I was looking around for older bottles of Chianti wine when I was sidetracked by a few vintages of Castello Monsanto’s Super Tuscan wine Nemo. I randomly decided to open a bottle Friday night so I opted for the 2003 Castello Monsanto, Nemo Il Mulino, Tuscany which is the youngest I have. There is a lovely nose of blue and black fruit which is matched by deep, balanced flavor in the mouth. It is more flavorful than complex with the sensation that bottle age has made it the wine accessible. As such, it is a very satisfying Cabernet Sauvignon from Tuscany.
2003 Castello Monsanto, Nemo Il Mulino, Tuscany
Imported by MW Imports. This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon fermented in stainless steel then aged for 18 months in oak. Alcohol 14%. This is a deep, earthy wine of blue and black fruit. At this age the wine is still has some fresh structure and grip which provides a pleasing amount of texture. More importantly the good, deep flavor is hard to resist. ***(*) Now – 2027.
I am pleased by one of the latest releases of Fornacina for the 2014 Fornacina, Rosso di Montalcino is a perfect follow up to the savory 2013 vintage. The 2014 vintage is particularly lively with plenty of juicy, almost rugged fruit supported by a very fine supportive structure. I enjoyed it youthful state but some might want the tannins to mellow for another year or two. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2014 Fornacina, Rosso di Montalcino – $18
This wine is 100% Sangiovese fermented in stainless steel then aged in Slavonian oak. Alcohol 14.5%. The nose is of moderately deep plums. In the mouth there is an almost prickly start making for a lively entry of tart red fruit then black fruit. The structure is obvious throughout leaving a layer of very fine tannins on the gums. With air the wine builds a ripe, juicy start followed by a mulberry middle and firm, stone accented finish. *** Now – 2023.
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.
Top 10 Champagnes
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
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:
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
1990 Château Climens
1996 Château d’Yquem
2001 Château Rieussec
2002 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume
2002 Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Auslese Goldkapsel
As Aaron and I drink many wines together, it’s inevitable that we have some shared wines on our top lists. The 1978 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill was obviously California with rich fruit and concentration but balanced by forest floor and a balanced acidity. What was especially interesting for me with this wine was that it was served with its brother, the 1978 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace. This wine shared many of the characteristics of its sibling, but with more cassis, less earth and somewhat brighter toned.
I shared Aaron’s enthusiasm for the 1964 Mommessin Clos de Tart. This is everything Burgundy should be—hugely complex as it balances a sense of fragility and depth. This oxymoronic nature of great, mature Burgundy was abounding in this wine. I too loved the 1964 Beaucastel. It’s too rare that I drink great, old Chateauneuf. In an evening with an amazing vertical of great Beaucastel, this wine stood above the rest. It was a beautiful mix of bright fruit, iodine and seaweed.
Moving on to two wines unique to my list are two more wines from 1964. Both Burgundies were drunk at Berns’ and served from 375’s. The first was a Senard Aloxe Corton Les Valozieres. The second was a lowly villages Morey St Denis from Valby. Both wines benefited from the cold conditions of the cellar there and were in pristine condition. Though neither showed the pedigree of the Clos de Tart, they both showed as fully mature, complex and exciting.
The 1989 Cos d’Estournel also was part of a vertical of exceptional wines. Though I greatly enjoyed many of vintages served that night, the 1989 stood out to me (and just edged out the 2005). It had concentrated fruit, some green notes and a fascinating smoky spice like incense. The finish went on and on.
The 1970 Souverain Zinfandel was also from a 375 at Berns’. This tasted still young and fresh and showed the heights that classic Zin can achieve.
My final two wines were probably more about the experience that the wines themselves. The first was a 2011 Fevre Montmains Chablis that I had at Han Ting restaurant in The Hague. This meal was probably my best of the year for exciting food and flawless service. The wine perfectly accompanied the Asian styled food. It had bright acidity, a delightful minerality and will doubtless just get better with time, as it was just a baby.
Finally was a carafe of the house red at O’Tinello Osteria in Lago Albano just outside of Rome. This fruity and fresh wine made locally had enough acidity to lighten the platters of cured meats, creamy pasta and the porchetta that the region is famous for. It was a great reminder of the time honored pairings of local food and wines. We were close to the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo and I could imagine the Pope having a similar lunch in the bright March sun……
Amy Ray has a well “honed” (to borrow a general quote from Barry Wiggins) passion for Burgundy. Though I have known of her for some time we only met this year. In hanging out with her I have discovered she also loves the wines of Champagne, Piedmont, and perhaps most importantly, old Madeira.
Amy’s love for Burgundy is clearly expressed in her list of memorable wines from 2016. Earlier this year she traveled to Burgundy where she drank the 1959 Louis Jadot Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Ursules Domaine des Héritiers. She recently remarked how much she likes the 1959 vintage. At the Paulée at Château de Meursault she experienced the 1979 Domaine Francois Lamarche La Grande Rue which was not yet recognized as a Grand Cru.
If Amy is willing to attend the Paulée in Burgundy it is of no surprise that she was at La Paulée de San Francisco. At Quince in San Francisco, she was seated next to Etienne de Montille and Veronique Drouhin Boss.
It is here that she drank a beautiful bottle of 1985 Joseph Drouhin Musigny.
Amy’s love for Nebbiolo and Truffles took her to Piedmont. Here she took a break at Vinoteca Centro Storico with a bottle of NV Marie-Noelle Ledru Champagne Extra Brut. Marie-Noelle Ledru manages everything herself even riddling and disgorging.
She thought the Elio Grasso estate the most beautiful in all of Piedmont.
Gianluca Grasso ordered an excellent bottle of the 2006 Elio Grasso Barolo Riserva Runcot at the Trattoria della Posta in Monforte d’Alba.
Here are the other wines on Amy’s incredible list. Note, there is even Rayas!
- 1979 Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut
- 1979 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee St. Vivant
- 2010 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze
- 1998 Jacques-Frederic Mugnier Musigny
- 2004 Coche-Dury Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrières
- 1995 Christophe Roumier Ruchottes-Chambertin
- 1995 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve
I was careful to note I drank from a magnum of 1976 Lanson, Champagne and even took a picture of the bottle of 1996 Louis Roederer, Cristal Champagne and Jacque Selosse, V.O. Champagne Extra Brut. However, my tasting note for the 1998 Dom Perignon, Champagne “racy, yeasty, rich, mineral wine flavors” is unaccompanied by a picture. This might sound haphazard but Champagne is the first thing drunk after the all-day Sercial Madeira tasting. The need to refresh oneself with Champagne and talk to old friends leads to a sort of frenzy. Everyone jockeys for a pour of Champagne. It is not a time to take note.
Dinner is seated, at a very long table. The pace of wine is measured by the sommeliers who impose a logical order on what is drunk. Every guest is encouraged to bring a magnum of mature wine or preferably two bottles of the same. This is not always possible so there is a large variety of red wines. I take pictures and jot down brief impressions so I may recall the evening later on. There were only two off bottles this night the 1959 Joh. Jos. Prum, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, feine Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer and 1978 Heitz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Martha’s Vineyard, Napa Valley. In Germany 1959 is a legendary vintage and in America both Joh. Jos Prum and Heitz Martha’s Vineyard are legendary wines. In some punishing coincidence a friend brought a bottle of 1975 Martha’s Vineyard to my house this year. It was off too. Damn and double damn.
Of the good wines, they fell into two camps. Those which are too young to follow a tasting of 19th century Madeira and those which are appropriately mature. In this latter category two particular bottles stand out: 1966 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien and 1875 Isaias W. Hellman, Angelica Wine, Cucamonga Vineyard, San Bernadino County. The 1966 Ducru sports a fantastic nose. I find some old wines have a sweaty aspect to their nose almost like aromatic umami and this bottle did as well. The flavors were equally attractive with that sweet concentration of flavor from age. It does not just taste mature, it tastes different.
My experience with Californian wine only includes vintages into the 1960s. I can assure you the last wine I would have expected at dinner was not just a pre-Prohibition Californian wine but one from the 19th century. In a particularly unforgiving act of arson in 2005, some 4.5 million bottles of wine were destroyed including 175 bottles of Hellman Angelica and Port wine, certainly most of the remaining stock. I can only imagine a handful of bottles survive to this day. Now scarcity alone does not make for a fine wine, what is in the glass does. With a bit of volatile acidity and dust on the nose the 1875 Hellman may have given slight pause but in the mouth this is an unctuous, powerful, and mouth coating wine. I managed to prolong the pleasure for a few more weeks because I was allowed to take the empty bottle home. There was still damp sediment in the bottle so I stoppered it. Every few days I would smell the bottle to swim once again in 19th century aromas.
2002 Dauvissat, Chablis Grand Cru Le Clos
Imported by Vieux Vins. The yeasty nose makes way to minerally, white and yellow fruit flats. This seductive wine is rich with a hint of yeast, ripe tannins in the finish, and fat in the aftertaste.
2008 Domaine Coche-Dury, Meursault
Alcohol 12.5%. This is a fresh, lean wine that tastes yeasty and older in the mouth. IT leans towards pure lemon flavors.
2007 Domaine Coche-Dury, Meursault
Alcohol 12.5%. This is a grippy, concentrated wine with fresh acidity. A little weight comes out with air but this is all about lemon tartness. To match the flavor is a fair amount of acidity.
1959 Joh. Jos. Prum, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, feine Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Imported by O. W. Loeb & Co. Corked! D*mn!
1970 Domaine Dujac, Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Combottes
Imported by Frederick Wildman. Alcohol 13%. The dark, garnet color matches the rather mature nose. In the mouth this is a very dry wine with old perfume mixing with linear, red fruit, The structure is still there, out living the fruit, as this gentle, old wine dries up.
1967 Odero, Barolo
A Chambers Street Selection imported by T. Elenteny. The nose is a little stinky, which I find attractive, before aromas of candied cherry come out. This is old-school lively, with structure from the ripe tannins. Perfect for what it is.
1961 Burlotto, Castello di Verduno, Barolo
The foxy, earthy flavors come with initial concentration. It is a dry wine offering more flavor than the Oddero. Maturity has brought old-school flavors, a sweet aspect, and earth. It wraps up with drying, textured tannins.
1967 Cordezuma, Barolo
A Chambers Street Selection imported by T. Elenteny. The color is young, almost cranberry-ruby in color. In the mouth this is a simpler wine which is tart, citric, and bears less fruit.
1981 Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia, Rioja
An odd wine with almost mushroom flavors, yeast, and floral pork (WTF!). The acidity is bound up with the modest bit of structure.
1990 Prunotto, Barbaresco Montestefano
Alcohol 13.5%. Tobacco. Young!
1995 Guigal, Cote-Rotie La Landonne
A Thomas Gruenig Selection imported by Torion Trading Ltd. Alcohol 13%. This is way too young. Structure, drying, and bracing at this point.
1995 Guigal, Cote-Rotie La Mouline
A Thomas Gruenig Selection imported by Torion Trading Ltd. Alcohol 13%. This is aromatic with a fine nose just beginning to take on mature aromas. In the mouth the red fruit is starting to soften a touch. Overall this is a focused wine with powerful structure through the fresh finish. Young.
1989 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien
Imported by Johnston. Alcohol 12.5%. The mature Bordeaux notes are starting to escape but this is still so young.
1989 Chateau Lynch Bages, Pauillac
Shipped by SDVF. Imported by South Wine & Spirits. Alcohol 12.5%. This is more open with cassis, minerals, and fat. Nice.
1966 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien
Shipped by Raoul Lucien & Co. Imported by Combeau-Collet & Cie. Alcohol 12%. The fantastic nose is aromatic and a touch sweaty with cranberries and red fruit. It develops some old-school perfume. In the mouth the flavors have some sweetness to them before the drying finish. A lovely wine at 50 years of age.
1966 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
Shipped by A. de Luze & Fils. This is less giving, more linear, soon shutting down to simple, cranberry, and red fruit flavors. It is firm and tight in the mouth with a shorter finish.
1978 Heitz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Martha’s Vineyard, Napa Valley
An off bottle.
1992 Harlan Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Young and primary.
1937 Niepoort, Colheita Port
Imported by W. J. Deutsch Co. Alcohol 19%. There is a sweet start with flavors of black tea and wood. There is a fair amount of noticeable acidity before the slightly harsh finish.
1875 Isaias W. Hellman, Angelica Wine, Cucamonga Vineyard, San Bernadino County
Though there is some volatile acidity on the nose, it is fine and articulate, with a bit of dust matching its age. The fruit tastes so different. This is a powerful and lip coating wine which is still racy and sweet. The fruit persisted through the dark finish. With air this unctuous wine, with its plentiful residual sugar, builds glycerin and baking spices. In great shape!
At the end of October I was fortunate to attend an Italian tasting largely focused in on the wines of Bruno Giacosa and Giacomo Conterno. No tasting of Barolo should be without a mature example and this one began with a very fine 1967 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo. Double-decanted midday it continued to slowly develop in the glass. I can only write that I love the aroma and flavor of this type of wine. Also with attractive maturity, the 1978 Carlo Boffa & Figli, Barbaresco Riserva Vigna Vitalotti is meatier and earthier but leaves the impression of being tired.
The youthful white-labeled pair of 1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Gallina di Neive and 1997 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive did not prepare me for the outstanding red-labels. At 20 years of age the 1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Asili is beginning to move past its youthful stage. It is a powerful, intense wine which never takes away from the beautiful flavors. Younger in age and profile, the 2001 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja promises a great future. There are primary aromas and flavors right now but everything is in place for slow development.
Completely different in nature the 1997 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino, with moderate concentration and complexity, acted as a segway to the outstanding 2000 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino. This is a highly refined, ethereally flavored wine which fills the mouth. With air it fleshes out to provide seamless pleasure. What a tasting!
1980 Stony Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%. Looks like a copper-orange wine. There is a complex nose which is a touch maderized. In the mouth is focused, driven flavors that are quite lively and even sport some body but the wine is clearly not correct. Not Rated.
2010 Domaine Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes
Imported by Wilson Daniels. Alcohol 13.5%. The flint aromas make the nose stand out. In the mouth the precise, lemon fruit mixes with flint and smoke. This is a persistent, tart wine with lime flavors and a long, finely textured finish. Impressive now. **** Now – 2026.
2005 Domaine des Croix, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
A Becky Wasserman selection imported by Wine Cellars LTD. Alcohol 13.5%. The subtle nose is a touch earthy and lactic. A significantly rounder body is backed by glycerin. Flavors of lemon and lime take on subtle baking spices. It improves with air, filling the mouth with flavors and the sensation of an oily, luxurious body. ***(*) Now – 2021.
2010 Lucien Le Moine, Corton Blanc Grand Cru
Imported by Barrel One Selections. This is aromatic with sweet fruit and floral spices. The tart start is focused yet offers weight. It is almost puckering with a wood hint, floral flavors throughout, and smoke in the finish. It is almost spicy. **** Now – 2026.
2005 Etienne Sauzet, Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru
Imported by Vineyard Brands. A slight darker color hints at the inevitable. Shame!
1967 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo
Imported by suitcase. The nose is subtly smokey. In the mouth are lively, fresh flavors that are initially linear and focused but expand by the finish. There is bottle aged complexity as this wine is beyond fruit. I like the blend of old leather and weighty, animale flavors that develop with air. ****(*) Now – 2026.
1978 Carlo Boffa & Figli, Barbaresco Riserva Vigna Vitalotti
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. The meaty nose is good and opens up a bit with air. In the mouth this is grippy with tart red fruit, and an animale nature. It builds subtle ripeness but is ultimately leaner and not as flavorful. *** Now.
1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Gallina di Neive
Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 14%. The fruitier nose is attractive with complex bitters-like aroma. This grippy wine starts with dry tannins and young fruit but it has very attractive grip, long taste, and a haunting personality. ***(*) Now-2031.
1997 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive
Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 13.5%. The darker nose is more subtle. This is a rounder wine with less acidity and tannins, despite its youthful flavor. It shows more balance at this time. The complex red and black fruit are supported by some firm, underlying structure. ***(*) Now – 2026.
2001 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja
Imported by Wine Cellars. Alcohol 14%. The aromas step out of the glass, primarily exuding violets. This is very young in the mouth, powerful with very fine tannins. A core of blackberry fruit comes out. This clearly has a strong future ahead. ****(*) Now – 2036
1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Asili
Imported by Premier Cru. Alcohol 14%. The nose is concentrated and strong with fruity aromas of licorice. The rounded start is powerful with intense structure and fine, grippy tannins. The flavor, though, is undeniably beautify with density, and some bacon fat. The liquidity of the wine is bound with the acidity. ****(*) Now – 2031.
1997 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 14%. The flavors are of lighter berries and almost roast earth. The wine remains firm with fine, strong tannins. There is structure to last but the flavor concentration does not seem to be there. **** Now – 2026.
2000 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino
Imported by Vieux Vins. Alcohol 14%. The young grapey nose makes way to a smooth entry of mouth filling, black, ethereal flavors. The power of this wine builds with time becoming fleshier too. Lovely and very classy. ****(*) Now – 2026.
2012 Donnhoff, Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Eiswein, Nahe
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports. Alcohol 7.5%. This, bright, electric wine is noticeable for its residual sugar and almost effervescent sensation on the tongue. The spices soon mix with sweet grapefruit and sugar. Young and a bit hard to drink at this stage. **** 2026-2046.
2002 Alois Kracher, Scheurebe Trockenbeeren Auslese #6 Zwischen den Seen, Neusiedlersee
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports. Alcohol 8.5%. Like liquid amber, this aromatic wine is lovely with an apricot hint that is more fresh than dried. It adds baking spices and cinnamon. Weighty with good integration of sweetness. **** Now – 2026.