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
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.
Jenn and I celebrated our latest wedding anniversary by spending a family weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. The one person I happen to know there is Erin Barbour Scala (Thinking-Drinking). We previous met in New York City during her days as sommelier at Public NYC followed by The Musket Room. Having had diverse and fantastic wines with her before I knew there was no other choice than to dine at Fleurie restaurant where both she and her husband are now based. As Wine Director, Erin’s wine list focuses in on France and Virginia but she is far too curious to neglect the rest of the world as was evidenced by her selections that night. We were greeted to glasses of NV Rolet, Crement de Jura for ourselves and locally made sparkling grape juice for our daughter. The Rolet was great by itself, accessible with a nice balance of yeast and fruit. It left me thirsty for more wine.
I select the wines we drink at home on a daily basis so it is nice to step away from making any choices. We gave no direction to Erin as to what we felt like drinking or avoiding. With Coravin in hand Erin proceeded to pour a utterly fun variety of wines. To go with our shrimp risotto with carrots and shellfish sauce she poured the 2009 Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot, Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chaumes. It was utterly satisfying and drank spot-on with its balance of maturity, fruit, and supportive toast. Jenn’s herb crusted halibut was joined by the 2010 Schäfer-Fröhlich, Bockenauer Felseneck, Riesling trocken Grosses Gewächs, Nahe. The glass was incredibly and persistently aromatic with herbs, stones, and some petrol with great balance in the mouth. Great stuff! For my venison Erin poured two different red wines. The 2011 Avennia, Sestina, Columbia Valley is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc blend with fruit sourced from the Bacchus and Red Willow vineyards. It was forward and complex with darker, racy fruit that was hard to resist. Avennia was only launched in 2010 so if this second vintage is an example of their other wines this is a new name to follow. My second red wine was completely different being the 2010 Cambridge Road, Dovetail, Martinborough. As Erin pointed out this field blend of mostly Pinot Noir with Syrah is not such an oddity given the affinity for these varieties to perform in cooler climates. Its oscillation between Pinot Noir and Syrah aromas was rather intriguing.
With our trio of desserts and petit fours came the King Family Vineyards, Loreley, Monticello. This pure Petit Manseng wine was made in the vin de paille style. She poured this wine because it shares the same name as our daughter. It was a touching end to our meal. If you are in the Charlottesville area or need a break from the city I strongly recommend you dine at Fleurie. Due to the Coravin you can drink almost anything on the list by the glass. With a large order of wines soon to be added there will be even more reasons to stop by.
This past Sunday afternoon Lou and I gathered in his tasting room just outside of his wine cellar. There was no particular theme for the afternoon but I did think the mini-flight of 2002 Auslese would be good fun for him. So I brown bagged those three half-bottles. We started with the 2012 Hermann, J. Wiemer, Riesling Dry to acclimate our palates. Lou had recently enjoyed a glass while dining out so a bottle naturally found its way into his cellar. This was a well-made distinctive Riesling. I lost the battle drawing the cork from the 2002 Emrich-Schönleber, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Auslese. I had to dig it out with the screw and after clearing a passage for the wine a large chunk of cork remained impossibly bonded to the inside of the neck, it had never budged despite my heavy-handed approach. The wine itself was full of cider flavor showing old notes beyond full maturity that were a little off-putting for me. Much better and in retrospect clearly Scheurebe (or should I write not Riesling) was the 2002 Weingut Ed. Weegmüller, Haardter Mandelring, Scheurebe Auslese. Lively, viscous, complex, and still on the upslope. Definitely worth buying. The 2002 Weingut Ed. Weegmüller, Haardter Herzog, Riesling Auslese was really good too. There was a tension between youth and maturity with Lou particularly liking the tart finish. This was less overt the the Scheurebe, taking more time to open up and actually drank well on the second night.
Our switch to red wine was foiled by a badly corked half-bottle of 1998 Brigaldara, Amarone dell Valpolicella Classico. Shame. Fortunately the 2005 Pax, Syrah, Castelli-Knight Ranch was coming into its own in the decanter. It always sported a great nose but at first the flavors were a touch austere but this perfectly matched the black fruit and drying tannins. Jenn and I tried it again several hours later when it had come together by taking on a little flesh and a racy quality. I think this should be cellared more. What I particularly liked about all of the wines we tried is that they each presented aromas and flavors I do not encounter on a daily basis. Curious wines for a Sunday afternoon!
2012 Hermann, J. Wiemer, Riesling, Dry, Finger Lakes
This wine is 100% Riesling. Alcohol 12%. There was moderate, lively ripeness to the flavors with notes of stones. Clearly new world it remained lively on the tongue. There were chalk notes and a refreshing aftertaste. On its own the touch of sweetness to the fruit is evident as well as grapefruit notes. ** Now-2015.
2002 Emrich-Schönleber, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Auslese, Nahe – $25 (375 mL)
Imported by Chapin Cellars. Alcohol 9.5%. The color was a medium amber. The nose bore older aromas, cider, and hints of plain oldness. In the mouth there were definite flavors of apple cider. Due to less viscosity and residual sugar the acidity showed better. Rather advanced and not too exciting. * Now.
2002 Weingut Ed. Weegmüller, Haardter Mandelring, Scheurebe Auslese, Pflaz – $29 (375 mL)
Imported by Terry Theise. Alcohol 9%. The color was a medium to dark lively yellow. There was a good nose of peach and nectarine with fresh aromas. In the mouth were stone fruits marmalade, viscosity, and some grip. The acidity was balanced and integrated. Towards the finish the wine became fresh with levity, complexity and gentleness. On the second night there was a bit more apricot note, good weight, and a touch of salty flavor. This is drinking well nose. **** Now-2024.
2002 Weingut Ed. Weegmüller, Haardter Herzog, Riesling Auslese, Pfalz – $28 (375 mL)
Imported by Terry Theise. Alcohol 8%. This was amber in color and actually the darkness. There was a very aromatic nose of marmalade. In the mouth there was brighter acidity, a little wood note, and mature flavors. It still had some freshness of youth. There was some residual sugar with good viscosity. It was tart in the finish with a tangy aftertaste. A nice wine. **** Now-2020.
2005 Pax, Syrah, Castelli-Knight Ranch, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.9%. There was a good nose with fresh smoke aromas. The wine had a salty entry with pencil lead mixing with black fruit and drying tannins. It was a little austere at first but I thought this matched the black fruit and tannins. There was a core of dried herbs and a little liquor heat in the finish. With air the stones and watering acidity was matched by more flesh and a racy component. ***(*) Now-2020.
I received a text message from Lou three days before my flight to Seattle stating he would be in Seattle the same time I would be. Not only were we on the same flight out but we were seated in the same row. I typically spend my free time in Seattle researching or writing posts for this blog. But with Lou around, I shifted my research from online archives to wine bars and restaurants.
I returned to my hotel mid-afternoon on the first day. Most places were not yet open so we walked from downtown, underneath the convention center to bar ferd’nand. We weren’t quite sure what to drink so in entertaining discrete glasses of wine we sampled the 2011 Weingut Schellmann, Gumpoldskirchen. This was an interesting blend of Zierfandler and Rotgipfler, certainly more weight and fruit than I expected, but perhaps from being near the end of the bottle it lacked verve from acidity. I suspect it is worth trying from a complete bottle. We then tried a tasted from a fresh bottle of some French Chenin Blanc, but it was all apples and acidity. Clearly if the wines by the glass selection was not satisfying, choosing from the Bottle Shop would be. We walked in circles a few times, eventually focusing in on a bottle of Bordeaux.
2006 Chateau La Confession, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Imported by Bordeaux Wine Locators. This wine is a blend of 51% Cabernet Franc, 46% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. Alcohol 13.5%. The first glass revealed not-quite rich weight of blue fruit, young in profile but softening. After an hour of air there was black fruit flavors which were dense but not inky. The dense mouthfeel continued into the really nice finish and aftertaste with flavors of stones. The Cabernet Franc really shown through. This bottle was entering its second phase with the acidity playing the lead over some ripe tannins. This could be better with additional decanting or aging. ***/***(*) Now-2025.
We met up with Julia and Clark on our second night for dinner at The Whale Wins. The wines of Kermit Lynch and Louis/Dressner are heavily featured here. That is a good thing. While we waited for our table we consumed a bottle of the 2011 Punta Crena, Vigneto Reine, Mataossu, Colline Savonesi which is imported by Kermit Lynch. Apparently Mataossu was quite popular in the 19th century but today only three producers make wine from it. It is claimed that only Punta Crena has true Mataossu with the other vines actually Lumassina.
Our first red wine of the evening was the 2011 Louis Claude Desvignes, La Voute Saint-Vincent, Morgon imported by Louis/Dressner. It was young but lovely with good young fruit, minerals, and nice structure for short-term aging. This fruit for this wine is sourced from vines averaging 60 years of age. It showed!
We wrapped up the evening with the 2012 Occhipinti, SP68 Rosso, Sicily. This Nero d’Avola and Frappato blend had a rocking nose from the start. The nose was a little more generous than the mouth so perhaps half a year in the cellar will be a benefit. Still, it was seamless and approachable.
I have always found the architecture of Seattle interesting for its old decrepit houses, renovated historic buildings, and constant new construction. I like the old moss spotted houses with their paint peeling off. This result of weathering and neglect exhibits the age of the house beyond its design alone. I remember how the houses pictured above were still occupied not too long ago. The wine stores of Seattle do not have the depth of vintages found in Washington, DC, New York, or San Francisco. However, a few restaurants do, so for our final night, we dined at The Wild Ginger where could drink from the reserve wine list. I believe we tacitly agreed to start with a German Riesling though Alsace was a possibility. Our first choice from Kerpen could not be located. Apparently the previous two weekends had been spent shifting cases from the storage facility to the working cellar at the restaurant. Our sommelier instead returned with a wine from Schlossgut Diel. Implications must have been in the air for he proceeded to open the wine without discussing alternatives. We could have sent it back but it was a really good wine. For the red wine, in my mind, it was a toss up between drinking from the Rhone or the west coast. The Rhone wines can be fabulously priced but there is a draw to drinking older, local vintages. Our second sommelier had recently come from working at an Italian restaurant. Being comfortable with the Italian portion of the list (and perhaps not wanting to leave it) he suggested 2001 Barolo. Lou recently read an article in Decanter about the forward nature of the vintage. These reasons led us to drink a Manzone Barolo, certainly one of the last regions we expected to explore that evening.
1997 Schlossgut Diel, Dorsheimer Goldloch Riesling, Nahe
A Terry Theise Selection. Alcohol 10%. There was an aromatic nose from the start with dusty notes, underlying apple aromas with hints of petrol and complexity. In the mouth there was ripe fruit at first, with richer flavors expanding with grippy, crisp acidity. The finish was drier with a little ripe spices. There was a core of youthful flavor and body but this was so easy to drink now. A lovely wine. **** Now-2023.
2001 Manzone, Perno, Santo Stefano, Barolo
A Marc deGrazia Selection imported by Elliot Bay Distributors. Alcohol 14.5% The nose was almost minty fresh at first with roses and tobacco. The flavors were firm but good with red and black fruit followed by lots of acidity towards the finish. The finish had tangy, citric tannins followed by a little darker flavor where it became a touch rough. A modern wine. The attractive nose remained more advanced than in the mouth so I would cellar this further. *** Now-2028.
My final taste of the week was the COR Cellars Malbec. COR has some good wines but this Malbec from a warm vintage was outright intense! This is a one glass per night type of wine.
2009 COR Cellars, Malbec, Columbia Valley – $23
Alcohol 15.1%. This remained a dense, almost viscous wine with extract, black fruit, and a savory tilt. There was a meaty finish followed by a little heat and roughness in the aftertaste. This was an intense, concentrated wine with a wall of flavor persisting through the spicy finish. ** Now-2018.
Seven of us recently gathered for a wine dinner at Little Saigon down in Falls Church at the suggestion of David. Given the list of attendees David, Roland, Darryl, Nancy, Jeff, and Phil it came as no surprise to see many excellent bottles of wine. What did surprise me was how a bottle of wine from 1991 originally described by Robert Parker as “a competent, correct wine in what was a dreadful vintage. It is spicy and weedy…78 pts” became one of my favorite wines of the night. More on this wine later. Roland has been eating at Little Saigon in for a very long time. After following his suggestion to bring bottles of German, Alsatian, Rhone, or Burgundy wine it was easy enough to leave the ordering of the food in his hands.
Roland tried to manage successive waves of food since his typical waiter was absent. We ate such dishes as crispy shrimp wonton and vegetable spring rolls to fried chicken wings with garlic and crisp salted calamari. A plate of gigantic prawns gave no hint of what was to come. The pace increased to a frenzy as the kitchen prepared everything else at once. A whole rockfish with greens came out. This was quickly followed by dishes of seared pork, quail, and pan-seared steak cubes. It sounds like a crazy meal but in the end it was not. Roland avoided spicy dishes so I never once thought there was a clash between food and wine. In retrospect I believe the dinner would have been incomplete without so many dishes.
We sat at a large round table with a large lazy-susan in the middle. We brought boxes of our own stems and there were even decanters as well. Corkscrews and an Ah-So, a very nice Le Crueset model Jeff recently picked up in France, opened those bottles which had not been double-decanted. I suspect the lazy-Susan is typically used for food but we used it to hold our wine bottles. Both the dumpling sauce and the highly-coveted thin sauce resided here as well. The latter of which, the kitchen released only one bowl at a time. Perhaps it is like balsamic vinegar. The small platters of food were relegated to the table until the Sterno and rockfish arrived which were of a size requiring the lazy-Susan.
The 2008 De Conti, Anthologia Blanc offered an interesting start being a generous white wine from Bergerac. I thought the 2006 Prager, Riesling, Federspiel , Steinriegl and the 2008 Willi Schaefer, Riesling Kabinett, Graacher Himmelreich good in the beginning but ultimately a bit soft in the middle for my preference. In the form of a new producer for me, the 2004 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling Spätlese, Winkeler Jesuitengarten provided my second favorite white wine of the night. It balanced mature flavors with verve and a seductive mouthfeel. Next came a pair of wines from Dönnhoff. The 2001 Dönnhoff, Riesling Spätlese, Norheimer Kirschheck was more mature, earthier, good but not exciting. This could be due to the 2002 Dönnhoff, Riesling Spätlese, Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle which shined through everything else. While I thought the 2004 Weingut Spreitzer was good but the 2002 Dönnhoff was a league ahead.
We then turned to the red wines. Darryl had been holding back on opening the 1991 Domaine du Pégaü, Réservée assuming it would not last once opened. The bottle was in great shape as was the cork which was not even stained on the sides. It started off with a less attractive nose of medicine and band aids but this eventually blew off and the wine came alive after an hour of air. It was my second favorite red wine of the night being a lovely, mature Chateauneuf du Pape. Darryl quickly checked that he purchased this bottle last year for $29 from Cellar Raiders. Certainly the best buy of the evening. Next up was the 1997 Paolo Scavino, Bric dël Firsc which turned out to be a mess so I dumped it. The 1998 Domaine Santa Duc, Prestige des Haute Garrigues still had plenty of fresh fruit but was not in the same class as the 1991 Pegau. The 1998 Tardieu Laurent, Gigondas exhibited too much wood and while not bad, was just not interesting to drink.
We moved on to a pair of Chateauneuf du Pape from the hot 2003 vintage. These were polarizing for some. I actually enjoyed the 2003 Le Vieux Donjon which I spent time drinking with my food instead of thinking about it. I did not like the 2003 Pierre Usseglio et Fils, Cuvee du mon Aïeul for most of the evening. It was a sizeable wine with a significant prune and raisin component that I do not like very much. At Phil’s suggestion I tried the wine again at the end of the evening. It had changed to become clean, pure, and not so powerful. I am curious to hear other people experience with this wine. The last wine was my favorite red wine of the evening. The 2004 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage had been decanted many hours before dinner. I do not know what a mature Chave, Hermitage tastes like but the impeccable balance, sense of purity, and long finish lead me to believe this has a wonderful future ahead.
I was recovering from a sinus infection so please excuse the brief impressions below.
2008 De Conti, Anthologia Blanc, Bergerac
Imported by Elite Wines. Alcohol 14.5%. The color was a golden yellow. The nose was complex with candy and passion fruit aromas. In the mouth were rich flavors and fine textured wood notes. It was mildly unctuous with its ripe lemon flavors, integrated acidity, and minerals. Distinctive. ***
2006 Prager, Riesling, Federspiel , Steinriegl, Wachau
Imported by Vin Divino. This wine is 100% Riesling fermented and aged in stainless steel. Alcohol 12.5%. The wine started with textured, acidity driven flavors then it fell off to reveal a softer midpalate. It tasted like it was maturing. There was a minerally bit which mixed with some outgoing flavors. **
2008 Willi Schaefer, Riesling Kabinett, Graacher Himmelreich, Mosel
Imported by Michael Skurnik. Alcohol 7.5%. There was a lot of initial texture with some on the tongue tip before minerally softness came out. **
2004 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling Spätlese, Winkeler Jesuitengarten, Rheingau
A Terry Theise selection imported by Michael Skurnik. Alcohol 7.7%. This wine had a rocking start followed by a creamy, tropical middle. There was a little petrol and expansive oily flavors. A beautiful wine which maintained its attractive mouthfeel. ***
2001 Dönnhoff, Riesling Spätlese, Norheimer Kirschheck, Nahe
Alcohol 9.0%. The color was a golden yellow. The soft nose bore an earthier hint. In the mouth the wine had plenty of mature notes. Perhaps drinking at its best. ***
2002 Dönnhoff, Riesling Spätlese, Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle, Nahe
Imported by Premier Cru. Alcohol 8.5%. The color was slightly golden yellow. This was a lively, acidity driven wine with a lithe start, persistent flavors, and acidity which was spot on. Good mouthfeel. Plenty of life ahead but hard to resist now. ****
1991 Domaine du Pégaü, Réservée, Châteauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a medium to dark garnet. It was aromatic from the beginning with aromas that stepped a bit out of the glass. The flavors were mature but in great shape, initially revealing a medical note and leaner flavors. After an hour it fleshed out to become very enjoyable and savory with black fruit, minerals, and a little savory bit. Still has life left. ****
1997 Paolo Scavino, Bric dël Firsc, Barolo
Imported by Vin Divino. Alcohol 14.5%. The color was almost brown garnet. The nose was minty fresh and finely articulated. In the mouth were lean flavors, minty with a spine of acidity driving it through. This was followed by heat and roughness through the finish. Kind of a mess.
1998 Domaine Santa Duc, Prestige des Haute Garrigues, Gigondas
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections. Alcohol 15%. There was a good nose followed by flavors of dark fruit, a little cedar box. The ripe fruit was still fresh with good depth and length with ripe tannins and good acidity. There was a leather note. Will last longer. ***
1998 Tardieu Laurent, Gigondas
Alcohol 14.5%. There were flavors of dark, firm fruit with steely acidity wrapped around a firm, drying, spicy tannic core. It developed a haunting, dark earthy note. It remained rugged with wood notes in the aftertaste. **
2003 Le Vieux Donjon, Châteauneuf du Pape
Imported by Calvert Woodley. The redder nose made way to approachable flavors of red and black fruit despite the firm, ripe tannins. ***
2003 Pierre Usseglio et Fils, Cuvee du mon Aïeul, Châteauneuf du Pape
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 95% Grenache and 5% Cinsault and Syrah sourced from very old vines. It was raised in epoxy-lined tanks and some oak. Alcohol 14.5%. The nose bore pruned and raisin fruit. In the mouth this was a blue fruit bomb with extract and raisin notes. The flavors built even bigger with lots of fine tannins in a structure that hit the back of the throat. Dense. Revisited at the end of the evening it had become more approachable with clean blue and black fruit. **(*)
2004 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 14%. The fine nose was of clean fruit. In the mouth were roundish flavors with a little earth and leather accenting the tart and cool, red fruit. There was salivating acidity in this well-knit wine with truly lovely red fruit. Precise and clean with impeccable balance and understated power which made for a long, engaging finish. ****(*)
Lou and I ended our week by attending the 2011 Vintage Tasting of the German Wine Society, DC Chapter. Long-time member David Wendler organized the tasting which was tutored by Phil Bernstein of MacArthur Beverages. It was hosted by Marilyn at the National Harbor Club Room. For this tasting Phil and David picked 10 different wines from the 2011 vintage which were arranged in five flights of two. All of these wines are available at MacArthur Beverages. There were three bottles of each wine and Dave made sure to open the bottles ahead of time so that they could breathe. As a special treat James Wright of Wine Monger provided three bottles of Gut Hermannsberg Grosses Gewächs to start off the tasting. This year’s vintage tasting was quite large with some 46 or 47 people in attendance. I saw familiar faces from the 2010 Vintage Tasting along with those of Annette and Christian Schiller (www.schiller-wine.blogspot.com), Jace, and Chris Bublitz. Be sure to check out my post on The 2010 Vintage Tasting of the German Wine Society.
Phil has been tutoring the annual Vintage Tasting since the 2008 vintage. He feels that 2011 is a generally riper vintage with a little lower acidity. Of the last four vintages he finds it most similar to 2009. Going further back in time 1983 or 1971 may be mentioned but 1971 produced many more Trockenbeerenauslese. Please find Phil’s comments at the beginning of each flight after which appear my tasting notes.
Flight #1 – Gut Hermannsberg
James Wright provided a bottle each of these three wines when he read about the 2011 Vintage Tasting. Having just met James and tasted the Estate Riesling and Schlossböckelheimer Riesling I imagined we were in for a treat. For background information on the estate please read my post A Vineyard Born of a Copper Mine. Given that there were four dozen of us, David only poured small amounts for those who were interested and asked for these to be shared amongst two people. We started with the Bastei GG and Kupfergrube GG. The Bastei GG is produced from a 1.2 hectares site on volcanic soils at the foot of the Rotenfel mountain face. Bathed in sunlight this rock face stores a large amount of heat which continues to warm the vineyard through the evening. The Kupfergrube GG is sourced from the old terraced copper mine site. This was the youngest and most backward of the three. Its volcanic foundation and slate soils show through on the nose. Lastly the Hermannsberg GG is from a monopole providing gorgeous acidity. Despite the tiny pours the differences of these three vineyard sites clearly shown through. They deserve to be revisited. For more information please check out James’ das Terzett post on Wine Monger. Phil found these three wines to be very young and in retrospect they should have been decanted. But this was not too surprising as the pair he tasted previously were drinking very well after four days. These wines might have originally been labeled as Auselse Trocken for they come from very ripe fruit which was fermented dry, hence the higher alcohol levels. These dry wines are extremely popular in Germany so much so that Christian Schiller says you may typically find at most one sweet wine on a Berlin restaurant wine list.
2011 Gut Hermannsberg, Traiser Bastei Grosses Gewächs, Nahe
Imported by Wine Monger. Alcohol 13.5%. The nose was captivating with more ripe floral aromas and sweet spices. In the mouth there was focused weight before the flavors became creamier in texture. There was some ripeness to the fruit, integrated acidity, and a mouth which follows the nose. Really quite nice.
2011 Gut Hermannsberg, Schlossböckelheimer Kupfergrube Grosses Gewächs, Nahe
Imported by Wine Monger. Alcohol 13.5%. There was an initial musky complex nose with stone note then it tightened up with air. The aromas are evocated of the indigenous fermentation. In the mouth there was brighter, tighter fruit, perhaps tighter as it progressed, tart acidity, and apple like flavors in the finish. Clearly in need of age.
2011 Gut Hermannsberg, Niederhauser Hermannsberg Grosses Gewächs, Nahe
Imported by Wine Monger. Alcohol 13.5%. The nose was floral with a subtle perfume and sweet spice. There was white fruit in the mouth with focused acidity before the flavors expanded in the mouth. There was vibrant acidity on the tongue and a slate like finish.
Flight #2 – Scheurebe
It has been some time since Sheurebe has been featured at a Vintage Tasting. Phil is a big fan of this grape which is a cross between Riesling and Sylvaner. He finds they age interesting because it does not change much. The Gysler was quite tasty, surely the most unusual whereas the Kruger-Rumpf showed more Riesling-like flavors.
2011 Gysler, Scheurebe Halbtrocken, Rheinhessen – $15 (1 Liter)
A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. Alcohol 11.5%. The nose was aromatic with herbs then became somewhat tight. The flavors were vibrant on the tongue then sweet sage and fruit came out. The flavors of fresh herbs continued as the wine took on some glycerine. Unique!
2011 Kruger-Rumpf, Scheurebe Spätlese, Nahe
A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. Alcohol 8.5%. This had a brighter nose which played it close. There was lively fruit in the mouth with ripe spices and a little vibrancy on the tongue. There were more sweet spices and herbs in the finish which had drier flavors and stone-like notes.
Flight #3 – The Most Expensive Wine Tonight is a Kabinett
The Dönnhoff was made is a fruitier style which made it the most accessible of the two. It was quite attractive. The Egon Müller, Scharzhofberger is from very steep vineyards with a cool climate. It is a wine to take your time with, this bottle had been opened some six to seven hours ahead of time and had barely budged. So perhaps it is best to stick it in the cellar. To Phil this is what a classic Kabinett should taste like.
2011 Dönnhoff, Riesling Estate Qba, Nahe – $19
A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. The nose bore riper fruit which was more forward. In the mouth the riper fruit was up front with plenty of vibrant acidity to match. It was a little racy, drier towards the finish, and notes of dry stones.
2011 Egon Müller, Scharzhofberger Kabinett, Mosel – $55
Alcohol 10%. The nose was tight with a little petrol. The mouth followed the nose but remained very tight, structured, and young. There was white fruit followed by a little ripe berries in the finish. The aftertaste brought citrus and dried stones. This has a long, fine life ahead.
Flight #4 – Willi Schaefer, Graacher Himmelreich
This was an interesting pair of wines to taste because people often assume a Spätlese will taste more sweeter than a Kabinett. But this is not the case. The fruit is certainly riper but what Phil found is that the Spätlese had more texture and richness without tasting much sweeter. These are more cerebral wines which do an excellent job of reflecting the vineyard. On being asked what to drink these with, someone in the audience responded, “Friends!”
2011 Willi Schaefer, Graacher Himmelreich, Riesling Kabinett, Mosel – $25
A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. There was a light nose of white fruit and something else. In the mouth the flavors had a particular delicacy which went with cinnamon spice and some vibrant acidity. The fruit was pure and clean. The lifted finish was followed by sweet spices in the aftertaste.
2011 Willi Schaefer, Graacher Himmelreich, Riesling Spätlese, Mosel – $35
A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. This bore a darker nose. There was more weight in the mouth to the white fruit. Again weight, a little watering acidity in the end, and overall more intensity. It became a bit tart in the aftertaste.
Flight #5 – Schäfer Fröhlich, Bockenauer Felseneck
Another interesting pair of wines to taste from a producer who has grown in prominence over the last decade. The Gold Capsule was produced from a selected lot chosen based on the must. The fruit is sourced from a particular area of the vineyard with deeper more particulate soils. This is not done with every vintage but as this lot was tasting significantly different it was bottled separately. Phil found this wine riper and richer than the Willi Schaeffer pair and for him, the Nahe provides the best of both worlds. I must admit I really like the Gold Capsule.
2011 Schäfer Fröhlich, Bockenauer Felseneck, Riesling Spätlese, Nahe – $32
Imported by Rudi Wiest. Alcohol 7.5%. The nose mixed aromas of grass, herbs, and white fruit. There was good, weighty fruit in the mouth which were dense and vibrant on the tongue. It took on white fruit and citrus flavors which became drier towards the finish. It was softer at first then enlivened by citric acidity in the aftertaste.
2011 Schäfer Fröhlich, Bockenauer Felseneck, Riesling Spätlese, Gold Capsule, Nahe – $44
Imported by Rudi Wiest. Alcohol 7.5%. This nose was a little yeasty from the fermentation. The flavors were more intense at first with dried herbs, dried fruit, and an earthy nose which mixed with sweet Mandarin oranges. It showed more acidity in the finish followed by a long aftertaste of sweet spices. This flavors had good persistence which will surely help this wine age for some time.
Flight #6 – Fritz Haag, Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr
For Phil the best wines to age are Auslese and above. While you may age a Kabinett or Spätlese they lose the energy which makes them so attractive in youth. These may be a little more opulent that Willi Schaefer but they are well made, can be a little austere, and age very well.
2011 Fritz Haag, Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr, Riesling Spätlese, Mosel – $37
Imported by Rudi Wiest. Alcohol 7.5%. The tight nose bore some fermentation aromas. In the mouth there were good, weighty ripe fruit and sweet spice flavors. The wine was a little chewy with vibrant acidity and midpalate weight. The flavors stood up in this balanced wine which is structured for age.
2011 Fritz Haag, Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, Mosel – $55
Imported by Rudi Wiest. Alcohol 7.5%. The nose was of light fruit and ripe white floral aromas. There was a riper, vibrant burst of fruit at first. The flavors softened up a bit but there was balanced with a little citric acidity. The aftertaste brought tropical and floral notes.