank solidly for days thanks to it being a double-magnum.  We had mixed success with the white wines.  Fortunately, the 2005 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent), Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses offered all one could hope with great potential.  This was my first time drinking Dauvissat and now I can see why it is a favorite of Roland.  In terms of the red wines, the 1999 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie was my favorite.  It was aromatic, unique in the mouth, and a generally lifting experience to drink.  What a treat!  Whereas the Jamet offered up bacon the 2000 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie La Mouline offered bloody meat.  This bottle drank at a good, mature spot.  The 2003 vintage provided our biggest wines.  The 2003 Thierry Allemand, Cornas offered way more fruit than I expected, but it was good in its  youth, reflecting both the vintage and its southernmost location in the Northern Rhone.  Moving south the 2003 Clos des Papes, Châteauneuf-du-Pape exuded power.  It took until the second night to show properly and with that time, great complexity came out in the middle.  I would cellar this wine another five years.  There were many other enjoyable wines so take a look at my notes below.  I do wish to comment on the 1995 Domaine du Pégaü, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Maxim.  Darryl managed to score this unicorn of a wine.  This one-off cuvee was created to celebrate the birth of Laurence’s first child.  Just over 600 bottles were produced and apparently, given only to friends.  So good was this wine that it and 1997 cuvee Justine eventually became the precursors of De Capo.  Unfortunately, our bottle was off.

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2006 Vazart-Coquart, Champagne Blanc de Blancs Special Club Brut
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by C’Est Vin.  Alcohol 12%.  Through a decanting accident, this contained a proportion of 2000 Guigal, Hermitage La Mouline.  So perhaps better as a rose with yeasty, ripeness!  Not Rated but good!

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2005 Thierry Massin, Champagne Brut (double magnum)
A Becky Wasserman selection imported by C’Est Vin.  Alcohol 12%.  There were fine, structured bubbles that integrated well with the grippy texture on the tongue tip.  There were lemon flavors and baking spices in the finish.  ***/**** Now-2025.

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2008 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles
Imported by Wilson Daniels.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There were maturing, lean flavors of tart lemon before a young impression came out.  There were tangy lemons in the short finish.  Something not quite right about this bottle.

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2005 Domaine des Malandes Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos
Imported by JAO Wine Imports.  Alcohol 13%.  The stinky nose made way to linear flavors in the mouth with a grippy finish.  With air an earthiness pervaded, taking over the lemon citrus note, then finishing tired with apple orchard notes. Note Rated.

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2001 Domaine and Select, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  There were plenty of berries in this robust wine.  The dense core of fruit made way to cherry and even took on glycerin.  A lovely wine.  **** Now-2020.

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2007 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Maréchale (en magnum)
A Becky Wasserman selection imported by Veritas.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose was rather expressive.  In the mouth were ethereal flavors before the tighter finish.  With air it developed some midpalate ripeness with delicate spices and a good length for the soft, lipsticky finish.  *** Now.

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2004 Château du Cèdre, Cahors Le Cèdre
Imported by Elite Wines.  Alcohol 14%.  The fresh nose developed deep and dark aromas.  The wine was dense in the mouth with good intention from the structure and acidity.  The flavors had a cool aspect and when combined with the greenhouse notes, I imagine this will have a nice future.  ***(*) Now-2025.

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2005 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent), Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses
Imported by Wine Brokers International.  Alcohol 13%.  There were rounded notes of white and yellow fruit in this beautiful wine.  It was almost spritely with a chalky middle, lovely integrated acidity, a good grip, and even more minerals in the finish.  Top notch!  ****(*) Now-2025.

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2004 Terredora di Paolo, Taurasi Pago Dei Fusi
Imported by Vias Imports.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was very fresh with greenhouse aromas, small berries, and eventually a fine, wood aroma.  In the mouth the linear flavors took on licorice.  With air the gentle fruit existed within a resolved structure that made a return in the finish by drying the gums.

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1999 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie
Imported by Robert Kacher.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Very aromatic with bacon and stems.  In the mouth were good, controlled powerful flavors of violet fruit.  The wine became salty with air and maintained a sense of purity to the acidity driven red fruit.  Lovely.  ****(*) Now-2025.

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2000 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie La Mouline
Imported by Ex Cellar Wine Agency.  Alcohol 13%.  There was a lifted nose of bloody meat.  In the mouth were acidity driven flavors that were savory, dense, and glycerin infused.  There was still fruit and very fine, fresh structure.  **** Now – 2023.

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2003 Thierry Allemand, Cornas
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose was aromatic with fruit power, camphor, and a touch of raisins.  In the mouth was a load of tangy, red and pruned fruit with good acidity.  With air the wine remained quite fruity, building in flavor towards the middle where mineral and sweet spiced fruit came out.  ****(*) Now-2030.

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1999 Tardieu-Laurent, Côte-Rôtie Vieilles Vignes (en magnum)
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  Alcohol 13%.  This was aromatic with roast notes from the oak.  In the mouth were soft flavors and vintage perfume.  The structure was still there but there was low acidity and a generally limp impression.  Not Rated.

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2003 Clos des Papes, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Alcohol 14.5%.  This was beautiful, powerful, and earthy.  The wine really packed in the components, exuding power as well as grainy black then red and violet fruit.  On the second night it had expanded more to show very good midpalate complexity.  ****(*) Now-2030.

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1995 Domaine du Pégaü, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Maxim
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 14%.  Oddly morphing, seemed clearly corked at first then as if through sheer determination powerful fruit tried to come through. Not right so bummer.  Not Rated.

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1995 Château de Fonsalette, Reserve, Côtes du Rhône 
Imported by Le Vin.  Alcohol 14%.  This was aromatic with bloody and stinky notes.  Very firm and linear at first this developed a weighty start with midpalate ripeness, cedar, and sweet fruit.  In the end it came across as very mature.  Drink up.  ** Now.

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2003 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve, Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT
Imported by Vinifera Imports.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This remained young over two nights but showed future potential.  Clearly powerful, with tart acidity, good components from wood, and a perfumed finish.  Should improve but needs time.  ***(*) 2020-2030.

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2000 Chateau Quinault L’Enclos, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This smelled increasingly mature and earthy with air.  In the mouth it was cooler tasting with very fine grained structure.  This bottle seemed very mature with the structure outliving the fruit.  ** Now.

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2008 Bodegas y Viñedos Paixar, Mencía Bierzo
Imported by Grapes of Spain.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was very aromatic with floral and black fruits.  In the mouth was a perfumed, black fruited start with some cedar notes picking up in the middle.  The wine showed more acidity by the finish becoming lively.  The structure revealed wood that had fine texture which combined well with the mineral finish.  *** Now-2020.

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2001 Gelchw Albertz-Erben, Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Imported by Michael Skurnik.  Alcohol 8.5%.  There were hints of petrol on the nose.  In the mouth were weighty flavors that fleshed out, filling the mouth with ripe fruit and residual sugar.  The wine turned youthful with weighty, lemon flavors, and structure in the end.  It left a fresh impression.  **** Now.

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Tasting Unlabeled and Bagged Wines With Lou

October 11, 2013 Leave a comment

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I went over to Lou’s house earlier this week to taste some wine.  He had put together a small flight of wines to taste blind so I thought it would be amusing to bring over two bottles of white wine which were missing their labels.  I never wrote down what the first wine was so it shall remain an Unknown French White Wine of recent vintage.  It was actually quite nice on the nose, certainly Sauvignon Blanc with Lou guessing Sancerre.  Next up was the 2011 Domaine de la Pépière,  Clos des Briords which Lou immediately guess as Muscadet based on the bottle.  I had double-decanted this one hour prior.  This is made from the oldest vines of the estate, planted in 1930, and I think that it is best left in the cellar.  Lou then brought out the 2010 Domaine Rolet, Chardonnay, L’Etoile.  I loved the 2007 vintage which I tasted last summer and suspect the 2010 will also develop well with age.  The last wine I brought over was the 2006 Domaine du Coulet, Brise Cailloux.  I tasted the 2006 No Wine’s Land back in the summer of 2008 and the 2008 Brise Cailloux earlier this year (thanks again to Lou).  The 2006 had a gorgeous, engaging nose which is not quite/yet matched in the mouth.  There is plenty of life ahead so I would be curious to hold on to any bottles.

We then came to the blind wines.  Lou had double-decanted them so the probably had about one hour of air before we tasted them.  I started with the first two wines and was really happy.  Parlor games are fun so I guessed the first was either from Charvin or a Stolpman, Syrah.  Having recently drunk the 2010 Stolpman, Syrah Estate, there was something familiar in mind.  Lou commented there was no California Syrah in the lineup.  In all fairness, Lou had previously offered to open up the 2008 Domaine du Pegau, Reservee due to my current interest in Pegau.  I suspected he had not for this tasting.  The second wine was certainly funkier, showing more advanced aromas and flavors, and absolutely lovely.  Remembering the 2008 Clos des Papes Phil opened last year, I guessed it was a wine from 2008.  The third wine had a brick wall of tannins, I thought some cuvee which saw way too much new oak.

It turned out the first wine was the 2007 Stolpman Vineyards, Grenache Estate, the second was 2008 Domaine du Pegau, Reservee, and the third was 2007 Domaine Grand Veneur, Clos de Sixte.  The 2008 Pegau stole the show.  We typically split and gas up the leftovers to be tasted the next night.  I was so excited by the Pegau that Jenn and I finished it up that evening.  Lou purchased this bottle for $25 from Premier Cru, what a deal!  After that I really enjoyed the 2006 Coulet.  I think the 2007 Stolpman was more impressive the first night but the 2007 Grand Veneur certainly improved on the second night.

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Unknown French White Wine
This had ripe, grassy aromas of white candy with fine texture.  It was strong in the nose with its floral, white candy aromas.  The mouth was less impressive but had a nice chalky, dry aspect.  ** Now-2014.

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2011 Domaine de la Pépière,  Clos des Briords, Muscadet de Sevre-et-Maine
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  The color was a very light white straw.  The tight nose eventually revealed some heavy, underlying floral fruit.  In the mouth was white candy-like fruit, not-quite crisp acidity, then rounder flavors of delicate white peach with a little tart tang.  The wine was balanced with a little, fine ripe finish.  This young wine eventually developed white stones which mixed with some tannins.  **(*) 2014-2020.

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2010 Domaine Rolet, Chardonnay, L’Etoile, Jura
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  Alcohol 13%.  The subtle nose was apple-like.  In the mouth the white fruit had weight with good, drying stone texture.  There was fresh acidity in the start, lots of personality, and youth.  **(*) 2014-2024.

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2006 Domaine du Coulet (Matthieu Barret), Brise Cailloux, Cornas
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 13%.  There was a nice nose of floral aromas, pepper, and leaves of violets.  It was finely delineated with a hint of sweet, spiced orange peel at the end.  There was tart red fruit which was acidity driven from the start.  The flavors continue through the wine eventually showing a hint of maturity.  It was steely with minerals, and a black fruit with graphite finish.  The structure slowly came out, leaving some very fine tannins on the gums.  ***(*) Now-2025.

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2007 Stolpman Vineyards, Grenache Estate, Santa Ynez Valley
This  Alcohol 15%.  There was fresher, younger red fruit with an orange citrus aroma.  It was a fine wine in the mouth mixing red fruit with a darker core and ripe, fine, drying tannins.  It took on perfumed fruit, young but very attractive.  It dried out a bit with air but kept a sweet, ripe finish.  It took on some orange peel flavors with air, along with dry, very fine tannins.  Best on the first night.  *** Now-2018.

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2008 Domaine du Pegau, Reservee, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports.  Alcohol 14%.  A slighter darker core.  The nose was older with earthy, smoky aromas.  It was a little sweaty with some blood.  The mouth followed the nose with ripe fruit, tannins, and acidity which tickles the tongue tip.  It had a lipstick finish and a long, expansive, beautiful aftertaste.  With extended air a youthful core of fruit came out suggesting longevity.  **** Now-2023.

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2007 Domaine Grand Veneur, Clos de Sixte, Lirac
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils.  This wine is blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This was a medium-dark purple color.  It had nose of cassis-like, ripe fruit, and vanilla.  In the mouth was more linear fruit which quickly met an up-front wall of tannins.  These were very fine and drying.  An aspect of the nose came out in the finish.  On the second night this was more approachable with dense fruit, a simpler finish, and a structure that subsided. ** Now-2023.

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