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The Post-Brunello Tasting Dinner Wines

November 15, 2018 Leave a comment

No tasting is complete without dinner and even more wine!  As I was dealing with dinner my notes are a bit thin.  I tried the 1990 Produttori di Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, en magnum both during and after the Brunello tasting.  The nose retained bits of roast but the flavors are fresh, balanced, and enjoyable. Strong provenance so who knows!?  The 1979 Francesco Rinaldi, Barolo proved quite solid, surprisingly silky in body with old-school flavors.  Of the brace of pure Meunier Champagne (what a great idea), the 2011 Chartogne-Taillet, Champagne Extra Brut Les Barres is the most earthy and mushroomy bubbly I have tried.  I would have spent more time with it but the NV Christophe Mignon, Pur Meunier, Champagne Brut Rose stole the show.  Certainly my favorite of all the dinner wines and possibly those preceding it.  A great value too.

From the Sotheby’s Don Stott auction, the 1959 Hallgartener Schonhell Riesling Auslese, Rheingau gave a glimpse of the fantastic 1959 vintage.  Aromas of orange-peel and flowers on the nose followed by apple-skin and spice in the mouth.  Elegant and in fine state.  The Mignon is great but the 2002 Domaine des Lambrays, Clos des Lambrays en magnum was my favorite wine for pure drinkability that evening.  A perfect dinner wine!  Many thanks to the guests who shared their wines with dinner.

1990 Produttori di Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, en magnum
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 13%.  Magnum #1996/2000.  The roast on the nose never blows off but a cocoa aroma develops. A bit bipolar between the nose and mouth. Very fresh in the mouth, balanced acidity, fine wood, and very fine texture. Dry tannins in the end. Overall *** Now/Later?

1979 Francesco Rinaldi, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny. A little stinky on the nose. With air fine wood and good pungency develop. Rounder with surprising silky body, there is sweet, old-school fruit in the middle. *** Now but will last.

2011 Chartogne-Taillet, Champagne Extra Brut Les Barres
This wine is 100% Meunier sourced from a parcel planted in 1952.  Disgorged July 2012.  Alcohol 12%.  Quite complex, earthy, mushrooms, like no other Champagne I’ve tasted.  This drinks fully mature.  *** Now.

NV Christophe Mignon, Pur Meunier, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Envoyer Imports.  Alcohol 12%. The berry core is first noticed then the strong bubbles. Immediately complex, very delicious, mixing with herbs, spices, and crisp apple acidity. Excellent flavors of ripe apple persist through the long aftertaste. Surprisingly good. ****(*) Now – 2023.

1959 Hallgartener Schonhell Riesling Auslese, Rheingau
Shipped by Walter S. Siegal.  A golden-amber color. The nose is scented with orange-peel, flowers, and tree fruit. A core of fruit remains in the mouth, apple skin with spices, and rounded body with sweet ripeness. There are hints of baking spice that mix with ripe apples through the long finish. In a perfect state. **** Now.

2002 Domaine des Lambrays, Clos des Lambrays en magnum
Alcohol 13.5%. Round, sweet fruit, some spice, and no hard edges. It is in a lovely state, to be drunk, with good fruit carried by subdued acidity.  ***(*) Now but mags will last.

2007 Biondi-Santi, Rosso di Montalcino
Corked!

2010 Agricola Punica, Barrua, Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardinia
Rounded, modern as well, but the dark fruit sports attractive fat. Oak comes out in the end.  ** Now – 2028.

2009 Caiarossa, IGT Toscana
Dense, modern flavors of concentrated grapeyness, vanilla, and a spicy finish. Not my style of wine. *(*) 2020-2030.

Wines from a birthday celebration

October 17, 2018 Leave a comment

A small group of us gathered for a birthday celebration where we all contributed bottles around significant years.  While the name and age of the celebrant are withheld the wines we tasted are not!  Many fine wines were tasted both young and old with only a few off bottles.  Please find my notes below.

1996 Deutz, Cuvee William Deutz, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Joshua Tree Imports. Alcohol 12%. A mature color with aromas of apricot and apple orchard. Very fine and firm bubbles from the start. The orchard note follows through in the mouth where there are flavors of tart apple, a hint of lees, and general maturity. It is drier through the middle. What is just a racy bit in the finish develops into an oily body. This bottle is drinking at its peak.  **** Now.

1996 Tattinger, Comte de Champagne, Champagne Brut
Imported by Premier Cru. Alcohol 12%. green, almost bright yellow color. The nose offers fine, ripe aromas of yeast and articulated fruit. Very gentle bubbles carry tart apple with tons of texture on the tongue and a weightier middle. It becomes a bit creamier after the start. **** Now – 2025.

2010 Jean Noel Gagnard, Chassagne Montrachet Blanchot Dessus Premier Cru
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by The Source. Alcohol 13.5%. More gold in color. Aromatic of dark, yellow fruit. Nut oil density from the start with more sweet fruit than the 2010 Jobard. This wine is mature but still has a vein of acidity that carries the weight and oily body. It takes on a hint of lees, certainly stones in the end with an oily aftertaste.  Drink soon.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

2010 Antoine Jobard, Meursault Les Tillets
Imported by Kermit Lynch. Alcohol 13%. Gold and yellow in color. Crisp and closely played with gunflint and almost tart acidity. With air assuredly tart on the tongue, with attractive salinity, and verve from the acidity. Very focused. **** Now – 2023.

1978 Francesco Rinaldi, Barbaresco
Imported by Grape Expectations. Alcohol 13.5%. A nose of umami, Asian sauce, and veggies. Maderised a touch, more advanced than I would expect, with watering acidity, a dry middle, and grip on the tongue.  Not Rated.

1978 Cortese Giacomo, Barbaresco
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. Perfumed. A lovely, sweet nose which remains aromatic. The ripest of the 1978 trio with earthy notes, sweaty middle, and firmer finish. It still possesses structure. There is good presence which persists with air. **** Now – 2023.

1978 Scarpa, Barolo Cascina Roncaglia
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. Fresh, slowly evolving nose with articulated aromas of eucalyptus. More acidity in the mouth with tartness in the gently firm, still structured first half. With air it becomes silky and more ethereal in nature. It is driven by acidity which almost provides verve. ***(*) Now – 2028.

2000 Bruno Giacosa, Falletto, Barbaresco Riserva Asili
Imported by Chelsea Ventures. Alcohol 14%.  A nose of raspberries.  In the mouth freshness with hints of pruned fruit, a roasted element, and very ripe bits.  Still quite primary.  With air it retains fine focused on brambly red fruit and fine, wood notes.  Not offering much, try again in several years.  *** 2023-2033.

1967 Domaine Jean Gros, Richebourg Grand Cru
Shipped by Remoissenet Pere et Fils and imported by Great Lakes Wine Company. Alcohol 13%. A fruity, weighty wine with flavors of orange-citrus and red fruit. An old-school wine of substance and life. It could stand more acidity to lend tension but I would happily drink this all afternoon.  **** Now but will last.

1966 Chateau Haut-Brion, Graves
Shipped by Mestrezat-Preller and imported by Great Lakes Wine Company. 12%. Sadly a bad bottle. Not Rated.

1989 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Kermit Lynch. Ripe aromas of strawberry and briar bramble. Fresh and youthful in the mouth with a certain lifted quality. The ripe fruit lie over a focused core, revealing this bottle is in great shape and has yet to hit mid-life. It remains focused with supple red fruit and develops structure.  **** Now – 2033.

1989 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands. Redder, more focused flavors stay towards tart red in profile. It is a lovely drink, taking on more ripeness and strawberries with air. **** Now – 2028.

2005 Clos Mogador, Priorat
Maturing with blue and mixed fruits on the nose. An impressive wine with a trifecta of fruit ripeness, acidity, and structure all of which is well balanced. It is slowly evolving, still young, but willing to reveal its components. Pastilles eventually come out.  ****(*) Now – 2033.

1988 Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes
Imported by T. Elenteny. Apricots and oranges on the nose. Rounded, sappy, with improving definition as it breathes. There is a ripe and dense core of flavor that is all about the mouth feel. This is a racy and inky wine intertwined with glycerin and spice. ****(*) Now – 2038+.

1989 Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes
Alcohol 13.5%. Slightly lighter in color than the 1988. Good acidity makes this a tense wine, a tough bright with focus and grip. **** Now – 2038 .

2005 Markus Molitor, Riesling Beerenauslese * Zeltinger Himmelreich, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Imported by Schmitt Sohne. Alcohol 7%. Very aromatic. Brighter yellow fruit, eventually pure apricot, with sweetness that almost oversteps the fruit flavor. A slight spritz before the wine becomes dense and seductive with enough acidity to make it zippy. ****(*) Now – 2038+.

A pair of rosé for more warm weather

September 19, 2018 Leave a comment

With warm, sunny weather returning to the Washington, DC, area, here are two bottles of rosé you might consider.  The 2017 Reichstrat von Buhl, Spatburgunder Rose Trocken Pfalz will cater towards those who prefer dry rosé with a kick of acidity.  The profile is all about dried florals with a clean finish.  I find the 2017 Puech-Haut, Prestige Rosé , Languedoc-Roussillon more satisfying with its mixture of peach and florals. I like a bit of fruit in my rosé, which this bottle delivers, without leaving freshness behind.  You may find them at MacArthur Beverages.

2017 Reichstrat von Buhl, Spatburgunder Rose Trocken Pfalz – $18
Imported by Cellars International. Alcohol 12%. A medium-dark, dried rose and salmon color. Dried florals with dried red fruit persist in this acidity driven wine. There is some ethereal ripeness that pops up in the end but this is a dry wine throughout with a bit of tang. ** Now but will last.

2017 Puech-Haut, Prestige Rosé, Languedoc-Roussillon – $18
Imported by European Cellars. This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Cinsault.  Alcohol 13%. Fresh yet with floral weight. Flavors of peach mix with white, ripe fruit, and dry roses. This is all about the floral fruit and enjoyable as a result. *** Now.

A tasting of 2015 German Riesling with a few bottles of Champagne

A generous friend hosted a small group to taste through an even larger number of German Riesling bottles.  The focus was largely on 2015 German Riesling with an additional flight of 2008 Riesling Spätlese and several bottles of bubbles throughout.

The 2015 vintage is excellent allowing for the generally high quality of the wines we tasted from both new and established producers.  On the young side, the 2015 Keller, Riesling von der Fels, Rheinhessen is in need of some age.  It is dry, matching the stone flavor with good tension from acidity.  The 2015 Eva Fricke, Kiedricher Riesling Trocken, Rheingau offers fruit and ripeness, making it a good wine right now but it will also benefit from age.  Real beauty is found in the 2015 Schäfer-Fröchlich, Vulkangestein Riesling trocken, Nahe.  I found it crisp yet with flesh and fruit.  I really liked the 2015 Hofgut Falkenstein, Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett trocken, Mosel which is powerful and perfumed with great presence in the mouth.  Offering all of the desired components, the 2015 A. J. Adam, in der sängerei Riesling feinherb, Mosel is the best choice for drinking now.  I was sure to revisit it a few times.

Of the trio of 2008 Spätlese, there was a fun pairing of 2008 Schäfer-Fröhlich, Bockenauer Felseneck Riesling Spätlese, Nahe black and gold capsule.  My current preference is for the black capsule which has vibrant acidity and a chalky finish.  The gold capsule offers yellow, honied, complex fruit. but this richness is not matched by the acidity.  They are on different maturity curves and for now, the black capsule is more exciting.  The 2008 Müller-Catoir, Haardter Burgergarten Riesling Spätlese brings forth thoughts of gold, honey, and petrol.  Lovely stuff!

Of the other wines the pair of NV Ulysse Collin, Les Roises, Champagne Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut and NV Ulysse Collin, Les Pierrieres, Champagne Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut deserve mention.  Both of these wines are fermented in used oak barrels with indigenous yeast then spend another year or so in oak.  The Les Roises vineyard contains 60 year old vines on soils rich in clay whereas Les Pierrieres contains 35 year old vines on chalky soils.  Our two bottles are Lot 10 being disgorged in 2014.  Les Roises offers more berries, complexity, and some earth.  It is the broader of the pair and is so perfectly drinkable right now.  Les Pierrieres is drier and firm.  While it did improve with air, it really needs further time in the cellar.

Many thanks to our host for sharing all of these excellent bottles of wine.

Starters

2013 Hermann J. Wiemer, Cuvee Brut, Seneca Lakes
Alcohol 12%.  Disgorged February 2017.  A very light straw color.  Slight robust white fruit on the nose.  A moderate mousse with chalk flavors and grip exist in this refreshing wine.  Solid with a creamy mousse in the end.  ** Now but will last.

NV Etienne Calsac, L’echappee Belle, Champagne Extra Brut
Imported by Paris Wine Co.  This wine is a blend of 95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir.  Bottled May 2012.  Disgorged October 2015.  More yellow with a light straw color.  Aromatic with a toast note.  Robust bubbles move towards a yeasty mousse.  Medium bodied in the middle with some fat in the racy finish.  Tastes Mature.  *** Now.

2015 German Riesling

2015 Rita & Rudolf Trossen, Lay Pur’us, Riesling, Mosel
Imported by Envoyer Imports.  This wine is 100% Riesling fermented in wooden tanks with indigenous yeasts over a period of 8 months.  Aged for 8 months.  No additions.  Alcohol 12%.  A honey tinged gold color.  Some sweetness on the nose.  Surprisingly sour in the mouth with apple orchard flavors before becoming quite dry with a streak of acidity.  Reminds me of a lambic. Weird. * Now.

2015 Eva Fricke, Kiedricher Riesling Trocken, Rheingau
Imported by Bonhomie Wine Imports.  Alcohol 12%.  A pale straw with yellow color.  Some petrol on the nose.  In the mouth this is lively yet there is ripe fruit from the start.  Good texture and tannins on the gums.  Good wine.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2015 Schäfer-Fröchlich, Vulkangestein Riesling trocken, Nahe
A Rudi Wiest selection imported by Cellars International.  This wine is 100% Riesling sourced from vines on volcanic soils in and around Schlossbockelheim.  Alcohol 12%.  A very light straw white color.  Grapefruit and peach fruit on the nose.  In the mouth this is a beautiful wine with crisp acidity and floral accented fruit.  It fleshes out with warmth showing a juicy fruit style and some fat.  **** Now – 2028.

2015 Wagner Stempel, Siefersheim Riesling vom Porphyr, Rheinhessen
A Rudi Wiest selection imported by Cellars International.  Alcohol 12.5%.  A razor sharp wine with tense acidity.  There is a chalk undertone matching the citrus pithe left on the gums.  There is a lot of presence with this wine which finally shows more fruit in the end mixing with a petrol note and an interesting, garrigue-like flavor.  *** Now – 2033.

2015 Hofgut Falkenstein, Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett trocken, Mosel
A Lars Carlberg Selection imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  Alcohol 11%.  An interesting wine.  Powerful in the start but in the middle, dried florals, lemon citrus fruit, and stones.  The finish is perfumed and the aftertaste leaves great presence.  Nice wine.  **** Now – 2028.

2015 Dr. Nägler, Rüdesheim Bischofsberg Riesling Kabinett Feinherb, Rheingau
Imported by Winesellers.  Alcohol 10.5%.  Modest texture with a fruitier start, ripe middle, and simple finish.  A bit too simple.  ** Now.

2015 Weiser-Kunsteler, Trabener Gaispfad Riesling Kabinett trocken, Mosel
Imported by Vom Boden.  Alcohol 10.5%.  Almost piercing acidity with hints of sweet tea flavor.  The watering acidity lasts through the end where there is clearly defined flavor of black tea and lemon citrus.  ** Now but will last for ages.

2015 A. J. Adam, in der sängerei Riesling feinherb, Mosel
Imported by Skurnik Wines.  Alcohol 10.5%.  Aromatic.  Very ripe fruit in the mouth soon takes on acidity and flint.  This is hands down an attractive combination of fruit, stone, texture, and acidity.  Drink well right now.  **** Now – 2023.

2015 Keller, Riesling von der Fels, Rheinhessen
Imported by Petit Pois Corp.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Close knit with fine texture and certainly tension from the acidity.  Stones and a drier nature come out by the middle with flavors of white and yellow, fruit then eventually baking spices.  Needs some time. *** 2020-2030.

A pair of Ulysse Collin Champagne

NV Ulysse Collin, Les Roises, Champagne Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Lot No. 10. Disgorged March 2014.  Gentle fruit on the nose with some earth.  In the mouth are berries and already a good amount of complexity.  So drinkable.  **** Now why wait?

NV Ulysse Collin, Les Pierrieres, Champagne Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Lot No. 10. Disgorged November 2014.  Berry like with a gentle yeast flavor and firm bubbles.  Drier with fine, ethereal and powdery fruit. ***(*) Now – 2028.

2008 German Riesling Spätlese

2008 Schäfer-Fröhlich, Bockenauer Felseneck Riesling Spätlese, Nahe black capsule
A Rudi Wiest selection imported by Cellars International.  Alcohol 7.5%.  A green of green-yellow straw.  A fresh start with vibrant acidity throughout along with some residual sugar sweetness.  It becomes dry and chalky in the finish where it ends with good effect.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2008 Schäfer-Fröhlich, Bockenauer Felseneck Riesling Spätlese, Nahe gold capsule
A Rudi Wiest selection imported by Cellars International.  Alcohol 7.5%.  Gold with a hint of green. Richer with flavors of yellow, honied fruit.  Not the same level of acidity but the fruit is more complex, the honied sweetness is attractive, and there is more density. *** Now – 2023.

2008 Müller-Catoir, Haardter Burgergarten Riesling Spätlese
D. Sokolin Co. Imported by Wine Cellars.  Alcohol 9.5%.  The most golden of the trio.  Petrol on the nose with seductive flavors of honey and baking spices.  The aftertaste leaves a note of honey. **** Now.

One red wine

2005 Lillian, California Syrah
Alcohol 15.6%.  Inky and racy, a wine turned up to 110%. Hard to drink and not my style. * Now but will last.

Dessert

1988 von Hövel, Oberemmeler Hütte Riesling Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer 375 mL
Imported by Cellars International. Alcohol 7.5%.  Long in the tooth. Not Rated.

Pinot Noir from Irancy and Nahe

April 30, 2018 1 comment

The 2011 William Charriat, Irancy surprised me.  A bit herbal and firm upon opening, this wine really came into its own on the second night.  Initially released at five years of age, the Irancy wines of William Charriat are regarded for their ability to develop over a long time.  Traditionally made, the 2011 vintage shows best on the second night.  It is an interesting, highly drinkable wine.  The 2014 Weingut Sinss, Spatburgunder Trocken, Nahe is also good.  Aromatic, fresh, and while perfect for the warmer temperatures, it is also capable of aging for several years.  Grab these two wines if you want unique expressions of Pinot Noir.  They are available at Weygandt Wines.

2011 William Charriat, Irancy
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that sees no new oak.  Alcohol 13%.  Initially, a rather herbal and vintage perfume infused nose.  With air the herbal quality recedes some.  On the second night there is some thickness to the flavors and structure intertwined with minerality.  Subtle flavors of black fruit come out becoming more interesting due to texture and fat.  It all wraps up with fresh lift.  *** Now – 2028.

2014 Weingut Sinss, Spatburgunder Trocken, Nahe
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir fermented with indigenous yeasts.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The light, cranberry-red color speaks of the lifted, varietal nose.  In the mouth are tart cranberry, citrus, and red fruit flavors with an acidity driven start and a bit of a mineral finish.  There is an edge or tension from the acidity that when coupled with the modest tannins, will see this wine through several years of age.  With further air the wine takes on more mineral flavors.  A pleasing wine for the summer.  *** Now – 2022.

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. ***(*).