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A Diamond Creek vertical back to 1978 along with some other good bottles from the 1970s

May 13, 2016 1 comment

This past Friday we gathered at my house to taste a vertical of seven Diamond Creek wines from 1994 back to 1978.  It is only natural to taste more wine than what we gathered for.  So with mixed results we tasted some aged bubbly while we waited for everyone to arrive.  We then sat down at the dining room table to work through four blind mature wines of the California and Bordeaux nature.  Following the Diamond Creek vertical and dinner, we wrapped the evening up with some interesting dessert wines.

The Sparkling Flight

I rarely notice old bottles of Californian sparkling wine for sale.  While there could be a reason for this, Lou and I were sure to snatch up a bottle each from the Earthquake Cellar.  Only the 1996 Iron Horse, Wedding Cuvee, Sparkling Wine, Sonoma County turned out to be mature and completely drinkable.  The fruit is mature with added complexity from baking spices.  The bubbles are starting to dissipate so I would drink this up.  Unfortunately, no amount of sparkle could resurrect the past-prime flavors of the 1991 Beaulieu Vineyards, “100th Anniversary” Brut Reserve, Sparkling Wine.  To compensate I opened my second bottle of NV Besserat de Bellefon, Grande Tradition, Champagne (1970s release) hoping that this one would have bubbles.  It didn’t.  Despite the better looking bottle, the cork was saturated with fuzzy gray mold which did not bode well for what was inside.

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1996 Iron Horse, Wedding Cuvee, Sparkling Wine, Sonoma County
The mature and reasonably attractive nose revealed orchard fruit, some brioche, and baking spice.  In the mouth, the creamy and nutty start mixed with moderate bubbles that dissipated by the finish.  Fully mature. ** Now.

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1991 Beaulieu Vineyards, “100th Anniversary” Brut Reserve, Sparkling Wine, Carneros
This smells old with plenty of apple orchard flavors.  In the mouth are ample amounts of aggressive, fine bubbles that yield a youthful framework for the wine.  Unfortunately, the flavors are old and short.  Not Rated.

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NV Besserat de Bellefon, Grande Tradition, Champagne Brut (1970s release)
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Completely flat with aromas and flavors of a white wine way past its prime.  Not Rated.

The Blind Flight

We kicked off the red wines by tasting a blind flight at the dining room table.  I knew what the first wines were, but having only tasted one upon decanting, it was fun none the less.  The 1982 Niebaum-Coppola, Rubicon, Napa Valley is destined for a long life.  The nose is young, the fruit dark and in balance with the structure and acidity.  The wine is linear and firm, never giving up its flavor.  I believe there was a general consensus this was old California.  It will last but I do not see it improving.  The 1975 Chateau Palmer, Margaux tasted on the light and thin side when first decanted.  An hour of air only benefited the bottle for it offered up attractive aromas and flavors of sweet, mature fruit.  I like Palmer and this bottle of 1975 delivered all I could hope for from this vintage.  Most people thought this was old Bordeaux.  The 1975 Heitz Wine Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Martha’s Vineyard, Napa Valley was a flawed bottle.  I could work my way around the nose but in the mouth the brief, hopeful start soon turned coarse.  Impossible to say what this was blind.  Finally, the 1975 Chateau La Lagune, Haut Medoc threw me and others for a loop.  We soon knew the last two wines were from the same vintage but this did not help in any way.  The coffee and chocolate aromas had me leaning towards California but the flavors towards Bordeaux.  The wine turned out to be quite youthful with plenty of strength.  A good wine but not as seductive as the Palmer.

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1982 Niebaum-Coppola, Rubicon, Napa Valley
This smells young with cherry fruit.  The flavors are a bit linear becoming darker and blacker as the wine firms up towards the middle.  It is salty and savory with a structure of fine tannins woven throughout.  It does show some mature flavors in the middle before finishing up with salivating acidity.  ** Now but will last.

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1975 Chateau Palmer, Margaux
Shipped by Caves Robert Michelle. Imported by Parliament Import. Alcohol 11% – 14%.  There is a good, mature nose of sweet old fruit with a hint of musk.  The sweet fruit fills the mouth in a gentle way.  There is a touch of fat with structure still present through the end.  It is a lighter wine, with attractive flavors, some bacon, and a sappy finish.  Drinking great right now.  *** Now.

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1975 Heitz Wine Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Martha’s Vineyard, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  Strong aromas of VA on the nose.  In the mouth is a brief bit of fresh, young flavors before the coarseness came out.  Shame.  Not Rated.

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1975 Chateau La Lagune, Haut Medoc
The aromas of coffee and chocolate had me on the fence about being from Bordeaux.  In the mouth this finely textured wine had a cedar hint before savory, weighty flavors came out.  There is good acidity.  The wine became even more youthful with air, showing dark fruit, and lurking power.  The finish was savory and a bit electric.  Needs more time?  *** Now – 2021.

The Diamond Creek Flights

Anyone with interest in Diamond Creek Vineyards should read the transcript of Carole Hicke’s interview of Albert Brounstein in 1998.  In fact, the entire Wine Spectator California Wine Oral History Series is great fun.  Diamond Creek Vineyards became California’s first all Cabernet Sauvignon winery when the 79 acre property was purchased in 1967.  Al Brounstein wanted to make the best possible wine from Cabernet Sauvignon instead of the more uneven Zinfandel.  He interacted a lot with Ridge Vineyards in those early days before Paul Draper.

The Diamond Creek vineyards were promptly planted in 1968.  Al Brounstein wanted to plant vines from France, but UC Davis said they would quarantine them for six years before they could be released.  Al Brounstein did not want to wait and he wanted the best cuttings possible so he approached the great First Growths of Bordeaux.  The cuttings went from France to Mexico City then up to Tijuana then over to Rosarita Beach.  Here Al Brounstein would fly them back up to his vineyard in his private plane.

The Bordeaux estates from which the cuttings came from are not revealed in the interview.  There is a cryptic clue however, “even though I’m going to tell you three names out of the five, of which two may or may not be included…I’m not revealing any names”.  He goes on to mention Chateau Margaux, Chateau Haut Brion, and Chateau Latour.

The Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varieties were planted as a field blend for this practice is what Al Brounstein observed during his vineyard visits in Europe.  The vineyards were first planted with 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot.   In the early 1970s he began to replace dead or damaged vines with Cabernet Franc, eventually coming to 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc distribution.  Wine was first produced with the 1971 vintage.  All of the 1971 vintage, except for the one case which was drunk, was used to top off the casks of the first commercial vintage of 1972.

There were three original vineyards: Gravelly Meadow, Red Rock Terrace, and Volcanic Hill.  The Gravelly Meadow lies on a prehistoric river bed which drains rapidly forcing the vines to search for water.  It is the second coolest microclimate and was equated to Chateau Haut Brion.  The 7 acre Red Rock Terrace faces north with red tinted soil from high iron content.  It has a warm microclimate and was equated to Chateau Haut Brion.  The 8 acre Volcanic Hill faces south where it lies on volcanic soils, producing what is considered the biggest wine of the three.  It was equated to Chateau Latour.

Wines from these three vineyards are what we tasted.  They have always been produced with an eye towards slow development which came out in the young vintages.  The modern 1994 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Volcanic Hill, Napa Valley is young and densely packed.  Though it will develop for quite some time, it is surprisingly accessible with plenty of fruit.  In contrast, the 1987 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gravelly Meadow, Napa Valley which also show great future potential, is a more savory wine with less fruit weight and quite attractive in its youth.

The 1980 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Rock Terrace, Napa Valley gave the first taste of an old-school Californian wine.  It is attractively sweaty with more restraint and structure.  It will drink well for sometime and might even improve.  It certainly set the stage for the final pair from 1978.  The 1978 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Rock Terrace, Napa Valley is livelier with brighter, red fruit, lively acidity, and very fine tannins.  In contrast the 1978 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Volcanic Hill, Napa Valley is deeper and darker in flavor, slowly unfurling its power which takes grip on your mouth.  It was my favorite red wine of the night.  I really enjoy this type of wine and all I wanted to do is drink it.

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1994 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Volcanic Hill, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  The red fruit slowly builds intensity, taking on licorice as well.  The wine is quite fruity, packing in a lot of unique flavor, but is also rather young with fine tannins.  With this savory flavor, the wine maintains a dense core of fruit that is clean and thick.  **** Now – 2031.

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1992 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Rock Terrace, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  Corked! Not Rated.

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1987 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gravelly Meadow, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  The sweaty nose is dark and aromatic.  In the mouth are savory, mouthfilling flavors framed by structure and watering acidity.  This wine is on the upslope of development.  With air the red and black fruit is lighter in weight making the fine structure noticeable.  The flavorful finish is followed by an aftertaste of dark roast and soil.  ***(*) Now – 2031

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1980 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gravelly Meadow, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%. Off bottle! Not Rated.

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1980 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Rock Terrace, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose is sweaty and dark, not showing the intensity of the 1978s.  The mature flavors exist in a touch more structure with fine tannins and a sweaty finish.  It shows a good balance between fruit, structure, and acidity. With air there are mature flavors of cherry mixed with dry spices, salivating to juicy acidity and very fine tannins.  ***(*) Now – 2026.

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1978 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Rock Terrace, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose is more subtle but deeper with a crayon hint.  The red fruit is balanced by acidity making this more accessible.  The fruit flavors are bright but backed by depth and delivered in a lively, mature manner.  There is good balance with the acidity seamlessly bound in, matching the structure.  It wraps up with fine flavors of clean red fruit and a wood box hint.  **** Now but will last.

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1978 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Volcanic Hill, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose is a touch earthy.  In the mouth the darker fruit is rich with grip, steadily expanding in the mouth.  The fresh and tart structure is left on the gum as some sweet, not quite grainy fruit, persists through the aftertaste.  **** Now but will last.

The Dessert Flight

There were four dessert wines opened. The first two in full-bottles were served blind and the last two, in halves, were from Canada.  There is little in print with regards to 1976 Hermann Freiherr von Schorlemer, Bernkasteler Badstube, Riesling Beerenauslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer.  Despite the greatness of Bernkastel wines, the von Schorlemer family is not mentioned in Andre Simon’s and S. F. Halgarten’s The Great Wines of Germany (1963), Frank Schoomaker’s Encyclopedia of Wine (1965), nor Ian Jamieson’s German Wines (1991).  There are a handful of advertisements for von Schorlemer wines in the late 1960s, usually featuring other offerings of Alexis Lichine.  Fortunately, Phil reached out to Johannes Selbach who promptly responded.  The von Schorlemer is a noble family that owned some of the best vineyard of the Mittelmosel which were highly regarded before World War 1.  They were still a top estate in the 1960s.  It sounds like interests changed so a large holdings of vineyards were sold off in 1969 which marked the slow decline of the estate.  Our bottle was in perfect condition with a supremely beautiful color.  Michael Broadbent rates the vintage four out of five stars noting it was a “supremely rich vintage”. With aromas of apricots and baking spices the sweet peach flavors were sported along by watering acidity.  If you happen to have a bottle I would consider drinking it.  The finish was a touch short but the wine resurrected itself with a very long aftertaste.  I freely admit I had no clue what the 1995 Domaine des Baumard, Quarts de Chaume was.  It was not as mature in color as the von Schorlemer and much younger in the mouth.  It needs time in bottle but you simply must love the fat and electric acidity that carries the residual sugar down your throat.

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1976 Herman Freiherr von Schorlemer, Bernkasteler Badstube, Riesling Beerenauslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Imported by Woodley Wine & Liquor.  Alcohol 10%.  This golden colored wine smells of apricots, cream, and baking spices. There are flavors of textured sweet peach with watering acidity.  The intensity of the flavors fall off in the finish only to return in the incredibly long aftertaste.  **** Now.

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1995 Domaine des Baumard, Quarts de Chaume
Shipped by Bertrand Bordeaux. Imported by Prestige Wine Co.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Though lighter than the 1976 Riesling, the color suggests maturity.  In the mouth is a very sweet start with fat, lots of sugar, and almost electric acidity.  ****  Now – 2046.

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“Legendary Potions”: An old wine dinner back to 1929

December 16, 2015 5 comments

Mature vintages are a normal part of any discussion with Darryl and Nancy.   However, when it came to selecting our wines for a recent dinner, they led off deep with a double salvo of vintages from 1929 and 1931.  This soon led everyone else to offer up bottles from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

It was easy to be seduced by the final wine list.  The vintages from 1929, 1931, 1937, and 1942 were at one time not only difficult but impossible to secure in America.  The oldest wines were initially not imported due to Prohibition.  The others would have been held up for a few years due to transportation difficulties caused by World War 2.  In fact, Jane Nickerson wrote in The New York Times that the first tasting of imported wines since the war only took place in New York City during 1946.  For these reasons, in part, all of the oldest bottles bore modern import strips.

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It turned out that ullage as an indicator of condition reined king.  With one loose cork, two bottles low in the shoulder, and even one below shoulder wine, these bottles were doomed from the start.  Whether this was due to poor storage in Europe or America is not known.

However, you cannot find fault in trying a low fill 1929 Chateau Duhart-Milon, Pauillac or even a 1949 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Graves  for they are rather difficult to acquire.   The 1929 Duhart-Milon is largely regarded as an excellent wine.  This particular vintage represents the last great vintage of the estate before it succumbed to the economic depression of the 1930s and ravages of the war.  With no capital to spare, the old vines slowly died off with the overall acreage declining as weeds took over.  It was not until 1962 that the estate was turned around after the acquisition by Domaines Barons de Rothchild.

Such history was in the back of my mind when, with bottles in hand, eight of us gathered last week at The Grill Room in the Capella Hotel located in Georgetown.  Present were Darryl, Nancy, Tim, Scott, Lily, Josh, Morgan, and myself.  For our dinner Chef Frank Ruta created a six course menu around our wine flights.  The wines themselves were overseen by Master Sommelier Keith Goldston.  There was much discussion with about the service of the wines to let them show their best.  While there was no help for some bottles, the dead bottles of Bordeaux were tempered by other tenacious old red wines and an incredible opening flight of Champagne.

Tempura
cod and colossal squid from Denmark, sweet onions, dauphines
grilled soy braised daikon

I have drunk Salon only once before but given the situation I did not note the vintage nor how the wine tasted.  Our bottle of 2002 Salon, Cuvée ‘S’, Les Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Champagne  from the current release was deep in the aromatic nose, with cream and fat in the mouth, and a racy finish.  It was young in the mouth but when I returned to it I could not help but see what all was in store.  It was a very good but perhaps due to youth not as compelling as what was up next.  The first mature wines were perfectly fresh.  The 1973 Moët & Chandon, Cuvée Dom Pérignon, Champagne was a tremendous bottle, holding nothing back for the first hour or two.  I was beguiled by the fat and oil textured flavors.  As the 1973 began to fade the 1976 Moet & Chandon, Cuvée Dom Pérignon, Champagne finally opened up.  This was always more austere in nature with yeast notes, dry flavors, and vibrant acidity.  It finally showed good complexity and even suggested the need for several more years in the cellar.

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2002 Salon, Cuvée ‘S’, Les Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Champagne
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose was very aromatic with remarkable depth, a hint of yeast, and underlying earthiness.  This lovely wine was rich in the mouth with very fine and strong bubbles that quickly dispersed to leave a dry texture and chalk infused finish.  With air it took on cream and fat, which never became heavy because it was racy.  Young!  **** 2020-2050.

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1973 Moët & Chandon, Cuvée Dom Pérignon, Champagne
Imported by Schieffelin & Co.  Alcohol 12.7%.  The darkest of the pair, this bottle revealed pure aromas of coffee and latte with bits of nut added in.  In the mouth the lively, firm bubbles made way to a drier, richer, and creamy wine.  It lost bubbles with time but it developed remarkable amount of fat and oil before the racy finish.  This tremendous wine delivered all it could before fading after an hour or two.  ****(*) Now – 2025.

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1976 Moet & Chandon, Cuvée Dom Pérignon, Champagne
Imported by Schieffelin & Co.  Alcohol 12.1%.  Though it bore familiar aromas, there were more yeast notes.  The flavors were youthful with pretty floral components and better defined acidity.  Nice flavors developed after a few hours of air making this a vibrant, mature wine. **** 2020-2035.

Shoat Belly
chestnut coulis, apple and turnip salad

Michael Broadbent noted the 1973 German vintage as the largest vintage on record with most wines set for early consumption.  I might have hedged once the nose opened up on the 1973 Egon Müller, Scharzhofberg Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer but the flavors were getting tired in the mouth.  While fine enough to drink I did not crave more.

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1973 Egon Müller, Scharzhofberg Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Shipped by Weinexport Hattenheim BMGH.  Imported by Kobrand Coporation.   The nose was first evocative of geraniums before developing complex aromas of herbs and old lady perfume.  In the mouth were apple-like flavors with some old and dusty notes.  ** Now.

Hand Cut Tagliatelle
with kabocha squash, truffle and shaved reggiano

The 1929 Duhart-Milon, Pauillac turned out to be a shell of its former self.  Perhaps speaking to its original potency, the nose was incredibly aromatic but of herbs and greenhouse plants.  This was followed by tart and strange flavors in the mouth.  No doubt old but refusing to let go was the 1931 Fontanafredda, Barolo.  This is a remarkable bottle because very little appears to have been written in English about this vintage let alone the wine.  The Wasserman’s described the vintage as “widely considered to be the greatest of the century” in their book Italy’s Noble Red Wines (1991).  Michael Broadbent wrote that “pre-war vintages are scarce” for Italian wine which remains true to this day for there are but a handful of tasting notes.  The  Wasserman’s made note of the 1931 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo, there is also Michael Broadbent’s note on the 1931 Giacomo Borgogne, Barolo Riserva Speciale, and finally Jamie Wolff (Chambers Street Wines) mentions a  good bottle of 1931 Marchesi di Barolo.

Fontanafredda has a royal history dating back to the mid-19th century.  Trying times began with World War I and reached a low mark with the economic depression of 1929.  After changing ownerships a few times, Fontanafredda went into bankruptcy in 1930 then was acquired by a bank in 1932.  Kerin O’Keefe writes in Barolo and Barbaresco (2014) how this bank turned the estate around.  You can imagine my delight when this bottle, produced during economic turmoil and bottled under new ownership, turned out to be fabulous.

Darryl had double-decanted the 1931 Fontanfredda, Barolo almost 24 hours prior to our tasting.  He reported that the wine had gained weight since he first pulled the cork.  It was in the mouth that this wine shined.  It had richness and weight but it was the tension which kept me returning to my glass all night long.

Also drinking very well, was the 1937 Camille Giroud, Hospices de Beaune, Cuvee Blondeau, Volnay.  The excellent 1937 vintage also happens to be the same year of the first Burgundy pavilion during the Paris Exposition.  Our bottle was fairly pigmented when first poured but the color shifted to include more browns which matched the old wine flavors that also came out.  The wine was sexy but unlike the rich body of the Barolo, our Volnay had structured black fruit and minerals.  If it was more firm the aftertaste was coating and long.

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1929 Chateau Duhart-Milon, Pauillac
Shipped by J. Calvet & Co.  Imported by Ginday Imports.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Below shoulder fill.  The dark brown color let to aromatic herbal and greenhouse aromas that also took on notes of dill.  The flavors were similar in profile with a tart start, strange flavors, and an old wine finish.  Sadly not worth drinking.  Not Rated.

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1931 Fontanafredda, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%.  The nose did not prepare one for the surprising richness of the flavors.  It showed a racy personality with inkiness and most importantly, tension.  This was an elegant, compelling wine.  **** Now – 2035.

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1937 Camille Giroud, Hospices de Beaune, Cuvee Blondeau, Volnay
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by Old Vine Imports.  Alcohol 13%.  There was still red color in the glass but with air it took on browner and garnet tones.  This was a sexy, old wine which showed proper mature flavors with air.  It still sported some tannics with a touch of dusty, black fruit and minerals.  I particularly liked how the old fruit flavors clung to the mouth in the rather long aftertaste.  **** Now – 2025.

Bobo Farms Air Chilled Duck Breast
glazed beets, juniper sauce

This next flight featured two well regarded bottles from excellent vintages in Rioja.  In The Finest Wines of Rioja and Northwest Spain (2011) the vintage comments point out that 1942 “Vina Albina from Bodegas Riojanas” is in “top form today.”  The Vina Tondonia “in gran reserva format, represent the peak of the vintage.” The 1942 Bodegas Riojanas, Vina Albina, Rioja was in top-form and really deserved even more air than it received.  This textured wine had citric red fruit flavors and a youthful personality that reminded me of a demi-john aged wine.  Sadly, our bottle of 1947 R. Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia, Rioja was on the tired side.  With the fruit largely gone it was tart and acidic with less flavor.  Both bottles had metal capsules.  The Riojanas bore a more modern Consejo Regulador  Garantia de Origen label on the back with the de Heredia sporting the older Diploma de Garantia.  I feel these labels spoke to the relative release dates of the wines.

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1942 Bodegas Riojana, Vina Albina, Rioja
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Bottom neck fill. Quite clear and vibrant in the glass with a meaty nose of sweet berries.  In the mouth the citric red fruit flavors and tannins made it taste like a demi-john aged wine.  The flavors were dry and mouthfilling with watering acidity, a hint of old wood, and a cool, meaty note.  It left good texture on the tongue.  **** Now – 2035.

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1947 R. Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia, Rioja
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Top-shoulder fill.  The wine smelled old with notes of soy.  In the mouth the flavors were very tart and citric, leaving a first impression that the wine was older.  The fruit had largely faded leaving prominent acidity and some old wine flavors.  ** Now.

Dry Aged Shenandoah Rib Roast
locally foraged winter oyster mushrooms, glazed celeriac, red wine jus

This final flight of red wines turned out solid at best.  With the 1949 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves clearly evocative of bananas and the 1955 Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estephe even worse, the 1959 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe  once again exhibited reliability.  This bottle had better fill and a different shipper than the bottle I tasted this summer.  It proved different too with a robust, tannic, and textured personality.  It is what I drank with my rib roast.  The mallet-shaped bottle of 1964 M. Chapoutier, Cote-Rotie was aromatically described by one guest as “fog of ass”.  It was odd and certainly stinky so much so that I did not revisit the wine until after I finished my course.  Surprisingly, the nose cleaned up and developed a core of robust fruit.  Though a bit clunky, it was a decent glass.

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1949 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves
Though the bottle smelled of sweet fruit, in the glass the wine was strangely evocative of banana foster.  This sweetness quickly faded to reveal old vintage perfume.  In the mouth were highly astringent flavors of tart red fruit and perfume.  It was a bit salty too.  Not rated.

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1955 Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estephe
Shipped by Tarbes & Co.  Imported by Vintage Wines Inc.  The smelly nose made way to tired, old flavors of menthol.  Worse than the 1949.  Not Rated.

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1959 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
Imported by Direct Import Wine Company.  Alcohol 11% – 14%.  The wine looked good with a garnet color of color infused with some redness.  This wine presented mature flavors in a youthful, robust, and tannic nature.  While not sporting a ton of fruit, this wine craved air, filling the mouth with textured flavors of maturity.  A good drink.  *** Now – 2025.

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1964 M. Chapoutier, Cote-Rotie
Frederick Wildman and Sons.  Imported by Schallery Wine Company.  Bottom shoulder fill.  This was a very dark cola color.  I initially thought it too old with its odd nose one person described as “fog of ass”.  Upon revisiting it had cleaned up tor reveal a core of red and black fruit with surprising robustness.  A solid wine which just needed to shake its stink off!  ** Now – 2020.

Tarte Tatin aux Coings
Honey buckwheat ice cream, vanilla quince sauce

The final wine of our evening was a fitting last glass.  The mature flavors fit in with all of the other wines but the sweet, tense flavors acted as a refresher.  As such I was satisfied and felt no need to taste anything else.

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1959 Moulin Touchais, Anjou Blanc
Imported by Rolar Imports.  Alcohol 12%.  With a color of vibrant, dark gold and a nose of membrillo this wine was attractive to all of the senses.  The rich flavors hinted at sweetness but this old wine had strong focus and good life from the acidity.  The acidity drove the wine through the end where it tasted like a mature white wine.  Good tension.  ****Now – 2045.

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Allemand, Dauvissat, Jamet, and more to welcome Jeffrey Snow

Jeffrey Snow previously worked for Bacchus Importers then moved to France to enroll in wine studies.  He was in town this past weekend for a brief visit so a group of his wine buddies got together.  As Jeffrey still lives overseas I offered to host the gathering.  Despite the heavy cloudiness the skies held back any rain so we gathered outside on the back deck.  There was a slew of good wine, some certainly better than others, that kept us busy all night.

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A bottle of 2006 Vazart-Coquart, Champagne Blanc de Blancs Special Club Brut accidentally received some 2000 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie La Mouline through a decanting mistake.  Thus turned into a rose, the bottle was found improved and quickly drained.  The 2005 Thierry Massin, Champagne Brut drank solidly for days thanks to it being a double-magnum.  We had mixed success with the white wines.  Fortunately, the 2005 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent), Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses offered all one could hope with great potential.  This was my first time drinking Dauvissat and now I can see why it is a favorite of Roland.  In terms of the red wines, the 1999 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie was my favorite.  It was aromatic, unique in the mouth, and a generally lifting experience to drink.  What a treat!  Whereas the Jamet offered up bacon the 2000 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie La Mouline offered bloody meat.  This bottle drank at a good, mature spot.  The 2003 vintage provided our biggest wines.  The 2003 Thierry Allemand, Cornas offered way more fruit than I expected, but it was good in its  youth, reflecting both the vintage and its southernmost location in the Northern Rhone.  Moving south the 2003 Clos des Papes, Châteauneuf-du-Pape exuded power.  It took until the second night to show properly and with that time, great complexity came out in the middle.  I would cellar this wine another five years.  There were many other enjoyable wines so take a look at my notes below.  I do wish to comment on the 1995 Domaine du Pégaü, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Maxim.  Darryl managed to score this unicorn of a wine.  This one-off cuvee was created to celebrate the birth of Laurence’s first child.  Just over 600 bottles were produced and apparently, given only to friends.  So good was this wine that it and 1997 cuvee Justine eventually became the precursors of De Capo.  Unfortunately, our bottle was off.

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2006 Vazart-Coquart, Champagne Blanc de Blancs Special Club Brut
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by C’Est Vin.  Alcohol 12%.  Through a decanting accident, this contained a proportion of 2000 Guigal, Hermitage La Mouline.  So perhaps better as a rose with yeasty, ripeness!  Not Rated but good!

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2005 Thierry Massin, Champagne Brut (double magnum)
A Becky Wasserman selection imported by C’Est Vin.  Alcohol 12%.  There were fine, structured bubbles that integrated well with the grippy texture on the tongue tip.  There were lemon flavors and baking spices in the finish.  ***/**** Now-2025.

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2008 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles
Imported by Wilson Daniels.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There were maturing, lean flavors of tart lemon before a young impression came out.  There were tangy lemons in the short finish.  Something not quite right about this bottle.

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2005 Domaine des Malandes Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos
Imported by JAO Wine Imports.  Alcohol 13%.  The stinky nose made way to linear flavors in the mouth with a grippy finish.  With air an earthiness pervaded, taking over the lemon citrus note, then finishing tired with apple orchard notes. Note Rated.

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2001 Domaine and Select, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  There were plenty of berries in this robust wine.  The dense core of fruit made way to cherry and even took on glycerin.  A lovely wine.  **** Now-2020.

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2007 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Maréchale (en magnum)
A Becky Wasserman selection imported by Veritas.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose was rather expressive.  In the mouth were ethereal flavors before the tighter finish.  With air it developed some midpalate ripeness with delicate spices and a good length for the soft, lipsticky finish.  *** Now.

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2004 Château du Cèdre, Cahors Le Cèdre
Imported by Elite Wines.  Alcohol 14%.  The fresh nose developed deep and dark aromas.  The wine was dense in the mouth with good intention from the structure and acidity.  The flavors had a cool aspect and when combined with the greenhouse notes, I imagine this will have a nice future.  ***(*) Now-2025.

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2005 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent), Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses
Imported by Wine Brokers International.  Alcohol 13%.  There were rounded notes of white and yellow fruit in this beautiful wine.  It was almost spritely with a chalky middle, lovely integrated acidity, a good grip, and even more minerals in the finish.  Top notch!  ****(*) Now-2025.

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2004 Terredora di Paolo, Taurasi Pago Dei Fusi
Imported by Vias Imports.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was very fresh with greenhouse aromas, small berries, and eventually a fine, wood aroma.  In the mouth the linear flavors took on licorice.  With air the gentle fruit existed within a resolved structure that made a return in the finish by drying the gums.

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1999 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie
Imported by Robert Kacher.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Very aromatic with bacon and stems.  In the mouth were good, controlled powerful flavors of violet fruit.  The wine became salty with air and maintained a sense of purity to the acidity driven red fruit.  Lovely.  ****(*) Now-2025.

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2000 E. Guigal, Côte-Rôtie La Mouline
Imported by Ex Cellar Wine Agency.  Alcohol 13%.  There was a lifted nose of bloody meat.  In the mouth were acidity driven flavors that were savory, dense, and glycerin infused.  There was still fruit and very fine, fresh structure.  **** Now – 2023.

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2003 Thierry Allemand, Cornas
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose was aromatic with fruit power, camphor, and a touch of raisins.  In the mouth was a load of tangy, red and pruned fruit with good acidity.  With air the wine remained quite fruity, building in flavor towards the middle where mineral and sweet spiced fruit came out.  ****(*) Now-2030.

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1999 Tardieu-Laurent, Côte-Rôtie Vieilles Vignes (en magnum)
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  Alcohol 13%.  This was aromatic with roast notes from the oak.  In the mouth were soft flavors and vintage perfume.  The structure was still there but there was low acidity and a generally limp impression.  Not Rated.

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2003 Clos des Papes, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Alcohol 14.5%.  This was beautiful, powerful, and earthy.  The wine really packed in the components, exuding power as well as grainy black then red and violet fruit.  On the second night it had expanded more to show very good midpalate complexity.  ****(*) Now-2030.

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1995 Domaine du Pégaü, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Maxim
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 14%.  Oddly morphing, seemed clearly corked at first then as if through sheer determination powerful fruit tried to come through. Not right so bummer.  Not Rated.

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1995 Château de Fonsalette, Reserve, Côtes du Rhône 
Imported by Le Vin.  Alcohol 14%.  This was aromatic with bloody and stinky notes.  Very firm and linear at first this developed a weighty start with midpalate ripeness, cedar, and sweet fruit.  In the end it came across as very mature.  Drink up.  ** Now.

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2003 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve, Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT
Imported by Vinifera Imports.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This remained young over two nights but showed future potential.  Clearly powerful, with tart acidity, good components from wood, and a perfumed finish.  Should improve but needs time.  ***(*) 2020-2030.

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2000 Chateau Quinault L’Enclos, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This smelled increasingly mature and earthy with air.  In the mouth it was cooler tasting with very fine grained structure.  This bottle seemed very mature with the structure outliving the fruit.  ** Now.

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2008 Bodegas y Viñedos Paixar, Mencía Bierzo
Imported by Grapes of Spain.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was very aromatic with floral and black fruits.  In the mouth was a perfumed, black fruited start with some cedar notes picking up in the middle.  The wine showed more acidity by the finish becoming lively.  The structure revealed wood that had fine texture which combined well with the mineral finish.  *** Now-2020.

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2001 Gelchw Albertz-Erben, Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Imported by Michael Skurnik.  Alcohol 8.5%.  There were hints of petrol on the nose.  In the mouth were weighty flavors that fleshed out, filling the mouth with ripe fruit and residual sugar.  The wine turned youthful with weighty, lemon flavors, and structure in the end.  It left a fresh impression.  **** Now.

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The killer 2014 Peter Lauer, Barrel X Riesling

It is true that I have not written about Peter Lauer’s Barrel X Riesling since the 2010 vintage.  Let me correct this absence by immediately recommending you pick up several bottles of the 2014 Peter Lauer, Barrel X Riesling, Saar.  This vintage sports the same attractive combination of minerality, citrus, and lively personality from its top-notch acidity.  I would not say this is a bone dry wine for those who are curious.  Incredibly, the wine has dropped $1 in price compared to the 2010 vintage!  I have personally seen two bottles to the end so again, I recommend you grab this outstanding value.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2014 Peter Lauer, Barrel X Riesling, Saar – $18
A vom Boden selection imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  This wine is 100% Riesling.  Alcohol 10.5%.  The wine was lively on the tongue with immediate flavors of chalky, white, citrus fruit.  The wine quickly picked up complex spices before the mouth filling finish that leaves a long, ripe and textured aftertaste.  A real treat.  *** Now-2017.

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Traditional wines from Cavallotto, Produttori del Barbaresco, and Selbach-Oster

February 19, 2015 Leave a comment

This past Friday I found myself as Phil’s guest at his monthly wine-tasting group.  We sipped on the perfectly agreeable NV Jean Richecourt, Cuvee Speciale, Brut, Champagne as we waited for everyone to show up.  I found the citrus flavors and gentle effervescence whet my appetite for some serious wine.  The tasting of the red wines was conducted blind.  The nose alone of the 2011 Cavallotto, Nebbiolo, Langhe was a great start.  It was surprisingly serious for such a wine which, in retrospect, is explained by it being made from declassified Barolo Bricco Boschis fruit.  It was a good thing then that the remaining wines were all Cavallotto, Barolo Bricco Boschis.  Bricco Boschis is a cru solely owned by the Cavallotto family since 1929.  These wines are traditionally made with long aging in Slavonian oak.  Though they could exhibit a strong structure they all remained approachable.

Unfortunately the 2010 vintage was corked and the 2006 was believed heat damage, it was “old”, but still tasty in a way.  The 2008 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis was expectedly young but the minerally, racy black fruit was very attractive.  There is good potential here but I would wait several more years before opening another bottle.  The  2007 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis sported a good amount of concentrated fruit in a manner that came across as young.  It developed an interesting animale flavor in the finish.  I would try this again with the 2008.  The 2001 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis was easily in a place of its own.  The fruit was beautiful as well as the balance with the acidity and structure.  This was a serious yet enjoyable wine that was the first to be finished.  The 2005 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco proved a nice change at the end with its dark, dense fruit.  I did not spend much time with my glass but I should have.

We were very fortunate to finish with another excellent wine from the 2001 vintage.  This time in the form of the German 2001 Selbach-Oster, Zeltinger Himmelreich, Riesling Auslese *, Mosel Saar Ruwer.  It was everything I love in a German Riesling with its incredible aromatic nose, weighty mature flavors, and vibrant acidity.  I would have drunk the whole bottle if it were not impolite.  Thanks again to Phil for inviting me and for preparing the satisfying dinner of lamb shanks.

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NV Jean Richecourt, Cuvee Speciale, Brut, Champagne
Imported by The Lexington Import Group.  Alcohol 12%.  There were light lemon flavors with spiced, yeast notes, and gentle effervescence.  This fresh wine made for an easy start.  ** Now.

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2011 Cavallotto, Nebbiolo, Langhe
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo that was aged for 15-24 months in oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The color was a light to medium garnet cherry.  The nose was aromatic with exotic potpourri.  In the mouth the black fruit developed a little heat but there was good flavor to the ripe fruit.  The acidity was there with drier flavors in the finish and persistent aftertaste with mineral notes.  Drinking well now but should continue to do so.  *** Now-2020.

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2010 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from calcareous and clay soils that was fermented in stainless steel then aged in 3.5 years in Slavonian oak casks.  Alcohol 14%.  Corked.

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2008 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from calcareous and clay soils that was fermented in stainless steel then aged in 3.5 years in Slavonian oak casks.  Alcohol 14.5%.  It had a light to medium color with more garnet.  The nose was less exotic than the introductory Nebbiolo but there were similar cherry scents.  The red fruit in the start had more focus before minerally, racy black fruit came out.  There were very fine, powerful tannins with integrated acidity.  This strong wine was bright with acidity, a leather hint, and citric tannins.  ***(*) Now-2030.

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2007 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from calcareous and clay soils that was fermented in stainless steel then aged in 3.5 years in Slavonian oak casks.  Alcohol 14%.  This was a garnet color that looked younger than the 2006.  The nose was subtle with dark aromas.  There was more fruit that was concentrated and tasted young.  There was an attractive animale note in the finish.  The wine tastes young and was matched by very fine, drying tannins.  It clearly needs more time.  ***(*) 2018-2028.

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2006 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis
Imported by deGrazia Imports.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from calcareous and clay soils that was fermented in stainless steel then aged in 3.5 years in Slavonian oak casks.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This was an older looking garnet wood.  The nose was piercing with older (not in the prime of maturity) aromas.  In the mouth there was still some fruit concentration, old wood notes, and other ethereal flavors.  It was interesting but rough and coarse with plenty of dry tannins.  (I agreed with Roland in that I thought it a mature Rioja.) *** Now.

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2001 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from calcareous and clay soils that was fermented in stainless steel then aged in 3.5 years in Slavonian oak casks.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This was a medium+ dark garnet color.  The nose was great and eventually piercing.  In the mouth were ripe, concentrated fruit flavors that had power but were balanced against the tannic structure.  The tannins had a citric edge with good weight that continued to complement the cool tasting red and blue fruit.  **** Now-2030.

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2005 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco
Imported by Vias Imports.  Alcohol 14%.  There were slight aromas of polished wood notes and I must agree, fennel.  This fruity wine was dense with strength to the very focused black flavors.  *** Now-2025.

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2001 Selbach-Oster, Zeltinger Himmelreich, Riesling Auslese *, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Imported by Michael Skurnik Wine.  Alcohol 8%.  This was a medium golden amber.  The nose was incredibly aromatic with a little honied note.  In the mouth were maturing flavors that were taking on a soft edge.  The wine had a weighty middle with ripeness and lovely, lively acidity.  The flavors were vibrant and clean.  **** Now-2030.

Chapoutier, Chante Cigale, Coudoulet de Beaucastel, and More!

Lou and I recently gathered for an evening with mature wine.  I do not believe that mature wine need be great, rather they should be complete with additional flavors from bottle age.  Most of the wines we tasted were recent purchases with several priced in the range of daily-drinkers.  The 2002 Hauth-Kerpen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Kabinett, Mosel Saar Ruwer is one such example.  It is a rather solid wine that mixed fresh lemon and yellow fruit with just a hint of petrol in the beginning.  It was as if some of the grapes experienced botrytis.  The 1993 Chapoutier, Barbe Rac, Chateauneuf du Pape had more going on than the 1993 Coudoulet de Beaucastel, Cotes du Rhone.  Both of these wines will certainly last for years to come but the fruit in the Coudolet is almost receded.  The Chapoutier still supports flavors of fruit with its structure.   Lou immediately picked up on some TCA in the 2001 Coudoulet de Beaucastel, Cotes du Rhone.  I suspect I am less sensitive to this but I did think the Band-Aid aroma worked well with the sweaty aspect of the wine.  I would not hesitate to drink this vintage but am confident, like the 1993, it will chug along for many years to come.  For most of the evening the 1998 Domaine Chante Cigale, Chateauneuf du Pape was a small yet complete wine.  When I returned home I wanted to drink a glass of wine so I poured out the rest.  To my surprise the wine had blossomed, becoming a satisfying end to my evening.  This was not the last wine I tasted with Lou for that honor goes to the 2005 Chateau Pajzos, 5 Puttonyos, Tokaji Aszu. This bottle was a kind gift from a friend.  With clean flavors of peach and dried apricot I believe this wine will benefit from cellar age.  The acidity and residual sugar in are in balance so I would wait for the development of complexity.

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2002 Hauth-Kerpen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Kabinett, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Imported by Valley View Wine Sales.  This wine is 100% Riesling.  Alcohol 8.5%.  The color had a youthful light straw with a yellow hint.  The nose developed fast with some funk morphing into fruit with some maturity.  There was a soft, rounded approach of lemon and yellow fruit flavors, a tangy bit, and citrus grip.  There was acidity in the beginning then a softer finish where earthy flavors came out.  The aftertaste was a bit short and left impressions of citric pithe.  *** Now.

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1993 Maison M. Chapoutier, Barbe Rac, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Paterno Imports.  This wine is 100% Grenache sourced from vines 70 years of age at the time.  The fruit was fermented in concrete tanks then aged around 16 months in vats.  Alcohol 13.8%.  The nose was fresh with reasonable complexity.  In the mouth the red fruit made way to more complexity in the midpalate before a finish of dry red and black fruit mixed with wood box.  There were very fine, dry tannins that coated the gums.  It left a solid impression but after several hours of air it had more flavor and grip, along with a little density.  Nice.  This should last but I would drink it sooner.  *** Now-2016.

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1993 Coudoulet de Beaucastel, Cotes du Rhone
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  This wine is a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah which was fermented in tile-lined vats then aged in large oak barrels. Alcohol 12.5%.  There were dark red hints and scorched earth on the nose.  The flavors were brighter in the mouth.  The the wine itself had strength the flavors were more delicate.  There were mature, wood box flavors around a firm core of red fruit.  It was enlivened by salivating acidity.  With air it took on a tart lemon aspect.  Will last.  ** Now.

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2001 Coudoulet de Beaucastel, Cotes du Rhone
Imported by Vineyard Brands.    This wine is a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah which was fermented in tile-lined vats then aged in large oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was sweaty with a hint of band-aid.  In the mouth there were nice, firm red fruit flavors that were dry and had weight.  There was a tart red finish with lip-smacking orange citrus.  With air it became a touch rough in the back of the throat.  Though leaner in flavor it took on added complexity from minerals and black fruit.  A tart vein continued to run through it.  ***  Now-2016.

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1998 Domaine Chante Cigale, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vieux Vins Inc.  This wine is typically a blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, and 5% Cinsault.  Alcohol 14%.  The flavors were dense with some ripeness and gritty tannins.  There was a hint of heat.  The initial impression was of a small yet complete wine with juicy acidity that was fine for what it was.  It became rougher with air but then many hours later it blossomed.  **(*) Now-2017.

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2005 Chateau Pajzos, 5 Puttonyos, Tokaji Aszu
Imported by Country Vintner.  This wine is a blend of 38% Furmint, 27% Muscat, 19% Zeta, and 16% Harslevelu which was aged for three and a half years in 30% new Hungarian oak casks.  TA 10 /l.  RS 170 g/l. Alcohol 16.5%.  This had aromas of black tea and apricots.  In the mouth were peach flavors, dried apricot, salivating acidity, and a spicy hint in the finish.  There was a feeling of glycerin.  This is still primary and will benefit from bottle age.  **(*) Now-2024.

Tasting Old Wines with Darryl and Nancy at Blue Grass Tavern

February 11, 2014 2 comments
Baltimore, Maryland, skyline and waterfront. Detroit Publishing Co. 1910-1915. Image from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Baltimore, Maryland, skyline and waterfront. Detroit Publishing Co. 1910-1915. Image from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

On a snowy evening Phil and I drove up to Baltimore to taste several flights of wine.  Darryl and Nancy were hosting an evening of old wine at the Blue Grass Tavern.  Their contributions and those of the other attendees were beckoning.  There were both familiar faces, including Jeffrey Snow, and several new ones.  We sat in the intimate back room which glowed  inside and allowed views of the coating of snow which was still falling as we sat down.  The dinner was a satisfying meat fest which was punctuated at the end by plates of cheese and an incredible amount of dessert.

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To start with 1990 Moet et Chandon, Dom Perignon was great not only because the bottle was in top form but also because it was the second youngest wine of the evening.  We tasted through a number of wines at a reasonable pace and I never felt rushed nor short on my own pours.  The most physically satisfying flight was that of the 1990 Chateauneuf du Pape.  There great wines came from excellent cellars so the provenance showed.  If you have not yet drunk mature Chateauneuf du Pape then make every effort to do so.  I also really enjoyed the old Barolo flight.  There was nothing dried out or difficult about these wines, they really do develop for an incredible amount of time.  They were subtle in a way that when I tasted through the mixed French flight I kept wishing I was drinking the Barolo instead.

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1990 Moet et Chandon, Cuvee Dom Perignon, Champagne
Alcohol 12.9%.  This was opened right before serving.  There was a light toasty nose which was initially subtle before it blossomed with air to reveal mature white wine aromas and riper fruit.  In the mouth there was a fresh and crisp start carried by very fine bubbles that turned into a soft, lovely mousse of mature yellow fruit.  There was a chewy finish and long textured aftertaste which haunted my mouth.  This wine was in great shape and really was evocative of mature white Burgundy.

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1983 Staatsweingut, Rauenthaler, Baiken, Riesling Spatlese, Rheingau
Imported by Atlanta Wholesale Wine.  Alcohol 10%.  There was a killer nose with a little petrol.  The wine opened up quickly in the mouth bringing on petrol and riper fruit.  There was seamless acidity, drier flavors towards the finish and a hint of tartness.  The palate was not quite up to the  nose but still a very fine wine.

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1983 Kirchmayr, Solist, Traminer Spatlese, Neusiedlersee 
Imported by Domaine Select Wines.  Alcohol 12%.  This was very aromatic, rather Gewurztraminer like.  It provided a ripe, round mouthfeel with a woodsy mineral note.  It still had some sweetness, a racy hint,  and with air, a mellow personality.

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The Barolo flight had been decanted such that they had about four hours or so of air before dinner.  The 1962 Cappellano was bottled by Giovanni Troglia who was a wine merchant in Turin.  Darryl reported the oddly shaped bottle was sealed with a glass top fused with metal to the bottle.  So he had to delicately pry away before gaining access to the cork.

1962 Cappellano label scanned by Darryl Priest.

1962 Cappellano label scanned by Darryl Priest.

1962 Cappellana label scanned by Darryl Priest.

1962 Cappellano label scanned by Darryl Priest.

I thought the 1967 Francesco Rinaldi the darkest and freshest of the three.  This impression was not only due to it being the youngest of the trio rather, as Mannie Berk (Rare Wine Co.) pointed out to me, it was aged in demijohn.  Indeed in Sheldon and Pauline Wasserman’s Italy’s Noble Red Wines (1991) they write that Luciano Rinaldi “keeps some of his Barolo in these 9- and 14-gallon (34- and 54-liter) jugs for ten years or more.  The wine is decanted off its sediment into bottles or magnums before being put on sale.”  At the time of their visit there was still 1967 in demijohn.  This was practice was common in the old days of Barolo so perhaps this younger vintage was the most traditional of the three.  Michael Garner and Paul Merritt note in Barolo: Tar and Roses (1990) that it was the old practice to transfer wine from botte to damigiana for maturation.  However, the deep frost of 1929 wiped out vast stocks of these glass demijohns providing incentive to shift aging methods.  The 1958 Giacomo Borgogno showed more mature with earthy and ethereal flavors.  I thought an interesting contrast.  The 1962 Cappellano with its funky bottle quickly took on a nose of pure cumin with funky flavors in the mouth.  It reacted a bit to the air, putting on more flesh, and provided a third unique Barolo experience.  In the end a very satisfying flight.

1958 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli, Red Capsule, Barolo Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  Acquired from a Private Collection and auctioned by Acker Merrall & Conduit, November 2013.  There was a strong, earthy nose with a hint of band-aid.  In the mouth were fresh, earthy flavors of black and red fruit.  The acidity was there, perhaps a hint of banana, followed by more piercing flavors in the finish and a haunting aftertaste.

1962 Cappellano, Barolo
Giovanni Troglia bottling.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There was a funky nose which cleaned up to be a pure aroma of cumin.  The funk followed in the mouth where the wine was dry.  It reacted well with air, became a touch savory and fleshed out.  An interesting wine.

1967 Francesco Rinaldi & Figli, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  Acquired from a private collection by Chambers Street Wines.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This was very dark and the darkest of all three in the flight.  The nose was initially subtle then became more aromatic.  There was tangy red fruit in the mouth, lots of pleasing grip, and acidity which was very present.  It still had tannins, was a little dry, and puckering towards the end.  It remained very fresh and engaging.

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This was a mixed flight and a little underwhelming given the old Barolo and 1990 Chateauneuf du Pape flights it was sandwiched between.  There was a connection in that the Ausone and the Francesco Rinaldi were of the same vintage.  This vintage of Ausone came from the period when the vines were becoming increasingly older as there had been no replanting since 1950.  Both the Ausone and Montrose were fermented in old wooden vats.  I preferred the Montrose which was fresher.  To have mature Trousseau from Arbois was probably a first for many.  This particular bottle of 1988 Camille Loye came from a small parcel imported by Crush.  While it was not a wine I would want to drink an entire bottle of, it was enjoyable, and not near decline.  Finally, the Nicolas Potel was young with an interesting flavor but the powerful tannins were still too obvious.

1967 Chateau Ausone, Saint-Emilion
Imported by DKDJ Imports.  Acquired from a private collection.  There was a nose of beef stock and perhaps a hint of a sweet note.  There were flavors of black and red fruit in the focused start.  It had watering acidity, ripe spices, minerals, and a structure that still had tannic grip in the finish.  Ultimately, it was on its decline in life.  It did not seem to get better with air.

1970 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
Imported by Alexis Lichine & Co.  There was a curious nose which was both fresh and animale.  There was levity in the mouth, a greenhouse hint, and a young core.  It was a good wine that did not show the level of evolution that the Ausone did.

1988 Camille Loye, Cuvee St Paul, Arbois Rouge
Imported by Vineyard Road.  There were flavors of red cranberry, citrus pith, and fresh acidity.  It was an interesting wine, in fine shape, and I can see why one person said  an “orange red wine” and another “curious”.

1999 Nicolas Potel, Latricieres-Chambertin, Grand Cru
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by C’est Vin.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was very fresh.  There was a little earth to the flavors, a ripe note and an interesting flavor profile.  There was a lot of unevolved oak which showed in the powerful and very fine tannins in the finish.  This wine packed a punch at the end.  Clearly the youngest tasting bottle of the even.

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We almost had a quartet of 1990 Chateauneuf du Pape but the Rayas, Pignan was badly corked.  Still, the remaining three bottles were excellent.  The Charvin had been double-decanted ahead of time so it probably had two hours of air before it was poured. The other wines were opened just minutes before and not decanted.  While this difference should be noted there is no denying the Charvin was a great wine.  This vintage represents the first produced by Laurent Charvin for all of the wines had been previously sold off.  It remained excellent to the end.  I also really liked the Pegau which can be so satisfying to smell and to drink.  This bottle came from a good cellar and even with some air kept a youthful nature.  The Beaucastel may have been more polarizing and not with the same depth of flavor but I very much enjoyed it.  That three different wines could be so satisfying was evidenced by how quiet the table became.

1990 Domaine Charvin, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There were aromas of tobacco and red fruit that stood out of the glass.  In the mouth were lovely flavors that were a little savory and sappy with cherry and Kirsch notes.  The wine had weight and purity.  Despite the maturity the flavors had a ripe, dense core.  A real treat.

1990 Rayas, Pignan, Chateauneuf du Pape
Acquired from a private collection by Acker Merrall & Conduit Internet.  An off bottle.

1990 Domaine du Pegau, Cuvee Reservee, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Hand Picked Selections.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There was great complexity in the familial nose but the flavors were young.  There was a good mixture of spices and fruit which was black red.  The chewy tannins made way to youthful weight, sweet fruit and sweet spices.  It had a spicy structure in the finish and a long aftertaste that took on ripe notes.

1990 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This was very aromatic.  The flavors were expansive in the mouth but did not develop the weight or presence as the Charvin.  Some ripe fruit developed, an animale flavor, and the structure was more present.

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Unfortunately, the 1991 QBA was not worth drinking.  The 1995 Beerenauslese had an explosive entry into the mouth with an engaging mixture of black tea flavors.

1991 Carl von Schubert, Maximin Grunhauser, Herrenberg QBA, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer – (375 mL)
Alcohol 10.9%.  The nose was oxidative with a hint of apples and apricots followed by beef stock.  There were apple flavors, tart-like fruit but in the end dried out.  No.

1995 Carl von Schubert, Maximin Grunhauser, Riesling Beerenauslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer – (375 mL)
Imported by Robert Chadderdon Selections.  Alcohol 6.5%.  There was a ripe nose of apples and apricots.  The wine had a lively burst into the mouth with not-quite bracing acidity.  The complex flavors blended in tea notes and maintained texture on the tongue followed by a tartness in the aftertaste.

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The Baumard was curious in that it was rather clean and almost primary.  Perhaps it needed more air or years in the cellar.  I believe some people continued to work this wine in their glass so perhaps they have a better opinion.  There is not much Terrantez any more on Madeira so the Cossart Gordon bottle was a treat to taste.  It was opened right before tasting and had great aromatics and powerful flavors.  It was a bottle I would be curious to track for a few weeks.

1989 Domaine des Baumard, Quarts de Chaume
Imported by Classic Wine Imports.  Acquired from a private collection by Acker Merrall & Conduit Internet.  The nose was sweet and sweaty but remained youthful and tight.  In the mouth the sweetness over powered the acidity at first, it was in there but bound tight.  Remarkably unevolved.

1977 Cossart Gordon, Terrantez, Madeira
Imported by Premium Ports & Madeiras.  Alcohol 20%.  There was a very aromatic and gorgeous nose.  In the mouth were powerful flavors of salty and rich orange-red fruit.  It had subtle weight.

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An Energetic Riesling From Selbach-Oster

September 24, 2012 Leave a comment

The Selbach family has cultivated the vine since the 17th century.  The Oster family ran a cooperage.  Today they run the Weingut Selbach-Oster winery, a negocient firm, and a brokerage agency.  The family owns 20 hectares of vineyards in the middle Mosel.  The fruit is harvested by hand, fermented with indigenous yeasts mainly in old 1,000 liter fuders though some stainless steel tanks are used.  The wines are left on the lees for a month or two following fermentation.  The vineyard at Wehlener Sonnenuhr is located on steep to very steep slopes on soils of blue Devonian slate with a shallow subsoils of decomposed slates and loam.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Image by epeigne37 under Creative Commons License (flickr)

I poured my first glass right after opening the bottle and was immediately compelled to drink the wine.  This is a beautiful wine which shows some maturity from the bottle age.  But what captures my attention is the interplay of the acidity and texture which only German wines possess.  I would buy this by the case.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2008 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Kabinett, Mosel – $16
A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik Wines.  This wine is 100% Riesling.  Alcohol 8.5%.  The color is a light straw with a hint of green.  There is a light to medium nose which precedes the mouth.  In the mouth there is immediate energetic acidity which touches the tongue then enlivens the tip with floral white fruit.  There is some weight at first as the wine takes on a smooth, honied texture, along with some mature flavors which plump up in the mouth.  The mature flavors are replaced by tart fruit in the finish as the wine trims up leaving a long aftertaste of spices, a touch of minerals, and weight.  *** Now-2022.

An Uncrushable Wine from Weingut Fritz Haag

I continue my exploration of white dessert wines with this quite different wine. This is my second wine I have tasted of the 2010 vintage from Weingut Fritz Haag.    The Haag vineyards were first mentioned in 1605.  More recently Wilhelm Haag ran the estate from 1957 until 2005 when his son Oliver Haag took over.  Oliver’s brother Thomas runs the nearby Schloss Lieser estate.  Oliver produces wine from some 12.2 hectares of Riesling vineyards with this wine from the classified Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr.  The 10.5 hectare Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr vineyard is located in the central part of 32 hectare Braunberger Juffer.  The south-facing vines are located on weathered Devonian slate soils at slopes of up to 80%!!!

Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr, Image by corkdork75(flickr)

This beautiful wine has precise flavors which are carried through with great acidity.  It is drinkable now but at this stage though very interesting in all aspects, it is quite young.  I would recommend cellaring this at least five years before trying again.  This bottle was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2010 Weingut Fritz Haag, Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr, Rielsing Auslese, Mosel – (375 mL) $27
Imported by Rudi Wiest.  This wine is 100% Riesling.  Alcohol 7.5% vol.  The color is a light yellow straw.  The tighter nose is fresh and articulate with honeyed notes.  In the mouth the flavors are precise with rich focused flavors and immediate lively acidity.  There is weight of this wine with its lemon custard flavors.  The texture is punctuated and carried up by almost effervescent white floral fruit with some honeyed weight.  There is residual sugar in the finish followed by uncrushable acidity in the aftertaste.  **** Now-2042.

Tasting the wines of Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt

Last week I met Annegret Reh-Gartner who is the managing director of Weingut Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt.  She was at MacArthur Beverages pouring six different wines.  Annegret is clearly enthusiastic about her estate and has a warm, approachable personality.  Upon returning to Germany she immediately sent me additional information about the wines I tasted then proceeded to answer my various questions.  My particular favorites were the 2010 Scharzhofberger, Riesling Kabinett and the 2010 Josephshofer, Riesling Spatlese.  These two wines were drinking very well but also have the ability to age for many years.  The Nies’Chen GG and the Josephshofer, Riesling Kabinett are my next two picks.  The Nies’Chen GG will benefit from age but shows many attractive aspects right now.  The Josephshofer, Riesling Kabinett has an outgoing personality revealed through its nose which was a pleasure to smell.  With wines produced from such diverse holdings there is bound to be a glass for everyone.

Schloss Marienlay, Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Image from von Kesselstatt

Weingut Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt has a particularly long history dating back to the mid-14th century when the von Kesselstatt family immigrated to Trier and purchased a vineyard.  Johann von Kesselstatt shortly became responsible for the cellars and overall housekeeping of the elector of Trier in 1362.  Thirty years later Johann’s son, Friedrich I. von Kesselstatt became court sommelier.  In 1776 the Kesselstatt’s were elevated to Reichsgrafen, Imperial counts, by Emperor Josef II.  When the elector of Trier issued an edict  in 1787 requiring inferior “Rhine varietals” to be replaced by “better grapes” he followed suit by requiring all of their tenant-growers to plant only “pure green Riesling”.  In the 19th century four former monasteries of St. Maximin along with their vineyards were purchased.  These holdings in the Mosel, Saar, and Ruwer valleys still comprise the estate today.

Annegret Reh-Gartner and the Author

In 1978 Annegret’s grandfather, Gunther Reh, purchased Weingut Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt.  Five years later in 1983 Annegret started directing the estate.  She has reduced the estate size such that there are 12 hectares of vineyards in each of the Mosel, Saar, and Ruwer.  This has allowed better vineyard management and adaptation to increasing temperatures.

Scharzhofberger Vineyard, Saar, Image from von Kesselstatt

We tasted six wines representing Josephshofer and Piesporter Goldtropfchen in the Mosel, Scharzhofberger in the Saar, and Kaseler Nies’chen in the Ruwer.  The 3.8 hectare Josephshofer vineyard is solely owned.  It is located between Wehlener Sonnenuhr and Graacher Domprobst.  The vines are located on a steep slope at 60-70 degrees.  The heavy soils are deep, weathered Devonian slate with fine earth.  These wines bear labels based on those used in the 1870s.  The 4.5 hectare Piesporter Goldtropfchen vineyard is located at a bend in the river.  The vines are located on slops at 60 degrees.  The soils are of shallow, weathered gray slate.  The 6.6 hectare Scharzhofberg vineyard is located on a side valley in the Saar.  The vines are located on a slope of 35-60% with soils of loess and coarse gray and reddish slate.  The 4.4 hectare Kaseler Nies’chen vineyard is located on a slope of 60% with soils of slab, hard blue slate.

Josephshofer Vineyard, Mosel, Image from von Kesselstatt

I typically drink Pradikat wines designated as Kabinett, Spatlese, and Auslese.  The Pradikat classification is based on the must-weight or sugar content of the juice.  Two of the wines we tasted are Grosses Gewachs “GG” or “Great Growth.”  This is a designation used for dry wines produced from the highest-quality sites.  GG is a designation used by members of the Verband Deutscher Pradikats “VDP”.  The VDP is a century old organization that promotes more stringent requirements and today has over 200 top estates as members.  Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt is a member of the VDP Grosser Ring.  In producing GG wines Annegret chooses parcels of older vines where management produces the required lower yields.  Clusters are parted in half and three weeks prior to harvest leaves are trimmed on the shady side to prevent botrytis.  While all of Annegret’s wines are fermented in stainless steel tanks using indigenous yeasts, her GG wines see some traditional wood.  While this varies based on site and vintage the Josephshofer sees 40-50% wood with the Scharzhofberger and Nies’Chen 20-30%.

2010 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Scharzhofberger GG, Saar
Alcohol 11.5 %, Residual Sugar 9.0 g/l, and Acidity 7.3 g/l.  The nose was lifted with honeyed notes and delicate texture.  In the mouth the flavors started with a honeyed texture before the first hints of minerals developed. There was a smooth texture as the wine straightened out with controlled breadth and a tart aftertaste.  I would cellar this before drinking again.

2010 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Nies’chen GG, Ruwer
Alcohol 11.5 %, Residual Sugar 9.0 g/l, and Acidity 6.7 g/l.  There was a nose of darker, precise fruit, yellow peach, and minerals.  In the mouth the fruit had a good mouthfeel, felt cooler as it mixed with minerals and low-lying notes of honey along with brighter acidity.  There was a long finish.  More approachable than the Scharzhofberger GG, I would be curious to try this good wine in several years.

2010 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Josephshofer, Riesling Kabinett, Mosel
Alcohol 11.0 %, Residual Sugar 20.4 g/l, and Acidity 7.7 g/l.   Aromas of delicate florals with hints of stone immediately started to jump out of the glass.  The flavors start with a bit of an attack beffore riper fruit develops, chewy in nature.  Though the wine is richer in the mouth there is a delicate and refreshing aftertaste.  A good wine that entices you with its nose.

2010 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Scharzhofberger, Riesling Kabinett, Saar
Alcohol 10.5 %, Residual Sugar 23.7 g/l, and Acidity 7.6 g/l.  The restrained nose reveals ripe and floral aromas.  In the mouth there are ample notes of stones with big and lively flavors on the tongue.  Yellow fruit and spice come out in the aftertaste.  I liked this wine a lot and expect it will be long-lived.  Very good.

2010 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Piesporter Goldtropfchen, Riesling Kabinett, Mosel
Alcohol 10.0 %, Residual Sugar 46.4 g/l, and Acidity 9.3 g/l.  The restrained nose makes way to a rich, sweeter mouth of citrus fruit and lower-lying acidity.  This is fruit driven.

2010 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Josephshofer, Riesling Spatlese, Mosel
Alcohol 7.5%, Residual Sugar 80.5 g/l, and Acidity 9.8 g/l.  The nose reveals finely textured, lithe yellow fruit.  In the mouth there were tropical fruit flavors, not too overt, stones, a racy finish then white peaches and sweet spices in the aftertaste.  Compelling now but this balanced wine should develop for some time.  Very good.