Posts Tagged ‘Livermore Valley’

Wente’s 1978 Centennial Reserve Petite Sirah delivers

I recently pulled out the pair of 1978 bottles from Wente Bros. for dinner after a tasting with several friends.  I thought I would write about these wines separately, as the history is a bit interesting.  Wente Bros. of Livermore, California was founded in 1883 by Carl Heinrich Wente who came over from Hanover, Germany.  His background was in husbandry but as cellar man to Charles Krug he learned to make wine.  Nearly 80 years later, his grandson Karl Wente took over the management of the winery.  In 1975, Karl Wente was named Wine Man of the year.  This was just the second award given out by the Friends of the Junior Art Center for the first went to Andre Tschelistcheff.  The distinguished company is is not surprising for historic newspaper accounts reveal the high regard held for the wines of Wente.

Carl Heinrich Wente brought cuttings from France to California to plant in his vineyards.  The alluvial deposits of the Livermore Valley were regarded as similar to the soils of Graves thus early plantings included Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and even Chardonnay. It was through the mid 20th century that Wente’s fame came from its Semillon.  In 1939, The Marquis de la Saluces, of Chateau d’Yquem, even visited Wente to see how his Semillon cuttings were coming along.   In the 1940s, you could purchase the “Cali Chateau Yquem” from the “famed” Wente Brothers.  Jane Nickerson commented on the various Wente white wines, noting the Semillon wines were the closest category to French Sauternes.

Second generation, Hermann Wente passed away in 1961.  Third-generation Karl Wente subsequently modernized the winery in 1964 and 1965.  This efforted included a new, large insulated and air conditioned winery, stainless steel presses and stainless steel tanks with temperature controlled jackets.  There was room for one million gallons of wine in tank and 50,000 bottles.  Of course, the old oak oval barrels still had their place in the winery.

In the late 1970s, neighboring Joe Concannon advocated for Petite Sirah from the Livermore Valley.  The Petite Sirah name was often lent to the “more vulgar” cousin Duriff which grew throughout California.  Petite Sirah and Duriff were typically used as a blending wine but Joe Concannon started to bottle Petite Sirah as a single variety.  After many years of bottle aging it would provide a wine with a “dependable bottle bouquet”.  Concannon’s Petite Sirah became a benchmark for the variety.

The fourth generation of Wente brothers took control of the winery in 1977.  Wente followed Concannon for they chose to release the 1978 vintage of Petite Sirah on their centennial anniversary.  Wente had planted Duriff in 1916, which was used in their Burgundy, but it was pulled out for Petite Sirah in 1940.

This choice paid off for 1978 Wente Bros., Petite Sirah, Centennial Reserve, Livermore Valley showed well at our dinner.  After double-decanting, it slowly improved over the course of an hour.  It is a dark flavored wine, supple and dense, yet eminanting from it is an attractive, floral quality.  There are many years of life ahead.  While I do not know if it will ever become more complex, it speaks entirely of 1970s California which I like.  Sadly, the 1978 Wente Bros., Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley has not held up.  It is dark and rich with almost no supporting acidity.

1978 Wente Bros., Petite Sirah, Centennial Reserve, Livermore Valley
This wine was aged for 6 months in small oak barrels then a further 2 years in large oak and redwood cooperage.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Perfumed on the nose, with air dark fruit with floral notes lifting it up.  Supple in the mouth but dark and dense with ripe spices and a lovely, inky nature.  It is perfumed in flavor and expansive in the mouth.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

1978 Wente Bros., Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  Dark in color, dark in aroma and flavor.  Unfortunately, this wine is past prime, you can smell it on the nose and in the mouth it is flabby with almost no supporting acidity.  It might have been a very fruity, forward wine in youth.  Not Rated.

1998 Gigondas

October 13, 2008 4 comments

Good morning,

This past Saturday we gathered on our deck to taste 1998 Gigondas. It was a gorgeous day and as the temperature dropped we were able to stay warm from the patio heater. Present were Dave & Deniz, Lou & Adrienne, Adam, Todd, William, Joe, Jenn & myself.

Unopened Bottles

All of the Gigondas were decanted two hours prior and served blind. I bagged up all of the wines, removed the corks, then Lou numbered the bags. The wines were served in flights of two. As I had bought a magnum of the St. Cosme, Cuvee Valbelle, Jenn and I decided to serve it twice. If someone asked about the magnum we mentioned that the second bottle was in the wine fridge.

Tasting Some Wines

We warmed up with a lovely bottle of 2002 Schramsberg, Blanc de Blancs and 2002 Domaine des Baumard, Clos du Papillon, Savennieres. The Baumard developed beautiful chalky flavors with air.

Tasting More Wine

The Ranking
Here are the top wines of the night. The second and third flights were clearly the best of the night. The first bottle of the St. Cosme, Cuvee Valbelle was a unanimous favorite. The quality variation was huge from off bottles, to just mediocre, to showing very well.

1) 33 Points – 1998 Chateau de St. Cosme, Cuvee Valbelle, Gigondas (bottle #1)
2) 19 Points – 1998 Santa Duc, Cuvee Prestige des Hautes Garrigues, Gigondas
3) 18 Points – 1998 Chateau de St. Cosme, Gigondas
4) 10 Points – 1998 Tardieu-Laurent, Gigondas
5) 7 Points – 1998 Chateau du Trignon, Gigondas, Gigondas
6) 1 Point – 1998 Chateau de St. Cosme, Cuvee Valbelle, Gigondas (bottle #2)

I’ve done my best to summarize everyone’s notes below.

Flight #1 – Warming up
1998 Chateau du Trignon, Gigondas, Gigondas

A light nose of red/blue fruits, with a few people noting olive tones. There were red fruits in the mouth coupled with herbs/dry leaves. The fine, oak tannins came through on the end. This was generally preferred to the Brusset, Les Hauts but was an overall mediocre experience.
One person noted :-).

1998 Brusset, Les Hauts de Montmirail, Gigondas
Half of the group felt this was flawed. Others noted the musty, oaked nose and were able to move on. In the mouth there was cool, one-dimensional structured fruit. There was a coarse finish and hot aftertaste. Definitely a bottle not showing well.

Flight #2 – Excellent flight
1998 Chateau de St. Cosme, Cuvee Valbelle, Gigondas (bottle #1)

A medium nose of primarily red fruit with underlying brooding, dark fruit. With air there were notes of horse barn, tobacco, and grilled meats. In the mouth there were powerful, red fruits, raspberry with tar, herbs, and tobacco coming through. Strong acidity came through from the beginning that lead to a puckering finish. In general, everyone felt this was a great wine that is still at a young stage.

1998 Tardieu-Laurent, Gigondas
This had a light nose of dark fruits. In the mouth there were dark blue fruits that had good weight and inkiness. In general, people notes that while this was young and showed potential, it was drinking better than the Valbelle. Others notes that this was elegant and distinct.

Flight #3 – Wow, another excellent flight
1998 Chateau de St. Cosme, Gigondas

A nose of clearly red fruit with notes of somoke, briar, and burnt earth. In the mouth the wine had big, primary red fruit flavors, some spice, with some noting darker fruits as well. Earth, chocolate, and some sweet fruit came through on the finish that was amped up by coarse tannins.

1998 Santa Duc, Cuvee Prestige des Hautes Garrigues, Gigondas
A bit more “Rhone funk” on the nose then dark, rich, fruit with some smoke and chocolate. In the mouth there was good blue fruit, nice full mouthfull, and some ink. Many comments about the asssertive, fine oak tannins come through on the end. A wine with potential.

Flight #4 – Yuck
1998 Brusset, Le Grand Montmirail, Gigondas

Tons of brett, grass, smoke, and barnyard. More of the same in the mouth, the flavors quickly disappear. One person noted “Compared to eight, this is a winner.”

1998 Domaine de Font-Sane, Cuvee Futee, Gigondas
A very muted nose, I found some incense. One trick pony, off the rails on the palate, bleh, Metallic, alcoholic, “blech!!!”

Flight #5 – Some hope
1998 Chateau de St. Cosme, Cuvee Valbelle, Gigondas (bottle #2)

Horsey nose, lemon, parsley, poop notes. For some the nose of “barnyard in the worst way” was a show stopper. Jenn moved on and thought the wine was good, enough to vote it #3.

1998 Domaine du Grapillon D’Or, Gigondas
Notes of: Off, Gross, Ugh, some other way gross, BAD, and yucky :-(. I have some more of this so I’ll give a bottle another go.

I can’t taste any more barnyard wine

Flight #6
1998 Domaine les Goubert, Cuvee Florence, Gigondas

Very pruney, soy, acidic, came across as cooked. Clearly flawed.

2005 Ridge, Grenache/Syrah
While served blind, this didn’t fool anyone with its young fruit and heavy toasty oak flavors.

All of the Gigondas Bottles

After the Gigondas we moved onto free-wheeling drinking mode. I don’t think anyone took notes but perhaps others will chime in with their comments.

Three More Reds

1998 Guigal, Chateauneuf du Pape
I believe Adam had drunk a bottle of this the night before and this was showing much better and more youthful. It was modern in style and while tasty, didn’t have that good CdP uniqueness.

1982 Chateau Rouget, Pomerol
Cedary and pleasant but should have been drunk a few years earlier.

Some Bubbles

NV Roederer Estate, Brut, Anderson Valley

1998 Henriot, Brut Millesime, Champagne

The Whites

2004 Darting, Ungsteiner Honigsackel, Scheurebe Auslese, Pfalz

2003 Jon. Jos. Christoffel Erben, Erdener Treppchen, Riesling Auslese **, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Outstanding, powerful petrol nose and flavor.

1995 Max Ferd. Richter, Mulheimer Sonnenlay Riesling Spatlese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Good but paled to the Erben. It didn’t have the aromatics or acidity to match it.

1989 Max Ferd. Richter, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

2006 Pierre Gaillard, Condrieu

1996 Kalin Cellars, Semillon, Livermore Valley

Wines from Steven Kent, Neyers, Blackburn, and Tudal, 15 May 2008

Here are four Californian wines that Jenn and I drunk during May 2008. We rather enjoyed the Steven Kent Chardonnay and found the 20 months of barrel aging did not make this an oak bomb. The Neyers Mourvedre made us happy, the Tudal Cab was quick to be drunk, and the Blackburn had us on the fence.

2005 Steven Kent, Chardonnay, Merrillie, Livermore Valley – $24
This is 100% Wente-clone chardonnay that was aged for 20 months in 70% new American & French oak barrels and 30% used. It is a very light, golden straw color. On the nose there were aromas of apples, some toasty oak, and creaminess. In the mouth there were round, soft apple/citrus type of fruit. There is focused acidity that gives way to a slightly flinty, toasty finish. The wine got better with warmth and was quite enjoyable on the second day. Jenn and I enjoyed this wine and would recommend it.

2006 Neyers, Mourvedre, Pato Ranch, Contra Costa Valley – $28
Tom Hill recently reviewed this but I only just bought a bottle this week based on a recommendation. This is 100% Mourvedre from 100+ year old vines. The light nose revealed blue fruits. In the mouth there were blue fruits, minerals, and some earth in this dense wine. It was balanced by the acidity and finely proportioned tannins that give way to a long dark aftertaste. The wine is slow to open so decant for a few hours, otherwise it could benefit by some age.

2004 Blackburn Winery, Proulx, Lux, Paso Robles, $22
This is a 52% Grenache, 22% Mourvedre, 16% Syrah. 6% Zinfandel, and 4% Petite-Sirah blend. A medium ruby with slight reddish-brown tones. A light nose of red fruit that is ripe and tart. In the mouth there is dusty fruit at first that turns to purer red and blue fruits with supporting acidity. There are light tannins in the finish. This wine had a slight funk to it that blew off.

2004 Tudal Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Clift Vineyard, Oak Knolls District, Napa Valley – $25
This is a fairly low production wine of less than 200 cases. A light nose of chocolate and blue fruits. In the mouth there is brighter red/blue fruits that comes across as perfumed. This medium-bodied wine has low-level, fine tannins with prominent acidity. The somewhat short finish yields to a pleasing, simple aftertaste. A tasty, more elegant style for drinking now.