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A Rhone wine tasting: the northern wines

July 23, 2015 2 comments

This past weekend a group of us gathered in my living room for a hastily planned tasting of mature Rhone wines.  The motivation for the tasting came from an exchange with Jess Hagadorn (Young Winos of DC) where we quickly found a mutual love of Rhone wines.  Sometimes a last minute arrangement works well and in this case it did.  Many thanks to Jess, Bryan, Lou, Darryl, Nancy, Roland, Adrienne, David, and Isaac (Reading, Writing & Wine) for contributing an assortment of wines.  There was no formality to the tasting so for this post I have grouped all of the Northern Rhone wines together.

By all accounts the odds were against the 1987 H. Sorrel, Hermitage Le Greal.  Michael Broadbent is quite succinct describing the 1987 vintage as the “worst weather of the decade” with a rating of zero out of five stars.  He does not bother to even list any wines.  John Livingstone-Learmonth is a bit more detailed describing the vintage as “Mediocre, but some charming wines emerged.”  He noted the wines of M. Sorrel.  Marc Sorrel took over the estate from his father Henri in 1982.  Though he quickly ascended the learning curve, there was a rocky period between the late 1980s to mid 1990s.  John Livingstone-Learmonth attributes this to a divorce.  Undoubtedly helped by good provenance, our bottle sported an attractive and complex nose.  Ultimately, I felt the vintage showed through with hints of greenhouse and a lack of concentration.  It was a lovely, traditional wine that I enjoyed very much.  It also left me curious about other vintages.

After tasting a stinky 1978 E. Guigal, Hermitage just a few days prior, I was pleased to taste a well cellared 1990 E. Guigal, Hermitage. It is a solid wine that will not disappointed.  I wanted to enjoy the 1995 Michel Chapoutier, Cote Rotie La Mordoree more for it had good, young blacker fruit.  In fact, the wine seemed very young and unevolved.  But after a few days it refused to budge leaving me to believe the very fine and powerful tannins will outlast the development of the fruit.

The 1999 Domaine J. L. Chave, Saint-Joseph exhibited the most smoke out of all the wines.  It is a domaine wine and not from the negociant side.  It is produced using vines dating back to World War 1 but most of the vines were planted in 1992 and 1993.  This does come through in the wine but it is all done just right.  John Livingstone-Learmonth writes “Father Gerard would call his St-Joseph red ‘an amusement,’ and this is the broad spirit in which the wine should be taken – a wine to drink in free quantities, with its fruit leading the way.”  There was none of this bottle left by the end of the evening.

A new producer for me came in the form of the 1999 Domaine Burgaud, Cote Rotie.  Bernard Burgaud produces just one wine and that is a red Hermitage.  He has 22 acres of vines split across multiple sites each of which ripens at a different time.  He typically destalked his fruit but not so for the 1999 vintage for he needed to absorb back some color.  He ferments at high temperatures in concrete vats using indigenous yeasts then ages the wine for 15 months in 15-20% new oak barrels.  John Livingstone-Learmonth writes that his “aim is to make a wine that is as tight-knit as possible, one of full integration of both elements and flavor.”  At 16 years of age, this old-school bottle of wine was accessible in that it was balanced but there was no doubt in the room that it will take long to develop.  I would love to taste a mature vintage while waiting for this vintage to blossom.

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1987 H. Sorrel, Hermitage Le Greal
Imported by World Shippers & Importers.  This wine is 100% Syrah the majority sourced from Le Meal with the rest from Greffieux that was aged for 18-22 months in used oak.  Alcohol 12% to 14%.  There was a great, complex nose with mature aromas with hints of green.  In the mouth were light, mature, and ethereal flavors that made way to a mineral finish.  The hints of tea and greenhouse flavors were kept alive by watering acidity.  This bottle was in great condition, while the wine could have used more concentration, it was a lovely experience.  *** Now.

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1990 E. Guigal, Hermitage
Imported by Classic Wine Imports.  Alcohol 13%.  In the mouth were greenhouse flavors that eventually developed into a sweet floral profile.  The wine showed young in the mouth with the fruit more ethereal than weighty.  The acidity was present on the tongue with the structure coating the gums.  With air this firm and dry wine took on some old wood notes, a lipsticky note, and finish with some sap.  There was a fair amount of presence.  There is plenty of life ahead but I wonder if the fruit will develop rather than the structure just persist.  *** Now-2020+.

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1995 Michel Chapoutier, Cote Rotie La Mordoree
Imported by Paterno Imports.  12.8%.  There were firm, violet-like aromas on the nose.  In the mouth this wine was still infantile with dry, floral dark fruit, and a very fine-grained, powerful structure.  I wonder if the fruit will survive for the tannins to resolve.  **(*) 2020-2030.

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1999 Domaine Burgaud, Cote Rotie
Imported by Connoisseur Wines.  This wine was aged for 15 months in oak barrels. Alcohol 12.5%.  Still a very dark color the nose was tent with both tart aromas and old wood.  In the mouth this wine had an old-school nature.  There was plenty of fruit, textured and ripe vintage wood, and ultimately a sense of firmness.  With air there is more structure evident and clearly the need for further cellaring.  ***(*) 2020-2030.

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1999 Domaine J. L. Chave, Saint-Joseph
Imported Langdon Shiverick.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The seductive nose blended smoke and fruit as if from young vines.  In the mouth was a young start with the structure evident and a tart grip.  The wine had wood nose, some salty, good grip, and the right amount of smoke.  It showed less weight in the finish.  ***(*) Now-2020+.

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A 1978 dinner with wines from the Rhone and Bordeaux

July 21, 2015 2 comments

It was just several weeks ago that Darryl commented on an odd bottle of 1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape.  Darryl had served it at a tasting full of Rhone wine lovers.  I did not attend the Rhone dinner but David did and he too felt something was amiss.  Both Darryl and David felt that this bottle was not representative of the 1978 vintage.  Fortunately for me, Darryl had purchased a second bottle which he was willing to open up so that I could taste it.  He did just that last week, around which we organized a small tasting of 1978 vintage wines.

We quickly settled on five wines from the Rhone and Bordeaux.  The 1978 vintage in the Rhone was an outstanding success with Michael Broadbent noting it was regarded as the best vintage since 1911 for Hermitage, Cote-Rotie, and Chateauneuf du Pape.  This same vintage in Bordeaux experienced an “appalling growing season” but Chateau Leoville-las-Cases and Chateau Palmer were regarded as very good.  With the wines selected, Darryl, Nancy, Lou, and Todd all gathered in my living room.

A trio of Rhone from 1978

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I must take time to comment on the 1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape.  With one quick look at the bottle it is obvious that this was not an original release.  For an image of an original bottle I recommend you take a look at Francois Audouze’s post 177ème dîner de wine-dinners au restaurant Macéo.  Scroll down to see his two pictures.  The particular bottle that Darryl brought over was purchased from Grapes The Wine Company where it was advertised “Mont Redon is on its way, with perfect provenance, 3 outstanding vintages!!!”  The bottle itself sported a contemporary capsule and contemporary labels with Chateau Mont Redon instead of Domaine de Mont Redon, as it was known until 1988.  The fill went all the way up to the bottom of the capsule.  As for the cork itself, it looked rather young.  In short, it looked like a reconditioned bottle.  Darryl confirmed with both Daniel Posner and Envoyer Imports that these bottles came from Chateau Mont-Redon.  Chateau Mont-Redon confirmed that they have released these wines from their cellar.  They perform cork maintenance on all cellared wines which is why there is no ullage and a fresh cork.

John Gilman featured the wines of Chateau Mont-Redon in the April 2011/Issue 32 of View from the Cellar.  He noted that, “Château Mont-Redon is one of the great, old-time estates in the appellation of Châteauneuf du Pape, but until I began tastings in preparation for this report, I had simply no idea just how great their wines were.”  For the 1978 he concludes his tasting note with “A great and utterly classic vintage of Mont-Redon. 2010-2030+. 95.”

This sort of praise is not without precedent.  James Conaway visited Domaine de Mont-Redon then wrote about it in 1984 for The Washington Post.[1]  He tasted the “dark young wines of the traditional style” noting the juice was left on the lees for three weeks, then passed through a centrifuge before aging up to three years in huge oak barrels.  As for the wines “the ’78 was the most intense, with suggestions of cassis and cherries, a lot of body and tannin and a kaleidoscopic finish.”  One year later, Florence Fabricant visited the estate where she wrote in The New  York Times that you could taste “classic richness and strength in vintages going back to 1977.  The 1978, one of the best of the recent vintages, is an intense burgundy color, scented attractively of fruit, softening but still very powerful.”[2]

It appears generally accepted that Mont-Redon produced outstanding wines in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s but the quality turned in the 1970s and 1980s.  David Livingstone-Learmonth commented in The Wines of the Rhone (1992) on this “absence of the strength and concentration” of the previous vintages.  Amongst the “attenuated wines in the late 1970s” was the “maceration carbonique wines” of 1979.  Sandwiched within, though, was the 1978 which he found “still extraordinarily tight-knit, with a lovely harmony of flavours on the palate, tremendous width and still plenty of opening-up to do to add to an already impressive amount of richness.”  Robert Mayberry simply wrote that the “1978 surpassed 1979 “in Wines of the Rhone Valley (1987).

Robert Parked echoed the praise for those mid-century vintages but he was also damning of the 1978 vintage.  In Wines of the Rhone Valley (1997) he comments on “the desiccated 1978” ran that this “was the first wine to be subjected to the new system of multiple filtrations.  Although the wine is still alive, it displays virtually no aromatic profile, a neutral taste, and no real typicity or character.”  Robert Mayberry noted that “finished red wine is centrifuged or filtered through diatomaceous earth”.

It turns out that Grapes The Wine Company is not the only store where these back vintages of Chateau Mont Redon became available.  Europa Cellars, MW Wines, and Vintage and Vine, all of Australia, had pre-arrival offers put out in 2012.  MW Wines noted “These wines are being offered at special pricing on a pre-arrival basis only, with payment required upon confirmation of allocation.  All wines are sourced directly from the cellar of Chateau Mont-Redon”.

All of the wines we tried that night were popped and poured.    As for the 1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape it seemed an odd combination of rather mature flavors supported by a young structure.  With air the flavors became rasinated and the structure disjointed.  It was not enjoyable on the second night.  Ex-cellar releases are not new for Chateauneuf du Pape; Chateau de Beaucastel is one practitioner.  I guess in this case the changing of the corks (and topping off) created a wine that is just not my style.  However, let me know if you happen to have an original release that you are willing to share with me.

A quick smell and taste of the 1978 E. Guigal, Hermitage revealed some serious funk.  It was almost of the nature of fish sauce which I find a bit smelly but love the flavor.  Unfortunately, this bottle of Hermitage rapidly became less interesting.  One sniff of the 1978 E. Guigal, Cotes Rotie Brune et Blonde promptly indicated we were in for a treat.  The Brune et Blonde uses fruit sourced from nearly 50 small vineyard owners and a large portion of estate vineyards.  Fruit from the three La-La’s and Chateau d’Ampuis are excluded.  The wine is mostly Syrah with approximately 5% Viognier added.  The wine itself is aged for three years in casks and barrels.  David Livingstone-Learmonth writes in The Wines of the Northern Rhone (2005) that the “quality of the 1970s was extremely good” and that in big vintages the wines can live for “around 20 years” though longer in spectacular vintages.  Clearly this was one of those bottles.  If you ever come across a bottle it will be a worthy purchase.

A Pair of Bordeaux from 1978

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It was a treat to taste both the 1978 Chateau Palmer and 1978 Chateau Leoville-las-Cases.  Both wines feature more than half Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend but Palmer sports a good deal more Merlot at the expense of Cabernet Franc which is the opposite of Leoville-las-Cases.  David Peppercorn summarizes mature Palmer as, “the wine develop a bouquet of rare penetration and show all the finesse of a fine Margaux with rather more body and richness.”  For Leoville-Lascases he writes that the essence “is a bouquet of great elegance and sauvity and an incomparable flavour which is almost silky in texture when mature, very long but at the same time firm and well balanced.”  Michel Delon took over the production of Leoville-Las-Cases from his father in 1975.  According to Clive Coates, he imposed a very severe selection with roughly 40% of the harvest going into the grand vin and meticulous vinification.  He continues that this is a “full-bodied, austere and tannic wine” whose heart is the Grand Clos vineyard which lies just south of Chateau Latour.  Thus the 1978 vintage of Leoville-las-Cases is from a new period of quality whereas for Palmer it is yet another strong effort since the 1940s.

The 1978 Chateau Palmer, Margaux was evidently in great shape from the very first sniff.  It did develop more complexity with air but it always had that seductive, seamless quality to it.  It was no slouch either.  Nancy told me that last glass in the bottle would be fine the very next day.  It was.  The 1978 Chateau Leoville-las-Cases, Saint-Julien proved exemplary of a structured nature with increased Cabernet Franc.  I would have preferred a longer finish but nevertheless I enjoyed this earthy, more robust bottle.

In the end, my favorite wine of the night was the 1978 Chateau Palmer, Margaux.  The fill was into the neck with Darryl commenting that it was the best example he has yet opened.  This wine was closely followed by the 1978 E. Guigal, Cotes Rotie Brune et Blonde.  A step down was the 1978 Chateau Leoville-las-Cases, Saint-Julien.  Not bad for a Wednesday night.

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2006 Moët & Chandon, Grand Vintage Rosé Champagne
Imported by .  This wine is a blend of 42% Chardonnay, 39% Pinot Noir, and 19% Pinot Meunier.  There was a strong yeasty aroma with dark toast.  In the mouth was an aggressive start before the bubbles immediately burst.  The wine had hints of hard, cherry fruit, minerals, and some earth.  With air the wine increasingly tasted young but did take on dry, baking spices.  I think it needs time.  ***(*) 2020-2030.

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2002 Weingut Hauth-Kerpen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
Imported by Valley View Wine Sales.  Alcohol 8.5%.  With a little bit of air the nose opened up to reveal rich petrol aromas back by some rubber-like notes.  In the mouth was a soft, slightly weighty start then drying flavors of green apple and petrol.  The finish was short. The nose was *** but overall ** Now.

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1978 E. Guigal, Hermitage
Imported by A & A Liquors.  There was old leather and stinky aromas.  With air the nose turned strange.  In the mouth there were fruit flavors and it was a generally drinkable wine but strange.  Will Last.  * Now.

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1978 E. Guigal, Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde
Import strip fell off the back.  There was a beautiful nose of fruit, red ripe fruit, and some earth.  In the mouth were slightly earthy, garrigue-infused fruit, mineral, and an attractive foxy finish.  The finish was a little rough but followed by an expansive aftertaste.  With air this wine showed slow building power to the lovely tart and ripe fruit.  It had beginning lift, beautiful acidity, gorgeous fruit, wood box notes, and good weight.  **** Now – 2020.

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1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Envoyer.  Alcohol 14%.  The color was old but the wine tastes like an old and young wine blend with young structure.  With air there were raisinated fruit flavors, juicy acidity, old perfume, and still a wealth of tannins.  Odd.  Not Rated.

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1978 Chateau Leoville-las-Cases, Saint-Julien
Shipped Arcande.  Imported by B & H Inc.  Alcohol 12%.  Top-shoulder fill.  The nose bore more greenhouse aromas than the Palmer.  In the mouth were tart red fruit flavors, a mineral-like middle, and salivating acidity.  It took on some funk and vintage perfume.  There were even attractive, sweaty and musky aromas that came out.  Overall this was a solid wine with a short finish but a long, low-lying aftertaste.  *** Now-2020.

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1978 Chateau Palmer, Margaux
Imported by Parliament Import Co.  Alcohol 11% – 14%.  Bottom-neck fill.  There was a sweaty nose with grippy aromas of ripe, sweet bakins spices.  The flavors filled the mouth with fresh, good grip, leaving lovely, seductive impressive through the aftertaste. With air the wine was made seamless as if covered by a layer of delicious fat.  **** Now.

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[1] Chateauneuf – A Cask by Itself.  Conaway, James.  The Washington Post Magazine. Page  38. November 11, 1984.
[2] A Little Town And Its Big Red Wine: Vintage Chateauneuf-du-Pape. By FLORENCE FABRICANT. New York Times (1923-Current file); Jun 2, 1985; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. XX15

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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Domaine Jamet at Robert Kacher’s Annual Portfolio Tasting

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I recently attended the 2014 Annual Portfolio Tasting of Robert Kacher Selections held at The Georgetown Club.  Over the past three tastings I have become a great fan of Domaine Jamet.  In writing about the 2009 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie I reflected, “It was engaging, complex, and complete. It caused me to focus and ignore all that was around.”  I have found the past three vintages of the Côte-Rôtie to be highly aromatic in their youth.  So much so that they stand out amongst all of the wines.  Please find my notes below as well as two tasting notes from last year’s event.

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2012 Domaine Jamet, Côtes du Rhône Blanc
This wine is a blend of Marsanne, Viognier, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc.  The Marsanne and Roussane are sourced from 45 year old vines.  This was aged 50% in cuve and 50% in barrique of which 8% of the total saw new oak.  Alcohol 13%.  The floral nose had grip.  In the mouth were crisp flavors of lighter white fruit which then turned creamy.  This wine was very approachable revealing white flowers and white stone before the long, somewhat drying finish.

2011 Domaine Jamet, Côtes du Rhône Blanc
Tasted May 2013.  The nose was focused.  In the mouth were weighty but focused tropical flavors.  It became lifted in the middle before the good white fruit expanded in the mouth.  It was a little tart in the finish where it left baking spice flavors.

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2011 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie
This wine is 100% Syrah with sourced mostly from the Côte Brune.  It was aged for over 20 months in 25% new oak barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  This was already very aromatic with fresh pepper, floral red fruit, and meaty aromas.  In the mouth the bright red fruit morphed to blacker fruit.  There was texture from the tannins that build in the mouth.  There was a vintage perfume note that ran as a vein through out.  The fruit was very clean, had a cool aspect, and mixed with minerals.  The aftertaste was very long.  I would cellar this a few more years.

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2010 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie
Tasted May 2013.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The beautiful nose was perfumed with pepper aromas.  In the mouth this confident wine was almost supple on the tongue.  There was an effortless perfume to the red berries, balance, fine grippy texture, and drying graphite.

A Lovely Evening of Northern Rhone Wine

January 8, 2013 2 comments

This past weekend a small group gathered in my dining room for a casual wine tasting.  Present were Lou, Phil, Roland, Andy, and myself.  Though the theme of Northern Rhone was picked just 24 hours in advance we ended up with a range of wines from 1995 to 2011 representing France, Washington, and Maryland.  Of the Northern Rhone wines there were four wines from Cote-Rotie, two from Cornas, one from Hermitage, one from Crozes-Hermitage, one from Saint-Joseph, and one from the Ardeche.  Two ringers in the form of Cayuse Vineyards and Black Ankle Vineyards were included.  All of the wines were served blind.

It was a fun evening.  Every person has a deeply set love for wine and a noticeable curiosity about what is in their glass.  I believe all enjoyed the wines for the conversation kept weaving back to the wines and regions amongst noises of approval.  I honestly prefer tasting wines when the people I am with and their remarks keep drawing me away from my notes.  Wine is a social beverage and is best drunk when the people you are with are just as much of a draw as the wines themselves.

I started off the tasting by serving the 2011 Syncline, Grenache Blanc blind.  This was one of the only white Rhone inspired white wines in my basement.  I have become curious to try Washington State Grenache Blanc so I thought it would be a fun start.  New World was concluded with Washington and Oregon narrowed down based on my travels.

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Starter – 2011 Syncline, Grenache Blanc, Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley
This wine is 100% Grenache Blanc which was whole-cluster pressed, fermented with indigeneous yeasts, racked into older French oak, no malolactic fermentation, and aged on the lees for roughly five months.  Alcohol 14.1%.  The nose was lighter and brighter with focused white fruit and tree fruit.  In the mouth there was fresh, acidity driven fruit, a little hint of toast, and a citric finish.  It has a bit of grip, along with some tartness and leaves the overall impression of youth and freshness.  On the second night there was a core of grippy white fruit, tart green apple flavors, and enjoyable tannins in the aftertaste.  I was surprised by the quality of the acidity.  *** Now-2015.

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The red wines were tasted in flights of three.  In retrospect I could have grouped these by age but being more interested in not know what we were tasting I automatically mixed them up.  I do not think this harmed any perspectives.  Unfortunately the 1996 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage La Chapelle was not drinkable and the 1995 Chapoutier, La Mordoree, Cote-Rotie was only made somewhat drinkable by additional decanting.  The 2008 Barret, Brise Cailloux, Cornas was an oddity and I think showing too many flaws.  Shame.

There was a lovely glass to be found in the 2008 Cayuse, Syrah, Armada.  Perfumed, effortless, and elegant it was easy to grasp why this was one of two bottles to be finished.  The only other finished bottle was the 2010 Champet, La Vialliere, Cote-Rotie.  While young there is strong attraction to this old-school wine which should develop quite nicely.  The 1998 Ogier, Cote-Rotie stood out with its striking nose.  The flavors could not quite keep up but it was a beautiful wine overall.  Perhaps the biggest surprise came from the 1998 Tardieu-Laurent, Crozes-Hermitage.  Tardieu-Laurent’s northern Rhone wines do very well with the Syrah easily absorbing all of the new oak.  This bottle had been kicked about the shop floor a bit but despite the figurative footprints the wine inside was a treat.

The 2003 Durand, Cornas is hybrid between the old with its earth and vintage perfume and the new with forward, ripe fruit.  A bit of an oddity in that combination but this drank great on the second night and should develop for some time.  The 1999 J. Vidal-Fleury, Brune et Blonde, Cote-Rotie is perfectly mature and complete in what it is, which provides for a good glass.  The 2003 Corbis, Les Royes, Saint-Joseph is a very solid glass of wine and while it drank well on the second night, it may not gain much more complexity so I would drink it now.  The 2007 Black Ankle, Leaf Stone Syrah stood out with its candy and sweetness but it was a great start for the second night.  I doubt anyone guessed Maryland.  Ed said the 2007 is more New World and the 2008 is Old World.  I should like to try the 2008.  Lastly the 2011 Gonnon, Les Iles Feray which was literally and figuratively the youngest of all the red wines.  Produced from vineyards located right next to Saint-Joseph this showed unique flavors and worthy of seeking out for the cellar or wine fridge.

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1 – 1996 Paul Jaboulet Aine, La Chapelle, Hermitage
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced primarily from Meal, Bessards, and Greffieux.  All of the fruit is destemmed and crushed with fermentation in a mix of concrete and steel vats.  It is aged between 13-17 months in some to no new oak.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Double-decanted right before tasting.  The color was a tired, medium tawny garnet.  There was a firm nose which smelled old. In the mouth the firmer palate was tired, perhaps a touch of ripe fruit, but showing past prime.  Not Rated.

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2 – 2010 Domaine Joel Champet, La Vialliere, Cote-Rotie
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from the three hectare vineyard of La Vialliere which was fully planted in 1999.  The fruit is not destalked, fermentation is in concrete vats followed by 18 months of age in < 10% new foudres.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Opened right before tasting.  There was a lovely nose of young fruit and pepper.  In the mouth there was tarter, focused black fruit which took on weighty, ripe red fruit.  There was fine grip, old-school personality, and fine drying tannins.  A powerful, balanced wine which is young with a very strong future ahead.  ***(*) 2018-2028.

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3 – 2003 Domaine Corbis, Les Royes, Saint Joseph
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 12 hectares of vineyards on Les Royes with soils of limestone and clay.  The fruit is destemmed, undergoes punch downs, pump overs, and emptying/refilling.  It is aged for one year in 33% new, 33% one year, and 33% two year old casks.  Alcohol 14%.  Double-decanted half an hour prior to tasting.  The color was a light to medium garnet.  The light nose was tight with dark, earthy aromas.  In the mouth there was red, weighty fruit, some vanilla, a little red candy, and tart acidity.  There was a  fine wood box flavor and good density to the fruit which had a sexy personality.  On the second night the nose became more restrained.  In the mouth the black and red fruit was dense with a light, creamy feel.  There was subtle black fruit, minerals.  The acidity and flavors were fresh, almost Eucalyptus like.  There were fine polish and drying tannins in the aftertaste which stuck to the gums.  Should last for some time but might be best now.  Better on first night. *** Now-2018.

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4 – 2008 Cayuse Vineyards, Syrah, Armada, Walla Walla Valley
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from the Armada Vineyard planted in 2001.  It was aged for 22 months in puncheons.  Alcohol 14.2%.  Decanted for two hours prior to tasting.  The color was a medium, garnet ruby.  There was a beautiful, effortless nose of perfumed fruit.  In the mouth there was lovely weight to the fruit which bore gentle power and subtle creaminess.  There was black fruit in the finish along with a minerally bit.  Well integrated all around.  With air it took on an orange peel note.  This should age well.  Elegant!  **** Now-2023.

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5 – 1998 Tardieu-Laurent, Crozes-Hermitage
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  Alcohol %.  Double-decanted half an hour prior to tasting.  The color was a light to medium garnet.  The nose has more old wood and a touch of smoke.  In the mouth it was an interesting wine with dark red fruit, minerals, and a more upright personality than #4.  There was a youthful core of fruit which matched a good structure.  On the second night this was still drinking well and took on elegance.  **** Now-2023.

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6 – 2007 Black Ankle Vineyards, Leaf Stone Syrah, Frederick County
This wine is 91% Syrah, 4% Pinot Noir, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Merlot which was aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak.  Alcohol 14.6%.  Double-decanted half an hour prior to tasting.  The light nose revealed more candy aromas with ripe fruit and a barrel note.  In the mouth the riper fruit has good weight, sweetness, and a forward personality.  It was mouthfilling with a touch of powder.  On the second night the good weight continued with cool black cherry fruit, a creamy texture, and some raciness towards the finish.  There was a bit of black licorice and some barrel sweetness.  *** Now-2020.

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7 – 2003 Eric & Joel Durand, Cornas
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from three hectares in Chaillot, Champelrose, Sauman, and Tezier.  The fruit is destemmed, fermented in regulated vats then undergoes malolactic fermentation in oak casks where it is aged for 12 months in 10-15% new oak casks.  Alcohol 14%.  Opened one hour prior to tasting.  The red nose offered up some candy aromas.  In the mouth there were flavors of red candy and strawberry with some ripeness.  There was a tang on the sides of the tongue followed by very fine, drying tannins.  On the second night the weighty fruit showed more complexity with minerality, black flavors, structure in the middle, and good acidity.  Then there were earthy and vintage perfume notes.  A nice wine which continued to drink with confidence on the second night.  ***(*) Now-2028.

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8 – 1995 M. Chapoutier, La Mordoree, Cote Rotie
Imported by Paterno Imports.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from the oldest vineyards in Brune and Blonde which date back to the 1940s.  The fruit is destemmed, fermented in open wood vessels then aged for 15-20 months in 50% new oak casks.  Alcohol 12.8%.  Double-decanted right before tasting.  The color was a light to medium tawny garnet.  The light nose was tight with older aromas.  Decanting certainly helped but older, drying fruit remained.  There was firm black fruit, tartness, acidity, and a general lack of giving up anything. * Now.

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9 – 1998 Domaine Michel Ogier, Cote-Rotie
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from lieux-dits Lancement (1979), Cote Rozier (1950s), Champon (early 1990s), and But de Mont (1988).  which is aged for 18 months in 30% new oak casks.  Opened right before tasting.  The nose was striking and stood out with smoke, vintage perfume, and pepper.  The flavors were tart on the tip of the tongue.  This salty wine slowly expanded in the mouth and does show some age.  At first the mouth was not as good as the nose but with air it eventually opened up.  There were lots of red fruit, a little citrus, and on the second night an earthy and bloody aspect.  **** Now-2023.

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10 – 1999 J Vidal-Fleury, Brune et Blonde, Cote Rotie
Imported by W. J. Deutsch & Sons.  This wine is 95-97% Syrah and 3-5% Viognier sourced only from estate vineyards averaging 40 years of age.  It is aged up to three years in 50 hl barrels. Alcohol 13%.  Opened right before tasting.  The color was a medium garnet.  The nose bore older, ripe aromas with a fine quality and perhaps a touch of veg.  In the mouth the fruit bore riper weight, expansive in the mouth, and a younger personality compared to the nose.  There was a little cedar note and black fruit in the finish.  On the second night the wine was softer with gentle red fruit, wood box notes, and some puckering acidity.  There was a little earthy component.  Despite the good level of maturity the fruit had a youthful nature.  I would still drink this up.  *** Now-2018.

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11 – 2008 Matthieu Barret, Brise Cailloux, Cornas
This wine is 100% Syrah which is farmed organically and biodynamically.  It is sourced from almost 10 hectares of vines .  Between half and all of the fruit is destalked, the cap punched, then aged for 18 months in used casks.  Very little sulphur is used.  Decanted for two hours prior to tasting.  There was a nose of pepper and pine.  In the mouth the fruit was very tart with citric red fruit flavors.  There were drying tannins and a hint of yeast in the aftertaste.  On the second night the yeasty flavors continued with red grapefruit in the aftertaste.  Not enough sulphur? * Now.

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12 – 2011 Pierre Gonon, Les Iles Feray, Ardeche
Imported by.  This wine is 100% Syrah which was fermented with indigenous yeast then aged for 13-15 months in 600 liter casks which are 1 to 40 years old.  Decanted for one hour prior to tasting.  The color was a medium grapey ruby.  At first there was a strange nose with some mixed ripe berries.  With air the nose became muted with aromas of fresh berries.    In the mouth there was blacker fruit, a serious attitude, gentle weight to the unique and good flavors.  On the second night there were flavors of tart black fruit, berries, and minerals.  There was salivating acidity and a brighter finish where firm, drying, and somewhat grapey tannins came out.  The wine stands out and should be cellared for the short-term.  *** 2015-2025.

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We Treat Ourselves to a Nice Pair of Wines

July 20, 2012 1 comment

It is a treat to drink nice wine at home on an ordinary work night. I usually hold on to such bottles for a special dinner or tasting but sometimes it is best to just pull the corks. Both of these wines are in a similar state in that they have clearly benefited from some bottle age by taking on additional flavors but they seem poised for greater development over the next several years. For the first hour or so the Rene Rostaing was primarily enjoyable for its nose but then it decisively revealed more flavors. If you drink it now give it two hours in the decanter or better yet wait another 2-3 years. We are still enjoying white dessert wines so we heartily enjoyed the La Tour Blanche. Though nectar-like it was very easy to drink the entire half bottle down to the last viscous drop. A disclaimer, I have barely any experience with Sauternes so I truly have no clue how long this wine will drink. I do believe it will improve for several more year and should easily last for some time. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2005 Domaine Rene Rostaing, Cuvee Classique, Cote Rotie – $45
Imported by MacArthur Beverages. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 30-35 year old vines which were fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel. They were aged in 10% new oak of which 50% were casks and 50% demi-muids. Alcohol 13% vol. The color is a medium+ dark ruby core with youthful grape highlights. At first this was driven by the nose but then it opened up in the mouth. There was a light feeling to the complex mouth with lots of gentle texture expanding. The fresh red fruit was straight-up but not hard then flavors of blacker fruit with a lipstick quality came out. There was a fresh balance between acidity and tannins. With air the wine opened up nicely to reveal smoke, incense, tastes of stone with a mineral kiss. It still has drying tannins. ***(*) Now-2022.

2007 Chateau La Tour Blanche, Sauternes, (375ml) $29
Imported by MacArthur Beverages. This wine is a blend of Semillon, Sauvignon, and Muscadelle averaging 28 years of age and located on soils of gravel over clay and sand and loess. It was aged for 16-18 months in French oak barrels. Alcohol 14% vol. The complex nose is honeyed with apple caramel and lovely citrus. In the mouth this wine is quite sweet but still maintains balance with flavors of cinnamon apple and spices delivered in an unctuous manner. The is young and lovely with perhaps a hint of petrol from some bottle age. On the rich and thick side of the line but there is some verve and good acidity in the finish. ***(*) Now-2027.

We Return to PUBLIC

For Lorelei’s second trip to New York I asked William if we could dine at PUBLIC. Lorelei had not eaten there and it had been some years since we were last there. It is hard to believe that PUBLIC is now nine years old. Walking around the restaurant instantly reminds me of dinners and New Years Eve of past. The industrial design has not aged which is no surprise since, for example, the bar is lit by Crouse Hinds explosion proof pendant lights. When I look through my old images taken at PUBLIC time is marked by changing hair, glasses, and clothes. At the restaurant it is marked by a changing menu and newer vintages (and some older!) on the wine list.

We joined William for dinner as soon as the doors opened. An early start maximizes the amount of time Lorelei may stay and we needed as much as possible to sample a variety of Chef Farmerie’s excellent dishes. The bar immediately sent out the St. Thyme wine cocktail. The thyme and rosemary infused St. Germain shows ideal balance between herbs, sweetness, and bubbly acidity from the blanc de blanc. We started with such appetizers as the Parsnip soup in an espresso cup (fun to mix the espresso creme fraiche) , Marinated white anchovies (fresh notes of the ocean), Grilled kangaroo on coriander falafel, and Grilled Kobe beef tongue (grilled bits taste great with the relish).

The least we can do is bring up a couple of bottles of wine to drink with dinner. To start we drank the 2002 Donnhoff, Riesling Spatlese, Norheimer Kirschheck, Nahe. At ten years of age there is a rich yellow color. It is still quite young showing great focus, clarity, and honeyed yellow fruit. By the end of the evening a racy vein of fruit developed giving a hint of its future. The fruit, acidity, and ripeness are impeccably balanced. This will surely make old-bones and is best left in the cellar. ***(*) 2017-2035. While our entrees were prepared we lingered over the bottle while enjoying a dish of vegetables such as pickled carrots and crispy leaves with truffled hummus.

Our entrees consisted of the Mushroom and Ricotta tortellini (beautiful texture), Roasted Chatham cod with manila clams (the clams alone are amazing), and Szechuan crusted tenderloin and roasted belly of Berkshire pork. Intensely aromatic there was no need to tilt my head for aromas filled my nose as soon as I was served. For these dishes we drank the 1999 Rene Rostaing, Cote-Rotie. Having been decanted for an hour or so it showed a strong aromatic personality of earth, minerals, and spice. In the mouth it was refined and elegant with flavors that followed the nose. Fresh in the mouth with plenty of acidity it neither subverted nor was upstaged by our entrees. **** Now-2019.

For our dessert we went with Sticky toffee pudding with Armagnac ice cream, Hokey Pokey ice cream, and the PUBLIC chocolate plate. Lorelei devoured the Hokey Pokey ice cream so I deeply satisfied myself with the Sticky toffee pudding and chocolates. Wine Director Erin Scala surprised us with a trio of New Zealand dessert wines. Having never tried this style of wine before I was excited.

The 2004 Dry River, Riesling, Late Harvest, Craighall Vineyard, Martinborough was floral with controlled ripeness on the nose. In the mouth the elegant fruit had some weight easily matched by the acidity. A wine that may certainly be drunk by the glass. *** Now-2022.

The 2010 Seifried, Riesling, Sweet Agnes, Nelson was markedly different with dry toast aromas, cereal, a hint of berries, plenty of acidity. Not my particular style of wine but certainly interesting to taste. ** Now-2017.

The 2004 Vinoptima, Gewurztraminer, Noble Late Harvest, Ormond was the sweetest of the three with viscous tropical flavors, supporting acidity, and though assertive, it had a seductive personality. I opted for a second pour of this one because it worked will with the Sticky toffee pudding. *** Now-2019.

Jenn loves port so Erin brought her two more glasses. I did not get to try the NV Seppeltsfield, Para Grand Tawny, Barossa Valley for Jenn certainly appreciated the glass. The 1985 Bodegas Toro Albala, Don Pedro Ximenez, Gran Reserva, Montilla-Moriles was thick with fig-like texture and flavors, baking spices, and caramel with good acidity and length. I have no clue how these age. Though it should certainly last for a long time why not drink it now? *** Now-2027.

Spurred by Erin’s excitement about wine at our dinner I contacted her after our vacation. Erin is the Wine & Beverage Manager having joined PUBLIC just over one year ago. Having taken on a developed wine list she has made some small changes like including younger Australian producers such as Some Young Punks. The wine list is predominantly focused on the wines of Australia and New Zealand but does include various selections from around the world such as 1981 Adelsheim, Elizabeth’s Reserve, Willamete Valley and 2004 Contino, Gran Reserva, Rioja in triple magnum. Erin’s most notable inclusion is the Antipodean Influence Abroad page. In keeping with the theme of the restaurant this list features wines made from Australian and New Zealand winemakers in Europe and the US. Through these wines she wants to highlight the growing global influence of Roseworthy and Otago. She is particularly excited by Angela Osborne’s Tribute to Grace Grenache and Michelle Reeve’s David Family Pinot Noir. In the early years the wine list gained vintage depth through lots purchased at Langton’s wine auctions in Australia. Today the auction purchases happen locally in Manhattan. With a reduced focus on Australian wines they may readily win interesting lots to add to the list.

I definitely recommend you check out the PUBLIC wine list and at dinner you should ask Erin for help in picking something new. Bring your friends and curiosity for there is much to recommend. Any enthusiasm will be warmly embraced and nurtured. For those wondering what Erin drinks outside of PUBLIC check out her new wine blog Thinking.Drinking.