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A tasting of 2013-1999 Guigal, Côte-Rôtie Le Château d’Ampuis

November 20, 2017 Leave a comment

Blind tasting wine in a friendly group is great fun.  That is the ritual of the tasting group assembled this past weekend at Andy’s house.  I find the experience sharply exposes the limits of my experience, reaffirming thoughts on what I must taste next year.

Before any deduction could began I took repeated small pours of the satisfying 2006 Taittinger, Comtes de Champagne, Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs.  If you have not tried this Champagne then you must.  The restrained level of bubbles, deep flavor, and racy body make this a wine you want to simply drink.  No thought required.

It was not easy to determine if we were presented with a vertical, horizontal, or even New World and Old World wines.  The first two wines, still with prominent unintegrated oak and fresh acidity, had me leaning towards an Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon based wine.  The bottles encountered in the middle were more integrated and had flavors that brought one’s mind back to Europe.  The last bottles were the most mature with a flavor unmistakably French.  Then, in circling back to the first two wines, which had changed dramatically, you could catch whiffs of the Viognier added to Syrah.  A few questions to Andy confirmed a vertical with a couple of people soon narrowing it down to Cote-Rotie.  Then the wines were revealed as Guigal’s Côte-Rôtie Le Château d’Ampuis.

Etienne Guigal and his future wife Marcelle met just outside of Chateau d’Ampuis in 1934.  Some sixty years later their son Marcel purchased the then ruin and set out to restore the property.  The oldest parts date back to the 12th century with the core of the building to the 16th century.  The first vintage of Côte-Rôtie Le Château d’Ampuis came in 1995, the same year it was purchased.

The fruit for these wines comes from Guigal’s lieux-dits in both Brune and Blonde with the Viognier all from the later.  The wine is typically a blend of 94% Syrah and 6% Viognier from vines averaging 40 to 60 years of age.  The fruit is vinified and raised separately for 38 months in new oak casks.

Based on our tasting the new oak is certainly evident in young vintages of 2011, 2012, and 2013 so these must clearly be cellared.  Beginning with the excellent 2009 and strong 2006 vintages there is noticeable integration allowing you to appreciate the wine as a whole.  While you may drink them for pleasure I would cellar them further.  The 2003, 2001, and 1999 vintages clearly reveal mature flavors with the 2003 and 1999 the most ready to drink.  This was a very consistent tasting with all of the vintages showing well and offering a lot of satisfaction.

2006 Taittinger, Comtes de Champagne, Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs
Alcohol 12.5%.  Ripe white fruit and spices are immediately appartment in this rich, racy wine.  There are moderate bubbles which make this very easy to drink.   The generous flavor is still focused and reveals just a touch of yeast in the end.  A great drink! ****(*) Now why wait?

2012 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie Le Château d’Ampuis
Alcohol 13.5%.  Plum and sweet aromas on the nose.  A round start with a young grapey core, mid-palate weight, and drying, fine tannins with a mocha flavor that come out in the finish.  It tastes modern at first with cool acidity but with air clean fruit and floral undertone come out.  The oak still needs to integrate.  ***(*) 2020 – 2030.

2013 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie Le Château d’Ampuis
Alcohol 13.5 %.  An acidity driven start mixed with cinnamon flavors.  A dry middle of polished wood is followed by a simpler, sour fruited finish.  With air a fine nose of Christmas incense develops.  ***(*) 2020 – 2030.

2011 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie Le Château d’Ampuis
Imported by Vintus. Alcohol 13%.  There is a deeper, good nose.  A mouth filling wine with red fruit, plums, and a dry black structure in the finish.  This is still in a youthful period with new oak notes and more assertive tannins.  But the flavor is lip-smacking revealing the start of a transformation.  ***(*) 2018 – 2030.

2009 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie Le Château d’Ampuis
Alcohol 13.5%.  Grapey aromas.  A quick taste reveals this is the first serious wine of the lineup.  There is good flavors of dark red fruit, a ripe ethereal middle and a finish of gum coating, chewy tannins.  Complexity from dried herbs and a perfumed middle entice.  The wine is carried by slightly watering acidity.  **** Now – 2027.

2006 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie Le Château d’Ampuis
Alcohol 13.5%.  The cherry flavors are acidity driven with the spine of acidity lasting through the end.  Sour cherry notes have good depth with the acidity providing tension.  It wraps up with citric grip. ***(*) Now – 2022.

2003 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie Le Château d’Ampuis
Alcohol 13.5%.  This wine shows more age with good, chewy fruit, herbs, spices, and supporting acidity.  The power of the vintage is revealed in the middle.  Very ripe, dried fruit pokes out. *** Now – 2022.

2001 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie Le Château d’Ampuis
Imported by Ex Cellars Wine Agencies. Alcohol 13%.  Another mature wine, this one savory with more structure, a tart black middle, and sappy sour cherry.  There is fine focus to the fruit which comes across as younger with air. ***(*) Now – 2025.

1999 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie Le Château d’Ampuis
Imported by Boston Wine Company. Alcohol 13%.  This weighty wine has mixed spices and a savory middle of red fruit and grippy tannins.   Youthful as well and drinking so well.  **** Now – 2027.

2007 Dr. Loosen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 7.5%.  An amber color with a honied nose.  A touch of a lively start before a round glycerin body of ripe, yellow fruit.  Honey and spices mix in the somewhat short finish.  *** Now.

A tasting of Rioja from the great 1964 Vintage

November 17, 2017 Leave a comment


The 1964 vintage in Rioja, considered the greatest of the 20th century, was not met with any fanfare in America nor in England.  It was not because the top wines, only bottled in the 1970s and released as late as 1980, were unavailable to taste.  Throughout the 1960s Rioja was still viewed as the best wine of Spain but it was the opinion, as expressed by Ronald Avery, that in the hierarchy of wines Rioja was equivalent to “a decent little claret”.  As such Rioja only received attention as an alternative inexpensive wine.

This was not always the case.  Between the World Wars the Bodegas Paternina Rioja Riserva cost as much as Chateau Lafite in America.  When Bordeaux prices soared in America during the early 1970s, attention turned back to Rioja.  Still viewed as the “less sophisticated cousin of Bordeaux” low prices meant the wines of Rioja became imported in increasingly larger quantities.  In 1976, nearly three dozen Rioja producers hired a public relations firm in America.  Success must have been achieved for the next year Frank J. Prial wrote in The New York Times that “Red Rioja Wine Is Excellent”.

There was widespread coverage of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Rioja vintage.  Decanter magazine found it a vintage to drink soon with some wines tired but the best wines are “still fruity and intense”.  I decided to host my own tasting based on my positive experience with several different bottles shared by Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co.,  and my recent CVNE Viña Real and Imperial Rioja Gran Reserva from 1976-1964 tasting.  This past weekend I gathered a group to explore nine different wines from seven different producers.  This is no small feat for there were just over two dozen producers who bottled the 1964 vintage.

We departed from our usual Champagne start to one of very old German wines.  At the CVNE tasting, the Rieslingfeier event and scarcity of old vintages was of topic which prompted one very generous guest to share three 100+ year old wines as well as a bottle from the 1964 vintage.  This unprecedented vertical of the vintages 1964, 1915, 1905, and 1898 are all Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Auslese from Weingut Franz Karl Schmitt.

These four bottles were purchased at the Sotheby’s auction of the Don Stott cellar.  Our generous guest has drunk wine with Don Stott so with knowledge of the cellar and the uniqueness of the opportunity, the wines were acquired.

Weingut Franz Karl Schmitt was founded in 1549 and has been in family possession ever since those days.  It was in 1900 that Franz-Karl Schmitt, grandfather of the current owner, produced the first trockenbeerenauslese in Rheinhessen from the Flaschenhahl vineyard in Hipping.  The four bottles we tasted bear variations in name: Franz Karl Schmitt, Hermann Franz Schmitt, and Hermannshof.  They are all from the same winery bearing new labels and corks.  The later marked with Herrmannshof Neuverkorkt 1998.

The label on the oldest bottle from 1898 does not indicate the grape.  Nierstein is home to Sylvaner and in 1910 only 15% of it was planted with Riesling.  It is possible this is a blend of Riesling and Sylvaner which echoes a comment Michael Broadbent made about the 1921 Niersteiner Hermannshof TBA.  I should also point out this bottle is a Cabinetwein indicating a special wine historically kept in a separate part of the cellar.

The wines were served one at a time out of purposefully procured small wine glasses.  This gave us the collective opportunity to taste the wines within minutes of the bottle being opened and individually decide if we wanted to keep the wine around any longer.

All of the wines are in much better shape than I expected.  The 1898 Franz Karl Schmitt, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Auslese Cabinetwein, Rheinhessen  with honied aromas and medium body, quickly recalibrated my expectations.  There is pure pleasure here.  Delicacy came in the form of the 1905 Hermann Franz Schmitt, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen which did soon fade to reveal piercing acidity in the finish.  The 1915 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen is unequivocally great from the nose to the pure marmalade flavors, minerals, and unctuous, glycerin filled body.  At 102 years of age, the higher residual sugar and acidity will ensure many more years of pleasure.  In fact, the dregs of the bottle drank well at the end of the evening.

With respect to the three oldest bottles, vintage variation aside, there is a sense of continuity in flavor from herbs and apricots.  In returning to the wines I was left with the feeling that the 1898 and 1905 were made using similar methods whereas the 1915 was made by a different hand.  However, vintages do matter which accounts for the unctuous 1915 and round, racy 1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr Und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen.  These wines deserve a closer historical look so I will write a follow up post in the near future.

We cleansed our palates with the textured NV Grands Comptoirs Champenois, Champagne Brut Comte de Vic.  This is a late 1980s to early 1990s release with fully mature flavors, yeast, and never-ending texture.  I found it best on the second night, once again highlighting that a non-vintage Champagne may deserve careful aging.

Fate finally caught up with me for four of our 1964 Rioja bottles were affected by TCA leaving five to be enjoyed.  All of these wines were double-decanted before being served in flights of three.  The most surprising wine is the 1964 Campo Viejo, Rioja which is the basic wine made just one year after the founding of the winery.  In fact Campo Viejo switched facilities in 1965.  This wine still reveals ripe fruit mixed with spices made possible by the comparatively short time spent in oak.

My favorites include the 1964 Riojanas, Monte Real, Rioja Gran Reserva, the 1964 Gomez Cruzado, Honorable, Rioja Gran Reserva , and the 1964 Bodegas Montecillo, Vina Monty, Rioja.  Incredibly, the Monte Real appears to still be developing due to youthful focus.  The Gomez Cruzado never lost all of its bottle stink but in the mouth it is crisp with wood notes and certainly a wine to try again.  I found the Montecillo, the only all Tempranillo wine we tasted, the roundest.

These particular wines show the success achieved with Tempranillo based blends based on old, dry-farmed, bush vines raised with the traditional method of long oak aging.  This method of winemaking developed in the 19th century based on Bordeaux techniques and adopted to what was best for Rioja.   They are not fragile when exposed to air and all have a good spine of acidity which allows them live on.  The tasting also reminds us that there are no guarantees with old bottles.

Please find my tasting notes below.  You will notice a larger than usual number of dinner wine notes at the end.  The Madeira collector Bob Stern, whom I first met several years ago, was in town and able to join.  He has taken his passion one step further and is now importing Madeira from H. M. Borges. Thus he could present an array of samples for us to taste.

I could not have organized this tasting without Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., offering me his precious bottles of Rioja.  I must also thank our generous guest who, in sharing his German wines, ensured a once in a lifetime experience to taste three German wines older than one century.


A German Start

1898 Franz Karl Schmitt, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Auslese Cabinetwein, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars.  Tagged The Don Stott Cellar.  Recorked in 1998. New labels.  A very clear, tawny amber color.  The nose is touched by boytrtis with honied aromas, fresh herbs, and tea.  The flavors are drier than expected, of medium body, and of sharp yet focused acidity.  The body speaks of remarkable condition as tangy, lemon citrus flavors come out in the middle, all of it persisting through the long finish.  ***(*) Now.

1905 Hermann Franz Schmitt, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars.  Tagged The Don Stott Cellar.   Recorked in 1998. New labels.  A very clear, lighter tawny amber with a touch more yellow.  There is a botrytis touch as well but this is the most delicate wine of the quartet of old Germans.  It too is dry with fresh and bright acidity, herbs, and a savory, short finish.  It dries out quicker revealing piercing acidity in the end. ** Now.

1915 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars.   Tagged The Don Stott Cellar.  Recorked in 1998. New labels.  The darkest being tawny in color.  This still smells great.  In the mouth it is unctuous and mineral infused with plenty of forward body.  Flavors of apricot and peach mix with orange marmalade.  This is a good wine with round, glycerin body.  **** Now – 2027.

1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr Und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars.   Tagged The Don Stott Cellar.  Recorked in 1998. New labels.  Of yellow straw the color is the lightest and the nose the most subtle.  One is not prepared for the much sweeter and rounded flavors in this unctuous wine.  There is still ripe fruit, fine tea notes, and a racy character. **** Now – 2027.


Palate Cleansing Champagne

NV Grands Comptoirs Champenois, Champagne Brut Comte de Vic
Imported by The RareWine Co.  Alcohol 12%.  A very clear amber color.  It is best on the second day. There are very fine, strong bubbles which quickly form a mousse that adds ripe texture to the start.  Flavors of ripe white then yellow fruit mix with yeast and mature notes.  With air ripe spices come out in the watering finish. ***(*) Now but will last.


1964 Rioja

1964 Bilbainas, Clarete Fino, Rioja Gran Reserva
Founded in 1901 by Santiago Ugarte, the son of a wine negociant, during the Rioja phylloxera epidemic.  The main winery was built at Barrio de la Estacion in Haro.  This wine is a blend of 65% Tempranillo and 35% Garnacha that spent 9-10 years in American oak barrels.  TCA.  Not Rated.

1964 Bilbainas, Vendimia Especial, Rioja Reserva 
One of the top wines this wine is a blend of70% Tempranillo and 30% Garnacha sourced from the Zaco vineyard.  It spent 18 months in large wooden vats then 6-8 (or 9-10) years in American oak barrels.  This is a bright wine with tart red fruit and a grippy nature.  The wine is still youthful but the leather notes speak of age.  *** Now but will last.

1964 Bilbainas, Vina Pomal, Rioja Reserva Especial 
This label has existed for over 100 years and always featured fruit from the Vina Pomal vineyard between the Ebro and Tiron rivers.  Apparently Winston Church drank it regularly.  It is a blend of 70% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha, and 5% Mazuelo, Graciano, and Viura.  It spent 1 year in tank followed by 6-7 years in American oak barriques.  TCA.  Not Rated.

1964 Campo Viejo, Rioja 
Founded in 1963, Camp Viejo moved from Rioja Baja to an industrial part of Logrono in 1965.  The Crianza is typically a blend of mostly 80% Tempranillo followed by 20% Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano.  It spent 18 months in large vats followed by 30 months in American oak barriques.  A fine nose makes way to a fruity start that is still ripe and flavored by spices in the finish.  The relatively short aging in wood results in this wine having the most fruit out of all tasted.  Perhaps not the most complex flavors the wine is, nevertheless, a fine drink with finely textured, ripe flavors.  *** Now – 2022.

1964 Franco-Espanolas, Excelsos, Rioja Gran Reserva 
Bodegas Franco-Espanolas history begins in 1890 when Frederick Anglade Saurat came to Logrono from Bordeaux.  Once his vineyards were in full production he founded the Bodegas, with Spanish capital, in 1901.  The Excelsos is the top gran reserve released only in the best vintages.  This rare wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, and 10% Mazuelo that spent 18 months in large wooden vats and 6-7 years in American oak barrels.  It was released in 1980.  TCA.  Not Rated.

1964 Gomez Cruzado, Honorable, Rioja Gran Reserva 
Founded in 1886.  This is a blend of 65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha, and 10% Mazuelo and Graciano.  This is fermented and raised in large wooden vats for 24 months followed by aging for 5 years in old American oak barrels.  It was bottled in 1972.  Quite stinky at first then a transition to an attractive funk.  However it is clean in the mouth where there are very lively flavors, crisp fruit, and wood shavings.  A delight in the mouth.  If I am picky, the finish is a little short.  ***(*) Now – 2025.

1964 Bodegas Montecillo, Vina Monty, Rioja 
Founded in 1870, Bodegas Montecillo is one of the oldest firms in Rioja. The Vina Monty is the top wine.  Produced solely from Tempranillo it spent 6 to 12 months in large wooden vats then 48 months in American oak barrels.  The 1964 vintage was produced at the old winery pre-dating the Osborne acquisition of 1973.  A good nose of fruit and mixed herbs.  There is round, red fruit, bright acidity, and a fine wood note. ***(*) Now – 2022.

1964 Frederico  Paternina, Rioja Gran Reserva
Founded in 1898, Frederico Paternina owns no vineyards. This is a blend of 70% Tempranillo with 30% Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano.   This Gran Reserva spent up to six years in American oak barrels and other volumes.  TCA.  Not Rated.

1964 Riojanas, Monte Real, Rioja Gran Reserva
Founded in 1890.  A blend of mostly 70% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo, 5% Garnacha, 2% Graciano, and 3% Viura and Malvasia.  It spent 12 to 18 months in large wooden tanks then aged for 4.5 to 6 years in American oak casks and other sizes.  Part of the fruit underwent carbonic maceration.  A touch musty at first but cleans up to reveal aromas of broth.  The bright flavors of cranberry are fresh and grippy.  The wine is driven by acidity.  This is the most youthful wine of them all, still focused and on the upslope of development. ***(*) Now – 2025.


Dinner Wines

1970 LAN, Lanciano Rioja
Founded in 1970. This wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, and 10% Mazuelo that spent 18 months in tank and 2 years in American oak casks.  Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Quite comforting with a combination of wood box notes, mature yet freshly delivered red fruit, and garrigue.  The flavors become meaty with air.  There is moderate weight and though the tannins are largely resolved a bit of structure comes out in the finish.  ***(*) Now but will last.

1978 Torres, Gran Coronas, Penedes Reserva
Imported by Chateau & Estates.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 18 months in American oak casks.  It was bottled in 1980. Alcohol 12.5%.  There is a tart, assertive start that is infused with some funk.  The wine soon becomes weightier with prominent acidity, green pepper notes, and tons of grip.  Quite fun to drink.  *** Now but will last.

2007 Bonneau, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Bordeaux Wine Locators.  Alcohol 15%. This lively red wine is bright in flavor and poised for many years of development.  I particularly like the fine mixture of Christmas spices which add complexity to the red fruit. A real treat, I wish I had tasted it some more. **** Now – 2027.

NV Rare Wine Co, Henriques & Henriques Imperial Reserve Malmsey
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This Madeira is a blend of old stocks of Malmsey from Henriques & Henriques. Mannie created the blend with John Cossart shortly before he passed away. It was released in honor of John Cossart in 2008.  Alcohol 20%.  There are pungent aromas of orange marmalade.  In the mouth is a rounded, dense start followed by powerful pungent flavors and racy residual sugar.  Supporting this is acidity to match.  The wine is incensed with Christmas spices. I imagine this will slowly develop for a few more decades.  ****.

1990 H. M. Borges, Sercial
Imported by Next Chapter Wines & Spirits.  Alcohol 20%.  An amber-tawny color.  Slightly pungent on the nose it is off to a round start that immediately unleashes piercing acidity.  There is lovely body weight which adds tension to this acidity driven wine.  Complexity comes from baking spices.  ****.

NV H. M. Borges, 15 year old Verdelho
Imported by Next Chapter Wines & Spirits.  Alcohol 19%.  There is a low-lying, deep nose.  In the mouth are taut orange citrus flavor and round body with piercing, laser sharp acidity.  Sweet and tense.  Good future potential.  ***.

2005 H. M. Borges, Tina Negra Colheita
Alcohol 20%.  Bottled in 2017. A very good, deep nose.  A racy, weighty start brings ripe flavors and sweetness in this round, tense wine.  A cherry middle makes way to a sweeter finish.  Good stuff. ***(*).

1998 H.M. Borges, Malmsey Colheita
This wine was aged in casks for over 8 years.  Bottled in 2006/7. Alcohol 19%.  A touch of satisfying pungency on the nose.  In this mouth this is a powerful wine with fruit, nuts, and piercing acidity. ***.

1995 H. M. Borges, Bual Colheita
This wine was aged in oak casks for at least 5 years.  Alcohol 19%.  A pungent, piercing nose.  In the mouth are spicy flavors delivered as a tense core.  Notes of evergreen and Christmas spices add complexity before the textured finish. ***(*).

Mature Middle Mosel Riesling

October 24, 2017 Leave a comment

A small number of old German wines recently hit the shelves of MacArthur Beverages.  The owner had passed away so the bottles were sold off.  As they were well-stored Phil picked them up and being of fine vintages, I bought a handful.  I tried two of the bottles from the middle Mosel the other evening with my brother-in-law.

The 1983 vintage is perhaps the best since 1976.  However, the old vintages of Kesten were of largely unremarkable quality except the Paulinshofberg wines which once commanded high prices.  The 1983 Weingut Jakob Wintrich, Kestener Paulinshofberg, Riesling Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer showed an attractive, weighty apricot flavor but it was generally puckering and tart.  This distracted me.

The 1976 vintage is considered outstanding for the Mosel.  My experience is limited to the 1976 Herman Freiherr von Schorlemer, Bernkasteler Badstube, Riesling Beerenauslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer shared by Phil a few years back.  I know not of Weingut Egon Studert but in the 1950s and 1960s Zeltinger Sonnenuhr was considered one the top vineyards amongst the expansive sea of Zeltingen.  The quality of the vintage and the vineyard come through in the 1976 Weingut Egon Studert, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer.  There is a gorgeous mature color, a nose of honey, and enjoyable flavors of honey, baking spices, smoke, and leather.  The lively acidity is worth mentioning as well.   I even drank it over two nights without any loss of pleasure.  The one weakness is that the finish is short.

1983 Weingut Jakob Wintrich, Kestener Paulinshofberg, Riesling Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
This  is a brilliant, golden yellow color with a tinge of amber.  A tart, rounded, and weighty start soon resolves to flavors of apricot with black tea.  There are wood notes too.  The acidity sharpens the wine up until the puckering, tart finish.  With air a bit of  botrytis comes out. *(*) Now.

1976 Weingut Egon Studert, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
A gorgeous, brilliant color of amber and honey. The nose also smells of honey.  In the mouth is an acidity driven start, clearly riper fruit at first then with air, it is honey flavored as well.  It mixes baking spices, smoke, and leather.  Flavors of black tea come near the finish which is shorter than desired but a fine texture is left in the aftertaste.  With air the body takes on a honied textured and a flavor of petrol comes out.  ** Now but will last.

Mature white dinner wines in Seattle

On an increasingly sunny evening, over goat cheese, a dinner of ravioli with butter sauce, and a Cardamon infused cake, I enjoyed three bottles of wine white.  The wines were served by a new friend who inherited his interest in wine from his father.  It is for him that I opened the 1979 De Foreville Barbaresco at my house not too long ago.  Last week we met up in Seattle for a dinner with mature white wines.

The bottles we drank were purchased upon release.  All of the wines he selected are drinking at peak maturity right now, though the Sauternes will clearly last.  The 2001 Weingut Robert Weil, Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken, Rheingau is more expressive on the nose but when I revisited it at the end of the evening I was pleased by the evolution of its mouthfeel.  The 1986 Domaine Long Depaquit, Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos is a nice surprise because I drink very little old white Burgundy.  I thought it interesting how this wine still has some fruit and weight.  We wrapped the dinner up with a bottle of 1983 Chateau Rieussec, Sauternes.  We remarked on the darker color, perhaps more advanced than other Sauternes, but the wine in the mouth is good.  It is a good wine to progress too because it comes across as only moderately sweet which makes it easy to drink.  When I returned home I checked a bottle I have, from a completely different source, and it is similar in color.  Stay tuned for reports on future bottles drunk together!  Note, it was a casual evening so I only jotted down my impressions after the meal.

2001 Weingut Robert Weil, Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken, Rheingau
Alcohol 10.5%.  A good maturing nose which remains expressive.  The flavors are front loaded becoming drier by the middle.  The wine is more about mouthfeel which continues to develop over the stones and minerals.  Drink up.

1986 Domaine Long Depaquit, Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos
Imported by Asherton Wine Imports.  Alcohol 12.5%.  It is a beautiful, golden straw color.  The aromas and flavors are in fine shape and any hints of maturity are only reflected in the color and a bit in flavor.  It remains focused with a touch of dense weight to the white and yellow fruit over some stone notes.

1983 Chateau Rieussec, Sauternes
A darker amber color but the wine is in good shape.  The nose is gentle, smelling of apricots.  In the mouth it comes across as moderately sweet due to the balancing acidity and glycerin infused body.  With air orange peel and baking spices come out and the length improves.  In a completely balanced state right now.

1980s Beaucastel and Burgundy at the Woodberry Kitchen

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Bloch’s new and old world favorites

David Bloch returns from a hiatus in writing, though not tasting, to list his favorite Champagnes and both New and Old World white and red wines.

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Top 10 Champagnes

Vintage:

1996 Moët & Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon
1998 Deutz Cuvée William Deutz
2004 Pascal Doquet Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil
2004 Taittinger Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne
2006 Taittinger Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne

Non-Vintage:

Pierre Péters Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvée de Réserve
Pascal Doquet Premiers Crus Brut Blanc de Blancs
Camille Savès Grand Cru Brut Carte Blanche Bouzy
Varnier-Fanniere Grand Cru Cuvée St-Denis
G. H. Mumm & Cie Crémant de Cramant

Top 10 Reds

Old World Reds:

1993 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo
1994 Château Latour
1995 Château Troplong Mondot
1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabajà
1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano
1997 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Méal
1998 Vieux Château Certan
1999 Jean Raphet et Fils Clos Vougeot Cuvée Unique
1999 Guigal Côte-Rôtie Château d’Ampuis

New World Red:

2002 Dominus

Top 10 Whites

2001 Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese
2004 F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Dürnsteiner Kellerberg
2005 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Felseneck GK Riesling Spätlese
2006 Chapoutier Hermitage Chante-Alouette
2006 Hirtzberger Riesling Smaragd Hochrain
2007 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Felseneck Trocken Großes Gewächs
2007 Vatan Sancerre Clos La Néore
2008 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Großes Gewächs
2009 Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo
2010 Henri Prudhon Saint-Aubin En Remilly

Sweet Wines

1990 Château Climens
1996 Château d’Yquem
2001 Château Rieussec
2002 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume
2002 Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Auslese Goldkapsel

Phil Bernsteins’ Top wines of 2016

December 29, 2016 Leave a comment

Phil Bernstein, who works at MacArthur Beverages, is literally within arms reach of amazing wines on a daily basis.  In this post he writes about two occassions where he tasted special wines from the 1978 and 1990 vintages.

Aaron asked me to write up my favorites and 2016-and it’s a tough assignment as I’m lucky enough to taste quite a few wines both at work and with friends throughout the year. I’ve narrowed it down to two, but I have loads of honorable mentions! While the two below are in the “fine and rare” category, I still get just as excited to find amazing values in the sub $20 category. It’s a great time to be a wine consumer as there are tons of these out there…but that’s a post for another day (or come see me in the store and I’ll sell you some!)

chapelle

The first ones are a “no brainer”. I was lucky enough to join my boss, Mark and a long time customer for a casual get together on a Monday night at Fiola. This particular customer has been a long time collector and has a great cellar full of gems mostly from Bordeaux and Rhone. He suggested a theme of drinking the 1978 and 1990 Hermitage la Chapelle from Jaboulet side by side. A once in a lifetime opportunity for sure!

Both wines were fantastic with the 1978 being one of the best reds I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste. Smoky, with notes of plum it was pure velvet on the palate. A seamless wine that just kept getting better and better. It still has loads of life left as well. The 1990 may end up being even better, but in comparison to the 1978 it seemed like an infant! If I was lucky enough to own this wine, I’d probably wait a few years before opening it. Both of these wines have that special, almost intangible pedigree to them – similar to top notch Burgundy and First Growth Bordeaux. They go beyond “great Syrah” and when drinking, you are sucked into that “special wine” vortex that I’m sure many of you have experienced.

prum

Next up is the 1990 JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese. I was lucky enough to be invited to the house of a different customer who also has been a long time German wine collector to a tasting of 1990 Germans. We had many superb wines that night, but this was far and away the stand out for me. Nice crisp acidity (a hallmark of this vintage) and loads of green apple fruit and a finish that had to last 5 minutes. Just amazing stuff. There is nothing better than mature Riesling when it’s in a good spot, and I continue to be amazed at how well JJ Prum wines age.